Rus­sia and Iran, two dy­namic play­ers in the Syr­ian scene

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

Upon the re­quest of the Syr­ian lead­er­ship, Rus­sia’s Pres­i­dent Putin de­cided to use his air force against “ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tions” in Syria, and in par­tic­u­lar against the Is­lamic State. A rough cal­cu­la­tion of their strength would be that 35% be­long to Is­lamic State, 35% to Al-Nusra, 20% to Ahrar al-Sham, whereas the Free Syr­ian Army and some prodemoc­racy groups rep­re­sent the re­main­ing 10%.

In or­der to un­der­stand the dy­namic in­volve­ment of Rus­sia in Syria and the bom­bard­ment of ter­ror­ist tar­gets, we should take into ac­count the fol­low­ing: the mil­i­tary suc­cesses of ISIS against the only ally of Moscow in the re­gion in­creased the fear that ter­ror­ism might be ex­ported to Rus­sia, since 2,000 ji­hadists come from Rus­sia. On the other hand, the re­duced in­ter­est of the U.S. in the re­gion and the vac­uum it gen­er­ates con­sti­tute chal­lenges for Rus­sia. An­a­lysts ex­plain this de­vel­op­ment as re­sult­ing from be­ing petrol self­suf­fi­cient, shift of in­ter­est to Asia with a view to con­tain­ing China’s in­flu­ence and the ex­is­tence of Amer­i­can bases in the coun­tries of the Gulf. One might even ven­ture to think that Rus­sia’s in­volve­ment in Syria is the re­sponse to the in­volve­ment of the West in Ukraine, the em­bargo against Moscow and the pres­ence of NATO in Poland and the Baltic states.

As stated, Rus­sia’s in­ten­tion is not to of­fer di­rect sup­port to As­sad, since now Moscow ac­cepts his par­tic­i­pa­tion in a tran­si­tory gov­ern­ment, but first to fight ter­ror­ism and cre­ate the pre­req­ui­sites for a peace­ful res­o­lu­tion of the con­flict. For this pur­pose, Moscow pro­posed to the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity the es­tab­lish­ment of an anti-ter­ror front and expects a pos­i­tive re­ac­tion from the West. In this con­nec­tion, men­tion should be made that the Rus­sian mil­i­tary es­tab­lished con­tacts with their U.S. coun­ter­parts, with a view to se­lect­ing ji­hadist tar­gets to be bombed.

As was ex­pected, when a Rus­sian war­plane briefly vi­o­lated Turk­ish air space, NATO re­acted, urg­ing Rus­sia to “cease and de­sist” and Turkey not only protested, but also threat­ened Rus­sia with reprisals. Pres­i­dent Tayyip Er­do­gan warned Rus­sia there are other places Turkey could get nat­u­ral gas from and other coun­tries that could build the Akkuyu nu­clear plant. One un­der­stands that Rus­sia’s air strikes dealt a blow to Er­do­gan’s as­pi­ra­tions of see­ing As­sad re­moved from power, and that be­yond the protests and threats, there is lit­tle Turkey can do. Shift­ing from one sup­plier or con­trac­tor to an­other is not straight­for­ward. Con­cern­ing th­ese threats, Moscow’s po­si­tion is that Turkey is a neigh­bour with whom it wants to have good re­la­tions, believ­ing that she will not do some­thing to harm them.

Iran, a strong player in the re­gion, is against ter­ror­ism, hence the des­patch of mil­i­tary ad­vis­ers to Syria and the sup­port of Rus­sia’s bom­bard­ments. In or­der to bet­ter or­gan­ise the mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions, a head­quar­ters was es­tab­lished in Iran in which the par­tic­i­pants are Iran, Rus­sia and Iraq. Con­cern­ing the res­o­lu­tion of the con­flict, Tehran expects As­sad to take into ac­count the law­ful de­mands of the op­po­si­tion and ac­cept an honourable com­pro­mise, while en­deav­our­ing to fa­cil­i­tate Syr­ian-Syr­ian ne­go­ti­a­tions. In this re­spect, Pres­i­dent Rouhani stated that his gov­ern­ment is ready to hold talks with the U.S. on how to re­solve the con­flict in Syria, where the two coun­tries back op­pos­ing sides.

Con­clud­ing, the cli­mate is not yet ripe for ne­go­ti­a­tions and even if the Is­lamic State is de­feated in Syria, the prob­lem will re­main in Iraq.

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