The Europeans back Russia-Turkey on Syria: A ‘Waterloo’ for Saudis and their Crown Prince

Istanbul, Turkey. The Summit on Syria. Hosted by the Turkish President, Tayyip Erdogan and attended by the French President, Emmanuel Macron, the Russian President Vladimir Putin and the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel. Turkish Presidency photo, taken 27.10.2018.

France and Germany have put their weight behind the RussiaTurkey agreement for a lasting ceasefire in Syria. The four leaders also said they agreed to put together a committee to draft a constitution for the political rehabilitation of the devastated country. Last Saturday, the French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Russian President Vladimir Putin were received in Istanbul by the Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.

The four sat down at a meeting to plan the political future of Syria without the active presence of the United States. The joint statement issued from Istanbul following this quadrilateral summit on Syria read: “The Presidents and the Chancellor expressed their support for an inclusive, Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political process that is facilitated by the United Nations and called for active participation in it of the Syrian parties.”

Twenty four hours earlier, on Friday 26 October, the U.N. envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura had informed the Security Council that Bashar al Assad, the President of Syria now agrees to participate in the writing of a new constitution for his country. The absence of any visible US input in those new developments remains a big question mark, for the achievement of any peaceful political solution.

On the losing side

To be noted, also, Saudi Arabia is also conspicuously absent from the planning of the future of Syria, despite her long intervention in the civil war with money and fighters, vigorously aiming at toppling Assad. Riyadh is known to have meddled in the Syrian civil war right from the beginning. The Saudis have destructively interfered in Syria with mercenaries and other religious militias. They arrived at turning the ‘Arab spring’ peaceful demonstrations against President Assad, into a fully fledged civil war inferno, always targeting to oust him. It the beginning, in the spring of 2011, it was the pro-democracy uprising which broke out in the southern city of Deraa.

The Syrian people were again authentically demonstrating soaring unemployment, rampant corruption and lack of political freedom under Assad. However, the brutal use of force by the government against the Deraa protest rallies ignited a wave of demonstrations all over the country. Unfortunately, a number of foreign regional powers took advantage of the soon evaporated social and political cohesion in Syria.

Turkey ‘sold’ the Saudis

Foreign powers interfered in force with proxy armies with Saudi Arabia and Turkey being the first to do that. Both those Sunni countries had as a final goal to topple Shiite – Alawite Assad and came very close to that, with the strong support of US and Western Europe.

Assad and his regime of Shiite – Alawites have reigned for decades in this Sunni majority country, making the foreign interference easier. Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud or MbS has been instrumental in the anti-Assad camp. However, he is now accused by his old friends Tayipp Erdogan and Donald Trump of the murder of the Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

On the other side of the Syrian civil war, Shiite Iran and its Lebanon proxy, the Hezbollah movement supported Assad from the very beginning, but it was not enough. Russia, having a long political and military presence in Syria, decided to resolutely intervene only in 2015, at a critical phase of the civil war in order to save Assad and gain the most out of her new ‘investment’.

Moscow’s prize

Moscow started a successful air campaign against Assad’s enemies who were supported by Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the US and Europe. Finally, the Russian air and otherwise support plus the ground troops from Iran and Hezbollah managed not only to save Assad, but his government military forces finally prevailed on the ground and gained back a lot of territory. Now, the west including the US, acknowledges there cannot be peaceful future for Syria without Assad being a part of it. The Shiite – Alawites may be a minority, but still number millions of souls.

So, very probably, the fact that Macron and Merkel decided to go to Istanbul to meet Putin and Erdogan, must be a good indication they acknowledge that Syria is now militarily at the hands of Russia, Turkey and Damascus. As for the Americans, they closely cooperate with the Syrian Kurds, who have created a semi-autonomous jurisdiction in the north-east. The US has also created an Arab-Kurd military force led by the Kurds, which controls a good part of the center of the country. As a result, the US through her close ties with the Kurds, has a strong clout on more than one third of Syria.

The Khashoggi connection

So, the latest strong Washington language against the Saudi Crown Prince over the Khashoggi assassination, may also be an indication that the US is happy with what it has gained in Syria and doesn’t want to share it with Saudi Arabia.  Trump seemingly doesn’t care if the Saudis are losing their Syrian ‘investments’, for as long as his $110 billion arms contract with Riyadh holds well.

The fact that the Turkish ‘Sultan’ Erdogan played a key role in exposing Saudi Arabia’s brutal face personalized in MbS, may also constitute an indication about who gains and who loses in Syria. The US and Turkey are now openly implicating the Saudi Prince in the slaughter of Khashoggi, having thus gained a strong leverage against him and his faction. Obviously, the West and Turkey are now targeting MbS not only in order for Saudi Arabia to forget Syria, but also to abridge Crown Prince’s powers within the oil rich Kingdom.

In any case, the fact remains that France and Germany now support a solid Russia-Turkey plan for a political solution in Syria. If the Americans have got what they want, then the war-torn country may start clearing the ruins and start rebuilding. For sure it will be a federal construction, with the winning sides taking a share but not the Saudis.



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