ICA 2012-08 2 February 2012
West loses geopolitical battles in Ukraine and central Asia In the current era ,after the Fall of the Berlin Wall, a triumphant US led capitalist West went about dismantling the Union of Socialist Republics and ‘induced’ Moscow’s erstwhile allies in Europe to join NATO and EU in spite of the promises to the contrary made to Gorbachev . US & NATO forces dismembered the multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-lingual Slav and orthodox Yugoslavia, which with religious and ethnic affinities was strategically closer to Russia.
Using as pretext the 119 attacks on US symbols of economic and military might in New York and Washington, which more and more people are now coming round to believe was an inside job, Washington, instead of attacking Saudi Arabia and Egypt, from where most of the hijackers originated, first bombed Afghanistan, coercing ally Pakistan into joining it or get bombed to stone age and installed a former UNOCOL consultant Hamid Karzai as the new ruler in Kabul after the Taliban leadership disappeared into Pakistan and northern Alliance marched into Kabul. Then on flimsy grounds Washington illegally invaded Iraq in 2003 for its oil. Almost a million and half Iraqis have died since then; the country divided, devastated, destroyed and poisoned with depleted Uranium waste. Taking advantage of the unraveling of USSR into many states now in utter disarray, under the pretext of US led 'War on terror' in Afghanistan, Washington acquired bases in the heart of central Asia; in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, the last next door to China’s turbulent Turkic speaking Uighur province of Xinjiang.
Washington then organized US franchised (like McDonalds, KFC outlets) street revolutions financed by US non-governmental fronts and organizations, CIA and Washington’s envoys in former Russian allies in Europe and in Moscow’s near abroad. It succeeded in Serbia (from which Montenegro was detached making it landlocked), Georgia and Ukraine, but failed in Belarus. In Uzbekistan, where the regime change was attempted a few weeks after Kyrgyzstan regime change in March 2005, feisty Islam Karimov expelled the US forces from its air force base.
The February 2010 results of Ukraine’s bitterly fought presidential elections giving victory to Victor Yanukovich, a pro-Russian former prime minister, against maverick ‘Orange Revolution’ heroine prime minister Yulia Timoshenko, Washington favourite, confirmed the US roll back from Kiev.http://tarafits.blogspot.in/2010/02/ukraine-elections-confirm-rollback-of.html Pro-Moscow April 2010 ‘Revolution’ in Kyrgyzstan
Then the Geopolitical Battle in Kyrgyzstan over US Military Lily pond in central Asia was lost after Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev fled the capital Bishkek on 7 April, 2010 in the wake of wide spread violence in which 75 people were killed and 400 wounded. Ms. Otunbayeva, a former foreign minister, took over .The new regime, dependent on a resurgent Russia is pro Moscow .US still remains an unwelcome ‘guest’ at the Kyrgyz Manas airbase....
Assad’s Stand at Baba Amr, Homs; a Turning point in Middle East! In 1982 when the Sunni Moslem Brotherhood rose and assassinated over 100 Alawite officers and Baath party officials in the Syrian town Hama ,Bassar Assad’s uncle ,Rifaat was sent by late president Hafez Assad to pacify the town .He had allegedly butchered between 20,000 to 40000 inhabitants ,creating a new phrase .”Rule or die” .Any further continuation of Western intervention would resulted in ‘you haven’t yet seen anything ‘violence. In this continuing struggle, with the West losing ground, the battle at Baba Amr. Homs could become a historic turn around. I am copying below a very well researched and cogently written account of the current situation in Syria based on reliable sources, giving military and diplomatic moves and countermoves in Syria, the region and around the world. K.Gajendra Singh 22 March 2010.Mayur Vihar, Delhi. http://tarafits.blogspot.com/2011/08/amb-rtd-k-gajendra-singh-cv-post.html New Phase in Syria Crisis: Dealmaking toward an ExitBy Sharmine Narwani Published 21 March 2012 in English.al-akhbar http://english.al-akhbar.com/content/new-phase-syria-crisis-dealmaking-toward-exit In recent weeks, there has been a notable shuffle in the positions of key external players in the Syrian crisis. Momentum has quite suddenly shifted from an all-out onslaught against the Assad government to a quiet investigation of exit strategies. The clashes between government forces and opposition militias in Baba Amr were a clear tipping point for these players – much hinged on the outcome of that battle. Today, the retreat of armed groups from the Homs neighborhood means one thing: the strategy of militarizing the conflict from within is no longer a plausible option on which to hang this geopolitical battle. Especially not in an American or French election year, when anything less than regime change in Syria will look like abject failure. And so the external players are shifting gears – the more outspoken ones, quietly seeking alternative options. There are two de facto groups that have formed. Group A is looking for a face-saving exit from the promised escalation in Syria. It consists of the United States, European Union and Turkey. Group B, on the other hand, is heavily invested in regime-change at any cost, and