CHINA, RUSSIA, AND SYRIAOctober 5, 2016
Forget about a unipolar solution to the mess in Syria. Not only has Mr. Putin intervened in the country, but China is now signalling that it may place significant military assets in the country according to this article shared by Mr. G.B.:
According to the article, China's current commitment is limited to humanitarian aid and military training:
In a major policy shift, China has launched the pivot to the Middle East aimed at increasing its involvement in the region by providing military training and humanitarian aid in Syria. In April, China appointed a special envoy to Damascus in order to work toward a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
Before the assignment Chinese envoy Xie Xiaoyan had praised «Russia’s military role in the war, and said the international community should work harder together to defeat terrorism in the region».
On August 14, Rear-Admiral Guan Youfei, the head of the Office for International Military Cooperation under the Central Military Commission that oversees China’s 2.3 million-member armed forces, visited Syria to meet Syrian Defence Minister Fahd Jassim Al Freij and Russian Lieutenant-General Sergei Chvarkov, head of the ceasefire monitoring mission in Syria, as well as Russian top commanders at the Hmeimim military base on the Syrian coast. The visit marks a major milestone in the relationship to make Beijing a party to the conflict.
During the visit, China and Syria announced plans to boost military cooperation, including training and humanitarian aid, signaling stronger Chinese support for Damascus. It is the first public visit by a senior Chinese military officer to the country since the Russian armed forces launched its operation in Syria last September. (Emphasis added)
We all know by now how these things go: first comes the humanitarian aid, then comes the military training and arms sales, then come the troops in the form of more "advisors." But as the article also notes, China's role here is motivated by a genuine desire to stabilize the region as a component for its "new silk road" project to build infrastructure tying the Far East, central Asia, and Europe together, and this cannot be done so long as there is sectarian Islamic violence in the region toppling Arab secular Islamic states:
The Chinese entry into the war is caused by the increasing number of Chinese Muslim Uighur militants fighting alongside Syrian rebels in the country’s north. Rear-Admiral Guan Youfei said over 200 Uighurs was currently fighting in Syria. China wants them to be either put on trial at home or exterminated on the Syrian battlefield. Its concern is justified.
Today there is a Uyghur neighborhood in Ar-Raqqah, and the Islamic State (IS) group publishes a newspaper especially for its members. Besides, geostrategic stability in the Middle East important for the implementation of the Chinese «One Belt, One Road» strategy aimed at facilitating Eurasian economic connectivity through the development of a web of infrastructure and trade routes linking China with South Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East and Europe.
The current fracturing of the Middle East as a result of the Syrian crisis hinders the efforts to bring this project into life. Last year, China altered the national legislation to allow the deployment of its security forces abroad as part of a counterterrorism effort.
China may play a key role in Syria’s post-conflict economic recovery. Despite the war, China National Petroleum Corporation still holds shares in two of Syria’s largest oil producers: The Syrian Petroleum Company and Al-Furat Petroleum Company, while Sinochem also holds substantial shares in various Syrian oil fields. In December, China offered Syria $6 billion worth of investments in addition to $10 billion worth of existing contracts, as well as a big deal signed between the Syrian government and Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei to rebuild Syria’s telecom infrastructure as part of China’s $900 billion ‘Silk Road’ infrastructure initiative.
And Mr. Assad has indicated that in any post-crisis peace and recovery, the USSA will be carefully excluded from reconstruction in Syria, and has extended offers to the other major regional power, India, to be similarly involved:
In March Syrian President Bashar Assad said that Russia, Iran and China will be given priority in the post-war reconstruction plans.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has invited India to play an active role in the reconstruction of the Syrian economy.
Meanwhile, as I noted in last week's News and Views from the Nefarium, the USSA's response to all this is simply to say it will quit talking to Russia altogether, and, as one Russian analysis put it, sit in the corner and pout.
The real story behind the scenes here, as I also suggested in last week's News and Views, is that the USA has hitched its Middle East foreign policy wagon to the wrong horse, namely, the (out)house of Saud, and as a result, appears to have become embroiled in a variety of terrorism sponsoring operations in Syria, and "nation-building" exercises designed to overthrow nations on Riyadh's hit list, a classic case of the tail wagging the dog. Indeed, the Obama administration managed to resist similar pressures for armed interventions in Iran, a long-time (Shia) enemy of the (Suni-Wahhabist) Saudi kingdom. This has resulted in the insanity we see now, with the US claiming to be waging a war on terror by arming terrorist organizations in Syria. Even Israel - Israel! - has been signaling that it is having second thoughts about American policy in the region by Prime Minister Netanyahu's recent visits to Russia to meet personally with President Putin.
From the standpoint of foreign policy, and particularly Washington's off-reiterated concerns about growing Chinese power and assertiveness, what American policy in the region has now resulted in is not the exclusion of China from the Middle East, but the exact opposite. Now, for all its efforts, Washington has managed to inject not only China, but India, into the mix.
My high octane speculation of the day? With Washington's international political capital dwindling at an alarming rate, I suspect it will now pressure the European powers, in particular, France, Italy, and Germany, to take a role in the "peace process" to inject a make-believe element of "multi-polarism" into the mix, particularly as those nations have been affected by the refugees from Syria, the crisis that Washington helped to create. But my prediction is that if Washington attempts to take that step, that it will backfire. M. Hollande's and Frau Merkel's governments are now domestically weak, with rising opposition to their open borders policies fueling domestic political opposition as national elections loom in France. So Paris and Berlin, and Rome, for once might show some unwanted independence from Washington if, indeed, in desperation to save a deteriorating international standing, Washington invokes their help. And if the governments in Paris and Berlin change, you can almost take that to the bank.
And that will leave only Japan in Washington's corner, and even that, now, is up for grabs with Japan and Russia increasingly talking about Japanese investments in Siberia.
See you on the flip side...