Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered before the discussion club Valdai a speech with the theme “Future begins today: the lines of the world of tomorrow.” He took the opportunity to respond to criticism of the Russian operation in Aleppo. Should we rejoice, the Russian president mentioned Israel’s struggle for survival. A fight which he must set an example in the international struggle against terrorism.
“We always hear: Aleppo, Aleppo, Aleppo. But yes ! And what is the problem. (…) If we do not touch it, then it must be the same with the offensive on Mosul. Allowed to flow. Do not touch in Raqqa. For our European partners continue to talk about the offensive Raqqa and the need to liquidate the nest of terrorism. But there are also civilians there, Raqqa! So we no longer struggle against the terrorists? When they take hostage of civilians in any city, is dropped? The example of Israel is to follow. They never act in this way. They survive thanks to this, and they do not have a choice. We must fight. If every time we give in the ground, we will lose, “said Vladimir Putin.
Israel’s evocation Putin is double-edged. On the one hand, Jerusalem is proud to arouse the admiration of the Kremlin master in the fight against terrorism. On the other hand, compare the strong-arm methods and indiscriminate Russian army in Syria is not very flattering to the Jewish state that prides itself to have the most moral army in the world.
The 13th conference of the Valdai Club was held from October 24 to 27 in Sochi. Established in September 2004, the Club Valdai international discussion brings together every year political analysts from different countries and covers topics including discussion allows foreign participants to better understand Russia. This year, more than 130 experts participated in the discussion club.
For Turkey, a friendship with Russia is allowing Ankara to make gains in Syria that its alliance with the United States was unable to offer, writes Turkey expert David Barchard.
THIS COMING WEEK, it will be exactly 13 months since Russia moved militarily into Syria.
At the time, Russia’s brilliant, if ruthless, move on the strategic chessboard infuriated Turkey. It seemed to block the way for the military incursion campaign that Ankara still dreamt of to dislodge President Bashar al-Assad and replace him with a Sunni-led united Syria. Russia, too, seems to have believed at the start of this year that it would face the united opposition of Turkey and Saudi Arabia in Syria.
But as things have turned out, Russia’s entry into Syria eventually unblocked the three-year stalemate for Turkey – after it had done a volte-face of its own and President Erdogan reached an understanding with President Vladimir Putin in June.
That deal was probably inspired by a Turkish need to restore normal economic relations with Russia, but it swiftly turned out to be a winning compromise for it in Syria as well.
Striking the Kurds
At the present, though Russia is securely entrenched in the western areas of the country ruled by Assad and unlikely ever to be dislodged, Turkey, with Putin’s approval, now has tanks and soldiers in the north of the country. The long-frustrated Turkish dream of a “safe zone” for refugees running 55 miles (90km) westward from Jarabulus now seems to be realizable.
More importantly, Turkey is also able to simultaneously tackle the two threats it sees on its southern borders: the autonomous Syrian Kurdish enclaves and the Islamic State (I.S.) militant group.
Borrowing the tactics of the U.S.-led coalition against I.S., its planes bomb the Syrian Kurds while its local allies in the Free Syrian Army fight them on the ground, pressing on Tel Rifaat and Marea, and the outlying Kurdish enclave of Afrin, and also Manbij, the town recently captured from I.S. by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.
Each major move by Turkey seems to be preceded by a direct telephone conversation between the two presidents, indicating that, though each has probably told the other the general outlines of the new order that they intend to create in Syria, they still need to be sure of the other’s specific acquiescence.
A year ago, Putin probably would not have relished the idea of a Turkish-backed Sunni zone in much of Syria – and his ally Bashar al-Assad must detest it.
But, if I.S.’s hold on northeastern Syria does crumble under the Turkey-backed onslaught on it, some sort of stable authority is likely to emerge in place of the present fragmentation as Turkey and its allies consolidate their hold in the north and Turkey acts as its guarantor.
