Russia, Iran, and American inaction in Syria
U.S. inaction has led to negative results that threaten regional stability. Amid the absence of the role that the only superpower is supposed to play
As time goes by, we realize that Russian intervention in Syria is raising more questions that - at least for the time being - have no answers. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Mouallem recently hinted that President Bashar al-Assad may ask Moscow to send soldiers to Syria. Mouallem’s statements came at the same time as a Kremlin spokesperson confirmed there is a Russian desire to send forces to Syria.
However, Russian troops are already present in Syria, particularly in the coastal area. They presently number about 2,000, and are working alongside pro-regime militias to prevent the collapse of the Alawite area, which Russia thinks it can put under its tutelage whether Assad stays or leaves.
Moscow would not have increased the size of its intervention and insisted on publicizing it if it had not felt that Assad’s fate is under serious discussion. Therefore, Russia had to reassure him. This in addition to President Vladimir Putin’s desire to exploit Assad as much as possible.
Assad no longer controls anything in Syria, especially because the Iranians and their tool Hezbollah - which is nothing but a Lebanese sectarian militia linked to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) - have their own interests.
These interests are based on taking over land and real estate in Damascus and its surroundings, all the way to Zabadani and eastern and western Ghouta. They also want residents of Shiite towns close to Aleppo and Idlib to move to the capital and its surroundings.
U.S. inaction has led to negative results that threaten regional stability. Amid the absence of the role that the only superpower is supposed to playKhairallah Khairallah
So far, there are no conflicting stances between Tehran and Moscow. On the contrary, it seems roles are distributed between them at a time when some Syrian territories, including Aleppo, have come under Turkish influence.
It is no secret that Al-Nusra Front stopped expanding toward Alawite towns due to Turkish pressure on that front. These pressures are because Turkish priorities come within the context of complicated calculations that take into account future relations with Alawites in Syria, and the open confrontation between Ankara and the Kurds.
It is also no secret that Washington is confused. The administration of President Barack Obama resembles that of Jimmy Carter. When the latter was tested by Iran at the end of the 1970s, Tehran realized that Carter did not intend any sort of confrontation against any party.
Putin has tested Obama, and is now certain that he can go far in defying or containing him, whether in Ukraine or Syria. Meanwhile, Iran considers the nuclear agreement the Obama administration’s only achievement. It is in fact an Iranian accomplishment that has become the U.S. administration’s source of pride! Syrians are certain that Obama is unwilling to defy Iran in Syria or in Lebanon, due to his concern over the nuclear deal, over which he is very protective.
There are strange givens here that the U.S. administration is adhering to. The first is its willingness to give way to Iran and Russia in Syria. There is an American admission that Syria is a zone of Iranian-Turkish-Russian influence. This explains why Washington retreated from reacting in Aug. 2013 when Assad used chemical weapons against the Syrian people.
Putin, who at the time wrote an article in the New York Times urging Obama to be prudent and to focus on confronting terrorism, prevented a strike against the Assad regime - a strike that could have at least paralyzed airports.
Obama, who used to consider the use of chemical weapons a “red line,” and who stressed the importance of Assad’s departure, accepted the use of barrel bombs to kill Syrians. Putin thus managed to have Obama do as he wanted. The same applies to Iran.
Work is under way to figure out how to coordinate efforts against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in order to guarantee that Washington stays in the same boat as the Russians and Iranians. No one in Iran or Russia has taken Obama's statements seriously since he backed down from attacking the Syrian regime.
Assad will leave sooner or later, even if he thinks the Kermlin will never abandon him. Putin and Tehran will go far in their Syrian adventures, especially since no one in Washington wants to admit the role that the Assad regime played in the emergence and expansion of ISIS. No one in Washington wants to realize that Assad and ISIS are two sides of the same coin, and that eliminating the Syrian regime is an indispensible part of the war on terror.
U.S. inaction has led to negative results that threaten regional stability. Amid the absence of the role that the only superpower is supposed to play, it is unsurprising that the process of dividing Syria continues. What Iran is doing in Lebanon is also unsurprising, as there is obstruction of the government’s work and popular activity that only Hezbollah benefits from.
Amid this American inaction, it is also no surprise what Israel is doing in Jerusalem, as it is attempting to alter the status of Al-Aqsa Mosque and open it for Jewish extremists. Nothing has been a surprise in the Middle East since the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, whose repercussions are still being felt.
This article was first published in Al-Arab newspaper on Sept. 21, 2015.
Khairallah Khairallah is an Arab columnist who was formerly Annahar's foreign editor (1976-1988) and Al-Hayat's managing editor (1988-1998).