Syrian Proxy Wars: A Mad Max Story

Energy Implications

The article focuses on Syrian civil war, Turkey’s role, as one of the major actors and catalyst in this regional societal collapse, along with the regional energy implications.

“An apocalyptic story set in the furthest reaches of our planet, in a stark desert landscape where humanity is broken, and almost everyone is crazed fighting for the necessities of life.” This exact short description is about an Australian dystopian action thriller film directed by George Miller, produced by Byron Kennedy, and with Mel Gibson starring as ‘Mad’ Max.

Set in the future, in the middle of a complete desert wasteland, the film presents a saga of societal collapse, murder, and revenge in which an unhinged policeman becomes embroiled in a violent feud with a savage militarized gang. And this is now the point where you start asking yourselves: “what does that have to do with Syria?”.

The answer is pretty evident: Syria today is also a stark desert landscape where humanity is broken, and almost everyone is crazed fighting for the necessities of life. We are going to discover more about many parallel lines and focus more on Turkey’s role, as one of the major actors and catalyst in this regional societal collapse, along with the regional Energy implications.


Turkey’s regional foreign policy and expansion experiments

Experts have been claiming that Turkey has assumed a ‘neo-Ottoman’ strategy, aiming to re-establish itself as a regional power. In our opinion, Turkey is trying step-by-step to gain everything it can by involving itself in every regional conflict imaginable; this way it is establishing itself as a major regional player with a seat at every global table. Now whether this strategy will be beneficial for the country in the long run, it remains to be seen.

Their game is not just dual but they play along many boards: from NATO to Russia and from acting alone to involving the EU in their gambits, they have established a multifaceted approach when it comes to their plans. Until now for Syria it involved simultaneously reaping the benefits of NATO membership whilst pursuing an overtly-expansionist foreign policy which has even included a loose partnership with Russia; nowadays we can see the evolution of this strategy, with the addition of extra pressure to EU, through using millions of displaced immigrants (?) at the borders with Greece.

Rather than operating in lockstep with NATO, Turkey is opting to maximize its manoeuvrability by embarking on a number of limited partnerships of convenience, comprising a circus of pariahs: Russia, UAE, Iran and even Libya, while promoting its own sphere of influence through the Muslim Brotherhood and jihadist militias from Syria to Libya as political and military proxies.

We have been seeing a constant and steep escalation curve when it comes to Turkey’s expansionist games, from the Middle East all the way to Northern Africa (and thus the parallels with the neo-Ottoman dreams). The cannon fodder for these plans have been the paramilitary groups of Jihadis that have been accommodated, trained and supplied in Turkey. Recently, we have been seeing Turkish troops being deployed throughout these regions and this is a clear sign of escalation. Turkey not only fights through proxy militias but now directly involves itself in conflicts.

Needless to say, the above-mentioned paramilitary groups have zero interest in seeing stability and prosperity return to these war-torn states and are thriving on the chaos and destruction they generate. Whilst forging one’s own path, paying lip service to allies, and dealing with other nations on a mercantile and transactional basis might seem attractive, this clever tightrope act might end catastrophically for Turkey.

Libya is a mild example of the Turkish strategy but serves as an indicative one. With the Muslim Brotherhood proving a critical faction within Libya’s crumbling Government of National Accord (GNA), Turkey has a strong ideological incentive to back them. However, Turkey has also seen the opportunity for economic gain in Libya and signed a deal with the GNA which expanded Turkey’s maritime Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) into Libya’s, a controversial move, particularly with NATO member Greece, given that the island of Crete sits between Turkey and Libya’s EEZs. More than two thousand Syrian fighters, and Turkish military personnel, have been transported with Turkish means from Turkey to fight on the battlefields of Libya, in an unprecedented development that threatens to further complicate the north African state’s intractable civil war.

Meanwhile, the most extreme of Ankara’s powerplays has been Syria. Ankara has supported the Syrian opposition since the early days of the battle against the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, even as the original Free Syrian Army umbrella group grew weak and splintered because of infighting and the growth of Islamist elements within rebel ranks. Since the beginning, Turkey has been using rebel fighters (jihadi militias/ISIS remnants/ISIS itself/other gangs) as proxies against Kurdish-led forces despite allegations of human rights abuses from watchdogs. These ‘fighters’ are of unknown origin and are coming from all the sides of the Muslim world; the question as to how these gangs ended up in Syria, fighting for Turkey, remains unknown.

