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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 4/18/18

Syria, Iran and "chaos in international relations"

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From Asia Times

Any meaningful political resolution to the turmoil in the Middle East now seems more elusive than ever

Syria Destruction
Syria Destruction
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Even in the context of a post-truth geopolitical environment run amok, Russian President Vladimir Putin telling his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani over the phone that any further Western strikes against Syria may "lead to chaos in international relations" should at least be seen for what it is; a massive understatement.

According to the Kremlin, Putin and Rouhani agreed that what cynics are calling the F.U.K.U.S. -- or France, UK, US -- strikes have damaged the chances of achieving any meaningful political resolution in Syria.

That translates into Putin and Rouhani acknowledging that Washington, London and Paris are pulling no punches to be back in the game, directly clashing with the painstaking Astana peace process led by Russia, Iran and Turkey.

Significantly, Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari reminded acting US Secretary of State John Sullivan, also over the phone, about "the necessity to prioritize finding a political solution and that the Syrian people alone should determine their own fate."

This means essentially that the "4+1" -- Russia, Syria, Iran, Iraq, plus Hezbollah -- which were at the vanguard of destroying ISIS, or Islamic State, and other crypto-jihadi outfits in Syria, remain in synch. The counter-terror HQ of the "4+1" was in Baghdad. As much as Baghdad may harbor ideological divergences with Damascus, their common strategy is built upon the fight against Salafi-jihadis of all stripes.

United front

Iraq, alongside Lebanon, was one of the very few nations across the Middle East that condemned the US-UK-France strikes. The GCC petrodollar club -- led by the House of Saud -- predictably supported it, as their agenda never strayed away from regime change.

Moscow, Damascus, Tehran and Baghdad are showing a united front even as the alleged chemical attack in Douma -- the reason for the strikes -- is being forcefully debunked. Additionally, pesky questions remain unanswered on why more than 100 missiles were necessary to destroy only three largely empty state-run scientific centers in Damascus and Homs.

Even after Damascus and Baghdad declared victory, the Salafi-jihadi galaxy may be seriously wounded in both Syria and Iraq, but is not extinct. Turkey is still cultivating some nasty connections.

So the key variable in the Astana process -- which involves complex economic and military trade offs -- remains Ankara, which has no intention of abandoning its sprawling Syrian ops before subduing the Kurdish YPG all around.

Incidentally, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, unlike his partners, supported the strikes on Syria. At the same time, Erdogan is itching for the Russian S-400 missile system to be delivered to Turkey as soon as possible, much to the displeasure of NATO.

The real test for the Astana partners will be Idlib -- which is already the subject of fierce negotiations. Iran's special envoy for Syrian affairs, Ali Akbar Velayati, is on the record as saying the next war objective is in fact Idlib.

Moscow has prodded Erdogan to deliver the Kurdish canton of Afrin -- now run by the Turkish military -- to Damascus. There's no evidence -- yet -- this will be accepted. Russian forces did leave Afrin before the Turkish offensive. So the Turks, in reciprocity, should abandon their bases across Idlib as well.

The key takeaway is that the US-UK-France troika -- not to mention the House of Saud -- has absolutely no means to influence these developing facts on the ground.

Iran targeted by financial missiles

If the strikes on Syria have de facto added to the "chaos in international relations" alluded to by Putin, that may be just the opening compared to the main course; the fate of the JCPOA, aka the Iran nuclear deal, to be decided next month.

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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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