Tuesday 9 February 2016

Former MI6 man says 'The Syria War Will Not Be a Quagmire -- Because Putin and Assad Are Winning'


I recommend you click on this very interesting article 
by Alastair Crooke in the Huffington Post about the sudden recent successes of the Russians in Aleppo, which he thinks mean victory for the government is imminent.  Alastair Crooke used to work for M16, writes regularly for the Guardian and was Middle East adviser to Javier Solana, the EU's High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy, from 1997 to 2003.

Points from the article include:

If government forces, moving north, can make friendly contact with the Kurds in the northeast, almost all Nusra and allied rebel forces would be nearly surrounded. The insurgents would be caught in a cauldron with their backs to a lightly populated and forested territory.

The ISIS-controlled corridor, especially the Jarablus border crossing with Turkey, remains effectively open. Turkey has proclaimed this represents its "red line." Were this corridor to be closed by the Syrian Kurds, the Turks have indicated they could respond by invading Syria. The YPG say nonetheless, that they are contemplating just such a move.

...Syria seems to be heading not towards a "quagmire" as many western politicians have suggested, but rather to a clear military outcome. As one
knowledgable commentator noted, the negotiating table is not in Geneva. The true negotiations are taking place on the battlefields of Idlib and Aleppo -- and what has just been negotiated is the near encirclement of rebel forces into a cauldron.

I also expect Syria to soon again constitute a strong regional state. The meaning of this will be evidenced in a powerful, cohesive northern arc through the region -- and perhaps closer relations with Iraq. Correspondingly, certain Gulf states will find themselves eclipsed.
Here is a reminder from the UN Human Rights Council of the regime's great cruelty. Rami Jarrah, an anti-regime activist, said on the World Service this morning that he estimated the Syrian regime has killed a hundred times more people than ISIS and that sounds very likely. Mr. Jarrah, by the way, was introduced on the BBC as a journalist, whereas he is very deeply committed to the rebels. This should have been pointed out, though it does not necessarily detract from what he said about the regime's undeniable war crimes.

Here is an interesting account by Peter Oborne, whose decency always shines through what he writes, about Aleppo. He was there when the fortunes of war changed. What has happened to Aleppo is a very sad story, but now suddenly there's good news for those previously besieged. The besiegers will become the besieged instead, if they do not flee very fast. The Christians, those left, now seem to be safe. 

I am very pleased that the wonderful Hotel Baron, where I stayed in 2007, is intact and still open. Much else is destroyed.

The pro-EU Carnegie Institute has published an article saying Putin is creating refugees in order to topple Angela Merkel. I doubt that this was the main reason for the rout of the rebels in Aleppo, but I am sure he has the fortitude to bear her misfortunes. 

She is quoted as saying

 “We need to protect our external border because we want to keep Schengen. And if we can’t protect it, then this huge region of free movement, our internal market, which is the foundation of our prosperity, will be in danger, and we need to prevent that.” 
To which the writer adds
But one has to wonder if those political parties and movements opposed to giving refugees shelter actually care about Schengen—and, as a corollary, about the EU."
I have to wonder whether political parties in favour of accepting a million more migrants actually care about Europe, as opposed to the EU. Suspending Schengen indefinitely along the migrant route is essential. There is no reason for this to endanger the single market.

As for Putin, if he did succeed in toppling Mrs Merkel I think everyone would gain. 

Here is the head of the German spy agency saying ISIS is sending fighters to Europe disguised as refugees. I imagine this does not surprise even my most guileless reader, but I remember all the people who patiently or impatiently explained last year via social media that the migrants were not terrorists but fleeing terror. Soft-hearted, soft-headed people like that are the biggest problem in Europe.

Fortunately, Eastern Europeans are hard-headed. They see Europe as primarily Christian, as Christendom. This article from Politico suggests that the Visegrad Four countries may eventually leave the EU rather than accept migrants en masse. I doubt it personally.

