THE SYRIAN IMBROGLIO

The Syrian problem started simply. Within the maelstrom of the Arab Spring it was considered easy to get rid of Assad and establish a democratic government in Syria.
This would have the additional benefit for the West that Russia would be thrown out from its last base in the Med,in Tartus,Syria.
The calculation was wrong. Syria is not an homogeneous state but a mixture of minorities ,ethnotic ,ethnolinguistics and/or religious that became a state following the Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916.
Assad the son received from Assad the father a strictly controlled dictatorial state based on the party that flourished in Syria and Iraq, Baath. This party,an inheritance of Arab Nationalism,theoretically declares to believe in unity,freedom and socialism. The way it is established in Syria it has the same control mechanism that Russia had in the good old communist days, with the difference that in Syria it is one man’s rule. Arround Assad son as before around Assad father the Army,the Police ,the secret services have rallied ,but on top of it also all the minorities ,because the Assads, minority themselves, ( The Alawites to which they belong is a sect that includes only 20% oh Syrians) ,respect and support all minorities .
That means that around Assad who is the nominal leader a very big hard caucus is formed that commands Syria . His father destroyed a revolted town just to demonstrate his authority. The Assad links with Russia and Iran are also solid.
The Russians were obliged to a tactical retreat temporarily but for months now design and plan their return to their only Mediterranean base. In the same time the Iranians do not intend to abandon their only solid foothold that they have in the Arab World.
Opposing those plans to various and differing degrees are the Americans,the Saudis,the Turks and naturally the Islamic State.
Things now are evolving as follows. The Americans abandoned the training of pro western and anti Assad opposition that has already costed 500 million dollars and now they support this opposition by air-dropping Tow anti-tank missiles provided by the Saudis who have bought them. Only Assad has tanks and they are russian.This is to make the Russians bleed because instead of fighting the Islamic State first,they started by attacking the pro -western opposition in their drive North through Hamah,Homs,Aleppo and Idlib so as together with the Kurds to seal the Turkish frontier ,to cut thus the Islamic State from its sources of supply through Turkey,and secure the coastline . It is to be noted that the so called pro western opposition to Assad has even elements of Al-Caida in its forces.

At present the Islamic State is supported by Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Saudi Arabia supports it because it is the only tool it has to oppose Iranian expansion. For the Turks it is more serious. The American policy is for the establishment of a Kurdish State. This of course is Anathema for Turkey,but the Kurdish Army ,the Pesmerga were the only ones that were victorious against the Islamic State and the Americans stopped now to send them weapons through Iraq which kept always a hefty share and now they air-drop them directly to the great displeasure of the Turks because some of these weapons find their way to the PKK ,the Kurdish guerrilla in Turkey.
On the same time to further complicate an already complex situation,the Americans are arming the pro Iranian and anti Israeli Hezbollah to fight the Islamic State. On the same time a Chinese Airplane carrier group is operating for the first time in the Med on the side of Assad because the Islamic State has appropriated oil wells that China has bought from the Syrian Government.
We are in front of dramatic events that will include frontier changes for political reasons but also because there are very strong indications that the whole disputed area has very important hydrocarbon deposits.
Erdogan has already lost the middle class Kurds to the charismatic Kurd Demirtas. He is about to loose this November’s election as things stand now.
Turkey has two strategic choices:
To use the refugees issue to win big European concessions that Europe is unwilling to give and if Turkey pushes beyond certain point it can boomerang an anyway the game is controlled by the Americans or
To ally with the Islamic State to fight the Kurds in Turkey but this will be the beginning of the “Syrianization” of Turkey.
There is a third way . The Turks are brave fighters but also very competent Diplomats.
It is time to abandon illusions of Grandeur and come down to very realistic policies giving the Kurds enough reason to wish to stay united with Turkey.
It will mean important and difficult concessions but it is the only way for Turkey to avoid the existentialist threat to her existence.

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