“The New Middle East” : Russian Style

By Andrew Korybko

The US’ plan to construct a “New Middle East”, announced during the failed 2006 Israeli War on Lebanon, has been totally offset by Russia’s game-changing anti-terrorist intervention in Syria. Although no formal details were ever officially provided as to what this “New Middle East” would look like, many caught on that it would likely follow the destructive contours of Ralph Peters’ “Blood Borders”, in which the entire region falls apart along ethnic and sectarian lines in a Yinon-esque scenario. In fact, the fulfillment of this strategy is one of the main reasons why the “Arab Spring” theater-wide Color Revolutions and the War on Syria were unleashed, but all of that is proving to be for naught now that Russia brilliantly flipped the initiative and has indisputably become the leading actor in the Mideast.

Moscow’s “Mideast Pivot” is geared towards restoring the principles of order in the region that Washington had so wantonly disregarded as it blindly sought to destroy the status quo and chaotically remake the Mideast according to its own desired vision. With the tables having dramatically been turned, however, it’s time to explore another vision of the future, albeit one in which Russia, not the US, plays the guiding role over events. This “New Middle East” is a lot different than the one the US had intended, and it eliminates just about every lever of influence that Washington had previously employed in attempting to keep the region servilely under its strategic command.

The article’s premise is predicated on the Coalition of the Righteous (Russia-Syria-Iraq-Iran) succeeding in its extermination campaign against ISIL, and Part I proceeds to describe the paradigm shift that the Allies have enacted through their actions. Part II is then broken up into two separate sections that uncover the wide-ranging geopolitical consequences of a coalition victory, with the first one discussing the Lebanon-to-Iran Resistance Arc and the second one detailing the resultant destabilization of Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Finally, in response to this historical defeat inflicted against unipolarity, the article concludes by forecasting the ways in which the US will seek geopolitical revenge against Russia for unseating it from its prized perch at the crossroads of Afro-Eurasia.

Out With The Old, In With The New

The Coalition of the Righteous (COR) has completely upended the previous US-led order in the Mideast, and not much of the strategic architecture that Washington created over the past two and a half decades is expected to remain by the time its campaign is concluded. Here are the most notable elements that define this paradigm shift:

Russian Leadership

First off, the most visible difference is that Russia has assumed the key role of setting the region’s agenda, and it’s Moscow, not Washington, that’s affecting the most tangible change in the Mideast. This development didn’t come out of nowhere, as despite the surprised reaction of many observers (especially Western ones), Russia had been steadily growing its regional clout for decades through the management of two ultra-strategic partnerships with Syria and Iran. The one with Iran is relatively new and mostly goes back to the early 2000s, but the relationship with Syria began in the early 1970s and is remarkably the only Soviet-era friendship to remain unscathed by Russia’s international drawdown in the 1990s. Through the simultaneous leveraging and strengthening of each of these bilateral partnerships, plus the unified strategic overlap between them (i.e. the Syrian-Iranian Strategic Partnership), a super nexus of interests has been established, thereby setting the strategic backdrop for the COR and the multilateral pushback against the US’ “New Middle East” of chaotic destruction. Unlike the US, Russia leads from the front, not from behind, and this fearless example has energized its coalition and raised the hopes of the entire multipolar world.

The Iraqi War Of Independence

One of the most prominent elements of the Russian-led “New Middle East” is the inclusion of Iraq in the COR, which can be read as nothing less than the country’s desire to liberate itself from American proxy domination and truly experience its first sense of independence since 2003. Most Iraqis, and especially their government (as can be inferred by their membership in the COR), are cognizant of the fact that the US had been using ISIL as its strategic wrecking ball for actualizing Ralph Peters’ “Blood Borders”, and whether Sunni, Shia, or Kurdish, they appear to have finally had enough. Over 13 years of full-on destruction and countless false promises are enough to make even the most stalwart pro-American forces falter in their loyalty, and the Iraqi experience is the most striking global example of the grave perils that befall all of America’s second-rate, non-Western ‘partners’. The Iraqi War of Independence, which is what its COR anti-ISIL campaign basically amounts to, powerfully demonstrates that even the most abused proxy states have the real potential to fight back, provided that the political will is there at the highest levels and that the population is truly fed up with the prior state of affairs.

Syria Comes Full Circle

Syria, the scene of the present global attention, ironically just so happens to be the first battleground of the New Cold War, and it makes for a certain sense of poetic justice that the most epic geopolitical resistance that the US has ever experienced is taking place right there. The Pentagon’s power ploy in wrestling full control of the region by means of the “Arab Spring” Color Revolutions was the opening salvo of the New Cold War, as the US had originally planned to carry the chaotic regime change momentum all the way to Central Asia the thenceforth to the Resistant & Defiant (R&D) states of Russia, China, and Iran. It goes without saying that all three of these actors understood the global power grab that the US was undertaking even if they were slow in coordinating their response, and had it not been for fierce and patriotic Syrian resistance to this scheme, it’s possible that they would have been in a much less advantageous and more disorganized position in confronting it today.

Syria’s sacrifices stopped the tidal wave of terror from slamming into the R&D states, and Russia’s gratitude was expressed through its 2013 diplomatic intervention in staving off an American bombing campaign against the country. This bought the R&D states a bit more time to prepare before the next imminent onslaught, but it unwittingly provoked the US into moving forward its regime change plans for Ukraine and deploying them a year ahead of schedule. This vengeful attempt was meant to ‘punish’ Russia for the global embarrassment that it inflicted on the US in Syria, and it’s what most people mistakenly think set off the New Cold War, overlooking that it was Syria, not Ukraine, where the first battle was fought. Incidentally, everything has come full circle, and the most important stage of the New Cold War is presently being played out in Syria, as the COR smashes the terroristic instruments of unipolar hegemony and midwifes the birth of the multipolar world order, and more than likely, it won’t limit its successes to the Mideast either.

