Aleppo. War and diplomacy. P-VI (II)

Previous parts of the book:

Highly recommended to read them all first, before reading this part.

 

Again, a few basic rules:

ALAFF is going to post the whole translation by parts. In this post you will have sixth part — «Russian-American negotiation on Aleppo and issues of combating terrorism in Syria«. Text will be supported by links and photos to enrich the submitted material. Some photos are originally from the book, some from other resources to illustrate material of the book. Feel free to follow the links, as well as click on the images for bigger size. The end of each post will contain footnotes and sources.

In some places there may be a personal ALAFF’ comment — it will be indicated as «ALAFF remark» and it will be highlighted in brown. Naturally, this comment(s) is a personal poin of view and it is not directly related to the book (i.e it is not presented in the book).

!! The chapter «Russian-American negotiation on Aleppo and issues of combating terrorism in Syria» takes more than 60 pages of the book. It would be too much to put all translation in one post, so the chapter is divided into two parts. First part of the chapter is in previous post. In this post you will have second part of the chapter.


 

Structure of the book:

  • Introduction — p.10
  • Aleppo, information war and attempts to contain Russia — p.19
  • UN initiatives to rescue militants in Aleppo — p.48
    • Humanitarian pauses and humanitarian convoys — p.51
    • The initiative of urgent medical evacuation from the Eastern Aleppo — p.68
    • «Egeland’s plan» or blackmail of groupings — p.77
    • Evacuation of «civil activists» — p.89
  • Initiative of S. de Mistura on the withdrawal Jabhat al-Nusra militants from the Eastern Aleppo — p.93
  • Russian-American negotiation on Aleppo and issues of combating terrorism in Syria— p.99
  • A «narrow group» of interested states — a multipolarity or polycentric dualism? — p.163
  • Evacuation of militants from Eastern Aleppo — a unique operation of the Russian military — p.177
  • The liberation of Aleppo and the intensification of military-political efforts to establish an all-Syrian regime for the cessation of hostilities — p.187
  • «Lessons of Aleppo»: geopolitics of the Syrian crisis in the context of the transforming world order — p.213

 

Russian-American negotiations on Aleppo and issues of combating terrorism in Syria (p. II of II)

The «freezing» of the Russian-American negotiating track was perceived by some players who jealously watched the dialogue between Moscow and Washington, with frank enthusiasm. Especially it concerns France. In Paris, they decided, as the saying is, to try to «take revanche».

In order to understand better the motives of the French, who proposed the draft resolution of the UN Security Council, one thing must be taken into account. Before putting the text in agreement, France (at least, it looked like this for the outside world) tried to negotiate with Russia. French Foreign Minister J.-M. Ayrault on October 6, 2016 specially traveled to Moscow to explain the meaning of the French initiative on the adoption of the UN Security Council resolution on Syria. Then the Frenchman assured the Russian side that Paris has no desire to «provoke» Russia to a veto. On the contrary, France is allegedly aimed at finding compromises. Even during the press-conference it was stated that J.-M. Ayrault came to Russia «not with threats» [1].

In fact, the French minister visited Moscow with the sole purpose of demonstrating to the «world community» that France was «playing openly» and was trying to find a compromise. And it is Russia that manifests an unconstructive, non-negotiable approach.

J.-M. Ayrault intentionally misinformed Moscow that he is not interested in achieving a veto. After all, in the Russian capital, he was clearly told that in the proposed form, the draft resolution has no chance of being accepted. In so doing, S.V. Lavrov said that Russia will not vote against if France takes into account our amendments and considerations. The French minister confirmed that «Paris does not want to run into any veto» [2].

pic_-_ayrault_no_veto


The president of Russia V.V. Putin answers one of the questions, taking part in the eighth «Russia Calling!» Investment Forum organised by VTB Capital. Moscow, October 12, 2016.

