Future scenarios for the unfolding crisis in Syria

Abdullah bin Bijad Al-Otaibi
Abdullah bin Bijad Al-Otaibi
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No sound is louder than that of the drums of war once they start beating. War neither compliments nor trusts anyone. It is one of the most rigorous expressions of conflict, opposing beliefs and the imbalance of power in the region and the world.

During the Cold War and its several battles across the world, the sound of the war drums rose after the fundamentalist revolution in Iran was led by Khomeini in 1979. He was praised by many top intellectuals and writers in the region and the world, who portrayed him as a loyal, glorious, free and revolutionary man and a guardian jurist just like he wanted.

Putin was acting as if the war in Syria was a cold regional war that he could effortlessly manage through quick and intense intervention, but things didn’t pan out as he had planned. Despite acknowledging the major differences that cannot be controlled inside Syria and despite regional disputes, Putin made his allies blindly believe in his country’s military, political and economic power

Abdullah bin Bijad Al-Otaibi

Today, the Wilayat al-Faqih regime boasts of its control over four Arab capitals — Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sanaa. Nothing has helped it in this respect more than the political mistakes of the most powerful country in the world, the United States. In 2003, the US militarily invaded Iraq without any viable strategic plan for the post-occupation phase. Saudi Arabia blamed the United States for this mistake for a long time. Blaming it should have lasted for a short period of time, yet it has consumed many years, and this is a story which is too long to explain.

Russian confidence

The situation is changing, and the positions of the antagonists are evolving. A short while back, Russian President Vladimir Putin was making threats. He is proud of himself and his allies, as he has military bases in Syria. He has an alliance with Iran and Turkey, therefore consequently with all the extremist groups.

During his election campaign, he paraded the new generation of Russian weapons and whipped up a euphoria that Russia was back on the international political map. Barack Obama had made it possible for him to come forth as a major force in the international arena due to his lack of awareness and to his visions that only included withdrawal and isolationism.

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Putin was acting as if the war in Syria was a cold regional war that he could effortlessly manage through quick and intense intervention, but things didn’t pan out as he had planned. Despite acknowledging the major differences that cannot be controlled inside Syria and despite regional disputes, Putin made his allies blindly believe in his country’s military, political and economic power. However, is this really the case? Could the impression he gave to his allies be justified on the ground? Does Russia really have the capabilities of the former Soviet Union?

The answer is simply no. Russia’s military power is well known and doesn’t need any evidence. It is a major nuclear and military power. Nevertheless, it cannot stand in the same league as the United States, let alone confront an alliance that includes the US, France, Britain and others around the globe. Even economically, Russia’s economic weight is significant, yet it is incomparable to the economies of major counties, notably the United States and Western countries. The comparison is not at all in Russia’s favor.

So now the question emerges, who decided to escalate the situation in Syria? Who decided to use internationally banned chemical weapons in Douma last week? There is quite a controversy surrounding this, and all data and speeches at the UN Security Council strongly put the finger of blame on the regime of Bashar al-Assad. What is important here is that Western countries have assembled their forces and weapons to act in response to what it deems as provocation. Russia’s tone has shifted to a calmer demeanor. Apart from the slogans, there is no comparison in power between the United States and Russia thanks to a new coalition that is underway that will restore international balances.

Escalation of the Syrian conflict

This major international escalation in Syria underscores the importance of three things. The first thing is the major changes in the regional balance of power, and the strong Saudi role carried out on the regional and international scene in all fields (in Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and others) as part of a major confrontation against the Iranian and Turkish projects and for the purpose of creating an efficient Arab political force.

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This is in addition to the Arab quartet that boycotted Qatar, the actual war chaperoned by Saudi Arabia against extremism and terrorism and Saudi Arabia's mastery to establish ample political, military and economic alliances with Arab countries, Muslim countries and worldwide.

Secondly, the mistakes of international escalation served the interest of the United States and the Western countries supporting it and its allies around the world. North Korea’s unprecedented concessions bear resemblance to what’s happening to Iran as the United States’ remains adamant to repress Iran and subjugate it to international law.

The phases of restoring international balance have historically needed brave leaders known for their strong political decision-making, with the victims being those who had benefitted from the imbalances.

Thirdly, the past cannot stand up to the future. Countries that focus on the future are completely different from ideological countries that are nostalgic for the past and seek to reclaim it, exploit it and employ it.

Russia wants to go back to the era of the Soviet Union, and Iran wants to go back to an extremist ideology that belongs to the past and to reinterpret and exploit it. This is the Shiite version of political Islam, which Khomeini interpreted from Sunni political Islam, i.e. the Muslim Brotherhood’s version. Khomeini adapted it for the Shiite rhetoric and coined it as Wilayat al-Faqih.

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Meanwhile, Turkey aspires to bring back the ill-famed Ottoman past and works hard to link Muslims to the idea of the Ottoman caliphate via a contradictory discourse that’s based on Ataturk’s secularism, which represents the legitimacy of the modern Turkish state, and that also bodes the return of the caliphate which the Turkish state itself abolished.

Politics has never been easy, as some of its fixed principles are complexity and interlacement. During important moments, when the world is holding its breath, politics needs skills, decisions and balances that assess everything, including the Syrian scene, accurately. The accumulation of mistakes does not allude to their lawfulness, repeating crimes doesn’t mean normalizing them and harvesting temporary gains doesn’t ensure one gets to maintain these gains. As such, the Syrian crisis needs a major re-creation of balances, not only in the region but also internationally.

An important question remains: What are the future scenarios for the crisis in Syria? There are many. One of it is Russia’s, Iran’s and Turkey’s scenario that hands over Syria to Iran as a little annexation to serve its terrorist project. The second one is handing over Syria to extremist and terrorist groups that are supported by Qatar and which had tarnished the Syrian cause.

It is best to have a scenario that revives Syria's unity, independence and the rights of its people without sliding the country into any situation leading to the first two scenarios.

Finally, no one likes war but sometimes it is a necessity, not an option.

This article is also available in Arabic.


Abdullah bin Bijad al-Otaibi is a Saudi writer and researcher. He is a member of the board of advisors at Al-Mesbar Studies and Research Center. He tweets under @abdullahbjad.

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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