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Middle East - 2017: half-year under the sign of crisis

Military-political and diplomatic results applied to specific regions of the world were made at the end of the year. However, the increased dynamics in the space of the Greater Middle East for the past six months since the beginning of the 2017 compels us to record some intermediate results. In the semi-annual section of the maximally condensed "Middle East chronometer", several significant events occurred at once.

Let's start with Syria and Iraq, the Arab countries, continuing to languish under the burden of fighting international terrorism. Actually, the year started with the expectations of de-escalation in Syria in the continuation of the joint peace efforts of Russia, Iran and Turkey. And also with the hope of speedily destroying the terrorist group DAISH ("Islamic State", IG, IGIL) in Iraq's Mosul, the second largest city of the oil-bearing Arab country. Neither of these questions met expectations in many respects. However, in the Syrian direction in the period January-June 2017, the improvement of the situation "on the ground" is clearly recorded.

A delayed breakthrough in Syria

The conflict in Syria adopted the almost completed formula of two parallel wars "1 - 1". On the one hand, this is a positional opposition between government troops and armed opposition around the areas it controls. On the other hand, intensive combat operations by a number of forces against terrorist terrorists. The latter is put out for the perimeter of the agreement reached in December 2016 on a ceasefire throughout Syria.

This agreement 4 May was supplemented by a tripartite agreement between Moscow, Tehran and Ankara on the creation of four zones of de-escalation. One of them, the southernmost, along the Syrian-Jordanian border and in the southeastern section of the province of Homs, intends to "fit" the United States with the rebels supported by them from the so-called "New Syrian Army" (since December 2016, this alliance has a different name - "Jayesh Magawir al-Tavra", "Army of Revolutionary Commandos").

With comingDonald TrumpNew elements appeared in the White House in the Syrian conflict, which added worries to all three guarantors of the current armistice and de-escalation process (Russia, Iran and Turkey). The new American administration tends to divide Syria into "zones of influence." A consequence of this policy was a series of attacks on the objects of the Syrian army and allied pro-government formations supported by Iran. 7 April began attacking the air base of the Syrian Armed Forces "Shayrat" in the province of Homs with cruise missiles "Tomahawk" from the US Navy ships in the eastern Mediterranean. Next came the strikes against pro-Iranian groups in the At-Tanf area in the east of the same province.

By planting their "zone of influence" in southern Syria, Americans solve the problem of preventing Russia from taking a strategic initiative in the Arab Republic, and also frustrate Iran's plans to establish a "Shiite axis" from its western borders to the Lebanese coast of the Mediterranean (Iran-Iraq-Syria-Lebanon).

Trump fully entrusted the conduct of the Syrian campaign to the Pentagon with the connection in some CIA matters, with all the ensuing consequences. The United States began to operate in Syria more rigorously, almost exclusively with reliance on military force. To the diplomatic tools they turn only on a residual principle. Interim results in this regard are disappointing. Once again, Washington's desire to observe the Memorandum on the prevention of incidents and ensuring the safety of aviation flights during operations in Syria was questioned by the Washington signed in October 2015. Fears have increased that the US military, with its actions "on the ground" and in air operations, pursues the main goal not to destroy, but to squeeze out the terrorists of the DAIS into areas under the control of government troops.

Dasha's bit, but not crushed

In Iraq, the war on terrorism at the beginning of the year began with a high note, but then there was a constant review of the timing of the complete destruction of the IG in Mosul. By 24 January, the eastern part of the Iraqi metropolis was liberated. 19 February launched an operation in western Mosul. With air support from the US-led coalition and the participation of Western special forces in certain sectors of the Mosul front, the 100-thousandth group of the Iraqi Armed Forces approached the cherished goal only by the end of June. The terrorists were driven into the "cauldron" in the area of ​​the Old Town (the historical part of Mosul), and to the last they continue to exert fierce resistance in the territory of less than 1% of the entire western Mosul (about 2 sq. Km). The earlier announced release of the city was again disrupted. With the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, battles in western Mosul did not stop.

