Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Will Russian Israeli Military Alliance and US-Russian ‘Tacit Agreement’ throw Stop the War Coalition and Eustonites into Confusion.

with 17 comments

Obama and Putin

‘Tacit Agreement’ on Syria in Sight?

Russia-Israel military alliance in Syria is a breakthrough.

Pravda. 23.9.15.

The agreement reached in Moscow between the Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu on a “mechanism to prevent misunderstandings between Israel and Syria” is to influence the power balance in the Middle East, Avigdor Eskin, the Israeli publicist told Pravda.Ru in an interview.

The Russian-Israeli joint military group will coordinate operations in Syria. This military cooperation is the first one since foundation of the Israeli state, Eskin noted. The military alliance will operate without the US as well as other Western countries. The parties have one opponent, that is the Islamic State, and misunderstandings can occur only on the Syria’s helping Hezbollah, which is declared a terror organization in Israel.

What about Bashar al-Assad, the expert says that the Israeli authorities realized that only his army can oppose the radical Islam, and he is the only intelligible negotiation leverage in Syria. Jihadists, which are currently in the Golan Heights (a disputed area between Israel and Syria) for instance, are backed by the US, and attack the Israeli territory.

Russia and the United States have reached a “tacit agreement” on ending Syria’s bloody crisis, a senior adviser to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said.

Damascus (Agence France Press 24.9.15.)

“The current US administration wants to find a solution to the crisis in Syria. There is a tacit agreement between the US and Russia to reach this solution,” Bouthaina Shaaban said in an interview with state television late Wednesday.

“The US recognises now that Russia has profound knowledge of this region and a better assessment of the situation,” she said.

“The current international climate is heading towards detente and towards a solution for the crisis in Syria.”

Shaaban said there was a “change in the West’s positions” over Syria’s war, which has killed more than 240,000 people and displaced millions since 2011.


Yesterday on Newsnight the consequences of the Russian-US tacit agreement were discussed in some detail by a former UK ambassador to Moscow and Timothy Snyder (author of Bloodlands).

The main message of the former diplomat was the Russia was focused on the threat from violent Islamism, Daesh. The US had not been able to create an alternative to Assad and to the genocidal Islamists. In present conditions – not least the humanitarian crisis – it was important to get rid of the Islamic State before anything else.

Snyder noted that Putin had a long history of backing authoritarian regimes and had created problems in the Ukraine.

Which did not answer the point about the Middle East and defeating the Islamic State.


Today: Syria: U.S., Russia Reach ‘Tacit Agreement’ On Ending Syrian War; Obama And Putin To Meet Monday. (HGN)

“Russia has provided and will provide adequate support to the legitimate government of Syria in the fight against extremists and terrorists of all kinds,” Ilya Rogachev, head of Russian Foreign Ministry’s Department for New Challenges and Threats, told RIA Novosti on Thursday.

Moscow announced Thursday it plans to hold naval exercises in the eastern Mediterranean Sea in September and October. On Wednesday, the Syrian military for the first time began using Russian drones, and the army has previously received at least five fighter jets along with tanks and artillery.

Now that Russia is militarily involved in Syria, there has been “a change in the West’s positions” over the Syrian war and the crisis “is heading towards detente and towards a solution,” according to Assad’s adviser.

As Stratfor writes, “Russia has rightfully judged that its direct intervention in Syria will force Washington to begin direct military-to-military talks with Moscow on the conflict.”

The White House announced Thursday that Obama and Putin will meet Monday afternoon in New York during a three-day session of the U.N. General Assembly, reported The New York Times. The two will discuss the conflicts in both Syria and Ukraine.

The wider consequences of this change are too great to be examined here.

The mention of Iraq, Turkey, Saudi Arabia,  and Iran should make it obvious that the complexities of whatever is being negotiated are enormous.

But we can observe some effects on UK domestic politics, specifically on the left and foreign policy:

