Putin’s Geopolitical Chess Game with Washington in Syria and Eurasia
by F. William Engdahl
July 23, 2012
Since reassuming his post as Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin has lost no minute in addressing the most urgent geopolitical threats to Russia internationally. Not surprisingly, at the center of his agenda is the explosive situation in the Middle East, above all Syria. Here Putin is engaging every imaginable means of preventing a further deterioration of the situation into what easily could become another “world war by miscalculation.” His activities in recent weeks involve active personal diplomacy with Syria’s government as well as the so-called opposition “Syrian National Council.” It involves intense diplomacy with Erdogan’s Turkey regime. It involves closed door diplomacy with Obama. It involves direct diplomacy with Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu.
Syria itself, contrary to what most western media portray, is a long-standing multi-ethnic and religiously tolerant secular state with an Alawite Muslim President Bashar Al-Assad, married to a Sunni wife. The Alawite sect is an offshoot of Shia Islam which doesn’t force their women to wear head scarves and are liberal by Sunni standards, especially in the fundamentalist places like Saudi Arabia where women are forbidden to even hold a driver’s license. The overall Syrian population is a diverse mix of Alawites, Druze and Kurds, Sunnis, and Armenian Orthodox Christians. Were the minority regime of Al-Assad to fall, experts estimate that, like in Egypt, the murky Sunni (as in Saudi Arabia) Muslim Brotherhood organization would emerge as the dominant organized political force, something certainly not welcome in Tel Aviv and certainly not in either Russia or China.1
According to an informed assessment by Gajendra Singh, retired Indian diplomat with decades of service in the Middle East and a deep familiarity with the ethnic mix inside Syria, were the minority Alawite regime of Al-Assad to fall, the country would rapidly descend into a bloodbath that would make estimates of 17,000 killed to date a mere prelude. Singh estimates, “A defeat of Assad led regime will lead to slaughter of Alawites, Shias, Christians, even Kurds and Druzes. In all, 20 % of a population of 20 Million.”2
That would be some 4 million Syrians. That ought to be food for thought for those in the West cheering on a murky dubious opposition “Syrian National Council” that is dominated by the ominous Muslim Brotherhood, and an armed opposition “Free Syrian Army” that has been reported even by the New York Times as rife with factional armed splits. Moreover the conflict were it to descend into a Libya-like internal bloodbath, would spill over across the Syrian border into Turkey. Syrian coastal area has a significant Alawite population and a large number of Alawites live in the adjoining Turkish provinces of Hatay and Antakya.
To sort out fact from fiction inside Syria is daunting as media are limited and opposition spokesmen have been repeatedly caught lying about events. In one recent instance, a UK journalist claimed he was deliberately led into a potential death trap by rebel opposition forces to score propaganda against the Damascus regime. The UK Channel 4 News’s chief correspondent, Alex Thomson, told AP that Syrian rebels set him up to die in no man’s land near the Lebanese border, saying they wanted to use his death at the hands of government forces to score propaganda points.3 And in one brazen example of political manipulation, BBC was recently caught publishing a photograph it claimed was of a massacre at Al-Houla on 25 May 2012, in which 108 persons are known to have died including 49 children. It turned out the picture had been taken by Italian photo journalist, Marco Di Lauro in Iraq in 2003.4