29 June, the third anniversary of the announcement is headed by the DAISHAbu Bakr al-BaghdadiAbout the creation of the "caliphate", the Iraqi army went on storming the previously destroyed cathedral mosque "An-Nuri" in the Old Town area. Taking control of the territory of the An-Nuri and adjacent quarters put a symbolic point in the battle for Mosul. However, the centers of resistance of militants in the western part of the city have not been completely suppressed. In the three Muslim districts of Meydan, Sergjhana and Ras al-Khur, IG's militants continue to fire.

After the end of the ninth month of campaign (the battle for Mosul began on 17 October) the government troops and their allies in the counter-terrorism coalition are waiting for new tests. The Dais holds several enclaves to the east of Mosul (the provinces of Kirkuk, Salah ed Din and Diyala), as well as a vast territory on the Iraqi-Syrian border.

The battles with the "caliphate" on the Iraqi front will last at least until the end of the year. An additional "hotbed of instability" is brewing in front of the central government in Baghdad, which does not contribute to the forced destruction of the IG throughout the country. Kurds for 25 September planned a referendum on their independence in northern Iraq. What particularly should disturb the cabinet of ministers at the headHaidera al-Abadi, So it is the spirit of Iraqi Kurds to hold a plebiscite in disputed territories, including the Kirkuk province.

The Trump administration did not welcome the decision of the leadership of the Iraqi Kurdistan to launch the process of secession in the coming autumn. But also did not oppose. This only strengthens the sense of predetermination of the issue with the Kurdish referendum, even taking into account the negative attitude towards it from Baghdad, Tehran and Ankara.

Changeable Turkey

Turkey for six months has achieved some success in the north of Syria, finally completing its rather inexpressive operation "Shield of the Euphrates" against the fighters of the IG (24 August 2016 began). With the capture of the city of Al-Bab in the north of the province of Aleppo, the attention of the Turkish military-political leadership was shifted to Syrian Kurds. Today, the Kurdish enclave in the Afrin Valley, to the north-west of Aleppo, focuses on Ankara's primary interest.

During this half-year, Turkey showed itself not only as a destabilizer in Syria, which is manifested primarily in confrontation with the Kurds there, but also as a fairly consistent partner in peacekeeping efforts. In commonwealth with Russia and Iran, she managed to minimize the risk of head-on collision of government troops Bashar al-Assad with pro-Turkish militant Islamists. Ankara took up the extremely difficult mission of the "de-escalator" in the province of Idlib and the surrounding territories. Given the instability in Turkey itself, the success of this mission raises many questions.

Turkish LeaderRecep Tayyip Erdoganon the results of the constitutional referendum 16 April achieved the desired result - the road to the transition from parliamentary to presidential republic is open. However, the internal political triumph of Erdogan, which in many ways is inertial after the suppression of the military coup in July, 2016, led to a reverse external effect. With the leading EU countries, Turkey's relations have been spoiled thoroughly and for a long time. This was confirmed, for example, by the forced relocation of the German contingent from the Turkish base "Incirlik" to Jordan. With the new US administration, the dialogue was clearly not the same. The effectiveness of Erdogan's visit to Washington 16 May was close to zero. Moreover, after him, additional irritants appeared in the US-Turkish relations. The protection of Erdogan was noted in the US capital as a violent disposition to disperse the protest. In America, they were not used to such tricks, and issued warrant for arrest immediately a dozen bodyguards of the Turkish president.

To keep him from feeling uncomfortable, at least in retaliation for the fact that the country-member of NATO plunged into a close relationship with Russia and Iran over Syria, the Americans began to heavily arm Syrian Kurds. The maximum that Ankara was able to bargain for in this extremely painful issue for her is the little-needed Washington's assurances of the return of weapons and military equipment from the Kurdish arsenals, as soon as the IG is routed in Syria's Rakka and throughout the east of Syria.

Iran's missile response to the attacks

Development in the Middle East region, especially under the prism of sharply exacerbated relations with the United States, is developing with not less discomfort for Iran. On the one hand, the nuclear deal with the six world powers, of which the US continues to be a party, acts without failure. On the other hand, the "Republican conjuncture" in Washington and the derivative of the new relationship between geopolitical opponents of Iran, which are derived from it, seem extremely worrying for him.

19 May in the presidential elections, the Iranians extended the vote of confidence to the current head of the executive branchHasan Rouhani. Iran's conservatives have not pushed back the local reformists, whose leader Rouhani is from power. But for the United States, Saudi Arabia and Israel, it no longer mattered, for they took the course for a consistent confrontation with Iran and do not intend to deviate from it.

