Consideration to geostrategic pulse 235 - Syria – an equation whose solution is getting more complicated

Syria – an equation whose solution is getting more complicated
Corneliu PIVARIU

Not very many military and geopolitical analists expected that the USA respond to the chemical attack carried out by the faithfuls of Bashar al-Assad in Idlib area (Khan Sheikhoun) by a direct military strike on Shayarat airbase (in Homs central region), from where the chemical attack was launched according to the Pentagon declaration.

What almost everybody expectad was that Russia supports its Syrian ally in the Security Council by vetoing a resolution condemning the Syrian regime (for the eights time). Since the use, in the summer of 2013, of chemical weapons on the outskirts of Damascus (Ghouta area) and on other areas in the country, it is the first time the USA reacted firmly to this new violation of the international law by Bashar Al-Assad’s regime and many analysts estimate that if Obama Administration was less lenient in 2013, it is likely that Assad’s regime would have abstained from from new such attacks (according to certain sources, the Idlib attack was not the only one carried out since president Trump’s inauguration).

After the strikes with Tomahawk missiles on the Syrian airbase Shayarat (in operation since 1960 and the Russian instructors were present there almost from its inauguration), the balance of forces remained unchanged on the ground, and what probably has changed is Bashar Al-Assad’s restraint in carrying out such attacks but his determination of attacking the oponents remained constant.

It is interesting to find out the true answer to the question why Russia did not use the air defense systems SS-400 deployed on the Syrian seashore that, as they say, can intercept missiles of Tomahawk type. For not complicating further the relationship with the USA (that warned Moscow about the attack)?; as it did not want to practically test  the capabilities of SS-400 for not being sure about its efficiency (China showed interest in acquiring SS-400) or due to other reasons?

Another USA’s important action carried out in Syria’s north is that of setting up a system of air and ground bases with the center at the recently conquered base in Tabka (where it is estimated that around 1,200 American military will be deployed), Abu Hajar airport (in the extreme north-east Rmelan region, close to the border with Iraq and Turkey), which setting up began in 2016; two smaller airports near Qamishli, adapted for military needs; a base in Kobane area. In fact, Tabka base began to be called Incirlik-2 or Qayyarah-2, taking into account that the relations with Turkey and particularly the USA’s experience at the  Incirlik base (when the latter was isolated and had the electricity cut for a time), during the attempted coup in the summer of 2016, are not currently going through good times. Besides, it seems that Germany, too, intends to reposition its military from Turkey to Jordan and Cyprus.

The evolution of the situation in Syria is connected to finding the answers to certain questions: What is the USA’s strategy in the Middle East? What is the USA’s strategy towards Russia? What is Russia’s strategy in general and in the Middle East in particular?

Up till now, the answers are at least not edifying  if not complete at all. Certainly new elements will emerge after the tour of the American Secretary of Defense, James Mattis,  this month in the Middle East: Saudi Arabia -18th, Egypt – 20th, Israel – 21st, Qatar – 22nd and Djibuti – 23rd of  April. It seems that the USA intends to convene a new Arab-Israeli peace conference in September 2017. Although such a conference is rather difficult to convene since the insurmontable issue, at least for the foreseeable future, is the uncertainty of a tangible and relevant result for such a topic.

As far as the USA’s strategy towards Russia is concerned, the recent visit of the American Secretary of State Rex Tillerson  to Moscow and the meetings that lasted almost seven hours he had with the minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov and president Putin did not end up even with the conclusion ”we agreed to disagree” or with setting up a joint working group to identify the issues for which the points of view are closer and can advance are a clear expression of the deadlock the relations between Moscow and Washington are currently in. Russia believed it could get a concession in the Ukrainian issue in exchange for Syria, a trap the USA did not fall in.
The equation is getting complicated by the intervention of other important players: Turkey, Israel, Iran, Saudi Arabia.

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