Chasing Evil

The largest uncertainty facing American strategists is exactly how far the COR will geographically go in fighting back against global terrorism. The present focus is obviously on the Syrian-Iraqi theater, but after the conclusion of that campaign, one must realistically ponder whether the Allies could repeat their success in Libya or Afghanistan, pending of course an official request from those countries’ leaders. Of corroborating note, it’s hugely significant that shortly after the COR’s anti-terrorist intervention in Syria, Kerry urgently pleaded with Libya’s leaders (both de-jure and de-facto) to form a government as soon as possible so as to stop ISIL from taking further hold of the country. One could venture to guess that the US is seriously worried about the possibility that an expanded COR, this time including Egypt (which has selectively intervened in Libya in the past), could intervene in the failed state in order to root out the Pentagon’s proxy forces and save the country from following The New York Times’ “Blood Borders”-like scenario of trilateral state fragmentation.

Concerning Afghanistan, if ISIL ever manages to establish a destabilizing enough foothold there, it’s possible that Kabul, having been witness to the efficiency of the COR’s anti-terrorist airstrikes in Syria, could request similar assistance in dislodging the terrorist group. If that happened, then it would be the final nail in the US’ Central-South Asian coffin of chaos, as Afghanistan would thus be signaling the beginning of its own War of Independence in removing the US’ presence. With the proxies go the patron, so it’s expected that as soon as the terrorists are extinguished from Libya and Afghanistan (potentially with COR assistance), the US will also be shown the door as well and these two states can finally regain the sovereignty that they had earlier lost.

Additionally, as a tangent of the Afghan scenario, if some type of terrorist threat emanating from the country was directed towards Central Asia (most realistically Tajikistan), it’s unquestionable that Russian-led COR-CSTO airstrikes will immediately be used to stop it. Likewise, Uzbekistan might even entertain the possibility of requesting multilateral Russian-involved assistance if a similar incident happens along its borders and spirals out of control, but only, of course, in very specific circumstances and if absolutely necessary for its survival. The problem in this operational Central-South Asian theater, however, is if a multitude of threats emerges simultaneously, which in that case could prove overwhelming for Russia’s military-strategic planners and will be addressed in Part IV of the article.

Crushing The US’ Pillars Of Power

Not counting Israel (which is in a special category of its own), US influence over the Mideast had rested on two primary pillars of power, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, but this construction is now crumbling as Russia returns to the region. In a twist of geopolitical fate, what the US had previously assumed to be the most stable countries in the region are now the two on the greatest verge of destabilization, and ironically, the two which the US had tried the most to destabilize (Syria and Iraq) are now the ones which look to have one of the most stable futures. Addressing the former, Erdogan’s bumbling miscalculations have returned Turkey to a state of de-facto civil war, while Saudi Arabia’s disastrous War on Yemen has given rise to a ‘rogue royal’s’ plan for regime change (to say nothing about the separate threats of ISIL and an Eastern Province revolt).

Looking at Syria and Iraq, one of the COR’s geopolitical intentions is to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its members, and the elimination of ISIL goes a far way in accomplishing that goal. Furthermore, concerning the previous fears of Kurdish separatism, it’s safe to say that Russia’s military assistance to the group has quelled this sentiment and endeared Moscow with a certain degree of influence in Erbil, which could of course be used to temper any secessionist thoughts that would play out to the US’ strategic advantage. With the Kurdish issue being dealt with, and the Wahhabist terrorists on the run, Syria and Iraq have a lot more to look forward to in their futures than civil war-struck Turkey and (royally and domestically) divided Saudi Arabia do, and this has of course weakened American grand strategy in the Mideast unlike any other series of events that has come before it and will be fleshed out more in Part II.

The Defeat Of The Reverse Brzezinski

The COR’s carefully delegated application of force in Syria – Russian support remains limited to air missions, the Syrian Arab Army and Kurdish militias take care of the full ground component – presents a disciplined way to prevent the temptation of mission creep, the core of the Reverse Brzezinski. If Russia and Iran can avoid this strategic pitfall, then they’d have nullified one of the US’ most innovative policies and won themselves much-needed breathing room for addressing future regional security threats. The more one reflects upon it, the more it becomes clear that the key to beating the Reverse Brzezinski is to assemble the proper coalition of forces for intervening in the “quagmire” zone. If either Great Power attempted to do so on its own and without self-restraint, then it’s chances of falling for the dupe would have greatly increased, but in the current case of Syria (and soon to be, Iraq), they’ve proven themselves more than able to patiently and multilaterally address the situation and steer clear of the US’ trap. If they can maintain this state of mind and inclusive operational behavior going forward (and there’s no reason to think that they can’t), as well as carry these lessons over to any forthcoming Reverse Brzezinski scenarios such as the South Caucasus or Central Asia, then the US’ formerly flexible strategy of entrapment would become a lot more rigid and much less likely to be employed in the future.

