Saturday, November 28, 2015

Putin's threat to Saudi Arabia

Jamal Khashogji 


We ought to take seriously the implicit Russian threats in an article in Pravda newspaper calling for Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey to be punished before they cause a third world war by supporting ISIS. This is what the newspaper, which is quite close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, claims. A former adviser of Putin called insolently in the Moscow Echo for military positions and oil installations in Saudi and Qatar to be targeted. Yes, Putin is stupid and bloody. Furthermore, he cannot be trusted. And I believe he also hates the Saudis. Indeed, we should take such threats personally.
Since he took over in the Kremlin fifteen years ago, posing as Russia's strongman, Putin has endeavoured to base his popularity upon provoking nationalist sentiments and pride. He ignited semi-fascist flames in Russian minds in a bid to compensate for his economic failure and cover-up the massive wealth gap between the poor and middle classes, and a scandalously rich ruling minority.
Putin pushed ahead from victory in Chechnya, where he oversaw massive destruction and mass murder, to the Ukraine where he annexed Crimea in stark violation of international law. However, we happen to be living in the time of Barack Obama, the US president who needs someone to translate the Arab proverb, “I poured insults on them while they walked away with the camels.” The West protested, fumed and boiled but eventually accepted the new status quo. Then Tsar Putin came to the Arab world claiming that he has “vital interests” therein. He entered without permission and sat cross-legged while forging an alliance with a sectarian minority, joining it in the pursuit of murder and oppression and imposing his own fait accompli.
He is even trying to rearrange the Muslim house. He travelled to a destination where a minority of his liking exists, taking along with him a historic copy of the Qur'an written in Russia. He sat before Ayatollah Khamenei, the Iranian leader, just as a disciple would sit before his guru, delivering to him the gift he brought with him and rubbing his hand in full submission in a symbolic gesture that cannot escape a prudent person. He meant to say, “Here is the authority, here is Islam” while at the same time daring to attack what he described as the policy of “Islamisation” in Turkey. It is just a matter of time. He'll soon attack Saudi Arabia and hold it responsible for the sins of the past and the present altogether.
Putin has lived through a series of victories that together form a necklace, which he intends to wear on the day that he receives allegiance as the possessor of the force dominating a region that extends from Crimea to the Levant. His dream has been interrupted only by the stubbornness of three countries that oppose his project and refuse to succumb to him. Step forward Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey.
This was revealed clearly on Tuesday morning when the Turkish air force shot down a Russian fighter jet that fell to earth amid cheers and shouts of “Allahu Akbar” by the Syrian revolutionaries on the mountains close to the Syria-Turkey border. Those few moment were sufficient for laying the foundations of a new political game in the Middle East.
Putin changed the rules of the game when he took his aircraft to join the Iranians and the Syrian regime in their war on the people who want their freedom. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has now changed Putin's rules and the world is awaiting the latter's reaction to see whether he will accept the new rules or turn the table once more on everybody.
The Russian jet incident may well be repeated. We are nearly in a state of war with the Russians despite all the visits, meetings and smiles. Sooner or later Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey will appear in Putin's eyes to overlap with the Syrian opposition. Once he fails to defeat this opposition he will start looking for someone to blame, and he will find no one but us.
Then, once the upcoming Vienna negotiations fail (and they will most likely fail), the conflicting parties inside Syria will find no route other than that of escalating the confrontation in a bid to accomplish decisive victory. This will lead to the emergence of two distinct camps: the free Syrian people and their allies on the one hand, and the sectarian anti-freedom trio and their allies on the other.
