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In Syria, it’s a regime issue, not a missile issue!

Khairallah Khairallah

Published: Updated:

Whether Russia provides the Syrian regime with S-300 missiles or not, this is not the issue. Russia’s problem in Syria lies somewhere else and has nothing to do with weapons and missiles regardless what their type, range, capabilities and effectiveness are.

The Russian reaction to downing a Russian aircraft using a Syrian missile represents an investment in an operation with no horizon. The name of this failed operation is saving the Syrian regime headed by Bashar al-Assad.

The Russian decision in terms of the missiles’ network announced by Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu and the phone call, which Russian President Vladimir Putin made to Bashar al-Assad confirm that Russia insists to walk in the wrong path and deepen its crisis in Syria.

The Russian decision in terms of the missiles’ network announced by Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu and the phone call, which Russian President Vladimir Putin made to Bashar al-Assad confirm that Russia insists to walk in the wrong path and deepen its crisis in Syria

Khairallah Khairallah

It’s doing so instead of going to the core of the problem. The core of the problem is that the Syrian regime is not viable in any way as it does not have legitimacy to begin with. The Syrian regime was established following a military coup on March 8, 1963, and it gradually developed into a minority-regime during Hafez al-Assad’s era and eventually became a ruling family regime during Bashar al-Assad’s era and in full cooperation and coordination with Iran.

Foreign hands in Syria

Those who have the slightest doubt about the organic relation between the Syrian regime and Iran’s mullahs can go back to the prosecution findings of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon in The Hague few days ago. The findings exposed the extent of the depth in the relation between Damascus and Tehran in terms of the preparations to assassinate Rafic Hariri and his comrades on February 14, 2005 and the implementation of this operation using an Iranian tool.

It’s no secret that Israel has indirectly caused the downing of the Russian Il-20 off the coast of Latakia and killed all the military personnel on board. Israeli jets raided posts on the Syrian coast without giving the Russians enough time to distance their aircraft to a secure area. This certainly conveys Israel’s underestimation of coordination with Russia when it comes to shelling posts which Israel views as targets that it has the right to attack in the entire of Syria.

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Russia thus acknowledges Israel’s right to attack targets in Syria but Israel has violated the rules of the game and agreements with Moscow, perhaps intentionally or intentionally.

Russia had to react, at least to save face. What’s certain is that the S-300 missiles will help in that, at least in the short term. The Russian authorities’ reaction will help restore its prestige inside Russia. This is very important for Putin who figured out how to incite the Russian people’s deep feelings that the Russian nation is a great nation that must take its natural place in the world. Moreover, Putin restored the Russian people’s feeling that their country is a superpower like it was during the days of the Soviet Union.

The Russian reaction served the purpose on the short term but it does not mean that Russia found itself a solution in Syria where it wants to control the entire threads of the game. Before anything else, Russia will have to answer a question that mainly relies on the American reaction. Can it guarantee Iran’s military withdrawal from Syria or not?

If the US insists that Iran withdraws, then we can see that Russia is incapable of what’s required from it on the Israeli and American levels. In the end, Russia cannot justify its incapability by betting on a losing horse which is the Syrian regime. The Syrian regime has ended, just like the regimes of Eastern Germany, Bulgaria, Poland, Czechoslovakia or Romania under Nicolae Ceaușescu ended.

It’s well-known that Syria which we’ve known no longer exists. There’s nothing that can be done to reunite Syria and keep the country under the control of a ruling family that runs it as if it’s the board of a holding company and that controls all lives, property and wealth and exports terrorism to its neighbors.

Searching for a political solution

It’s normal that Russia is working to restore its prestige but what’s more normal is seeking to exit its crisis in Syria by accessing the door to the solution which may require a long time. Perhaps the first step in this regard is represented in being convinced that the current regime has no future and that the solution definitely passes through Iran’s withdrawal from Syria.

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The earlier Iran withdraws, the easier it is to search for a political solution. There’s no escape from the fact that several parties may participate in finding the aspired solution. The US, which seems that it insists to stay in East of the Euphrates and which insists to meet all what Israel demands from it especially regarding South Syria and the smuggling of Iranian weapons to Syria, is one of these major parties.

If Moscow’s announcement about supplying the Syrian regime with a new defense system serves its purpose on the Russian level, we have to ask the embarrassing questions such as what if Israel resumes shelling posts and targets within the context of its war on Iranian presence in Syria? Can Russia engage in a confrontation with it at a time when it knows well that the Israeli lobby in Moscow is very strong and that the Russian lobby in Israel is as strong?

Let’s put the part about Israel aside. There is a reality we cannot escape, and it’s related to the reconstruction of Syria one day. One of the funniest things Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid al-Mouallem said during his recent visit to Moscow is that Damascus will reward Russia by giving it all the reconstruction projects.

What Mouallem said may be accurate if Russia has what it can invest in Syria in reconstruction projects. Mouallem’s remarks are nothing more than a joke that falls within the context of the mutual exchange of illusions. The Syrian regime sells Russia promises, and Russia sells the regime anti-aircraft missiles that will not achieve anything given the massive gap between American technology and Russian technology.

In brief, the first step, if Russia, along with Israel and America, really wants to stop Syria’s programed fragmentation, is summed up in searching for a new regime. It must be a regime that’s completely distant from the current regime which gave all it can give and did all it can to protect itself. This began with handing over the Golan to Israel in 1967 and ended with it being a forgotten cause in 2018.

This article is also available in Arabic.

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Khairallah Khairallah is an Arab columnist who was formerly Annahar’s foreign editor (1976-1988) and Al-Hayat’s managing editor (1988-1998).

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.