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The Final Outcome of the Multiple Syrian Wars Is Now in Sight
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The sectarian and ethnic civil wars that have ravaged a large part of the Middle East over the past 40 years are coming to an end. Replacing them is a new type of conflict in which protests akin to popular uprisings rock kleptocratic elites that justify their power by claiming to be the defenders of communities menaced by extreme violence or extinction.

I was sitting in my hotel room in Baghdad earlier in October thinking about writing an article about the return of peace to the Iraqi capital after the defeat of Isis. It has been three years since the last big bomb had exploded in its streets killing great numbers, something that used to happen with appalling frequency.

I was about to set to work when I heard a distant “pop-pop” sound that I identified as shots, but I thought it might be people celebrating a wedding or a football match. But the ripple of gunfire seemed to go on too long for this explanation to be true and I took the lift down to the lobby with the intention of finding out what was happening in the street outside the hotel. Before I got there, a man told me that the security forces were shooting protesters in nearby Tahrir Square: “There are 10 dead already.”

The death toll was to get a great deal worse than that: the official toll is 157 dead and 6,100 wounded, but doctors told me at the time that the real number of fatalities was far higher. The protesters, initially small in numbers, had wanted jobs, an end to corruption and improved essential services such as a better water and electricity. But somebody in government security, supplemented by pro-Iranian paramilitaries, had considered these demands for social and economic justice as a threat to the political status quo to be suppressed with live rifle fire, a curfew on the seven million inhabitants of Baghdad, and a shutdown of the internet.

Repression worked briefly, but such is the depth of rage against the theft of \$450bn from Iraq’s oil revenues since 2003 that the protests were bound to break out again, as they have done this week.

I thought this was exactly what was happening a couple of weeks later when, back in the UK, I switched on the TV and saw masses of protesters in what was evidently a Middle East city. But it turned out to be Beirut not Baghdad, though the motivation is similar: anger against a ruling class saturated by corruption while failing to provide the basic services to the population. Encouragingly, in both Lebanon and Iraq, the leaders of different communities are finding that their followers increasingly view them as mafiosi and ignore appeals for communal solidarity.

It is a period of transition and one should never underestimate the ability of embattled communal leaders to press the right sectarian buttons in order to divide opposition to their predatory misrule.

I first went to the region in 1975, fresh from sectarian warfare in Northern Ireland, in order to report on the beginning of the Lebanese civil war between a mosaic of communities defined by religion and ethnicity. In later years in Iraq, I watched divisions between Sunni and Shia grow and produce sectarian bloodbaths after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. Popular protests in Syria in 2011 swiftly turned into a sectarian and ethnic civil war of extraordinary ferocity that may now be coming to an end.

This is not because combatants on all sides have come to see the error of their ways or that they have suddenly noticed for the first time that their leaders are for the most part criminalised plutocrats. It is rather because winners and losers have emerged in these conflicts, so those in power can no longer divert attention from their all-embracing corruption by claiming that their community is in danger of attack from merciless foes.

Victors and vanquished has long been identifiable in Lebanon and became clear in Iraq with the capture of Mosul and the defeat of Isis in 2017. The winners and losers in the Syrian civil war have become ever more apparent over the last month as Bashar al-Assad, Russia and Iran take control of almost the whole country.

The Iraqi and Syrian Kurds had been able to create and expand their own quasi-states when central governments in Baghdad and Damascus were weak and under assault by Isis. The statelets were never going to survive the defeat of the Isis caliphate: the Iraqi Kurds lost the oil province of Kirkuk to the Iraqi army in 2017 and the Syrian Kurds have just seen their quasi-state of Rojava squeezed to extinction by the Turks on one side and the Syrian government on the other after Donald Trump withdrew US military protection.

The fate of the Kurds is a tragedy but an inevitable one. Once Isis had been defeated in the siege of Raqqa in 2017 there was no way that the US was going to maintain a Kurdish statelet beset by enemies on every side. For all their accusations of American treachery, the Kurdish leaders knew this, but they did not have an alternative protector to turn to, aside from Russia and Assad, who were never going to underwrite a semi-independent Kurdish state.

