A month has passed since Russia and the United States reached agreements on Syria in Geneva on Sept 9. Those 30 days have shown that the sides lack the main thing such agreements need for being realized – mutual confidence. And the Pentagon keeps making things even worse.
Today, the Americans’ priority in the Middle East is the war against ISIL in Iraq. There they have hundreds of men and a big squadron at the Qayyarah air base and are already very close to Mosul.
Since mid-Sept they have been very active in Iraq and are trying to act appropriately in Syria. There they have no resources for dominance and are just trying to prevent Russia’s dominance and its alliance with Iran and Turkey.
In order to achieve these goals, the U.S. commanders have convinced Barack Obama to “bang the door” when leaving his office. As a result, Obama’s Secretary of State John Kerry has become even tougher than Republican Senator John McCain and keeps blaming the Russians for crimes in Syria.
For Obama “to bang the door” does not mean keeping his promises to strike Bashar al-Assad’s air bases. His goal is not to let the Russians and the Syrians regain control over Aleppo and for this purpose to supply the “moderate” rebels with more arms and intelligence.
They in Washington have also revived the idea to impose a no-fly zone in Syria. Earlier Obama and Kerry did their best to prevent this Turkish initiative. But the Turks’ Euphrates Shield campaign in the north of Syria and Hillary Clinton’s possible presidency have caused certain changes in the White House’s policy. The Turks and their “moderate” allies have already occupied 1,000 sq km in Syria, with their declared goal being 5,000 sq km. As far as Clinton is concerned, she is a strong advocate of the no-fly zone project.
All this, along with the rumors that very soon the U.S. chiefs of staff will make Obama an offer he will not be able to refuse, proves that the Americans are considering an alternative strategy on Syria.
The Russians have already reacted to this. Today, their S-400 systems are controlling the whole sky in Syria. But their decision to send more S-300 systems to the Khmeimim air base was a counterattack in their “war of nerves” with the Americans. This is also a warning that there must be no no-fly zone in the north of Syria. If al-Assad asks the Kremlin, the whole of Syria may become close for “unfriendly” planes...
The current goal of the Pentagon is to escalate the conflict with Russia but not to let it evolve into a large-scale war.
The Americans’ top priority today is Mosul. When on Sept 9 Kerry and Lavrov announced a joint plant, the Pentagon sent its generals to Obama. Their message was as follows: While we are attacking Mosul, the Russians can make use of the silence regime and capture Aleppo. We must not let them do this or we will lose.
We all know what happened next: the Americans’ provocation in Deir ez-Zor, the row made about the “Russian or Syrian” air strike on a UN humanitarian convoy near Aleppo and mass media reports accusing the Russians of “barbarianism” in Aleppo.
The point is that the Americans were not inclined to cooperate with the Russians in Syria. So, the initiative to create a Russian-U.S. Joint Executive Center is sure to be shelved. The only common ground the Americans now have with the Russians in Syria is the hotline for preventing air incidents.
It was created between the Khmeimim air base and the U.S. center in Amman on Feb 27, but, according to Russia’s Defense Ministry, the Amman center has been closed.
There is one more reason why U.S. commanders need the fiasco of the Geneva agreements: the Americans are planning to neutralize the leader of ISIL Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi by Nov 8 – the presidential election in the United States. The last deadline is Jan 20, when Obama is to leave his office.
The death of al-Baghdadi is expected to dispirit the Mosul-based Jihadists and to help the Americans to capture the city. And though for most experts the victory of Clinton is a fait accompli, the Democrats would not mind such a bonus. For Obama this would be a chance to go with his head high.
Should al-Baghdadi be killed, they in Washington will remind their voters of May 2011, when Clinton was personally supervising the operation against Osama bin Laden.
In the meantime, al-Baghdadi keeps maneuvering between Iraq and Syria. Partnership with the Russians might curb the Americans’ plans on the terrorist N1. Al-Baghdadi might decide to move closer to al-Raqqah and force the Americans to make the Russians aware of their plans – something they are not willing to do.
Even though the Russian-U.S. agreement on Syria was meant to ensure joint strikes on Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (former al-Nusra Front), it also mentioned ISIL.
Today, the Americans and the Russians are competing for al-Baghdadi. In this game, the stakes are very high. One of the leads was the killing of ISIL’s “Propaganda Minister” Abu Mohammad al-Adnani. And in order to take the house the Americans are ready to retract on their Geneva commitments.
In fact, they have wrecked an initiative that had good resources for stopping the war in Syria or at least to reduce violence in that country. Unfortunately, the Americans have once again preferred their own interests. The outcome is clear – the tensions in Syria are as high as never before, with the Middle East facing large-scale destabilization.
EADaily Middle East Bureau