NATO’s got a brand new (Syrian) bag

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.
Raqqa, Syria © Nour Fourat
The FSB, SVR and GRU in Russia, while drawing all the right connections, cannot help but conclude that Washington is letting Cold War 2.0 escalate to the boiling point.

Imagine Russian intel surveying the geopolitical chessboard.

A Russian passenger jet is bombed by an affiliate of ISIS/ISIL/Daesh. A Russian fighter jet is ambushed and downed by Turkey;  here is a partial yet credible scenario of how it may have happened.

Ukrainian right-wing goons sabotage the Crimean electricity supply. A Syrian army base near Deir Ezzor - an important outpost against ISIS/ISIL/Daesh in eastern Syria – is hit by the US-led Coalition of the Dodgy Opportunists (CDO). The IMF “pardons” Ukraine’s debt to Russia as it joins, de facto, Cold War 2.0.

And this is just a shortlist.

This is a logical progression. The NATO-GCC compound in Syria is devoured by angst. Russia’s entry into the Syrian war theater – a proxy war, not a civil war – threw all elaborate, downright criminal regime change plans into disarray.

If the US-led CDO were really committed to fighting ISIS/ISIL/Daesh, they would be working side by side with the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), not bombing it or trying to stall it.

And they would be actively trying to shut down the key Turkey-Syria crossroads - the Jarablus corridor which is in fact a 24/7 Jihadi Highway.

NATO’s game in Syria wallows in slippery ambiguity. Discussions with dissident EU diplomats in Brussels, not necessarily NATO vassals, reveal a counter-narrative of how the Pentagon clearly mapped out the Russian strategy; how they interpreted Russian forces to be relatively isolated; and how they decided to allow Ankara under Sultan Erdogan to go wild - a perfect tool offering plausible deniability.

Which brings us back to the downing of the Su-24. Venturing one step further, Russian expert Alexei Leonkov maintains that not only did NATO follow the whole operation with an AWACS, but another AWACS from Saudi Arabia actually guided the Turkish F-16s.

The F-16s are incapable of launching air-to-air missiles without guidance from AWACS. Both Russian and Syrian data – which can be independently verified – place the American and the Saudi AWACS in the area at the time. And to top it off, the detailed US-Turkey deal on the F-16s stipulates permission is mandatory for deploying the jets against a third country.

All this suggests an extremely serious possibility; a direct NATO-GCC op against Russia, which may be further clarified by the Su-24’s recovered black box.

As if this was not enough to raise multiple eyebrows, it could mean just the first move in an expanding chessboard. The final target: to keep Russia away from the Turkish-Syrian border.

But that won’t happen for a number of reasons – not least the Russian deployment of the ultra-lethal S-400s. The Turkish Air Force is so scared that everything – even owls and vultures – is grounded across the border.

Meanwhile, the Humint component is being boosted; more Western boots on the ground, Germans included, branded as mere “advisers” – which, if deployed to the battlefield, may inevitably clash with the SAA. To mold public opinion, the humanitarian bombing faction of German neoliberalcons is already spinning the tale that Assad is the real enemy, not ISISI/SIL/Daesh. Finally, the Germans have made it clear they won’t work alongside Russia and the SAA, but responding to Centcom in Florida and the CDO HQ in Kuwait.

The NATO master plan for northern Syria in the next few weeks and months essentially features US, UK and Turkey fighter jets, with the French still in the balance (are we de facto collaborating with the Russians, or is it just posture?) This is being sold to global public opinion as a “coalition” effort – with Russia barely mentioned.

The master plan, under the cover of bombing the fake “Caliphate” lair in Raqqa, would ideally open the way to a de facto, Erdogan-concocted “safe zone” across the Jarablus corridor, which in reality is a no-fly zone able to harbor a gaggle of “moderate rebels”, a.k.a. hardcore Salafi-jihadis of the al-Nusra kind.

In parallel, expect a torrent of Turkish spin centered on “protecting” the Turkmen minority in northern Syria, actually Turkey’s fifth column, heavily infiltrated by Islamo-fascists of the Grey Wolves kind. It started with Ankara accusing Moscow of “ethnic cleansing”. Erdogan will go no holds barred appealing even for R2P (“responsibility to protect” NATO liberation, Libyan-style.)

And here’s where NATO is totally in sync with Ankara; after all, a “safe zone” protected by NATO crammed with “moderate rebels” is the perfect tool to turbo-charge the breakup of the Syrian state.

It’s not legal but we don’t care

NATO’s Syria intervention is of course absolutely illegal.

UN Security Council resolution 2249 does not fall under Chapter 7 of the UN charter. Yet once again creative language – French-style rhetorical artifice - blurs the non-justification of military might by conveying the impression the UNSC approves it.

And that’s exactly how David of Arabia Cameron interpreted it. Obfuscation is inbuilt in the process, with London pledging to work side by side with Moscow.

Resolution 2249 is yet another case of international law reduced to rubble. For these – sporadic - UK and French air strikes, covered by the pretext of hitting ISIS/ISIL/Daesh, were never authorized by Damascus, and the UNSC was not even consulted. Russia, on the other hand, has been fully authorized by Damascus.

On top of this, the CDO is no coalition of 60 or 65 countries, as the Obama administration is frantically spinning. They are actually a gang of seven: Germany, France, UK, US, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. In a nutshell; a pared-down-to-the-bone NATO-GCC compound.

Who’s actually fighting the fake “Caliphate” on the ground are the SAA; Hezbollah; Iraqi Shi’ites under Iranian advisers; and outside of the “4+1” alliance (Russia, Syria, Iran, Iraq plus Hezbollah) a coalition of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) and smaller Arab and Christian militias, now united under a political umbrella, the Syrian Democratic Council, which Ankara predictably abhors.

Ankara provocations won’t stop – including “creative” ways of denying the passage of “Syrian Express” Russian ships through the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles without violating the Montreux Convention.

So NATO’s “new” master plan, twisting and turning, still slouches towards the prime objective: “liberating”, Libya-style, northern Syria and allow it to be occupied either by “moderate rebels” or in the worst case scenario Syrian Kurds, which in theory would be easily manipulated.

ISIS/ISIL/Daesh would be in this case “contained” (Obama administration lingo) not in eastern Syria but actually expelled to the Iraqi western desert, where they would solidify a Sunnistan. Erdogan also badly wants a Sunnistan, but his version is even more ambitious, including Mosul.

This is all happening while a gaggle of Syrian “moderate” rebels met – of all places - in Wahhabi/Salafi-Jihadi Central Riyadh to choose a delegation of 42 people to “select the negotiators” of future Syrian peace talks.

Once again they agreed “Assad must go” even during the transition process. And that “foreign forces” must leave Syria. Obviously that excludes the tsunami of mercenaries paid and weaponized by Riyadh alongside Doha and Ankara.

Any sound mind would ask how the House of Saud gets away with it: choosing who is a “moderate” in a nation they are heavily involved in destabilizing. Simple: because Riyadh owns a gaggle of US lobbyists and handsomely rewards PR gurus such as Edelman, the largest privately owned PR agency on the planet.

And not by accident, the Syrian Democratic Council was not invited to go to Riyadh.

The die is cast. Whatever Ankara - under the cover of NATO – may be concocting to prevent the “4+1” from advancing on the ground in Syria, the writing is on the (lethal) wall. It may come embedded in cruise missiles delivered by the Caspian Fleet or delivered by submarines. And it will follow to the letter what President Putin himself told the Defense Ministry's collegium:

"I order you to act extremely tough. Any targets that threaten Russian forces or our infrastructure on the ground should be immediately destroyed."

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