A problem in explaining developments in the Middle East over the last three years is that the US foreign policy establishment supported by most of the US and European media blame all negative developments on President Trump. This is a gross over-simplification when it is not wholly misleading. His abrupt and cynical abandonment of the Kurds to Turkey may have multiplied their troubles, but extracting the small US military from eastern Syria was sensible enough because it was over-matched by four dangerous and determined opponents: Turkey, Iran, Russia and the Assad government.


The final outcome of the multiple Syrian wars is now in sight: Turkey will keep a small, unstable enclave in Syria but the rest of the Syrian-Turkish border will be policed by Russian and Syrian government troops who will oversee the YPG withdrawal 21 miles to the south. The most important question is how far the Kurdish civilian population, who have fled the fighting, will find it safe enough to return. A crucial point to emerge from the meeting between Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi last Tuesday is that Turkey is tiptoeing towards implicitly recognising the Assad government backed by Russia as the protector of its southern border against the YPG. This makes it unlikely that Ankara will do much to stop a Russian-Syrian government offensive to take, probably a slice at a time, the last stronghold of the Syrian armed opposition in Idlib.

The ingredient that made communal religious and sectarian hatreds so destructive in the past in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq is that they opened the door to foreign intervention. Local factions became the proxies of outside countries pursuing their own interests which armed and financed them. For the moment at least, no foreign power has an interest in stirring the pot in this northern tier of the Middle East, the zone of war for 44 years, and there is just a fleeting chance of a durable peace.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Iran, Iraq, Kurds, Russia, Syria, Turkey 
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  1. A123 says:

    The final outcome is in sight of you know where to look.

    In Lebanon, Iranian al’Hezbollah undermined and effectively replaced the government. The corruption of al’Hezbollah has damaged Lebanon to the point were people are on the streets protesting against them: (1)

    Hezbollah’s costly involvement in the Syrian war and pressure from U.S. sanctions on Iran have forced the party to cut salaries and services, widening the gap between the rich and the poor within its own community. Meanwhile, the party also drafted mostly Shiites from poor neighborhoods to go fight in Syria, while its officials benefited from the war riches, causing much resentment.

    Syria has two options. They can follow Lebanon into corruption. Or, they can rid themselves of Iranian al’Hezbollah before the contamination spreads.

    PEACE 😇


    • LOL: byrresheim
    • Replies: @hoarse
    , @anon
  2. peterAUS says:

    …For the moment at least, no foreign power has an interest in stirring the pot in this northern tier of the Middle East….

    Oh my.

  3. the final outcome in the middle east IS now in sight and it is not a happy one if you live in washington, tel aviv .

    3 realities have emerged.

    1. if you want anything done go to moscow and talk to the russians where moralizing is not an integral part of foreign policy and they follow through without playing favorites

    2. if you live in tel aviv appreciate how much you have lost. all isralei plans for this and that have gone in smoke. they are now weaker and more isolated than ever before with happy outcome to change that for years to come. i would say get a long with you neighbors but we all know how they feel about that.
    expect even more ridiculous threats from tel aviv who issue them is inverse relation to their weakness……….talk about an obvious poker tell!!!

    3 washington is now embarking on medium term exodus form the middle east as its actual power and influence is now plummeting to earth

    • Agree: Digital Samizdat
    • Replies: @anon
  4. hoarse says:

    Dream on Schlomo. You fanatical squatters and genociders from Poland Brooklyn and Lithuania don’t belong in the region, you’re not even semites. You are an imposed cancer tumour that that will be removed.

    • Agree: Bill Jones
  5. hoarse says:

    In every little protest, Cocky sees a chance for his beloved Yinon plan and the balkanisation of the region along sectarian lines to be implemented, so his beloved Israel can prosper. He couldn’t be more wrong…

  6. anon[113] • Disclaimer says:

    Do you believe Pompeo when he says that Israel continues to bomb Iranians in Syria? (With apparent impunity.)

    • Replies: @paraglider
  7. Five Headed Beast will NOT go nearly as quietly and bloodlessly as the bolsheviks one did.
    Is the nature of the beast.