On this promising note J.-M. Ayrault flew from Moscow to Washington and the next day went with J. Kerry to the press, accused Russia of degrading the situation in Syria [3], then without discussion the French brought their project to the vote in the UN Security Council.

Already on October 8, 2016, that is, two days later, the same J.-M. Ayrault, sitting in the UN Security Council, complained that «Aleppo was thrown to death by the executioners, and the military operation is aimed at capitulating the city. Eastern Aleppo can repeat the fate of Gernika, Srebrenica and Grozny. B. Assad and his allies nurturing extremism, thus being accomplices of ISIS and Al-Qaeda, and are trying to crack down on the moderate opposition» [4]. J.-M. Ayrault called the Russian-American agreement stillborn. And this is France, which in 2003, together with Russia, Germany and other sensible players, tried to warn the Anglo-American duo from invading Iraq. In general, the French, well aware of the doomedness of their initiative, nevertheless forced a voting.

It is difficult to paint the hysteria that rose in the UN Security Council after the Russian veto. US Deputy Permanent Representative D. Pressman went so far as to accusing Russia of being «one of the providers of terrorism» [5].

It should be kept in mind that the French put forward their proposal virtually immediately after the Russian-American dialogue on Aleppo was frozen on October 3, 2016. Of course, France tried to take advantage of this and «raise» its foreign policy status by introducing one more useless initiative to the UN Security Council. At the same time it is obvious that without a «nod» from the key ally — Washington — Paris would never have decided to advance the draft resolution. Hence, the Americans were interested in this. The essence of the initiative of Paris was to achieve the goal that the Americans sought, negotiating with Russia, but, as you know, they could not achieve. Namely, to ban flights of aviation in the Aleppo region, to provide cover for the terrorists of Jabhat al-Nusra and the militants who joined them, despite the obligations of the UN member states to fight the terrorist threat with all available means [6]. How else to interpret the paragraph of the French draft, in which all sides were called upon to «stop all bombing and all military flights over the city of Aleppo» (it was, of course, offered under humanitarian «sauce») [7].

pic_-_un_doc_s-2016-846


Excerpt from the UN Document S/2016/846 (proposed by France draft resolution on Syria).

There were other harmful proposals in the text, for example, about the need to strengthen monitoring of the cessation of hostilities (it is known that France tried to «occupy» the role in this process, supervised by Russia and the United States), and that in case of non-compliance with this decisions the UN Security Council can take «further measures» (read — sanctions, etc.).

So the main meaning of the project was obvious — to create a «no-fly zone» over Aleppo, what the Americans sought during the negotiations between Russia and the US, but what they failed because of the inability to meet Moscow’s counterclaim — to divide the «moderate» opposition and terrorists from Jabhat al-Nusra. That is why the French, with backstage support from the Americans, attempted to close the sky over Aleppo. The question that naturally arises when reading the French project: whom Paris tried to shield and protect, promoting the initiative with a ban on combat aviation flights over Aleppo? After all, according to Russian data, at that time up to 6,000 militants operated in the eastern part of the city, of which about 1,000 belonged to Jabhat al-Nusra, 2,000 to the radical Ahrar al-Sham affiliated with al-Nusra, 1,5 thousand to the extremist detachment of Nour al-Din al-Zenki, who became famous throughout the world for beheading a 12-year-old Palestinian boy [8], 800 people to Fastaqim Kama Umirt, who fired tank shots on UN headquarters in Eastern Aleppo on October 30, which forced the World Organization to urgently evacuate its international staff from the city. At the same time, al-Nusra militants carried out coordination of activities of all these groups, as well as planning operations in the general headquarters (Gurfa Amalia Mushtaraka) [9]. Thus, Paris de facto defended the international jihadist International, entrenched at that time in Aleppo by banning strikes against the targets of terrorists. Strangely enough, but it was understandable why France openly sided with the terrorists. It was them who were the fighting backbone of the forces opposing the troops of B. Assad in Aleppo. Their «salvation» was necessary in order to prevent the fall of Eastern Aleppo under the pressure of government forces, which would mean a radical change in the war in favor of official Damascus.

