Ever since Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, and Palestinian cooperation with Hussein during the invasion; Saudi Arabia has abandoned the Palestinian cause and established a regional alliance with Israel. Israel has long had strong relations with Turkey, and Saudi Arabia has sponsored the rise of the Islamic party (Erdogan’s AKP) to governance in Turkey. The three nations, called the “Triad” have thus established a deep strategic alliance. This alliance has long seen Iranian influence in the region as a threat, and engineered the toppling of the Assad regime via ISIS. It seems now, that this Triad has failed miserably to achieve its goals.
In the impending months ahead, there is likely to be a major push to re-take Mosul by Iraqi security forces. Families of key ISIS leadership in the city are already fleeing the city in anticipation of an impending retreat. It’s clear that Mosul will be recaptured – and with it, ISIS will be pushed back to Raqqa, in Syria – its only remaining stronghold.
Raqqa too will be attacked by Syrian forces; and is likely to fall. It’s inevitable.
ISIS therefore, will be reduced to a paramilitary force outside Syria and Iraq. Where will they go? No one is sure, but fingers are pointing to their sponsor governments: Turkey or Saudi Arabia. But in essence they will be outside Iraq and Syria.
The strategy to defeat Assad and push back Iranian ‘influence’ in the region will have been blunted. The “Shiite Crescent” as it is called will have been reinforced. Iranian backed Shiite militias in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon have already been immersed into the military in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon and now will have taken over security control – and therefore governance in the region.
Unlike, disjointed Arab armies and governments, these 4 nations will have developed an intertwined, well-coordinated military capability – that will also have been battle tested. As they say, “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger”. ISIS will have served to unite the Shiites. ISIS will have served to battle harden nascent and confused military forces in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon – and create a powerful set of allied forces. Chains of command, coordinated communication systems, standardized weapon systems provided by the Iranians … means the “Shiites” will have an incredible army ready to challenge anyone.
ISIS is falling. And, this surely cannot be good news for the Triad: Israel, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
Then, as a back-up, Israel and Saudi Arabia have been backing Kurdish forces to ‘break-up’ the Shiite Crescent. This too has become a strategic disaster. In Syria and Iraq, Kurdish forces have been under siege by ISIS forces, and they have become well aware of who has been backing ISIS. Syrian Kurdish towns have been bombarded with the assistance of Turkey, and have turned against the Turks too – in addition to ISIS. There is now a civil war taking place in Turkey between its large Kurdish minority and government forces. We thus have a Kurdish ‘problem’ in Turkey – a member of the triad. A recent coup attempt in Turkey has decimated its military leadership, and has for now rendered Turkey’s military impotent. This war could break Turkey apart.
Iranian Guards have recently clashed with Kurdish forces too; and have become well aware of the Triad’s Kurdish strategy; which in turn has meant further vigilance and control of Kurdish regions inside Iran – but also in Iraq. Iranian guards, for sure, see Kurdish separatism as an existential issue that could drive or inspire further separatism inside Iran with other minorities like the Azeri’s, Arabs, Balochi’s, and Turkmen – which means they will not allow the Kurds much room for maneuverability.
Quite simply, the Kurds do not have much room to maneuver inside the Shiite Crescent. And the use of the Kurds to undermine the Shiite Crescent has become nothing more than a ‘nuisance’ in the crescent itself – with at least one member of the Triad (Turkey) deeply against the creation of a Kurdish state; and complete disunity among the various Kurdish factions. Iranians, Iraqis and Syrians will not ‘give’ much space for the Kurds too to become a vehicle of destabilization or break-down of their Shiite alliance.
No, the strategy of using the “Kurds” as a tool for the triad is a bankrupt one, and has boomeranged straight back into the Triad’s lap. And, the ISIS support strategy is out. So what’s left for the Triad?
So then this past year, Saudi Arabia tried to bankrupt Iran (and Russia) into submission in Syria. Saudi Oil and Gas were flooded into the market and suddenly both Iran and Russia had severe financial problems. The Saudi’s had somehow calculated that both Russia and Iran would abandon their Syrian adventure when their cash depleted.
But, very soon Saudi Arabia too felt the squeeze and after one year of ‘economic war’ – the oil market is suddenly tightening and prices are rising again. It turned out that this strategy actually failed. Neither Russia or Iran collapsed under the weight of a price downturn. Both countries it seemed had as low, if not lower cost of production than Saudi Arabia. They survived. But, big but, Saudi Arabia started selling assets to balance their books, and discovered very soon that it was a doomed plan – akin to suicide for them. This too was a strategic disaster.