Indicatively, in January 2015, secret official documents about the searching of three trucks belonging to Turkey’s national intelligence service Mille Istihbarat Teskilati (MIT) were leaked online to the Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet, once again corroborating suspicions that Ankara has not been playing a clean game in Syria. According to authenticated documents the trucks were found to be transporting missiles, mortars and anti-aircraft ammunition. The Gendarmerie General Command, which authored the reports, alleged, “The trucks were carrying weapons and supplies to the al-Qaeda terror organization.” Yet, the Turkish public was unable to see these documents because the government immediately obtained a court injunction banning all reporting about the affair. The editor and publisher of Cumhuriyet were jailed for treason. There have been many additional reports of MIT officers acting as paymasters of both ISIS and the Al-Nusra Front in Syria and many more Turkish journalists have been jailed. This was just the fuel to what was about to unfold in Syria, making the parallel story of Mad Max eerily similar, with insane vehicles, cruel gangs and paramilitary groups clashing in the desert.


Turkey in Syria: the Kurdish factor

This setup remains extremely complicated and it is not the purpose of this article to explain everything, but rather provide some visibility by highlighting connections; therefore, let’s look at the motives of Turkey’s involvement into Syrian soil. It has much to do with the largest ethnic minority within and without Turkey’s soil: the Kurds.

After WW1, the Kurds were left without a sovereign state of theirs, ending up spread across Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. As large ethnic minority, Kurds frequently faced repression and slaughter. Saddam Hussein’s attack on the Kurds of Iraq, using chemicals, has only been one of the episodes of this tragic story. Trying to fight back, a militant group, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), emerged seeking a Kurdish state within Turkey. Today, despite the strong dictatorial tactics of Erdogan, they keep pushing for more autonomy within Turkey. In the 1980s, a violent conflict ensued between the Turkish state and the PKK, killing tens of thousands of people; the PKK still regularly attacks Turkish security forces. The attacks are so common on the south eastern regions of Turkey that Turkish military has been using only aerial means of transportation, rather than land convoys, in fear of casualties.

After the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, a Syrian affiliate of the PKK — the People’s Protection Units (YPG) — seized control of territory in north-eastern Syria, establishing a semi-autonomous statelet bordering Turkey. The YPG later took the lead of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a military alliance supported by the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State group. They have been the protagonists in the fight against ISIS, which Turkey has been allegedly arming and supplying, according to Turkish journalists who are now imprisoned and their fates unknown. The SDF lost some 11,000 fighters battling ISIS. The YPG claims they’re not directly linked to the PKK, but Turkey — as well as most experts on the region — say they share close ties. Ankara therefore saw a threat to its own security in the quasi-autonomous Kurdish state on its doorstep, dubbing it a ‘terror corridor’ where the PKK could hide or easily attack from.

The Turkish invasion turned a relatively peaceful Syrian Kurdish controlled enclave that had been freed from ISIS occupation into a confusing matrix of rival militaries and militias. It is now patrolled or controlled by combinations of US, Russian, Kurdish, Syrian regime, Iranian regime and Turkish government troops, as well as a gaggle of variously aligned Syrian militias, mostly deployed along the M4 highway that runs parallel to the Turkish Syrian border. This is only an addition to the already chaotic situation of rival regimes, factions, gangs and countries already fighting each other in Syria.

Ankara’s aim is twofold: pushing YPG fighters at least 30 kilometers away from its border and establishing a so-called ‘safe zone’ in parts of Syrian territory it seizes to which it plans to return refugees. Turkey currently hosts some 3.5 million Syrian refugees, more than any other nation, and resentment toward them is on the rise among Turkish citizens. It’s also worth noting that parts of the opposition and many Turks, not just supporters of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, support the military operation. It needs also to be mentioned, that many of those Syrian refugees have already received work permits and voted in the past elections of Turkey, obviously supporting Erdogan. One of the main objectives of Turkey has been actively trying to prevent Syria’s Kurdish community establishing control over the border region, fearing that this would encourage Kurdish separatism within Turkey itself. It has been accused of seeking to drive Kurds away from the border in order to establish a safe area within Syria to rehouse two million of the refugees it is hosting.

Erdogan has long spoken about plans for a ‘safe zone’ and driving away the YPG. But it was the U.S. that triggered the offensive when President Donald Trump announced the American troops stationed in north-eastern Syria would withdraw, a move that was considered even among American military cycles as backstabbing towards the Kurds. This was effectively the opportunity that Erdogan expected and was preparing for. Ankara launched the operation, with its troops entering Kurdish-held territories alongside Turkish-backed Syrian Arab militias.