There may even be another confrontation prior to Vienna. The SU-24 incident was a slap to Putin's image as Mr Invincible, and to the image of his dreaded Russia. This will undoubtedly undermine his position domestically, especially with the return of the first body bags of the Russian soldiers embroiled in their first entirely foreign war since their defeat in Afghanistan. Perhaps he will challenge the Turks once more and that challenge will result in the downing of another Sukhoi, or perhaps a MiG. He will then go mad. The Russian president has now launched indiscriminate bombings of the Syrian Turkuman regions. This is not a war, it is an act of revenge. Who can guarantee that another Sukhoi will not be shot down, this time by a ground-to-air missile? The bear will be filled with more rage. He will accuse Saudi Arabia or Qatar or both of supplying the revolutionaries with the missile and will hold them responsible. The deterioration of his economic position also adds to his anger. His economy has lost its position as the 8th ranking in the world and is now lagging behind Spain and North Korea, both of which surpassed him in Gross National Product. At this juncture he may just accuse Saudi Arabia of causing the fall in oil prices.
Can we meet the Russians half way in the middle of a Syrian road so as to avert a disastrous result? I think that this is highly unlikely. If we were to define our project in Syria and in the region, it would be a project that does not involve intervention but is based on its full independence and the establishment of a pluralistic democratic system of governance in Damascus. If we were to define the Russian project, though, we would find it based on minority rule and foreign intervention under the guise of staged elections and fake democracy similar to the version in Russia, where public liberties are in retreat while the state is growing bigger and bigger; where the press is scared because the price of doing ones job is a bullet in the head fired by persons unknown.
These two projects stand in stark contradiction to one another in Vienna. Due to their huge differences they will never agree. They will also clash on Syrian territory until one defeats the other. Just as it is impossible for the Kingdom to accept a permanent Iranian influence in Syria, Turkey will not want, from a strategic point of view, Russian influence on its southern border. It will be inevitable for us to clash. Since Putin lacks any notion of chivalry, he will not concede defeat and back down in the spirit of a sportsman; he will, most likely, continue in the confrontation. He will escalate the situation militarily and try to drive a wedge within our ranks, for there are indeed gaps there that he will seek to exploit. Our situation is similar to that of Al-Hussein Bin Ali, may Allah be pleased with him. We have allies whose swords are with us but whose hearts are against us (I have deliberately reversed the wordings so as to agree with the context). These are the ones who agree with Putin in some aspects of his project, namely the regeneration of despotism in Syria in the guise of a deformed democratic system that does not bear the Assad head but lives with his claws. They are not unhappy with the Iranian-Russian expansion in Syria but are displeased to see Saudi Arabia rise as a regional leader. They have even shown more displeasure toward the Saudi alliance with Turkey and are unhappy to see such ties expand day after day as they plan together for the future. Should the balance of power in the region tilt in favour of Putin's camp, they will uncover their true colours and side with the tsar.
Lastly, will Putin dare carry out dirty operations in Saudi Arabia, Qatar or Turkey, such as those called for by Pravda and his former adviser? Will he, for instance, target a certain site and claim that it is a training camp for terrorists or that it is a warehouse of weapons destined for Syria where it would pose a threat to “world peace” and the safety of Russian pilots? These are dangers that should be taken into consideration. They call for the necessity of activating Saudi foreign policy in cooperation with the Turks and the Qataris in order to persuade the Europeans that adopting silence as a strategy vis-a-vis Putin will, as with every other dictator, only increase his appetite. The man is behaving like an arrogant bully and not as a prudent politician, but this should not be a surprise. After all, he is the graduate of the old Soviet school of intelligence and will, therefore, not hesitate to pursue the dirtiest of methods, such as the assassination of a former Chechen president who took refuge in Doha in 2000 or the liquidation of a political opponent in London in 2006 using poison in the most horrid way. Nor have presidents of republics escaped his wrath. He poisoned a former president of Ukraine as part of his efforts to make it submit to Russia. That led to the rigging of elections and then to a popular revolution that eventually turned into a civil war that is still raging to this day. It’s a lousy record, yet Putin remains important and it is necessary to deal with him, not least because he leads a superpower.
I do not mean to weaken anyone's resolve. Nor am I suggesting that we cannot handle him. All I am saying is that we should expect the worst and, therefore, should be careful. Furthermore, we are on the defensive and cannot withdraw from the Syrian arena. Our support for the Syrian revolution is an act of defence on behalf of our own country. What matters is that we take care as we find ourselves compelled to walk through the Russian forest.
Jamal Khashogji is a Saudi writer and journalist. Translated from AlHayat, 28 November, 2015