includes Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and some elements of the French, US, British, and Libyan establishments. Before Baba Amr, these two groups were unified in maximizing their every resource to force regime change in Syria. When the UN Security Council option was blocked by Russia and China, they coalesced around the General Assembly and ad-hoc “Friends of Syria” to build coalitions, tried unsuccessfully to bring a disparate opposition fighting force (Free Syrian Army) under central leadership, pushed to recognize the disunited Syrian National Council (SNC), and eked out weekly “events” like embassy closures and political condemnations to maintain a “perception momentum.”But those efforts have largely come to a standstill after Baba Amr. A reliable source close to the Syrian regime said to me recently: “The regime eliminated the biggest and most difficult obstacle – Baba Amr. Elsewhere, it [eliminating armed militias] is easier and less costly at all levels. Now both political and military steps can continue.” Dealmaking Begins in EarnestThe first clear-cut public sign of this new phase was the appointment of Kofi Annan as UN envoy to Syria. Annan is an American “concession” that will draw out this dealmaking phase between the Syrian government, opposition figures and foreign governments potentially until the May 2012 parliamentary elections. This phase is what the Russians, Chinese, Iranians, and other BRIC countries have sought from the start: the creation of a protective bubble around Syria so that it has the time and space necessary to implement domestic reforms that will not harm its geopolitical priorities. Syria threatens to blast open a Pandora’s Box of newly-motivated “soldiers of God.” And while sectarian anger may be the fuse, the conflagration will take place on a major geopolitical fault line in the Mideast, at a delicate time, on one of Israel’s borders. Dealmaking and dialogue can be seen everywhere suddenly. Annan is only a figurehead masking these multilateral efforts. Reports are coming in that the US has kept a steady dialogue with the Syrian regime throughout. Opposition religious figures – mostly Muslim Brotherhood in their day-job guises – have met with the regime in recent weeks. And prominent Syrian reformists who reject military action and are open to dialogue with the regime, are now being sought out by various European governments. The European Union (EU) kicked things off in March in a joint foreign ministerial communiqué rejecting military intervention in Syria. This was swiftly followed by Kofi Annan’s strong warning against external efforts to arm the Syrian opposition, with various Americans making similar soundings in his wake. One very prominent Syrian reformist who has remained engaged with both sides of this conflict, confided that the externally-based Syrian opposition are now “looking over each other’s shoulders – none yet dares to speak out.” The fact is, says the source, “They are getting military assistance, but nowhere near enough. They need much, much more that what they are getting, and now the countries backing this opposition are developing conflicting agendas.” Three high-level defections from the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) were announced within days of that conversation, hinting further at the fundamental policy shifts occurring in all circles, behind the scenes. The game has changed along Syria’s borders too. Turkey, a ferocious critic of the Assad government this past year, is reconsidering its priorities. A participant in a recent closed meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu reveals the emptiness of Turkish threats to form a “humanitarian corridor” or security zone on their Syrian border. Davutoglu says my source, insisted in private that “Turkey will not do anything to harm Syria’s territorial integrity and unity because that will transfer the conflict into Turkish territory.” Recent deliberations with Iran also seem to have resonated with the Turks. During Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi’s January visit to Ankara, a source tells me that an understanding was reached. The Iranian FM is said to have warned Turkish leaders that they were leveraging a lot of goodwill – painstakingly built up in the Muslim/Arab world – in return for “no clear benefit” in Syria. According to my source, the Turks were encouraged to strike a bargain to regain their regional standing – the key concession being that Assad would stay through the reform period. A Hard Dose of Realpolitik Although Turkey has backtracked from its belligerent public posture, there are still elements in the country that remain rigid on Syria. The same is true for the US and France. The fact that 2012 is an important election year in both countries plays a part in the strategy shuffle, but there are other pressing concerns too. One major worry is that there aren’t a lot of arrows left in the quiver to fire at Syria. Without the UN Security Council granting legal authority to launch an offensive against Syria, there are only piecemeal efforts – and these have all been tried, if not yet exhausted: sanctions, demonstrations, arming militias, cyberwarfare, propaganda, diplomatic arm-twisting, and bribing defectors. But a whole year has passed with no major cracks in support from the regime’s key constituencies and that has caused some debate about whether this