Prospect of a massive war grips the Middle East

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The developments of the past few days in the Middle East, especially in Syria, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia have triggered an atmosphere of fear concerning a conflict that may involve the entire region.

In the past day, Turkey has already pursued Kurdish militants inside Syria using heavy artillery against targets south of its border with Syria. The Syrian government and Turkish military have confirmed that targets have been hit in Hatay Province, Aleppo Province, Idlis Province, and Latakia Province inside Syria.

Damascus has already sent a letter of complaint to the United Nations, where it described the attacks as an assault on Syrian government forces. It called for the UN to “take responsibility for international peace and security by putting an end to the crimes committed by the Turkish regime.” It also added that Ankara’s offensive is “an attempt to increase the morale of armed terrorist groupings, who are being defeated (by the Syrian Arab Army).”

On the other hand, Saudi Arabia has started to mass its troops near Syria as part of a military ‘exercise’, announcing it as the “largest and most important” in the region’s history. Over the weekend, Riyadh also announced its commitment to oust the Islamic State (ISIL/ISIS) threat out of Syria thus justifying its planned military drills, which as of press time, will commence in a few hours.

Riyadh’s and Ankara’s military escalation an act of desperation

Although far from being implemented, last week’s talks of a cessation in hostilities in Syria as discussed by major world powers in Munich have been received rather negatively by the Saudis and Turkish government. For one, both countries fear that a cease fire agreement might benefit Bashar Al Assad, Syria’s legitimate president, to stay in power and put to waste their 5-year effort of supporting the so-called ‘moderate’ rebels fighting the Syrian government.

Syria’s government described the Turkish attack on Aleppo, Syria’s second largest city and stronghold of different terrorist groups including Islamic State, as retaliation for the advances made by the Syrian military against rebel groups fighting Assad’s regime. The Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu insisted that the artillery firing was in response to Kurdish insurgency crossing into Turkey’s border with Syria. Contrary to this claim, it has been revealed that Turkey’s interest in Syria has been the supply of illegal oil being shipped from IS to refineries in Turkey – an operation which was stopped by the Russian air campaign against Islamic State.

Escalation will lead to total war in the region

The Turks and Saudis possible ground offensive in Syria will have unimaginable consequences for the region. At present, the conflict in Syria already involves all major rebel and terror groups in the region, including the likes of Al Qaeda, Al-Nusrah Front, and Islamic State. The United States and Russia are involved in ‘fighting’ IS, but both having a different outcome in mind for Syria’s future. NATO forces are also involved in the military operations, as provided by the UK, France, and now Turkey.

Experts and commentators alike have described the Syrian Civil War as a “proto-world war with nearly a dozen countries embroiled in two overlapping conflicts.” In the latest Munich Security Report, it has been stated that “for the first time since the end of the Cold War, the escalation of violence between major powers cannot be dismissed as an unrealistic nightmare.”

Russia is aiming to maintain a transitional government that includes the present leadership of Syria, a prospect opposed by the United States, NATO, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and their allies. Syria’s main ally in the region, Iran, also supports Moscow’s position. Iraq and Lebanon also shares a Syria that still involves Bashar Al Assad’s regime.

The government of Turkey, which authorized the downing of Russian bomber jet back in November 2015, is currently bombarding targets in Syria, choosing to use artillery instead of its air force to avoid Russia’s anti-aircraft installation in the northern part of Syria.

Syria has warned that any invasion force that challenges the country’s sovereignty will be considered an act of war. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who for years has advocated a negotiated settlement for Syria, gave a grim warning against such invasion force, saying that “the Americans and our Arab partners must think well: do they want a permanent war? All sides must be compelled to sit at the negotiating table instead of unleashing a new world war.”

So far, the American position in this latest conflict escalation is to lead the different factions back into the negotiating table and warned Turkey and the Saudis against destabilizing actions in Syria, as stated by US Secretary of State John Kerry in a recent Munich Security Conference. Curiously though, behind the negotiations US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said he expects commando units from Saudi and the UAE to start covertly invading Syria.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir announced in a conference that “there is some serious discussion going on with regards to looking at a ground component in Syria, because there has to be a possibility of taking and holding ground, that one cannot do from the air.” The Foreign Minister is advocating for a ground offensive, but that which should involve and be led by the United States. Earlier, he also called for the removal of Bashar al-Assad “by force.”

As for the Iranians they have warned that a military escalation led by the Saudis will be met in kind. Speaking in Tehran, Iranian Deputy Staff Brigadier General Masoud Jazayeri declared that “we will not let the situation in Syria get out of control so that some rogue states could implement their policies. If needed, we will take some appropriate decisions.”

