New US approach to Syria may prolong conflict
Washington’s plan to send more troops to Syria is to pacify its Gulf allies by foiling Syrian army’s plan to recapture most of the territory it lost to Islamic State. Its obsessive insistence that Syrian leader Assad must go to restore peace in Syria shows its undemocratic and arrogant approach. The new approach implies a virtual surrender of Syria to Saudi Arabia- and Turkey-backed terror groups.
While the Syrian army is reportedly set to launch attacks in northern and north-eastern Syria and is ready, if successful, to bring under its control almost 90% of the Syrian territory, the U.S. sticks to its ‘Assad-must-go’ position.
In the first week of May, Kerry yet again ‘warned’ his Russian and Syrian counterparts about the deadline to start political transition in Syria — a transition that implies Assad’s exit — or else face a “new approach” by the U.S. in resolving the conflict.
We have already got a glimpse of this new approach when the U.S. announced its decision to send an additional fleet of 250 troops to Syria, particularly to that region the Syrian army is planning to attack.
While the stated objective of these additional troops is to train and advise the so-called moderates against Islamic State (IS), the underlying objective is to pre-empt the Syrian army’s possible success in capturing the territory it had previously lost to IS and thus establish its own writ.
Were the Syrian army to control 90% of Syria, it would seriously put the interests of the U.S. and Gulf allies in jeopardy. This explains the militarization of Syria and the ‘Kerry warning’ to wrap up the ‘transition’ by August 2016.
While the U.S. has certainly boosted its military presence in Syria, it cannot politically afford to go beyond a certain limit because of the upcoming presidential elections and Russian military’s partial pull-out from Syria.
The U.S. policy has showed contradictions from the very beginning of the current phase of conflict in the Middle East and North Africa. For instance, while the U.S. Congress is openly accusing the House of Saud for its alleged involvement in 9/11 attacks and its covert support to al-Qaeda and other fronts such as al-Nusra in Syria, it is backing other extremist groups fighting in Syria.
While the U.S. government has expressed its ‘resolve’ to follow a new approach, many believe this is only an attempt to pacify the House of Saud and its allies upset over its policies and actions.
The House of Saud has already started to follow a relatively ‘independent’ policy in Syria and is building alliances with Turkey and Egypt to oust Assad and bring Syria under their control. To achieve this, Saudi Arabia and Turkey are supporting the ‘Army of Conquest’ (Jaish al-Fatah) consisting of seven Islamist groups including al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham and Jund al-Aqsa.
The Army of Conquest has a command center in Idlib, northern Syria. Turkish officials admit giving logistical and intelligence support to the command headquarters. Although they deny giving direct help to al-Nusra, they acknowledge that the group would be beneficiaries.
While this linkage between certain countries and terror outfits is an open secret, it is unclear how the U.S. would be able to counter “terrorism” by selectively targeting certain groups leaving other groups and their sponsors aside.
Similarly, while the U.S. allies continue to sponsor these terror groups, how would the ‘Kerry warning’ contribute to the establishment of peace in Syria? Were Assad to step down at this juncture, one might question, wouldn’t such a situation pave the way for al-Qaeda and its various affiliates to enjoy a walk over Syria and convert it into a permanent haven for themselves?
Considering the kind of so-called US-backed ‘transitions’ we have seen in Iraq and Libya and given the way these two countries are since then suffering from extreme levels of devastation, it is not difficult to foresee Syria suffering from the same level of devastation in the ‘post-war’ scenario.
The so-called new approach by the U.S. is, therefore, far from a step toward resolution of the conflict. It, on the contrary, implies a virtual surrender of Syria to Saudi Arabia- and Turkey-backed terror groups.
Syria is undoubtedly being overrun by heavily armed and extremely dangerous terrorists backed by foreign powers. These are terrorists who have proven already in Libya that upon coming to power they will first carry out genocide against their ethnic and political enemies and then transform Syria into a wasteland and springboard for terrorism and proxy war elsewhere in the region – likely Iran.
The only way to avoid this catastrophe is to fight all terror groups and cut off their supply routes along the Turkish-Syrian border in the north, and the Jordanian-Syrian border in the south.
It is clear that terrorists operating within Syria cannot go on fighting without significant and constant logistical support from their foreign sponsors beyond its borders. Any ‘approach’ that does not focus on this aspect is most likely to add fuel to the fire.
Salman Rafi Sheikh is a freelance journalist and research analyst of international relations and Pakistan affairs. His area of interest is South and West Asian politics, the foreign policies of major powers, and Pakistani politics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org