“Deputy Wars”, this word had become somewhat out of fashion since the end of the first Cold War. This refers to the abuse of the territory of small and relatively powerless states by major powers, which are fighting their conflicts there. The US and Russia also have their own strategic interests in the Syrian war. The only difference is that the US is escalating and ignoring international law in order to counteract a perceived loss of global significance. Russia is seeking a peaceful negotiated solution for the region, in accordance with international law. Recently, the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister presented his “Concept for the Collective Security of the Persian Gulf Region”. But the West is closing itself…
The balance of power in the world is changing. The unipolar world order under us control falls in favor of a multipolar world order in which various power blocs emerge. The US wants to prevent this, the US partners in Europe and the Arab world are wavering between transatlantic alliance loyalty and the building of its own power bloc. Nowhere is this development more evident than in the Middle East.
The “Big Game” involves many actors with very different interests. It is about influence and control, it is about access to oil and gas and transport routes. After Iraq, Syria has become a playing field, or rather a battlefield. The fight is fought on different levels.
Internationally, the US, China and Russia face each other. Regionally, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel compete. Locally, in addition to the Syrian armed forces, militias such as Hezbollah, Iranian and Kurdish militias, the Muslim Brotherhood and private security companies are fighting, which are increasingly in demand in the world’s theatres of war. In addition, there are countless local proxy troops who continue the fight for the supply of weapons and money. The battle is fought militarily, economically and politically.
Militaryly, the West is increasing its troops and, above all, arms supplies. Economically, the US and Europe impose unilateral punitive measures, economic sanctions against Syria and its partners. Politically, the United States in particular, but also Europe, is cancelling agreements — dialogue is diminishing, confrontation is on the increase.
International law is left out or will only be tried if the other side is accused of human rights violations. Calls on Russia to stop international law and puts forward its justifications — for example, in the alleged use of poison gas or the Syrian-Russian military operation against “Hayat Tahrir al-Sham”, which is affiliated with Al Qaeda and internationally considered to be terrorist — this is ignored by the West.
Unity in the UN Security Council has become the exception. The West accuses Russia of blocking unity, and Russia rejects that. UN agencies set up in recent years at the request of some states are becoming instruments to indict Russia. If Russia rejects the accusations, it is accused of obstructionist. The western public is deprived of the justifications or evidence that Russia presents in order to explain its position.
The confrontation is fuelled by numerous media outlets, which, with their reporting and “classification” for the public, seem to separate “good from evil”, “right from false”. Media and/or journalists who do not follow this are ignored or portrayed as “voice” of Russia and as implausible. The German-language media of Russia — Sputnik News, Russia Today Deutsch — are not read even by the press spokespersons of the Federal Government. When asked at a recent federal press conference how the German government would react to the initiative presented in Moscow to avoid war in the Persian Gulf, the Foreign Office spokesman admitted that he was not aware of it. May be.
Russian concept for the security of the Persian Gulf region
On 23 July, Mikhail Bogdanov, Deputy Foreign Minister and Special Representative of the Russian President for the Middle East and Africa, presented to international guests the “Russian Concept for Collective Security of the Persian Gulf Region”. The Moscow-based representatives of the five veto powers in the UN Security Council, the European Union, the Arab League and the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) were invited. Representatives of the Arab states, Iran and Turkey were also invited.
The background was the increasing tensions in the Persian Gulf region. Washington is sending more troop and naval units to the region and encourages Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to cooperate in building an “Arab NATO.” European states, most notably the United Kingdom, are also planning a military mission to protect oil tankers travelling from the oil and gas loading stations in the Persian Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz. More than 20 million barrels of oil are shipped daily to the UNITED States, Western Europe and Asia.
In view of this highly explosive situation, Moscow calls for dialogue. The concept is based on long-standing discussions in the UN General Assembly, the Security Council and the NPT conferences dealing with the Non-Proliferation Treaty of Nuclear Weapons Systems.
The aim is therefore to establish a zone in the Middle East free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. This proposal was first introduced by Egypt and Iran to the UN General Assembly in 1974.
Russia wants to bring together all states that are interested in the security of the Persian Gulf region. Many of the regional problems are interlinked, so only a cross-regional security concept can be successful.
The prerequisite is to recognise the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the states that should resolve their internal political conflicts in a national dialogue within the framework of the respective constitution. Foreign interference by states that are not in the region must be refrained from.
International law must be respected and, in the event of a dispute, violence must not be used or threatened. Territorial and border disputes should only be fought through negotiation and, in any case, peacefully. As a confidence-building measure, all sides should commit to military transparency. Meetings of regional and supra-regional defence ministers should take place, the establishment of hotlines, exchanges on upcoming manoeuvres and military overflights should be agreed. The permanent deployment of troops outside the Gulf region should be dispensed with. A “uniform dismantling of the armed forces on all sides” is sought.
The Russian proposal is the complete opposite of what the US is currently performing in the Gulf and what EU states that do not agree are planning. Overall, however, the West and its allies in the region are seeking to increase its military presence. The will to engage in dialogue with Iran or syria is subject to conditions. The West’s own economic and geostrategic interests are more important than taking into account the security and economic interests of all regional states.
