Security Conference – Munich, 17 February.

In a somewhat familiar but precise English, Benjamin Norman – a diplomat in charge of the Middle East at the British Embassy in Washington – reports in a confidential diplomatic telegram (TD) 1 of 12 January 2018 of the first meeting. of the “Small American Group on Syria” (United States, Great Britain, France, Saudi Arabia and Jordan), held in Washington on January 11, 2018.

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In this five-page TD, he reveals the details of the “Western strategy” in Syria: partition of the country, sabotage of Sochi, framing of Turkey and instructions to the UN Special Representative Staffan de Mistura who leads the negotiations of Geneva. A Non Paper (8 pages) accompanies this TD in anticipation of the second meeting of the “Small Group”. It was held in Paris on January 23rd, mainly devoted to the use of chemical weapons and the “instructions” sent by the “Small American Group” to Staffan de Mistura.

Attended the January 11 meeting in Washington Hugh Cleary (Head of the Near and Middle East Department of the Foreign Office); Jérôme Bonnafont (Director ANMO / North Africa and Middle East at the Quai d’Orsay); David Satterfield (US Assistant Secretary of State for the Middle East); Jordanian Nawaf Tell and Saudi Jamal al-Aqeel. The American opened the meeting stating that a second meeting would be held in Paris on January 23.

David Satterfield confirmed that President Trump has decided to maintain a large US military presence in Syria, despite the victory over the “Islamic State Organization” (Dae’ch); the cost of this maintenance being set at $ 4 billion annually. He said that this US military presence should prevent any resurgence of Dae’ch, but especially prevent the “Iranians to settle in the long term and win in the search for a political solution.” Thirdly, he insisted that the first meeting of the “Small Group” should also provide “material and political support for Staffan de Mistura to” consolidate the Geneva process “. All the participants welcomed this development very positively in order to “make substantial progress in Syria during the year 2018” and “respond to the propaganda of a Russian victory”. Then, the participants insisted on the “Russian desire to reach a political solution” that it was to use to make the “Small Group” objectives “more operational”.

CONSOLIDATING THE GENEVA PROCESS

The United States noted that they would no longer participate in the Astana meetings, having reduced “their participation to a very low level, to emphasize their commitment to Geneva”; in definitive terms, it was decided to “draw a conceptual line on Astana to return to Geneva”. They then felt that so far “Geneva remained a failure, despite the efforts of Staffan de Mistura”. They were very cautious about including the ceasefire in the Geneva talks: “the truth is that we simply do not have the ability to prevent the regime from nibbling the pockets of the opposition. remaining in Idlib and East of Ghouta “.

TD reports great progress “made by the opposition over the last few months,” pointing out that “it will still need to be more flexible to ensure that the Regime does not leave Geneva (…) while the Americans do not support the assumption of a transitional government as provided for in UN Security Council Resolution 2254 “. The text adds that “it would still be useful if the opposition could stop agitating this assumption all the time …” It was also agreed that “the opposition had to be more flexible and stop ‘shake the bogeyman of a transitional government’, the Americans adding that, without changing the final goal of partitioning Syria and leaving Bashar al-Assad, it was first necessary to ‘keep moving in proceeding with “careful handling” of the opposition.

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The French representative – Jérôme Bonnafont – posed the problem of a possible participation of Bashar al-Assad in future elections. David Satterfield responded that “the goal was to create conditions and institutions that would allow elections that Assad could not win.” Satterfield added that “there is no flagrant reason” to prevent Assad from being a candidate. Under these conditions, it was mainly a question of testing Russia’s intentions, especially so that it could “get the regime to discuss a new constitution, free elections under the control of the United Nations, and the creation of an environment likely to favor these two processes “. Unrestricted agreement of all the members of the “Small Group” meeting to “no longer be satisfied with Lavrov’s honeyed words, in order to put Moscow under pressure”. For Satterfield, it is about getting the Russians to let Assad go, “through meetings of the Security Council and a broad public communication campaign,” believing that the announced re-election of Vladimir Putin positively undermined the Russian position …

SABOTER ET INSTRUMENTALISER SOTCHI

L’une des conclusions de cette première réunion du « Petit Groupe » est parfaitement claire : « revigorer Genève pour que Sotchi devienne hors de propos » ; la France réclamant plus de « transparence sur la position russe ». Mais il s’agit encore de ne pas s’opposer « frontalement » à Sotchi « présentant l’avantage de rassembler une part non négligeable de la société civile syrienne », pour en ramener les « apports les plus positifs à Genève, afin de renouveler et relancer ce format de Genève ».

Les Saoudiens ont mis en garde contre un « risque de fragmentation des différents groupes de l’opposition et demandé de l’aide afin de maintenir la cohésion de celle-ci ». Satterfield a rétorqué que leurs représentants devraient « s’engager davantage dans la recherche d’une solution politique plutôt que de profiter de salaires mirifiques et de longs séjours dans des hôtels agréables ». La France a appuyé cette remarque en insistant sur « la communication ». A cet égard, le TD britannique dresse le commentaire suivant : « malheureusement, la Cinquième République française n’a pas vocation à financer cet effort », les représentants britanniques rappelant «  que la communication de l’opposition a été financée en premier lieu par… le Royaume-Uni ».

