By Elisabeth Hellenbroich
In the aftermath of the November 24th shoot down of a Russian Jet Sukhoi SU 24 by the Turkish air force, the geopolitical situation in the Mideast has shifted dramatically and brought the world much closer to a major war in the region. The crisis has motivated several leading strategists in Europe and the US to come out more vociferously, criticizing the blunders which the US and Europe have committed in letting the Syrian crisis get out of control and pointing to potential solutions that would have to include Russia. The crisis has also prompted several analysts to expose the dubious role of Turkey or Saudi Arabia in the relation to the IS.
Exemplary for the thinking of leading strategists is a commentary in the German economic daily Handelsblatt by former advisor of Chancellor Helmut Kohl and former director of the Munich Security conference Dr. Horst Teltschik, who spoke about the lessons we must draw from the enormous blunders that have been committed in the last years by both the US and Western Europe (Handelsblatt 26.11.15), their insistence on having Assad overthrown, combined with an attitude that led to the refugee flood in Europe and the Syria war getting out of control. The former advisor of Kohl demanded a new realism by stating that whether we like Turkey or not, Germany according to the principle of “do ut des” (give and take) must talk to Turkey and offer them some guarantees, in order to get the refugee flood under control. Teltschik pointed to the important initiative taken by French President Francois Hollande whose aim is to forge a “common political alliance” together with Russia, which itself, as Teltschik stressed, needs to be offered guarantees for the future use of the Syrian naval port Tartus.
Another view was given by Alexander Rahr, research director of the German- Russia and member of the board of the Valdai discussion forum, who in an Op- Ed in “Valdai news” commented in reference to the downing of a Russian war plane “that Turkey has another agenda in Syria and in the Mideast as a whole, particularly referring to the so called fight against international terrorism (…) Turkey considers Syria as its zone of influence. Ankara also wants to see it as part of the former Ottoman Empire and is sure that it has more rights to decide the fate of the region than Russia, which came from the outside.” (Valdai Club Newsletter 27.11.15)
Russia observer: Lessons of Libya not learned
What Rahr and Teltschik are stating was corroborated in a background discussion which the author had recently with an informed Russia observer. The discussion took place before the Russian SU 24 M was shot down. Russia’s military moves in Syria which started in September, it was stated, are well planned and well directed. Noteworthy is that both the US and Russian Intelligence have agreed on exchanging data in respect to the operations of their pilots, so as to avoid clashes in the air over Syrian territory. This also includes the offering of US satellite photos taken from the region given to the Russians (something, which did not occur for clarifying the downing of the MH17 airline in the Donbass region one year ago). It was underlined during the discussion that contrary to the wishful thinking in the West, the Russian population is backing President Putin’s strategy in Syria more than ever before. Russia’s air attacks alone won’t be sufficient to finish off the IS and if ground troops are deployed in the fight against IS in Syria, they must be facilitated from Kurds and Iranians.
Russia itself is confronted with the danger of Islamic terrorism in Central Asia and in the Russian federation, where many guest workers are living. Concerning the argument that any meaningful change in Syria is dependent on getting rid of Assad, the observer emphasized that the lessons of Libya have not been learnt. The overthrow of Muamar Gaddafi led to a “failed state” and has put the entire region in flames. When and how Assad is getting out of his power position, should be decided by the Syrian people.
US officer: We committed grave blunders
It is noteworthy that among the many critical voices which were raised in Europe, there was also an interview given by former US intelligence and Special Forces chief, Mike Flynn, on November 29th to “Spiegel Online”. The Intelligence chief emphasized that “we must constructively work together with Russia. Whether we like it or not, Russia made a decision to be there (in Syria) and to act militarily. They are there and that has dramatically changed the dynamic. So you can’t say Russia is bad, they have to go home. It’s not going to happen. Get real. Look at what happened in the past few days”, Flynn stated. He made reference to the declaration made by French President Holland who is looking for an alliance with Russia. Flynn was extremely critical about US intelligence “failures” in the past and qualified the Iraq War “as a huge error. (…) As brutal as Saddam Hussein was, it was a mistake to eliminate him”. The same goes for Muamar Gaddafi and for “Libya which is now a failed state”. A similar blunder according to Flynn occurred, when the US decided to let today’s leader of the IS, Bakhri al Bagdadi free, after he had been imprisoned in 2004 in a US prisoners camp and after a US military Commission had called him “harmless”. Rather than analyzing why terrorism occurred against the US “we were too dumb” and only had to say “where did these bastards come from? Let’s go kill them.”
The dirty Saudi angle
The fight against the IS will not only depend on a functioning broad political alliance, including Russia, as Hollande has proposed, but it will require also a ruthless exposure of the dirty role which Saudi Arabia is playing in the region. In a striking background analysis Mideast Correspondent of the German Daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), Rainer Hermann, outlined how Saudi Arabia since the 1950ies has been engaged in a zealous missionary offensive, helping to finance with billions of Petrodollars annually the combat against “pluralism” in the world, including the fight against moderate and secular Sunnites as well as Shiites, Sufis and non- Muslim people. “This Saudi offensive has created the theological and ideological seeds for todays IS”, Hermann wrote (FAZ 27.11.15). Saudi Arabia may not directly finance IS, but it created this “monster”. Hermann traces the history of Saudi Arabia’s involvement in radical Islam back to the period of the Cold War, to the 1950ies, when a major antagonism and conflict of interests emerged in the region between Egypt under Saudi Arabia. Egypt at the time under General Abd al Nasser who allied at that time with the Soviet Union and who with his “pan Arabism” vision attracted Millions of Arabs and provoked a strong counter reaction by the Saudi Royal House which began to consider Egypt as its main ideological adversary in the region. In 1962, during a conference in Mecca, Saudi Arabia announced, that it planned to fight “secularism” and “Nasser’s nationalism”. They founded the “World Islamic League” and in the following decades, especially after the oil crisis 1973, contributed with billions of dollars to found 1000ds of Schools, universities, cultural centers and humanitarian projects in the Arab world as well as in Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Bosnia, Africa, Chechnya, the US and Europe, which served as training grounds for those radical Islamists that later fought in Afghanistan and today constitute the bloody IS.