Russia is finding new solutions to the Syrian crisis
by Alexandr Svaranc on 12 May 2023 0 Comment

The destabilization of the military-political situation and the provoked civil war in Syria, which has been going on since March 2011, have become another consequence of the US regional policy of reformatting the Middle East region and establishing its own monopoly. The strategy of “controlled chaos” with the use of radical forces and internal political contradictions was a hackneyed product of American diplomacy and intelligence.


The Syrian conflict is an echo of the “Arab Spring” and a reflection of multi-layered ethno-religious contradictions, which, starting with a local civil confrontation, eventually grew into an uprising against the regime of Bashar al-Assad and involved the main countries of the region and world powers. The parties to the conflict receive military and political support from various external players. In particular, Russia and Iran provide support to pro-government forces and Shiite groups, the forces of the motley opposition from Western countries (in particular, the same Kurds), Turkey and the Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf (including Turkomans and Sunni Arabs).


The degree of involvement of foreign states in the Syrian crisis has turned out to be so high that experts often characterize it as a proxy war between regional powers. The radicalization of religious contradictions brought international terrorist groups and organizations to the forefront of the Syrian theatre, where ISIS (an international terrorist organization banned in the Russian Federation) especially showed its cruelty and expansionism. Such a fragmentation of the united Syrian opposition and the turn of events have become the reason for the entry into the conflict of external forces (the United States, Russia, Iran, Turkey) in 2014. The war in Syria has spawned a multi-million army of refugees and a migration crisis in Turkey and Europe.


For objective reasons, the countries of the Middle East (primarily Iran, Turkey, the Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf and Israel) show special attention to the Syrian conflict. The latter is motivated by considerations of geographical proximity, religious contradictions between Sunnis and Shiites, ethnic differences (especially regarding the fate of the Kurdish issue in the region), possible territorial transformations and the redrawing of borders.


Since the autumn of 2015, Russia has been forced to enter this conflict at the invitation of the Syrian government, because Moscow has traditionally played a stabilizing role in the region and acted as a strategic partner of the Syrian Arab Republic (SAR). The objectives of the Russian peacekeeping operation in Syria were:

-       the fight against the forces of international terrorism and the suppression of their activity on the distant approaches to our borders;

-       providing friendly assistance to the people of Syria to restore the territorial integrity of the country and political stability in the region;

-       preservation of the naval and air base of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation in the SAR as a guarantor of peace and security.


Taking into account the successes of the Russian peacekeeping mission in Syria, Russia’s authority in the Middle East has significantly increased, Moscow has initiated the formation of a new platform for political negotiations on the Syrian crisis in Astana and Sochi with the participation of interested Middle Eastern players (including Syria, Turkey and Iran).


The drama of the Syrian conflict is aggravated, as you know, by the issues of control of local oil resources and strategic transit communications passing through Syria. War often gives rise to chaotic and uncontrollable processes of plundering the economic resources of the occupied and controlled territory. In addition to this, the Kurdish ethno-political issue, the prospect of the separation of part of the SAR and the formation of a new Kurdish autonomy (or an independent state) in the north and northeast of the country are particularly acute for the countries neighbouring Syria (in particular, for Turkey).


Ankara is objectively concerned about such a scenario of the Kurdish question in Syria with the external military and political and financial support of the US and Israel. Turks believe that the Kurdish formations of Syria (in particular, the military alliance “Syrian Democratic Forces” – SDF) are actively cooperating with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party banned in Turkey, which Ankara has listed as an international terrorist organization, and can transfer the flame of local conflict to Anatolia.


It is known that under this very motivation Turkey has conducted four military operations in Syria since 2016 in coordination with Russia (“Euphrates Shield”, “Olive Branch”, “Peace Spring”, “The Claw-Lock”). Ankara’s goal is to form a 30 km buffer zone along the Turkish-Syrian border deep into the Kurdish-populated areas, pushing local groups out and establishing its own control and Turkish-Russian patrolling. As a result, a number of Syrian settlements came under the control of the Turkish military (including Jarablus, El-Bab, Afrin, Ras al-Ain and others).