The Resistance Arc Is Reborn

The author wrote about this scenario twice, once back in January and the other earlier last month (but published this week), and it deals with the geopolitical resurrection of the Resistance Arc between Iran, Iraq, and Syria. The earliest forecast suggested that Iran could play a stabilizing role in convincing the Kurds to abandon their secessionist desires, while the latest one built upon that idea by highlighting the crucial role that a pro-Resistance Kurdish entity (whether independent or still part of Iraq) would play in fulfilling this scenario. Also, the most recent analysis postulates that with all three entities having the common denomination of Republicanism (be it Secular or Islamic), there’s a certain ideological synergy between them that makes their cooperation all the more natural, and can also lead to the inclusion of Lebanon if it ever truly stabilizes. The COR can thus be seen as the second iteration of the Resistance-Republic Arc, but this time much more strengthened in its geopolitical standing as a result of the Russian Federation’s formal incorporation. In the context of the New Cold War, this makes the coalition the number one military enemy of the US, since it’s the only force that is literally fighting back against its proxies and dedicated to sweeping them and their puppet masters completely out of the geo-pivotal Mideast region.

Kurdistan Makes Its Choice

Continuing with the theme of the Kurds’ criticality to any Resistance Arc recreation in the Mideast, it needs to be directly stated that their leaders have made a clear choice in favor of the COR. By going from unipolar clients to multipolar allies, the Kurds have played a major role in ensuring the viability of the coalition and securing its internal unity in the face of terrorist aggression against it. Russia was the kingmaker in having this happen, as its focused diplomatic efforts over the past two months are largely responsible for the Kurdish Pivot. Without this having occurred, then the geopolitical danger of a pro-American Kurdish client state rising out of the coalition’s anti-terrorist campaign would have hung over the multipolar world like the ultimate Damocles’ Sword. Therefore, the Kurds certainly deserve their fair share of credit and should be saluted for bravely rejecting the US’ vision for them and transferring their trust to the COR instead. Washington can’t in the least bit be happy about this, but it’s mostly unable to do anything about it because its Turkish attack dog is mired in an escalating civil war at home and not at all in a position to project large amounts of punitive force across the border (with its latest small-scale ground and air raids being the most it can realistically do for now).

Iran’s Internal Debate Is Over

The signing of the Iranian nuclear agreement temporarily revealed the internal divisions among the country’s elite, with Western-slurred “hard-liners” decrying it as being full of too many concessions while the so-called “moderates” praised it for its pragmatism. Going further, Iran entered into a brief period of political schizophrenia, courting Western investment at the same time that Ayatollah Khamenei reaffirmed that his country’s stance towards the US remains unchanged. This confusing dichotomy led the author and others to wonder whether or not Western-friendly “moderate” forces had succeeded in secretly assuming power behind the scenes and hijacking Iran’s geopolitical orientation. While some level of political differences still most surely exist in Iran’s upper echelons, the country’s participation in the COR firmly indicates that the “hard-liners” (in reality, the forces that are the most geopolitically pragmatic in Iran) are still calling the shots, which is a huge relief for the multipolar world. Venturing to explain how they pulled out on top, it’s very likely that F. William Engdahl’s explanation of Russia’s embedded military and technical influence strategically overriding any of the West’s economic temptations is the most accurate reason, and while questions still remain about the impact that Iran’s forthcoming return to the global energy market will have for Russia, that too is likely to have already been addressed by both parties.

The Friendship Pipeline Returns

One of the geopolitical dividends that the War on Syria was supposed to reap for the West and its regional allies was the unviability of the Iran-Iraq-Syria Friendship Pipeline, but with order soon to return to the latter two states, it’s very probable that the project will actually be revived. This is even more so as Western Europe continues to look for a non-Russian energy alternative, especially now that the Turkish-Kurdish War has raised serious questions about the security of the TANAP and TAP lines. Thus, a geo-energy reversal appears to be taking place, one in which TANAP and TAP look unviable while the Friendship Pipeline seems realistic. The windfall of transit revenue that Iraq and Syria would receive for hosting the pipeline could greatly assist with their post-war reconstruction efforts, thus making it a natural economic choice for their leaderships (aside from the loyal commitment that each of them already have in resurrecting the fraternal project). Assuming that the opportunity arises for its physical creation (which is very possible considering that the COR will succeed), this begs the question about how such a large influx of gas on the global market would impact on Russia’s grand energy strategy.

The issue of massive Iranian gas exports threatens to potentially split Russia and Iran in the future more than any other, but in all likelihood, it seems as though Moscow has already thought this through in advance and reached some sort of understanding with Tehran. After all, it’s logical to conclude that once Iraq and Syria return to full stability, Iran would naturally take the lead in suggesting the recreation of the Friendship Pipeline, even more so in the context of the post-sanctions environment it will be in by that time. The pipeline won’t be built right away, of course, and this gives Russia time to flex out its response, which is predicted to be the continued trend of lessening its budgetary dependency on energy exports and diversifying more towards the Asian marketplace. Pair this with the fact that the Friendship Pipeline will export LNG, which thus gives it a very narrow consumer base concentrated mostly in Western Europe, and one can realize how it won’t directly threaten the demand for Russia’s geo-critical Balkan Stream pipeline, thereby avoiding the potential for an unfriendly energy competition between the two Allies. On a final note about this topic, Russia is also primed for expanding its real-sector economic relations via a broad South Eurasian Pivot (which touches into East Africa, too), meaning that its prior relative dependence on energy exports (typically misrepresented, at that) will take on even less of an importance than before as the country engages in new, innovative, and geographically wider methods of spreading its influence.

The Lebanese Lifeline

The Russian military intervention in Syria has relieved the pro-government ground forces of enormous pressure, and it’s thus made it much easier for them to operate. This opens up the possibility that Hezbollah’s fighters there are no longer needed in the same capacity as before, and could thus return to Lebanon to potentially deal with the domestic crisis there without having much of a negative on-the-ground consequence for the Syrian Arab Army right now. One shouldn’t misunderstand the author at this juncture – Hezbollah played an enormously important role in supporting Damascus in its anti-terrorist missions – but it’s just that Lebanon, the epicenter of the movement, is now facing its own existential crisis that might necessitate the organization playing a key role there in some way or another. Had Russia not directly intervened in Syria, then it would have been much more difficult for the Syrian Arab Army to manage the frontlines had Hezbollah needed to abruptly pull most of its forces out of the country for whatever unexpected reason. Now, however, no such military vulnerability exists in the same sense as it previously did, thus giving Hezbollah more freedom of military maneuverability to save Lebanon without having to make the painful decision of choosing between helping its homeland or Syria.