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Turkey betrays Russian efforts to contain ISIS with shooting down of military aircraft

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Ending the Syrian Civil war has just took a step backward as Turkey, a member of the imperialist NATO military alliance, shot down a Russian warplane on a bombing mission to eradicate ISIS inside Syrian territory.

In the immediate hours after this major military incident, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan furiously defended his position, stating that “I think if there is a party that needs to apologize, it is not us…those who violated our airspace are the ones who need to apologize.”

Russia’s response was calm but with hints of Washington’s involvement in the matter, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stating his country has no intention of going to war with Turkey, while Russian President Vladimir Putin hinted that “the American side, which leads a coalition that Turkey belongs to, knew about the location and time of our plane’s flights”, effectively accusing the US of passing the mission’s details to Ankara.

Moscow also accused Turkey of a ‘planned provocation’ and supporting ISIS (there is considerable evidence showing such) in the fight against Syrian military forces to overthrow President Bashar Al Assad. Putin alleged once again that “we see from the sky where these (stolen oil) vehicles are going. They are going to Turkey (from terrorist controlled territory in Syria) day and night.”

Now that the damage has been done, Russia announced it will strengthen its position in northern Syria, along the Turkish border, by installing highly-advanced anti-aircraft weaponry as well as a series of economic sanction against Turkey.

The sanctions include a ban on goods, cancellation of labor contracts, halting of investment projects, and Russia’s advice to its citizens to avoid holidaying in Turkey because of security concerns. Russia is Turkey’s second biggest trading partner, and a major supplier of energy to the country.

Syria Recap: Who supports who?

Turkey has an interest in carrying out the United States’ declaration of ‘Assad must go’ policy towards Syria, while Russia is interested in maintaining the Syrian regime to be in charge of the country.

As such, with Moscow’s military intervention in Syria since the end of September, Ankara saw this as threat to its grand ambitions in Syria. Turkey tacitly supports ISIS and other ‘moderate’ rebel groups to oust Assad. While Washington openly declares war with ISIS, it is not doing so in such a way that will endanger rebel forces fighting the Syrian government. Indeed, the decision to down a Russian bomber in Syria reflects Turkey’s frustration in the current situation in Syria.

As Moscow steadily weakened Islamic State positions in Syria, policy makers in Washington and its allies became increasingly uncomfortable with the idea that a supposedly external power, Russia, is setting the agenda in the Middle East.

For Turkey, which is suspected of doing the bidding for NATO to compromise Russian air campaigns against rebel groups and in fact called NATO first instead of Moscow after downing the Russian Su-24 bomber, its interest lay in derailing the huge steps Russia has made to marginalize and defeat ISIS.

As for the United States, it is not pleased to work with other regional actors, like Russia and Iran, for doing so will show that its influence is starting to erode; that its being the region’s de facto hegemon is steadily being assigned to Moscow and Tehran.

The Language of Western Double Standards

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By now Obama has addressed Europe’s elites in Brussels for the G7 summit, which excluded Russia because of disagreements with Moscow’s stance on the Ukraine crisis. The Crimean referendum is perhaps the pinnacle of this almost half-a-year old Ukrainian fiasco–an essentially chessboard game between European powers and America. Depending on your news sources though, it can be hard to know who is telling the truth or spreading propaganda.

Of course, for those of you who manages to extricate yourselves from the claws of the mainstream Western media, reading ‘between the lines’ is more like an exercise on deciphering and disgust than simple curious observation and impartiality–what used to be news has now been transformed into outright and shameless propaganda.

Whether you are sitting pretty on your couch watching the evening news, or attending a press conference of US officials, here is a fun exercise on learning “the language of Western double standards.”

When Obama calls for “de-escalating the Ukraine crisis

  •          Dig on the facts, the ‘cause and effects’ of the crisis: the Ukraine protests late last year was ‘escalated’ by the West by its support for the Ukrainian anarchists, perhaps starting with John McCain’s visit to Kiev. Russia went to protect Crimea after the fact; triggered by the takeover of the Ukrainian self-proclaimed government

When the president of the United States calls for tougher sanctions if Russia engaged in “deeper incursions” into Ukraine

When Obama mentions the existence of “the principles that have meant so much to Europe and the world must be upheld”

When the West declares the Crimean referendum to secede from Ukraine is “illegal and against international law”

When the West says Russia is expanding its influence in the region

There is no denying that the inclusion of Ukraine as part of the European Union is only a pretext to its NATO membership in the future, and this Russia will fight at all cost. Here again, the principle of ‘cause and effect’ plays a role: Being in its region of influence, naturally Russia has the right to increase its military readiness amid NATO preparations near Russia’s borders.