On October 3, 2015 NATO launched its “biggest military exercise” since 2002, putting 36,000 alliance soldiers through their paces in Italy, Spain and Portugal. The reason for such a big exercise is specifically to boost preparedness against the backdrop of the Ukraine crisis, said an official. The timing of this particular “biggest exercise” is, in fact, an indicator of the increasing anxiety in the West over Russian campaign against ISIS—a child of the Western geo-politics—-in Syria. As a matter of fact, Russian air strikes in Syria are posing a direct and most formidable challenge to the US’ and its allies’ grand strategic objectives with regard to the entire Middle East—hence, the Western media’s dirty campaign against Russia.
As the official statement released by NATO command centre noted, “Trident Juncture 2015 will demonstrate NATO’s new increased level of ambition in joint modern warfare and will showcase a capable, forward-leading alliance equipped with the appropriate capability and capacity to meet present and future security challenges.”
It is quite self-evident a fact that the most “present and future” challenge(s) that NATO alliance is and might be facing are with regard to their ambitions in the Middle East—a region that supplies the West, especially Europe, the life-line of its economy: oil & gas. Therefore, Russian presence in the Middle East is creating such a scenario for the West wherein the later might not be able to engage in, rather create, such geo-political rivalries and conflicts as they have been doing since at least the First World War.
There is no doubt about the fact that Russian campaign in the Mid-East is turning out to be the biggest hurdle the West has ever experienced with regard to the fulfilment of its policy objectives. For instance, since the very beginning of the current phase of the conflict in Syria, the West has been moving heavens and earth to dislodge Assad from his seat of power. This being their fundamental position with regard to the so-called resolution of the conflict, Russia campaign against ISIS means, and in fact it certainly is, supporting Assad—a fact that in no way suits the West and its regional allies, including Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
Since the very beginning of the present phase of the conflict, Russian President Vladimir Putin and other top officials have made no secret of their government`s support for the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose regime has presided over the systematic destruction and unravelling of the Syrian state at the hands of Western supported “jihadist” organizations and “armies”, including the notorious ISIS.
That the US is not happy with Russian campaign against ISIS in Syria is quite evident from the US President’s last press conference over the issue. According to him, rather than being a display of Russian strength or assertiveness, the military intervention in Syria is a sign of weakness, “because his [Putin’s] client, Mr. Assad was crumbling. And it was insufficient for him [Putin] simply to send them arms and money; now he’s got to put in his own planes and his own pilots”.
Without mincing any words and without engaging in any “philosophical” diction, Obama did make his and the US position quite clear that they see the Russian operations in Syria as aimed principally at weakening the (Western supported) opposition to Assad and not as a fight against the Islamic State.
Continuing in the same vain, Mr. Obama further added:
“So I’m hopeful that Mr. Putin, having made this doubling-down of the support he has provided to Mr. Assad, recognizes that this is not going to be a good long-term strategy and that he works instead to bring about a political settlement. Just as I hope that they can resolve the issues with Ukraine in a way that recognizes Russian equities but upholds the principle of sovereignty and independence that the Ukrainian people should enjoy like everybody else.”
A reference to Ukraine in a press-conference that was specifically held to shed some light on the US position with regard to Russian campaign in Syria is, in fact, another indication of the deep prevailing anxiety in the West over Russian resurgence and their failure to accept the reality. It was not, as some believe, a master-stroke of diplomacy on the part of Obama to draw an analogy between Ukraine and Syria; rather it was a tacit acceptance of the US’ failure on two major geo-political fronts in last two years or so.
The US double-standard, or what some choose to call “hypocrisy”, also becomes self-evident when we take into account the fact that while Obama chose to emphasise “political settlement” of outstanding conflicts, NATO, as is evident from its biggest military exercise, continues to prepare for an ultimate showdown (with Russia) in Ukraine and the Middle East. While Obama chose to negate the possibility of “confronting” Russia in Syria, NATO exercise strongly suggests the possibility of such a confrontation.
In the same vain, the Western (propaganda based) argument that Russian campaign against ISIS—a Sunni organization—and its full support for Assad and Alawites—a branch of Shia sect— would ultimately incite ‘sectarian conflict’ also actually grossly falls short of comprehending the fact that sectarian conflict has re-emerged and spread in areas that were once not affected by it due primarily to ISIS’s own anti-Shia drive. Therefore, if Russia succeeds in effectively eliminating a sectarian organization, it will certainly help eradicate the sectarian cancer that the US itself and its allies, epically Turkey and Saudi Arabia, have so vigorously been “preaching” for decades now.
The above cited Western-argument is actually based upon another propaganda-argument that Russian fighters are striking every force that is not “loyal” to Assad or that Russian strikes are not restricted to ISIS only, that Russian is exceeding the mandate it has received from Assad. Speaking at the United Nations in New York on Wednesday September 30, Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, a Saudi diplomat, said that the ISIL group was not present in the areas that were attacked by Russian jets. He further said:
“The delegation of my country expresses its profound concern regarding the military operations which Russian forces have carried out in Homs and Hama today, places where ISIS (ISIL) forces are not present. These attacks led to a number of innocent victims. We demand it stop immediately and not recur.”
Making the same argument, British PM said, “”They are backing the butcher Assad, which is a terrible mistake, for them and the world.”
Saudi Arabia’s and the West’s anxiety is due mainly to the possibility of Assad regaining control, due to Russia’s support, of large swathes of territory he had lost to Saudia and the West backed terrorist organizations. Were this to occur, the West and its allies’ position in the Mid-East will be back to the square one, said a US official on the condition of anonymity. While the US official chose to be anonymous, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius did not hesitate at all in accepting that they were striking Assad “a little bit.”
The irony is that if we were to believe the West about its coalition strikes against ISIS, Russia and the West should be “allies.” However, what the Western sneer propaganda campaign suggests is that a Russian success in Syria would be a last nail in the coffin of their strategic objectives that are cornerstoned on the destruction of Syria’s legitimate government. By opposing Russian campaign in Syria, the West and its allies are actually favouring the establishment of an ISIS-led Caliphate there. Hence, the crucial question: Is the West’s own campaign in Syria really targeting ISIS or supporting it against Assad?
Salman Rafi Sheikh, research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistan’s foreign and domestic affairs, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”