How They Watched the Helsinki Summit

How They Watched the Helsinki Summit

Wednesday, 18 July, 2018 - 07:30
Ghassan Charbel
Ghassan Charbel is the editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper
A leader or an official cannot ignore the press conference convened by Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin at the end of their summit in Helsinki. The results of the summit concern all the inhabitants of this planet. The scene is also exciting. The image of the Kremlin master is reminiscent of James Bond’s adventures and talents. He, by the way, loves that agent who has long aroused the enthusiasm of the viewers. The master of the White House, on the other hand, has the image of a storm-maker as if he cannot live outside it.

Hassan Rouhani canceled his appointments to watch the event. Putin did not change his position on the nuclear deal with Iran and even praised some of its aspects. But his delight in the meeting was very clear. The emphasis on nonproliferation of nuclear weapons was explicit, as was Trump’s insistence that Tehran should not use the results of the war against ISIS.

Rouhani did not feel comfortable when the two leaders touched on Syria. It is true that the talk about the Geneva process and the “political transition” has completely disappeared, but it is also clear that the US recognizes Russia’s Syria, not Iran’s Syria. The two leaders’ agreement to take Israel’s security requirements into consideration in any solution clearly means that the Iranian militias are far from the line of contact with Israel. The survival of the regime of Bashar al-Assad will necessarily be at the expense of regional roles - specifically Iran and Turkey - on the Syrian territory.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan watched the press conference with interest. He had the feeling that the mere convening of the summit reminded regional powers of the need to return to a degree of humility in their vision of their roles and demands. He hoped that the Syrian crisis would end with the departure of his former “friend”, but the winds were not blowing in that direction. His insistence on striking the Kurds will leave them with no choice but to talk to the regime despite the bitterness of the past. He has long complained that America has failed him more than once. This time, Russia has deceived him in the “de-escalation” zones.

Assad followed the summit with interest. The Syrian file was tackled from the perspective of controlling Iranian interventions and ensuring Israel’s security and humanitarian assistance to the displaced. The page of the Geneva process and the political transition is turned, but the regime will be required to reduce the presence of its allies, who sometimes do not hesitate to remind it that they saved it from an inevitable fate. The story is dangerous, not simple and will not be quick.

Benjamin Netanyahu watched the summit with satisfaction. Israel’s security is clear and constant. The two leaders did not mention the peace process. His friendship with Putin was added to his bond with Trump. The Russian president allowed him to penetrate the Russian umbrella over Syria to discipline the Iranian military presence. Security means keeping the Iranians away from the lines of contact. His experience taught him that the Syrian regime would not accept partners on its soil when it sensed the demise of danger. Deep inside, he believes that Damascus prefers the Russian pillow over the Iranian support.

The talk of the two leaders did not surprise the King of Jordan. He watched the press conference as if he already knew its outcome. Negotiations over the Syrian South showed him that the US has recognized that the Syrian file was in the hands of the Kremlin as long as Israel’s security is guaranteed. He felt that he had not made a mistake in the calculation despite the wind of change in the Syrian war. Since the fire broke out, he has not forgotten to keep the contact open with the Tsar.

Michel Aoun has no problem in the direction that events are currently taking. Developments may weaken the logic of both his opponents and allies. And who knows, everyone will discover that the tent of the Lebanese State, despite the many holes in it, remains more merciful than the other tents. The course of events may oblige the Lebanese forces to show some modesty after the inflation of roles in the past years.

It is hard to believe that Mahmoud Abbas was happy to see Israel reserve its position in the Syrian future arrangements with the approval of Trump and Putin. International preoccupation with Iranian meddling and Israel’s security has left little time for the peace process to heal. The same can be said of Massoud Barzani, an expert in bitterness. When ISIS emerged carrying death and destruction, the Kurds were called upon to fight against it. They did not hesitate to offer their blood. When ISIS receded, the big players allowed the map guards to discipline the Kurds and bring them back to pre-dream days.

The two presidents came and went. Putin left as calmly as James Bond leaves at the end of a successful mission. Trump departed as a mobile storm.
Fierce clashes await him in the US after he chose to believe the Tsar rather than trusting the US security institutions.

Journalists are harmful entities. In Helsinki, they completed the battle to settle accounts with the president who does not fear them. Journalists reprimanded Trump with questions until they incited a new fire in his country. They forgave the one sitting on the throne of Stalin and attacked the master of the White House.

The two presidents left and Helsinki returned to its normal days. The Finnish driver did not follow the press conference. His country is not threatened and does not need to beg in the area of security and stability. Its memories with sisterly occupations have become history. The driver considered the summit “a good tourist promotion for our beautiful city, and hopefully would encourage the arrival of more tourists and investors.” I envied the Finnish driver.

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