As-Safir reports that high-level Saudi and Turkish intel, military meetings progressing, some with Russian involvement
Translated in today’s Daily Briefing (for a free trial email email@example.com)
On July 23, the independent, leftist As-Safir daily carried the following report: “When Walid al-Muallem, Bouthaina Shaaban, and Faisal Mekdad went to meet Vladimir Putin last June 29, no one thought that the media outlets will be prevented from entering the meeting room. At the early minutes of the meeting, the journalists listened to the most exciting part of the meeting between the Russian president, the Syrian foreign minister, and the Syrian president’s advisor.
“Without any reservations, Putin exposed his new idea to the journalists: that of establishing a counter-terrorism alliance including Syria, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Jordan. The Syrians expressed their surprise later on over this unusual way of making a “revolutionary” suggestion, one that will flip the situation over in the Levant, if it was ever to see the light.
“Al-Muallem, an experienced diplomat and one who cannot be easily surprised, let go of his instinctive reservation and followed his gut feeling by announcing at a press conference that reaching an alliance with Saudi Arabia and the financers of terrorism “needs a miracle…” But despite the surprise and likening this request to a miracle, the Russians asked the Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, to provide an answer to the suggestion. They obtained an answer in the hours following the meeting and the answer was positive.
“According to well-informed Arab sources, the Russian president asked the Saudi and Syrian sides to dispatch two delegates with an official appointment from Al-Assad and King Salman Ben Abdul Aziz, in order to raise the negotiations to the highest possible level. In the past few weeks and under the Russian sponsorship, security channels were opened in order to explore the possibility of implementing Putin’s suggestion.
“Maj. Gen. Ali al-Mamlouk, the head of the National Security Office, was appointed to launch these meetings, the first of which was held in Moscow. Meanwhile, King Salman probably appointed a prominent Arab security officer to represent them in these meetings. The man is one of the Kingdom’s intelligence officers who worked in the past with Maj. Gen. Al-Mamlouk during the phase of the Saudi-Syrian détente in the past decade.
“A well-informed source said that, for weeks now, the prominent Syrian security official has been carrying out constant visits to coordinate with Moscow and to work on determining some confidence measures. One of the signs indicating that the work of the open channel of communication could be advancing consists of the truce in the use of terms by the Syrian information outlets and the Saudi-owned satellite channels.
“In the past weeks, the Turks started to focus on the Russian offer. They thus dispatched delegates to Moscow to try and learn the details of the process. A Syrian, well-informed source believes that the outcome of the first meetings indicates that the Saudis are willing to open a new slate with Syria and Yemen via Moscow. A trusted western source said that Damascus received a general from the Turkish army on July 3, a first since the launching of the war in Syria. This falls in the context of the communications that have started to evolve in order to explore the possibility of cooperation against ISIL and moving forward towards Putin’s suggestion.
“The meeting took place during the crisis that broke following the Kurds’ victory in Tal Abyad and the amassment of the Turkish military units along the Syrian borders and their threatening of entering the area of Jarables-Manbaj, which was controlled by ISIL, if the Kurds were to progress in the direction of this vital passageway… Clearly, the blood alliance that the Russians are betting on is moving at a much faster pace than the political alliance thus prompting the unification of the fronts against ISIL.
“The Russian suggestion gained further credibility in the past few days following the suicide bombing in the Turkish Suruc and the talk about sleeper ISIL cells including 3,000 Turks. Needless to say that as thousands of Saudis will be returning home from Syria and as thousands of Saudi nationals are being recruited for the upcoming operations, the time is coming for the transfer of the terrorist threat to the Saudi arena.
“The Russian offer seems to constitute an attempt at mending the Sunni axis in the region by ruling out the Iranian party especially since Ian – along with the USA in Iraq and Syria, and the Syrian army and the Kurds in Syria – represents one pole of the un-announced counter-terrorism and counter-ISIL alliance and no alliance will be able to operate efficiently against ISIL without Iran’s and Syria’s participation. This could be an attempt at reassuring the Saudis at the early phases pending the ripening of the right conditions for the Iranians to join this process…”