Syraq SITREP 17: SAA Links Up With Iraqis, as U.S. Backs Off Amid Saudi-Qatar Standoff

Jordan Border Guards Incident, Turkish Proxies Infighting Underscores Demoralization of Rebels

The U.S. ‘blinking’ in Syria came after intense talks this spring between Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his counterpart Sergey Lavrov joined by Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Then last week The Wall Street Journal reported the Americans had pushed for an agreement with the Russians on deconfliction zones that would exclude the Iranians from the Astana, Kazakhstan format of talks in which the U.S. has largely been sidelined.

Moscow responded a few days ago by Lavrov warning the U.S.-led coalition not to strike its allies again, forcing even the usually reliable, once influential Washington mouthpiece of Newsweek to admit the Americans have no permission from Damascus (or under international law) to be in Syria, only tacit forbearance. Lavrov said that the deconfliction zones agreed upon in Astana between Russia, Iran, Turkey and Syria have the support of the UN Security Council, whereas the unilaterally declared American occupation zone is illegitimate. The Russians and Iranians’ proxies now stand between the American special forces-occupied strip in southeastern Syria and the ISIS terrorists’ lines. The Americans’ bluff has been called, and the official justification for the U.S.-led Coalition’s presence in southern Syria, to fight ISIS rather than Damascus, is null and void.

So demoralized were the so-called ‘moderate rebels’ the U.S. has been arming and training by this development, that a group of five deserters were reportedly shot by Jordanian border guards as they attempted to flee into Jordan. Elsewhere in northern Syria, the Syrian rebels backed by Turkey to seize territory from ISIS and the Syrian Kurds are engaged in infighting at al-Bab. Given the failure of repeated rebel assaults on pro-Syrian government forces to the west of Washington’s unilaterally declared deconfliction zone extending 50 kilometers around al-Tanf/Tanaf, the only surprise is that more militants aren’t quitting, now that the official U.S. justification for their training (to fight ISIS) is irrelevant.

According to well-connected Mideast correspondent Elijah J. Magnier, Damascus has agreed to the Americans remaining at Al-Tanf so long as the Iraqis close the border from their side -- meaning U.S. special forces will need to withdraw south to Jordan, or get flown out by C130s/V22/chopper lift. Alternatively, they can cool their heels with increasingly bored and frustrated rebels who just might develop cases of sudden jihadi syndrome against their American trainers in the Syrian summer’s desert heat.

Magnier’s reporting confirms what many observers of the conflict from afar such as retired DIA/Army Col. Patrick Lang have already determined: the rebel force trained by the U.S. is too small (less than 4,000 fighters) and is woefully unprepared to assault the well dug in ISIS positions around Deir Ez Zor. Therefore the neocons’ stated goal of establishing some sort of ‘safe zone’ for jihadis to refit and rearm (or even to recruit ISIS defectors to fight Assad as newly minted ‘moderate rebels’) along the Syraqi border has proven to be a mirage.

As Col. Lang writes, by opening a new overland gateway to friendly manpower from Iraq, Operation “Grand Dawn” has been a smashing success for the Syrians and their Russian partners:

I thought this might be the next move and here it is. Leith Fadel also reports there was some kind of agreement between Washington and Moscow to let this happen. I don’t think we (the US) had much of a choice in this. The R+6 called our bluff and we blinked. I think it is significant that the SAA and Hezbollah column that made the 40 km dash to the border linked up with the Iraqi PMU. I would now consider the R+6 as the R+7.

West of the city in the ancient oasis of Palmyra, a large Syrian force is preparing to assault As-Sukhna, before advancing east in a big Russian-supported push to lift the two and a half year old siege of Deir Ez Zor. Any effort by U.S. proxies like the Kurdish-led SDF to permit large ISIS convoys to flee Raqqa in order to ‘funnel’ them toward the Syrians is likely to fail, as the Russian Air Force has repeatedly annihilated the Daeshbags on the open desert roads.

As Magnier has written, this summer’s battles to liberate Deir Ez Zor province from ISIS and the American-aided Kurdish campaign to take Raqqa promise an end to the bloody, six-year-old proxy war in Syria -- but they won’t eliminate the threat of Islamic State-inspired terrorism.

The false Caliphate will live on in cyberspace and in the hearts and minds of survivors deserting ISIS shrinking territory for their homelands in Europe, the Caucuses, and as far afield as China and Australia.

The Saudi-Qatar Falling Out and Turkey’s Big Move

In northern and eastern Syria, where Kurdish fighters are assaulting Raqqa, the situation is more complicated than in the south. The reason has little to do with U.S.-Russian rivalry, given that both sides of Cold War 2.0 have been keen to cultivate good relations with the Kurds. Across northern Syria the issue is now the falling out between the previous patrons of ISIS, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, with Riyadh comically acting ‘shocked, shocked!’ that Doha has sponsored terrorism.