On the same day, a voting was taken on the alternative Russian draft resolution. The United States, Great Britain and France voted against. Despite the fact that the text mentioned the Russian-American agreements of September 9, and called for all countries to be guided by this document (it figured in the draft as an annex). The initiative of S. de Mistura on the solution of the problem of Eastern Aleppo by evacuating the Jabhat al-Nusra militants from there was welcomed. The text also contained a requirement to ensure unhindered humanitarian access, including through the announcement of weekly humanitarian pauses. The project also called for the immediate observance of the cessation of hostilities, primarily in Aleppo [10] — and this is exactly what the Americans have been calling for.

So what was the problem of the Russian project? It was that one of the points sounded like this: the UN Security Council «stresses the urgent need to achieve and verify separating moderate opposition forces from Jabhat al-Nusra as a key priority» [11].

pic_-_un_doc_s-2016-847


Excerpt from the UN Document S/2016/847 (proposed by Russia draft resolution on Syria).

So, this was absolutely unacceptable for Americans, since the division of terrorists and «moderates» promised by CIA director J. Brennan during his visit to Moscow in February 2016 was never carried out by Washington. This became one of the main reasons for the breakdown of the Russian-American negotiating track. That is why the Americans could not accept a resolution that obliged the US to fulfill, at last, a promise to divide the anti-government forces they allegedly monitor and jihadists. It was against this point that the US delegation stubbornly opposed in New York. The reason is simple. Washington did not have any really controlled forces «on the ground». They could work for the separation of the «moderates» and terrorists only through regional allies who did not aspire to fulfill this demand of Washington and were interested in keeping a linkage between the most combat-effective structure — Jabhat al-Nusra and other anti-government detachments. Americans understood this. And they did not want to «go under» accusations of non-compliance of the demand of the UN Security Council resolution. That’s why the United States, as well as Britain and France voted against the Russian project.

Stumbling on an attempt to push through the anti-Syrian draft resolution, the West did not abandon its efforts and began to act by others hands. In November, the «troika» (Spain, New Zealand, Egypt) began to promote the draft «humanitarian» resolution on Syria. There were no «surprises» in it either. The document insisted that all parties in Aleppo [12] cease «any attacks», including actions against the terrorists of Jabhat al-Nusra, but not the confirmation of the ceasefire regime, which, as is known, has no effect against the terrorists. Given that the fighting «fist» in Aleppo was jihadists from Jabhat al-Nusra (Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General for Syria S. de Mistura at the briefing in the UN Security Council on September 25, 2016, said that number of al-Nusra militants is 50% of the total number of militants in the city) [13], this was, perhaps, the first time when the Security Council was used to protect terrorists. The project, of course, did not receive support, and it was vetoed by Russia and China (Venezuela also voted against it, Angola abstained).

In October-November 2016, Russian and American experts in Geneva repeatedly tried to return to the settlement of the «Aleppo issue». Washington mainly sought to establish an uninterrupted supply of the grouping surrounded in the eastern neighborhoods of the city. The allies of the United States and the United Nations joined in this task. Attempts were made to abolish the checkpoints of the Syrian government along the roads of Ramouse and Castello with the replacement of the Syrian military with Russian ones (apparently, as a potential target for provocations). Russia was ready to agree to this proposal only on the condition that American soldiers will stand next to our officers at the checkpoints.

In November and December 2016 in Geneva, a series of consultations of experts from Russia and the United States were held, within the framework of which two teams tried to give the idea of S. de Mistura a practical shape. Delegations worked on a document entitled «Proposals for stabilization of the situation in Eastern Aleppo». Interest in finding a formula for implementing the initiative of the special envoy was on both sides. As mentioned above, for Moscow the withdrawal of terrorists from the city provided an opportunity to prevent its storming, for Washington — not only to keep the «moderate» detachments in Aleppo, but also to consolidate there «opposition» authorities, which in the long term would mean turning the city into an anti-Assad stronghold not far the border with Turkey, from where militants would receive reinforcements and weapons, as well as from Idlib, where the headquarters of al-Nusra was located and from where it was possible to coordinate the actions of armed groups and amass forces for a future attack.

