06.10.2015 Author: Petr Lvov

Where Will ISIL Militants Try to Hide from Russia?

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Curiously enough, the fact that Russian airplanes are tearing ISIL positions to pieces in Syria provoked a somewhat mixed reaction in the world. In Europe, politicians are generally content by this fact since the destruction of the Islamic State may stop the flow of refugees from the Middle East, while those who are sponsoring extremist organizations such as Jabhat al-Nusra, Jaish al-Fatah, and Ahrar ash-Sham to get rid of the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad are voicing loud protests. In the list of such sponsors one can find Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar.

After all, those states have been investing heavily in Islamists, providing them with weapons, equipment and every other form of assistance a rebel group can desire to allow it to succeed on the battlefield against the regular Syrian army. Billions and billions of dollars were spent on the conflict, which is believed to be a part of a larger struggle against Iran. So when in just 5 days Russian military command launched over 60 sorties against terrorists, these countries decided to make it clear that they are still determined to do away with Assad.

“The Assad regime has no future” – said Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir hours before the first Russian planes went off on a mission in Syria. Later on he stated that if the Syrian president didn’t leave his post within the framework of an agreement on political transition, the Saudis would resort to the use of direct military force, “which will also lead to the overthrow of Bashar al-Assad.”

Ankara, Riyadh and Doha are well aware of the fact that Russia’s legal involvement in the war against terrorism can jeopardize all of the plans that these three players had for the entire Middle East. After all, the US is no longer positioned to do anything of substance regarding its foreign policy, especially in military terms, as it was shown by the failures in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Afghanistan.

But Turkey, KSA and Qatar have greater concerns than Assad’s fate since, should victory in Syria be achieved, Russia and Iran can join their efforts in purging terrorists in Iraq. And this would be the worst Sunni nightmare suddenly realized – a Shia crescent (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Yemeni Ansar Allah, Bahrain, along with the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia) emerging from ashes in an alliance with Russia. This soon-to-be coalition, should it become true, would be joined by the Sunni countries that have rejected the oppressive tenants of Wahhabismalong with the Kurds, Christians, Druze and other ethnic and religious communities in the Middle East recently targeted by Wahhabist extremism. The bad news is that the territory of the Shia crescent is home to some 80% of the oil wealth of the region, and should Wahhabi monarchies lose their grip on those the West will no longer be interested in working with them. So far these regimes have been intentionally ignoring a long list of problems in the Arabian Peninsula: the utter and complete lack of any form of democracy, human rights violations, violations of personal freedoms, discrimination of ethnic and religious minorities, torture and brutal public executions just to name a few.

Now ISIL and other extremist organizations are fleeing Syria back to Iraq, in an attempt to regroup their forces in Mosul. But it has already been announced that Russian Air Forces will reach this area soon along with Iraqi armed forces eager for revenge, along with the Syrian army, Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Kurdish Peshmerga to launch an all-out offensive, using armored vehicles and artillery. Some extremists will be forced to flee to Turkey, and from there they will try to seek refuge in the EU. It is hardly a secret that the recent “exodus” of tens of thousands of Arab refugees to Europe was organized by Ankara with money provided by Riyadh to push European politician into taking actions against Damascus. And Washington, which seeks ways to weaken the EU, played a part in that crisis too.

But Turkey will not be able to accommodate more than a hundred thousand armed Islamists who would inevitably begin creating problems for the Erdogan government. Hence, Ankara will try to make sure that the flow of angry terrorists goes south – to Saudi Arabia and Jordan. The original plan of ISIL leadership was to create a caliphate with its capital in Mecca. So let them all run to the places where they were trained, armed and funded – to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar. The KSA will fall apart, while the Eastern Province along with Bahrain and Kuwait will fall under the protection of the Shia crescent. The Caliph of the Islamic State will be enjoying his throne in Mecca. As the saying goes, “what goes around, comes around.” Moscow can only benefit from such a development, since the oil prices may be skyrocketing for months up to the level of 150-170 dollars per barrel. Equally beneficial will be the fall of the Qatari ruling family, which will benefit Russia as gas prices rise sharply. Anti-Russian sanctions will be abolished as leading EU countries may finally wrest complete and total control over their actions from the US. Inspired by military-political games in Europe and the Middle East, Obama has apparently lost sight of the US main sphere of interests – the Asia-Pacific region.

One should not forget that Saudi Arabia and Qatar are engaged in a costly war in Yemen, which can cause severe damage to their military and financial resources. But the king of Saudi Arabia Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud is determined in his desire to play tougher games. However, it is highly unlikely that Saudi troops will be seen in Syria, since Wahhabi monarchies are afraid that Washington has abandoned its strategy of containing Iran due to the fact that the nuclear deal with this country has been finally signed. Everything will soon become clear when the active phase of military operations against terrorism is launched in Iraq, giving Saudi elites time to anticipate what is going to hit them.

Peter Lvov, Ph.D in political science, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.


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