Russia – US in Syria: Selling Afrin to Turkey but facing off ruthlessly for Ghouta

Nikki R. Haley, Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations, addresses the Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question. 25 January 2018. United Nations, New York. UN Photo/Evan Schneider.

How many more dead and wounded human beings are needed to convince Russia and the US that they must come to terms about the future of Syria? At a time when the mainstream western media are extensively and exclusively reporting the woes of the desperate inhabitants of Ghouta, at another Syrian front in Afrin, the Turkish air force and artillery are obliterating hamlets and towns without photographers and journalists monitoring or bothering them.

For a peculiar but easily explicable reason the Americans have decided to effectively counter the Russians in Ghouta. This latter foreign power decisively supports the government forces of Bashar al-Assad to exterminate the Islamist fighters encircled in Eastern Ghouta. Of course, along the way they obliterate the homes of 300.000 civilians living there. Theoretically, the Americans are in Syria to exterminate the Islamists, who have been reinforced in Eastern Ghouta by relic Jihadist fighting elements after Mosul and Raqqa fell, the once powerful capitals of the ‘Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant’, the infamous butchers’ “caliphate”.

Defending the Islamists?

But not this time; the US doesn’t want to see Russia and Assad throw away the Islamists and take this key territory, adjacent to capital Damascus, seat of the Assad regime and government. Eastern Ghouta was the first region of Syria in the 2011 revolt to defy Assad. So the American involvement – probably using long-range missiles – is expected to rather multiply the damage the Russians and Assad are inflicting upon the population there. Elsewhere in Syria though, things are different and not so hostile between the Americans and Russians. In Afrin they both have given the green light to the Turkish ‘Sultan’ Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, to bomb this Kurdish region from the air and the ground.

Theoretically, again, the Kurds are the only reliable ally the Americans have on the ground, in the many years long Syrian conflicts. Actually, many wars are taking place simultaneously in Syria. In these two latest confrontations, the ferocity of the warring sides, their complete coldness about the civilian population’s fate and the fully distorted ‘truth’ of eight o’clock news, about what is really happening and what is at stake for the two major powers, would have surprised even George Orwell.

Chemicals in Ghouta?

In Ghouta the government forces of Assad, effectively supported by the Russians, have being reportedly using poisonous chemicals. Despite that, the UN appears rather inactive. The Security Council vote for a ceasefire has being postponed more than once. Finally, it took place on 24 February, but nobody cared less to observe it. Only during the past few days the Russians allowed some hundreds of civilians to leave the inferno. In view of the UN inaction, the Americans through their Ambassador Nikki Haley clarified, the US “remains prepared to act if we must”. It’s not clear what this ‘act’ may mean. They most probably will prepare a long range missile attack, as in April 2017 when they destroyed an Assad air base. Theoretically, the Assad air force planes, which had then used gas bombs, had flown from there.

Again, the US accusation about the use of chemical gases by the government forces in Ghouta, constitutes a good legitimizing argument for a missile attack. However, the Russians have warned against that. The Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told Reuters, “We are very much concerned that the alleged chemical use might be a pretext for something bigger and much more dangerous”. The question arises then, what will the Russian response be, if Trump decides to deal a strong and decisive strike against the Assad forces, under the protection of Moscow? This direct confrontation between the US and Russia may trigger a dangerous escalation, as Nebenzia implied.

Afrin left to Turks

In the case of Afrin, things are even more twisted. In a rare concurrence, both the Russians and the Americans have left the local Kurds at the mercy of the Turkish autocratic ruler Erdoğan. And this, despite Washington being a strong supporter of the Kurds at least for two years now. The Kurdish successful military units have constituted the only reliable force on the ground the Americans can count on.

It seems though that in the case of Afrin, the US has ‘sold’ this region to Turkey, a NATO ally, as geography in this case is on the side of Ankara. Yet, here also the civilian population will suffer a severe and deadly blow, both during and after the fight. If the Turks finally occupy Afrin, no Kurd family will feel safe to stay at home there. As for the Russians, they never had any ‘profitable’ relation with the Kurds, so Moscow happily ‘sold’ them to Ankara.

All in all, the Machiavellian calculations put on by both the Russians and the Americans in Syria, do not attach the slightest factor for human suffering in their unbelievable equations. “All of them are equally harmful to Syria”, as Konstantinos Kavafys has written, for the poor country in his poem, “They should have cared”.

 

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