The need for US-Russian cooperation for the resolution of Middle East problems, prominently among them the Syrian conflict, had been obvious from the start (1). On February 22, the United States and the Russian Federation, Co-Chairs of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), issued the “Joint Statement on Cessation of Hostilities in Syria”. Since then, it has also been obvious that reaching a common understanding on “who is a terrorist and who is not” would be a key issue (2). Because, under the terms of the “Cessation”, Russia and the US were expected to delineate, with other members of the ISSG’s Ceasefire Task Force, the territory held by “Daesh, Jabhat al-Nusra” and other terrorist organizations designated by the UN Security Council” which were excluded from the cessation of hostilities. This was to prove a difficult task in view of the complicated ground situation and the diverse interests involved. Okumaya devam et →
“Cessation of Hostilities in Syria”, worked out between Russia and the US and approved by the UNSC through Resolution 2268, entered into force on February 27, 2016. For two months, despite violations, it seemed to hold inspiring cautious optimism. However, two major challenges remained.
The first was the launching of not just talks but “meaningful talks” between the regime and the opposition. On March 21, Reuters reported that U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura described Syria’s political transition as “the mother of all issues” in response to regime’s representative Bashar Ja’afari who said that Assad’s future had “nothing to do” with the negotiations.
The second was how to deal with terrorist organizations not only as a short-term battlefield issue but also a long-term problem for Syria and beyond. Under the terms of the “Cessation of Hostilities in Syria”, Russia and the US were expected to delineate, with other members of the ISSG’s Ceasefire Task Force, the territory held by “Daesh, Jabhat al-Nusra” and other terrorist organizations designated by the UN Security Council” which were excluded from the cessation of hostilities. It was obvious that in view of conflicting interests this would be easier said than done. Okumaya devam et →
In early February scientists announced that they had finally detected gravitational waves, the ripples in the fabric of space and time that Einstein predicted a century ago. They are only to be congratulated. Their achievement must have caused consternation among those who failed to foresee the ripple effect of the Syrian conflict now in its sixth year.
Middle East’s widened sectarian war, the chaos it has created, ISIL’s growing outreach, the recent string of terrorist attacks which have shaken Turkey and Europe and the refugee issue can all be traced to the beginning of the Syrian conflict. Regardless of his many shortcomings and failures one must credit President Assad for his self-fulfilling prophecy. In October 2012 he said that Syria’s downfall would put the entire Middle East on fire. Now it is not just the region that is on fire. The flames have reached Africa and Europe.
The road map for Syrian political transition which the UN Security Council (UNSC) approved through Resolution 2254 envisaged the Syrian government and the opposition engaging in formal negotiations in early January 2016. It also envisaged a nationwide ceasefire, establishing of non-sectarian governance, drafting of a new constitution, free and fair elections within eighteen months. Okumaya devam et →
Following the terrorist attacks in Paris President Hollande declared that France was at war. President Obama called the attacks “an attack on the civilized world”. In a telegram to his French counterpart, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the attacks were “the latest testimonial to the barbaric essence of terrorism which throws down a challenge to human civilization”. Chancellor Angela Merkel said: “This attack on liberty targets not only Paris, it targets all of us and it has hit all of us, and that is why we will also all respond together.”
Despite such expressions of solidarity, the question “how to conduct this war?” remains because this is not just about just fighting the Islamic State (ISIL) in Iraq and Syria. It is also about finding ways and means to discredit its ideology; diminishing its appeal; narrowing its base; creating platforms if not alliances between the West, Russia and Moslem countries. This is a huge task, now further complicated by problems of homeland security and the Syrian refugees. Okumaya devam et →
Despite growing evidence of a build-up of military personnel and equipment around Latakia the scale of Russian military intervention in the Syrian conflict caught the West by surprise. Many analysts tend to see it as a new assertiveness on the part of Russia; President Putin flexing muscles, displaying power; Moscow striving to restore lost role in the Middle East; Russia trying to teach Americans a lesson. Some believe that the intervention aims at propping up the regime and if Putin had been eager for peace he would have exerted pressure on President Assad before the outbreak of full scale civil war. Others say this is an attempt to deflect attention from the Ukraine conflict and a mismanaged economy. A few want a robust reaction from the US and say that NATO being tested by Russia. Assad’s visit to Moscow will probably reinforce these assessments. There may be some truth in all that. But, a little more needs to be said to complete the picture. Okumaya devam et →
Russia’s airstrikes in Syria, particularly the targets chosen, have added further confusion to an already complicated picture.
Since March this year, with the Islamic State (ISIL) controlling half of Syrian territory and the “Army of Conquest” consolidating its gains in the Idlib province and getting closer to Latakia, the Assad regime appeared to be on the retreat. The “Army of Conquest” is a coalition of groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra Front, Ahrar al-Sham and a few others. Reportedly, the Army of Conquest cooperates with some moderate rebel groups and is supported by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. Ankara strongly denies such support.
On 12 May 2015, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and US Secretary of State Kerry held a joint press conference in Sochi. While expressing his views on Syria Mr. Lavrov said that he and Mr. Kerry “agreed that ISIL’s activities, as well as the activities of Jabhat al-Nusra are very dangerous…”
I constantly stress the need for US-Russia cooperation in finding solutions to international conflicts, particularly those in the broad Middle East. I mention compartmentalization as a way out in the absence of a wide convergence of views. I concluded a spot in early June by saying that, “U.S. and Russia need to look at the feasibility of an Obama-Putin summit. The UN General Assembly meeting in September may provide a good opportunity.” (1) It appears that there is now some groundwork in this direction including the military-to-military US-Russia talks on Syria.
To find a reasonable way to end the Syrian conflict one may look at what has been said by people who could make a difference:Okumaya devam et →
31 August 2015
Efforts to find a political solution to the Syrian conflict appear to be gaining momentum. Whatever the outcome, recent diplomatic flurry can be attributed to the following:
• The completion of the Iran nuclear deal,
• ISIL’s holding its ground in Iraq and Syria despite the US-led air campaign,
• Admission by President Assad that he is facing a recruitment problem in the armed forces raising fears that the Islamic State (ISIL) may take over should the regime fall,
• Iraq’s continuing internal instability and failure to effectively combat ISIL,
• Growing ISIL- related global concern for home security,
• The humanitarian disaster in the Middle East and the prospect of an endless influx of refugees into Europe. Okumaya devam et →
A country’s foreign policy is shaped by its identity, sense of belonging, world outlook and geographic location. This last one is a constant; others are subject to evolution, change and definition/redefinition within the limits of reason. The task of governments is to merge these with national power into policies designed to maximize national interest. It is imperative even for major countries that the conformity of these policies to international law and rules of good conduct can be reasonably defended. All of this requires realism, calm, poise, prudence, consistency and determination. A sound foreign policy’s worst enemies are rashness and bravado. Okumaya devam et →