​The partition of 'Syraq'

Pepe Escobar
Pepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia Times Online. Born in Brazil, he's been a foreign correspondent since 1985, and has lived in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Washington, Bangkok and Hong Kong. Even before 9/11 he specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central and East Asia, with an emphasis on Big Power geopolitics and energy wars. He is the author of "Globalistan" (2007), "Red Zone Blues" (2007), "Obama does Globalistan" (2009) and "Empire of Chaos" (2014), all published by Nimble Books. His latest book is "2030", also by Nimble Books, out in December 2015.
Reuters / Atef Hassan
With less than two weeks before a possible nuclear deal being struck between Iran and the P5+1, the brinkmanship across the “wilderness of mirrors” of Middle Eastern intel is reaching fever pitch. Spin reigns supreme. And nothing is what it seems.

Of course a lot riding on the Iran nuclear deal has to do with Pipelineistan. Iran, assuming sanctions quickly collapse, will finally be able to sell natural gas to the EU – theoretically in competition with Gazprom; but that will take a long time, until Iranian (decaying) infrastructure is upgraded.

Then there’s the future of the key, $10 billion, proposed Iran-Iraq-Syria gas pipeline – rival to a Qatari project. It’s easy to identify those who do not want a stable Iraq able to lay gas pipes along its territory. Qatar brags it has more (deliverable) gas – and better infrastructure – than Iran. Pipeline feasibility from Qatar via Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Lebanon has already been studied. If Tehran wants quick results, it would be a much better deal to export to the EU directly via Turkey than through Iraq and Syria.

As for the hegemon, things were so much easier after Shock and Awe in 2003. Then, Washington owned the world; it could just march in and take (and destroy) what it wanted. That’s what Full Spectrum Dominance was all about. For a split (historical) second.

Now the self-described “Don’t Do Stupid Stuff” Obama administration barely qualifies as a broken mirror in a wilderness of mirrors.

So let’s plow the wilderness across “Syraq.”

NATO officials in Brussels seem to believe that the Pentagon trained hardcore Sunnis in Anbar province in the use of heavy weapons to knock out the former government of Prime Minister al-Maliki in Baghdad – which was causing problems to Washington. But the fact is the training facilitated the ulterior “merger” of these Sunnis with ISIS/ISIL/Daesh.

The Pentagon – or NATO for that matter – could easily smash the fake Caliphate. But they don't want to; it’s much better to let chaos fester, the perfect Divide and Rule tactic that suit the usual suspects. Syria is in ruins. Iraq is in ruins. ISIS/ISIL/Daesh supply convoys are coming out of NATO’s Turkey-Syria border, protected by Turkish air power; thus NATO – and the CIA – are de facto “supporting” the fake Caliphate. Egypt is bankrupt. Iran is almost broke. The usual suspects never had it so good.

Now let’s go to a top Saudi intel source to add to the imbroglio. According to the source, Palmyra was “given” to ISIS/ISIL/Daesh in Syria just like key cities in Anbar province in Iraq; “Daesh is not a secret anymore and the US has as much interest in it as in the [former] axis of evil.”

The fact that ISIS/ISIL/Daesh, after each victory on the ground, quickly integrates into their forces lots of very advanced American weaponry that takes months to master may certainly indicate that the Caliph’s goons had serious training from Western intel assets.

At the same time, the Saudi intel source entertains the fantasy of a two-headed Caliphate; the one in Syria directly linked to Assad’s government in Damascus – which is preposterous, while the Caliphate in Iraq fights Iran.

US President Barack Obama, meanwhile, procrastinates; he said ISIS/ISIL/Daesh may be defeated, but over three years. Once again, why not let chaos fester?

Another Saudi intel source is positively downhearted; “The United States will not allow regime change” in Syria. This intel operative sees the GCC role as trying to “save Syria”, and he blames the CIA for “interfering with their transfer of weapons to the Free Syrian Army (FSA)”. In the end, the GCC petro-monarchies “rerouted their weapons deliveries to circumvent the CIA obstructions.” So now all the hardcore Islamists of the Jabhat al-Nusra kind are duly weaponized.

The House of Saud continues to be obsessed with the fall of Assad (and “his relegation to an enclave under a partition”). That would be a killer blow to Hezbollah, coupled to the partition of Iraq “decimating the Tehran dream to reestablish the Farsi empire Obama is so obsessed in aiding.”

The Saudis also seem to believe the fancy notion that Sunnis in Anbar province realized that ISIS/ISIL/Daesh is a proxy – fed simultaneously by the West and Iran – to “expedite sectarian feuds and accelerate the call for partition.” In fact, the House of Saud does not want a partition of “Syraq.” It wants two puppet regimes and control over the whole lot. To put it mildly, Riyadh is quite “disappointed” by Washington’s trademark foot-dragging.

Chaos is our way to go

Whatever the spin, the post-Sykes-Picot remapping of the Middle East proceeds unabated.

Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham – yet another hardcore jihadi outfit – continue to be fully weaponized by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. That is directly linked to the proverbial “active role” by the new House of Saud capo, King Salman. So Assad in Damascus is fighting a pincer movement; ISIL/ISIL/Daesh in the east, controlling at least half the country (OK, most of it is desert), and Jabhat al-Nusra, controlling a “coalition of willing jihadis” in the north and center. As for all those weapons supplied by the Pentagon to the much-incensed “moderate rebels,” they ended up absorbed by al-Nusra.

We do know that during a June 2 “coalition of the willing” get-together in Paris co-sponsored by the US and France to discuss ISIS/ISIL/Daesh, there was a “secret,” behind-closed-doors discussion with the Gulf petro-monarchies exploring what a Syria deal should look like.

Russia has also been very active on this front, especially with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, trying to get them to force their outfits to the negotiation table.

The problem is the GCC would settle for nothing less than Assad in exile – either in Russia or Iran. And Washington, predictably, would love nothing better than a coup; regime change lite, perpetrated by Alawite officers familiar with running the machinery of the Syrian state.

None of this seems remotely feasible, as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey all have wildly different agendas and are obsessed on making sure “their” rebels – from hardcore jihadis to fake “moderates” – are the undisputed next powers that be.

And that brings us back to the possible Iran/P5+1 nuclear deal on June 30. Syria is a key bargaining chip being discussed behind closed doors. But as far as the Empire of Chaos goes – not to mention the Gulf petro-monarchies – the current, shifting, extremely messy situation is the best deal; “Syraq” fully debilitated, war on two fronts, Iran on the defensive, and the fake Caliphate establishing partition facts on the ground.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.