Tuesday, 22 September 2015

SYRIA: The Russia's Factor

If there is any solution for Syria, it would have be similar to the tentative plans suggested in 2013, which called for exiling Assad, his family and his clan. But also extensive amnesties for fighters on both sides, power to be handed to local authorities and more importantly a common fight against IS. But this type of solution would have required military pressure on Assad. 

But now the Russians have arrived in Syria. Russia has deployed 28 combat planes in Syria, US officials said on Monday, confirming the latest move in Moscow's increasing military presence in the war-torn nation. There is growing concern in Washington, even though President Obama gingerly accepted Putin's initiative of joint-military efforts against IS in Syria, that Moscow's move risks hampering any peaceful, diplomatic solution. The kind of aircraft, 12 SU-24 attack aircraft, 12 SU-25 ground attack, 4 Flanker fighter jets and drones, suggest Moscow's intentions to exert offensive role. 

On the one hand, the goal of the new Russian-American talks,which kicked off with a phone call of the two countries' defense ministers last Friday, is to minimize the risks of a direct clash between theirs forces. It is nonetheless worth asking if the new Moscow-Washington channel on military affairs can be tweaked to increase the chances of peace. It is arguable that military to military talks could be more productive than diplomatic sparring at this time. 

In 2013, an unlikely mix, US,Russia,China and Europe planners succceeded  n setting up an effective mission to extract Syria;s chemical weapons from the country.The Current Russia-American talks could expand beyond the initial narrow task of avoiding unintended clashes.This could involve quiet intelligence-sharing on IS targets. But it could also embrace broader contacts on local security conditions, humanitarian access and protecting civilians from the worst effects of the conflict. 

On the other hand, this could make the war even more dangerous. It can be arguable that Russia's presence in Syria is as an act of war, because Russia has very different notion of what constitutes IS targets than America or Europe. Russia subscribes to Assad's definition, which ranges from rebel groups supported by the US and the West to IS fighters. Based on the involvement of Russia troops in fighting in the east of the Latakia province, it is clear who Russia sees as the prime target: Syrian rebels. The IS is not to be found in anywhere near that particular theater battle. 

Meanwhile, the US only wants to fight IS and implements a multi-million program to train the so called ''Syrian moderate fighters''. Most of the 54 men in the first of these US-trained units were abducted by radicals with Al-Nusra Front, because the group believed it was the target of the campaign. Saudi-Arabia and Qatar tend to fund Islamist groups, which the US mistrusts. And Turkey is seeking allies to fund its war against Kurdish separatists with Kurdistan workers's Party PKK.

Still, it is unclear what Russia's strategic goals are in Syria. It could simply be that  Russia is merely trying to secure Assad home region in the mountains between Latakia and Tartus and preserve Russia's only naval base in the Mediterranean. It is possible that Russia military planners, who have typically proved to be astute analysts of the Syrian conflict than their Western-American equivalents to date, have worked out a viable scheme to rescue Assad. The most likely outcome of Russia's intervention is, however, simply that the stalemated war will drag on. 

However what seems to be crystal clear is that Putin is now counting on those in the West who believe that the priority is to fight IS, and that requires supporting Assad. But his ongoing rule is the original reason for the conflict. 

From the US-West upbeat view, a negotiated solution still seems a long way off, at least as long as Assad remains in power. Negotiations can only succeed if both parties stand to benefit. But from the very beginning, Assad, with the backing of Iran and Russia, chose a path that permits only victory or defeat over Syrian rebels, moderate or radicalised.

The only way Syria can survive as a nation is if the two large camps, consisting of the moderate rebels, if there is any, and the Syrian army, band together against IS to preserve the country.This could easily work if US, West, Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Iran define who is the common: enemy. That's just a wishful thinking.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Investigative Journalist
World Affairs Expert