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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 3/19/16

Is There a US-Russia Grand Bargain in Syria?

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What the Syrian Kurds are planning has nothing to do with separatism. Syrian Kurds are 2.2 million out of a remaining Syrian population of roughly 18 million. Their cantons across the Syria-Turkey border -- Jazeera, Kobani and Afrin -- have been established since 2013. The YPG has already linked Jazeera to Kobani, and is on their way to link them to Afrin. This, in a nutshell, is Rojava province.

The Kurds across Rojava -- heavily influenced by concepts developed by imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan -- are deep into consultations with Arabs and Christians on how to implement federalism, privileging a horizontal self-ruled model, a sort of anarchist-style confederation. It's a fascinating political vision that would even include the Kurdish communities in Damascus and Aleppo.

Moscow -- and that is absolutely key -- supports the Kurds. So they must be part of the Geneva negotiations. The Russian long game is complex; not be strictly aligned either with Damascus or with the discredited "opposition" supported and weaponized by Turkey and the GCC. Team Obama, as usual, is on the fence. There's the "NATO ally" angle -- but even Washington is losing patience with Erdogan.

The geopolitical winners and losers

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Only the proverbially clueless Western corporate media was caught off-guard by Russia's latest diplomatic coup in Syria. Consistency has been the norm.

Russia has been consistently upgrading the Russia-China strategic partnership. This has run in parallel to the hybrid warfare in Ukraine (asymmetric operations mixed with economic, political, military and technological support to the Donetsk and Lugansk republics); even NATO officials with a decent IQ had to admit that without Russian diplomacy there's no solution to the war in Donbass.

In Syria, Moscow accomplished the outstanding feat of making Team Obama see the light beyond the fog of neo-con-instilled war, leading to a solution involving Syria's chemical arsenal after Obama ensnared himself in his own red line. Obama owes it to Putin and Lavrov, who literally saved him not only from tremendous embarrassment but from yet another massive Middle East quagmire.

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The Russian objectives in Syria already laid out in September 2015 have been fulfilled. Jihadists of all strands are on the run -- including, crucially, the over 2,000 born in southern Caucasus republics. Damascus has been spared from regime change a la Saddam or Gaddafi. Russia's presence in the Mediterranean is secure.

Russia will be closely monitoring the current "cessation of hostilities"; and if the War Party decides to ramp up "support" for ISIS/ISIL/Daesh or the "moderate rebel" front via any shadow war move, Russia will be back in a flash. As for Sultan Erdogan, he can brag what he wants about his "no-fly zone" pipe dream; but the fact is the northwestern Syria-Turkish border is now fully protected by the S-400 air defense system.

Moreover, the close collaboration of the "4+1" coalition -- Russia, Syria, Iran, Iraq, plus Hezbollah -- has broken more ground than a mere Russia-Shi'te alignment. It prefigures a major geopolitical shift, where NATO is not the only game in town anymore, dictating humanitarian imperialism; this "other" coalition could be seen as a prefiguration of a future, key, global role for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

As we stand, it may seem futile to talk about winners and losers in the five-year-long Syrian tragedy -- especially with Syria destroyed by a vicious, imposed proxy war. But facts on the ground point, geopolitically, to a major victory for Russia, Iran and Syrian Kurds, and a major loss for Turkey and the GCC petrodollar gang, especially considering the huge geo-energy interests in play.

It's always crucial to stress that Syria is an energy war -- with the "prize" being who will be better positioned to supply Europe with natural gas; the proposed Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline, or the rival Qatar pipeline to Turkey that would imply a pliable Damascus.

Other serious geopolitical losers include the self-proclaimed humanitarianism of the UN and the EU. And most of all the Pentagon and the CIA and their gaggle of weaponized "moderate rebels." It ain't over till the last jihadi sings his Paradise song. Meanwhile, "time out" Russia is watching.

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Pepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia (more...)
 

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