The past six months have hosted a number of anti-Iranian steps by these countries. The culmination can be considered the attacks of American troops in Syria on the pro-government groups supported by Tehran (the Iraqi Shiite militia Harakat al-Nudzhaba, the Afghan Shiite volunteers from the Fatimion brigade). Not far away is the hour when the targets of the US Air Force can get the fighters of the Lebanese Hezbollah and even the military instructors of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

This is prompted by the unprecedented challenges faced by Iran in the few days after the US President's visit to Saudi Arabia and Israel in May. For the awarding of 45-th US President 20 May the highest order of Saudi Arabia from the hands of the KingSalman ibn Abdul-Aziz al-SaudA "Caliphate" wind blew on Iran.


7 June, for the first time in all the years of terrorist activity of the DAIS in the region, two symbolic places in Tehran - the parliament of Iran and the mausoleum of the founder of the Islamic Republic of Imam Ruhola Khomeini were attacked. "The Caliphate" immediately took responsibility for the attacks on themselves. However, with the same speed, the command of the IRGC has put its verdict - behind the attacks there are "sleeping cells", to the creation of which the Saudis have put their hand. This is a serious accusation that fits the general logic of raising rates in the geopolitical confrontation around the Shiite power.

The situation forces Iran to react with the same rigidity as the conditional "Middle East triumvirate" (US, Saudi Arabia, Israel) deploys against it. Behind the double terrorist attack in Tehran was followed by a series of operations by the Iranian special services and the military on the opening of "sleeping cells" in several provinces of the country. Measures of "strategic deterrence" were also taken, which were launches XNUM 18 Aerospace Forces of six medium-range ballistic missiles at the bases of the ISP in the Syrian province of Deir ez Zor (1).

The missile strike against targets outside the territory of the Islamic Republic of Iran was carried out for the first time in 30 years, since the end of the Iran-Iraq war in 1988. This was an unambiguous demonstration of not so much the missile capability of the IRI in the fight against the DAIS (there are data that the launches did not go without significant deviation of the warheads from the set goals), but how much it is possible to "reach" any opponent in the region without much difficulty.

Combat launch of an Iranian ballistic missile from the province of Kermanshah 18 June

Kingdom of high ambitions

First of all, Iran's "missile message" should concern Saudi Arabia. The largest Arab monarchy is struggling to maintain a balance between the extremely disappointing results of its military campaign in Yemen, the frontal confrontation with Iran and the new challenge that has been added to them - the crisis around Qatar.

The question with the heir to the throne in the Kingdom was decided in favor of 31-year-old princeMohammed bin Salman. The son of an elderly monarch Salman (81 year) has established himself as an ambitious young leader of the dominant Arabian monarchy of the Sudairi clan (2). In the hands of the new crown prince, the absolute power is concentrated, in fact, from the leadership of the military department to the control of the sovereign national funds of the Kingdom. Another question is whether the heir to the throne will be able to dispose of this power for the benefit of peace in the region, and not abuse it to draw Saudi Arabia into a war that is absolutely catastrophic for the entire Middle East with Iran.

Qatari crisis - to a great war

While it is a war, the forerunner of which may be a new "opening" of the half-year that has come to an end. It's about the crisis around Qatar. On a large geopolitical account - this is a "rehearsal" of the war between the two centers by the forces of the region. The transition to a new, even more uncompromising, round of confrontation between Saudi Arabia and Iran depends on the outcome of the conflict in the Arab world.

It was hoped that the crisis that began on June 12th will be resolved in a short time, within 5 days, in conjunction with the end of the month of Ramadan. Alas, it did not work. Too high was the degree of discontent of Riyadh towards Doha, primarily because of suspicions (we note, far from being groundless) in the fact that Qatar is playing a double game with Iran behind its Arab neighbors on the Persian Gulf. Perhaps this is by no means the "secret alliance" of the Shiite power and the peninsular emirate, the latter being accused (and not only) of the Saudis. But Saudi Arabia's public accusation of Qatar's accusations is enough to feel the exacerbated nerve of expectation of a great war in the region. In addition, let's not forget that another requirement to Qatar, in addition to reviewing its relations with Iran, the Saudis have put forward a withdrawal from the emirate of the Turkish military contingent. Even with the Turks, Qataris are forbidden cooperation on the defense line, which only emphasizes the mood of the Saudis to dictate their terms to the Arabs of the Gulf.

