If the greatest poker game of all times will end by nuclear grand slam, and the survivors will review the causes of WWIII, they will die laughing. The Third World War had been fought to save al Qaeda. Yes, my dear readers! Uncle Sam invaded Afghanistan in order to punish al Qaeda, and now he started the World War to save al Qaeda. Positively a great ambivalent passionate love/hate relationship between the American gentleman and the Arab girl, from 9/11 to Aleppo.
For the future historians, the WWIII commenced with the US decision to terminate bilateral talks with Russia over Syria. Let the arms do the talking, they said. Here is an exclusive revelation:
The US decided to suspend talks after Russia called for withdrawal of al Qaeda (al Nusra Front etc.) fighters from Aleppo. This was the casus belli.
I have in my possession two war-starting documents:
Document One, headlined October 2 Agreement. This is an American draft of an agreement presented by State Secretary John Kerry to Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Its first line said “The Russian Federation will ensure an immediate halt on October 3 to all offensive military operations etc.”. It is based on the older short-lived Lavrov-Kerry agreement with an important addition: “without the previous requirement for repositioning of forces”.
Document Two, called Reducing violence in Aleppo, full-scale humanitarian assistance to civilian population, setting of “effective Cessation of Hostilities” and separation of moderate opposition forces and Jabhat Al-Nusra. It is subtitled “position document draft”. This is the Russian counter-proposal, confirming the Geneva agreement of September 9, 2016.
Its most important part is the call to separate al-Qaeda fighters (aka terrorists) through pushing the terrorists out of Aleppo via humanitarian corridor to the Castello Road.
This Document has been answered by American termination of talks.
Thus, the Russians wanted to take al-Qaeda out of Aleppo, so the city can be fed and brought back to life. The Americans were ready to start armed hostilities against Russia for the right of Al Qaeda to remain in the city.
In other words, the Americans did not believe in their own myth of moderate opposition. They knew, as well as the Russians, that without “terrorists”, the insurgency in Syria is doomed. They did not want to let Syria be under Assad and with the Russians.
As usual, they made a lot of humanitarian-sounding noise about suffering children of Aleppo. Why Aleppo, and not Mosul with its mounting victims? Just because the killers of Mosul are supported by the US? Why not Yemen, where Saudi troops using American weapons (procured after giving a hefty bribe to Clinton’s war chest) to kill more children than there are in Aleppo? And where is this great sisterly supporter of Mme Clinton, Mrs Albright who famously said “it was worth it” to kill five hundred thousand children of Iraq?
There is no doubt, the Aleppo children and grown-ups suffer, and there is a simple way to stop their suffering: to remove the “terrorists” and to allow more moderate forces to join in the political process. But on this way, Assad and Russians will remain in control of the bulk of Syria.
The insurgency in Syria would have died out long time ago, if the Gulf states and the US did not pump billions of dollars, heaps of weapons and wagonloads of jobless fighters from nearby countries. It would be very sad for many people, but not a terrible disaster for Syrians. Sometimes, rebellions end with defeat. This is not end of the world.
The Irish Rising of 1916 ended in defeat, but Ireland is still there. Tamil Tigers failed to take over Sri Lanka. The suppression of the Confederacy in the American Civil War has been bloody and cruel. Atlanta was burned and its citizens expelled by force. One million dead: much more than in Syria, as mankind was much smaller in those days. One can imagine the European force landing on the American shore and relieving Atlanta in the name of human rights, preserving the Confederacy. But it did not happen. Civil wars have their own logic. A defeat of rebels is not the end of the nation.
As a young idealistic Israeli soldier, I planned to go to Nigeria and join the Biafra rebel army. I thought the Ibo tribe are “Jews of Africa” who had to be protected from a coming genocide. At the end, I was stuck in the Attrition War at the Suez Canal, and the Biafra war ended without my interference. In spite of apocalyptic predictions, Nigeria was reunited, and Ibo reintegrated.
The Syrian war also can end with rebels’ defeat. The government will assume its control, the Syrians will run the elections, and eventually come to a modicum of co-existence. Are you worried the elections under Bashar Assad won’t be fair? The US can loan them Mrs Debbie Wasserman-Schultz to oversee the elections. I am sure, chances of Assad won’t be better or worse than those of Mrs Clinton in the US elections.
The al-Qaeda forces (I keep using this name, for they forever change their official titles; it was Al Nusra, and Ahrar al-Sham, and probably Squirrels’ Union for Syrian Nuts, but they are basically the same good old Al Qaeda that bombed out New York on 9/11 and had been bombed in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya) are on their way to defeat. If the Americans are so keen on them, ship them home to the US on direct flights Aleppo-Washington, as this city seemingly is most pro-Al-Qaeda place beside of the caves of Bora Bora. Probably the Democratic Party will greet them and President Obama will grant them the US citizenship.
The only way to save al-Qaeda (short of the described above) is to start war with Russia. And this is actually the choice the US administration is about to make.
Provided the US can’t be serious planning to destroy mankind while saving Al Qaeda, we are forced to look for a better explanation. I do not want to dwell too much on “conspiratorial” reasoning of “for the sake of Israel”, or for gas pipeline.
These explanations are valid. We know that the US supported Qatari plan to build a pipeline from the Qatari gas field to Europe to undermine the Russian economy and European dependence on Russian gas. We know that Hillary Clinton promised to break up Syria “for the sake of Israel”, as she wrote in a wikileaked email.
And still, these are just rationalisations of the true thing. I’ll tell you the real reason.
Why the war? For the fun of it. American leaders appreciate brinkmanship, I was told by a very prominent American insider. This is a human quality. Young kids like to walk at the edge of the precipice. This is their way of proving they are better than their mates. Grown ups do it too, for the same reason.
