…by Nahed Al Husaini, VT Damascus Bureau Chief
Astana talks will focus on US presence in the East of the Euphrates
Text of the interview
Dr Ammar thank you very much for heeding to our request and answering our questions.
- Dr Ammar, I have been watching the news very carefully as we expected the Edlib patched up pact between Russia and Turkey failed and now the Russians are calling on the Turks to support the demilitarized zone what is next in your opinion?
The Idlib pact is still holding, and the pact could mean bridging the gap between Syria and Turkey
The Idlib agreement hasn’t failed yet. We don’t know what the real details behind the scenes are, so we cannot judge for the moment. It fails when all parties involved say it did.
For example, the agreement could be more about building bridges between Ankara and Damascus than it is about a demilitarised zone. Idlib will return to government control sooner or later, but how that happens is certainly important, including what role Turkey plays and how would that reflect on the future relation between the two neighbouring countries.
- What do you expect from the new round of Astana talks?
The talks may signal more intent to counter US project in the Euphrates
One cannot be quite sure. It would most probably be about reinforcing the current process in Idlib, but it could also signal more intent to do something about the situation east of the Euphrates.
The recent tripartite meeting in Tehran between Putin, Erdogan and Rouhani stressed on the need to counter the American project in eastern Syria, which supports separatist Kurdish aspirations under the guise of combating terrorism.
- The Europeans rejected the Iranian proposal to deal in currencies other than the dollar in trade translations what do you make of this?
The Europeans might not be willing to confront the United States
First of all, it is technically not easy to bypass the U.S. Dollar as a universal currency. The Russians and Chinese are believed to be in the process of trying to conduct bilateral economic transactions using a different method, but that is yet to materialise.
Moreover, the Europeans might want to signal to the Americans that they do not approve of unilateral steps they are taking on the world stage, but they might not be willing to go as far as confronting the United States.
- Washington will not give up completely on Saudi while imposing more sanctions on entities and individuals have links with Hezbollah and Iran, how do you read this?
United States will not relinquish its relationship with Saudi Arabia
In his most recent address to the United Nations General Assembly, the U.S. president described the horrific state of the people in Venezuela due to the economic difficulties and, what he described as, the socialist economy. He then preceded to announce a new set of sanctions on Venezuela!
In other words, the United States is becoming less shy in defying logic under this administration.
A good relationship with Saudi Arabia has been a cornerstone of the U.S. policy in the Middle East for decades, and they’re not going to relinquish this anytime soon.
- I think the Saudis will leap over forward to commit a foolishness somewhere. Do you share with me the same opinion?
The Saudis may wait for the dust to settle to think of any foolish act
I think they are currently under tremendous pressure, as they have not only been caught by conflicting interests in the Middle East, but also by conflicting interests in Washington. This will complicate matters, and I cannot see them committing an act of foolishness anytime soon, not until the dust settles on the Khashoggi case, somehow.
- Are you of the belief that the US power is diminishing? Is this a reality or a wishful thinking Dr.?
US power is not diminishing, but the gap with its competitors is closing
The power of United States is not diminishing, but the gap between her and its competitors is closing. This would slowly deprive the U.S. from an edge it has enjoyed worldwide for ages. The United States is working hard to keep that gap as wide as possible.
- ISIS, Al Nusra, and other terror groups are still the proxies and tools of the US backed project against Syria, can you see any potential change in the future and if so why ?
Extremists will have a free license as long as they are baked by the Americans
Since the 70s & 80s, the United States and other affiliate countries have used the ‘Mujahideen’ to their strategic advantage, both actively and passively.
Take the occupation of Palmyra in Syria in May 2015, for example. Daesh forces surrounded the city for some two weeks before finally managing to capture it. During this whole period, despite the importance of Palmyra and its position on a world heritage scale, the U.S. led coalition airplanes never showed up.
As long as the extremists were fighting the Syrian state, they had free licence, as far as the Americans were (and still are, one might add) concerned.
What is the main concern of the British Gov right now? is it internal or external?
British-American alliance is unchanged in the Middle East
Well, it’s all about the Brexit dynamics and the future of the country, at the moment. The British government is trying to stabilise itself and the country, in the face of considerable upheaval that is currently taking place.
Externally, the U.K. is still aligned with the U.S. policy in the Middle East. This alliance is strategic and little change is expected on that front whatever happens within the United Kingdom.
Dr. Waqqaf is a Syrian – British national who worked in management consultancy in the UK before becoming active on the political/media scene surrounding the crisis in Syria. He is the founder and director of Gnosos, a think tank in Britain that offers stakeholder opinion on Syria and the Middle East.