Why West and East Are to Blame for Syria’s Strategic Crisis?

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Behzad Khoshandam
Ph.D. in International Relations & Expert on International Issues

The beginning of Russia’s air strikes in Syria in late September 2015, which target militants affiliated to the so-called Islamic State group, aka Daesh, and “all other terrorists” in the Arab country, is harbinger of a strategic development in Syria crisis. Russia’s military-based involvement in order to solve the strategic crisis of Syria can be assessed as an effort aimed at correcting one of the common mistakes made by the West and East with regard to this crisis. The common denominator of the mistake made by both the West and East in Syria’s strategic crisis is inattention to one of the most important ideas of realism about the need to support the basic role of governments and sovereign entities in international stabilization within an anarchic environment, and the society-centeredness nature of international order for the creation of balance of power in global politics.

In addition, a major mistake made by the West in this crisis was inattention to nature, actors and balancing ideas of “the strategic front of Iran, Syria and Russia,” and overemphasis on another front consisting of Saudi Arabia, Turkey and tiny Persian Gulf countries as well as non-state actors and such security alliances as the NATO. On the other hand, a major mistake by the Eastern front with regard to this crisis was made by Russia, which through extreme Eurasianist unilateralism and excessive passivity in the face of the Syria crisis, caused imbalance at international level and subsequent escalation of crisis in Syria.

In terms of genealogy, the current Syrian nation-state was one of the geographical and geopolitical domains of the Ottoman Empire (1453-1924), which fell under the French imperialism in accordance with the Sykes-Picot Agreement (1916) following World War I. Incidents of World War II led to the emergence of Syria as an independent nation-state in the arena of international developments. Throughout the Cold War, the emerging nation-state of Syria was an ally to the former Soviet Union in its ideological faceoff with the Western and capitalist world. Following the Cold War, and especially after the beginning of the Arab Spring, Syria’s approach to supporting the resistance front and its strategic cooperation with Iran made it the target of sustained attacks of the Western world as well as the regional front of Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

The ongoing civil war in Syria has been raging since 2011 on the basis of the proxy wars model with the goal of engaging this country in line with whims of liberal and radical elements that are aligned with the Western and Eastern coalition. A combination of liberal-centered, radical-centered, Daesh-centered, and Wahhabi-centered ideas, whose materialization has given birth to al-Nusra Front, Daesh and … has been a consequence of common mistakes made by the Western and Eastern fronts in Syria crisis, which has led to excessive global attention to non-state and networked actors instead of nation-states in the Middle East.

The Syria-centered front has been mostly protecting the national interests and territorial integrity of Syria nation-state in this crisis. This front enjoys support of certain countries like Iran, which calls for protection of the existing political system in Syria on the basis of political renovation and reformism in parallel to Syrian-Syrian negotiations to overcome the existing state of anarchy. From the viewpoint of Iran, the risk of spread of terrorism with terrorist groups turning into terrorist governments is a basic challenge facing order-creating trends in the region. In the course of this crisis, such groups as al-Nusra Front, Ahrar ash-Sham, and Daesh have been mostly supported by the governments of Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates and some tiny Persian Gulf states in addition to Israel, and they mostly emphasize military, violent and brutal solutions.

The Western front, along with its military coalition, seeks to use military action in order to confront an ideological threat. The Russia-centered front, on the other hand, seeks military intervention in Syria crisis in order to create balance at international level. The global and regional balance, which was changing due to delayed action by Russians for the management of Syria crisis, has now entered new spheres of global rivalry as a result of Russia’s air raids in Syria, which started in late September 2015. US Senator McCain recently noted that it is the first time since 1973 that Russians are entering the Middle East due to measures taken by the Western coalition.

Under conditions created after September 2015, and in the light of achieving the Iran deal, the Islamic Republic is now the sole Middle Eastern country with an impartial approach, which is a focus of nonmilitary attention by global powers involved in Syria’s military conflict, because it can play an effective role in this regard. In order to correct their mistakes and overcome political and military deadlocks, which affect solution of this crisis, all global powers have now pinned their hope on cooperation from Iran for political and diplomatic resolution of the Syria crisis.

In line with the resolution of this crisis, which is result of mistakes made by the Western and Eastern fronts, it is necessary for all actors to take a few steps back to pave the way for a multi-stage move and resolve this crisis. 

After the beginning of Russia’s airstrikes in Syria in late September 2015, inability to come up with an effective political solution and putting more emphasis on the “military option” and the “option that Assad must step down” under the current anarchic situation, will push the Syria crisis toward nonpolitical trends. Although the current military and hostile management cannot be a sustainable solution to the ongoing crisis in Syria, effective use of the role and strategic influence of intraregional actors and correct understanding of intentions, goals, and the amount of strategic participation of intraregional actors in future equations of the crisis, will pave the way for finding a sustainable solution to the Syria crisis. Now, both the Western and Eastern fronts are expected to believe and respect, though belatedly, the practical and foreign policy capacities and dynamism of local actors for the resolution of this crisis and political renovation of Syria, and take practical advantage of those capacities. In doing this and to correct mistakes made by the Western and Eastern fronts with regard to the strategic crisis in Syria, the indigenous and regional capacities should be taken advantage of and the Middle Eastern nation-states must be respected as a first step. Also, reducing military anarchy of the Syrian strategic crisis and giving a society-centered nature to various aspects of this crisis in the future course of developments would depend on making balance in the crisis through accurate concentration on importance as well as military, defense, intelligence, and security position of local and strategic stakeholder and effective actors, including the most important of them, which is Iran.

Key Words: Syria, Strategic Crisis, West, East, Daesh, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Persian Gulf States, Israel, Nusra Front, Ahrar ash-Sham, Khoshandam

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*Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Palestine Crises: Returning to Iran's Option:

*Photo Credit: Sputnik News