North-eastern Syria, previously one of the most stable regions in the war-ravaged country, was entering the realm of chaos, as the rest of the war-torn country. Since they could not hold back the tactical military power of Turkey, the Syrian Kurds allied with the Moscow-backed regime of President Bashar al-Assad to halt the Turkish tide.

The sinister role of Turkey in this chaos does not stop there. In December 2015, the Russian Defence Ministry accused Erdogan and his sons of ‘stealing’ Syrian oil which they trucked back to Turkey for sale. The ministry produced extensive photographic evidence of this claim, inviting journalists to see satellite images and video purporting to show tanker trucks with oil crossing into Turkey from ISIS-held territory. It was alleged that Erdogan did so in direct collaboration with ISIS from whom they purchased the oil.

Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov reported, “According to available information, the highest level of the political leadership of the country, President Erdogan and his family, are involved in this criminal business. They have invaded the territory of another country and are brazenly plundering it.” He also claimed that the same criminal networks which were smuggling oil into Turkey were also supplying weapons, equipment and training to ISIS and other Islamist groups.

According to the United Nations, more than 130,000 people have been displaced since the start of the offensive. Turkey says it has killed ‘hundreds of terrorists’, reports that remain unsubstantiated. Reports by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and others say dozens of civilians were killed. At the same time, hundreds of Islamic State supporters are reported to have escaped from Kurdish custody amid the Turkish advance; they are probably the same military age ‘immigrants’ that have been pushed from Turkey to the Greek borders, claiming passage to Europe. The SDF claimed that it held about 10,000 Islamic State fighters, who after Turkey’s offensive have been freed and fled again.


The peak of Turkey’s offensive: the Idlib incident

On February 22nd, and while the Syrian regime, backed by Russian airpower, was pushing forward to clear the pocket of Idlib from the local rebel militias, a Turkish mechanized infantry battalion, comprised of about 400 soldiers, became the target of an airstrike on a road between al- Bara and Balyun, some 5 kilometers (3 miles) north of Kafr Nabl in southern Idlib.

According to local sources, two Russian Sukhoi Su-34 and two Syrian Su-22 fighter jets had launched intensive bombings of Turkey-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) targets in southern Idlib at around 11 a.m. that day. The same jets hit the Turkish convoy in coordinated action, the sources said. What followed next was likely the dropping of KAB-1500L bombs — a variation of advanced laser-guided bunker buster bombs capable of penetrating to depths of up to 20 meters (65 feet) — by the Russian jets.

Moscow claimed some days later that Russian planes had not carried out strikes in the area, and that Russia did its best to ensure the Syrian army ceased fire to allow the evacuation of the troops. It said, however, that the Turkish soldiers should not have been in the area, where counterterror operations were underway, and Ankara had failed to relay information about their presence in advance. Despite the denial of Russian involvement and a subsequent phone call between the Turkish and Russian presidents, the escalation appears to be a deliberate, well-calculated Russian move and Moscow’s attitude could hardly be taken for granted as a sign that it is willing to step back to de-escalate the crisis. It most probably seems to be an exhibition of power towards Turkey, drawing the limits and proving who is the ‘top-dog’ in the region.

Ankara’s official death toll stood at 33 on February 28th with 60 other troops wounded, among them 16 with serious injuries. It was still unclear whether any soldiers could be still trapped under the rubble. According to unconfirmed information the actual death toll was over 100 soldiers, with more being severely injured; it is actually the decimation of a Turkish battalion. After the attack, Moscow rejected Ankara’s request to open the Idlib air space to Turkish helicopters to airlift the casualties. As a result, the dead and the wounded were transported by road to a hospital in Reyhanli, a Turkish border town about 70 kilometers (43 miles) from the area.

The preparatory build-up for this drama took days over days of aggressive manoeuvres and actions from all sides. While the Syrian regime pushed forward, two Turkish tank crewmen were killed in an air raid on Turkish M60 Sabre tanks in southern Idlib. The situation escalated further on February 26 SNA forces, supported by the Turkish military, launched a counterattack in the Nayrab-Saraqeb area, taking control of Nayrab and marching on to Saraqeb, which lies at the junction of the strategic M4 and M5 highways, while managing to block the M5 at several points only days after the road had been reopened. This took place under serious combative escalations and while the Russian airpower was covering the land manoeuvres of the Syrian regime in the region.

