On the 7th of September, the leaders of Russia and Turkey met with their Iranian host in Tehran to discuss a common strategy for Syria prior to the beginning of what is being called “The Battle of Idlib”. The meeting itself was notable for being a highly choreographed exhibition of political theatre which ultimately lead to a Tehran Declaration whose content signified the compromises between the Russia, Iranian and Turkish perspectives that were readily predictable long before the conference was even arranged. I previous described the “fake” conference in the following way:
“The day’s events started out with a public round table meeting between the three presidents who each read prepared statements before entering into a seemingly spontaneous debate during which each side tended to emphasise their disagreements regarding the status of Idlib in what has been described as incredibly frank exchanges that are normally reserved for closed door meetings.
After several hours, the three Presidents emerged and spoke at a press conference after having reached a final agreement which has been enshrined in the Tehran Declaration of 2018.
While the Russian, Turkey and Iran are all close partners in 2018, their disagreements over the penultimate solution to the Syrian conflict have been highlighted by the media outlets of all three nations while perhaps oddly, their areas of agreement tend to be downplayed. The reason for this is simple: the areas where the three leaders disagree play well before each respective domestic electorate as well as to each state’s traditional allies within Syria and the wider Middle East.
Below is the full video of the round-table “debate”
However, when it comes to what will actually be done in Syria as a result of the increasingly frequent meetings between the Astana Group, the areas where all three countries agree is vastly more significant. This reality has been born out by the text of the final Tehran Declaration which as I predicted calls for the targeting of unanimously recognised terror groups (Daesh, al-Qaeda/al-Nusra/HTS), the prevention of further escalation against other armed groups, an orderly plan to protect civilians in Idlib as well as regional refuges and a broad understanding that there will be no grand all encompassing offensive in Idlib by the Syrian Arab Army and its traditional partners. Instead, all three states will cooperate to de-escalate the overall situation while neutralising groups that all three states agree are terror organisations”.
Thus, the Presidents of Russia, Turkey and Iran gave their domestic audiences and well-wishers abroad exactly want they wanted – a robust defence of what is perceived to be the stalwart stance of each respective nation. But while all three leaders hammed it up in front of the cameras in respect of exaggerating areas of disagreement with one another, it was when the cameras were off that issues over which Russia, Iran and Turkey are in full agreement were discussed.
Increasing trade in an age of US tariffs and sanctions is among the most important of issues which forms the axis of the Russo-Turkish-Iranian partnership in Eurasia. In addition to each country facing hostile US economic actions on an individual level, both Russia and Turkey have offered robust support for Iran even when the full force of US sanctions kick in at the beginning of November. Likewise, all three nations have vowed to transition their means of financial exchange away from the US Dollar and towards either a combination of national currencies or a mutually agreeable currency basket – one that likely would include the Chinese Yuan.
Unlike Idlib which ultimately has little strategic significance to the Astana Three in the long term while in the short term the biggest issue facing the Astana Three is compromising on a means of fighting mutually proscribed terror groups while also working to avoid a new wave of refugees heading for the Turkish border, de-Dollarisation is a highly crucial, complex and long term strategic matter that will require the utmost cooperation, patience and intense diplomacy between Turkey, Iran, Russia and almost certainly China – a mutual partner of all three nations.
Against this background it is unsurprising to learn that according to Iranian Labour News Agency de-Dollarisation was a major issue that was discussed behind closed doors. In this sense, while the need to resolve short term discrepancies in respect of a strategy for ending the conflict in Syria was the proximate cause of the formation of the Astana partnership between Russia, Turkey and Iran, in reality Syria ought to be thought of as the very obvious symbol which has helped to unify three major powers who prior to the 20th century had a history of making war on one another, often due to western imperial provocations.
Today, rather than competing for influence in western Eurasia, Turkey, Russia and Iran share common developmental goals that have been solidified around each nation’s enthusiastic participation in China’s One Belt–One Road initiative. Thus, the win-win model requiring a combination of intense cooperation, the ability to compromise without losing trust with one another and an overarching sense of destiny to extricate American influence from the economic models of re-emerging Asian powers, helps to bind the seemingly very different leadership in Moscow, Ankara and Tehran together.
While Washington has continually worked to dismiss or undermine the Astana format for a Syrian peace process, clearly a joint meeting between the leaders of Russia, Iran and Turkey under the banner of “The Great De-Dollarisation Summit” would be far more irksome to the US as the issue is frankly far more important than squabbles about a Syrian conflict that by all accounts is nearing its penultimate conclusion.
In this sense, the recent summit in Tehran was the ultimate red herring or if one prefers, the ultimate false flag. Just when it seemed as though Vladimir Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Hassan Rouhani played out their “disagreements” on Syria before the cameras, when the doors were shut, all three would have been talking about matters of far greater long term importance. In this sense while malicious battle field false flags can cost lives, benign diplomatic false flags can help to preserve the peace.
As Sun Tzu said:
“The whole secret lies in confusing the enemy, so that he cannot fathom our real intent”.