Now that all their major strategic initiatives have failed, what’s left? What can the ‘Triad’ do?
The big goal now is to get the U.S. more directly involved, and push America to declare war on Iran. But this too, requires further manipulation (and control) of America’s political class. Can they pull that off?
Can the U.S. be manipulated into another Iraq style war in the region to thwart Iran’s regional influence? Can the Europeans be pushed to declare war? What will NATO’s response be to instability in Turkey?
We are now in a situation, where every 84 hours there is a terror attack somewhere in Europe – by ISIS. The Triad has calculated, maybe, that if ISIS starts threatening the Europeans, maybe they can muster up their forces and launch a Crusade in the Levant, to defeat the Triad’s evil beast: ISIS (and in the process topple Assad, clean up Lebanon, re-establish hegemony in Iraq … )! The Triad’s support for ISIS therefore, has shifted to using them to trigger a regional war.
It is interesting to note that ISIS is not putting on terrorist attacks inside Russia, or Iran or even the U.S.; but seems wholly focused on European destabilization. Somehow, the Israelis, Saudis and Turks have figured that their best shot is to ‘manipulate’ the Europeans into war.
The calculation goes something like this: Europe needs a hell of a lot of natural gas (about $400 Billion dollars’ worth per year) in the next few decades, and it must import this gas from somewhere. The Russians currently have a monopoly of Europe’s supply. This gas can come from Iran, Iraq or Russia or come from Saudi Arabia, or Israel via Turkey. With Lebanon, Syria and Iraq firmly under Iranian influence, there is no simple way to pipe Saudi or Israeli gas to Europe. So either Europe will deal with the Iranians, Iraqis and Russians OR wage war on ‘them’ to get pipelines built that will allow gas from Saudi Arabia and Israel (and Qatar too by the way) to get to Europe. This Energy security issue could be critical to getting the Europeans to march into the region. And ISIS’s constant terror attacks in Europe could provide the pretext for such a war. Sort of like how 9/11 gave Bush a pretext to invade Afghanistan and Iraq (even though we know now that neither the Taliban nor Saddam Hussein had any direct connection with planning and executing 9/11 … if Bin Laden was behind it (he was NOT part of the Taliban ruling government)).
And in the U.S., nothing will be resolved until the Presidential elections are behind everyone. Hillary for sure, will likely follow Obama’s strategy of NOT committing any U.S. troops to the region, and allow people to fight it out amongst themselves. The U.S. does NOT have a strategic interest in Syria. The U.S. would like to see the Russians and Iranians out, and Assad gone, but it’s not a critical existential strategic issue for the U.S. – it’s a “want” not a “need”. Trump on the other hand, can be bought. And he has sold out already to the ‘Triad’. He might take on this war for them.
My own assessment is that both the U.S. and Europe would be foolish to do anything in the region again. Neither the Russians nor Iranian are likely to back down. And yes, the “Shiite Alliance” is battle hardened and knows the territory well. It will be World War III and it won’t be pretty. While Iran’s nuclear arsenal has been destroyed, Iran has kept strong relations with the North Koreans – who do have Nuclear weapons. And by the way, so do the Russians. A joint European and American crusade in the region will not guarantee a slam dunk victory. And especially now, with a failed coup in Turkey and NATO bases in Turkey surrounded by Turkish troops, where would such an offensive be launched from.
The coup in Turkey has changed all “Triad” calculations.
And anyway, there is a completely separate route for Israeli and Saudi Gas to come to Europe that does NOT involve Lebanon or Syria or Iraq. John Kerry has mapped out a route for Israel through Cyprus that would enable gas supply to Europe. Why march into the region, when in fact Europe could have it all. There are ways for gas to come to Europe without war. Europe could have suppliers out their ears … Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Qatar, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Russia … and Europe would have energy security without more war.
ISIS’s terror in Europe, unfortunately will not provide a pretext for war. There is no business case for a war. And without a business case, the Europeans (who are already stretched and bankrupt) will not march in to thwart the Iranians or Russians. In fact, if the Europeans are shrewd; and you have to believe they are; they will know fully who is behind ISIS (and therefore the terror attacks).
My point is, perhaps the coup attempt in Turkey, is now part of the larger plan to defeat ISIS, and defeat the forces that support ISIS. Could the days of the “Triad” be over? Hasn’t every strategic step taken by the Triad turned into disaster? Could a coup in Saudi Arabia be next? What’s next?