From Syria to Afghanistan

 

In 2015, Moscow diverted the world’s attention from Ukraine and the downed “Boeing” to the threat of ISIS in Syria and its “fight” with it. By 2017 nothing has changed, only the signs of Kremlin’s scare stories have changed. Early, everyone in Moscow was focused on the nuclear missile threat emanating from the DPRK. Now, Russians are trying to concentrate their foreign “partners” on the threat that ISIS is forming in Afghanistan and Central Asia.

Putin intends to step up the Afghan topic, using long-standing and intimate relations with the Taliban. This terrorist organization is formally banned in Russia as well as ISIS. But just like in the case of ISIS, Russia, formally banning the Taliban, maintains close relations with it and on silently support this organization with weapons, turning it into a problem. The solution of this fake created problem can be traded with the West, in particular, with the United States.

Now the Russian authorities have engaged in a big deal in the field of such anti-crisis management in the official statements and propaganda resources.  They began to “resettle” ISIS from Syria to Afghanistan at rapid-fire pace.

But, Moscow is clearly nervous. They want to create a row of “hot spots” for Washington and its allies in order that Americans will be forced to dissipate their forces and resources. And in the future, they doomed to seek help from Moscow.

It would seem that Moscow has already experienced one epic fail, which makes its repetition impossible. The Kremlin did not manage to turn this trick of “joint fight against terrorism” in Syria. But Moscow wants revenge in Afghanistan.

But Moscow is again on the verge of another fail in its next “multimove game”. The facts about the close relationship between the Kremlin and the Afghan Taliban began to appear not only on the basis of official statements from Washington and NATO, but also various journalistic investigations.

Investigating these facts, journalists of the British edition The Times reported that the Russians are supplying oil products to the Taliban. By income from this deal, Taliban buys weapons and food for themselves.

Afghan officials have called on Moscow to stop supporting the Taliban, as its militants are activated throughout the country, having received Russian weapons. In 2015-16, the Afghan authorities have repeatedly accused Russia of arming and financing the Taliban, and also argued that Russian intelligence service helped the Taliban to seize the Kunduz.

As usual, the RF Ministry of Foreign Affairs denies all the allegations. But on October 22, President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani personally accused Russia of helping the Taliban during a press conference in the south-eastern province of Paktia. He arrived there to express his condolences to the families of the victims of the recent terrorist attacks that killed 50 people.

 

In just a few weeks of October, more than 300 people were killed in Afghanistan from terrorist attacks by the Taliban. It is noteworthy that the responsibility for some acts of terrorism was attempted by ISIS, but it was more like the forcing of “information hysteria”, which was supported exclusively by Russian media with reference to “some” statements of the Caliphate.

The latest accusations against Moscow were made during a meeting of the Russia-NATO Council, where was discussed Russia’s support for the Taliban in Afghanistan, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said.

As always, Kremlin denied all allegations, and Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Zamir Kabulov said that NATO had not provided any evidence of its allegations.

Obviously, the Kremlin is getting harder and harder to fight off such “blames”. The warranties of the Russian Foreign Ministry, other officials and various Russian experts are clearly insufficient. In this a situation it is necessary to try to shift attention, in order to avoid the emergence of yet another row of sanctions – the Afghan one.

 

Will the finger-pointing save Kremlin?

This logic is now quite clearly observed. And Kremlin chose Iran for the role of “fall guy”. As convinced in the Russian special services, the main thing in their work is not the rules of the game, but simply “maskirovka” – to divert attention in time.

Now, the main efforts of Russians in Syria are aimed not at preserving its territorial integrity, but on a more prosaic task: they must actively oppose the transformation of Syria into an analog of Lebanon. Because on the Syria’s landmark, controlled by Assad, just about to appear “Lebanon 2” – another country with the domination of paramilitary forces controlled directly by Iran. Tehran was relying on this force.

Moscow, in deep secrecy from Tehran, dreamed of the support of France, Italy and Malta for the sake of a multilateral Christian peacekeeping mission, but this venture has not grown together. And it remained only to seek the strengthening of the regular Syrian army, controlled by Bashar Assad. As has long been clear to everyone, the Russians are not very successful in this case. Also, they tried even to bring Hezbollah under its umbrella.

“On the battlefield in Syria, the planes and special forces of Vladimir Putin are working more closely with Hezbollah. Washington recognized this movement as a terrorist organization in 2016″, – Jesse Rosenfield wrote in an article titled” Russia Arms Hezbollah: Two Organization Commanders Say”.

