I have long warned that Islamic State’s defeat will be a double-edged sword.
- Negative: Status quo returns to that of several years ago, i.e. back when Assad was “killing his own people” so far as the Western press, without the superlative evil of Islamic State spoiling the optics.
Now that Islamic State is out of the picture, the regime change program can now in principle be safely resumed, should the “Western partners” decide on that.
There are, of course, more bulwarks against it now than back then, but they are all quite malleable:
1. President Trump. Relevant back when there was a powerful protectionist/isolationist wing to counterbalance the neocons, but now that the latter are ascendant, this is no longer significant.
2. Iran. Plays an even more critical now than ever before, with the continuous disintegration of the SAA (here is a translation of a Russian army colonel on the how and why).
This is putting strain on Iran itself, as recent protests have shown (in which spending on foreign wars was a big grievance). As was widely expected, they did not in the end amount to much. However, the Iranian government will still have to deal with the economic sources of those protests, and that money will have to come from somewhere. And there might be less money available, period, if the US manages to use this opportunity to reinstate sanctions.
3. Turkey. Erdogan would prefer an Islamist Syria to Assad, but would prefer a unitary Syria even under Assad to a powerful Rojava occupying half the country’s territory. This largely explains his heel turn in Syria. Even so, there is nothing stopping him from doubling back should circumstances on the ground change yet again. It is worth noting that in the recent meeting between Macron and Erdogan – better known for Macron saying the EU should drop the hypocrisy of pretending that Turkey would ever become a member – the two men agreed that Assad could not remain President of Syria, and Macron went on to further argue that the Astana Agreements are not “constructive to peace,” since Iran and Russia “don’t share our interests.”
4. US/Israel/Saudi Arabia. There is now a stunning convergence of interests amongst those powers, in stark contrast to the Obama period which were fraught with minor squabbles between all three. Israel is dead-set against Assadist Syria, and its star has perhaps never before shone brighter in Washington D.C. Meanwhile, MbS is implacable towards Iran even by Saudi standards.
5. Russia. Putin has already gotten all the political capital (and Donbass distraction) he could hope for with his “short victorious war” against Islamic State.
Conspiracy mode engaged: The drone assault on Khmeimim – in line with a propaganda campaign explicitly aimed at undermining his domestic standing, which has already been faithfully echoed by Navalny – could be the “Western partners” gently telling him that he should start thinking of packing up his bags, with the threat of a more serious “conversation” at around the time of the Russian elections or the FIFA World Cup hanging in the air.
Okay, I should point out that this post is more an extension of my blackpill timeline – that is, an expression of gloomy presentiments and pessimistic possibilities – than it is a formal prediction (my actual predictions).