حديث الثورة-مآلات الأوضاع في سوريا

مقتل ضابط بالحرس الثوري الإيراني بمعارك بسوريا

ما وراء الخبر- الهجمات ضد قوات الأمن بقلب مصر

Iranian media is revealing that scores of the country’s fighters are dying in Syria


The Washington Post


 An increasing number of Iranian soldiers and militiamen appear to be dying in Syria’s civil war, and observers credit media from an unexpected country for revealing the trend:
A flurry of reports in Iran’s official and semi­official news outlets about the deaths — including funerals and even a eulogy to a fallen general by Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — have surprised analysts who monitor the country’s tightly controlled media. The reports, they say, indicate that at least 67 Iranians have been killed in Syria since the beginning of October.
Just a few months ago, Iranian media said little about the country’s military intervention in ­Syria to shore up the government. But as Iranian fighters participate in a new Russian-led offensive against Syrian rebels, Iran’s leaders might have a reason to offer more details of their country’s involvement, said Ali Alfoneh, an Iran expert at the ­Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
“They are proud of this and they want to show it,” he said. Since Iranian forces became increasingly involved in the conflict in 2013, he noted, about 10 fighters were being killed every month, but the numbers surged after Russia, another ally of Syria’s government, began launching airstrikes at rebels in late September.
Iran has been a key military and financial backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during nearly five years of conflict, viewing his government as critical
for projecting Iranian influence across the region.
Iran’s elite Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guard Corps helped Assad build powerful pro-government militias to support Syria’s exhausted and broken military. Iran, a Shiite nation, also has ordered thousands of Shiite militiamen from Lebanon, Iraq and other countries to fight in Syria against the Sunni-led rebellion.
But in Iran’s media, the role of Revolutionary Guard soldiers and Iranian militiamen in Syria has been generally played down. They are described as “advisers” or “volunteers” protecting Shiite shrines.
It is unclear precisely how many Iranians are fighting in Syria. While U.S. officials estimate their number to be in the hundreds, Phillip Smyth, a researcher on Shiite militant groups at the University of Maryland, said 2,000 Iranians or more could be deployed there. And they appear to be increasingly involved in “direct combat” operations during the Russian offensive, which could explain the rising death toll, Smyth said.
The United States long sought to exclude Iran from regional discussions about Syria’s future, largely because of its support for Assad. But last month, Iran was invited to join in a regional meeting on the subject, a sign of acknowledgment by Washington of the broad influence that Tehran wields in Syria.
Alfoneh said that by allowing greater media coverage of the deaths, Iranian leaders might partly be trying to prevent Russia’s headline-grabbing intervention from overshadowing their own.
“The Iranian regime is showing its importance in Syria, using all its propaganda machinery to publicize the names and information of individuals who were martyred,” he said.
That publicity included the death announcement of Mohsen Fanousi, a pro-government Basij militia member thought to have been killed in Aleppo this month. A Basij Web site congratulated Fanousi on his martyrdom, saying in an announcement that he “left and joined God knowingly.”
A video posted on the semi­official Fars News Agency shows the funeral of a man identified as Qadir Sarlak, a Revolutionary Guard fighter killed in Syria on Nov. 5. The video shows what appears to be fellow Revolutionary Guard members, many of them wearing fatigues, crowding over his coffin and symbolically slapping themselves as a show of grief.
Even Khamenei tweeted a photo of himself visiting the grieving family of Hossein Hamedani, a Revolutionary Guard general who was killed last month in Aleppo.
Sustaining so many casualties may once have generated a backlash in Iran. Support for an autocratic leader such as Assad — whose forces­ are responsible for many of the conflict’s more than 250,000 deaths — is not a popular cause for many Iranians, analysts say.
But the rise of the vehemently anti-Shiite and anti-Iranian Islamic State militant group, which controls parts of Syria and Iraq, has made justifying the fight in Syria easier for Iranian leaders, said Emile Hokayem, a Middle East analyst at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.
He added that many Iranians may not be aware that their countrymen appear to be mostly fighting other rebels, not the hard-line Sunni fighters of the Islamic State.
“I think that the capacity for the Iranian people to accept casualties in Syria is greater than a couple of years ago because there is greater consensus of a need to fight what they think are all ISIS people,” said Hokayem, using an acronym for the Islamic State.
Sam Alrefaie in Beirut contributed to this report.

جبهة النصرة.. لحظة اقتحام مواقع القوات الإيرانية بريف حلب (ناشطون).

Friday, November 27, 2015

'Caliphate' tunnels link Iraq and Syria below the borders


The Islamic State group has excavated at least 40 tunnels on the border between Iraq and Syria, according to a report prepared by the Iraqi Ministry of Defence.
Islamic State group territory in Iraq and Syria is linked by at least 40 cross-border tunnels, an Iraqi ministry of defence report revealed on Thursday.

The tunnels link the northern Anbar and Nineveh provinces of Iraq with al-Bukamal and Deir Ez-Zour in Syria, according to the report prepared "in collaboration with the international coalition via the joint operations room in Baghdad", according to a senior Iraqi intelligence figure.

IS dug the tunnels using modern earthworking equipment that the group reportedly seized from a company named Tishreen that is allegedly affiliated with the Syrian regime.

"Each tunnel is nearly two metres in diameter and is three to seven kilometres long, and concealed well," said our intelligence source.

If IS loses control of border crossings, the tunnels would provide a crucial link between the two territories the militant group now controls.

IS controls more than 500km of the 600km border that stretches from Anbar in the west to Nineveh in the north. Iraqi and Coalition forces have recently stepped up strikes against IS in Mosul, the capital of Nineveh province.

Cutting off IS supply lines and isolating the two wings of the organisation in Iraq and Syria have been the focus of international coalition meetings. 
IS controls more than 500km of the 600km border along Anbar and Nineveh provinces

Anbar Provincial Council head Sabah al-Karhout said that the difficult task of separating the borders between the two countries would be the beginning of solving the problem as open borders constitute an advantage for the group and guarantee a continuous supply line for IS in each country.

The commander of the Rapid Deployment Force in western Iraq, General Ahmad Yaseen, told al-Araby that the US had intensified its air raids on IS supply convoys along the border between Iraq and Syria, but that "air [raids] are not enough".

"No less than 50,000 ground troops are needed to divide the border and redraw it after IS erased its features and made it one piece," added the general.

General Yaseen said the new year would herald the "beginning of the advance towards the border".

هل الحاكم العربي غير وطني أم ممنوع أن يكون وطنياً؟

د. فيصل القاسم


لا يمكن لأمة أن تنهض إلا بعقول وطاقات وقلوب أهلها. وحتى لو كانت الشعوب تحب أوطانها، وتريد أن تبينها، ولديها كل ما يلزم للنهوض بها، لا شك أنها ستفشل إذا كانت الطبقات الحاكمة غير وطنية، أو أن دوائرها الانتخابية خارج أوطانها، كما هو الحال بالنسبة للعديد من الأنظمة العربية. السمكة عادة تفسد من رأسها، وكذلك الأوطان. فإذا كان الحكام يعتمدون في وجودهم على قوى ودعم خارجي، فإنهم، دون أدنى شك، سيكونون أكثر اهتماماً بتحقيق أهداف الخارج في بلادهم من تحقيق أهداف شعوبهم. فكما هو معلوم، فإن السياسي يخدم في العادة الدائرة التي انتخبته. وبما أن مصير العديد من القيادات في العالم العربي مرتبط بقوى أجنبية، فعلى الأغلب أن الأوطان والشعوب ستعاني، وستتخلف عن ركب التقدم واللحاق بالأمم الوطنية المتقدمة.