The article was published in the Daily Beast. The commanders of the Lebanese Hezbollah, whose troops are at war in Syria, told that they receive heavy weapons directly from Russia without any conditions of use or resale, which is traditional for such transactions. According to them, there is full cooperation between the Assad regime in Damascus, Iran, Hezbollah and Russia. At the same time, the direct interdependence between Russia and Hezbollah is growing.

The journalist of this British edition met with commanders in late December 2015 and early 2016 in Dahia, a southern suburb of Beirut. They refused to give their real names, because they are not authorized to talk to the media, but both said that Hezbollah receives missiles from Russia. In particular, tactical long-range missiles, guided laser-guided missiles, and anti-tank weapons, which are delivered directly from Russia.

Also, the Russians tried to subordinate the Shiite formations, demanding from the “trusted partner” to guard the Russian air bases. It is very difficult to imagine that Islamic Shiite revolutionaries run with dogs around Russian bases in Syria in search of plastic mines. Such nonsense could only occur to the Russians.

As a result, Iran made an asymmetric response and withdrew all its forces from the perimeter of Russian air bases. They were transferred to the sites of military operations that are more relevant for Tehran. And Moscow had to increase the contingent of the Russian military police, staffed by contract servicemen of the Muslim faith. This is a big benefit for Ramzan Kadyrov, who already builds his own vertical management in the Russian government.

In addition, the demarche of Iran with the protection of Russian bases led to the fact that the Kremlin made a hasty decision to urgently recruit domestic oligarchs to pay for the growing services of private military companies (PMCs). Their representatives in Syria are becoming more and more. And it seems that the raise of mercenaries in Syria is another confirmation of the fact that there is a “brilliant businessman and a supremely rich man” in the Kremlin.

In reality, the emergence of Russian oligarchs and paid mercenaries to Syria is a tragedy for Moscow. PMCs and tycoons make Russian participation in the war a process that is less and less controlled by the state. Everything goes to the fact that the commander will be the one who pays the most, even Israel, even Saudi Arabia.      

The prospect of turning Syrian regions controlled by Damascus into Iranian-controlled Shia enclaves is most alarming for the United States and Israel, and such fears are growing. And Kremlin believes that they are on the right track. Therefore, Moscow is played in two directions with this new scare story.

Key in this regard was also a statement by US President Donald Trump: “Iran remains the main sponsor of terrorism. It continues to assist Al-Qaida, the Taliban, Hezbollah, Hamas and other terrorist organizations. Iranians develop, install and distribute missiles that threaten American servicemen and US allies. They expose to attack American ships and threaten the freedom of naval navigation in the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea”.

Now Moscow has a great opportunity to set up its “ally” as a fall guy, because relations with it have reached the depth at which all are mutually tied up, and it is very easy to do this. As they say, “the stab in the back” is not far off.

The forecast of the freezing of Russian-Iranian relations has already passed into the category of diplomatic scanning. For example, the head of the Iranian Foreign Ministry recently stated that the Iranian-Russian partnership excludes double standards. The Russian minister was obliged to respond and develop the statement of his colleague, but Sergei Lavrov simply did not say anything …

The Iran-Russia military alliance in Syria looks rather complicated and confusing. In geopolitics and economics, everything looks much simpler, and everything is pretty obvious. Moscow actively plays along in shaping the image of Iran as a terrorist country. According to Russians’ plans, it will provide an opportunity to divert attention from themselves and their actions, and help to moderate Iran’s ambitions in the Middle East and return Tehran to the era of total oil sanctions.

From this point of view, it is very simple to explain the very active Israeli vector of Russian policy in Syria. Moscow began to make advance in the direction of Tel Aviv. Recently, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu heard the claims in supporting pro-Iranian forces in Syria and supplying weapons to Hezbollah from his counterpart, Avigdor Lieberman. At the same time, Shoigu made believe that agreed and reported about “successes” in the fight against ISIS. He assured Israel that he would never betray him and always help.

But Yigal Carmon does not believe in such “sparking assurances” of Moscow in his article “Putin uses Iran to humiliate Israel and the US” for “Jforum.fr”. “The Iranian military and militia expand their presence in Syria and approach to the Israeli border. This happens with the full support of Russia, although Kremlin knows perfectly well that Iran seeks to destroy the State of Israel, and that its expansion into Syria will substantially contribute to this. The Russians are sure that they can mislead Jerusalem. But Israel decided to act, taking into account all the facts, not to succumb to the duplicity of the Russians and start striking at targets in Syria that pose a threat to it”.

 

IR