The insurgency against Bashar al-Assad’s Alawite regime  began on March 15, 2015 in the framework of the Arab Springs – in that case designed to destabilize Saudi Arabia.

Unlike what had happened in the Maghreb region and in Egypt, Saudi Arabia managed the issue by putting severe pressures on the United States – the global managers of the “Arab Springs” – but, above all, by harshly repressing every internal rebellion.

The war in Syria coincided with the end of the reckless US plan to extend the “Arab Springs” to the whole Greater Middle East.

Rather than understanding that it was one of their defeats, the United States passively supported the Sunni jihad in Syria – and we cannot currently understand which their real goal was.

Was it to help the Saudi friends? Excessive. Was it the idea of democratizing the Arab world by using jihadists? Pure madness.
Was it to spite Iran by closing it into a Sunni pocket? And why?
Hence the war remained in Syria and Saudi Arabia could support all the forces that opposed Bashar al-Assad’s regime – considered by Saudi Arabia, with some exaggeration, as a mere Iran’s emissary.

The self-proclaimed “Caliphate” or jihadists comically defined as “moderate”, everything was good to set the Middle East on fire.

And, we wonder again, why?

So far the Syrian war has caused over 300,000 casualties and 12 million displaced persons or migrants, thus also prompting the British Brexit and the European countries’ future nationalistic closed-minded attitudes.

Certainly you may think that destabilization throughout Europe – which  now never notices anything – is an important strategic goal. However, who should contain Russia, according to the old Obama’s logic of the new cold war?

Talk about the heterogenesis of intents or the law of unintended consequences.
Furthermore, from the very beginning, Barack Obama has also supported the Saudi proxy war in Syria, by pushing the Russian Federation – which wanted to avoid being completely sealed up in the Mediterranean – to start its air raids on September 30, 2015, so as to support the Assads’ Alawite regime and oppose the network of Sunni jihadist groups backed by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United States.

An alcoholic-style geopolitics.

Finally it is a mystery how it is possible for the United States to still think of supporting the jihadist gangs, in a fragmented and very unstable environment such as the Middle East.

The jihadists will not destabilize Russia – if this is what is sought. Putin got rid of them with two very harsh wars in Chechnya.

Finally Saudi Arabia wanted to close a vital strategic space for Iran, namely Syria; Erdogan’s Turkey wanted to extend its new caliphate to the Sunni majority in Syria and the United States wanted to support their Saudi and Qatari allies against Iran and its hegemonic ambitions on Shiite minorities throughout the Fertile Crescent.

However, can a superpower like the United States strategically think of destabilizing the whole Middle East, the region which has also built the US  financial fortunes since the 1970s?

Hence, currently, the Syrian region highlights some objective factors: a) Obama’s policy of encircling Russia has failed definitively; b) Russia has succeeding in involving also Turkey – the second Atlantic Alliance’s power – in its Syrian project; c) the Sunni jihad supported by Saudi Arabia and its global and regional allies has lost its own challenge precisely on its ground.
On November 30, 2016 the jihadists were expelled from the suburbs of Damascus and from its aqueduct with an action of the Syrian Arab Army and Russia’s very effective air support.

Putin and Erdogan could reach their own agreement because Aleppo had been freed.

Moreover, the Russian agreements signed in Astana clearly state that all the various jihadist groups, adhering or not to the ceasefire of December 30, 2016, must immediately, and without exception, leave their positions in Syria.
As increasingly happens after acts of terrorism, with the brutal New Year’s attack in Istanbul, Turkey is bearing the brunt of its new pro-Russian stance.

A stance which, today, is already a strategic success.

A stance which is fully rational.

Erdogan wanted to conquer the whole Sunni Syria when Bashar al-Assad appeared to be weak, but currently he is satisfied with an Alawite regime  not permitting the establishment of a “Kurdish state” between Syria and the Iraqi territory.

Therefore, also thanks to Barack Obama’s strategic foolishness, currently Russia gives the cards and controls the New Middle East game.

Hence if the United States want to rescue their power in the region, they shall avoid delegating their strategic interest in the Middle East to the Sunni powers.

Furthermore the United States must avoid unilateralism, thus accepting the fait accompli and creating their control areas, without hoping Saudi Arabia would do so on their behalf.

