As the rouble crumbles, Moscow turns its attention to Damascus

Russia has recently made a “multiple-front assault” on Syria, observed Syrian columnist Ghazi Dahman in an opinion article in the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat.

The Russian government has already supplied the regime of Bashar Al Assad with state-of-the-art weapons and is currently waging a diplomatic and political assault in the hope of tipping the scales to its benefit, the writer said.

“The direct motive behind this new diplomatic scheme lies in Russia’s urge to run away from the threat-infested Ukrainian quagmire, where it has run out of manoeuvres and where, according to European and American warnings, any further actions could very well spark a new world war.

“Meanwhile, the world’s all-powerful economies have decided to shun Russia and refuse even to negotiate its reintegration in the world community at a time when its own economy and growth have reached the verge of collapse,” the writer said.

Moscow is consolidating its presence in Syria in an attempt to reopen the door to negotiations. The Syrian situation, which has been strategically disregarded at the international level, allows greater room for manoeuvring and risk-free political tactics than the situation in Ukraine.

Moscow is taking advantage of the United States’ weakness in terms of Syria and the Obama administration’s generally confused politics, the writer observed. The Syrian opposition’s lack of organisation also presents Russia with an opportunity for manipulation.

“What’s threatening in this scenario is that Moscow’s actions and plans don’t take into consideration the interests of the Syrian people, nor do they serve Syria’s future,” the writer observed.

“These actions are based on careful strategic planning that guarantees Russia’s continued presence in the Mediterranean and keeps Syria under its control lest it becomes a passageway for Gulf gas and oil pipelines to Europe.”

For these purposes, Moscow is pushing for a solution that guarantees that Mr Al Assad remains in power, putting an end to the Syrian revolution.

Russia is wagering on the world’s weariness of the Syrian war, already in its fourth year. The international community would be more open to accept any solution for the time being. As for those elements in the opposition who can’t be tamed, they can be listed as terrorists to be targeted by the international coalition, the writer concluded.

For his part, Syrian opposition member Louai Hussein wrote, also in Al Hayat, that the Syrian crisis is no longer at the forefront of the international political scene.

As soon as the Geneva II convention ended and the fruitless talks between the regime and the opposition came to a halt, ISIL’s geographic expansion and the international coalition formed to fight it became the new headline. But this didn’t stop Russia from venturing to revisit scenarios for a possible solution in Syria.

“The new Russian move reflects Moscow’s dire need to regain a central role in the Syrian scene now that its finds itself – thanks to the United States – completely excluded from the global US-led battle on ISIL in Syria and Iraq,” he said.

“Moscow needs to alleviate the burdens of its war in Ukraine and the effects of the asphyxiating international isolation. Not too many options are at its disposal and it seems compelled to throw itself into a big adventure in Syria.”

The writer continued that “Moscow’s plan is to publicly forego Washington and disregard any of its positions on the issue” of Syria.

For its plan to work, Russia would need to come up with alluring proposals that would bring to the table opposition leaderships and certain regional countries.

“But, lest the new Russian initiative proposes major and serious change in the structure of the regime, it would be highly unlikely that Moscow would be able to convince the opposition to take part in it,” the writer claimed.

“Such a change would mean that Moscow would be confronting the Assad regime for the first time in four years and this is what makes the initiative highly risky for Russia.”

Translated by Racha Makarem

Published: December 8, 2014 04:00 AM


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