Week twenty of the Russian military intervention in Syria: a ceasefire and yet another huge victory for Russia
The recent agreement between the USA and Russia really solves nothing, it does not even end the war, and both sides are expressing a great deal of caution about its future implementation. And yet, this is a huge victory for Russia. While it is too early to say that “the Russian won in Syria”, I think that it is now fair to say that the Russian on Syria has won. Here is why:
Second: Russia has forced the UNSC and the USA to admit that the vast majority of those who fight Assad today are terrorist. Of course, this is not how this was declared, but if you look at the organizations which the UNSC has already declared as ‘terrorists’ then you already have an absolute majority of the anti-Assad forces. This means that the moral and legal legitimacy of the anti-Assad forces is lies in tatters.
Third: regardless of what Erdogan does actually try to do next, there are now clear signs that neither NATO, nor the EU nor even the Turkish high military command want a war with Russia. And that means that Erdogan’s gamble has not paid off and that his entire Syria policy is now comprehensively dead. Keep in mind that following the treacherous attack on the Russian Su-24 the Kremlin made it a policy goal to “Saakashvilize” Erdogan. This goal is now almost reached and Erdogan’s future looks very, very bleak: everybody ( except maybe the Saudis) is sick and tired of this maniac. The best thing which could happen to Turkey now would for the military to get rid of Erdogan and to replace him with somebody willing to repair all the damage he did.
Fourth: all the threats to impose a no-fly zone or to occupy Syria have now been invalidated by an agreement which basically declares that anybody not respecting the cease-fire is a legitimate target for engagement and destruction.
Fifth: the USA had to accept the humiliation of having to agree to all of the Russian terms for the current ceasefire. Yes, of course, the USA can, and probably will, try renege on part, or all, of this agreement, but the precedent has been set and it will be very hard, if not impossible, for the USA to openly return to the pre-2016 policies.
This, for the time being, mainly a diplomatic victory, of course, but a Russian diplomatic victory made possible by a Russian military victory. A tiny Russian military contingent has basically completely neutralized the plans of an entire worldwide Empire. That, in itself, is an amazing achievement.
The other big winner here are, in my opinion, the Kurds who, according to British officials, appear to be coordinating their military operations with the Syrian army and the Russian Aerospace Forces and who now might well even achieve their dreams of joining the Iraqi and Syria regions of Kurdistan. Which is just about the worst nightmare for the Turks come true, hence the still remaining risk of a Turkish military operation ostensibly to create a ‘buffer zone’ but really to save face. That kind of intervention will remain a possibility for as long as the Turks can continue to hope to commit aggression against their neighbors under the protection of NATO and the USA. And that ain’t gonna change anytime in the future.
Europe's refugee crisis is about to go from terrible to unprecedented
Refugees and migrants are heading to Europe at a rate three times greater than last year, according to a new report released by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and are set to shatter a record number of new arrivals reached in 2015.
By the end of 2015, more than 1 million people had made their way to the continent, mostly by crossing the Mediterranean on overcrowded boats, marking the largest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II. But if the volume of new people arriving from war torn nations continues to grow, the refugee crisis is set to explode at a rate never before seen in Europe.
There have been 102,547 arrivals in the Greek islands since the beginning of 2016. In 2015, the number of arrivals did not reach that threshold until June, according to IOM.
The growing scale of the crisis has forced a knee-jerk reaction in many countries along the migrant route, which are now imposing arbitrary quotas in order to cope with the influx and closing their borders.
At Austria's southern border, officials have been closing the border if more than 80 people claim asylum in a day, or if more than 3,200 want to transit through to neighboring countries.
The restrictions are having a ripple effect further down the route. At the Greek-Macedonia border, Macedonian authorities have been allowing only Syrians and Iraqis to cross the border, and turning back Afghans and others to Gree
The UN Refugee Agency UNHCR is especially concerned about the situation in the Balkan states, warning that Europe is "backing into an even greater refugee crisis by tightening border restrictions on the hundreds of thousands who have fled war and conflict in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries."
UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, visited the Greek island of Lesbos on Tuesday and voiced serious concerns about the approach being taken in the Balkans.
"We are worried that these closings are happening and that there are no corresponding openings through relocation and resettlement," said Grandi. "That will create further chaos and confusion and it will increase the burden on Greece which is already shouldering a big responsibility managing these people.