kind of tactical pressure may ultimately backfire.In Washington in particular, alarm bells have been ringing since militant Islamists infiltrated the Syrian opposition militias, some pouring in from Iraq where they were only recently targeting American interests. The US has spent the better part of a decade focusing its national security apparatus on the threat from Al Qaeda and militant Islam. The execution of Osama Bin Laden and other Al Qaeda-related figures was meant to put a seal on this problem – at least in the sense that the organization has shriveled in size and influence. But Syria threatens to blast open a Pandora’s Box of newly-motivated “soldiers of God.” And while sectarian anger may be the fuse, the conflagration will take place on a major geopolitical fault line in the Mideast, at a delicate time, on one of Israel’s borders – and changing winds could fan those flames right back in the direction of the United States and its allies. That is a red line for the US military and a sizeable chunk of the Washington political establishment. There are other Americans, however, who are unable to view the Syrian crisis outside the prism of Iran and its growing regional influence. US Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman, who has spent years now orchestrating the defeat of the Iran-led “Resistance Axis,” is one such player in the capital. Feltman is part of Group B, alongside Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The battle in Syria has become an existential one for Group B. They have played too hard and revealed too much, to be able to re-assert themselves into any impartial regional role in the future – unless there is a changing of the guard in Syria. As Group a moves toward a face-saving exit from the crisis, we are going to witness a re-telling of events in Syria. The Western “mainstream media” and major international NGOs, which have served as little more than propaganda tools for various governments seeking to escalate the Syrian crisis and vilify the Assad government, are suddenly “discovering” dangerous elements in the Syrian opposition. This scene-setting is just as deliberate as the false narratives we have witnessed from Group A since the start of the crisis. Group B, on the other hand, remains unable to take its eye off the Syrian brass ring and may continue to employ increasingly brazen and foolhardy tactics to stimulate chaos inside the country. Syria may be Group B’s graveyard unless they are brought into these deals and promised some protection. I suspect, however, that they will instead be utilized as a valuable negotiating tool for Group A – brought into play if dealmaking is not working to their advantage. While negotiations plod on over Syria, we can be assured that most external players have little or no consideration for actual Syrians. The regime will be focused on the long haul, which includes ridding the country of armed groups, ensuring that major roadways are free of IEDs and snipers, implementing a watered-down reform program with token opposition members to give lip service to progress, and becoming even more entrenched in the face of regional and foreign threats. Meanwhile, the West and its regional allies will happily draw out a low-boil War of Attrition in Syria to keep the Syrian regime busy, weakened and defensive, while further seeking to cement their hold on the direction of the “Arab Spring.” They will pull levers to create flare-ups when distractions or punishments are warranted, with nary a care to the lives and livelihoods of the most disenfranchised Syrians whose blood is this conflict’s main currency. It will never be certain if there was a revolution in Syria in 2011. The country became a geopolitical battleground less than a month after the first small protests broke out in various pockets inside Syria. And it is not over by a long stretch. Syria will continue to be the scene of conflict between two regional blocs until one side wins. This may be a new phase in Syria today where players are converging to “cut some losses,” but be assured that they are merely replenishing and repositioning their reserves for a broader regional fight. Sharmine Narwani is a commentary writer and political analyst covering the Middle East. She is a Senior Associate at St. Antony's College, Oxford University and has a Master of International Affairs degree from Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs in both journalism and Mideast studies. You can follow Sharmine on twitter@snarwani. The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect Al-Akhbar's editorial policy....
By Kaveh L Afrasiabi
CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts - In a major setback for Turkey's self-promotion as a pivot of regional diplomacy, Tehran could rebuff Ankara's bid to hold the next round of multilateral nuclear talks in Istanbul. As a result, unless Ankara sends Tehran some reassuring signals, it is a sure bet that the talks will be held elsewhere.
Although no official announcement has been made, reports from Tehran indicate that compared to two years ago, when Iran trusted Turkey enough to consider inking an agreement with it, together with Brazil, that called for Turkey's safekeeping of Iran's enriched uranium, today a good deal of that trust has disappeared, replaced with a growing Iran disquiet about Turkey's perceived ill intentions toward Syria and, indirectly, Iran.
