If you’ve followed my work for the past year you know that my default position has been there is a potential Grand Bargain for Peace in the Middle East. From the moment President Trump first berated the Arabs in Riyidh last year on his first foreign trip for supporting terrorism, I’ve felt that the final outcome over Syria would culminate in such an agreement.
Elijah Magnier is reporting now that the framework for a U.S. pull out of its position at Al-Tanf near where the borders of Jordan, Syria and Iraq come together has pretty much been agreed upon in advance of Trump and Vladimir Putin’s Summit on July 16th in Helsinki.
Russian advisors visiting the Syrian capital Damascus are confident that the US forces will pull out of al-Tanf and will also aim to completely withdraw from north of Syria (al-Hasaka and Deir-Ezzour) in the next six months.
According to top decision makers based in Damascus, the US President Donald Trump is pushing his administration to approve an already prepared total withdrawal plan. Despite Trump’s limited knowledge of foreign policy and being unaware of the consequences of his decisions in the international arena, however, he found no convincing elements – said the sources, who asked to remain anonymous – in the presentation by his administration where US forces could benefit from the continuation of their presence in such a hostile environment and without suffering hits in the future. Trump’s biggest fear to see the US special forces deployed in the north of Syria and in Iraq returning to the country “in plastic bags”. He would certainly find it hard to offer any explanation for the US occupation of the Levant after the defeat of ISIS (the “Islamic State” group) or what remained of it in Syria and Iraq.
What Putin and Trump will work out is whether they can trust each other enough to allow each to do the job they need to do to make this work. By the time the summit happens, the SAA Tiger forces should have taken back most of the province of Dara’a up to the Golan Heights, effectively restoring the 2011 border.
The Grand Bargain I’ve been proposing has been, simply put, the U.S. and the Russians acting as guarantors of the local actors behavior. It requires Russia to remain in Syria indefinitely, supporting the Assad government’s rebuilding of the country.
And it requires the U.S. to remove its military presence, by declaring victory over ISIS and leaving. But, in its wake leave an explicit guarantee of Israel’s and Saudi Arabia’s defense in the case of future Iranian adventurism.
The Russians act as a buffer to break up the Shia Crescent concerns of the Israelis, Turkey goes home, the Kurds negotiate a settlement with Damascus and the Saudis get to live a few more years before their domestic troubles overwhelm them.
Russia’s alliance with Iran and China is unbreakable at this point. They have designs to build a trade empire across Asia that the world hasn’t seen in centuries. Putin has the means and the respect by all parties on both sides to remove Iran’s troops from Syria and get Hezbollah to stand down if the right deal is signed.
He has the military might to make it all stick.
The Turks and President Erdogan have over-played their hand and have been abandoned by both Putin and Trump. He will behave himself or be removed from power. His days of playing both sides against each other are over…
… He [Putin] and Trump are in opposite domestic positions. Trump needs this win to shut up the loony left. Putin doesn’t, even though he’s facing a re-election campaign in 2018.
So, setting the table for Trump to come in, statesmanlike, and broker an historic peace deal is exactly his style.
We’re not there yet, but the pieces are in place. As long as Trump doesn’t make another mistake like the al-Shairat bombing and keeps a lid on his military commanders he will eventually gain Putin’s trust.
This story has not been without it twists and turns. There have been the multitude of false flags, provocations and prevarications from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to try and scuttle this deal.
It even survived another colossal Trump mistake in responding to another false flag attack on civilians with chemical weapons this year.
But, over the course of it all, Trump has held firm while Putin made deals with everyone to give them a little of what they want. The Saudis are going to get slightly more market share in oil to help with their fiscal situation. Israel will likely get to keep the Golan Heights in perpetuity, much to the pleasure of the board of Genie Energy.
Trump and Netanyahu still wants regime change in Iran as part of this deal, but Trump is in no real position to get that concession from Putin. That is exactly what the U.S. media is trying to position him to demand.
Bloomberg is trying to make this deal sound like Putin is betraying Iran by making deals over oil production caps, while offering up Iran’s withdrawal from Syria as some ‘big win.’
For Iran, the overriding goal is to maintain its influence inside Syria and keep supply lines open, said Ehud Yaari, an Israel-based fellow at the Washington Institute.
“Russia has an interest to bleed Iran in Syria, to weaken Iran but not collapse Iran because it may lose the Assad regime, which is its major card,” said Sami Nader, head of the Levant Institute for Strategic Studies in Beirut. “They want Iran in check and under control.”
This is pure Netanyahu-esque spin. Russia doesn’t have the goal of bleeding out Iran in Syria, Israel does. And every one of Bibi’s little lies have been calculated to convince Trump to extend the U.S. presence there indefinitely for his reasons.
If Magnier is correct then this strategy has failed completely.
Assad isn’t going anywhere and Iran has no desire to stay in Syria once the U.S. leaves. As the Western media keeps trying to tell us, there’s a revolution happening back home. IRGC forces are needed there, which is why Netanyahu is abjecting against any deal with Putin before said overthrow of the mullahs takes place.
Too bad Putin and Trump have both put the kibosh on that. Trump needs another major geopolitical win to crush his deep state and Democratic (I repeat myself) opposition in the mid-terms while also changing the mandate for NATO.
Russia has Iran’s back when it comes to sanctions, fuel marketing, oil exports and the like. Iran is key to the success of uniting Central Asia under China’s One Belt, One Road initiative, which includes making India and Turkey partners in the project.
For Putin to get a restructuring of NATO, border security in Syria, draw-down of U.S. troops there and probably in Afghanistan as well and potentially recognition of Crimea, there has to be something else on the table.
The bargaining chips are Jerusalem, Yemen, Nordstream 2 and Iranian regime change. Nordstream 2 and regime change are off the table. The big question is are the other two within their purview to negotiate.
Doubtful, certainly at this point in time.
For now, the Grand Bargain is taking shape. Phase one is the hardest part, the trust part. Since U.S. and Russian military commanders have been in communication for nearly three years coordinating around each other it seems plausible the trust is there.
The work’s been done. Now, just sing the deals and remove/reposition the troops. It is the next phase that is murkier. Trump wants explicit guarantees from Putin that Iran won’t develop a nuclear weapon.
For him to get that guarantee means removing the regime-change threat from the table as well as allowing Tehran to develop trade relations without the U.S. stifling them. This is why I think the most likely casualty in this situation will be Yemen. Iran will have to withdraw support from the Houthi rebels like Trump will remove the U.S. troops from Syria.
As one of my readers said to me privately, the other day, this is beginning to feel like 1945, the only difference is that Trump and Putin aren’t meeting at Yalta, to remake the world.
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