During this period, the main contradiction was the question of the number of Jabhat al-Nusra fighters in Eastern Aleppo, who were to be released as part of the implementation of the ideas of S. de Mistura. This aspect was really basic, even «strategic», since it depended on how many militants would remain in the city after the implementation of S. de Mistura’s initiative and, accordingly, in how much a large anti-government stronghold the supporters of the overthrow of B. Assad could turn the eastern quarters of the city.

During the bilateral consultations, the head of the American delegation, William Wood (an experienced diplomat, formerly the US ambassador to Afghanistan and Colombia), tried to convince the Russian team that there are 200 al-Nusra terrorists in East Aleppo — and no more. He assured that these data are allegedly based on information obtained by US intelligence. He did not provide any evidence base, suggesting to take it by the word. He called to agree on withdraw 200 terrorists from the city, which could become «the first real step in the implementation of the idea of S. de Mistura». At the same time, the Special Envoy himself on behalf of the UN announced a figure of 900 al-Nusra militants — which is several times more than what W. Wood insisted on. In so doing, the American demanded at all rounds of consultations without exception, immediately, «right this minute» to introduce the regime for the cessation of hostilities in the city. Without this, he say, Washington will not be able to persuade the moderate opposition to drive out Jabhat al-Nusra from the eastern quarters. He aggravated: under the conditions of the Syrian government’s offensive, the «correct» opposition is «forced» to unite with terrorists (the same rhetoric was also used by the Americans a little earlier, before a moratorium on airstrikes in Aleppo became effective, when they demanded the cessation of bombing of the city). Say, just stop the work of combat aviation, and the «moderate» opposition will immediately separate from Jabhat al-Nusra.

The Russian side had irrefutable evidence that there were significantly more al-Nusra militants in the city — about 1,500 bayonets. In Aleppo the Russian military were present «on the ground» and had serious opportunities to gather information about the situation. Our data was based on radio intercept materials, information from defectors and captives, but not on statistics taken from social networks and mass media that Americans used. And a common sense also prompted: it was absurd and unprofessional to assert that 200 terrorists allegedly not only keep the eastern part of the city with a population of 275,000 under control, but also confront the Syrian government forces.

The Americans denied that trying to «push through» the obviously understated numbers of terrorists in East Aleppo, they «save» the most combat-capable anti-government force «on the ground». They assured that if the militants who stay in East Aleppo after al-Nusra’s withdrawal will violate the ceasefire regime, they will have to be expelled from the city. By the way, by this phrase it is clearly seen how politicized was the approach of the B. Obama administration to the terrorists who remained in East Aleppo, as well as to methods of combating them (violators of the RCH will have to be «expelled», not destroyed). Indeed, the Americans did not directly answer the question of Russian diplomats and the military, whether the violators of «silence» will be subjected to force-based measures, as stipulated in the rules and procedures of the RCH. They were shirking: say, it is desirable that the opposition first try to expel violators from the city. If it does not work out, then the United States and Russia would have thought together whether to strike or not. In other words, the formula proposed by the Americans deprived Russia and the government of the SAR of the right to use force against violators of «silence» and was aimed at maximum footdragging in the decision-making process to fight those who broke the truce.

Thus, the US task was to achieve legitimization in Eastern Aleppo of opposition «local councils» (as the initiative of S. de Mistura envisaged) with low losses, by withdrawing from the city an insignificant, symbolic part of the jihadists, and thus securing the city for «opposition». It is in this context that it should be considered as if accidentally thrown by W. Wood a remark that «al-Nusra militant who observes the ceasefire should be regarded as a peaceful resident of Aleppo«.

