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The Trump Effect on the Balance of Power in the Middle East

niraj-srivastavaNiraj Srivastava
21st Century Wire

Speaking at the Writers Guild Awards, held simultaneously in Los Angeles and New York on 19th Feb., the writer, and film director, Oliver Stone had this to say, while accepting the Laurel Award:

“The country [the US] has become more prosperous for many, but in the name of that wealth, we cannot justify our system as a center for the world’s values. But we continue to create such chaos and wars. No need to go through the victims, but we know we’ve intervened in more than 100 countries with invasion, regime change, economic chaos. Or hired war. It’s war of some kind. In the end, it’s become a system leading to the death of this planet and the extinction of us all.

I’ve fought these people who practice war for most of my life. It’s a tiring game. And mostly you’ll get your ass kicked. With all the criticism and insults you’ll receive, and the flattery too, it’s important to remember, if you believe in what you are saying and you can stay the course, you can make a difference.”

Oliver stone
Archive photo of a young Oliver Stone

Stone reminded younger filmmakers:

“You can be critical of your government and your society.

You don’t have to fit in. It’s fashionable now to take shots at Republicans and Trump and avoid the Obamas and Clintons. But remember this: In the 13 wars we’ve started over the last 30 years and the $14 trillion we’ve spent, and the hundreds of thousands of lives that have perished from this earth, remember that it wasn’t one leader, but a system, both Republican and Democrat. Call it what you will: the military-industrial-money-media-security complex. It’s a system that has been perpetuated under the guise that these are just wars, justifiable in the name of our flag that flies so proudly.”

He finished with these words:

“I urge you to find a way to remain alone with yourself, listen to your silences, not always in a writer’s room. Try to find not what the crowd wants so you can be successful, but try instead to find the true inner meaning of your life here on earth, and never give up on your heart in your struggle for peace, decency, and telling the truth.”

Stone’s acceptance speech deviated somewhat from the current norm, which includes holding Trump responsible for all the ills facing America. Instead of doing so, he held the whole “system,” that has come into existence over the last 30 years, responsible.

That “system,” also called the “Deep State” (DS) by some, did not expect Trump to win the Presidential elections last November. Its candidate was Hillary Clinton, who had promised to intensify the proxy war in Syria, possibly resulting in a direct military confrontation with Russia, including a nuclear exchange.

As Stone indicated, war has become a way of life for the US “Deep State,” which includes the lobbies mentioned by him. The DS does not want improvement of relations with Russia, Iran, Syria and some other countries because that will reduce the possibility of wars with them.

That, in turn, will affect US arms sales and the plan for global domination drawn-up by the “neocons,” who continue to infest the American “system.” They have not yet accepted Trump as President, and are scheming to remove him from office as soon as possible.

The opening move in this game-plan has already been made with the [forced] resignation of Trump’s National Security Advisor Gen. Michael Flynn, who was a strong supporter of good relations with Russia. His misdemeanour—speaking to the Russian ambassador on the phone, and possibly “lying” about it to Vice-President Pence—was not so grave as to result in his resignation. But Trump didn’t stand up to the DS to defend Flynn and buckled under pressure.

In the process, the DS, in particular the CIA and the National Security Agency (NSA), which are suspected of leaking the transcript of Flynn’s phone call to the media, committed a serious violation of US law, which Trump has asked the FBI to investigate. But that will not be an easy task and might take some time.

In the meantime, US relations with Russia have been undermined, Trump has been weakened, and the DS has tasted blood. The first round in this fight has gone to the DS, whose ultimate objective is the removal of Trump, by whatever means, including impeachment, as soon as possible.

Trump’s tenure in the White House, therefore, is likely to be marked by turbulence, unpredictability, and inconsistency.

There are other signs of neocons changing Trump’s policies. For example, he has spoken about setting up “safe zones” in Syria and return of Crimea by Russia to Ukraine. Both these demands are unacceptable to Russia and were not made by Trump earlier.

These demands will only increase the friction between the two countries, which is what the neocons want—an adversary in whose name the US/NATO war machine can continue to work. Otherwise, what would be the justification for the continued existence of NATO?

Trump’s election had raised hopes that a political solution to the crisis in Syria could be found by the US and Russia working together. Those hopes have largely evaporated.

The two rounds of talks held in Astana in the last few weeks have not produced much; “regime change” continues to be the top priority for the anti-Assad groups backed by the West and Gulf. Turkey has its own agenda in Syria that does not coincide with Syrian interests. Erdogan continues to play all sides, though he pretends to work with Russia and Iran to broker a peace settlement in Syria.

For the above reasons, the fourth round of peace talks currently underway in Geneva is unlikely to produce any substantive results. Russian frustration with the West was articulated by Foreign Minister Lavrov, who called for a “post-West” world order at the Munich Security Conference held a few days ago. He also described NATO as a relic of the Cold War, whose expansion in the last two decades had increased tensions in Europe.

So, while a shaky cease-fire holds in Syria, durable peace is unlikely to return to that country anytime soon. The opposition groups will use the cease-fire to regroup and re-arm, as they have done in the past. Hundreds, if not thousands, of Turkish and American troops continue to occupy and operate in Syria illegally. Nobody knows when, or if, they will leave.

And then there is Israel, which has been emboldened by Trump’s policies. Its objective is the disintegration of Syria, so that it may annex the Golan Heights and may well have designs on further extending its illegitimate land grabs inside Syria.

Trump’s approach to Israel is puzzling because he is not beholden to the Jewish lobby for his election. Clinton was the candidate of that lobby. But Trump is proving to be a bigger Zionist than Clinton. That cannot be good for Syria, Russia, and Iran.

All in all, not a very promising scenario—in the short term— for peace and stability in Syria, despite Assad’s best efforts. The illegitimate, external players in the country—the US and its allies—will continue to meddle for some more time, till Assad, Russia, Iran, and other friends of Syria defeat them decisively. Assad’s morale is high and his determination firm, in contrast to that of his adversaries. Time is on his side.


Niraj Srivastava is a former Ambassador of India, has served in several countries, including Syria, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and the United States. The views expressed are personal.

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READ MORE SYRIA NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire Syria Files




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