من أعظم بركات الثورات العربية أنها كشفت بشكل فاضح عمالة الكثير من الأنظمة العربية، وخاصة تلك التي رفعت شعارات قومية ووطنية فاقعة كالنظام السوري مثلاً. فعندما كنا نسمع الشعارات الوطنية والقومية التي كان يرفعها، ويرددها نظام الأسد في سوريا، كان المرء يأخذ الانطباع أنه نظام لا يباريه نظام في العالم في الوطنية وحب الوطن، خاصة وأنه كان يسحق أي أصوات معارضة بحجة أنها غير وطنية وخائنة للوطن. لكن الثورة أظهرت للسوريين لاحقاً أن النظام له علاقة بالوطنية كما للسوريين علاقة بكوكب المريخ. لم يكن حتى نظاماً طائفياً فقط، بل كان يأتمر، ويعمل لصالح قوى خارجية أولاً وأخيراً. لم يكن ينقص الشعب السوري أبداً لا الطاقات، ولا الإرادة ولا الذكاء والمثابرة، فهو شعب وطني خلاق وقادر على الإبداع والابتكار والتقدم، لكنه فشل على مدى نصف قرن في تحقيق أي إنجازات صناعية وتكنولوجية وسياسية واقتصادية معتبرة. لا بل إن السوريين باتوا يترحمون على النظام السياسي الذي كان يقودهم في منتصف القرن الماضي، حيث كان أكثر عصرية وتقدماً وديمقراطية وانفتاحاً وإنسانية، بينما أمسوا اليوم مضرباً للمثل في التشبيح السياسي والأمني.

لسنا بحاجة للكثير من الجهد كي نتعرف على مكمن الخلل في سوريا. إنه النظام الحاكم الذي كان دائماً يتهم العرب الآخرين بالعمالة والتبعية للخارج، بينما كان هو غارقاً حتى أذنيه في العمالة والتبعية للاتحاد السوفياتي سابقاً وروسيا وإيران وإسرائيل حالياً. لقد اكتشف السوريون على ضوء الثورة أن مهمة النظام الأولى على مدى نصف قرن كانت كبح قيام أي نهضة سياسية أو اقتصادية أو ثقافية أو علمية في سوريا، لأنه مكلف بإبقاء سوريا وشعبها في حالة تخلف وتجمد لصالح جارته إسرائيل. ويرى بعض العارفين أنه لو لم يقم بذلك، لما بقي أصلاً في مكانه. وكما هو واضح، فإن النظام يعرف قدر نفسه جيداً، فهو لا يصلح لأن يقود وطناً نحو التقدم والازدهار، بل قادر فقط على ممارسة الهمجية والقمع والاضطهاد، لهذا تم تمكينه من رقاب السوريين كي يبقوا في الحضيض سياسياً واقتصادياً واجتماعياً.

طبعاً لا نقول أبداً أن النظام السوري هو الوحيد الذي يعمل لصالح قوى خارجية. لا أبداً، فهو مجرد نموذج فاقع للأنظمة المتشدقة بالوطنية والغارق بالعمالة والخيانة. هناك الكثير الكثير من الأنظمة الأخرى التي لا تحكم بإرادة شعوبها، بل بإرادات خارجية. وقد صدق الرئيس التونسي السابق الدكتور منصف المرزوقي عندما ألف كتاباً بعنوان «الاستقلال الثاني» يكشف فيه أن معظم الأنظمة العربية التي وصلت إلى السلطة بعد حروب الاستقلال المزعومة لم تكن وطنية أبداً، بل كانت مجرد وكلاء للمستعمر الذي خرج من الباب، ليعود من النافذة عن طريق عملائه الذين عينهم ممثلين له في مستعمراته القديمة. وبالرغم من أن بلداً مثل الجزائر مثلاً قدم أكثر من مليون شهيد لطرد المستعمر الفرنسي، إلا أنه انتهى في أيدي من يسمون بـ»بني باريس» أي الجنرالات والطبقة السياسية التابعة قلباً وقالباً للمستعمر القديم.

حتى الأنظمة المنبثقة عن بعض الثورات الجديدة فهي بدورها لا تمثل تطلعات الثوار، ولا الشباب الذين قادوا الثورات، بل هي مجرد واجهات لقوى خارجية. ولا شك أن المرء يشعر بحسرة وألم كبير عندما يسمع أن الكثير من القيادات التي تحكم تونس الآن مرتبطة بتوجيهات وتوجهات قوى خارجية أكثر مما هي مرتبطة بتطلعات الشعب وأحلامه. فهذا القيادي تدعمه أمريكا، وذاك تدعمه فرنسا، والآخر يتلقى تمويلاً عربياً لشراء الأصوات والفوز في الانتخابات. وكأن الثورة لم تحدث أبداً.