Hezbollah’s flexibility in now being able to more conveniently transfer units from Syria back to Lebanon will likely help it in better managing the country’s crisis if it escalates and such a need arises. Complementarily to this, Russia has also just announced that it will provide an unspecified amount of military equipment to Lebanon’s armed forces and law enforcement agencies to assist with their anti-ISIL efforts. This stroke of strategic genius will help the country counter any terrorist threat that spills over its borders during the forthcoming Russian-Syrian Liberation Offensive, and it will also serve to bolster the state in repelling any destructive Color Revolution-like Islamist takeover. The lifeline that Russia has thus extended to the Lebanese state might be sufficient enough not only to finally bring some semblance of stability to it, but also to make it a member of the COR. If the latter comes to be, then the Resistance Arc would continue to consolidate itself as the Republican Arc, further highlighting the ideological differences between it and the unipolar-affiliated monarchies to the south. Additionally, Lebanon’s incorporation into the Alliance would help it shake off the influence of pro-Saudi infiltrators that have snuck the Kingdom’s influence into the country and its institutions over the past decade.

The Saudis Are Running Scared

Biting The Russian Hand

The combined effect of the Coalition of the Righteous’ (COR) successes sends chills down the Saudis’ spine, since they’re watching their regional proxies get wiped out to the benefit of geopolitical rival Iran. The author had earlier tried to analyze the nature of the closed-door Russian-Saudi diplomacy that had been ongoing for most of the year, eventually coming to a conclusion that Moscow was trying to provide Riyadh with a ‘face-saving’ retreat from the Syrian battlefield. The tacit understanding here was that the withdrawn proxy forces could then be redeployed elsewhere, perhaps to Yemen, which is inarguably seen by the Kingdom as its number one security issue at the moment. The proposal sounded good on paper, but the Saudis attempted to double-deal the Russians by instead contracting Gulf forces to bear the brunt of most of the War on Yemen’s brutal ground campaign, thus allowing them to leave their proxies in Syria as they continued to pursue their regime change ends there. As is now being seen in hindsight, the author’s assessment has been vindicated, since it’s now clear that Russia was indeed giving Saudi Arabia the opportunity to covertly withdraw its associated fighting forces prior to the coming onslaught, which they of course weren’t notified about before in advance. The House of Saud thought it could finagle some type of extra benefit by declining to call its associated armies out of Syria, leading to a major miscalculation that that is seeing the Kingdom’s proxies decimated in the course of a week and its strategic planners in full-blown panic mode.

Sinking In The Sand

The entire Mideast was aware of the Russian-Saudi discussions, and now that Russia has assembled the COR and is directly fighting terrorism in the region, the Saudi’s proxy forces such as the “Army of Conquest” must now be asking themselves why their patron abandoned them as sitting ducks on the battlefield. It’s not realistically thought that Russia informed the Saudis in any way whatsoever of their coming military campaign, but for the Islamists on the ground being killed by Russian airstrikes, it sure seems like a possibility, and they may be seething with anger against the Saudis for being set up. Already, over 3,000 terrorists have already fled Syria for Jordan, likely en route back to Saudi Arabia, and the Kingdom’s security establishment must surely be aware of the threat this entails. Couple the returning jihadis with the homegrown ISIL terrorists that already struck in the country before, and a cocktail of domestic disaster is being mixed before the Saudis’ own eyes, and their military establishment is too bogged down along the Yemeni border to adequately focus on it. This dire state of affairs could be made even more severe if the Ansarullah are successful enough in their attacks against the ‘Arab NATO’ that some of its Gulf members (especially Qatar and the UAE) pull out, which would then force the Saudis to compensate with their own overstretched forces. Furthermore, their paranoid fantasies of “Iranian-Shia encirclement” are probably kicking into high gear right now, meaning that it can’t be guaranteed that the country will react rationally to any threats that it perceives. In connection with this, a heavy-handed crackdown, whether against suspected terrorists or Shiites, can’t be discounted, and this would obviously add to the country’s domestic destabilization.

From Supreme Power To Second-Rate State

Approaching the country from an international perspective, it’s evident that Saudi Arabia’s regional influence is waning as the COR’s steps up its anti-terrorist campaign and drives its proxies out of Syria and Iraq. In the near future when ISIL and other terrorists are defeated in these states, the Saudis (if they’re still a unified country) will be forced to accept a second-rate status in the Mideast, nothing at all like the position they had enjoyed since 2003. Additionally, they will find themselves increasingly relying on Russia in order for Moscow mediate between the Kingdom and the Islamic Republic and help maintain the “cold peace” that’s expected to settle over the Gulf (as the author previously forecast in his “Pivot of Pragmatism” scenario). The US’ diminished role in the Mideast will be a fait accompli by this point, signaling that the Saudis’ days of fully relying on it for its security guarantees will be long gone. Also, the energy war between the two might by that time have placed the Kingdom in a weakened economic position, especially if it’s not as successful as it hopes to be in diversifying its economy through financial instruments. Overall, the geopolitical forecast for Saudi Arabia looks quite gloomy, and it’s a sure bet that it’s moving towards what might be the hardest times its ever experienced in its history, which will present an existential challenge that will strain its government to the maximum.

