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Back to Fighting in Syria

Back to Fighting in Syria

Sunday, 14 January, 2018 - 11:00
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad.

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.

Assad’s regime, Iran and Russia began to act arrogantly as “victorious” parties 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 al-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.

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.

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 Corps (IRGC) 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.

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.

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 benefiting from regional and American leniency and military progress. They could have done so but it’s difficult to ignore and overlook the Iranian factor which Washington thinks confronting it is part of its strategy that did not exist few months ago.

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