Israel is the real winner of this war: it sees all its historical enemies exhausted in a long and bloody war; it has an information exchange agreement with the Russian Federation and can control – better than in the past – the whole Golan Heights region, which is essential for its defense.
Finally, at political and legal levels, the restriction to Hezbollah and Iranian special forces’ operations in Syria – according to the Astana agreements – reflects Russia’s and Assad Syria’s willingness to expel all jihadist groups – and, hence, their supporters’ interests – from the territory.

Too much Iran’s involvement prompts and recalls Saudi Arabia and neither Syria nor Moscow have any interest in being involved in the final war between the two Islam’s schools of thought.

Therefore the Middle East is too important to be managed with proxy wars or with set-ups built only with words and for a very short lapse of time.
We must therefore change our conception of the whole region, which currently has the Syrian war at its core.

The Fertile Crescent is not only the channel between Europe and Asia, as in the British Empire’s days, but also an area acting as a buffer zone between two regions which will be crucial in the future: Central Asia and China.
It is also autonomous in its dynamics – for many years it has no longer been the Arab, Islamic or Jewish extension of the great powers’ interests.
Obviously the central point of this new set-up will be the Mediterranean, which will become the most important “regional sea” of the globe.

Just to paraphrase the old laws of British and American geopolitics, whoever dominates the Middle East controls the Heartland, but whoever is  dominant in the “middle land” controls the Eurasian peninsula and the two oceans.

Thinking of the Fertile Crescent only in terms of oil or energy transits is certainly important but, by now, fully reductive and simplistic.

Nevertheless let us revert to clashes and fighting. To date, the local sources of the war in Syria give us some definite results: the jihadist groups have been expelled from Wadi Barada and Ghouta East with the Syrian Arab Army’s weapons and hence have broken off  – out of spite – the negotiations in Astana, Kazakhstan.

The jihadist groups expelled from Wadi Barada and Ghouta East include also the Syrian Free Army – a coalition of “moderate” groups, according to the US State Department’s dangerous jargon – and the Army of Conquest, another coalition of small jihadist groups.

 All groups and people who have always gone back and forth the self-proclaimed Daesh/Isis Caliphate and the so-called small jihadist groups.
In ever clearer terms, the truce of Astana is becoming the legal and military tool to quickly remove the jihadist pockets still remaining between the center of Syria and its Southeast.

Hence the truce will hold until the jihadists do not realize it is a powerful tool of war against them and – as claimed by multiple sources of the Syrian Sunni jihad – the “cease-fire” will end unilaterally, but with the jihadists out of all the strategic positions they held so far.

Without “America being able to do anything for us”, as one of the leaders of the Syrian jihad said.

Therefore the issue lies in definitely freeing Mosul – the Iraqi axis of the Syrian victory – where the elimination of the so-called “Islamic State” is entrusted to 50,000 units including Kurds, Iraqi intelligence services, Anbar Sunni tribes and paramilitary Iranian Shiites.

It is the real center of gravity of the war against the so-called “Caliphate”, which will be quick and effective when the various jihadist groups, adhering or not to the Astana Agreement, will get out of the way.
The other areas from which to currently expel jihadists are Maarat al Numan, Saraqeh and Sheikhoun near Idlib, Teir Maalah, north of Homs and Souha, east of Hama.

Hence, at strategic level, Russia and Syria are closing every escape route to the many Syrian jihadi groups, before launching – with the necessary forces – the attack on the so-called Al Baghdadi’s Caliphate.

Therefore, politically, we can envisage the following scenario.
Russia has no interest in making its Syrian hegemony unipolar: Putin has repeatedly stated that the “truce way” is also open to the United States and even to Saudi Arabia.

Russia does not want to bear the whole Middle East burden upon itself – and rightly so.

Those who hegemonized the Middle East before Russia created the conditions for their ruin and the subsequent Middle East disaster – see the United States which, with the Bush’s and Obama’s administrations,  made their interest overlap with Saudi Arabia’s.

Politically, the alternative options will be either a smaller Syria under Bashar al-Assad, who has anyway won his war, or a “Greater Syria” with an Alawite leader who can also be liked by the United States and the Sunni powers in the region.

