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Will the Syrian regime triumph?

A number of indications surfaced over the past few weeks, suggesting that the "end game" in the Syrian crisis has begun. The biggest indication of this is Turkey's involvement in the battle taking place in the Syrian arena for the first time since it has begun. This involvement has its purposes and consequences. This is due to the fact that Turkey not only entered a decisive battle with all of its weight, but because it is also backed by NATO and the international coalition. When Turkey enters a battle, it doesn't do so lightly. It does so because the threat posed by Syria's dismantlement directly affects its national security.

At the same time, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's appearance in Doha this week, coinciding with US Secretary of State John Kerry's visit and during the GCC Foreign Ministers' meeting carries its own significance. The Gulf leaders interpreted this move as a sign that Moscow is abandoning Al-Assad.

This also coincides with Iran's announcement of an initiative for a political solution in Syria; also Russia inviting the Syrian opposition coalition leaders to Moscow. This is another indication of Russia's and Iran's approach towards ending the Syrian issue which has proven costly for both countries.

There are two contradictory explanations for these frantic actions. The Syrian regime's allies, led by Iran, are leaning towards claiming that there is an international shift in the direction of accepting the survival of the Syrian regime and its imposition of conditions on the Syrian opposition. These parties believe that the world has become aware that Daesh's threat and danger, the fact that the situation in the Arab Spring countries is taking a turn for the worse, and the shift in some new governments, especially in Egypt, towards supporting the Syrian regime, have all created a new reality that forces those who hoped for the demise of Al-Assad's regime to forcibly co-exist with it. This means that they will stop supporting the Syrian opposition and may even allow the regime to impose its oppression on the country and restore "security and stability" in the country. This is facilitated by the completion of Iran's nuclear agreement with the West and the signs of cooperation between the two sides in economy, security, politics and other areas.

On the other hand, there is an alternative interpretation. It seems that the agreement in which Iran and Russia abandon Al Assad will be replaced with other agreements and gains in other areas. To begin with, Iran must have realised that it lost its bet in Yemen after the signs of Houthi defeat and it can no longer withstand another similar blow in Syria. Turkey and NATO's intervention indicate a similar scenario to that of Yemen in Syria because the Syrian regime will lose its advantage of flying, which was its main tool against the revolution after its ground forces were exhausted. Therefore, pre-emptive action must be taken to reach a deal that will save anything that can be saved and which will turn the fall of Al-Assad's regime into a gain by attributing its elimination to Iranian efforts. Therefore, it will be able to get the price of these damaged goods by eliminating it for another price.

Russia also needs to take pre-emptive action because the Iranian agreement with the West means it will lose its special place with Iran which began a campaign to win over Western companies and open its market to Western products. This, of course, will be at the expense of Russia which benefitted from Iran's international isolation. Therefore, Russia must take action in order to gain whatever it can before it is too late, as Russia has no vital interest in Syria and was most likely only supporting Iran. It would be in its best interests to trade Al-Assad's regime for something that would serve its interests in Eastern Europe, especially in Ukraine and the Caucasus (where Iran is considered a competitor, not an ally).

Whatever the case, the events are ahead of the different parties, starting with an effective American-Turkish cooperation in order to establish the long discussed safe zone in northern Syria for the Syrian refugees and give the Free Syrian Army a foothold reinforced by air and artillery support from Turkey and its allies. The refugee crisis has turned into a matter of European national security in light of the refugee flow that is threatening European governments and political systems, along with the unity of their societies. All of these issues cannot be tolerated.

There is no doubt that any bets on the possibility of Al-Assad's regime surviving in Syria are a delusion because the survival of the regime poses more of a disaster to its supporters than to its opposition. This is because it has become a black hole that absorbs all of its supporters' resources and credibility while giving nothing in return. The Iranian government was sectarian and politically exposed and it lost the support of the people in the region due to its support of the regime's atrocities. Iran also lost Hezbollah by involving it in the quagmire. If the regime survives, it will only behave worse, thus increasing financial and moral cost for Tehran. This will only make Tehran drown, just as the Soviet Union sunk in the Afghanistan quagmire.

The continuation of the current situation in Syria would be impossible without Western support, and it will not continue since there is no desirable benefit in exchange for this support. The dangers that resulted from the survival of the Syrian regime and its policies did not occur due to a lack of support, but rather from the magnitude of the support for it. More support will only drag the West into the regime's quagmire without actually lessening the harms of its survival. It will only mean more displacement for Syrians (and perhaps even the Lebanese as well) who will head towards the coasts of Europe and contribute to the destabilisation of the area.

Whatever the case, the issue was decided with the launch of Turkey's equivalent of Saudi's Operation Decisive Storm which aims to seize areas under Daesh's control and hand them over to the moderate Syrian opposition. It also aims to create safe zones for both the opposition and the civilians. This will lead to creating conditions conducive to hastening the process of overthrowing the Syrian regime and secure a suitable alternative. Therefore, the "end game" will mean the end of the Assad regime. The wise in Russia and Iran understand this and are trying to turn this catastrophe into a gain before it is too late.

Translated from Al Quds Al Arabi, 6 August, 2015

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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