  • The Stop the War Coalition (StWC) has been a leading voice in this country criticising the US and its allies’ interventions in the Middle East. But it has done more than that: it has asserted that the US, and Israel, have been responsible for both the conditions that gave rise to the Islamic State, and that their present actions have to be firmly opposed.
  • The StWC has refused to offer anything remotely realistic to secure the minimal objective of defeating the Islamic state, or indeed, to defend the group which many on the left strongly identity with, the Kurdish people’s armed wings – the principal  democratic fighting opposition to the Islamist killers.
  • Will they continue to do this when Russia is a ‘tacit’ ally of the West?
  • What alternative will they  offer? Or simply, what will they say?
  • The Eustonites, such as Harry’s Place and their right-wing allies in Parliament and the media, have been vociferous in denouncing the StWC and their former Chair, Jeremy Corbyn, for complicity towards Russia and  anti–Israeli forces, such as Hamas and Hezbollah.
  • The Eustonites have advocated (without about as many specifics as a StWC policy-statement) forceful intervention in Syria to create a democratic replacement to the Assad regime – without going into the slightest detail about what this will consist of. They have been prepared to fight to the last Syrian and last Kurd to secure that end.
  • Will they now continue to do so when Assad’s ally, Russia is now about to reach an understanding with the West, and when Moscow has already made an agreement with Israel?
  • What will they say?


It will be interesting, to say the least, to see how these two opposing groupings react to  developments in the coming days.


17 Responses

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  1. I haven’t read the detail as I’ve been away but the news continues from what it was last weekend and seems to be based on the assumption that Russia wants to fight IS? There is no evidence for this, infact the opposite is the case. My understanding is that Assad is losing so they’re there to shore him up.

    There’s also this assumption that Russia is a ‘great power’ and that is questionable. But that is what Russia wants to appear as and stuff the consequences. This is a dice throw by Putin. If they are going to throw highly reluctant conscripts into the maelstrom in Syria then this has dramatic domestic consequences. I would bet these news analysis aren’t considering that.

    Paul Canning (@pauloCanning)

    September 25, 2015 at 12:49 pm

  2. Russia wants a stable, friendly Syria where it can maintain its naval base. That has been constant throughout. Therefore, Russia will back Assad, as the only conceivable guarantor of Russia’s interests in the region. That has also been constant throughout. What the outcome of increased Russian assistance to Assad will be, I have no idea. Wars never work out the way the people who plan them want. But Russian policy does have the merit of relative consistency (backing Assad), and relative realism (they have no illusions about the force they are backing). The same cannot be said of Western meddling.


    September 25, 2015 at 1:40 pm

  3. On a related matter, I sent a comrade the following email a few days ago:

    Q: “I’ve noticed that Stop The War have a public meeting (“Don’t Attack Syria”) in Brum at which one of the speakers is Wijdan Derki “Kurdish speaker from the PYD”. The leaflet calls for opposition to “the Tory plan to extend British bombing in the Middle East”, but also “self-determination for the Kurdish people” and strongly implies support for them against “the Assad dictatorship.”

    “Any idea what’s going on here?”

    A: “The relationship between the Kurds/ PYD and Stop The War is a weird one.

    “On one hand the Kurds are furious that Stop The War have done nothing against ISIS’s war on them – on the other hand they stay clear of public condemnation of Stop The War.

    “The PYD will go with anyone who can offer them support. Their major concern at the moment is to stop Turkey’s onslaught on the HDP and the PKK – as well as humanitarian aid for Rojava.

    “Of course, Stop The War can condemn Turkey’s bombing of Kurds in Rojava and their widescale attack on Kurds throughout Turkey – Turkey is after all the ‘agent of US imperialism’. That would likely be the joint focus of the meeting, side-stepping the request that the PYD made for bombings of ISIS during the siege of Kobane.

    “But until we can build a wide campaign that carries out real solidarity with Kurds – I guess the PYD will go with anyone who can offer support, however contradictory.”

    Jim Denham

    September 25, 2015 at 2:09 pm

  4. I’m trying to work it out and not having much success. One possible explanation: Israel will welcome Russia’s intervention to help Syria, on condition that Syria breaks from Iran and stops supporting Hezbollah. (Israel’s main beef with Syria is its links with Iran and support for Hezbollah.) The quid-pro-quo being Moscow keeping its base on the Mediterranean. Does Washington agree? I can’t see Israel doing something important like this without US backing.

    Dr Paul

    September 25, 2015 at 2:28 pm

  5. Paul Canning the issue is what’s happening in Syriya and Iraq, not what Putin’s power politics are.

    These stories are part of such a complex game that apart from the kind of general overview that Francis offers we can’t all be Tariq Ali or Lindsey German and work it out.

    Paul Flewers, which is why I pose the questions relating to the effects of what we do know will have on the political stand of the StWC and the Eustonites’ – or Progress wing of the Labour Party.

    Their politics are something we here know something – a lot – about.

    Both are remarkably silent on this.

    Jim, that is clear, and many would have no problem with focusing on the defence of the HDP against Erdoğan, because it seems fairly unambiguous on what side to take.