The following detail fits the general picture: once, after a lengthy dispute over the number of terrorists in Eastern Aleppo, a CIA representative was forced to admit that the information about only 200 al-Nusra militants in the city was received by the US from the «opposition». Also the representatives of the US special services surprised the Russian military with the methodology of qualifying armed groups. Thus, a detachment of 500 militants, commanded by 10 «al-Nusra fighters», in their understanding was «moderate».

The Russian-American negotiations on the document «Proposals to stabilize the situation in Eastern Aleppo» were joined at a later stage by the regional states, who had influence on the militants in Eastern Aleppo — Turkey, KSA and Qatar. And the same thing happened here: the parties started to «altercate» on the number of Jabhat al-Nusra militants in the city. USA, and from their submission the regional troika too, spoke «in chorus» about 200 al-Nusra militants in the eastern quarters, without showing any evidence at all. It is characteristic that the estimates of the total number of «people with arms» in the city coincided with all participants in the consultations — 5-6 thousand people. That is, the contradictions concerned only the number of those who were subject to evacuation.

Consultations in a multilateral format, as well as the Russian-American track of negotiations, showed that the United States and the regional states were stubbornly clinging to the understated number of al-Nusra militants in Eastern Aleppo and were not ready to show flexibility on this issue. They were aware that if al-Nusra militants, as the most disciplined and experienced segment of the anti-Assad front, will left these areas, the rest of the «opposition» would immediately lose its fighting efficiency. That is why they were interested in keeping this fighting «fist» in the city in order to prevent the transition of Eastern Aleppo under the control of the Syrian government forces.

The situation of the blocked grouping of militants was deteriorating, the ring of encirclement was getting tighten under the attacks of government troops. Let’s recall — this was in the conditions of the moratorium, imposed on October 18, 2016 by the decision of the Russian president V.V. Putin, on the use of combat aircraft for strikes on targets in Aleppo. This affected the position of the United States, leading to some easing of Washington’s negotiating demands. J. Kerry proposed S.V. Lavrov to hold in early December 2016 negotiations of experts on the simultaneous withdrawal of all combatants, without dividing them into moderates and al-Nusra militants. That is, it was not about implementing the initiative of S. de Mistura on al-Nusra’s withdrawal, but about trying to get everyone out of the part of the city still under the control of the militants.

The US position was influenced by the fact that Washington was forced to catch up with events, because simultaneously with the Russian-American consultations the evacuation of civilians and militants from Aleppo was already underway in the framework of Russian-Turkish agreements. By December 9, there was already more than 91% of the city’s territory under the control of the Syrian government forces [14]. The day before the Syrian army had temporarily stopped firing in the southeast of Aleppo in order to ensure the safe exit of people. It was about a column of 8 thousand people and the length of the route at 5 km [15].

Therefore, the Americans were late and tried at least somehow to stop the process of moving the rest of the city under the control of Damascus.

On December 10, 2016 Moscow proposed a compromise: the cessation of hostilities in Aleppo is possible from 8.00 Damascus time on December 15. The US had to use a 5 days temporal «gap» to compile a list of «moderate» detachments that would leave the city, and their approximate numbers. Terrorists from Jabhat al-Nusra could not leave together with the armed opposition. If the jihadists would agree to stop resistance, they would be evacuated to Idlib province through special corridors. If on the appointed day within 8 hours after the deadline (until 16:00 on December 15) the organized exit of the militants did not begin, the fighting against the jihadists could resume.

But US Special Envoy for Syria M. Ratney demanded «immediately» to declare the cessation of hostilities in Aleppo allegedly in order to allow «peaceful residents» of the besieged neighborhoods of the city to leave them in safety. It implies at least a 48-hour «silence» with the possibility of its extension. Moreover, the American pressed, the announcement by Russia and the «Assad regime» of readiness to introduce the RCH in Aleppo would mean a positive signal for the militants, an «incentive» to agree to evacuation from Aleppo. At the same time, the Americans traditionally evaded undertaking any obligations to guarantee compliance with the armistice by the opposition «under their control».