Bashar al-Assad, however, has won and he will not get out of the way so quickly or easily.

And the Alawite leader shall also be liked by Israel, if he does not create problems in the Golan Heights and does not allow militants and advanced weapons to pass through the Heights up to the Lebanese border or even  the  areas of the Gaza Strip.

Israel, too, is one of the winners of this new Syrian war and has the right to have many of its demands accepted.

Russia will involve the United States in the final agreement, with some strategic guarantees and especially stable cooperation between the two countries throughout the Middle East, in addition to the acceptance of Russia’s primary interest in the region.

Security of Russia’s military ports on the Mediterranean; the right to be consulted on all matters regarding the Mediterranean; Russia’s business expansion throughout the region.

Under these conditions, the United States can rest easy and avoid Saudi Arabia’s subsequent destabilization, the Lebanon’s final cantonization, which is in nobody’s interest, and finally Israel’s very dangerous encirclement.

Forget about Obama’s anti-Semitic hysteria: if America does not keep  Israel it cannot afford any independent policy throughout the Middle East.

The Jewish State could have an international guarantee, with a “stabilization” force similar to UNIFIL II in the Lebanon, but on its Northern borders and, above all, in the strategic link between these areas and the border with Jordan.

In fact, the game played by some Israeli analysts is very dangerous: they favour the anti-Iranian and Assad’s enemy groups so as to avoid the integration of the Shiite forces in the Golan Heights and the Lebanon.
A US-borrowed strategy that will only cause disasters in the medium term.
The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, which is essential for every geopolitical project in the Middle East, could be integrated with most of the Palestinian National Authority, a very dangerous failed state that is the offspring of the Cold War old logic.

Russia could be the reliable and credible broker for the Palestinians, with a view to settling the Arab-Palestinian issue, in connection with Israel.
At the end of Barack Obama’s two Presidential terms, the United States could reach an agreement with the Russian Federation for Syrian  stabilization and for the final settlement of the Kurdish issue, by redesigning – together with Russia – the borders of a non-sovereign Kurdish area which, of course, cannot destabilize Turkey.
Turkey will be in a position to have what it has always wanted, namely a droit de regard on the Sunni majority in Syria and safe passage to Central Asian Turkmen areas.

Bashar al-Assad has won. He will not get out of the way easily and, moreover, we do not even understand why he should do so.

If he is politically smart and open-minded – as he has proved to be during the war against the Sunni jihad – he could avoid maintaining the aura of Alawite leader extended to all Syria and create, for himself,  the image and project of leader for all Syrians.

Furthermore, Iran has gained what it wanted, namely the security of the Shiite areas on its Syrian border.

It will not want more than this, if there are those that will be able to deal with the tough but smart religious leaders of the Iranian Shi’a.
Who is the loser? Obviously the European Union.

It had proposed the previous two totally ineffective truces and it did not succeed in creating its own geopolitical autonomy between a flat reiteration of US slogans and its interest in curbing and controlling immigration, which was used as blackmail by Erdogan’s Turkey.

Currently, if the United States come back into the Middle East region, they can only do so as losers: accept the Russian conditions and start again from there, without being deceived by the siren songs of some of their allies’ Sunni jihad.

From this viewpoint, Trump’s signals are fully reasonable.
Israel can see all its enemies be exhausted and be content with it, or take control of the situation.

In the latter case, it will be in a position to involve the United States and Russia in the new negotiations between the Jewish and the Islamic States, outside all the Cold War old ideas: useless and dangerous territorial concessions; creation of strategically useless pockets southwards and eastwards; trade only on paper.

Old “cold war” junk that no longer serves anyone.

Either Russia will make peace prevail between the Jewish State and its historical opponents or the work made in Syria will melt away like snow in the sun.

Conversely, the new US President, Donald Trump, may rebuild the US hegemony over the Middle East, possibly by being the promoter of a military agreement between all parties that would mark the greatness, vision and far-sightedness of the new White House leader.

Meanwhile the European Union will stay idle faced with its demographic and strategic disaster, waiting for someone to solve problems on its behalf.

 

GIANCARLO ELIA VALORI
Honorable de l’Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France