  8. BuelahMan says:

    Two words explain it all:

    Eretz Israel

  9. anon[314] • Disclaimer says:

    Jeff Halper. In his 2015 book, , suggested that people across the world exercising their democratic right to challenge their governments’ misrule were becoming “Palestinianised” and the rulers were becoming “Israelised”.

    Halper suggests that Israel, with its “culture of deep militarism” and years of experience suppressing Palestinians, will find itself ideally placed to be able to assist governments to “secure insecurity”. Pacifying hostile populations for over seven decades has made Israel invaluable to tyrants and despots

    This portrait of Israel rarely gets featured in the mainstream media even though it has a history of stabilising brutal regimes and facilitating some of the worst practices of governments against their people. From the Contras in Latin America to the riots in Ferguson North America, there exist numerous instances where Israel and Israeli security companies have led the way in the pacification of the people through the export of arms, surveillance technology, intelligence, and security advice.

    Last year the Chilean Armed Forces website revealed that the governments of Chile and Israel signed an agreement for cooperation in military education, training, and doctrine during an official visit to the country by Israeli Major General Yaacov Barak. The agreement prompted some to ask if Israel is continuing its decades-long strategy of exporting its military violence to Latin America.

    Jewish Voice for Peace has named this transfer of skills and knowledge as “the deadly exchange”, in a report on the “Dangerous Consequences of American Law Enforcement Trainings in Israel”.

    According to the Jewish advocacy group, thousands of law enforcement officials from the acting Deputy Director of ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) to the current Chief of Police in Washington DC, from San Diego to Chicago to Atlanta, American law enforcement officials have trained in Israel with Israeli police, military and the Shin Bet. Thousands more are said to have participated in security conferences and workshops with the Israeli military, law enforcement and security officials held in the US. All were schooled in Israeli military approaches to intelligence gathering, border security, checkpoints and coordination with the media.

    Israeli government is providing Bahrain UAE and Saudi and Jordan with deadly military stuff These are finding their ways in to ISIS and anti Hizbullah elements in Lebanon.

    Common people all over the world including in America need to take this war right into the heart of the Zionist entity

  10. barr says:

    from CNN-
    “The US military has long had military advisers embedded with the Syrian Democratic Forces near the Syrian oil fields at Deir Ezzoir ever since the area was captured from ISIS. The loss of those oil fields denied ISIS a major source of revenue, a one-time source of funds that has differentiated the organization from other terror groups.
    The oil fields are assets that have also been long sought after by Russia and the Assad regime, which is strapped for cash after years of civil war. Both Moscow and Damascus hope to use oil revenues to help rebuild western Syria and solidify the regime’s hold.
    In a bid to seize the oil fields, Russian mercenaries attacked the areas, leading to a clash that saw dozens if not hundreds of Russian mercenaries killed in US airstrikes, an episode that Trump has touted as proof he is tough on Russia. That action helped deter Russian or regime forces from making similar bids for the oil fields.
    The US forces near the oil fields remain in place and senior military officials had previously told CNN that they would likely be among the last to leave Syria.”

As Grayzone’s Ben Norton accurately explains, “and others” necessarily means the Syrian government; preventing Assad from accessing Syrian oil is standing US military policy.
    And that of course is the real reason US armed forces constantly remain in Syria

    By preventing oil access,Syria is keeping the country weak and unstable ( unstable weak country gives rise to internally directed terrorism as in Venezuela or externally directed terrorism as was in Afghanistan . Terrorism is a means and can be used from different locus to further same goal and reap same benefit. ) and also echoing he chorus from all corners Israeli -taught- media- canard “ war for oil” . Oil is like terrorism . Its a tool. Freezing Iranian dollars in US bank or Swish bank is not about stealing the money but prevention g the access to Iran .