Things went out of control the morning of February 27th, when according to Russian media, Russian aircraft flying over southern Idlib became the target of intensive fire from man-portable air-defense systems, known as MANPADS, from Turkish military outposts in the area. Simultaneously, MANPADS and drone attacks reportedly threatened the Khmeimim base, Russia’s key military facility in Syria. Russian sources claim that more than 15 MANPADS attacks, carried out directly by Turkish troops, targeted Russian and Syrian jets conducting air raids in southern Idlib after 1 p.m. that day. There are also reports of Russian aircrafts allegedly being damaged while operating. That was admittedly a clear challenge towards the Russian military and their established presence in the area; maybe Turkey felt too confident. Either way, this escalation was being jolted for weeks as numerous meetings between the Russian and Turkish militaries ended without results, with the parties resolving to stand their ground in Idlib. That was another indication that Turkey was losing respect, or becoming overconfident, towards Russian power.

Remarkably, Ankara singled out the regime as the culprit, with no reference to Russia, in its initial reactions, vowing a powerful retaliation. This is an important sign that Ankara is unwilling to break ties with Moscow immediately, which suggests it will maintain a rhetoric blaming the regime for the attack on the convoy.

Soon after the Turkish public got wind of the bloodshed on social media, the internet slowed across the country and widely used communication means such as Twitter and WhatsApp were throttled. In other words, the authorities appeared to hamper alternative information sources, while the conventional media began to disseminate reports and footage of Turkish troops striking Syrian regime forces in a bid to enforce a perception that the Turkish martyrs were being avenged. Erdogan’s communication chief Fahrettin Altun tweeted a series of messages, vowing a powerful response to ‘the murderous regime’ and underscoring Ankara’s resolve to not withdraw its forces from Idlib.

This left the Syrian Proxy War into a not-so-proxy conflict with Ankara openly at war with Damascus, while being attacked by Moscow directly.

Moscow was unsurprised by these reactions, which show that Ankara is not interested in a direct military confrontation with Russia — it even attributed the attacks to the Syrian army, not Russian forces — but seeks to tie Moscow’s hands in Syria via political means. They see the incident as justified, as Turkey has not been delivering up to its commitment during the Sochi summit. A retired high ranked military officer, Viktor Murakhovsky, editor of the Arsenal Otechestva (National Arsenal) military journal, stated: “This is not a war against Turkey, this is to place flags and stress the red lines that some decided to test. The rules for the big game have long been agreed on with Turkey. They implied, first, the prevention of clashes between the Russian and Turkish militaries. Second, freedom of movement for Russian air forces against terrorist groups in Idlib. Third, a no-fly zone for Turkish air forces in Syrian skies. Fourth, coordination of movement and deployment of Turkish units in the Syrian areas with Russian military command. Fifth, joint patrols on the agreed routes. Sixth, a ban on the transfer of MANPADs to any non-state actors.”

The most critical question now is whether Ankara will be prepared to end its military presence in Syria. Such a move appears unlikely in the near future, as it will be definitely been seen as a strategic defeat and even Erdogan’s censorship will not be able to hold it back from the Turkish public sphere. Ankara will at least seek to bargain and extract certain concessions from Moscow for a gradual pull-out of its troops.

Despite Ankara’s hopes for Western support, neither NATO nor the United States are likely to get militarily involved in the crisis directly. Both will probably pursue a wait-and-see approach for a while to get a better picture of how the Ankara-Moscow crisis evolves. “We call on Russia and the Syria regime to stop the attacks, to stop the indiscriminate air attacks… we also call on Russia and Syria to fully respect the international law,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

Either way, Russia is not seeking an open conflict with Turkey, as its strategic positioning in the region is not helping. Turkey has overwhelming numbers of military personnel and equipment in the area and Russia is indeed far away from the theater of operations. Eventually, this is a clear win for the Russians who proved their, de facto, superiority without losses and deterred Turkey from openly seeking revenge against them – Turkey is still blaming Assad.

“If the Turks bet on military force, that would be a really bad idea since winning such a war would be difficult,” said Vladimir Dzhabarov, the deputy chair of the foreign affairs committee of the upper chamber of the Russian Parliament.