While the West is on a confrontational course, Russia is seeking ways of dialogue. Moscow does not hide its own geostrategic interests in the region. However, Moscow does not want to impose this militarily at the expense of the regional states, but rather to mark it politically in cooperation with the regional states. After successfully intervening in the Syrian war in 2015, Russia has expanded its standing in the Middle East. Today it is respected as a new regulatory power and the Russian diplomats discuss solutions with the respective actors. Just as everyone ends up losing in war, everyone can win in dialogue.
The war in Syria may be long gone
The war in Syria may be long gone if Western states were to engage with and implement the premise formulated by Russia in the concept of collective security. UN Security Council Resolution 2254 explicitly states that the political transition process in Syria is shaped by the Syrians and that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country must be preserved.
Instead of taking up the Russian negotiating proposals and developing them further with Moscow, the West has reliably and stubbornly opposed cooperation.
This began with the Syria agreement in 2012 and continued with the political, media, military and financial support of “rebels”. Although the West agreed to the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal in 2013 and virtually co-understood it, immediately after the official OPCW declaration in early 2016 that the extermination process had been completed, “intelligence” emerged. Reports that Syria had secretly concealed three tons of chemical weapons.
In fact, chemical weapons were used in Syria, but when the Syrian government asked the OPCW to investigate, approval was delayed. When the opposition called for an investigation, Western UN Security Council members voted for an investigation, accompanied by massive political accusations against Syria and Russia.
The West ignored criticism from Russia about the conduct of the investigations, some of which were carried out remotely with evidence and presented exclusively by the opposition. All attempts by Russia to present its own research and evidence to the Western public were rendered implausible as “propaganda”.
With the “Friends of Syria” allies established by the West, they requested the creation of un commissions directed against the Syrian government. An “Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic” was established by the UN Human Rights Council (S-17/1) in August 2011. At the time, opposition activists and Syrian government officials in Syria were discussing a solution and negotiating the release of prisoners and ceasefires. This process has not been promoted by the West and the UN Human Rights Council.
This was followed by a commission on the prosecution of war crimes by the Syrian government, Germany is helping Syrian opposition figures to initiate criminal proceedings against Syrian military and elected officials, and recently the UN Secretary-General ordered the formation of a the Commission of Inquiry into war crimes committed in Idlib by the Syrian and Russian military. The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on the matter, which was not found in German newspapers.
The UN Secretary-General has been urged by states hostile to Damascus to set up such a commission of inquiry, it said. Russia has repeatedly stated that the Syrian army and Russian air force have only carried out “limited and retaliatory operations” in Idlib “to neutralize terrorists and destroy their facilities.” To drag that into the dirt and discredit Damascus is “undoubtedly used to create new obstacles on the path of political solution”.
The anti-Russian stance of the West and its allies in the work of the “Little Syria Group”, which met in Washington in January 2018, is particularly clear. At the time, the group consisted of the United States, Britain, France, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, and had come together to develop a counter-strategy to Russia’s proposals for peace in Syria.
Russia will be thrown “the glove of feud,” according to a transcript of the meeting reported by Arab media.
The US announced its remission from the Astana process as an observer and instead reviving the Geneva UN talks. The “Russian propaganda” of a victory in Syria is clever, but in fact Russia is stuck in a war zone.
But because Moscow wants to promote a political process, this can be used as leverage for a new format in Geneva. It is clear from the minutes that there was no intended to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria, but rather to discuss very specifically how Syria should be divided east and west along the Euphrates River. As a German one should know this, it is reminiscent of the end of the Second World War and what happened to Germany.
The meeting of the “Little Syria Group” took place immediately before a conference for the national dialogue of The Syrians, to which Russia had invited more than a thousand Syrians to Sochi. It was decided to revise the Syrian constitution. For this purpose, a committee should be set up to represent representatives of the government, the opposition and civil society groups. The then UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan De Mistura, attended the meeting and pledged to invite a constitutional committee to the UN headquarters in Geneva.
The idea of Sochi is not bad, the representatives of the “Little Syria Group” stated according to the protocol. However, such discussions should take place exclusively within the Geneva framework. The Sochi process will become “irrelevant”. The new US special envoy for Syria, Jeremy Jeffrey, declared in early December 2018 that “the Astana process should be pulled out.”
The West has lost the war on Syria, but is now doing everything it can to start political negotiations, peace and reconstruction. The US brings tons of new weapons and military equipment daily to areas controlled by the Syrian Kurds east of the Euphrates. Access to Syrian oil and gas sources is prohibited in Syria.
Russia has created an important regional military alliance with Syria, Iran, and Iraq after its military entry into the 2015 war, at the request of the Syrian government and thus in accordance with international law. With this, and with the “Centre for National Reconciliation of the Hostile Sides in Syria”, which has mediated and maintained dialogue everywhere and always, Russia has helped the Syrian government and the armed forces to take control of more than 70 percent of the country. recover from it. More than a million refugees have returned to Syria from neighbouring countries, with no western support, which is also preventing the UN from helping the returnees.
It would be easy to help the Syrians and Iraqis, the people of Yemen, Iran and the Palestinians to have a better peaceful future. Cooperation rather than confrontation could and should help Syria and the region to overcome wars. Russia shows how cooperation is possible, and has thus consolidated its influence far beyond Syria and the region. The US and its allies of the “anti-IS alliance” show where confrontation leads.
While Russia seeks dialogue, agreements and cooperation with Syria and with its opponents in order to end the war, the US and its partners are betting on division, exclusion, defamation and sanctions, according to the motto “Share and rule!”.