A very nice article from Worldcrunch. See “The Bosnia Solution, How Russia Plans To Split Syria In Three”, March 2016. According to the article Russia would like a federal Syria, with a weak central government, and three federal states. One Arab-Alawite state at the west, one Kurdish state at the north and north-east, and an Arab-Sunni state at the east and south-east. At the following map you can see the situation in Syria on January 2016. With pink you can see the areas controlled by the Syrian government (Alawite-Arabs), with yellow the areas controlled by the moderate Sunni Arabs (Free Syrian Army), with black the areas controlled by Sunni Arab extremists (ISIS), and with purple the ones controlled by the Kurds.
Map 1 Syria January 2016
The following map from Worldcrunch shows a solution that could please Russia.
Map 2 Russia’s Plan
You can see that with a Federal Syria like the one at the above map, the Arab-Turkish pipelines are blocked in Jordan, which is a Saudi ally. From Iraq the construction of a pipeline would have to go through the Iraqi and Syrian deserts. See maps 3 and 4..
Map 3 Syria
Map 4 Iraq
Moreover in Iraq there is a civil war between the Sunni Arabs and the Shiite (Shia) Arabs of Iraq, with the Sunni Arabs being supported by Turkey and the Arabs of the Gulf, and the Shia Arabs being supported by Iran. The Sunni Arabs at the East do not have oil and natural gas. It is the Shia Arabs at the South and the Kurds at the north that do have oil and gas. See maps 5 and 6.
Map 5 Iraq
Map 8 Iraq – Sunni (yellow) Shia (green) Kurds (blue)
Map 7 Oil (black) and Natural Gas (red) Fields in the Middle East
I guess the Russians will come up with a solution that blocks both the Shia Pipelines (Iran-Iraq-Syria) and the Sunni pipelines (Persian Gulf-Jordan-Syria-Turkey), either through demographics i.e. Alawites, Kurds etc, or through natural barriers i.e. mountains, deserts etc.
The main point as I have said many times is that the Russians and the Iranians will not accept the connection between Turkey and the Persian Gulf. Why? Because it is not good for them. It is as simple as that. And the Arabs and the Turks will not accept the Iran-Syria pipeline. Why? Because it is not good for them. That’s how things work in the Middle East.
A federal Syria, drawn by Russia, will put a Sunni state in front of Iran, in order to stop them from reaching the Mediterranean Sea, and will also put an Alawite state in front of the Arabs of the Gulf, in order to stop them from reaching Turkey. The Russians will also want the borders between Syria and Turkey to be sealed, either through demographics, or through natural barriers.
The Russian plan would satisfy the Arabs and the Turks as far as Iran is concerned. But the Arabs and the Turks want to make sure there is an energy corridor between Turkey and the Persian Gulf. But in the end, due to Russia’s military superiority, the Arabs and the Turks might have to accept a solution that just blocks Iran from reaching the Mediterranean Sea, without securing an energy corridor between Turkey and the Arabs of the Gulf. Otherwise they would have to go to a war with Russia. But that could escalate to World War 3, and they would have to have American support to do that.
Under a scenario where the Arabs of the Gulf and the Turks would accept the Russian plan, the Iranians would be very upset with their Russian allies, and to retaliate they would send natural gas to Europe through Turkey, instead of having Asia as their priority.
The great powers might keep negotiating about Syria, but the problem is there is no solution for Syria. Only one party can be fully satisfied by potential solutions. Either the Russians will be satisfied, or the Sunnis i.e. the Turks and the Arabs of the Gulf, or the Shia (Iran). Therefore the only attainable solution is the one that can be implemented by the country with the strongest army, or the strongest alliances. The survival of the fittest. That’s how the Middle East works.
Russia’s offer to Turkey is to go ahead with the Turk Stream pipeline i.e. Russia-Turkey-Europe, and at the same time through her presence in Syria, Russia will make sure that the Iran-Syria pipeline is blocked, so that Turkey is happy, but that the Turkish-Arab pipelines are blocked too, so that Russia is happy. Then Russia would recognize the northern part of Cyprus, which is under Turkish occupation, as an independent state, and Russia and Turkey could jointly attack Israel.
In this scenario, Turkey would in essence quit her traditional ally the U.S. for Russia, and Iran would stop cooperating with Russia and would become a strong US ally. Moreover Israel would become a lot more important, and maybe an Arab-Israeli energy corridor would be promoted i.e. Saudi Arabia-Israel.
For the time being Turkey says she does not want to become a new Ukraine for Russia. That means Turkey does not want to restrict herself to Russian gas, and wants to be an independent energy hub. In order to export only Russian gas, Turkey was asking Russia to offer Turkey very low prices, and allow Turkey to negotiate herself the contracts with the countries that would buy Russian gas through Turkey. But that’s not the business model that Russia wants. Russia wants to make the deals herself, and Turkey to receive some fixed commission and transit fees i.e. the Ukrainian model.
Russia’s proposal to Iran is that Iran forgets Europe, and Russia will keep supplying Iran with arms. Or at least if Iran exports to Europe, to do it through Russia, since Azerbaijan and Russia are already connected with pipeline networks since the Soviet times, when Azerbaijan was a Russian colony. Alternatively, if Russia and Turkey do not manage to work things out, Russia and Iran could jointly construct the Iran-Syria pipeline.
For the article see:
“The Bosnia Solution, How Russia Plans To Split Syria In Three”, March 2016