Putin and Erdogan are increasingly unhappy with one another, but both still need each other in Syria and beyond. At the end of the day, they still have a lot in common: a nuclear reactor under development, potential nuclear weapons technology, S400 anti air systems, common trade and any other perks within that dysfunctional relationship. On the other hand, Russia has invested already a lot in Syria and would not make sense to back down now and stop supporting Assad; the reconstruction of the country could mean good business. Gas and oil interests, plus the lucre of reconstruction, are strong incentives. After four years of blood and sacrifice, Russia would also secure a prominent foothold in the Middle East, a bulwark to Iran and the US, with a sea route, in the heartland of the region. Quite the prize. And a very different outcome to Washington’s disastrous war in Iraq. On top of that, Moscow is receiving global recognition as a player who stands by its allies.

The worst potential complication of this domino would be the military involvement of NATO in this powerplay. Turkey is still a NATO ally and could invoke article 5 (mutual military support in case a member is attacked). This has not happened so far and will not happen any time soon. NATO allies have been trying to dissuade Turkey from acting alone and would not go to war against Russia now that the Turkish games backfired. Ulrike Franke, a fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said it is ‘incredibly unlikely’ that Turkey would invoke Article 5 in this situation. Asking for help would amount to an embarrassing ‘admission of failure’ on Ankara’s part. And even if Turkey did, Article 5 does not mandate NATO members to join the Syrian war on Turkey’s side. It merely requires allies to assist with “such action as it deems necessary.”

“It’s a fundamental misunderstanding that if a NATO member declares a case of attack, all other members have to come to its aid with tank battalions,” said Franke. “This fear that’s being stirred up, particularly in Germany, that the Bundeswehr will be dragged into the Syrian war by Turkey invoking Article 5, is incomprehensible.”

With neither side ready to face up directly, a durable ceasefire may well be in the offing. But not before Turkey has squared the debt through Russia’s proxy. With Russia controlling the airspace over Idlib province, Turkish drones and artillery are likely to be deployed to full devastating effect in coming days, but not at Russian troops, or air bases.

As long as that remains the case, Russia will retain a whip hand over the embers of Idlib, bombing its foes into submission while reactivating political processes aimed at consolidating its eventual control. Moscow will eventually want to stand down, but Turkey needs to sooner. Directing its wrath against Europe and Bashar al-Assad instead of the country responsible for one of the biggest casualties counts in the state’s modern history proves that.


Unforeseen consequences

It had been decades (probably since the proxy war of Cyprus against Greece) since Turkey suffered such heavy losses in a single day of battle, let alone a single attack. The air strike that decimated a Turkish unit in Syria’s Idlib province on February 27th risks escalating a messy civil war that has already taken hundreds of thousands of lives, created millions of refugees and dragged in foreign powers.

The situation has come to an awkward stalemate for Turkey’s strongman, Erdogan, who despite his vows for ‘fierce revenge’ against Assad has not been able to deliver. Therefore, what no one could have foreseen is the next phase of Ankara’s obscene strategy: the weaponization of immigrants/refugees/fleeing fighters against Europe and more specifically Greece. Thousands over thousands of people have been misinformed by Turkish state agencies, transported throughout Turkey by state means, and eventually pushed on the Greek/European borders with the false promise of free passage to Europe. Greece has stood firm, closing its borders amidst Turkish provocation and misinformation; it is reported that Turkish forces are firing against Greek patrols or in other cases trying to demolish the retention perimeter wall, so they can push through it the immigrants. The Greek government has released footage appearing to confirm that Turkish authorities are ferrying illegal migrants to Europe’s land borders and arming them with tear gas, as well as using its coast guard to escort illegals travelling by sea.

The United Nations, European Union and NATO have all remained silent as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government coordinates the largest mass movement of migrants to date to Greece’s borders. The current estimated number of 3.5 million migrants and refugees in Turkey is more than one-third of the population of Greece and three and a half times the number of migrants and refugees Turkey has allowed to pass through to Greece each year since 2013.

This situation is obviously escalating the tensions between Greece and Turkey once more. Reports of Turkish aggression towards Greek security forces are daily now, including shootings at the land borders and efforts to ram patrol ships in the sea. This is extremely dangerous for the regional stability but even worse for business and thus the Energy sector’s interests. No projects in the region will progress any time soon under these turbulent circumstances.


The regional Energy games

When it comes to Syria itself, the ages of civil war have crippled the country’s power grid and the government of president Bashar al-Assad appears to view large scale solar as an option to revive infrastructure. With several power stations out of service and transmission lines destroyed, utility scale PV offers a scalable and rapid replacement solution.