Turkish Turmoil

The Current State Of Affairs

The author forecast this scenario in his most recent article for The Saker, but it’s definitely worth citing again and exploring more in-depth because it looks ever more likely that it’ll transform into a reality. The gist of the idea is that Turkey is undergoing such strenuous domestic difficulties at the moment (civil war, left-wing terrorism, Islamist terrorist bombings [which may have been a false flag]) that there’s a real possibility that it could become ‘the next Syria’ of absolute destabilization if the government and/or military (through a coup) doesn’t regain full control soon. The situation was already precarious even before the COR’s anti-terrorist crusade, but now Turkey faces the very real prospect of its own Islamist proxies retreating northwards to their nest just as the Saudis’ are doing in the southern direction.

With the Turkish military focusing most of its attention on the Kurdish-dominated southeast, it’s dubious whether or not it even has the capability to fully secure its border now that it literally has the pressing security urge to finally do so. An influx of experienced terrorists into the Turkish heartland is literally the last thing that the security establishment needs during this already turbulent time, and depending on the level of political uncertainty after the snap November elections, it could very well be that the military decides to once more take matters into its own hands and restore order in the country. If that happens, then it might be the decisive moment needed to push the country towards a full-on Eurasian Pivot, which in that case would completely dismantle the US regional security architecture and send shockwaves through the rest of NATO.

The Unintentional Flank and Turkish/Balkan Stream

Continuing with the topic of a Turkish military coup, the author feels the need to explain his forecast in detail so that it is properly understood by the reader, but in order to get there, some contextual information is necessary. To begin with, Russia’s military involvement in Syria has completed the unintentional fait accompli of flanking Turkey. In fact, if one uses this perceptive lense to reexamine the past three conflicts that Russia partook in, then it: (1) secured the Abkhaz coast and neutralized any future Georgian naval expansion, thus projecting Russian power across the entire eastern Black Sea; (2) secured Crimea and guaranteed Russian control of the northern part of the Black Sea; and (3) positioned Russian air assets south of the Turkish border. It is not at all to suggest that the pursuit of these results played any motivating influence whatsoever in guiding Russia’s role in these three conflicts, but the final facts are indisputable – Russian naval forces project power along Turkey’s northern coast, while its aerospace ones (and to an extent, certain naval ones as well) do the same along the southern border.

In this context, Turkish/Balkan Stream was an olive branch of friendship meant to reassure a strategic energy ally that Russia means no harm, and actually intends to peacefully strengthen bilateral relations, not weaken them, despite each side’s polar opposite approach to Syria. Despite this, talks on the project had stalled as of late, as Erdogan foolishly attempted to follow the Saudis’ lead by turning what could have been mutually beneficial and pragmatic diplomacy with Russia into some type of grand geopolitical game, and just like with King Salman, ‘Sultan Erdogan’ also failed in his gambit. Now that the country is unable to form a government at least until the November elections, the project has been frozen until December or January at the earliest, frustrating Russia’s plans to accelerate its Balkan Pivot, playing to the US’ relative advantage, and undermining Turkey’s business reputation similarly to how France’s was self-slurred by the Mistral affair (although not yet past that dramatic point of no return).

Erdogan’s Imaginary War Against Russia

The geopolitical situation is a lot different today than it was a few months ago, however, with Turkey now mired in civil war and Russia having completed its unintentional flanking of the country through the basing of air units along its southern border. There’s no sane scenario where Russia would ever decide to launch a first strike against its NATO neighbor, but still, the present distribution of forces indicates that Russia certainly has acquired a strategic upper hand in any evebt. Turkey’s overreaction to the unintentional violation of its airspace by a Russian jet this week was due in large part to its political establishment’s increasing paranoia about this, played up of course by the US and NATO for their own strategic ends. Nevertheless, with the Turkish military being stretched between Kurdistan, the Syrian border, and every soft terrorist target in between, the last thing its top brass needs is to become entangled in Erdogan’s imaginary war with Russia. The more that the political leadership tries to press the point of Russian “aggression”, the more likely it is that the military will rebel against it and take steps towards an actual coup, since it, more than any other actor in Turkey, understands the falseness behind this claim and the absolute futility in pursuing it, especially in light of the existentially threatening circumstances that Erdogan has presently and completely unnecessarily gotten the Republic of Turkey into.

The Military’s Mindset

The Turkish military is being gorged on the horns of a multisided dilemma. First off, it’s stuck fighting a bloody civil war in the southeast which was sparked by Erdogan’s failed pre-election ploy. Secondly, this conflict has already gone international, with limited Turkish ground and air strikes in Iraq, demonstrating the growing operational complexity of this mission. Thirdly, the Turkish military needs to counter the very real threat that thousands of retreating Syrian-based jihadis will return to their Turkish training base. On top of that, the political leadership is pressing it to simultaneously remain on standby in the event that an ill-fated decision is made to conventionally intervene in Syria. Already, these four simultaneous pressures (civil war, Iraqi intervention, “anti-terrorist” responsibilities, and Syrian standby) are pulling the Turkish military to the breaking point, and that’s not even considering the very real danger that Erdogan’s imaginary war with Russia could have on the country’s stability.

