MIDDLE EAST

Back to fighting in Syria

The war in Syria did not stop but the fighting decreased as arrangements are underway to end it. Promises to achieve a “peaceful” settlement have spread optimism to the point that several governments sent back their ambassadors to Damascus and the opposition was declared dead. “Victorious” parties, i.e. Assad’s government, Iran and Syria, began to act arrogantly by ignoring the Geneva conference as they think the Sochi negotiations are the only means to finalize Syria’s fate as per their wishes. Iran increased its military presence and its armament of Hezbollah. It seems this is all an attempt to finalize the last days in its favor and to impose its presence after the war.

Indulging in this behavior made warring parties return to war. The fighting is raging in Idlib, the South Aleppo Front, Damascus’ suburbs and East of the Euphrates in Deir az-Zour. There are also the mysterious attacks which destructively targeted Russian troops in the Khmeimim base in Latakia.

David Satterfield, the acting assistant secretary at the American Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that the American government is against Iran’s presence in Syria, adding that this was a strategic matter. This frank statement is significant and dangerous, and it explains a lot about recent developments, including the Sochi conference’s inability to achieve any progress, the resumption of the fighting, the UN delegate’s retreat on backing the political solution and the Israeli attack on Iranian military posts near Damascus.

As long as the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and its foreign militias are stationing in Syria, we will witness a new round of the Syrian war. It will be like quicksand that’s centered against Iranian forces.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Overturning the formula

If Washington really rejects Iran’s and Hezbollah’s presence in Syria and believes this principle is a pillar of its policy towards Syria, then it’s capable of overturning the formula and thwarting everything which the Syrian regime achieved with the help of its allies.

ALSO READ: Will Washington join Tel Aviv to prevent Iranian expansion in Syria?

Since Turkey is no longer in harmony with Washington, some may think that the Americans lost the most important front surrounding Syria and which is no longer part of the war. This is partially true. However, the Americans have enough allies to impose their conditions to get the Iranians out of Syria or to destroy their project of militarily settling in the country. There are also Israel and the Syrian Democratic Forces which some Free Syrian Army battalions joined in East Euphrates. There is also the opposition in the South, near the Jordanian borders. As long as the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and its foreign militias are stationing in Syria, we will witness a new round of the Syrian war. It will be like quicksand that’s centered against Iranian forces.

Negotiations’ relapse

As for the Russians, Satterfield think they will reconsider their presence when they realize that the war does not serve their interests on the long run and that the alliance between them and the Iranians will not last for long.

ALSO READ: Over 2,000 Afghans sent by Iran killed in Syria: official

The relapse in negotiations to end the Syrian war is no surprise as they’ve actually failed to recognize the most important factor resulting in tensions and which is the presence of Iranian forces and their militias. For the Syrian people, their presence there is a recognition of occupation that’s being legitimized at the expense of Damascus’ weak regime. For the region’s countries, it marks a dangerous change in the balance of regional powers. The Iranian-Syrian-Russian tripartite wanted to quickly plan a peace deal in Sochi while benefitting from regional and American leniency and military progress. They could have done so but it’s very difficult to ignore and overlook the Iranian factor which Washington thinks confronting it is part of its strategy that did not exit few months ago.

This article is also available in Arabic.
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Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed.
 

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Last Update: Sunday, 14 January 2018 KSA 12:46 - GMT 09:46
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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