لا شك أن البعض سيقول لنا إن تركيبة العالم والقوى المتحكمة به لا تسمح بوجود قيادات وطنية خالصة، وخاصة في العالم العربي. يقول المفكر الأمريكي نعوم تشومسكي في هذا السياق: «الأهداف الرئيسية للسياسة الأمريكية هي منع وصول المغالين في وطنيتهم إلى الحكم في العالم الثالث. وإذا ما وصلوا إليه بطريقة أو بأخرى، فيجب عزلهم وتنصيب غيرهم. وتتحالف الولايات المتحدة مع العسكريين لسحق أي جماعات وطنية تفلت من قبضة اليد». وما ينطبق على أمريكا ينسحب على القوى العظمى الأخرى في تعاملها مع بيادقها. ويقول المفكر التونسي أبو يعرب المرزوقي هنا: «بشار الأسد دمية لا حول له ولا قوة: لو كان ذا سلطان حقيقي لكان فضّل النجاة بذاته وبأسرته، لأنه يعلم أن المآل في الغاية هو رأسه ورأس أسرته». وبناء على هذه الحقيقة المرة بوجود قوى خارجية تمنع الوطنيين من الوصول إلى السلطة في العالم العربي والثالث عموماً، ما العمل؟ هل الخلل في القوى المتحكمة التي تختار عملاءها حكاماً هنا وهناك؟ أم إن الخلل في الحكام الذين يقبلون أن يكون مجرد وكلاء؟ لا أريد أن أفتي في هذا الموضوع. أترك لكم الفتوى.
٭ كاتب وإعلامي سوري
د. فيصل القاسم

ما وراء الخبر- لماذا استمرت الهبة الفلسطينية حتى الآن؟

مقتل ضابط إيراني كبير في معارك بحلب

مجيري حسب ما نشرت صورته وسائل إعلام إيرانية

قالت وسائل إعلام إيرانية إن ضابطا كبيرا في الحرس الثوري قتل خلال معارك قرب مدينةحلب شمالي سوريا. من جهتها، أعلنتجبهة النصرة أسرها مسلحا قالت إنه إيراني خلال معارك بريف حلب الجنوبي.
وأوضحت هذه الوسائل أن العميد عبد الرضا مجيري قائد "كتيبة الإمام الحسين" التابعة للحرس الثوري قتل في معارك مع من وصفهم الموقع بـ"الإرهابيين".
وبهذا يصل عدد القتلى من العسكريين الإيرانيين في سوريا إلى 63 منذ إعلان الحرس الثوري زيادة أعدادهم هناك بالتزامن مع التدخل الروسي نهاية سبتمبر/أيلول الماضي.
من جانب آخر، نشرت جبهة النصرة صورا تظهر إيرانيا قالت إنها أسرته خلال المعارك في ريف حلب الجنوبي.
وكانت المعارضة السورية قد أعلنت الأربعاء الماضي قتل عدد من عناصر حزب الله اللبناني مع ضباط إيرانيين على إثر استهدافهم غرفة عمليات عسكرية لمليشيات موالية للنظام في ريف حلب الجنوبي.
وبثت المعارضة صورا تقول إنها للحظة استهداف المبنى، كما أظهرت الصور قيام جنود بإجلاء مصابين من المكان.
كما أشارت مصادر قبل أيام إلى إصابة قائد فيلق القدس في الحرس الثوري الإيراني الجنرال قاسم سليماني بمعارك في ريف حلب.
وتأتي الخسائر بصفوف العسكريين الإيرانيين وحزب الله في وقت تشهد فيه جبهات ريف حلب الجنوبي معارك عنيفة بين المعارضة السورية وقوات النظام المدعومة بمليشيات حزب الله وعناصر إيرانية. وتشير التقديرات إلى أن عدد قتلى الحزب منذ سبتمبر/أيلول الماضي بلغ نحو ستين عنصرا.

وقد أقرت طهران في الفترة الأخيرة بسقوط عدد من جنرالاتها في سوريا، حيث يقاتلون إلى جانب نظام الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد، وذلك بعد أن كانت تصر على أن دعمها النظام السوري يقتصر على الاستشارات العسكرية.