More importantly, Putin knows that cooperation with Turkey is beginning to glue it into a long-term partnership with Russian interests. It is not simply that Turkey’s relations with the U.S. and NATO are tense and mutually suspicious, and steadily deteriorating.
The arrival of Russia in Syria could be its biggest strategic breakthrough since the distant times when it arrived on the Black Sea in 1774. It transforms the strategic balance in the Eastern Mediterranean region, effectively encircling Turkey and pruning its strategic importance to its Western allies.
This might have started alarm bells ringing in Ankara under many earlier governments but today, the eyes of government strategists and commentators in the Turkish capital are almost exclusively focused on eliminating opponents of its Sunni allies in both Syria and Iraq and then building those groups up in the medium term into stable frontline political entities working closely with Turkey.
Having been frustrated from gaining this prize for so long and paid such a huge cost, it is understandable that Ankara is determined not to miss it now.
So what we are seeing in Syria seems like a drift toward the emergence of two zones of influence: a Russian-backed littoral state under Assad, claiming to be the sole government of the country, and a “Free Syria” backed by Turkey.
This might sound a bit like Cold War Germany, but perhaps a better parallel, and a more Middle Eastern one, is the division of Iran into Russian and British zones of influence before World War I.
This depends, of course, on the four-months-old Russian-Turkish understanding continuing. Not all Russian observers are confident that it will. The red line it seems Turkish forces must not cross is al-Bab, the strategic town currently occupied by I.S. 35 miles (55km) to the north of Aleppo. Turkey struck this week at Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) forces close to al-Bab, frustrating possible Kurdish moves to gain the upper hand there.
Some of Erdogan’s supporters, particularly the Turkish affiliates of the Muslim Brotherhood and other conservatives, have been urging him ever since August to move on al-Bab, and speeches he has given suggest he is warm toward the idea. “They tell us not to go to al-Bab, but we are obliged to go down there,” he said in a speech at Bursa on 22 October.
Deal on Aleppo
If – and it is a big “if” because such a move looks dangerous in military terms – Turkish allies and perhaps even its troops do move toward Aleppo, Turkey’s relations with Russia will come under serious strain. Putin needs to find some sort of deal over the city, giving Turkey’s public the impression of at least a token gain.
Turkey has, however, shown willingness to respect Russian sensitivities in Aleppo by agreeing to remove al-Nusra Front militants from the town in a telephone conversation between Erdogan and Putin. The partnership with Russia looks like a way for Turkey to achieve a slightly scaled-down version of its long-term policy aims in Syria, something the U.S. could not provide.
On 23 October, Erdogan told the Russian TV channel Rossiya-1: “I need the support of my respected and valuable friend Putin in the joint struggle against terrorism in this region. We are ready to take every step necessary to cooperate with Russia in this area.” Russian-Turkish friendship is new but it may be more than a short-lived marriage of convenience.
This article was originally published by Middle East Eye and is reprinted here with permission
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Syria Deeply.
Ahead of Putin meeting, Netanyahu says Tehran cannot be allowed to use Hezbollah as a proxy to attack Jewish state
Israel will not let Iran use the Hezbollah terror group to turn the Syrian side of the Golan Heights border into a new front, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Russian media outlets in comments published Tuesday.
Netanyahu, who is on a two-day visit to Moscow, told the state-run Interfax news service and TASS news agency ahead of the talks that he would do everything in his power to prevent Iran from gaining a foothold in Syria, and intended to ask Russia for help in curbing the threat from Hezbollah.
“We have a red line, a boundary that we will not allow to be broken. Iran will not be allowed, using Hezbollah, to use Syrian territory to attack us and open up another terrorist front against us in the Golan,” Netanyahu told TASS ahead of a meeting with Putin on Tuesday afternoon — their fourth round of talks in recent months.
The two leaders were expected to continue their ongoing discussion over security coordination between the Russian and the Israeli armies, especially their so-called deconflicting mechanism, installed to assure the Israel Defense Forces does not strike Russian jets operating in Syrian airspace.
