Regulatory Forces

BERLIN/DAMASCUS | | syrien

BERLIN/DAMASCUS (Own report) - The ceasefire, set to begin today in Syria, mutes Berlin's hegemonic ambitions. Negotiated between Washington and Moscow the ceasefire has placed Moscow, for the time being, on an equal footing with the USA in the Middle East, while ignoring Berlin and its claim to become a regulatory power for the region. This is a clear setback for the German government and the hopes it had had four years ago. At the time, German government advisors and foreign policy experts were drawing up plans together with Syrian opposition members for reconstructing Syria after Assad's expected overthrow. The implementation of these plans would have provided Germany exclusive influence, while pushing Russia, politically, to the sidelines. But, this did not happen. However, the ceasefire cannot be considered stable. On the one hand, it is uncertain that the insurgent militia will respect it and, on the other, if Washington will - as was decided - really engage in joint operations with Moscow against the al Qaeda offshoot Jabhat al Nusra, or its successor, Jabhat Fatah al Sham. Because of the latter's close cooperation with the so-called moderate militias, the USA risks hitting its western allies, when bombing Fatah al Sham.

Together against Jihadists

The ceasefire negotiated between the USA and Russia late last week - and, according to Russian sources, agreed to by the Syrian government - is entering into force today. It will initially facilitate the supply of humanitarian aid to the currently besieged Syrian towns. The announcement that Washington and Moscow are planning joint military operations against Jihadists' active in Syria comes as a real surprise. For this purpose they will create a "Joint Intelligence Group," which will collect all available information and intelligence and coordinate air strikes, not only against the "Islamic State" (IS/Daesh), but also against the al Qaeda offshoots Jabhat al Nusra, or its successor Jabhat Fatah al Sham. This is a novelty because, until now, the USA has largely given free hand to Al Nusra/Fatah al Sham. This change of course is obviously due to the fact that US experts have increased their warning that al Qaeda is taking a stronger foothold in Syria and is planning to use the country as a staging ground for future targeted attacks against western powers - similar to al Qaeda's activities in Afghanistan preceding the fall 2001.[1]

In Alliance with Al Qaeda

The crucial question, at this point, is, will Washington really be willing to launch air raids on jihadists, other than IS/DAESH fighting in Syria. Charles Lister, an expert on Syria, points out that insurgent militias are extensively “marbled” or “coupled” with Jabhat al Nusra/Jabhat Fatah al Sham forces "on frontlines from Deraa in the south, to Damascus and throughout the northwest of the country." Lister reports that none of the alleged moderate militias, some of whom receive political, military and logistical support from NATO countries, are willing to give up their military cooperation with Jabhat Fatah al Sham.[2] This means that they could occasionally also be hit by air strikes against Fatah al Sham. This would also be the case for Ahrar al Sham, one of the most powerful militia's close to al Qaeda. Even US experts consider Ahrar al Sham to be al Qaeda's instrument for winning influence in Syria.[3] At the beginning of this year, Ahrar al Sham was still included in the Geneva peace talks - also due to pressure by Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier - against strong resistance from the Russian and Syrian governments.[4] During its recent invasion of Syria, Turkey has also cooperated with Ahrar al Sham. If the USA actually engages in comprehensive action against jihadists, the NATO countries' previous joint strategy in Syria would be in tatters.

Unstable Ceasefire

It is however, unclear if the ceasefire will even hold. In the spring, Al Qaeda / al Nusra, together with Ahrar al Sham, succeeded in systematically derailing the ceasefire, established at the time. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[5]) Because of the solid implantation of Al Nusra's successor, Jabhat Fatah al Sham, among Syria's insurgent militias, it is conceivable that they are capable of effectively sabotaging the ceasefire this time as well. The years of western benevolent approval of the Syrian jihadists and their promotion by the West's closest allies in the region [6] are bearing fruit.

On an Equal Footing with the USA

When viewed from a purely political angle, the ceasefire proves to be a setback for the German government. Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier has praised it as a "truly new opportunity for providing the necessary humanitarian access to the hundreds of thousands in need," and called for "compliance with the accords reached by Washington and Moscow and an end to the fighting by Monday at the latest."[7] Nevertheless, the fact that the ceasefire has been worked out between Washington and Moscow - without Germany - is a setback for Berlin's ambition to play a more prominent role in global politics in general but particularly in the "arch of crisis" around Europe, (german-foreign-policy.com reported [8]) while Russia, for the time being, has been able to re-emerge as a Middle East regulatory power.[9] Four years ago, Berlin had appeared to be closer to its political objectives than it does today. While experts saw the Assad government teetering on the brink of being overthrown at the time, Syrian exile politicians were regularly meeting in the German capital - under the direction of German government advisors and German foreign ministry specialists - to forge plans for Syria's reconstruction.[10] Nothing came of the German government's plans to use this as a means of obtaining direct influence in a pro-western Damascus - while squeezing Moscow out. On the contrary, Moscow has regained an equal footing with Washington in the Syrian war.

More Bundeswehr

Therefore, the German government will expand its activities in the Middle East. It is presumed that the next step will be to send additional German soldiers to Incirlik Airbase in Turkey to operate NATO's AWACS aircraft. Around 240 Bundeswehr soldiers are already stationed there, to prepare and accompany missions in the war against IS/Daesh with "Tornado" jet fighters and a refueling aircraft.[11] The Air Force is becoming installed for a long-term stay with construction measures estimated in the tens of millions. According to reports, the defense ministry has just earmarked 58 million Euros to construct its own airfield for the Tornados as well as accommodations for the German troops. In addition, the Bundeswehr announced, it will be furnished an ultramodern mobile command post for Incirlik.[12] The expansion of the war to air raids on Jabhat Fatah al Sham will also have an effect on the activities of the Bundeswehr, that was already due to receive additional troops for the AWACS' enhanced engagement in the war in Syria. The increased activities of the Bundeswehr in northern Iraq should also not be forgotten. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[13]) The ongoing increase in military operations is the means and the price to be paid for Germany's new global policy toward its still unattained objective of becoming the leading power in the "arch of crisis" surrounding the EU.

[1] Jennifer Cafarella: The Myth of a "Locally Focused" Former Al Qaeda Affiliate in Syria. www.thecipherbrief.com 01.08.2016.
[2] www.facebook.com/CharlesRLister .
[3] Jennifer Cafarella, Nicholas A. Heras, Genevieve Casagrande: Al Qaeda is Gaining Strength in Syria. foreignpolicy.com 01.09.2016.
[4] See Steinmeier und das Oberlandesgericht.
[5] See In Alliance with Al Qaeda.
[6] See Vom Nutzen des Jihad (I), Der Hauptsponsor des Jihadismus and Wie man Jihadisten fördert.
[7] Steinmeier begrüßt Friedensplan für Syrien. www.faz.net 10.09.2016.
[8] See Regulatory Power in the Arc of Crisis.
[9] See Consistencies in Western Hegemonic Policy.
[10] See The Day After, The Day After (III) and The Day After (IV).
[11] See Operationsstützpunkt Türkei (II).
[12] Matthias Gebauer: Bundeswehr investiert 58 Millionen Euro in der Türkei. www.spiegel.de 06.09.2016.
[13] See Deutsches Kriegs-Know-how.