صدمة جنون القوّة

حسام كنفاني
28 نوفمبر 2015


لا يمكن اعتبار إسقاط الطائرة الروسية فوق سورية حدثاً عابراً في مسار الأحداث في المنطقة. هو حدث ستكون له تداعيات كثيرة لاحقة على التوازن العسكري والسياسي، خصوصاً أنه يأتي في خضمّ تحوّلات في موازين القوى العالمية، سيكون لإسقاط "السوخوي" تأثير مباشر فيها، وربما لذلك لا يزال الروس إلى اليوم غير مستوعبين الحدث الذي مثّل صدمة لكل ما يخطط له فلاديمير بوتين على المدى القريب والمتوسط والبعيد. 
ومهما حاولت الدبلوماسية التركية، ومعها العالمية، التخفيف من أثر إسقاط الطائرة على العلاقات البينيّة بين معسكري الشرق والغرب، إلا أن الحادث سيبقى ماثلاً في المعطيات الاستراتيجية الجديدة، ليس في سورية وحسب، بل على الصعيد العالمي، لأكثر من اعتبار. لعلّ أبرز هذه الاعتبارات أن العملية تأتي في ذروة الصعود الروسي المتدرّج، والذي بدأ منذ مطلع الألفية الثالثة. صعود وصل، اليوم، إلى مرحلة تجعل من موسكو الوريثة الشرعية لإمبراطورية الاتحاد السوفييتي، وهو ما يريده فعلياً بوتين الذي يلعب، اليوم، على وتر تراجع النفوذ الأميركي، لينتقل إلى محاولة ملء الفراغ، وإنْ باتجاه سياسي معاكس. 
على هذ الأساس، كان التدخل في سورية لمصلحة نظام بشار الأسد، وبذريعة محاربة داعش، الأمر الذي رضي به الغرب، عموماً، والولايات المتحدة خصوصاً، على مضض، غير أن مسار الأيام الخمسين، وهي عمر التدخل الروسي في سورية، كشفت عن معطيات أخرى لأهداف هذا التدخل، وفي مقدمتها ضرب المعارضة السورية، بغض النظر عن درجات اعتدالها أو تطرفها، في محاولة لقطع الطريق على تكوين أي خيار بديل ممكن لنظام الأسد. 
إضافة إلى هذا المعطى السياسي في الأهداف العسكرية، أراد بوتين تحويل الساحة السورية إلى مسرح لاستعراض العضلات، ولتأكيد أن روسيا هي القوة المقبلة على الساحة العالمية. ووفق هذا المعطى، صالت الطائرات وجالت، وضربت ما شاءت من الأهداف، تحت أنظار العالم الذي اكتفى بالتنبيه والتحذير والإدانة، فيما كانت البوارج الروسية تطلق صواريخها "عن جنب وطرف"، حتى أنها قصفت أراضي الحليف الإيراني. 
أمام التقاعس الغربي في مواجهة التمدّد الروسي، أصبح بوتين يعيش مرحلة غطرسة القوة، الأمر الذي جعل من إسقاط مقاتلة السوخوي ليس أمراً عابراً، بل بمثابة صدمة، أو صفعة، لحلم "روسيا العظمى" الذي يسعى إليه بوتين، خصوصاً أنه لم يأت من الولايات المتحدة التي يمكن أن تعتبراً روسيا نداً، بل من تركيا التي لا ترى فيها روسيا عملياً قوة عظمى، يمكن أن تكون موازية. 

من هذا المنطلق، ينظر الروس بهذا الكم من القهر لعملية إسقاط الطائرة، فالحادث جاء عملياً بمثابة محاولة لدفع موسكو إلى استيعاب أنها ليست ولن تكون وحدها في المنطقة، وأن غطرسة القوة سيكون لها ثمن في المستقبل، سواء عبر عمليات من هذا النوع، أو ربما مواجهة أشمل قد تكون شرارة لحرب عالمية ثالثة، لا أحد يريدها، وروسيا في المقدمة. ما بعد استهداف "السوخوي" ليس كما قبله، وإذا حاول الروس، اليوم، قهراً، استيعاب الضربة التركية والرد عليها اقتصادياً وسياسياً، فإن أي حادث مماثل في المستقبل لن يكون من الممكن تمريره بدون رد على المستوى نفسه. 
الصدمة استُتبعت بالمواقف الغربية، وخصوصاً الأميركية، والتي جاءت أيضاً لتذكير الروس بأن "الأطلسي" لم يمت بعد، وأن أسباب إنشائه منذ البداية عادت، اليوم، إلى الظهور، وإنْ بشكل مختلف، وهو ما سيعيد قريباً جداً صراع المعسكرين إبّان الحرب الباردة، لكن في ظل أجواء حامية حالياً. 

لا نزال في الأيام الحالية نعيش التداعيات الأولى لإسقاط الطائرة الروسية، والتي لا بد أن تدفع موسكو إلى إعادة الحسابات، أو الإقدام على مزيد من جنون القوة.

DNA- أردوغان "يعتذر" من موسكو- 27/11/2015

Syrian rebels retake strategic hilltop near Turkey from regime


Syrian rebels recapture Jabal Zahia in the Turkmen Mountain area, as Kurdish forces attack rebels in Aleppo province under Russian air cover in apparent bid to preempt Turkey-sponsored 'safe-zone'.
Syrian opposition forces on Friday retook the strategic hill of Jabal Zahia in the Turkmen Mountain area in the northern Latakia countryside, not far from the Turkish border.

The opposition troops moved to occupy the hilltop a day after it was captured by regime forces under Russian air cover.

The First Coastal Division of the Free Sryain Army, the largest rebel faction in the Latakia countryside, said Jabal Zahia had been "fully liberated" from regime forces and allied militias.

Sources in the area confirmed the reports to al-Araby al-Jadeed. "The [rebel] attack took place in the morning, after the position was shelled with mortars," said Hashem Haj Bakri, activist.

Jabal Zahia is about 1154 metres high, and is located less than 5km from the border with Turkey. It overlooks several Turkmen villages under rebel control.

"The battle in Turkmen Mountain is a fateful one between Turkey and Russia now. Turkey will not allow the regime and the Russians to draw near to its border, especially the Turkemn Mountain, which will definitely be part of the safe zone Turkey is seeking to establish," said Othman Asbro, a former department chief with the regime's Marine and Coastal Artillery and Rockets Branch.

