Dec 30,2017 – JORDAN TIMES –
Seasoned Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says that the US must withdraw its remaining soldiers from Syria, estimated to be no more than 2,000 deployed in and around the recently liberated Raqqa region, now that the war against Daesh has ended. Fair enough.
Russian President Vladamir Putin has deployed nearly 50,000 of its armed forces inculcating the securing of naval and air bases at Tartus and Khmeimim in the west of Syria allegedly to secure peace in Syria. Not so fair or accurate!
Damascus has called on Turkey to withdraw its army from the north of the country ostensibly deployed to fight terrorist groups there. Fair enough.
Yet, there are thousands and thousands of Tehran allied forces belonging to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard militias and Shiite Hizbollah fighters all over the country allegedly to make Syria secure and safe for democracy and stability. Not so fair or accurate again.
As long as there is so much double-talk over the Syrian conflict, it is hard to imagine how peace and stability can ever be restored to the country whether through the Geneva forum or the Astana/Sochi platforms. There is a pressing need for straight talk over the developing conflict in Syria because as long as double-talk is the name of the game, there can be no lasting peace and stability in the country.
Of course, the Moscow-Damascus-Tehran axis maintains there is a big difference between the deployment of Russian armed forces and pro-Iranian militias on one hand and the deployment of US or Turkish armies in the country given the proposition that the deployment of the first category of foreign troops was done upon the invitation of the legitimate and recognised Syrian government in Damascus whereas the other foreign troops were never deployed upon the invitation or with the consent of Damascus.
Here we are splitting hairs. There is an ongoing civil war in Syria over the past seven years with a bloody contest over the future government in the country. Till there is a new democratically elected government in Syria, arguably the current ruling regime does not have the mandate or authority to invite or not invite foreign armies into its territory.
By the looks of things, neither the US nor the Turkish armed forces are about to leave Syrian territory. Each side has its own reasons to stay put in the country.
Russian bases in Syrian enjoy 50 years leases. From Putin’s perspective that would be the biggest strategic gain for his country after having secured Crimea and annexed it nearly three years ago.
Ankara has a big stake in the north of Syria for fear that Kurdish militias operating in that part of the country are aligned with PKK and can gain the upper hand in the control over that part of Syria and threaten the Turkish southern flank.
Iran has developed big stakes in Syria as well and is not about to call it quits and leave its gains behind for the sake of democracy and legitimacy in Damascus.
The US hopes through its continued deployment of its limited armed forces in Syria to spoil the Russian-Iranian gains by acting like a thorn in their sides.
The upshot of these scenarios is setting the stage for a dismembered Syria, divided among several powers.