David Satterfield a, ensuite, expliqué que l’opposition turque aux « Unités de protection du peuple kurde (YPG) » empêchait les Kurdes de participer à Genève. Tout en comprenant la position d’Ankara, il a souligné « qu’on ne pouvait pas ignorer un groupe qui contrôlait le tiers de la Syrie (SIC) et qui avait pris la plus grande part à la lutte contre Dae’ch ». Il a expliqué que « les Américains cherchaient à établir un leadership multi-ethnique au nord-est de la Syrie afin de diluer l’hégémonie de l’ YPG ». Par contre, il s’agissait d’imposer les FDS (Forces démocratiques syriennes, majoritairement kurdes et sous contrôle américain) dans le processus de Genève.

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Commentaire de l’auteur du TD : « je comprends que les Etats-Unis vont nommer William (Bill) Roebuck, leur ex-ambassadeur à Bahreïn, comme représentant spécial des FDS. Je vais suivre, mais cela vaut la peine de rappeler – selon les discussions séparées que nous avons eues, par exemple avec Fiona Hill – que les relations entre les Etats-Unis et la Turquie sont déjà mauvaises et ne risquent pas de s’améliorer. Par conséquent, les Américains ne sont pas les mieux placés pour faire – en solo – le gros boulot avec les FDS et Ankara ». L’objectif est clairement défini : « amener Staffan de Mistura à accepter à Genève une structure tripartite incorporant l’opposition, Assad et les FDS ».

Du reste, le secrétaire d’Etat adjoint indique qu’un « Non-Paper – Reviving the Syrian Political Track in Geneva– sera communiqué à Staffan de Mistura avant la réunion du 23 janvier à Paris, « afin de mettre les Russes au pied du mur ». Ce document comporte : « une Feuille de route politique, les éléments d’une réforme constitutionnelle, la structure onusienne de supervision des élections et les directives pour l’établissement d’un environnement pacifié ».

Pour leur part, les Jordaniens ont qualifié la session du « Petit Groupe » de « la réunion publique la plus secrète de tous les temps ». Et l’auteur du TD de conclure : « nous devons, pour le moment, garder un groupe constitué uniquement des Etats-Unis, de la Grande Bretagne, de la France, de l’Arabie saoudite et de la Jordanie. Les prochains à être invités devraient être l’Egypte et l’Allemagne (pour qui nous avons plaidé). La Turquie devrait également joindre le groupe, mais la discussion avec elle risque d’être empoisonnée par les Kurdes, ce qui rendra plus difficile la neutralisation d’Astana. Il n’y a donc pas urgence à intégrer ces trois derniers pays ».

COMMENTS BELLICISTS

The concluding comments of this TD speak volumes about the future of Western strategy in Syria. The three key conclusions underscore “a real reaffirmation of US leadership behind the scenes …”. The second perspective is to “keep the pressure on Russia, even if Russia can not convince Moscow to let go of the regime as we had hoped.” In this regard, “we must continue – what we are already doing – to denounce the horrible humanitarian situation as well as the Russian complicity in the campaign of bombing civilian targets.” Finally, concludes the author of TD, “the Americans told me how much they appreciated our contribution and support in recent months as they were finalizing their strategy.”

This does not augur a forthcoming crisis in Syria in a context marked by four major developments of the most worrying.

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1) The United States has decided to strengthen and diversify their nuclear posture. The Pentagon has announced that it will develop miniaturized tactical nuclear weapons “to adapt to new international threats”. Iranian President Hassan Rohani responded: “How can anyone speak of world peace and at the same time announce that he is developing new nuclear weapons for his main enemies? ”

2) NATO Defense Ministers agreed on 14 and 15 February in Brussels on the outline of a new overhaul of the Atlantic Alliance command structures. This “adaptation – the largest since the end of the Cold War”, according to Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, is proposed by the US military. It aims to make the Alliance more effective in a high-intensity crisis. Clearly, it is “better to deter and respond to new threats from certain states, first and foremost Russia.”

3) In the aftermath of the destruction of an Israeli fighter in Syrian airspace, and while Israeli police demand the indictment of Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu for corruption, Tel-Aviv accuses Iran of establishing itself in Syria and threatens to multiply its military operations. This is not the first time that the Israeli prime minister – who refuses to resign – is using the resurgence of regional tension to consolidate his personal power and his alliance with the extreme right of the country.

4) Finally, Washington’s military support for the Kurds in Syria continues to provoke the Ankara era. The crisis of confidence is consumed and the Turkish-American axis is on the brink of rupture. Second NATO contingent, the Turkish army had to accompany the conservative and anti-Western turn after the failed coup of July 2016. Mission has been given to a general with conservative and Islamist tendencies to restructure the derailed Turkish army by the purges.

Ultimately, the British TD perfectly reflects the Western strategy in Syria: to sabotage the Sochi peace efforts, to add two new wars to the Syrian crisis: that of the Turks against the Kurds and those of the Israelis against Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah. “The Americans have never admitted their military defeat in Syria and do not want to let go and especially their main strategic objective,” said a senior French diplomat, “that of dismantling Syria, the type of one who has been driven to Iraq and Libya. Their desire is to arm the Kurds to control the oil areas of eastern Syria in order to influence the political and economic reconstruction of the country. Peace is not for tomorrow.

Richard Labévière

1) Benjamin Norman / Foreign and Security Policy – Middle East / British Embassy – 3100 Massachusetts Avenue, NW / Washington DC / 20008 / USA. Phone: 202 588 6547 / FTN: 8430 6547. Email: Benjamin.norman@fco.gov.uk

From: http://prochetmoyen-orient.ch/syrieleaks-un-cable-diplomatique-britannique-devoile-la-strategie-occidentale/

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