    But it is fantasy politics to ignore what the PYD faces in Syriya, why they – for hell’s sake in their direst hour of need – got help where they could, no thanks to the likes of the StWC.

    This is worth reflecting on (Independent today):

    “Syria civil war: Kurdish leader says collapse of Assad regime ‘would be a disaster’ despite its treatment of his people ”

    The overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad by Isis and rebel groups that are affiliated to al-Qaeda would be a calamity for the world, says the Syrian Kurdish leader Saleh Muslim.

    In an interview with The Independent he warned that “if the regime collapses because of the salafis [fundamentalist Islamic militants] it would be a disaster for everyone.”

    Mr Muslim said he was fully in favour of Mr Assad and his government being replaced by a more acceptable alternative. But he is concerned that Isis and other extreme Islamist groups are now close to Damascus on several sides, saying that “this is dangerous”. During a recent Isis offensive in the north eastern city of Hasaka, the Kurdish YPG (People’s Protection Units) militia and the Syrian Army both came under attack from Isis, but Mr Muslim denied that there was any collaboration between the two.

    The Syrian Kurds, previously marginalised and discriminated against by the Damascus government, have become crucial players in the country’s civil war over the last year. In January, they defeated Isis at Kobani with the aid of US airstrikes after a four-and-a-half month siege and their forces are still advancing. While Mr Muslim said that he wants an end to rule by Mr Assad, he makes clear that he considers Isis to be the main enemy.

    “Our main goal is the defeat of Daesh [Isis],” he said. “We would not feel safe in our home so long as there is one Daesh [Isis] left alive.” The threat did not come from them alone, he said, but also from al-Qaeda clones such as Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham. “They all have the same mentality.”


    Andrew Coates

    September 25, 2015 at 4:48 pm

  6. Anything though is better than this ‘answer’ to the problems of the region:

    “Imperialist powers such as Britain have nothing to contribute to what Cameron calls “deal[ing] with the problems in Syria”. Only a revival of the Arab revolutionary movement can offer a solution.”

    Alex Callinicos.

    Socialist Worker.


    Andrew Coates

    September 25, 2015 at 5:28 pm

  7. Francis, ‘consistent Russian foreign policy’? This is the same Russia that was saying Crimea was Ukrainian shortly before invading? They also backed the E Ukraine ‘rebels’ and now they’re quietly dropping them.

    Andrew, my point is that the reporting on what Russia is doing, never mind why, is so often so way off. That naval base they have? It’s tiny. Their presence? They ‘accidentally’ announced it, it wasn’t really ‘discovered’. Plus they have always been there.

    The reporting is premised on Russia being some help against IS. They won’t be, yet this is the constant assumption.

    As I just said on Twitter, I haven;t read a great deal of thinking from any part of the left which seems to get Russia. For one thing, that they play ‘hybrid war’ where the propaganda is a key element.

    I will try to dig some stuff out on this or, better, write on it.

    Paul Canning (@pauloCanning)

    September 25, 2015 at 5:40 pm

  8. As I say Paul, anything welcome, it’s bound to be better than the analysis of the learned professor of the SWP.

    Andrew Coates

    September 25, 2015 at 5:46 pm

  9. This sounds about right.

    So once again we have another potential gambit, no doubt cooked up by the same “geopolitical experts” who have failed to produce anything of value for Russia to date and yet who still get to keep their jobs for some unknown reason. Once again it will fail, in this case largely because it is another one of these have cake and eat it too scenarios. Russia wants to be in the club, but when they don’t measure up to the standards (which to be fair aren’t really that stringent), they start screaming about their “special path” and how they won’t be “rushed.” If Galeotti is right about the Kremlin’s motives in Syria, he’s most likely right about the outcome. The West will welcome the aid against the Islamic State, if any is truly forthcoming, but still tell Putin to fuck off from Ukraine.

    The dream of a united Europe, America, and Russia saving the Levant from a mess that was arguably originally caused by the US is long dead. Putin killed it. Master strategist indeed.


    Paul Canning (@pauloCanning)

    September 25, 2015 at 6:01 pm

  10. Ditto this:

    One important thing to understand about Russia’s foreign policy is that Russia has no foreign policy and no long-term goal to achieve internationally. But given its size and capabilities, its domestic politics will continue to make a strong, if random impact on international affairs. All of its actions, including the war in Ukraine and the recent foray into Syria, are dictated by the need to mobilize Putin’s support base in order to keep the status quo whereby the oligarchy can tap into natural resources and state coffers, unhindered by media and opposition.

