A Deal and a “New Resolution”… Get Wisdom from the “Quagmire Man”!
On its face, US policy towards Syria seems to be a source of confusion for many – individuals, forces, and countries. Some, including current and former US officials, even go further in adopting the deception as a doctrine by saying that Washington has no specific policy or no policy at all towards Syria except for a few general points that are part of larger dossiers related to the Middle East as a whole.
From international to local, and vice versa
First of all, it should be acknowledged that it is quite true that the US, and indeed all major powers, treat the Syria file as part of an integrated package concerning our entire region. This is not only due to the mutual and deep correlation among the region’s files, but also because the magnitude of the influence of the major powers and the scale of the ongoing international conflict assume that this entire region is viewed and treated as a single stage of operations.
If prioritization for the major powers, in dealing with any file, starts with the international, then the regional, then the local, this does not mean in any way that the practical arrangement by importance and influence will be in the same order; quite the contrary.
For the idea that we are trying to relay to be clearer, we recall here that since the possibility of direct wars has disappeared or decreased with nuclear weapons armament, the global conflict has come to express itself through regional areas and then local areas, i.e., at the level of individual countries. Resolving major conflicts themselves now passes through resolving them with points, not knockouts; and resolving by points necessarily passes primarily through local areas.
If the conversation is about a key country like Syria, whose fate can determine the fate of an entire region that is one of the most important and dangerous regions in the world, it becomes understandable and tangible why the Syrian crisis carries so much complexity and entanglement as if it has become the center of the entire international conflict. Certainly, there is no need to exaggerate in this regard because there are other spaces in the world that are similar to some extent to Syria within the international conflict. However, it certainly is not acceptable to underestimate and downplay the importance of the conflict in and over Syria, or to accept the American lies that claim that the Syrian file is no longer a priority or that it has become secondary to other files.
In other words, we should start based on the fact that the Syrian file cannot be secondary for Washington at any point in time, and then deal with what the US, its media, and its officials are saying about the “decline of the importance of the Syria file for the US administration” as a “media policy” and a “tactic” whose meanings and objectives should be sought, based on the same fact above, i.e., the importance of the Syria file within the international conflict. What we are saying here is not a unique conclusion or a reinvention of the wheel, but a very clear matter to all international and regional actors, and even to the local ones to some extent. However, the alarming scale of lies thrown at people on a daily basis leads us to believe that it is necessary to recall the basics like those we presented hereinabove.
A pause with the “Quagmire man”
Apart from generalities, it may be useful to ponder the lengthy article that former US envoy to Syria, James Jeffrey, published on December 13 in Foreign Affairs, under the title “A Deal Is Still Possible In Syria, But Washington Has to Stop Ignoring the Conflict”. Even starting with the title, Jeffrey adopts the deception doctrine we pointed to previously by claiming that “Washington is ignoring the conflict”. This is just another expression of the same lie that Syria is no longer among the “administration’s list of priorities”.
We believe it is worth considering Jeffrey’s sounding of the alarm in this article when he talks about whether continuing current US policy (or lack of policy as he claims) could lead to “destabilize the Middle East for years to come”, as he calls it. It is understood that destabilization from Washington’s perspective may simply mean stability from the perspective of the peoples of the region. This all becomes more evident as Jeffrey talks about what effects a Russian and Chinese victory in Syria can have on regional countries, especially Turkey. These effects may reach the point of these countries’ disconnection, once and for all, away from Western alignment. This is undoubtedly a “major destabilization” for US security and interests.
Ironically, in this context, is Jeffrey’s apparent contradiction as he talks about the possible “victory” of the opposite side. On the one hand, he links the victory with Assad, Russia, and Iran, and says that “would send a message [of encouragement] to autocrats across the globe”, but then soon says that the Trump administration had started working on a deal with Assad himself and Russia. It is worth recalling that Jeffrey himself was one of the hawks of that administration.
In criticizing current policy and advising on the need for a deal, Jeffrey leaves asides the issue of autocrats and recalls how Trump “pushed the Russians for a compromise solution based generally on a stand-down of international pressure, particularly sanctions, and accepting Assad in return for concessions on geostrategic issues.”
We must recall very well that the phase during which the slogan of “changing the regime’s behavior” and not “overthrowing it” prevailed is Trump’s term itself. It is also the same phase that witnessed normalization deals and the signing of the “Deal of the Century”, both of which are key titles that concern US policy not only towards Syria, but also the entire Middle East. One cannot forget either, the message that Trump announced sending to the “Syrian government” and not the “Syrian regime”, in which he requested “direct dialogue” in order to get to know the fate of American journalist Austin Tice.
A new Security Council resolution
Towards the end of Jeffrey’s article, where he has to present his concrete proposal after making his diagnosis of the situation and possibilities, his proposals seem to be the actual conduct of the same administration that he criticizes (with a margin of different that seems to actually exists within the administration itself, which we will touch on next). Jeffrey says: “The Biden administration should pursue a step-by-step de-escalation by both sides”, and then seek to have “a new UN Security Council resolution would have to officially seal any deal and establish oversight of each side’s commitments.”
Once again, Jeffrey sets aside the issue of “autocrats” and “security threats” and proposes a deal with these same autocrats. This is not just any deal, it is one that should be endorsed by a new resolution by the Security Council, i.e., a resolution other than 2254, which Jeffrey did not mention at all in his article, which is not a coincidence.
This trend within the US administration, i.e., the trend of circumventing UNSC resolution 2254, and implicitly the political solution that can lead toward real stability of Syria and the region (i.e., towards destabilizing the US’s security interests), has been consistent since the adoption of the resolution itself at the end of 2015.
The alarm that Jeffrey is currently sounding is that a greater discrepancy has become a reality within the decision-making institutions in the US, which have among their serious calculations the following, which Jeffrey indirectly touches on in his article:
1- Continued suspension of the implementation of the resolution without creating alternatives, though it has created a quagmire in Syria, is not clear whether that quagmire is actually capable of drowning the Russians and the Chinese.
2- According to Jeffrey: “Even an unsuccessful effort to achieve a breakthrough on Syria would reinforce regional support for Washington’s fallback position, maintaining a stalemate that denies Iran and Russia a strategic victory.”
3- More seriously, the continued suspension of the situation, if not in a manner that guarantees “failed efforts to achieve a breakthrough”, as the previous paragraph reveals, will lead over time to further rapprochement among Russia, Turkey, and Iran, and even China, with regards to this file. This carried major risks from a US perspective.
4- The continued suspension of the file opens the door to the prospects of passing UNSC resolution 2254 itself, with limited or no participation by Washington, and therefore there should be a push for the alternative.
5- These “risky” possibilities, i.e., the possibilities of implementing 2254, contradict the arrangements of “creative chaos”, the “Arab NATO”, and the “New Middle East”, and therefore there should be a transition toward putting all the cards on the table and very quickly, not to make a deal with Russia, but to make a specific regional deal involving normalization, “changing of behavior”, swaying Turkey where possible, and pulling the Russians to it later as a fait accompli that requires “a new Security Council resolution”.
All this means that the opposite side needs to also act quickly, and in the opposition direction, that is, towards full implementation of 2254, whether or not the US wishes to join the process.