Trying to convince the Russian side of the need to introduce the RCH in Aleppo «in the very near future», M. Ratney reasoned very cynically in the spirit of the fact that the outcome of the battle for the city is still decided in favor of the «regime», and the US, with its offer, kindly help Russia «pay less image price» for the victory, give it the opportunity not to be associated with the death of civilians — which is inevitable if the Armed Forces of the SAR and the allied forces will decide to «clean up» the city.

During the Geneva consultations, Americans were shown a video from a Russian drone, which broadcast the process of getting people out of the city online. It was emphasized that the Russian and Syrian sides are doing everything possible to ensure the safety of civilians fleeing from terrorists, whom al-Nusra and affiliated groups used for many months as a human shield. M. Ratney and his colleagues were informed in detail on the efforts being made by the Russian military to provide humanitarian assistance to people leaving the city. While al-Nusra and the groups associated with them continued to fire and mine humanitarian corridors, kill dissenters and use women and children as human shields. As for the Americans demanding the «immediate» introduction of the RCH throughout Aleppo, Russia had great doubts that the US this time will be able to provide us with solid guarantees of its compliance by militants. And, in general, all this was very much like an attempt to give terrorists another respite.

After a long «walking around» and M. Ratney’s numerous consultations with J. Kerry, the Americans said that the introduction of a regime for the cessation of hostilities throughout Aleppo «at least» from December 12-13 for 48 hours with the possibility of extension is a key element of the eventual arrangement for the United States. Without this, they say, it will not be possible to «persuade the opposition» to leave the city.

On December 11, the negotiations were stopped. Russia informed that its position on the possibility of introducing an armistice on December 15 has not changed (although, stipulating that if the evacuation of civilians ends earlier, the withdrawal of militants can also begin earlier).

This was the final chord of the Russian-American negotiations on Syria. The bilateral track did not justify itself, and Russia relied on alternative possibilities to solve the problem of Eastern Aleppo — through cooperation with the countries of the region.

Why did two influential states — Russia and the United States — fail to agree on coordination of actions in the fight against terrorism, which poses a serious threat to both these countries and the world as a whole? The answer to this question contains a whole series of sometimes unrelated elements. We’ll list only a few of them.

One of the reasons is the untwisted flywheel of anti-Russian rhetoric and the chain of hostile moves towards Moscow by the B. Obama administration. After the failure of the «reset», the counteraction to Russia, and then a barefaced russophobia, became an integral part of American foreign policy. Moreover, aggressive anti-Russian attacks turned into an integral part of the «image» of most major politicians in the United States. Anyone who did not criticize Moscow, in fact, had no opportunity to advance on the career ladder. The presence of ties with Russia, even fictitious ones, could become a tool for discrediting (let’s remember that there was an attempt to expose D. Trump in some «special relationship» with Moscow, which, in the opinion of the Democrats, should have automatically blackened him). The administration of B. Obama fell into the trap it had created itself: under the conditions of «self-censorship», which was adhered to by most American politicians, simply voicing the need to unite efforts with Russia in the fight against the common evil was already something out of the ordinary and required great political courage. It is this thing that explains the position of the American negotiating team at the bilateral consultations in Geneva on combating terrorism. The US delegation constantly stipulated the creation of a coordination mechanism for counter-terrorism activities by unilateral concessions from Moscow. Washington needed them for two reasons. Firstly, in order to «sell» them to an anti-Russian-minded domestic political audience (say, look, Russians are so interested in cooperating with us that they not only fulfill our demands, but they also force the «B. Assad regime» to take unpopular measures). Secondly, in order to demonstrate to its regional allies that, while negotiating with Russia on fighting terrorism, the US does not betray a common anti-Assad matter (in capitals that sponsored armed groups in the SAR, they were extremely unhappy with the fact of consultations between Moscow and Washington). On the contrary, America, they say, is committed to «corporate solidarity», is seeking serious concessions from Moscow and Damascus and constantly keeps the Russians under pressure, forcing them to take the steps in which the anti-Assad camp is interested.

