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The US has handed Syria over to Russia and Iran

February 20, 2016 at 12:38 pm

On just one day last week the situation on the outskirts of northern Aleppo was as follows: Russian jets were striking Syrian opposition military posts on an hourly basis, but ignoring the nearby Daesh outposts; Daesh was also attacking the opposition, as were the Syrian Kurdish militia, the Syrian Democratic Front, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Lebanon’s Hezbollah and, of course, Iraqi and Afghan militias. All were attacking the Syrian opposition groups.

Seven factions, including Russia and Daesh, all have the same goal in attacking the same target; they want to liquidate the Syrian opposition and end its revolution against the regime of Bashar Al-Assad. They are not driven by any set of particular motives but are all linked to Iran. What makes the attacks feasible is the air cover provided by Russia. The Russians have international diplomatic cover for their air strikes and America’s blessing to crush the opposition. Barack Obama, like Vladimir Putin, was never convinced that there were people who went onto the streets of Syria with the intention of overthrowing an authoritarian regime. As such, along with those around him, he decided to use the crisis in Syria to his advantage as a card for securing a nuclear deal with Iran; the US president succeeded in this goal. Putin, on the other hand, has been searching for a way to come out of Ukraine as a winner; however, he has yet to achieve this.

Putin has put Assad’s head on the line but he wants someone to pay the price in full before he gives it to them. The cost of Assad is not in Syria but beyond its borders and, true to the tradition of an important European politician, Putin has four demands: international recognition that the Crimean Peninsula is part of Russia; a West-Russia agreement for Ukraine’s division; an exclusive agreement that Europe will purchase more Russian gas; and the removal of US and European sanctions on Moscow. In addition, we can add a fifth demand – Russia must deploy a missile shield in Europe as part of its pre-requisites for the NATO agreement.

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Putin saw a golden opportunity in the chance to get involved in Syria before things get worse for Russia and the consequences of the sanctions become more and more painful. In fact, he felt as though he could use it as a bargaining chip; however, it became apparent very quickly that the West did not have as much at stake in Syria as it does in Ukraine, which was evident when they all agreed to Assad’s survival. The West does not care to support the Syrian opposition. In fact, Russia’s involvement in the war began under the false pretence that it was going to fight the growing presence of Daesh before it reached Moscow. Instead, the Russians provoked Turkey, disrupted the NATO pact, carried out ethnic cleansing among other crimes that doubled the number of refugees, and disturbed the European status quo. The Russians went to the Geneva Conference with an alleged ceasefire agreement contingent upon the emergence of an US-backed agreement supporting Russian endeavours in Ukraine as well as the lifting of sanctions. US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov appeared together to claim that they have reached an agreement only to go back on their word later and say that it could not be implemented.

Despite these human crises, and the direct and blatant killing and unprecedented destruction, there are currently no international resolutions that can be applied to the Russian occupation of Syria today. Putin has become Assad’s partner in crime. Of course, there is also the fact that Washington has remained silent with regards to Iran and the crimes of the regime. This has always been the position (or lack thereof) of the international community towards the Syrian crisis. Over the past five years, Russia has considered itself the mediator that can reform the Syrian regime and has criticised America for not giving much thought to the situation.

David Hearst: Why Russia and the West can’t win in Syria

This is a phase within the Syrian conflict in which many contradictions and interests have emerged and it is occurring at a time when the situation is at its most dangerous. The papers on the table and the role of international players have been mixed to the point that two regimes are currently at play in Syria and two major states are pushing the chaos even further. We are moving towards a new world war and a new cold war. It remains the role of both Washington and Moscow to take responsibility for the way that things have played out. The Syrian situation at this point has become a place of collusion where no one party can agree on the outcome. This is not merely a game of interests; it is the crime of the current era in which two superpowers have not learnt their lesson from their interference in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Somalia. It is certain that the crimes and mistakes that they have committed are responsible for the trajectory and escalation of conflicts in the region in general. There is also a degree of blindness behind the Devil’s alliance between Iran and Daesh.

It is no longer a secret that the Americans are happy with the idea of Bashar Al-Assad’s survival and this could be based on the idea that Russia’s involvement in Syria is to save its state institutions and figureheads as well as its security and stability. However, this was the lie on which the Russians, the regime and Iran all based their own arguments; it has obviously also convinced America because it believes that Assad’s survival is preferable to rule by Abu Baker Al-Baghdadi. The US is not stopping to ask who created Al Baghdadi in the first place because it knows the truth. Washington used to say that Assad was the number one terrorist in this conflict and later went on to adopt Assad’s slogan that Syria is a country of (opposition) terrorists. In this way, the US also began to participate in strikes against the Syrian opposition, whether moderate or not, civilian or military; whether the groups were functioning under Russian auspices or someone else’s. America has ignored the presence of Iranians, Lebanese, Iraqis, Pakistanis and Afghanis within Syria. It has ignored the crimes that have been committed by the regime against its people; the use of chemical weapons; the massacres; the forced evacuation of entire cities and towns; and Iranian intervention. To the US, the presence of Syrian people on their land is the one and only inconvenience.

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In reality, therefore, it is becoming more and more obvious that the US has handed Syria over to Russia and Iran, and has asked its allies Turkey and Saudi Arabia to accept this outcome. Obama and his administration now argue that the Syrian regime is engaged in the fight against Daesh while continuing to ignore the reality of the situation and the fact that it is helping Iran to spread this chaos to other parts of the region. Despite the willingness of Turkey, the UAE and Saudi Arabia to send troops on the ground to fight Daesh, America has expressed its reluctance to accept this outcome time and again and seems to wish for Syria what it has allowed to happen in Iraq.

Translated from AlHayat, 18 February, 2016

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