Implications of Russia’s presence in Syria
Russia’s army has been swept up on a wave of victory, but its presence has wider implications
Despite Russia’s claim of a partial military withdrawal from Syria in March, it has reportedly set up a temporary camp inside the World Heritage Site of Palmyra, which was captured from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) with the help of Russian special forces.
Russia’s army, ignoring rage over its military presence in Syria, has been swept up on a wave of victory, but its presence has wider implications. Russian troops are no strangers to Syrian soil - naval infantry secured a key port in Tartus and the perimeter of an airfield in Latakia - but they are publicly visible in Palmyra.
The evolution of Russia’s role from a behind-the-scenes political ally of Damascus to a visible ground force has consequences for the development of the conflict. It widens the scope of key players from being external political supporters to putting boots on the ground.
As Russia’s military presence is tolerated despite international anger, what will stop Western or regional powers from setting up military bases in areas that are not under government control?Dr. Halla Diyab
This could exacerbate the already complicated situation in Syria. As Russia’s military presence is tolerated despite international anger, what will stop Western or regional powers from setting up military bases in areas that are not under government control?
The rhetoric that Russia’s military presence is a safeguard against ISIS opens the door to other foreign powers to seize Syrian land to protect it from the terrorist group. This will further divide the country, further militarize the conflict, and send a message that weapons, not diplomacy, is the key to victory.
Syria as a nation has gradually become the plaything of the Russian army. By showcasing a Russian orchestra in Palmyra instead of a traditional Syrian band to mark the victory against ISIS, this was not a national celebration, but an affirmation of a Russian triumph on Syrian soil.
The Syrian conflict has produced multi-layered identities shaped by political affiliations, and militant identity has become prevalent over political identity. Syrian national identity has lost itself to this militarization.
Dr. Halla Diyab is an award winning screen-writer, producer, broadcaster, a published author and an activist. She has a Ph.D. in English and American Studies from the University of Leicester. She carried out research in New Orleans, USA while working on her thesis “The Examination of Marginality and Minorities in the Drama and Film of Tennessee Wil-liams”. She holds an MA in Gender and Women Studies from the University of Warwick. She has written a number of scripts for TV dramas countering religious extremism and international terrorism resulting in her being awarded Best Syrian Drama Script Award 2010 and the Artists Achievement Award 2011. She is a regular commentator in the Brit-ish and international media and has recently appeared on Channel 4 News, BBC Newsnight, BBC This Week, CNN, Sky News, Channel 5 News, ITV Central, Al Jazeera English, and BBC Radio 4, to name a few. She is a public speaker who spoke at the House of Commons, the Spectator Debate, Uniting for Peace and London’s Frontline Club. She has worked in Libya, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Syria and is an expert on the Middle East and Islamic culture. As a highly successful drama writer, she has been dubbed ‘one of the most influential women in Syria’ in 2011. She also produces documentary films for UK and international channels. She is also the Founder & Director of Liberty Media Productions which focuses on cross-cultural issues between Britain and the Middle East. She can be found on Twitter: @drhalladiyab.
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