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    World
     May 20, '13


THE ROVING EYE
Assad talks, Russia walks
By Pepe Escobar

So Bashar al-Assad has spoken - exclusively, to Argentine daily El Clarin (there's a huge Syrian diaspora in Argentina, as well as in neighboring Brazil).

Cutting through the fog of Western hysteria, he made some valuable points. The record shows that, yes, the regime has agreed several times to talk to the opposition; but myriad "rebel" groups with no credible, unified leadership have always refuted. So there's no way a ceasefire, eventually agreed on a summit - such as the upcoming US/Russia Geneva conference - can be implemented. Assad makes some sense when he says, "We



can't discuss a timetable with a party if we don't know who they are."

Well, by now everyone following the Syrian tragedy knows who most of them are. One knows that the Un-Free Syrian Cannibals, sorry, Army (FSA) is a ragged collection of warlords, gangsters and opportunists of every possible brand, intersecting with hardcore jihadis of the Jabhat al-Nusra kind (but also other al-Qaeda-linked or inspired outfits).

It took Reuters months to finally admit that jihadis are running the show on the ground. [1] A "rebel" commander even complained to Reuters, "Nusra is now two Nusras. One that is pursuing al Qaeda's agenda of a greater Islamic nation, and another that is Syrian with a national agenda to help us fight Assad." What he didn't say is that the real effective outfit is al-Qaeda-linked.

Syria is now Militia Hell; much like Iraq in the mid-2000s, much like the Western-imposed, "liberated" Libyan failed state. This Afghanization/Somalization is a direct consequence of NATO-GCC-Israel axis interference. [2] So Assad is also right when he says the West is adding fuel to the fire, and is only interested in regime change, whatever the cost.

What Assad didn't say
Assad is not exactly a brilliant politician - so he wasted a golden opportunity to explain to Western public opinion, even briefly, why GCC petro-monarchies Saudi Arabia and Qatar, plus Turkey, have the hots for setting Syria on fire. He could have talked about Qatar wanting to hand over Syria to the Muslim Brotherhood, and Saudi Arabia dreaming of a crypto-emirate colony. He could have talked about them both being terrified of Shi'ites in the Persian Gulf harboring legitimate Arab Spring ideals.

He could have pointed to the absolute shambles of Turkey's "zero problems with our neighbors" foreign policy; one day there's a triad of collaboration Ankara-Damascus-Baghdad, the next Ankara wants regime change in Damascus and routinely antagonizes Baghdad. And on top of it Turkey is puzzled to see Kurds emboldened from northern Iraq to northern Syria.

He could have detailed how Britain and France inside NATO, not to mention the US, as well as their petro-monarch puppets are using the disintegration of Syria to hit at Iran - and how none of these actors supplying the weaponizing and plenty of cash give a damn about the suffering of the "Syrian people". The only thing that matters is strategic targets.

While Bashar al-Assad was talking, Russia was walking. President Vladimir Putin - well aware that the Geneva talks are being derailed by various actors even before they happen - moved Russian naval vessels to the Eastern Mediterranean; and offered Syria a batch of ultra-modern ground-to-sea Yakhont missiles plus a batch of S-300 anti-aircraft missiles - the Russian equivalent to the American Patriot. Not to mention that Syria already has Russian SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles.

Now try, any one of you NATO-GCC gang, even bypassing the UN, to unleash a mini-Shock and Awe on Damascus. Or to install a no-fly zone. Qatar and the House of Saud, militarily, are a joke. The Brits and France are seriously tempted, but they don't have the means - or the stomach. Washington has the means - but no stomach. Putin was dead sure the Pentagon would read his message accordingly.

And don't forget Pipelineistan
Assad could also have talked about - what else - Pipelineistan. It would have taken him two minutes to explain the meaning of the agreement for the US$10 billion Iran-Iraq-Syria gas pipeline that was signed in July 2012. This crucial Pipelineistan node will export gas from the South Pars field in Iran (the largest in the world, shared with Qatar), through Iraq, towards Syria, with a possible extension to Lebanon, with certified customers in Western Europe. It's what the Chinese call a "win-win" situation.

But not for - guess who? - Qatar and Turkey. Qatar dreams of a rival pipeline from its North field (contiguous with Iran's South Pars field), through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and finally Turkey (which bills itself as the privileged energy transit hub between East and West). Final destination: once again, Western Europe.

As in all Pipelineistan matters, the crux of the game is bypassing both Iran and Russia. That's what happens with the Qatari pipeline - frantically US-supported. But with the Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline, the export route may originate nowhere else than in Tartus, the Syrian port in the Eastern Mediterranean that hosts the Russian navy. Gazprom would obviously be part of the whole picture, from investment to distribution.

Make no mistake; Pipelineistan - once again tied up with bypassing both Russia and Iran - explains a great deal about why Syria is being destroyed.

The EU oil-for-al-Qaeda scheme
Meanwhile, the real Syrian army - backed by Hezbollah - is methodically retaking strategic Al-Qusayr out of "rebel" control. Their next step would be to look east - where Jabhat al-Nusra is merrily profiting from another typical EU blunder; the decision to lift oil sanctions on Syria. [3]

Syria Comment blogger Joshua Landis drew the necessary conclusions; "Whoever gets their hands on the oil, water and agriculture, holds Sunni Syria by the throat. At the moment, that's al-Nusra. Europe opening up the market for oil forced this issue. So the logical conclusion from this craziness is that Europe will be funding al-Qaeda." Call it the EU oil-for-al-Qaeda scheme.

Southwest Asia - what the West calls the Middle East - is bound to remain a privileged realm of irrationality at play. As things stand in Syria, instead of a no-fly zone what should really fly is an "all fly peace" - with everyone and his neighbor involved; US, Russia, the EU, but also Hezbollah, Israel and of course Iran, as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has keenly stressed. [4]

Way beyond the Western obsession with regime change, what the already troubled Geneva conference could yield is a deal following the Syrian constitution - which, by the way, is absolutely legitimate, adopted in 2012 by a majority of votes of the real, suffering, "Syrian people". This could even lead to Assad not running for president in elections scheduled for 2014. Regime change, yes. But by peaceful means. Will NATO-GCC-Israel let it happen? No.

Notes:
1. Insight: Syria's Nusra Front eclipsed by Iraq-based al Qaeda, Reuters, May 17, 2013.
2. North Atlantic Treaty Organization-Gulf Cooperation Council-Israel.
3. EU decision to lift Syrian oil sanctions boosts jihadist groups, Guardian, May 19, 2013.
4. Russia says Iran must take part in proposed Syria talks, Reuters, May 16, 2013.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His also wrote Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009). He may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com.

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