Brinkmanship is the practice of causing a situation to become extremely dangerous in order to get the results that you want, says a too-rational dictionary, but in real life of elites, the reason (“in order to get the results that you want”) has been forgotten. It is pure art, brinkmanship for the sake of brinkmanship.
For quite a while, the US leaders competed over who can push the Russian bear further, who will take the world more close to the edge of the abyss. Why? Just because it is there, as Mallory said on climbing Everest. Perhaps, by its size, by its ostensible clumsiness (“giant on clay legs”), by its nearness, Russia wakes up such a suicidal desire in the hearts of powerful leaders, from Napoleon to Hitler.
Practical, quasi-rational reasons were always very weak, and usually included saving the Russian people from their cruel rulers, be it Judeo-Bolsheviks or the Tsardom of Knout (humanitarian intervention is not a new invention!). Now it is saving kids of Aleppo.
True, the kids of Aleppo could be saved by removal of fighters out of the city, but it does not score in the brinkmanship game.
The Russians understand the game. They are trying to save Syria, and their positions in Syria; previously they tried to protect their positions in their immediate vicinity by taking the Crimea in the wake of the West-arranged Kiev coup. Every time, they tried to be reasonable. They did not like what was done to them, but they lived with it.
Now they have finally come to the conclusion that the US will not stop pushing until the challenge has been met. It is surrender, or war. Even if they were to leave Syria (and they have no such intention), the Americans will find the next reason for pushing them.
This is why Putin published his Plutonium and Uranium decrees. These decrees symbolised the end of Gorbachev-Yeltsin era and undid the “victory in the Cold War” of the US over the USSR. In 1980s, the two superpowers of the time achieved the MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) military potential, but beginning from 1986, Gorbachev, and afterwards Yeltsin surrendered the Russian positions. Many missiles were dismantled, nuclear warheads were broken and shipped to the US to be used as a source of energy for American reactors.
The Russian scientists and experts complained that extremely expensive plutonium and enriched uranium were sold for peanuts, efficient and deadly missiles were broken and Russian ability to fight the enemy had been diminished. But the Russian government said that Russia has no enemies, the US is a friend, and the missiles and the warheads are not needed anymore.
A few years ago Putin began slowly to restore and modernise the nuclear arsenal. This was almost too late, as the American Dr Strangeloves called for a first nuclear strike upon a weak Russia. They said there will be no payback, as the Russian nuclear weaponry is too old and can be intercepted by the newest American anti-missile systems. Anyway, Russia observed the agreements made by Gorbachev and Yeltsin and duly shipped plutonium and enriched uranium to the West. These agreements made the US safe, and kept Russia vulnerable.
If the US would play its cards safely and fairly, this situation could last for a long time. Until now, the Russians meekly responded to the crescendo of NATO threats and accusations. But now, in course of one week, the western mainstream media accused the Russians of multiple war crimes, from downing the Malaysian liner in the Ukraine to bombing a humanitarian convoy in Syria.
The Russians are positive that these accusations are groundless. Less than 8% of Russian responders believe the Russians attacked the liner. They think the liner had been shot down by the Ukrainians who thought they were attacking Putin’s jet. As for the humanitarian convoy, the BBC video clearly shows traces of thermobaric ammo Hellfire, used by the US Predator drone. Such a drone has been observed at the place of the tragedy, they say.
Putin has been demonised as Milosevic and Saddam, compared to Hitler and even (oh, the horror!) Trump. The New York Times editorial described Russia as an outlaw state. This concerted push made an impact. You never know how far you can push until you push too far. The Russians were pushed too far.
They began to dismantle the system of agreements made after the Soviet collapse. So, in a family quarrel, the man being pushed and pronged by his hysterical spouse, lifts a pile of china plates and smashes them on the kitchen floor. Now nuclear war is quite likely, – unless the US leaders will come to their senses.
Russians aren’t worried about the forthcoming war. There is neither panic nor fear, just cool stoic acceptance of whatever comes. This week, some forty million people participated in a huge civil defence exercise. Shelters of Moscow and other cities have been aired and repaired. They do not want war, but if it comes, it will be met. The Russians have fought many wars against the West; they never started a war, but invariably fought to the finish.
An American attack on Syrian or Russian bases in Syria could be a starting point for the avalanche. I am truly amazed by the Russian spirits: they are considerably higher than they were in the days of Korean war, of Vietnam war or the Cuban crisis. Then, they were scared of war and ready for sacrifices to avoid MAD. Not anymore.
This readiness for the Armageddon is the most unexpected and scary feature I observed. It is even more unexpected, as the daily life of an average Russian has greatly improved. Russia probably never lived as good as she does now. They have much to lose; it is only the feeling of being cornered and unjustly so, that makes them to react in such a way.
The audacious demands of Putin: lift all sanctions, pay for damages caused by sanctions and counter-sanctions, remove your troops and tanks from the Baltic states, Poland, other late-joiner NATO states – show that the stakes are indeed high. Not only the US leaders can walk at the edge of the abyss: the Russians can show them the art of brinkmanship. After the utter humiliation of 1990s, Russians are not likely to turn off the road where two nuclear juggernauts are speeding towards each other.
There are some signs of the Americans coming to their senses. “The president has discussed in some details why military action against the Assad regime to try to address the situation in Aleppo is unlikely to accomplish the goals that many envisioned now in terms of reducing the violence there,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Thursday.
And even the warmongers’ best friend The New York Times has published a call: Do Not Intervene In Syria.
So perhaps we shall live a bit longer.
Israel Shamir can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org