America "Trumpuet" The Greater Middle East

These days, representatives of the al-Saud family, without much embarrassment to all their partners, put the same question: "Are you with us or with Qatar?" The answer presupposes the determination by the country of its place in the anti-Iranian camp under the auspices of Saudi Arabia or outside its framework. Such a statement of the issue is close to the US position, even if the Trump administration is trying to observe diplomatic correctness and does not force some of its Middle Eastern partners to officially declare the Iranian opponents of the pole. In these days of unprecedented crisis between the Arabian monarchies, the owner of the White House, on the contrary, tries to stake out the place of the main peacemaker.

President Trump is considering the possibility of organizing a summit of Arab leaders in the United States, during which he intends to urge them to leave aside differences and join forces to fight terrorism. This became known Fox News. According to the source of the American television company in the White House, Trump wants to organize a meeting in the image of the 1978 summit in the country residence of the US president at Camp David near Washington, which concluded a preliminary agreement between Israel and Egypt, which became the basis for a peace treaty between two states. The American leader intends to gather at the same table heads of Arab states at the time of serious deterioration of relations between Qatar and a number of Middle Eastern countries to convince them to unite for the sake of stability in the region, said the source Fox News.

A laudable intention, however, is absolutely the opposite of what the new US administration is planting for incomplete 6 months of her stay in the White House. In fact, the actions of the US and Trump personally became in the first half of the year one of the main destabilizing irritants in the Middle East. Especially in the issue of heating the confrontation between Tehran and Riyadh.

The activity of the Trump team in the Middle East is still largely counterproductive. The conversation between the Arabs in the language of ultimatums, which we witnessed at the end of the half-year (22 June, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE put forward an 10-day ultimatum from 13 points to Qatar) already now can be reliably attributed to one of the main diplomatic failures of the USA for 2017 year. After all, Washington sought not only to settle the crisis around Qatar before the end of Ramadan, but also, at least, not to bring the matter to the public ultimatum of the Saudis against the Qatari people. Neither of them came out.

Against this background, Russia's role in the conflict-prone region is an important balancer of the destabilizing US policy, which also gives foreign-policy incompetence. Moscow is focused on the Syrian conflict, it has an order of magnitude less distracting moments than the United States, which continues to indulge in the illusion that they can effectively "lead" several troubled Middle Eastern processes at once. And yet some Russian efforts are decisively few. The space of the Greater Middle East is steadily stuck in the further fragmentation of a number of countries located here. From the trend of fragmentation no one is guaranteed, including Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia. They can delay the disintegration on their borders, but they can not reverse it. Therefore, the main intermediate conclusion is disappointing: from the second half of 2017, one should expect a consolidation of the trend towards the inevitability of the process of Middle East disintegration.

(1) The rocket attack, codenamed "Laylat al-Qadr" ("Night of Power", the revered night of the holy month for the Muslim month of Ramadan in honor of the discovery of the first Qur'an in Quran by the Prophet Muhammad in Mecca in 610) was carried out with the close cooperation of all types of Iranian troops and under the direct command of the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The statement of the IRGC command indicated. that the blow was an act of retribution for the 7 June carried out by the IG attackers in Tehran. The strike was caused from land-based launchers in provinces in the west of the country (Kermanshah and Kurdistan) a few hours after Ayatollah Khamenei swore that "the enemy would be punished" in the name of the victims of the terrorist attacks in Tehran and all those killed in Iraq and Syria.

(2) The clan is personified with the power bloc of the Kingdom: army command, special services, law enforcement agencies. With the accession of the present King Salman to the throne in January 2015, the Suderei representatives took the dominant position in the system of power.

A source: EADaily

Tags: War in the Middle East, Politics, Analytics, Syria, Iraq, Terrorism, Militants, IG, Middle East, Turkey, Iran, USA, Saudi Arabia, Russia, International Relations, Kurds, Israel, Hezbollah, Qatar