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Guest Article by Benjamin Sanders
The Syrian Civil War is a major conflict and one that has drawn all of the world’s powers into a tense struggle for victory. It is quite common in the modern world for the mainstream media, Political class and corporations to lie about the exact cause and aims of a military engagement, which is why I think it is important to understand what is really going on.
The Syrian Government, led by Bashar al-Assad, is fighting a multi-sided war and as things stand he is set to win. Backed up by the Russians, Iran and Hezobollah, Assad has managed to reclaim much of his country and is currently preparing for a major offensive in the southern Deraa region on the Jordanian/Israeli border.
The next major player in this conflict is the West. America, backed up by France, is currently monitoring and leading a force in north eastern Syria known as the SDF (the Syrian Democratic Forces). America and France have set up military bases in the region equipped with artillery, and the SDF’s territory extends from the Iraqi and Turkish border south westwards to the banks of the Euphrates River. The SDF is made up of Kurds, Arabs and western volunteers, and they occasionally coordinate action with the Syrian Army during confrontations with ISIS.
Then there is NATO member Turkey. Turkey recently invaded and effectively annexed the north western region of Syria known as Afrin, which was a Kurdish stronghold. Ankara also has a presence in Idlib province, where it is currently intervening and trying to halt a jihadist inter-rebel conflict. Despite shooting down a Russian fighter jet, Turkey is gradually warming to Russia, partly through economic necessity, but mainly because of future weapons deals. America is reportedly considering blocking the sale of the F-35 jet to Ankara, something which will force Turkey to purchase a fifth generation fighter from Russia (the SU-57). The closeness between Moscow and Ankara is making Assad’s life a lot easier than it was 12 months ago.
The next major player to consider is Israel. The Jewish state from a strategic perspective would welcome the end of Assad’s government, which is the major cog in the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah Shia axis. However the war has not only increased Hezbollah’s presence in Syria, it has also increased Iran’s presence as well. This has forced Israel to take defensive measures which includes re-militarising its Golan Heights territory. It has also launched pre-emptive air strikes on Iranian bases and weapons stores in Syria. It is believed that Benjamin Netanyahu and Vladimir Putin have come to some sort of deal behind the scenes, in which Israel can strike Iran in Syria, and in return Israel will allow Assad to recapture the Deraa region mentioned above.
The final piece in the puzzle is ISIS and the Islamist rebels. ISIS in Syria is now reduced to holding small pockets in the east of the country, where it is continuously bombarded with little chance of a breakout. The Islamist rebels, who control much of Idlib Province and Deraa Province, are fractious and on the verge of complete defeat. The Gulf States, who have funded these groups for years and funnelled billions of dollars in their direction, are now faced with not only being out of pocket but also losing all influence in Syria. Any ‘moderate’ rebel groups who were previously funded by the West have either been completely defeated or absorbed by Islamist rebels.
The situation on the ground in Syria is still far from certain and the war could yet continue for years. Even if the Syrian Government recaptures the Deraa and Idlib provinces, the question of what they do with the western backed SDF beyond the Euphrates is precarious. If they crossed the river, would the SDF retaliate? Would the West back up the SDF in this action? And then there is Turkey. Whilst its new found warmth with Russia is certainly beneficial to Assad in the short term, there are questions about the implications in the long term. Will Ankara withdraw from Afrin? Will Russia favour Turkey over Assad in the future? Will Turkey withdraw or fight back when Assad eventually attempts to retake the Idlib Province?
Peace deals, ceasefires and observer missions have all occurred multiple times in this conflict and have all failed. This war will most likely be settled by military means. Even the ‘de-escalation’ zones agreed to in Syria are now very much part of the renewed fighting.
As with many things in the world today Syria is definitely a hot topic, and definitely a news story to keep an eye on….