This business would seem comical, even with President Trump joining in the accusations against the Qataris, if it weren’t for the fact that Doha has numerous insurance policies against betrayal by its erstwhile allies, led by the Saudi Kingdom and the United States. The unleashing of these insurance files could have real consequences for the ‘moderate’ jihadi ‘Wahhabi Lobby’ in Washington. ‘Hacked’ emails have already exposed the pro-Saudi Washington Post columnist David Ignatius as a mouthpiece of the UAE’s ambassador in Washington. As Al-Masdar News editor Leith Fadel joked on Twitter, the (Saudi funded) Atlantic Council and the Brookings Doha Center which had previously supported the same so-called ‘moderate rebels’ against Assad in Syria now find their patrons at loggerheads.

Given Qatar’s deep pockets and the tendency in the U.S. and Europe to blame any and every hack of any kind on Russia, Doha could always pay hackers (including actual Russians) to get inside Saudi networks and look for proof of the Kingdom’s not so secret support for ISIS, both in Syria and in Yemen. Other bits of kompromat the Qataris may have on the Saudis or their Mideast partners can be kept in reserve. As W the Intelligence Insider told us over the weekend, Qatar invested right alongside the Saudi Kingdom in the Clinton Foundation, betting like so many others on the media-proclaimed certainty of a Hillary presidency. When the Clinton crime family failed to rig the 2016 presidential election and concocted its #BlameRussia Narrative, the Saudis scrambled to do the thing they know how to do best in Washington: bribe the winners. As The Prince reported here at RogueMoney, Trump’s investment in hotels and resorts serving the hajj pilgrims in western Saudi Arabia is highly relevant to his recent sword dance with the Saudi princes in the Kingdom.

At the same time, The Donald recognizes an actual Saudi-Qatari war would be bad for business all around and his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of ExxonMobil, has likely informed the President as to the vast American energy industry investments in Qatar’s motherload of (the cheapest to extract) offshore natural gas in the world. It is also highly probable that, despite efforts to hide the extent of the Saudis’ military incompetence in Yemen, that the Pentagon knows a Saudi invasion of the Connecticut-sized peninsula would quickly turn into a flustercluck, just outside the gates of the critical Al Udeid Air Base.

With the Turks kicking the Germans and soon their NATO big brothers the Americans out of Incirlik Air Base, the U.S. cannot afford to lose its position at Al Udeid. Robert Fisk succinctly expressed the main reason the Qataris host the Americans in an article published by The Independent:

When I asked his father, Sheikh Hamad (later uncharitably deposed by Tamim) why he didn’t kick the Americans out of Qatar, he replied: “Because if I did, my Arab brothers would invade me.”

Like father, like son, I suppose. God Bless America.

Breaking the Sunni-Shia Dialectic:
Sunni Allies Turkey and Qatar Establish a Non-Aggression Pact with Russian-Backed Iran?

While the danger of a Saddam-invading-Kuwait-style hydrocarbons grab by the Sauds seems minimal, the Saudi-led economic blockade of the rich peninsula is rapidly realigning the Mideast chessboard. Turkey, cutting losses from its failed proxy war in Syria, is siding with the Qataris by sending troops to further deter any Saudi aggression. Iran, while not providing any military assistance, is flying symbolic cargo planes loaded with pistachios and other food to Doha.

After rejecting an invitation from the Trump White House to mediate the Saudi-Qatari dispute, Doha’s Foreign Minister got on his plane to Moscow and met with Lavrov this past weekend. In response to this Qatari snub and yet another hint of a ‘gas OPEC’ forming between Russia and Qatar, Tillerson urged the Saudis to ease their blockade of Doha’s only land border. After the Turks sided with the Qataris who were reaching out to Ankara’s Turkstream/Eurasian trade partners the Russians, the Saudis proclaimed their support for the Syrian Kurds, whom the Turks consider to be their U.S-aided enemies, indistinguishable from the PKK insurgents across the border in their country.

Writing for my friend The Saker’s blog, Ghassan Kadi describes this geopolitical watershed, which has the potential to drown the explosive Sunni GCC-Shi’a Iran split with a new ‘screw the Saudis, we know they’re going broke’ coalition:

Turkey, both a NATO member and a Middle Eastern nation, is a Sunni Muslim nation, a major regional power, and no regional deal is going to pass without its endorsement or at least tacit support. At the present time however, Turkey, embodied by its hardline Islamist nationalist “sultan” Erdogan, does not know if its relationship with NATO is coming or going. Judging by his actions, Erdogan seems to be prepared to accept that it is “going”, and he is making all the provisions, lining up his troops and options, and preparing himself and Turkey for a divorce from NATO, should he see this necessary. To this effect, Erdogan and his current NATO partners all know that unlike the time when Turkey joined NATO out of need, NATO now needs Turkey more than Turkey needs NATO and the decision for Turkey to be in NATO or to leave is one that is Turkish.

