The New Cold War between the USA and Russia-China is beginning to affect the Middle East in ways that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. It had been previously believed that the Trump administration would continue to pull back from the Middle East, effectively allowing Putin to deal with ISIS and thus cement his control over the region. This pullback reached it peak with the failure of the US to pick sides between the Shiite run Iraq and its Kurdish autonomous region over the fate of Kirkuk.
With Iran’s fingerprints increasingly apparent in Iraq and more obvious in Syria, the US government has decided to change course and confront the Shiite menace and its Russian backers with a far more ambitious strategy than ever before.
President Trump, campaigning against direct US involvement in the Middle East has had his team draft a strategic plan that will help a weakened US military confront these strategic threats head on. Two partners are emerging to help the US push back on the strength Russian-Shiite grip over the Middle East.
The first is the Kurdish dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Northern Syria. This force is fully US trained and led most of the successful operations against ISIS in the Syrian arena. The SDF areas border Turkey and reach far South and East as well as Afrin to the West. The challenge for the Trump administration is to contain Turkey’s threats against the Kurdish positions in Afrin.
Turkish military convoy dispatched to Syrian border
On Jan.13-14 Turkish artillery units based in Hatay and Syria’s Idlib province hit YPG targets in Afrin’s Bosoufane, Cindirese, Deir Bellout and Rajo districts
— Mete Sohtaoğlu (@metesohtaoglu) January 14, 2018
Strengthening the view that the US is busy turning the SDF areas into a semi-autonomous Kurdish state in Northern Syria are confirmed reports that the US is busy setting up a 30,000 strong SDF force to deal with border issues. In an email to Reuters the Coalition’s Press Office said the following:
“Efforts are taken to ensure individuals serve in areas close to their homes. Therefore, the ethnic composition of the force will be relative to the areas in which they serve.”
“More Kurds will serve in the areas in northern Syria. More Arabs will serve in areas along the Euphrates River Valley and along the border with Iraq to the south.”
The rise of the SDF has been a sore spot between the US and Turkey. The increased shelling of Afrin will inevitably test this relationship at its core.
The second partner is Israel. Towards the end of Obama’s tenure, Prime Minister Netanyahu decided to approach the growing presence of Russia in the Middle East within the context of neutrality. Afterall, in the absence of a coherent and clear US policy the Israeli government needed to be allowed a good deal of autonomy in keeping back the growing Iranian and Hezbollah menace. Putin granted Israel freedom of movement as long the latter checked with him first.
With Putin allowing Iran to build up its presence so close to Israel despite assurances from Moscow, Israel and the Trump administration’s needs have overlapped. Like the SDF to the North, the Trump administration sees Israel as thee bulwark of its containment strategy against the Russia-Iran axis. The Jerusalem declaration was the beginning of this consolidation behind Israel’s needs. This of course effectively buried the Palestinian issue permanently. Afterall, the Jerusalem announcement triggered the Palestinian’s own self-destruction by their admission.
Palestinian permanent president Mahmoud Abbas said the following at a PLO meeting:
“What would you want if Jerusalem were to be lost? Would you want to make a state with Abu Dis as its capital? That’s what they are offering us now. Abu Dis.”
“We won’t take orders from anyone,” Abbas said. “We told Trump we will never accept his [peace] plan. His ‘deal of the century’ is the slap in the face of the century, and we will not accept it.”
In the same speech Abbas cursed Trump that his house be destroyed and his family thrown out on the street. This was a huge mistake.
By backing out of negotiations the Palestinians have self-buried their own aspirations. Within the context of the New Cold War, this essentially means sidelined indefinitely. With the New Cold war far more hot than its predecessor, false narratives such as the Palestinians cannot out live the needs of the USA or the Trump administration’s unfolding Middle East strategy.