Kultura Newspaper has published an article by Chief Editor of EADaily Vigen Akopyan, which was entitled “Taliban at the Gates.” Below is an English translation of the full author’s version of the article.
Who has born the “transcendent evil” and where is it moving to?
In July 2012, I published an article entitled “There is no more Syria – is Iran the next?”. A few days before that, a horrible terrorist act in Damascus killed almost all top leaders of Syria – the relatives and closest friends of President Al Assad. My colleagues said then that I was too pessimistic and that it would not be easy to destroy Syria, let alone Iran. They said that without direct invasion, the United States and its allies would not be able to overthrow Al Assad as the Syrian army was not as weak as it might seem and Al Assad, unlike Muammar Gaddafi, enjoyed serious military-technical support from Iran and Russia. Almost three years have passed since then. Indeed, Al Assad’s forces are still fighting against the terrorist front. But have they managed to preserve Syria as a county? Unfortunately, not.
A few days ago, Sunni fundamentalists joined the ISIS and captured a big part of Syria. Particularly, they have occupied the territory around the ancient city of Palmyra and have perpetrated mass executions of civilians and refugees. Sources representing the Syrian opposition say that Al Assad is running out of resources. And they seem to be true. Military experts report that the ISIS has gained the upper hand in Syria and is now free to choose the direction of its next blow. Al Assad keeps saying that without Iran and Russia he will not be able to stop a multi-directional aggression. And the weaker the support and the stronger the aggression, the more urgent his messages are.
No less successful is the ISIS in Iraq. According to Associated Press, some 500 civilians and soldiers died in the extremist killing spree since the final push for Ramadi began Friday, with some 8,000 people having also fled the city. "State extremists overwhelmed their last hold-out positions despite the support of U.S.-led airstrikes," the AP reports.
So, today more than half of Syria and a big part of Iraq are like a hell on the earth, where there is no law and where lots of people are being killed on a daily basis. This is an arena of so-called hybrid war – a war with no constant allies or enemies, no final goals. This is a zone of chaos. But how much controllable is this chaos? Who has created it and what for? These questions are leading us to the lobby of the US President Barack Obama Administration.
While speaking to Fox News, US Senator John McCain called White House Spokesman Josh Earnest an “idiot” for the latter’s comments on the situation in Ramadi. Earnest said that they should not “light their hair on fire” every time there was a setback. McCain said that the ISIS was a “transcendent evil” and urged the US authorities not to leave unpunished its daily massacres.
Earnest’s comment was a Freudian slip. And McCain’s hysteria has proved this.
On May 22, Spokesman of Russia’s Foreign Ministry Alexander Lukashevich said that the US-led anti-ISIS coalition in Iraq and Syria is unable to prevent the ISIS from enlarging the territory of its trans-border caliphate. Even more, it was due to the Americans that Ramadi was captured. Associated Press specifies that before the defeat in Ramadi, the western partners of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi urged him not to use “Shia militia” – the strongest component of the Iraqi army.
How comes that once the US has joined the anti-ISIS coalition, the territory of the ISIS has begun to grow? Is this not a reason to “light hair on fire”? The only case when this is not is if the US is not going to stop the ISIS – something many experts point out. The ISIS has not just fallen out of a clear sky; it is an army of 50,000 radical Sunnis trained with the support of the US, Turkey, and the Gulf monarchies. It is a product of “hybrid war,” Iraq’s fall and the “Arab spring.” It is a new military-political factor giving the Americans more room for maneuver. So, why to fight it?
If we try to compare the U.S. policies in the Middle East before and after the ISIS, we will see that the Americans’ relations with Iran have turned from a frozen conflict into a direct constructive dialogue. How could this happen? The answer is that though still supporting Al Assad, Iran is actively fighting the ISIS in Iraq and is involved in the conflict in Yemen.
Iran has been involved in the “hybrid war” and is sustaining losses. This is a good occasion for the Americans to start a haggle with the Iranians despite protests by their Israeli and Saudi allies. Most of Arab monarchs have boycotted Obama’s initiative to negotiate Iran’s nuclear program in Camp David. The Times of Israel reports that the Israelis recently met with “moderate” Arab leaders in Amman to exchange views concerning the United States’ current policy in the region. According to Kol Israel, the sides admitted that the United States was losing its influence in the region and agreed to take urgent measures in this light. Earlier the UAE urged the US to give it written security guarantees.
The White House is playing the role of a joker in the Middle East. It first creates creating a problem for the other players and then helps to solve it. In the meantime, the hotbed of the hybrid war keeps moving. It may move to Iran as well as to Saudi Arabia, Turkey or even Israel. So, the key concern of the Saudis, the Jews and the Turks is what the Americans will ask for their favor this time. Thus, the policy of “not lighting hair on fire” seems to be proving its efficiency.
The possibility of a direct dialogue between the United States and Iran may curb the “hybrid war” – a fact that cannot but worry the Saudi monarchs and the Israelis. Some changes may also come from another trouble spot – Afghanistan. Quite recently, The Guardian reported a secret visit of a Taliban delegation to Iran. The logical question was why a Shia nation fighting Sunni regimes and groups in the Middle East has received a delegation of one of the most radical Sunni regimes. This is especially interesting as just like the ISIS, Taliban is actively enlarging its territory.
On May 15, a Tajik special service agent said that Taliban controlled almost 80% of Badakhshan, an Afghani province bordering on Tajikistan. “Several groups of terrorists have approached the border and we cannot but be worried,” the source said. Taliban is also reported to have strongholds near the border with Turkmenistan. In some local districts, civilians are clamped between terrorists and border guards. In the meantime, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a bloc comprising Russia and its CIS allies, is holding urgent quick response maneuvers in the region.
Where will this “hybrid war” move to? Central Asia? Or, perhaps, the Caucasus? Should the Americans manage to nail Iran down and redirect the activity of Islamists to Central Asia and the South Caucasus, the Kremlin will face a multidirectional invasion. And there is no guarantee that this will not coincide with a new wave of aggression in Donbass – for this is just one of the arenas of global hybrid war.
Russia may face a situation when it will be forced to react to several crises at the same time. “Hybrid war” is a means to establish a new global balance – when the old unipolar world has collapsed, while the contours of a new multipolar one are not yet clear. So, where this “hybrid war” will move to - to Europe, to Russia or to Central Asia – will depend on Russia’s policy.