[this analysis was written for the Unz Review]
In his recent article “The Road to Damascus: How the Syria War Was Won” Pepe Escobar summarized the outcome of the war in Syria in the following way:
“It’s a quadruple win. The U.S. performs a face saving withdrawal, which Trump can sell as avoiding a conflict with NATO ally Turkey. Turkey has the guarantee – by the Russians – that the Syrian Army will be in control of the Turkish-Syrian border. Russia prevents a war escalation and keeps the Russia-Iran-Turkey peace process alive. And Syria will eventually regain control of the entire northeast.”
This otherwise excellent summary overlooks two out of three members of the “Axis of Kindness”, including Israel and the KSA. Of course, later in his analysis Pepe does address these actors, and also includes Kuwait. Furthermore, a thorough discussion of what took place would have to also include China, Hezbollah, Yemen and the EU (well, the ones that matter, the UK and France. The rest are just voiceless colonies of the USA).
Most of the analyses of what just took place focused on the “what”. I will try to look into the “why” and the “how” of what just happened in Syria. Still, I don’t propose to make such a detailed analysis, but I do want to re-classify the actors in a somewhat different way: by their relative strength.
|The “Axis of Kindness”:United States+CENTCOM+NATO+Israel+KSA
||by far the most powerful actor almost by any measure: a bigger military force then all the other actors combined (at least when looked at regionally), huge economic power (the dollar is still THE #1 currency on the planet), total control of the region (via CENTCOM) and quasi unconditional support from Europe (via NATO). Finally, Israel does pack a powerful military punch. This actor has only ONE weakness, but more about that later.
|Iran+Hezbollah+Houthi+Shia forces in Iraq
||in regional terms, Iran is the local superpower which can even successfully defy the Axis of Kindness forces (and has done so since the Islamic Revolution of 1979).
||I placed Russia and Syria in the same group and I could have added Iran, but since I believe that Russia objectively has more power over the Syrian government than Iran, I think that it is important to put Russia and Syria together simply because Damascus cannot say “no” to Moscow, but could do so, at least in theory, to Tehran. Finally, Russia and Iran agree on the main issues, but have different visions for the future of the Middle-East. Thus this is another reason to look at them separately, even if not necessarily in opposition to each other. In military terms, Russia is very strong, then very vulnerable, then very strong again, it all depends on your level of analysis (see below)
|Turkey+pro-Turkish factions in Syria
||That one is a difficult one to classify. On one hand, Turkey does not have any regional allies (the Ottoman Empire left only hatred and deep resentment in its former colonies). For a while, the pro-Turkish factions, which were liberally showered with weapons, money, training, logistical support, etc, by the US and the KSA, but eventually these factions grew weaker and weaker until they reached a state of advanced impotence leaving Turkey pretty much alone (we will also look into that below).
||For a while, they sure looked potentially powerful: not only did the Kurds have a pretty big military power (albeit mostly one restricted to infantry), they had the support of Axis of Kindness and, especially, Israel which saw any form of Independent Kurdistan as a great tool to weaken and even threaten Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Syria. Furthermore, the Kurds happened to control a lot of oil rich regions and they could always retreat in the mountainous areas if needed.
|The Takfiris (i.e. the many and constantly name-changing franchises of what used to be called “al-Qaeda”).
||In reality, the Takfiris really ought to be classified together with the Axis of Kindness since they have been the foot-soldiers/cannon-fodder for the AngloZionist since the 1980s (from Afghanistan then to modern day Syria). Nonetheless, we will consider them as distinct from the rest of the Axis of Kindness forces.
Of course, and just like any other taxonomy, this one is necessarily somewhat subjective and others might use different criteria or categories. Now let’s look at what I believe is the key to the control of the entire region: the ability to place “boots on the ground” or the lack of such an ability: (…)