Speaking about the prospects for Russian-American cooperation, we can state with confidence that former US Secretary of State J. Kerry was a supporter of building a cooperation with Russia on the fight against terrorism. However, he was opposed by an entire «army» of those who could not stand the sight of the idea that Washington and Moscow would carry out joint projects in Syria. One of the main opponents of cooperation with Russia was former US Secretary of Defense A. Carter, who pursued a policy of blocking Russian-American agreements and appropriately oriented the military part of the US interdepartmental delegation in Geneva, which was negotiating with the Russian side. J. Kerry failed to overcome the resistance of the US Defense Ministry, as well as opponents of interaction with Russia in other departments. The author is convinced that whatever concessions Moscow would make, the US appetite would just grow. The «system» would still not allow a major joint project to fight terrorism, it functioned on a different, anti-Russian «fuel». The Washington would not have allowed the announcement of the beginning of Russian-American cooperation, and the intra-US system of checks and balances would still work to prevent a rapprochement between Moscow and Washington.

A couple of words worth mentioning about the interaction along the line US — regional allies. Because of the highly inconsistent and subjected to conjunctural fluctuations policy of the former US administration, at the end of B. Obama’s presidency there were contradictions in Washington’s relations with all regional centers of power, primarily with Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Thus, for example, Ankara was irritated by the active American support of Kurds from the Democratic Union Party (PYD) in the fight against ISIS (the bet on the PYD was partly the result of Washington’s attempt to create an effective anti-ISIS force «on the ground» from the detachments of «moderate» opposition). There have been cases when Turks carried out strikes on the forces of the PYD, which were supported by the US and in whose ranks there were the American advisers, which caused extreme discontent in Washington. Moreover, the parties could not agree on who would control the areas recaptured from the ISIS, which also served as an irritant in bilateral relations. As for Saudi Arabia, of course, a shock to the kingdom was the conclusion in July 2015 in Vienna of a Joint comprehensive plan of action to resolve the situation around the Iranian nuclear program between the six international mediators and Iran with the participation of the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Policy Security. The plan implied, in particular, a phased removal of sanctions from Tehran — the main rival of Riyadh in the region [16].

pic_-_iran_jcpoa


Excerpt from Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) document.

This, of course, could not but affect the US-Saudi relations, which for a long time served as the «core» of American influence in the Persian Gulf region. We should also add a reduction in Washington’s control over its Middle Eastern partners to the already undermined confidence of the states of the region towards the United States. Thus, the Americans had to choose possible allies among the anti-Assad detachments «on the ground» from the «menu» prepared in advance by the regional players, who since the beginning of the Syrian crisis began to provide massive support to anti-government forces, most of which were of Islamist tone. Accordingly, Washington had to seek the fulfillment of various aspects of the US-Russian agreements not so much directly in contact with them, but through regional allies. The latter were by no means always ready to obey, receiving Washington’s recommendations, which often ran counter to their interests, and at times openly sabotaged these recommendations (examples — the failure of the US attempts to achieve the separation of «moderate» militants from Jabhat al-Nusra, or Washington’s inability to get anti-government groups to implement the Russian-American agreements of 9 September 2016 regarding the removal of opposing forces from the Castello road in Aleppo). Plus, the interdepartmental intra-American contradictions were superimposed on this, including disagreements between the Pentagon and the CIA, which relied on different groups in Syria.

Thus, internal and external «enemies» did not allow B. Obama and his administration to take a decisive step towards cooperation with Russia in the field of combating terrorism.

Cooperation in the fight against terrorism in Syria between Moscow and Washington under the new US administration would have a significant influence on the balance of power in the region.

