In spite of confidentiality, which is obvious in these cases, President Obama’s plan for Syria was announced a few days ago. Firstly, the secret Presidential directives aim at conquering Mosul by mid-December next and the forces that will liberate the city will be some groups of the US Special Forces, in addition to five US-led Iraqi army divisions.
Furthermore, the agreement between President Obama and the Head of the Autonomous Province of Iraqi Kurdistan, Massud Barzani, envisages that: a) the Kurdish Peshmerga will attack Mosul from the North and from the East; b) the United States will ensure a safety zone from Mosul up to the borders of Barzani’s Kurdistan; c) the United States will prevent the Shiite militias from taking part in military actions and will undertake not to let the Shiite militias enter the cities with a Sunni majority.
Incidentally, the plan for liberating Mosul is the same as the one developed by the United States to leave ISIS out of Tikrit, Ramadi and Fallujah, which indeed failed, as you may recall.
The United States will also coopt the Al-Mutahidun coalition led by Osama Al Nujaifi. As Speaker of the Iraqi House of Representatives, Al Nujaifi, is the highest-ranking Sunni politician in a country with a Shiite majority where, indeed, the longa manus of Iran is often felt.
At military level, in particular, the offensive on Raqqa will be carried out at the same time as the one on Mosul.
The United States will mainly launch an air offensive, with targeted bombings on ISIS military and political infrastructure.
As reported in the documents, the US command will have control over the Russian and Syrian flights on ISIS territory.
This is obvious: Putin has already won its war for influence over the Middle East and hence he does not need to make the war in Syria inveterate.
Nor must we forget the terrible blunder committed by US Vice- President, Joe Biden, when, during his trip to Ankara on August 24 last, he urged the same Kurdish militia that should now participate in the attack against ISIS to retreat along the East bank of the Euphrates, thus following the advice of the Turkish leader Erdogan.
Will the Kurds follow the US orders? We are afraid not. The conquest of Raqqa and Mosul will most likely lead to a de facto separation between Russian, Kurdish and Syrian operations on the ground and those of the pro-US Kurds, at least partially.
And what about the Syrians? It will be hard for Bashar al-Assad’s forces to forget what happened in Deir Al Zur on September 13 last, when US planes hit Syrian forces that clashed with ISIS, leaving 62 dead on the ground.
Not even this will be easily forgotten by the Syrian Arab Army.
Also Russia has a long memory, after the failure of the ceasefire on September 9 last.
The US strategy is now clear. The United States do not want to do favours to Russia, which remains a “strategic rival”, and are not interested in a united Syria.
The US basic idea is the following: if the Syrian regime collapses – and the recent successes seem to make this possibility more unlikely – the United States will create a “war curtain” which will block the strategic continuity between Syria and Iraq and, in the future, will lead to the partition of Syria, thus making it unusable for Russia and China.
The war theatre will stretch from Idlib to Abu Qamal through Aleppo, Raqqa and Deir El Zur – an area which will be truncated horizontally by a Kurdish entity in the North. Briefly Syria as the “Libya of the East”.
However, which is Russia’s current strategic logic in Syria?
Firstly, Russia makes a careful cost-benefit analysis for each war effort.
As the former Italian President, Francesco Cossiga, used to say, “the United States are always about to wage a war, but then they not know how to lead it”.
Moreover, Russia is aware of the fact that an inter-ethnic and inter-religious war is virtually endless and that only negotiations can really stop it.
Insofar as Russia has taken most of its air forces away from the Syrian theatre, although maintaining its bases, it forces both Assad’ Syria and the so-called “rebels” to take the ceasefire of September 12 seriously, while credibly putting pressures on both Saudi Arabia and Turkey, without abandoning Assad’ Syria or its relationship with Iran to its fate.
Nevertheless Iran stated that the splitting up of Syria would lead to a “New Armageddon“, whereas Russia said it could also accept a federal Syria.
The Russian success is now clear: Russia has avoided Turkey creating a statelet depending on Ankara, while the idea of a federal State has electrified the Kurdish minority.
While the United States wage war as a quasi-metaphysical solution to the struggle between good and evil, Russia’s recourse to weapons paves the way for a positive peace – it is a political instrument, not a phase in which, according to Carl von Clausewitz, politics is suspended.
Furthermore, from an economic viewpoint, Russia needs Turkey. Turkey is the second largest buyer of Russian energy after Germany, while Russia imports large amounts of agrifood products from Turkey, especially after the silly sanctions which have brought the EU economy – and Italy’s in particular – to its knees.
Turkey, however, remains the largest buyer of Russian wheat.
Our politicians are good only to say yes to their Masters, who do not care about them. They still live in a Cold War perspective and no one can wake them up from their old dream.
Another problem for Russia, which has already been solved, is the clash with Saudi Arabia.
Russia rightly believes that Saudi Arabia is the base of Middle East jihadism and of the global “holy war”, which is precisely the Saudi instrument for world hegemony, the other side of oil.
On the other hand, Russia wants to maintain good relations with Saudi Arabia so as to support the oil barrel price, which is too low for the fragile Russian economy. It also wants to show to be friendly vis-à-vis the Muslims residing on its own territory, except for the Wahabi minorities in the Caucasus and Central Asia, that are in line with Saudi interest.
A chess game which avoids war and succeeds in punishing Russia’s enemies.
The same holds true for Iran. Russia does not like the JCPOA reached between Iran and the West – indeed, with its support.
An old Russian diplomat used to say that a “pro-American Iran is more dangerous for us than a nuclear Iran”.
The doors opened with Turkey and Saudi Arabia are needed by Russia to counterbalance Iran and make it understand it is a marriage of convenience.
Hence, by using the old and never failed system of the balance of power, Russia has managed to become again a great global power and avoid the long exhausting war in Syria, by forcing Assad to negotiate, and above all to defend Russia’s national interest.
While the West’s international relations are now devoted to the nonsense of “human rights” and to bring democracy, Russia is proving to be the only world country where foreign policy is not implemented by thinking to female or black voters.
GIANCARLO ELIA VALORI
Honorable de l’Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France