Turkey, under the guise of contradictions with the US in terms of the prospects of the Kurdish question in Syria is trying to continue to push for new territorial acquisitions and ethnic cleansing in terms of the displacement of Kurds from the border area. At the same time Ankara shows special attention to Turkic-speaking Turkomans and pro-Turkish Sunni groups in order to change the ethnography of the occupied territories in the north of Syria, which fits into the framework of the Turkish doctrine of Neo Pan-Turkism.


However, the fighting resistance of the Kurds, supported partly by the Syrian government and partly by the United States, has created a somewhat different disposition of forces, with the entire northeast actually under the control of the Kurdish SDF group and a large part in the north and northwest controlled jointly by pro-government and Kurdish formations.


Recently, within the framework of the pre-election struggle and radical rhetoric, Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, who is counted among the supporters of Neo Pan-Turkism, accused the US of supporting the forces of international terrorism and creating a terrorist state with an emphasis on the Kurdish factor in Syria. In this case Soylu, who will run for the parliamentary elections on behalf of the ruling AKP (as you know, President Recep Erdogan announced that all the ministers in his cabinet would run for the parliament), said that Turkey, continuing the fight against the forces of terrorism, was in fact fighting the United States.


But the day after such a strong accusation against the Americans, President Recep Erdogan suddenly fell ill for reasons unknown at the moment, had to interrupt a live broadcast on local television and cancelled several events the next day related to electoral matters. Erdogan’s condition, according to official figures from his administration, is stable. Although there were conflicting reports throughout the evening of April 26: some of them claimed that Erdogan had a slight stomach flu, while other sources made public information about a myocardial infarction and Erdogan’s urgent hospitalization.


We wish the Turkish president good health and a speedy recovery. In this regard, it is a strange and coincidental coincidence that Erdogan’s breakdown happened for some reason on the eve of the launch of heavy fuel for Turkey’s first nuclear power plant Akkuyu in Mersin, built by Russia. Isn’t this unexpected attack a consequence of American sabotage against the out-of-control President Recep Erdogan, whose ministers (e.g., Süleyman Soylu) are already fighting the US and accusing them of terrorism? As a result, two presidents (Erdogan in Turkey and Putin in Russia) for different reasons (in particular, one due to a slight cold, the other due to a busy work schedule) will take part in this event [April 27-ed], which has an important political significance on the eve of the general elections, via an online video link.


Meanwhile, Turkey’s repeated attempts in 2022 to launch a new military operation in Syria (including both air and ground) were localized mainly by the efforts of Russian diplomacy. Thanks to Russia, on April 25 this year in Moscow there were held quadrilateral talks of the defense ministers of Russia, Iran, Syria and Turkey, which were highly appreciated by Turkey’s defense minister Hulusi Akar.


The subject of the Moscow meeting were “practical steps” to strengthen security in Syria, further fight against extremist groups and normalization of the whole complex of Syrian-Turkish relations (including preservation of territorial integrity of Syria and early return of Syrian refugees from Turkey). By recognizing the territorial integrity of Syria, the participants in the Moscow meeting (including Ankara and Damascus) exclude any options for the formation of an independent Kurdish state and the preservation of the ground for terrorism.


The defense ministers meeting can be considered to be just the beginning of a broader Turkish-Syrian dialogue within the Middle East Quartet (Russia, Iran, Syria, Turkey). Similar talks are planned at the level of the heads of foreign intelligence and the Foreign Ministry, which will make it possible to consider the whole range of issues and prepare for a meeting of the heads of states. Such dynamics and intensity of the negotiation process with the Moscow initiative testifies to the success of Russian diplomacy, capable of finding new solutions to the protracted Syrian crisis.


Aleksandr SVARANTS, PhD in political science, professor, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.” Courtesy


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