To explain the last point, Russia’s unintentional flanking of Turkey has put it in a position where it could inflict significant damage to the country if attacked, which, of course, is in nobody’s interests (not even Erdogan’s, as personally fickle and prone to temper tantrums as he is). So, in the event of any hypothetical Turkish antagonism against Russia (for example, over its anti-terrorist operations in Syria), then the feasible scenario arises where the Russian-Kurdish-Iranian members of the COR extend some form of tangible support to the Turkish-based Kurdish separatists, which might be enough to fatally tip the balance of power against the Turkish military and lead to its removal from the entire southeast portion of the (former) country. Rhetorically speaking, if Turkey can involve itself in Russia’s domestic affairs in Crimea (potentially even through militant means), there’s nothing at all stopping Russia from doing the same in Kurdistan, even if it doesn’t announce it as arrogantly as Erdogan did. Remember, this is a rhetorical/hypothetical situation – no proof exists that Russia has any intent to do this – but military strategists, in this case those from Turkey, as per their job responsibilities, must consider and plan for all scenarios, so it’s likely that this one has entered the minds of at least a couple of people in Ankara.

A Geopolitical Blessing

Already stretched to the limit as it is, there’s no way that the Turkish military would also be able to manage an emboldened Kurdish insurgency that was strengthened by Russian, Iraqi Kurdish, and Iranian support, which would thus lead to the independence of the region and the dismantling of Turkey’s territorial integrity and Eurasian energy nexus plans. In the military’s mindset, it’s logically much better for Turkey to avoid provoking Russia and prompting it to play out this scenario, because as is obviously understood, it would quickly lead to the unravelling of Turkish statehood. This is why the Turkish military could realistically be pushed towards acting on any preexisting coup ideas it may have if Erdogan continues to press ahead with his provocations against Russia. In fact, a post-coup Turkey might actually be very beneficial for Russian-Turkish relations, since the country would finally have a capable enough leadership in power that understands the essence of the bilateral partnership and could seek to intensify it for maximum mutual advantage, notably by rapidly moving forward with Turkish/Balkan Stream and de-facto disengaging from NATO.

The reader must never fail to remember that Turkey is already very close to a military coup as it is, but that the anti-Russian agenda being pushed by the Erdogan government might very well be the point that breaks the military’s patience and pushes it to carry out its plans. The regime change would be entirely self-inflicted and with no external party to blame whatsoever (let alone Russia), but it could fortuitously become a geopolitical blessing if the military administration decides to follow the above recommendations and unyieldingly turn towards the multipolar community of Eurasia.

Barely anything is certain in life, but if there’s one thing that geopolitical observers can most surely expect, it’s that the US will fiendishly find a way to pay Russia back for the sudden reversal that Moscow’s inflicted upon its strategic fortunes in the Mideast. Although by no means a conclusive listing, the following scenarios are by far the most realistic. In no particular order, they are:

Kurdish Turncoats

The Kurds have courageously sided with the Coalition of the Righteous (COR) and vastly increased the organization’s viability, but the speed with which they did so makes one wonder whether they could just as quickly be ‘convinced’ (read: bought off) to return to their unipolar allegiance. So far there’s nothing tangible that points in this direction and all reasoning is conjectural (although rooted in experience), but the situation might predictably arise where the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) and Baghdad return to loggerheads over Kirkuk and the KRG-central government oil-revenue sharing deal in the aftermath of the anti-ISIL war. In such an event, the KRG could once more resort to independence rhetoric as a method of extracting political gains from Baghdad, but this time (with American and Israeli backing) it might take conclusive steps to achieve this, such as a snap referendum that’s immediately recognized by Washington and Tel Aviv, et al., no matter how negatively this affects each of their bilateral relationships with Turkey (which they might be eager to provoke if a pro-Eurasian military coup there does in fact occur).

The consequences of this scenario would be extremely destabilizing for the COR, as it would result in the creation of a ‘geopolitical Israel’ that could exert influence on the Syrian and Iranian regions where its ethnic kin reside. Moreover, it could also lead to the trilateral fragmentation of Iraq proper, as it’s unlikely that the rump Sunni-Shia portion could remain intact with its heated domestic differences, especially if a Kurdish-Iraq War suddenly broke out soon afterwards (maybe over Kirkuk). Per that possibility, it’s not foreseeable that the rump country would be able to muster enough unity to fight back against the ‘Mideast Prussia’, and the resultant strain could easily divide the remaining population to the point where further separation is seen as not only inevitable, but actually something welcomed by both sides. Considering this, it becomes very important that Russia and Iran influence the Iraqi central government to accommodate a fair share of the KRG’s reasonable post-war demands, and importantly, that the Kurdish leaders feel confident enough in the trust they’ve given their Moscow- and Tehran-based counterparts so as not to enter into any backstabbing side deals with the US at the same time.

Refugee Games

The stabilization of Syria will unavoidably result in the EU trying to deport most of the hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers back to the country sooner or later. Every Syrian citizen has the legal right to return to their homeland, but the situation in practice is a bit more complex than that. Just as outgoing refugees were used as a weapon against Syria, so too could returning ones be as well. For example, many of the Syrians that fled their country for Turkey or the EU don’t support their democratically elected and legitimate government (which isn’t necessarily the same for those went to Lebanon), and forcing them to return there against their will could create tension with the patriotic Syrians who remained. Not only that, but simply in terms of the numbers involved (over 4 million abroad at last count), it could be overwhelming for the authorities of any country if so many people (were forcibly) returned in a short period of time. Therefore, Syria needs to be alert to the possible weaponization of returning refugees, and should thus prepare an organized system for handling them so as to avoid any destabilization that could occur.

