The American Strategy in Syria

I would like to describe the options faced by the United States in Syria, under the present geopolitical landscape. I am mainly talking about two issues i.e. the issue of the Syrian Kurds and the issue of the natural gas pipelines.

Map 1 Middle East

Middle East.JPG

As far as the Kurds of Syria are concerned, things seem to be pretty simple. The Americans have proven their willingness to support them against the Sunni Islamists of Syria i.e. ISIS, who are supported by Turkey. The Americans pretend they do not see that the Kurds of Syria are cooperating with the Kurds of Turkey (PKK), and at the same time they put pressure on the Kurds of Syria to use the Americans guns only against the Sunni Islamists of Syria (ISIS) and not against Turkey in Turkey. Therefore the answer is simple to this question. The Americans will keep supporting the Kurds of Syria, unless they launch a big war against Turkey from Syria, which is very unlikely.

The harder question to answer is what the Americans can do on the issue of the natural gas pipelines. They only have 3 options on this one. The first one is to accept the current status quo in Syria, which is what the Russians want. Or go for 3 federal states, one Alawite, one Sunni and one Kurdish, but which will be designed in a way that will not allow the connection between Turkey and the Persian Gulf, in order for Russia to be happy.

Map 2

Χάρτης Σουνιτικοί Σιιτικοί Αγωγοί.JPG

The second strategy the United States can follow is to support Iran’s plans. Iran wants to reach the Mediterranean Sea through Syria and Iraq, something the Russians, the Turks and the Arabs of the Gulf do not want to see happening. The Russians proposed in the past the Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline, which would be constructed by Gazprom, but they did it to keep the Iranians and the Syrians happy, and not because it was an optimal solution for them. The Russians want Russian gas and oil to run in their pipelines.

After the abolition of the economic sanctions, the Iranians do not need Gazprom to construct their pipelines. They can also obtain financing from the West. Therefore the United States could support Iran’s effort to reach the Mediterranean Sea through Iraq and Syria in order to enhance their alliance. But if the United States decide to do that they will have to fight a war with Russia at the Syrian coasts, and actually Russia will be supported by the Arabs of the Gulf and the Turks, who do not want to see Iran reaching the Mediterranean Sea. Therefore this does not seem to be a good option for the United States.

The third option the Americans have is to support, alongside the Turks and the Qataris, the Sunni pipeline i.e. the Qatar-Turkey pipeline. The argument will be that the pipeline will pass from the Sunni part of Syria, and it is not fair for the Sunni majority of Syria to be ruled by the Alawite minority, and therefore the Russians and the Iranians would have to accept the pipeline.

Map 3

Possible IS State 1

However this kind of argumentation does not mean nothing, because we are talking about major Russian and Iranian economic interests. The Russians and the Iranians will say that Syria is one country, a that she is a traditional ally of Russia and Iran, and she cannot be used to hurt so vital Russian and Iranian interests. I think the Iranians would not be happy with the Federal solution proposed by Russia for Syria, because the Sunni federal state would block Iran’s access to the Mediterranean Sea. For the Russians it would be a good thing if the Iranians were blocked from reaching the Mediterranean Sea.

I am sure that the Americans like the idea of the Qatar-Turkey pipeline, but it is very difficult for them to support it. The first problem is that the Germans, who are US allies, have constructed with the Russians the Russo-German pipelines (Nord Stream), and would not be willing to go to a war against Russia for the sake of the Arab-Turkish pipelines.

Map 4

Χάρτης Nabucco.JPG

The second problem is that the other US ally, Israel, has already allied with Russia against Turkey.

The third problem is that it is unlikely that the Saudis would be willing to go to a war with Russia for the Qatar-Turkey pipeline. The Saudis are not as rich as the Qataris in natural gas reserves, and they consume domestically all the natural gas they produce. Therefore for the Saudis it is much more important to block the Iranians in Syria and Lebanon, in order to prevent them from exporting their oil from the Mediterranean Sea, than to push for the Qatar-Turkey gas pipeline. That means that if the Russians were to guarantee that they will not allow Iran to reach the Mediterranean Sea, and if the Russians were willing to help the Saudis dominate Syria and Lebanon, where they are fighting with the Iranians for influence, the Saudis would have no motive to go to a war with Russia to support the Qatar-Turkey pipeline. Or even if they had the motive it is doubtful they would be willing to take all this trouble instead of reaching a descent peaceful deal.

The fourth problem is whether the French and the English would be willing to fight a war against Russia for the Qatar-Turkey pipeline. France is a strong Arab ally, and is helping her allies by asking the removal of Bashar al Assad from power. But would France really be willing to go to a war with Russia to help her enemy Turkey? There is Qatar of course. Qatar is a French ally and it buys billions in French weapons, and the French buy billions in Qatari gas and oil, and at the same time the French energy companies are working with the Qatari ones. But would the French be willing to go to a war with Russia for Qatar? And take into account that the Russians gave stakes to the Germans, the French, the British, the Dutch and the Austrians in the Nord Stream 2 project.

The other day the ex President of France, Nicola Sarkozy, said that Turkey is not good for the E.U. and whoever says Turkey should join the European Union wants the death of the E.U. He also said that Russia is much better for Europe.

Therefore given the current geopolitical landscape, the United States best option seems to be to let Russia block the Sunni and Shia pipelines, and simply go for a Kurdish state in Syria. To support the Sunni Pipelines would be very nice for the United States, but it could lead to bloodshed in Syria and the destruction of NATO.

The question is what would happen if Turkey was to cause a war with Russia, in order to force NATO in the fight. Remember that the other day the Foreign Minister of Luxemburg said that Turkey should not expect NATO to support her if she chooses to go to a war with Russia in Syria.

Therefore I am sure there is no question of German support for the Turks, and there are doubts about the French and British support. The question is what the United States would do if Turkey was to start a war with Russia? I really don’t know. But I do not know either whether Turkey would dare to send the Turkish army in Syria and go to a war with Russia, without guarantees from NATO. Erdogan and Davutoglu are risk takers, but would they go that far? I don’t know.

To make a long story short I will say that it seems the only thing the Americans can do in Syria is to go for a Kurdish federal state, and then accept Russia’s terms. Of course there is the question mark of what will happen if Turkey causes a war with Russia.

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