Three intelligent and in one case very influential Romanians have told me recently that the only hope for Europe is a victory for Le Pen. I wonder how many Romanians think so. I don't know, but a survey this week shows that a majority would vote for Vlad the Impaler were he standing for President. 


  1. You are an idiot

    1. Intriguing comment. Would you like to substantiate it... Anonymous?

  2. Good article but does this mean that Turkey is openly pro-ISIS?


  3. David in Banja Luka9 February 2016 at 15:27


    Whatever his goals, Putin appears to have played his cards well to date, in both Ukraine and Syria.

    He has certainly made Merkel, Obama, Cameron and the rest, look like rank amateurs.

    I worked closely with many Syrians during my time in Abu Dhabi (my boss was a Syrian Christian) and I am even working with a Syrian now in Banja Luka.

    I feel very sorry for them; the disruption and losses they and their families have suffered and the destruction of their once peaceful and relatively prosperous country.

    A rapid end to this long drawn out war and the reinstatement of the Assad government throughout the whole country, is probably the least worst of all the evils facing it.

  4. I am glad that there seem to be some people with reason left in this world of PCness which, I fear, will create in the end a Brave New World for my children.
    I was 19 when I read "1984" and my God, that was so real at the time...then I read Brave New World in my mid twenties and I thought: what a bold piece of fiction! How wrong I was!


  5. Until further notice it seems that I may not complain of hearing an opinion in the making. Now that following and telling stuff forward have been minted on the two relevant - I am awaiting the notice above-mentioned.

    I am too loath of writing to go for substance... If I were to, I'd be using a different cast of characters telling of the success of the "Doctrine of Responsibility". Not even sure how your tale and mine might come together on the map... [amusingly, I started writing this at the beginning of the war - and the half a page still sounds right - Syria will be done with before my essay]. Predictable history is fair warning...

    Back to work

  6. Correction:

    'Now that following and telling stuff forward have been minted on the two relevant - I am awaiting the notice above-mentioned.'

    is missing a few words, it should have been:

    'Now that following and telling stuff forward have been minted on the two relevant buttons of the world [the expected gestures of Twitter etc.]- I am awaiting the notice above-mentioned'

    apologies for the obscure digression & all

  7. I think it's still to early to predict the outcome of the fighting in Syria. In a way, it might arguably be preferable for awful Assad to win and allow a semblance of peace to return to that benighted country, so that the killing stops, the process of re-building the country can begin, and perhaps the refugees will start to return home. That surely has to be better than the unending slaughter and destruction that we continue to see and read about every day, even though it is not the outcome most of us would have wished for. Sadly, even a peace of this kind is unlikely to last: regional animosities run too deep for any peace to have a chance of long-term duration.

    1. Yes it's better that the regime wins, awful though it is. I have learnt that the journalists do not know what is going on and it is a mistake to believe their predictions. For a long time they said Assad's defeat was inevitable but then backtracked. It is very interesting how unhappy the latest success by the government makes the US and the BBC. I hope a settlement can be reached between Assad and the rebels.

    2. You would learn a lot more coming there with me next time.

    3. I should like to. Peter Oborne, whose opinions I always respect, is in Aleppo now and just wrote this. Like me he does not understand why the Syrian government success is being treated in the British and Western papers as a calamity rather than a cause for hope. http://www.spectator.co.uk/2016/02/aleppo-notebook-the-citys-terrorist-besiegers-will-now-be-besieged/

    4. I should like to know much more about relations between ISIS and Turkey, which prefers ISIS to the Kurds and which is buying oil from ISIS. http://observer.com/2016/02/deal-with-the-devil-turkey-props-up-isis-by-buying-its-stolen-oil/

    5. The Washington Post had this headline yesterday: "Syria, already a catastrophe, seems on the verge of an uncontrollable disaster". These papers are not to be trusted. When the government loyalists were besieged in Aleppo until recently nothing was said.

  8. This thing ends when the right party wins. Aside some distant, flighty friends, Assad is alone...

  9. I see that locals are not making the choice you propose: I take it is not there to defend. Old evil, new evil...