The U.S.-based Payne Institute for Public Policy claimed that power infrastructure damage has occurred mainly in low and medium-voltage grids in combat areas. Two conventional power plants were destroyed: a 1 GW steam turbine in Aleppo and a 460 MW facility at Ziazon.

The World Bank reported in 2007 – four years before the outbreak of war – the nation had around 7.5 GW of power generation capacity. The multilateral lender at the time said those facilities were insufficient to meet peak power demand of 6.56 GW.

A senior Pentagon official and a Syrian observer with knowledge of the country’s oil trade told Newsweek in November that the Syrian Democratic Forces have continued to sell oil to Assad’s administration despite international sanctions against the latter. This relationship, and the ongoing presence of various oil smuggling networks destined for Turkey and elsewhere, was also featured in the most recent report released by the lead inspector general for the U.S. military’s Operation Inherent Resolve.

Moscow and Tehran also have major stakes in Syria’s energy sector. The Syrian parliament approved exclusive oil and gas contracts for two Russian companies in December, while the U.S. and the U.K. accused Iran of defying Western restrictions by shipping oil to Syria.

As argued for years now, Syria has been a key to the so called ‘Pipelineistan’ war, not only in terms of pipelines inside Syria, and the US preventing Damascus from commercializing its own natural resources, but most of all around the fate of the Iran-Iraq-Syria gas pipeline which was agreed in a memorandum of understanding signed in 2012.

The situation should dramatically change when the USD 200 billion-worth of reconstruction in Syria finally takes off after a comprehensive peace deal is in place. This is already a huge incentive for Russia already. It will be fascinating to watch the European Union – after NATO plotted for an ‘Assad must go’ regime change operation for years – wooing Tehran, Baghdad and Damascus with financial offers for their gas.

NATO explicitly supported the Turkish offensive ‘Operation Peace Spring.’ And we haven’t even seen the ultimate geo-economics irony yet: NATO member, Turkey, purged of its neo-Ottoman dreams, merrily embracing the Gazprom-supported Iran-Iraq-Syria ‘Pipelineistan’ road map.

When it comes to the broader map of eastern Mediterranean, Turkey still provokes and de facto challenges Greece’s sovereignty over the Aegean see and Eastern Mediterranean. It continuously disrupts research operations for new gas fields but also promotes its own funded ‘research’ expeditions within the EEZ (exclusive economic zone) of Greece. With its recent Libyan gambit, it perplexed the situation even more and with Greece being almost a passive bystander, no investors are keen on putting money in without safety guarantees.

It seems that as long as Turkey provides a constant disruption to the peace and stability of the region business will not continue as usual and prosperity is not even close in the foreseeable future. No one knows exactly what are the clear motives and strategy of Turkey; we can only assume that it might be a regional exercise of strength, trying to acquire strategic advantages step-by-step consolidating itself as a regional super power; it might also be spasmodic attempts of Erdogan to unite the tired Turkish public against external enemies, before they turn on him. Maybe it is a combination of both these assumptions. Meanwhile, one thing is certain: chaos and disorder reign in Syria, Libya and the Eastern Mediterranean and Turkey seems to be under every rock in the region. It is a constant chaotic situation, similar only to movies like Mad Max.



Nothing seems likely to change much in the region but the financial pressures and sanctions on Russia, Iran and Syria will continue to constrain the willingness to expand the search by Lebanon and Syria for offshore gas. The Israelis seem to be the only ones undeterred by the instability (obviously they do not need anyone to take care of their security stakes) and used their new supplies of energy to construct elaborate systems of desalination, thus removing the water question from their equation.

For Syria, as the old Arab proverb indicates, it is time to stop destroying the country and get on with fixing it; إصلاح الموجود خير من انتظار المفقود (“It’s better to fix what you have than wait to get what you don’t have”).

Meanwhile, if something is changing in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean, is for the worse. Greece and Turkey have never been closer to an armed conflict, since 1996, and the situation is constantly deteriorating. So, this is the new state of ‘business as usual’ in the region.

Concluding, Syria has been the theater of an incomprehensibly complex proxy war among factions that cannot even be listed. The result is endless suffering of the innocent and continuous perplex tensions that escalate and erupt every now and then, like in Idlib. Images of insane war devices, incomprehensibly named rival ‘freedom’ armies, covert tactical units of countries (the same countries whose capitals are situated thousands of miles away from Syria), indicate that only Immortan Joe (the bad guy of the Mad Max movie) is missing from this equation; or isn’t he?

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