Dealing with Syria-IS conundrum


WEB DESK: Two concurrent events related to the Syrian conflict that took place on Wednesday indicate Western countries’ proxy intervention in Syria on the side of rebels is to end in disappointing results for them.

If the Iraq war created conditions for Iran to gain greater influence in the country, Russian role in the Syrian conflict is strengthening its position in the region.

At their meeting in Munich, US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov – supporting different sides in the Syrian civil war – agreed on a cease-fire. They have set up a taskforce, co-chaired by them, to implement the truce through consultation with rebel and government forces. This though is not to apply to Aleppo, where helped by Russian airstrikes, the Assad government is advancing on the Western-backed fighters.

The same day speaking at a Nato meeting in Brussels, US Defence Secretary Ash Carter said the focus is going to be on a campaign against the IS “whatever happens with the Syrian civil war.” In simple words, defeating the Assad regime is no longer an option and the goalpost has now shifted to the IS-a common concern for both sides and all others near and further afield. The aim of Nato military campaign now is to be recapturing IS capital, Raqqa, in Syria and Mosul in Iraq.

If only the outsiders had not come to create the mess in Iraq when they invaded and occupied that country or backed Syrian rebels with arms, training, money and diplomatic support things would be very different. There would be no violent religious extremists rising from the chaos of Iraq to form the IS. And more than 250,000 people killed in nearly five years of the fighting in Syria would still be alive and some 13.5 million displaced persons would not have been living as refugees in neighbouring countries and others risking their lives to reach Europe, creating a crisis for the EU countries.

The Nato plan rests on using airpower and providing training along with intelligence and surveillance help to the Iraqi forces. So far, only Saudi Arabia has offered to send troops into Syria, but on their own they are unlikely to make much difference. The US already is exhausted from fighting futile wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and Obama is a lame duck president. The country therefore is not expected to commit any ground troops to fight the IS; its role is to remain limited to bombing. But no war can be won from the air alone. Those challenging its standing in the region are in an advantageous position.

Notably, the partial success that the Iraqi forces have achieved against the IS has come with the help of fighters from Iran and the latter’s Lebanese ally, Hezbollah, as well as the local Shia groups. Future success with Western air power is again to favour those in control of the ground situation. Meanwhile, Russian airstrikes in Syria have been working because they are providing support to government forces fighting on the ground. As regards the IS, with so many powerful nations arrayed against it there is little doubt that it will ultimately be defeated. But the US and its allies are likely to find their influence in the region much diminished and that of Russia, Iran and their allies increased.

Source: Business Recorder