Asbro said that Russia was retaliating against Turkey and its allies in northern Syria by pursuing a "scorched-earth" policy there, citing the relentless Russian bombardment of villages in the Turkmen Mountain area since Tuesday.

Meanwhile, sources in the Islamic Front rebel group said several strategic positions were also retaken in the Jabal al-Akrad (Kurds Mountain) area of Latakia province, following heavy fighting with regime forces.

Kurdish forces attack 

Islamist rebel forces, including the Nusra Front, engaged in fighting with Jaysh al-Thuwar, a faction affiliated to the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), in northern Aleppo near Azaz, said Bahaa al-Halabi, an activist in the area.

The fighting was reportedly accompanied by Russian aerial bombardment on rebel positions on the outskirts of villages close to the Syrian-Turkish border.
Read more on the Russia-Turkey crisis over Syria
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What was Russia's airforce doing near Turkey's borders anyway?
Who are the Turkmen?
"The attack by the YPG is a serious test of Turkey's statements regarding establishing a safe zone," speculated Halabi in statements to al-Araby al-Jadeed.

Other activists, meanwhile, said the Kurdish attack on Syrian rebels was a Russian attempt to implicate Kurds in its showdown with Turkey, in the wake of the downing of a Russian jet.

However, the YPG issued a statement condemning "the false rumours that were issued in connection with the [clashes] in the Azaz area between Jaysh al-Thuwar and other factions":

"We reiterate once again that we in the YPG have no ties to the ongoing problems in the countryside of Azaz."

Meanwhile, three were killed and others were injured by mortars fired by Islamic State group fighters near the Kurdish town of Safira in southeast Aleppo, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).

On Wednesday, the co-leader of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) challenged Turkey's plans to establish a safe zone in northern Syria, saying the border region was a historic part of Kurdistan.

In an interview with a Moscow-owned Turkish language station, Saleh Muslim said that Turkey "has no right to intervene" in the region between the Aleppo border towns of Azaz and Jarabulus, which is currently controlled by IS.

"The percentage of Kurds in the area between Jarablus and Aazaz is over 50 percent," he claimed during his sit-down with Rusya'nin Sesi ["Voice of Russia"] radio.

However, Muslim would not answer if the YPG planned to stage an offensive westward from its current positions toward Jarabuus, a key IS stronghold on the Turkish border.

YPG general commander Sipan Hemo boasted in late August that Kurdish forces would "liberate Jarabulus" - directly challenging Ankara's plans to establish its own Turkey-friendly safe zone in the area.

However, Turkey has shelled Kurdish forces attempting to cross the Euphrates River to conduct raids on IS forces positioned around Jarabulus, enforcing a "red line" forbidding the YPG from entering Ankara's planned "safe zone".

Turkey in late July launched military campaigns against both IS and the seperatist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in Turkey - an affiliate of the Syrian PYD.

Before the launch of operations, Turkish leaders repeatedly insisted that the expansion of YPG forces in northern Syria posed a threat to the country.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on June 26 warned that his country "would never allow" the establishment of a Kurdish state on its border, setting the stage for reports that Turkey's ground incursion would aim to preempt any further Kurdish advances against IS along the border.

So far, the Turks have focused their military efforts against the PKK, while reportedly training Turkmen and friendly Syrian rebel forces to act as a proxy to battle IS in a zone of territory stretching from north of Aleppo to Jarablus in the west.

Reports have emerged in recent days that Ankara was once again moving forward with plans to establish a safe zone in northern Syria, while Erdogan for his part reiterated Tuesday that his country would "soon realise" a humanitarian zone that would stretch all the way from Jarabulus to the Mediterranean coast.

'Civilians dead' in fresh Raqqa strikes
Syrian opposition groups say a new wave of airstrikes on the city of Raqqa - the capital of the self-declared "caliphate" - has killed at least eight people, including five children.

It wasn't immediately clear who carried out the airstrikes on Friday.

The city in northeastern Syria has become the focus of international airstrikes aimed at the group.

A Raqqa-based activist group that reports on IS, known as Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, said that most of the casualties occurred when warplanes targeted the city's Heten School.

The school, like others in Raqqa, has been taken over by IS.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll at 12, including the five children.

Russia and a US-led coalition that includes France have been pounding Raqqa in recent days.

On Friday, France's foreign minister said destroying IS's Raqqa headquarters was the main objective of the international military campaign.

In an interview with RTL radio, Laurent Fabius said "neutralising and eradicating Daesh" was an objective that all countries agreed upon, referring to IS by its Arabic acronym.

He spoke after a week of intense diplomacy capped by the French president's meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the downing of a Russian passenger plane over Egypt, as well as the November 13 attacks in Paris that killed 130 people. Fabius said Putin agreed on the need to focus international efforts against the extremist group, and France is drawing up a map of moderate groups' positions, to protect them from warplanes.

He also said the international coalition was focusing on oil convoys from the group's territory, which provide a crucial source of income. He said some of the trucks head towards Turkey, and France believes Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad is also a buyer.