The once joint American-EU-Turkish-Israeli-Saudi-Qatari plot against Syria has failed as a result of the resolve of the Syrian Army, Syrian leadership, and friends of Syria; mainly Russia and Iran. Erdogan, who once aimed to pray at the Omayad Mosque in Damascus now sees himself getting bullied into accepting a Kurdish state south of his border; courtesy of his former anti-Syrian Allies, and existing NATO partners.

To deaf Obama ears, and more deaf Trump ears, Turkey has screamed loud that America has to choose between its partnership with Turkey and the Kurds, but to no avail.

It is not by accident therefore that Turkey has decided to send troops to Qatar. Erdogan is trying to present a new redline for the USA (his partner) and the Saudis (his friends) after his first Kurdish redline has been breached, or almost.

But there is more to Erdogan’s move towards Qatar. He is replacing Iran as a supporter for the now besieged Principality that exports gas and imports everything else; including water. In doing this, he (the Sunni) is absolving Iran (the Shiite) from coming to Qatar’s (Sunni) aid with its conflict against (Sunni) Saudi Arabia.

Hold Your Arabian Horses:
The Egyptians Turn and the Complexities of the New Pro-Eurasian Mideast Bloc

It’s important to point out that all of these until recently shocking developments stem from two primary root causes: the terminal decline in Saudi oil output, which has prompted the Kingdom’s aggression in Yemen, and the rise of tiny Qatar as a petro-power and Al-Jazeera spreading patron in its own right across the Muslim world.

Whether funding the Muslim Brotherhood and its local Turkish AKP and Palestinian Hamas branches, or engaging in not so secret talks with the Russians and their South Pars field sharing Iranian neighbors about a global gas cartel, the geopolitical and commercial rivalry between Riyadh and Doha are now one and the same. There is no honor among thieves and the failure of the Washington-London-Paris-Riyadh-Doha plan to topple Assad and run oil and gas pipelines through Syria to Turkey and on to Europe now has the plotters turning on each other.

Israel, which had been happy for the Sauds and Qataris to fund the attempted overthrow of the Assad government and assault on its deadliest enemy Hezbollah, has been largely quiet about the spat. The reasons are not hard to understand -- Israel has its own offshore gas ambitions, while Qatar admits Israeli visitors -- something Saudi Arabia refuses to do openly (a point Benjamin Netanyahu indirectly made when he praised President Trump’s direct flight from the Kingdom to Israel as something yet to be permitted to ordinary Israeli citizens). The Israeli media has been supportive of pressuring Qatar to cut funding for Hamas, one of the ten demands the Saudi Kingdom presented Doha with last week. But none other than frequent RogueMoney guest London Paul noticed how quiet the Israeli Foreign Ministry has been about the heated Saudi-Qatari dispute and Riyadh's failing blockade against Doha.

Russia: Follow the Flow of Pipelineistan and Behind It a Post Petrodollar Mideast Order

From Moscow’s perspective, settling the Syrian conflict and the pipeline rivalry that precipitated it are one and the same task. Since Qatar’s LNG was until the recent Saudi-declared blockade flowing to European markets (albeit at a higher price than Russian piped gas) and Iran also wishes to export its gas to Europe, the logical move for the Kremlin is to negotiate with the world’s second and soon third largest gas exporters. It should also be noted, that whereas the original plan for toppling Assad likely foresaw a pipeline overland from Qatar through Saudi Arabia to Syria, the new plan may involve laying pipe from the combined Qatari-Iranian flow to Kuwait, then north through the Basra region of Shi’a southern Iraq into a newly independent Iraqi Kurdistan, and thence to Turkey.

Inside Anatolia, the same gas from Qatar and Iran is likely to mix with Russian hydrocarbons arriving via Turkstream, before entering Europe in the Balkans and via the EU-boosted trans-Adriatic pipeline that is supposed to receive gas from Azerbaijan’s waters in the Caspian Sea. The Israelis too, want their piece of the action, but Turkey’s course caught between NATO/EU and Moscow has complicated their pipe plans.

The Syria war has spectacularly demonstrated the inability of the U.S.-backed petrodollar players in the region to impose their will on the Levant, and break the so-called ‘Shia crescent’ which is outside Israel and neocon circles mainly a euphemism for containing Iran’s economic rather than ideological or military power (the Israelis know very well their hysterics about Iran using nukes it doesn’t have to wipe them off the map are for their most gullible Evangelical Christian supporters around the world).