Nuclear talks between Iran and the "Iran Six" (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council - the United States, Great Britain, China, Russia and France - plus Germany) are due to take place in April. Yet, as of this writing, no final decision on the venue has been announced, despite intense efforts by the Turkish Foreign Ministry to secure Istanbul. The perceived excesses of Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who has boldly stated that the "military option" on Syria is now on the table, have moved Tehran in the opposite direction.
"The neo-Ottomanist Davutoglu has crossed the line with his hawkish line against Syria, which simply means that Turkey is acting as a NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] pawn in the Middle East, and therefore he should not be rewarded by hosting the Iran negotiations in Istanbul," says a Tehran University political science professor who prefers to remain anonymous.
After hosting five rounds of anti-Damascus summits of Syrian opposition groups and repeatedly stating that Turkey regards the situation in Syria as tantamount to an "internal problem", Turkey has created a new image problem for itself, ie, being seen as in bed with reactionary Arab regimes such as Saudi Arabia and other oil sheikdoms which are American client states and now want to add Syria to the list.
But this is unlikely to happen, or happen easily, in part because two important regional players, Russia and Iran, are united in preventing a tectonic shift in regional balance favoring the Western hegemonic powers; both Moscow and Tehran have denounced Turkey's embrace of a NATO anti-missile radar that poses a national security risk to both countries. Yet these countries are supposed to have "zero problems" with Turkey in terms of Davutoglu's foreign policy doctrine. (See Misstep in Turkey's neighborly ties Asia Times Online, October 12, 2011).
According to the Tehran professor, "Turkey's problems with its neighbors, including Iraq, are piling up fast and that means zero success for its doctrine of 'zero problems'". With Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan under cancer treatment, Davutoglu and his pro-NATO foreign policy team may be enjoying a greater hand in devising policy, which may be an unfortunate development backfiring on Turkey in the near future.
Despite its growing suspicion of Turkey's regional intentions, Iran's policymakers and pundits are not yet ready to forego the possibility of "win-win" relations with Ankara, in light of burgeoning Iran-Turkey trade and energy connections that are expected to grow in the coming years.
Turkey has requested a waiver from the Western energy sanctions on Iran, as have several European nations, and with or without a role in the nuclear talks, it has a vested interest in maintaining the present trend of economic ties with Iran.
Nor can Turkey use the potential leverage of signaling its willingness to allow an Israeli strike on Iran via its airspace - such a move would be very badly received by Turkish Muslim public opinion and would spell doom for Davutoglu and others in the government if they ever consented to such a scenario. (See The myth of an Israeli strike on Iran Asia Times Online, April 7, 2005.)
An equally important factor militating against holding the nuclear talks in Istanbul is that compared to early last year, when Iran was still entertaining the terms of the "Tehran declaration" that stipulated that Iran would ship out a bulk of its stored uranium to Turkey for the sake of a fuel swap, today the feeling in Iran is that the declaration is moot in light of Iran's nuclear advances in manufacturing 20% enriched uranium, as well as uranium metal.
Instead of focusing on a fuel swap, Iran's focus now for the coming nuclear talks is to put a brake on the many sanctions on Iran, which is why Tehran may opt for Vienna or Brussels, the headquarters of both European politics as well as Swift, the giant financial clearing house that recently cut off Iranian banks.
What gives Iran a modicum of hope for a successful "rollback" strategy is (a) an open division in the ranks of the European Union over Iran, (b) the EU's decision to back away from banning European insurance companies from dealing with Iranian oil shipments, and (c) the growing number of European countries seeking a waiver from the Iran oil embargo.
The latter has clearly put a huge dent in the recent EU decision to halt all Iranian oil imports by July, reflecting the internal fissures that are based on pure energy needs - particularly for countries such as Italy, Spain and Greece, the three largest Iran oil importers.
As for Vienna, the headquarters for the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the benefit of holding the nuclear talks there for Iran consist of the fact that Iran's cooperation with the IAEA is increasing and there are hopeful signs of the IAEA backtracking from some of its recent unsubstantiated statements regarding Iran's nuclear program.
Regarding the latter, IAEA head Yukiya Amano has come under new fire in the form of an article in London's Guardian newspaper casting serious doubt on his neutrality, depicting him as unduly pro-American.  With both the IAEA leadership and the EU's foreign policy machinery on the defensive to some extent, Iran's diplomatic chips are increasing, which may not be the case if the talks were held in Istanbul, under a cloud over the Syria controversy.
1. See Nuclear watchdog chief accused of pro-western bias over Iran March 16.
Kaveh L Afrasiabi, PhD, is the author of After Khomeini: New Directions in Iran's Foreign Policy (Westview Press) .