المعارضة السورية تسيطر على برج الزاهية بجبل التركمان

More war, diplomacy not seen breaking Syria stalemate


The Syria war is escalating in tandem with intensified diplomacy, but neither growing foreign military intervention nor a revived political track look capable of bringing an end to the 4-1/2-year-old conflict.
The risk is a more ferocious proxy war between President Bashar al-Assad's main allies - Russia and Iran - and Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States - which back rebels fighting to topple him.
The downing of a Russian warplane over Syria by Turkey has raised tensions, complicating the U.N.-backed political process just launched in Vienna that already faced big challenges.
Militarily, nearly two months of Russian air strikes twinned with army ground offensives backed by Iranian forces and Lebanon's Hezbollah have shored up Assad in western Syria. The Russian-backed ground offensives have made gains in Latakia province near the Turkish border, and in southern Aleppo. But they have not tipped the war decisively Assad's way.
Assad's enemies in the rebellion, pummeled by Russian bombers, have meanwhile received new foreign military support of their own, notably more U.S.-made TOW anti-tank missiles from Saudi Arabia that helped them stave off assaults in some areas.
Rebels were shown using one of these missiles to destroy a Russian helicopter grounded on a rescue mission to try to help pilots from the downed warplane, capturing the international dimensions of the war. A Syrian military source told Reuters the weapons are being used extensively and are having an impact.
The rebel cause could receive a political boost if a Saudi-led effort succeeds in unifying scattered opposition ranks next month: the idea is to forge an opposition that reflects the weight of groups fighting on the ground.
Meanwhile, attacks by Islamic State (IS) in Paris and its shooting downing of a Russian civilian airliner over Sinai have brought new focus to the other war raging in Syria: that against the jihadist group that controls swathes of the east.
Facing French and intensified Russian air strikes in response, Islamic State is on the backfoot. It has recently lost ground to U.S.-backed Kurdish and Arab forces, the Syrian army, and other rebels who are fighting both Assad and Islamic State.
The prospects of Assad's foreign friends and enemies joining forces in the fight against Islamic State in Syria appear dim, however. U.S. President Barack Obama said on Tuesday Russia was welcome to join the alliance against IS, but must redirect its air strikes away from rebels towards the jihadists. Russia says publicly it is attacking IS targets.
The fundamental divergence over whether Assad should be removed between the United States and Saudi Arabia on one hand, and Iran and Russia on the other, may well undo the Vienna process launched on Oct. 30. Its aims include a ceasefire and talks between the government and opposition leading to a new constitution and elections.
"The political impact of the Russian escalation thus far is more significant than the actually military impact," said Noah Bonsey, senior analyst with International Crisis Group, in reference to the Vienna meeting.
"There isn't much reason to be optimistic about (Vienna's) potential to really make major headway towards resolving the conflict, but at least it has got everyone talking again. Most importantly it has given the opposition and its backers a reason to try to ... sort out the opposition's own internal equation, which is long overdue."
The conflict which spiraled out of an uprising against Assad's rule will soon enter its sixth year having killed about 250,000 people and driven more than half of Syrians from their homes. Refugees from the war have caused a crisis in Europe.
Militarily, the Russian-backed offensives have focused primarily in areas of western Syria crucial to Assad's survival and where Islamic State has little or no presence.
The most notable progress by the army and its allies against anti-Assad rebels has been in the northwestern province of Latakia and to the south of Aleppo, though rebels this week launched a counter-attack there. The army and its allies are trying to capture the main Damascus-Aleppo highway from rebels.
The government side has also recorded gains against Islamic State forces to the east of Aleppo, where it recaptured an air base, and in Homs province, where they have driven jihadists from villages seized recently by the group.
But in Hama, rebels equipped with plentiful supplies of TOW missiles have advanced at the government's expense, capturing a town on the north-south highway and managing to halt an attack in the strategically vital Ghab Plain.
"In the last two or three weeks, the Russian air strikes have started to show their results. This is apparent in southern Aleppo and Latakia," said Rami Abdulrahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks the war.
In rural Latakia region - where the Russian warplane was shot down - the army and its allies have recently seized several hill tops, endangering rebel control over surrounding areas, said a rebel with the Ahrar al-Sham group contacted by Reuters.
"The loss of hills has exposed vast areas which are under our control. It's the loss of these defensive outposts that have created a crisis for us," the rebel said. "The regime has made progress by heavy artillery bombardment and aerial bombing so their troops advance in territory that becomes open to them."
The Syrian military source said the results of the offensives to date included the destruction of rebel command and control structures and logistics. The pace of advances was not as important as securing captured territory, he said.
Yet rebels, working more closely together in response to the offensives, are striking a defiant and confident tone, buoyed by their success in Hama province. They view Assad's dependence on foreign allies as a sign of weakness.
"Everyone has the right to dream, and Putin dreams of eliminating the Syrian revolution. This is only a dream," said Jamil Saleh, head of a Free Syrian Army rebel group.
"The Russian intervention, while leaving more destruction, has raised morale and brought more unity in (rebel) ranks and this is positive," said Idris Raad, a senior figure in Failaq al-Sham, an Islamist insurgent group.
International Crisis Group's Bonsey said: "In terms of the regime's first priority - the war against the anti-IS opposition groups - it continues to be a mixed bag from the regime's perspective ... there's nothing we would characterize as fundamentally shifting the balance of power."
"Its scorecard against ISIS (IS) is looking a bit better."
(Writing by Tom Perry, editing by Peter Millership)