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Middle East Awaiting New US President

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The situation in the Middle East, especially developments in Syria and Iraq, are heading toward political, not military, solution.

Saudi Arabia and Turkey, as two main countries involved in military and security developments in Syria, seek to topple Syria’s President Bashar Assad and consider no role for him as well as his state, military and security team in any possible political solution for Syria. Americans have been also supporting this viewpoint in the past months, though using a less harsh tone. The United States Secretary of State John Kerry recently met with his British counterpart, Philip Hammond, after which he talked about a political transition for Syria over a longer period of time and, of course, without Assad. In addition to Americans, the French government has been talking about the necessity for Assad to step down from power as part of a political solution to Syria’s crisis. All of these remarks are aimed at providing a political umbrella for the political positions adopted by Saudi Arabia and Turkey in order to allow them to talk more decisively about the need for Assad to relinquish power.

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir has noted in his latest remarks that Bashar Assad must undoubtedly step down because the country has to choose between a political solution and a military solution. He claimed that if Americans dispatched their ground forces to Syria, then Saudi Arabia would also send its Special Forces to the Arab country. Al-Jubeir has emphasized that Saudi Arabia will never take a unilateral step in this regard. On the other side of these developments, Turkey, which is apparently starting its direct intervention in Syria gradually under the pretext of fighting Daesh, says it is ready to take any necessary decision for direct military intervention in Syria along the United States and its other regional allies.

All these positions show that even if there is political will to resolve the Syria crisis, it may still hit a brick wall because it is practically impossible to exclude Bashar Assad from Syria’s political structure through any negotiations under the present circumstances. The process of negotiations that have been held between opposition groups and the Syrian government in Geneva is indicative of this political deadlock. How would it be possible for a Syrian government delegation to be sent to Geneva to take part in the negotiations and then the opposition delegates ask it as a first step to agree to dismissal of the president? It is totally clear that such negotiations will only help to fan the flames of war in Syria.

However, conditions in the country are not moving toward a military solution, because Americans do not seem to have any decision to support such a solution. Since Russia entered the war in Syria, it has greatly increased the cost of a possible decision by Washington to get involved in a ground war in the Arab country. Meanwhile, after withdrawing its forces from Iraq in 2011, the United States prefers that any cost of direct military intervention would be undertaken by its allies such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other countries that are currently a member of the international anti-Daesh coalition. It is obvious that following suit with the United States’ strategic decision, Saudi Arabia and Turkey cannot enter a ground war in Syria independent of the United States. In the meantime, no military expert has confirmed that direct intervention by these countries would lead to the overthrow of Syria’s government, because if military action could have toppled Bashar Assad, this had happened before Russia started its military intervention in the Arab country.

Being aware of the regional developments and the imminent change of the US president, Russians have done a lot to convince Americans under the incumbent President Barack Obama that a political solution must be achieved for the crisis in Syria. This is true because Russians know that with the possible election of a Republican president, which is now represented by Donald Trump, the situation will become more difficult than before and military tensions will not only escalate in the Middle East, but also in Eastern Europe.

The government of the United States, however, does not seem to be very willing to get involved in the Syria crisis, because Washington’s strategy does not seek early resolution of this crisis. Of course, alongside any US policy in the Middle East, the factor that must be taken into account is the importance that Washington attaches to maintaining Israel's security in the region. James Clapper, who heads the National Security Agency (NSA), has been quoted as saying that he agrees with Obama that the United States does not need the Middle East economically as it did in the past, but it seeks to resolve those crises in the Middle East, which if remain unresolved may harm the US interests elsewhere. Meanwhile, David Ignatius, an American journalist, has noted that the northern Iraqi city of Mosul will not be liberated from the Daesh terrorists during Obama’s tenure in office, noting that there would be a long war to eradicate terrorist extremist groups, which may take tens of years.

Recent developments in Syria, including the latest conflicts in the town of Khan Tuman and also in eastern Ghouta region, which is close to Damascus, were clearly indicative of the fact that the Obama administration is not willing to change the military equation in Syria before the new US president comes to office. Also, in his latest remarks, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has noted without mentioning the United States by name that he knows which Western countries provided Daesh with military assistance. Erdogan also noted that he had already told those countries to avoid sending more arms on board their planes for Daesh, but they continue to airlift weapons to militants under the excuse that it would prevent regions controlled by militants from falling into the hands of the Syrian army. However, most of those weapons have ended up in the hands of Daesh.

In the light of the ceasefire announced in Syria, sending arms into the country through Turkish borders has continued before the eyes of Americans. Although Saudi Arabia claims that if needed, it would send more effective and more sensitive weapons to Syria, available information show that anti-tank weapons and armored vehicles have been already made available to terrorist groups in Syria and they have taken advantage of this new equipment and have managed to occupy some districts south of the city of Aleppo.

On the other hand, the US government, along with France, has prevented a plan drafted by Russia to be adopted by the United Nations Security Council, according to which Ahrar ush-Sham and Jaysh al-Islam groups would be considered as terrorist groups. At present, Jaysh al-Islam is positioned in eastern Ghouta near the capital, Damascus, while Ahrar ush-sham, which is an affiliate of al-Nusra Front, is positioned around and to the south of Aleppo where it is fighting the Syrian army and its allies. To explain this measure, the French government said these two groups are parties to peace talks in Geneva. However, Western countries are well aware that Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar ush-Sham are the main factors behind frequent breaches of ceasefire and expansion of terrorist operations across Syria.

By taking this measure, Americans have actually targeted both the political negotiations over Syria and maintaining the political balance in the country. They neither seek a political settlement to the crisis in Syria under present circumstances, nor do they want to see military equations in the country tilt in favor of one side. Therefore, whenever they feel that armed groups are being beaten, Americans enter the game and change the military balance in their favor, and this is exactly what Erdogan announced recently. By doing this, the American government satisfies its regional allies, including Saudi Arabia and Turkey, while encouraging them to continue their efforts to keep up the military crisis in Syria. In the meantime, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia is more satisfied than other parties because since two years ago up to the present time and concurrent with the drastic fall in global oil prices, they have been hopeful that after removal of Democrats from power and election of Republicans in the United States, the way would be paved for direct military intervention in Syria by Washington. This, Saudis assume, would not only help Syrian crisis, but also other regional cases in the Middle East to be resolved through military means.

Key WordsMiddle East, New US President, Syria, Iraq, Military Solution, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Bashar Assad, Adel al-Jubeir, Daesh, Political Deadlock, Anti-Daesh Coalition, Russia, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Jaysh al-Islam, Ahrar ush-Sham, Ceasefire, Republican President 

Source: Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA)
http://isna.ir/
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

*Photo Credit: Reuters

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