Crossfire War – RAPID FIRE NEWS=TEHRAN – ANKARA – DAMASCUS WATCH – Eurasia Theatre: Turkey-Syria Entertain Washington Envoys – Sec. of State Clinton Praises Turkey – Washington Disengages from Region – Make Excuses While Exit Shooting – Russia FM Lavrov Calls for Nuclear Free Middle East – Georgia Attempting to Improve Anti-Air/Anti-Armor Defenses to Confront New Russia Offensive – China FM Jiechi to Visit Washington March 9-13 – Gauntlet of Meetings Waiting
Night Watch: ANKARA – “We covered a broad agenda today…in addition to Iraq and Afghanistan, we discussed our cooperation to defeat our common enemy, the PKK, to update NATO’s capabilities to meet 21st century challenges and we talked about the urgent need to work with the international community towards a two state solution and a comprehensive peace in the Middle East.” Al Jazeera reports that was the announcement from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a joint press conference with Turkey Foreign Minister Ali Babacan after their meeting (Haaretz).
Clinton is promoting Washington’s new image of consultation instead of dictation and every regional capital is eager to entertain it. She even mentioned they discussed Turkey’s entry into the European Union and a peace treaty between Turkey-Greece over Cyprus. In addition to Foreign Minister Babacan, Clinton also met Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul and I suspect Turkey’s leaders realize Washington is virtually powerless in every area discussed on the map and that is why the U.S. is falling back on the unspoken policy of make excuses as you exit shooting. Leave the problems for others to solve and have them pick up the debris.
One note of reality was struck by columnist Kadri Gursel of the Millyet newspaper who observed regarding Ankara’s government and the limitations they will face if they seriously cooperate with Washington, “They will face harsh opposition from the Islamist opposition that they are killing their Muslim brothers, serving the Western interests.” And that is why publicly Ankara entertains Washington’s latest representative of its regional-international unreality while privately Turkey increases its working military relations with the Islamic world including Damascus-Baghdad-Tehran-Islamabad.
Damascus – “They’ve given up on the idea of Syria has to do this and that.” That was the telling observation of the Syria Ambassador to Washington, Imad Mustapha in a telephone interview on the two U.S. foreign policy officials in Damascus (France24/Reuters). Therefore, in a mood to listen, the State Department sent Jeffery Feltman, Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs and Daniel Shapiro of the White House National Security Council to Damascus to listen to Syria Foreign Minister Walid Moallem. The discussions were described as constructive which means nothing definite was decided and that should not be surprising since both Washington/Damascus know Syria is not about to end its military relations with Iran-Hamas-Hezbollah. President Bashar al-Assad did not meet with the U.S. officials. The meeting was a consummate act of diplomatic pretense as both sides wait for fighting in the region to increase. Haaretz is reporting daily violence between Israel and Islamic Jihad’s military wing, al-Quds Brigades, is ongoing with more air strikes and rocket fire.
Geneva – “The task to strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation regime in the Middle East remains urgent. We consistently advocate this region to become a nuclear-weapon-free zone and eventually, a zone free from all other types of weapons of mass destruction.” Haaretz reports that was the statement from Russia Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaking from Geneva. He is the only Allied official making any direct statements on this issue as Moscow has been preparing to fill the vacuum the West is leaving and this is what Washington is not telling Damascus-Ankara-Tehran, the West has been investing heavily in Russia’s military reforms which have made Russia more effective in the Caucasus and in a position to replace the West as the main foreign presence in the region. This is being guided by the Kissinger-Primakov Strategic Working Group established in 2007.
Tbilisi – “We have to be prepared to defend our homeland from invasion. These occupied territories and Russia’s increased military presence on Georgian soil… raises concerns and heavily affects the Georgia security environment.” Gulf-Times/AFP report that was the grim statement by Georgia Defense Minister David Sikharulidze knowing Moscow has planned a spring offensive. I suspect the only question in his mind is how extensive it will be. Sikharulidze added Georgia is attempting to improve its anti-aircraft/anti-armor capability and is depending on assistance from the West. He will be sorely disappointed since the New York Times has reported a Pentagon assessment of Georgia’s performance in the war last August. It stated Georgia armed forces were plagued by widespread mismanagement, unqualified leadership and sub-standard practices. NATO is only pretending to take Georgia seriously since most NATO countries depend on Russia to guarantee the flow of oil-gas from the Caucasus to them and they know Iran’s support of Georgia threatens that. Russia’s offensive will attack more than Georgia.
Beijing – Xinhua reports China Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi will pay what is being called a “working visit” to Washington from March 9-13. I suspect he will be forced to run a gauntlet of U.S. officials concerned and perhaps quite angry over Beijing’s massive technological support of Iran-Pakistan-Syria’s ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs not to mention China’s support of North Korea which Beijing has used as a proving ground for long range missile tests for export. China’s government has eagerly done so with the realization if Iran is successful then three of China’s rivals will become weaker, the West-India-Russia. Diplomatic masques will be hard to maintain during those meetings.