    If the pendulum of public opinion swings towards pacifism, as it did in the late 1980s and during the first Chechen war, the regime (non-democratic, but obsessed with feedback) will swing that way, too. But for now it feels it needs another ‘victory’ to prop up its high popularity ratings, playing on the Russians’ deep inferiority complex caused by the trauma they endured in the 20th century. It needs another Crimea of sorts.


    Paul Canning (@pauloCanning)

    September 25, 2015 at 6:17 pm

  11. Paul, I was referring to Russia’s policy on Syria. As for policy on Ukraine, it’s clearly being made up on the hoof. Although I suppose there is the common factor in both cases of a concern to retain control over naval bases… But the Russia-Ukraine relationship is much more complex, as might be expected between people(s) who have been part of the same polity, on and off, since 882AD.


    September 25, 2015 at 11:46 pm

  12. As a Russian speaker Francis, has this story about Syria been given this attention in their media as in ours?

    Andrew Coates

    September 26, 2015 at 11:34 am

  13. Yes, there’s quite a lot of discussion, and not only in serious papers like Nezavisimaya gazeta and oppositional-liberal ones like Novaya gazeta. Even the very tabloidy Komsomol’skaya pravda has been presenting different viewpoints, including an article by Pavel Zolotarev of the US-Canada Institute of the Academy of Sciences, entitled “Why repeat the mistakes of the Soviet Union?” A Syrian adventure would certainly not be universally popular in Russia, that much is clear.


    September 26, 2015 at 12:23 pm

  14. Andrew, the Russian media shift to Syria, from Ukraine, was signaled when they sent their top TV news reporters over there a few weeks ago, All lines up with Putin UN speech (first since 2005).

    Paul Canning (@pauloCanning)

    September 26, 2015 at 12:54 pm

  15. “The main message of the former diplomat was the Russia was focused on the threat from violent Islamism, Daesh.”
    That’s not the case, though.
    “The coastal region, where Russia has deployed, is nowhere near Islamic State territories. The deployment is clearly designed to shore up the regime’s military capabilities, which have shown serious signs of weakness since March, when the rebels made a string of swift gains in different parts of the country.”
    See also Yassin al Haj Saleh.
    ‘One cannot say “Russia” and “peace” in the same sentence – and especially not in Syria. Russia has helped the regime to kill Syrians for 55 months now, and use its veto power to prevent action in the Security Council. So how can we talk about Russia’s role promoting peace? They still say that Assad must stay. They said that before Daesh existed. Russia has always taken the side of the regime. Russia has never said that they want a political process that really involves change, says Saleh.’

    Dick Gregory

    September 28, 2015 at 7:06 am

  16. Now I read that the Russian government is mooting air-raids by its own air force against ISIS alongside Western air-raids. This will really confuse both our Decents and the StWC. How will Decency deal with one its devils incarnate standing side-by-side with its saintly forces? How will the Morning Stalinists deal with this peculiar situation? And will the StWC be able to continue to oppose Western air-raids in this situation, should the Morning Stalinists end up supporting Russian air-raids? All of a sudden simplistic politics get very complicated.

    On a more serious note, is there any possibility of a solution to the Syrian situation that is not going to be a disaster? If the regime crashes, it seems to me that it will then be a competition between two jihadist forces, ISIS and al Nusra, the al Qaeda franchise. If one or the other jihadist forces crashes, then there is still the other one causing mayhem. If the regime survives, this will provoke opposition, even if one or the other jihadi groups is defeated. Even if the current jihadi menace subsides, such is the massive damage in Syria (and in Iraq) that the material basis remains for the revival of jihadism, if in another form to al Nusra or ISIS.

    Although there was some democratic content to the opposition at the start of the crisis, I very much doubt if this could have taken the lead. Those hailing some sort of progressive Syrian revolution have been deluding themselves (yet they still rabbit on about it). A Libya-style situation was pretty much on the cards from the beginning.

    Perhaps the only way this situation could have been avoided was had the big powers encouraged Assad to make a deal with the democratic opposition. This was unlikely, as right from the start the big Western powers called for Assad to go (despite the disaster following Gadaffi’s fall), Assad was unlikely to make a deal even before the big Western powers called for his removal (and thereby reinforcing his reluctance), and the unlikeliness of the opposition to make a deal with the regime.

    Dr Paul

    September 29, 2015 at 1:43 pm

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