By Konstantinos Efthymiou, Associate Contributor KEDISA
Since March 2011, after consequences of the Arab Spring spread to Syria, more than 500,000 people have been killed, whilst more than 15 million have been displaced within Syria and abroad. Regarding the material losses, the public and industrial infrastructure of the country, as well as its production, has either ceased or has been ultimately destroyed in many areas. The Syrian economy is also standing on its feet as financial aid pours in from Russia, Iran and China. Amongst this, many foreign and local criminals are opperating on the ground, usually under the cover of “fighter of Islam.” At the same time, an important part of foreign armies from Russia, Iran, US, France, and Turkey are opperating on the ground, which further complicates the Syrian regime’s management of domestic powers.
Further to that, the Syrian Democratic Forces, an army of about 60,000 men and women, opperates in an extensive area north and east of the reaches of the Euphrates river. The Kurds People’s Protection Units (YPG) are the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces and occupy approximately 25% of the country’s territory. Now, It may seem that multiple groups are now controlling different areas of Syria. These include the Syrian Army, aided by Russia and Iran, the Kurds, who are aided by the US, and particially by Russia and Syria, ISIS, and the Free Syrian Army. Various insurgent groups such as ex-Al Qaeda offshoots, have been accussed of being supported by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries who are taking part as actors in this conflict as well.
The truth is, that this situation has a dynamic of change. It seems that ISIS is likely to retreat from its held territories and perhaps further withdraw itself into the Iraqi al-Khaimah desert. It is also possible that former ISIS territories, those northern and eastern of the Euphrates, will then be controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces, possibly under U.S. influence. Notably, the most significant oil and gas reserves in Syria are in this area. While much control of the land will remain in the Syrian Regime’s hands, the opposition and some Islamist insurgents may establish a special government status (though a right for self-administration) for the moderate Sunnis of the Free Syrian Army.
Moreover, until recently, the fate of the Idlib province was unknown. Idlib borders Antakya county in Southern Turkey, which is still being held by extreme Islamist elements and insurgents, currently situated in a dangerous striking distance from the Chmeimin base, near Latakia province – which is maintained and used by the Russians. Further to this, Assad and Russia’s next target was the release of the Idlib province in order to gain access to the oil region of Deir Ez-Zor, which is of strategic importance for the Syrians.
Having in mind the above analysis, If we begin to approach the case of the bombing of Sairat airbase by US missiles, and if we attempt to look for motivation, we see that the goals were:
- Trump wanted to shake off over the stigma of “special relationship” with Putin and Russia
- Trump wanted to prevent the release-operation of Idlib Provicne by the Syrian – Russian forces as well the control of Deir Ez-Zor
- Poltitcally, the US wanted to show to Assad and Russian that they can still dominate the balance of powers in the region
- The US wanted to give a strong message to Iran, whose presence in the area constitutes a strategic threat to Israel. Put it simply, an Alawit-terrain in Syria as well as a stronger Hezbollah presence are a red flag for Israel.
The newest chemical attack in Khan Sheikhun – Syria (4 April 2017) , brought back memories of the 21st of Aughust 2013 when another chemical attack in Ghouta left hundreds of deads. The purpose of this document is to provide with rational answers to specific questions. Considering that, it is essential to present the facts and to address them with attention to detail.
- Who is blaimed for the chemical attack which cost the life to 70 people in Khan Sheikhun?
For many analysts, the ordnance appears to have been delivered by air according to witnesses, and the opposition lacks any aerial capability. Russia has claimed that the government bombed a manufacturing facility for chemicals, but there is no evidence that manufacturing such weapons is within opposition capability. Therefore many analyst as well as the US, UK, Israel, Poland, France and Germany have already condemned that indispecable action as a coordinating attack of Assad’s regime.
- Why the U.S responded within the first 48-hours ?
To answer that question, it is essential to seek to the similarities of the attack in Ghouta on the 21st of August 2013. After that attack – for which Assad’s regime had again been accussed – the U.S wanted to procceed to a military intervention, however China and Russia had used their veto at the U.N Security Council, blocking the U.S plans. In fact, Russia and China have consistently vetoed resolutions condemning Syrian use of chemical weapons, however that does not constitute a proof of Assa’d regime involvement. And that is exactly the point which is used by many supporters of the Assad’s regime neutrality and innocense.
- For those, the coordinated response/ attack of the U.S (launching 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at Shayrat airbase) was a well planned military operation which aimed on the re-arrangment of the balance of powers within Syria. Put it simply, former President Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin had made an aggreement on “whose controlling what “ on Syria but somehow Iran succeeded to fit in. The problem is, that a strong Iran in Syria is an absolute threat to Israel. Put it alternatively, an Alawit-terrain in Syria as well as a stronger Hezzbollah presence are a red line for Israel.
- Further, the U.S – through that re-arrangement of the balance of powers – aim to the liberation, not only of Raqqa, but of Deir-Ez Zor as well, which is close to Ehphrates river and is the richest region in terms of oil and gas resources. In the long term thus, the U.S – for some – will attempt to eliminate Iran’s influence in Syria and mainly to acquire control of the regions in Homs.
- What is the role of Turkey?
There is no doubt, that at least strategically, Erdogan would like to see the post-war Syria without Assad. The reason for that is the manifestation of his inner-state political projections. Put it simply:
- The majority of the insurgents within Syria ( Ahrar-al Sham, Free Syrian Army, Fatah-al Sham, etc.) are considered the “military hand” of Muslim Brotherhood which is the “ideological brother” of Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party. Thus, Syria without Assad, will empower Erdogan and will make him the representative of those groups. Of course by controlling these groups Erdogan aims at dealing with the Kurdish issue which still remains Turkey’s main threat in Turkey and in Northern Syrian soil.
- What is the Russian perspective?
Russia quickly responded to U.S attack by cancelling their joint airspace security agreement. However, we need to aknowledge, that Syria has been legally assigned to Russia its airspace. According to that Syrian-Russian aggreement, Russia is responsible of who, where and when is flying on the Syrian airspace. Considering that, a very rational question would be: Are the American aircrafts going to ask for permission in order to fly on Syrian airspace? Further to this, despite the fact that Russia acquires a wide range of anti-missile systems, they didn’t respond or deter the Tomahawk attack. The reason for that is:
- Like the destruction of the Russian aircraft, Russian military didn’t respond to the U.S provocations. If they had, that would have meant a direct military clash between the U.S and Russia.