“We have made a point of staying out of the Syrian conflict, with two exceptions: treating wounded Syrians on a humanitarian basis and preventing Iran from using Syria to attack Israel or to transfer sophisticated weapons to Hezbollah,” Netanyhau noted. “We don‘t know what will come of Syria, but in any arrangement, it cannot be an Iranian base for terrorism and aggression,” he told Interfax.
“Israel will continue to share its concerns with the Russian government regarding Hezbollah. This terrorist group has called for the murder of every Jew and therefore must be prevented from acquiring advanced weaponry from anyone. Hezbollah launched thousands of missiles at our civilians and we will not allow them to amass even more sophisticated weaponry on our border.”
Netanyahu and Putin were also to mark 25 years of Israeli-Russian diplomatic relations, which were reestablished in January 1992, 25 years after the Soviet Union severed them in the wake of the 1967 Six Day War.
“Russia is an important global power and Israel is an important regional power. President Putin and I understand the value of the ties between our two countries, which have steadily improved over the last quarter of a century. Our relationship has enhanced Russia-Israel cooperation and I expect that this trip will only add to that,” Netanyahu told the Russian media.
“Our coordination mechanism has already proven itself. We would both benefit from strengthening it further.”
During Netanyahu’s visit, Jerusalem and Moscow were also to sign a bilateral pensions agreement, which seeks to “correct a historic injustice regarding emigres from the former USSR up to 1992 who lost their eligibility for a Russian pension,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement Sunday.
The agreement, which will only take effect after Russian authorities ratify it, was to be signed by former immigration and absorption minister Ze’ev Elkin and Russian Labor and Social Protection Minister Maxim Topilin. Payments to Soviet-born Israelis are expected to commence next year.
Tuesday’s meeting in the Kremlin is the fourth contact between the two leaders in less than a year. Netanyahu visited the Russian capital in September 2015 and in April 2016. In addition, the two briefly got together last November on the sidelines of the Paris climate conference. In comparison, in the same time frame, Netanyahu has only met twice with US President Barack Obama.
Netanyahu likely to approach Putin about presenting a united front in the event of French-brokered talks, political source claims.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is traveling to Moscow next week – possibly to realign Israel’s alliances with Russia after the Paris peace talk conference, a top political source claimed late Thursday.
“There’s a possibility that Binyamin Netanyahu will try to harness Russian President Vladimir Putin for the peace process,” the source stated to Maariv.
Whether or not Netanyahu will approach Putin over the issue will depend on the final outcome of Friday’s Paris conference, the source said.
Either way, “obviously, the Palestinian issue and developments in the Middle East will be raised in conversation, as well as the war in Syria and of course economic cooperation between the two countries.”
Netanyahu will make the visit Monday in honor of 25 years of the resumption of diplomatic talks between Moscow and Jerusalem.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Paskov said that Netanyahu and Putin will discuss – among other things – the continued implementation of border security coordination with Syria and a number of economic issues.
The spokesman did not address the question of whether they will discuss the French initiative and broach the subject of Russia’s position regarding the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.
Netanyahu himself continues to resist the entire idea of the conference on the grounds that it allows the Palestinians to avoid direct negotiations with Israel.
Russia, along with Britain, are not attending the conference.
Such a move would reflect Jerusalem’s budding alliance with Moscow, days after Putin returned a tank to Israel after Netanyahu made the request to Putin during their meeting in the Kremlin earlier this year. During the same meeting, the two reached an agreement to coordinate their actions in Syria.
Netanyahu appears to be reaching out to eastern countries – not only Russia, but also China, Japan, and India – in light of Europe’s insistence on supporting sanctions against Israel and on backing the Palestinian Authority (PA), as well as the US’s bumbling foreign policy in the Middle East during the administration of US President Barack Obama.
Israel National News