It should once more be emphasized that any large-scale refugee return happening within a short period of time wouldn’t be voluntarily occurring, but unnaturally forced by the EU, many members of which have grown tired of hosting the refugees and simply want them gone. Interestingly enough, prior to the Russian anti-terrorist intervention, UK Prime Minister David Cameron spoke of launching a military campaign against Syria in order to create a situation supposedly amenable to the refugees’ return (in the Western understanding, after regime change). So, with this in mind, now that Russia’s military campaign against ISIL is literally making the country more livable by eliminating the murderous terrorists that plague it, it’s possible that the UK, and for that matter, perhaps even most of the EU, could resort back to the rhetoric of sending refugees back if they acknowledge that the domestic conditions provide ‘plausibly justifiable’ enough reasons that. This might entail the refugee-returning countries de-facto recognizing Syria’s legitimate government, but even if they do, it would only be a temporary tactic to allow them the chance to flood the country with some of its hundreds of thousands of citizens that have already made it to Europe by that time.

Divide And Conquer: Iran vs Russia

While physically powerless to do anything to stop the Russian-Iranian strategic convergence against ISIL, the US and its information organs (both those explicitly recognized and such and more covertly acting sympathetic outlets) can play up false stories of a competition between the two in Syria and/or Iraq with the ultimate hopes of maximizing any suspicions one may have of the other, to the point of creating a ‘security dilemma’ that engenders an actual fallout. It doesn’t seem at all probable that this would happen anytime soon, but if ISIL turns out to be harder to dislodge than previously thought, and the COR campaign stretches on longer than expected, then the contextual backdrop could be created where such vicious rumors might find some adherents in Moscow and Tehran.

Russia and Iran are closer than they’ve ever been at the moment as a result of their military collaboration against ISIL, but there’s still the possibility that the differences between them (which the author comprehensively listed out in a four-part series on the issue) could once more return to the surface with time. This becomes even more foreseeable if the US and its German, French, and UK allies find some way in which to falsely accuse Iran of violating the nuclear accord as a twisted form of geo-economic vengeance for militarily siding with Russia in the New Cold War. When one recalls how these leading EU economies abandoned the money they were already making in Russia out of loyalty to the US’ political considerations, it’s not hard to think that they’d do the same for profits they have yet to even receive in Iran. The mere threat of doing so and possibly returning to the sanctions regime (and the Color Revolution tripwire this could activate) might be enough to coax the pro-Western “moderates” into a major behind-the-scenes power play to wrest control of the Islamic Republic from the geopolitical pragmatics (the Western so-called “hard-liners”), or in a less dramatic fashion, ‘nudge’ Iran away from its military closeness with Russia and into a more passive COR role.

The West’s goal has and always will be to enact some form of hard (Color Revolution) or soft (“moderate”) regime change in Tehran that disarms the country’s military-strategic establishment and opens the door for the return of pre-1979 foreign exploitation. Now that Iran has conclusively sided with the Russian-led anti-ISIL coalition, it’s exposed itself once more as an urgent target for Western intelligence agencies, who will stop at nothing to get the country to reverse or lessen its commitment and enter into odds with Russia. This is definitely easier said than done, especially now that Moscow and Tehran have demonstrated such trust between one another through their work in the COR’s Baghdad information center, but this sly tactic of dividing Iran from Russia can’t ever be discounted or taken off of the table of tricks that the US and its allies will employ. As it’s dictated by one of the primary geopolitical imperatives of Western policy towards Eurasia, it can be taken to be a perpetual threat, even if it (hopefully) mitigates in intensity with time.

Balkan Blowout

Russia’s increased military presence in Syria makes it not only a Mideast power, but also an Eastern Mediterranean one as well (with A2/AD capabilities). Expanding on the latter, this ups the country’s presence near the southern shores of the Balkan region, which correlates with Moscow’s intentions to perform a Balkan Pivot and increase its influence in this Western-neglected area of Europe. Thus far, ‘Round Three’ of the New Cold War saw Macedonian patriots defeating the Color Revolution and Albanian-affiliated Hybrid War attempts that were externally designed to sabotage the country’s stability and prevent it from ever being used as a multipolar-oriented transit state for Russian energy and Chinese high-speed rail. The first battle for the Balkans was won, but the war is far from being over, since there are three principle unresolved destabilizations that can blow up at any time: (1) a second Color Revolution/Hybrid War venture in Macedonia before or right after the early elections in spring; (2) the geopolitical problems of ‘Greater Albania’ and Dayton-revisionist Bosnia; and (3) the region-breaking refugee crisis. Victoria Nuland also has her own pet projects for how to throw the Balkans into bedlam, but they can all reasonably fail with good measure.

What should be understood by the reader after this citation-heavy above paragraph is that Russia has concrete geopolitical considerations behind its urge to civilizationally relink itself with the Balkans, while the US is exerting just as much effort to prevent this from happening and frantically finding ways to institutionally (such as Montenegrin and maybe even Macedonian NATO membership) and physically (Hybrid War in Macedonia or a ‘refugee revolt’ in Serbia) split the region off from Russia. Make no mistake – Washington has already planted multiple ‘ticking time bombs’ in the Balkans that it’s planning to remotely set off in the near future, the question is just whether or not the region can withstand such destabilizing blows and how (if in any way) Russia can assist it throughout the oncoming geopolitical ordeal.

With the Balkans being the ‘soft underbelly’ of the EU, which itself is the US’ largest Eurasian colony, Washington will fight back as viciously as it can to prevent Russia from establishing a strategic foothold so close to its ‘prized harlot’. It was already ‘overdefensive’ of its ‘catch’ even before, going as far as to engineer EuroMaidan to keep the two away from one another (moved forward because of the 2013 New Cold War loss the US received in Syria), but faced with an embarrassing, unprecedented, and surprising strategic withdrawal from the Mideast, it’ll probably spare no strategic or physical expense in making sure that Russian influence doesn’t move an inch closer to the Balkans during these tense geopolitical times. It doesn’t mean that this will stop Russia from endeavoring to do so, or that Moscow won’t ultimately succeed, but that it’s very probable that the New Cold War battlefield will once more cycle back to the Balkans after the Mideast (Syria) and Eastern Europe (Ukraine).