Especially since D. Trump himself demonstrates his readiness to «deal fairly with everyone — all people and all other nations» and «seek common ground, not hostility; partnership, not conflict» [17]. Such a common ground could be exactly the fight against terrorism. It is obvious that the settlement of the protracted crisis in Syria is a complex process with many components. And putting a serious strike on the jihadists does not guarantee a shift in the resolution of the conflict. Here we can not do without a long and complicated process of inter-Syrian negotiations, without taking measures to restore confidence, without continuing the work to strengthen the ceasefire regime, and so on.

However, in a situation when the modern world order is increasingly tending towards polycentricity, and the regional centers of power are increasingly asserting their interests and willingness to vigorously and sometimes even aggressively defend them, there’s a risk of imbalance of the international system. In this situation, the demonstration by Moscow and Washington of unity in the fight against terrorism could become a serious disciplining signal for the remaining elements of the system of international relations, which means that in the long run it would contribute to increasing its stability and health in general, without which it is impossible to imagine the recovery and conflict-free development of many countries of the Middle East.


[1] Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to questions at a joint press conference following talks with French Minister of Foreign Affairs and
International Development Jean-Marc Ayrault, Moscow, October 6, 2016 //

http://www.mid.ru/en/web/guest/foreign_policy/international_safety/conflicts/-/asset_publisher/xIEMTQ3OvzcA/content/id/2490975

[2] «Russia Calling!» Investment Forum VTB Capital. October 12, 2016.

http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/transcripts/speeches/53077

[3] Secretary Kerry Meets French Foreign Minister Ayrault. 7 October 2016 //

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GDyYPUVnHDU

[4] Security Council. Seventy-first year. 7785th meeting. 8 October 2016. UN Documents S/PV.7785.

download the document here (right click — save as).

[5] Security Council. Seventy-first year. 7785th meeting. 8 October 2016. UN Documents S/PV.7785.

download the document here (right click — save as).

[6] Foreign Ministry statement in connection with Russia’s veto of the French-proposed UN Security Council draft resolution on Syria on October 8, 2016

http://www.mid.ru/en/web/guest/foreign_policy/international_safety/conflicts/-/asset_publisher/xIEMTQ3OvzcA/content/id/2494622

[7] Security Council. Draft Resolution. 8 October 2016. UN Document S/2016/846.

download the document here (right click — save as).

[8] Syria War: Rebels Behead 12-Year-Old Boy on Video. 20 July 2016 //

www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/07/syria-war-rebels-behead-10-year-boy-video-160720065358507.html

[9] Materials prepared by the Russian military and containing data on anti-government groups in Aleppo, were distributed by S.V. Lavrov during the meeting of
the «Narrow Group» on Syria at the ministerial level in Lausanne on October 15, 2016.

[10] Security Council. Russian Federation: Draft Resolution. 8 October 2016. UN Document S/2016/847.

download the document here (right click — save as).

[11] Security Council. Russian Federation: Draft Resolution. 8 October 2016. UN Document S/2016/847.

download the document here (right click — save as).

[12] Egypt, New Zealand and Spain: draft resolution. 5 December 2016. UN Document S/2016/1026.

download the document here (right click — save as).

https://www.voltairenet.org/article194404.html

[13] 25 September 2016. Security Council Briefing on the Situation in Syria, Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura //

http://www.un.org/undpa/en/speeches-statements/25092016/syria

[14] Briefing thesises by the Chief of the Main Operations Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. December 9, 2016
(materials of the Ministry of Defense).

[15] Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at the end of the first day of the OSCE Ministerial Council Meeting in Hamburg,
December 8, 2016

http://www.mid.ru/foreign_policy/news/-/asset_publisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/content/id/2554271

[16] Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, Vienna, July 14, 2015 //

https://www.state.gov/e/eb/tfs/spi/iran/jcpoa/

[17] Transcript: Donald Trump’s Victory Speech // The New York Times. 2016. 9 November.

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/10/us/politics/trump-speech-transcript.html

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