  11. mr meener says:

    half a trillion dollars stolen from the Iraqi people. A democracy means today where jews take over your country by buying off the leaders then loot the country. pissrael was stealing iraq oil right after the war and now the self chosen will have acess to Syrias oil now that rabbi trump the king of the jews has secured the oil

  12. @anon

    it does not matter if they are or they are not.
    what matters and israeli military know is that in the vent of areal war the northern half of israel will be obliterated by hezbollah missiles rendering the country kaput!

    if all they dare attempt are these pinpricks if they even take place it only demonstrates how impotent the idf has become against their next door neighbors. there is nothing washington can do to change this weakness because washington itself is increasingly viewed with derision and laughter no longer feared as they require. take away their nuclear weapons and let them actually try and contest air space with a competent opponent in support of a ground war (the only kind of war that is EVER definitive) and all of sudden it is the pentagon who is fearful. this is why should the pentagon actually get into a serious war with any of the usual suspects their losses will be so great so fast the political desire to use nuclear weapons will be almost inescapable as a face saving measure, then god help us all.

    besides long supply line logistics and a weakened industrial base here at home no longer favors the pentagons prosecution of anything but a walk in the park battle which are no longer possible in todays middle east

  13. The trump administration and those who advocate nationalism have a great chance now to side with Iraqi nationalsts opposing sectarianism, corruption and rotten Mullas.

    Hundreds of innocent Iraqis have been murdered by the Iranian backed and financed thugs and yet nobody has lent a helping voice or any other helpful measures to those young Nationalists.

  14. Wow. I’m impressed. Cockboy can talk about the middle east with a straight face AND not even mention Israel. Amazing.
    The writing is on the Wall. Hence all the Jew whining about ‘betraying the Kurds’. I smell Fear. Yeah, Khazar Fear…that sickening stench.
    It’s going to get much, much worse for Israel.
    Iran just continues to grow in power.

    • Replies: @anon
  15. Chaotic for over 70 years, since around 1948.
    USA has to steal the oil to secure the oil.
    The secured oil will find its way to Haifa, same as when “ISIS” stole(secured) Iraqi oil that was then transshipped via Turkey to Haifa.
    Oil, opium and oligarchs.

  16. anon[706] • Disclaimer says:

    once they are betrayed, peace will follow in places as disparate as are Hondurus , Afghanistan, India, Nigeria , Venezuala and Armenia. Like Kurd ,they will seek local power to survive.

  17. After the Turks shot down the Russian plane and assassinated their ambassador in Ankara, I had thought that the Russians would turn to supporting and arming the Kurds, even using them in Turkey proper to effect some retaliation. But then an attempted coup against Erdogan happened and apparently behind the scenes the Russians actually helped him survive. Now all is forgotten and they’re sort of almost allies. I wonder how many thought it would play out like this.

  18. J says: • Website

    The Final Outcome is Chinese hegemony. The Middle East has been weakened and chaotic to a point that it is ready for foreign takeover. People has been transformed into pennyless refugees. The Chinese are quietly building infrastruture and organizing the economy. The order and prosperity they promise will be welcome. Muslims will be re-educated like the Uyghurs are. Then celestial peace and harmony will reign. All this blog ranting is irrelevant.

    • Replies: @anon
  19. anon[250] • Disclaimer says:

    To get to that China has to subjugate USA. NATO will be forced become Chinese mercenary. In that turmoil, Iran Syria and Hizbullah will do a number on the Zionist. Nails on the coffins of Balfour declaration and Oslo treaty will be carried like an scroll – the covenant with human – before after each and every dispersal of the zionist from any human presence.

  20. nymom says:

    We have to face the facts: clean water and electricity are going to become harder and harder to provide as many of these places have just overpopulated and outgrew their area’s resources.

    We see this in California now and New York last summer with their rolling blackouts which are only going to increase next summer as we were informed by a Con Ed spokesman…

    The real threat to the world is not climate change as we could have handled that with various technologies; the real threat no one wants to address is overpopulation.

    Speaking of which a few years ago we had a couple from Lebanon show up on our Southern border with 11 children. They both should have been arrested immediately for a ‘crime against humanity’ as that is what overpopulation is basically: a crime against your neighbors and the rest of the world.

  21. anon[113] • Disclaimer says:

    Wow, interesting comment. As things stand, imo you’re correct, and this is perhaps the theme that interests me most. Alas, I can’t indulge in this discussion. And even in this obscure corner of Patick Cockburn, would the WN’s descend to opine that the best answer is for whites to have more children? LOL, or not.

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