In Kerry's Footsteps: What Saudi 'Plan B' Actually Means for Syria and Iran
Saudi Arabia has signaled it is ready to implement the much-talked-about 'Plan B' in Syria. What does Riyadh actually mean?
Following the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) meeting in Vienna Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister told journalists that it is time to shift the focus to the so-called 'Plan B' in Syria.
"We believe we should have moved to a 'Plan B' a long time ago," Adel al-Jubeir told reporters, as quoted by Reuters.
"The choice about moving to an alternative plan, the choice about intensifying the military support (to the opposition) is entirely with the Bashar [Bashar al-Assad] regime. If they do not respond to the treaties of the international community…then we will have to see what else can be done," he stressed.
What lies behind al-Jubeir's statement?
Saudi Arabia has long been calling for toppling the legitimate and democratically-elected Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad. It is no secret that the Gulf kingdom has poured millions of US dollars into anti-Assad Islamist radical groups.
The Saudi-backed High Negotiations Committee (HNC) includes such Syrian "opposition groups" as Ahrar ash-Sham and Jaish al-Islam groups which differ from Daesh and the al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra Front in name only.
In April, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov underscored that Ahrar ash-Sham and Jaish al-Islam shared the same ideology as Daesh, which is outlawed in Russia, the United States and many other countries.
However, the West still hesitates to recognize the brutal extremist groups as terrorists.
The possibility of Plan B's implementation was voiced by US Secretary of State John Kerry immediately after the US and Russia announced an agreement on cessation of hostilities in Syria.
"There is a significant discussion taking place now about a Plan B in the event that we do not succeed at the [negotiating] table," Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on February 23, 2016.
The plan envisages the partition of Syria and empowering the country's "moderate opposition." It should be noted that Washington is well aware that the so-called moderates have no scruples about intermingling with al-Nusra Front terrorists from time to time.
As for Riyadh, it has repeatedly pledged its willingness to deploy Saudi boots on Syrian ground. In the eyes of Saudi Arabia, 'Plan B' will allow Riyadh to ultimately get rid of Bashar al-Assad, paving the way for undermining the Middle Eastern Shiite Crescent and "encircling" of Iran.
Actually, the roots of the US-Saudi 'Plan B' originated in the times of George W. Bush. After Iraq had been occupied by the US, Saudi Arabia urged Washington to shift its attention toward Iran and Syria, parts of the so-called Shiite Crescent in the Middle East.
"In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January , Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that there is 'a new strategic alignment in the Middle East,' separating 'reformers' and 'extremists'; she pointed to the Sunni states as centers of moderation, and said that Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah were 'on the other side of that divide.' (Syria's Sunni majority is dominated by the Alawi sect.) Iran and Syria, she said, 'have made their choice and their choice is to destabilize'," Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh wrote in his 2007 article "The Redirection" for The New Yorker.
According to Kerry and al-Jubeir, Plan B would be implemented should the ceasefire in Syria collapse. As of yet the truce is holding despite numerous violations.
The recent 17-nation ISSG talks were devoted to discussing the stalled negotiations, suspended after the Saudi-backed opposition faction, the HNC, unilaterally withdrew from negotiations, demanding serious concessions from the Syrian government.
It seems that neither HNC, the Riyadh-sponsored "opposition" group, nor its Saudi masters are interested in further diplomatic efforts.
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