Central Asian Chaos

The last forecasted way in which the US could significantly take revenge on Russia for its grand Mideast power reversal is to indirectly strike at its interests in Central Asia, specifically along the Afghan border. It has just been revealed by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu that last month’s ultra-large-scale Center-2015 strategic exercise was aimed at both combating ISIL in the Mideast and the Taliban in Central Asia. As written about in Part I, if Russia continues to make proper use of coalition tactics in fighting against regional threats, it can wisely avoid the pitfalls of the Reverse Brzezinski stratagem, but it remains to be seen if Moscow could simultaneously handle two or more separate campaigns in two different regions (the Mideast and Central Asia).

If, for example, the Taliban, ISIL, and/or a hybrid combination of Islamic terrorists succeeds in capturing territory along most of the former Soviet-Afghan border and recruiting many Central Asians to join its ranks, how exactly would Russia respond? Looking at this scenario, it could quickly become a logistical-diplomatic nightmare, precisely because of the three separate military commands that could potentially (and maybe even concurrently) be involved. Tajikistan is part of the CSTO, which of course would be under Russian leadership, but Uzbekistan removed itself from the bloc in 2012 precisely so it could be less tied to Moscow. Turkmenistan, which has seen the Taliban steadily gathering ever more frequently along its newly fortified border, isn’t in any military bloc and officially pursues a policy of neutrality. If there was a coordinated jihadist offensive northwards from Afghanistan against all three countries (which at least doesn’t seem likely from the Taliban right now unless ISIL gains influence over it), then Russia could foreseeably encounter difficulty in multi-managing three possible air interventions a la the Syrian template, with the possibility of a limited ground component being deployed in Tajikistan.

Furthermore, all three of Russia’s potential state brothers-in-arms are susceptible to certain vulnerabilities that could be exploited by a jihadist offensive against them. Tajikistan just had to hunt down and kill a rogue Deputy Defense Minister who suddenly assembled a terrorist gang that tried to overthrow the government, indicating the possible presence of more high-level anti-government figures; Uzbekistan is a bubbling pot of destabilization that might boil over in a hot successionist crisis after the passing of Islam Karimov and enter into all-out Somali/Libyan-style tribal warfare; and isolated and militarily inexperienced Turkmenistan is geographically positioned in such a manner as to make it a very easy target for any rapid ISIL-like offensive across its accommodating landscape, and one which would automatically destabilize Russian, Iranian, and Chinese strategic interests. Complicating matters even further, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan have been in a heated rivalry ever since independence, and it’s questionable to what degree they’d be willing to trust one another to the point of militarily cooperating under the same command, meaning that Russia would most likely have to have at least two separate ones for Tajikistan and Uzbekistan & Turkmenistan.

Taking stock of the previous and looking at the worst-case scenario of a coordinated jihadist offensive against each of the three Afghan-bordering Central Asian states, specifically during the time of Russia’s active anti-terrorist involvement in Syria, then it would present a major predicament for Moscow’s military-strategic planners. They would of course have to respond to the deteriorating developments in the region, but as explained above, it could be exceptionally difficult from a logistical-diplomatic perspective to do so, despite having more than sufficient military capability in carrying out the task. This isn’t necessarily a Reverse Brzezinski (which would be an entangling on-the-ground commitment by Russia) so much as it is a systems overload and possible organizational breakdown. This extreme tri-scenario manifestation remains the least likely of the examined anti-Russian revenge responses that the US will take (although it might deploy one of them separately, perhaps as a ‘test’), but given the magnitude of damage that it can cause to Russia’s grand strategic interests, it certainly deserves to be at least considered by all.

Concluding Thoughts

The COR that Russia has created in the Mideast has the strong potential to revolutionarily transform global politics by dealing a hard blow in the gut of unipolarity’s formerly privileged ‘sphere of interest’. The defeat of ISIL and other terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq would represent a major victory for multipolarity, since it would exterminate the US’ strongest asymmetrical army and lessen the likelihood that it could ever be successfully used in destabilizing the Resistant & Defiant states of Russia, China, and Iran. It can be said that Russia surprisingly ‘changed the rules of the game’ by intervening in Syria at Damascus’ request, since it seems that this totally caught the US and its regional allies off guard. Now that this action has created established facts on the ground, it’s clear to see just how weak the US’ position really is in the Mideast, especially since its two previous pillars of regional power, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, are in real danger of internally crumbling before the eyes of the world. The extraordinarily short time that Russia was able to reverse the status of power in the Mideast through a relatively small bombing campaign testifies to the paper tiger-like nature of unipolar control in the Mideast.

If the COR’s momentum keeps up and the terrorists are all soundly defeated, then it’s very likely that the crossroads of Afro-Eurasia will become the most crucial strategic bridgehead in pushing back against unipolar world. But, be that as it may, the US most certainly will not take such an astounding loss lightly, and it’s absolutely guaranteed to push back in seemingly unexpected ways. Whether through Kurdish Turncoats, Refugee Games, or Divide and Conquer between Iran and Russia, the US will not let its grip on the region go peacefully, and it may even resort to indirectly attacking Russian strategic interests in the Balkan and/or Central Asian theaters to distract Moscow from the Mideast and create a exploitable opening in which to stage a counter-offensive. If, however, Russia and its Coalition of the Righteous are successful in securing the Mideast and stymieing the forecasted American destruction of the Balkans and Central Asia, then a new multipolar world order can incontrovertibly replace the unipolar one of old.

“Security Arc” Forms Amidst Mideast Terror