Standing precariously on the fence is Egypt, which also has gas to export but most importantly is relying on Russia’s ally China for the expansion of the Maritime Silk Road and infrastructure to sustain Egyptians in the 21st century. Cairo cannot afford to alienate its primary patron in Saudi Arabia, but also recognizes that the Kingdom’s coffers are dwindling and a reapproachment with its erstwhile Muslim Brotherhood funding enemies in Doha is likely in its best interest. Quiet talks, with the United Arab Emirate as the mediator and winding down the Sauds’ losing war in Yemen on the agenda, have been underway to secure Egyptian economic interests in the strategic Bab al Mandeb strait. There are even rumors that with Qatar so close to Oman which has stayed neutral between the Iranians and Saudis, that the Omanis are providing arms  and certainly cross border medical treatment for Houthi and Saleh loyalist fighters. Whether Qatar will go so far as to send weapons to its until very recent enemies the Houthis remains to be seen, but if Saudi intransigence continues this scenario cannot be ruled out, deepening Riyadh's quagmire in Yemen.

Russian Diplomats Are Working Overtime to Head Off a Major Mideast Escalation

As the end game in Syria approaches, Israel and particularly Saudi Arabia are both desperate enough to ignite a major conflagration to spoil the new Mideast. Both the soon to be bankrupt Saudis and the Israeli hardliners fear ideological if not personal oblivion, with defeats in Syria and Yemen setting the stage for the collapse of the Saudi Kingdom just as Soviet defeat in Afghanistan accelerated the collapse of the USSR. Israel can of course survive the collapse of its Saudi ally, and indeed, the most paranoid pro-Saudi activists on Twitter suspect the Zionists, notwithstanding decades of anti-Iranian actions and rhetoric, could revive their old alliance from the days of the Shah. As they said in the Godfather movies, it’s not personal Sonny, it’s just business.

As the Russia Analyst has discussed with W the Intelligence Insider, Vladimir Putin sees the danger of an autumn war starting after ISIS occupation is finished off in Raqqa and Deir Ez Zor. This is likely why Putin has begun a charm offensive in the American and other Western media. The Russian Foreign Ministry is also making enormous efforts to prevent a new, much more dangerous for the world Mideast war. Consider this round up of Russian shuttle diplomacy all over the Mideast in just the last few weeks (courtesy of The Saker’s editor ‘Scott’):

One June 8 Deputy Foreign Minister Bogdanov met with the Ambassador of Lebanon

On June 8 Bogdanov met with an Ambassador of Bahrain

Same day he met with the Ambassador of the Saudi Arabia

Same day de Mistura came to Moscow to meet Lavrov

Karasev, another Deputy Foreign Minister, was called to MFA of Israel for “consultations”

On June 7 Lavrov spoke over the phone with the Foreign Minister of Iran

On June 6, Bogdanov met with the Egypt’s Ambassador

On June 6 Bogdanov met with Benny Dagan, a Deputy Director General, Director of the Centre for Political Research of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel

On June 6 Bogdanov, a Deputy Foreign Minister, met with personal representative of Haftar [Libya]

On June 5, the governments of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Egypt and Yemen severed diplomatic ties with Qatar. 

Same day another Deputy Foreign Minister, Meshkov met with Sovereign Military Order of Malta Grand Chancellor Albrecht Freiherr von Boeselager and held consultations with Secretary General for Foreign Affairs Stefano Ronca, in Rome.

June 5th, Meshkov met with the Vatican Under-Secretary for Relations with States

On June 5th, Bogdanov met with the Ambassador of Qatar

On June 5th,Lavrov’s telephone conversation with Minister of Foreign Affairs of Qatar

Concluding Questions: Will Victory Over ISIS in Syraq Pave the Way for the Next Mideast War?

In conclusion, the Mideast stands on the cusp of a diplomatic and geoconomic revolution -- the dumping of the petrodollar and the overt absorption of the states that had hitherto been in the U.S./Israeli camp into a new Eurasian order defined by the petroyuan and the use of local and/or cryptocurrencies.

If the major conflict looming in the near future instigated by the desperate Saudis and their globalist handlers can be miraculously prevented, then there is hope for Syria and Yemen to be reconstructed, with former enemies of Damascus like Turkey and Qatar helping to restore what their proxies destroyed. This is the optimistic scenario of the globalist cabal being defeated that London Paul strongly leans toward.

But what is the alternative to this optimistic vision? The conflict W the Intelligence Insider warns is coming between Israel and Hezbollah with U.S. involvement that could set the stage for a much larger globalist-instigated war to come, involving Iran and eventually, Russia.

Last week’s terrorist attack on the Iranian Parliament, Iranian accusations that Washington secretly supports ISIS, and the FBI arrests of two Hezbollah operatives accused of plotting attacks in New York City can all be viewed as ‘stage setting’ for such a war.