March 9, 2017 marked the 6th anniversary of the Syrian conflict, which has taken the lives of over three hundred thousand people and made over a million homeless. Yet the global powers are still far away from reaching any conclusive solutions to end the horrible bloodshed due to opposing interests.
The Syrian conflict started after the bells of the “Arab Spring” rang. Beginning as uprisings against deeply authoritarian regimes in Arab majority countries, which saw the fall of longtime strongmen like Muammar Gaddafi and Hosni Mubarak. The wave of civil unrest began in Syria in 2011. With the Syrian President Bashar Al Assad desperate to avert the sorry fate of his Libyan counterpart Gaddafi, the unrest took the path of an armed conflict, which has dragged so far.
With several parties involved, the Western leadership found it convenient to intervene in Syria, a golden chance to topple Assad regime in Syria, who was nevertheless a staunch opponent of the West, a key Iranian and Russian ally, and thus cementing their foothold in the ever boiling Middle East.
With the Western money and arms funneling into Syria for fighting the Syrian government, a menacing force emerged, which not only swept across vast territories across Syria, but across Iraq as well. This extremist organization, which later came in to being as a fearsome terrorist organization is the IS (Daesh).
Thus the West has again found the much used terror card to intervene directly inside Syria. The other anti-Assad parties also involved Al-Qaeda backed outfits who merged with Western backed now termed “Moderate rebels”, which clearly testifies how again the Western game of regime change moving in to disarray. The conflict getting the image of a full-blown humanitarian disaster sparked the worst ever migrant crisis across the post WWII (World War Two) world.
When it became almost evident that Syrian President Assad is about to fail to turn the situation in to his favor, the conflict got a sharp game changer, when Russia started swift military intervention inside Syria from September 30, 2015 at the formal invitation from Syrian government. Russia has huge interests in Syrian affairs; particularly the only overseas Russian base in Latakia of Syria, a Soviet era built military installation in Syria, which offers the Russian opening in to the Mediterranean Sea and also some kind of foothold in the Middle East.
The Russian intervention inside Syria, led by her President Vladimir Putin himself gave a sharp edge to the embattled Syrian government. The Russian war machine, which was dubbed by many analysts as Soviet era juggernaut, found a decisive combat experience; it tested majority of its untested weapons in their fight against ISIS and anti-Syrian government rebels.
The West expressed fury in diplomatic arena over the Russian assaults inside Syria, but carefully avoided any military showdown with Russia, apart from the downing of a Russian bomber by a Turkish fighter jet. The world phased the horror of a possible Russia-NATO conflict due to the incident, but both Russia and the West averted escalations. It was only limited to some economic sanctions between Turkey and Russia, which improved later on. Turkey, a key NATO member, is a chief supplier of the rebel group Free Syrian Army (FSA), and she still advocates the ouster of President Assad, but also cooperating with Russia for their fight against ISIS.
The Russian campaign inside Syria was backed by Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah outfit. Before military intervention Russia had engaged in aiding Syrian government in the UN with several vetoes. Although faced with much diplomatic oppositions and criticisms from Western bloc countries, Russian advance in Syria meant vital for President Assad and his government. With swift decisive victories against IS, with the capturing of Palmyra, President Assad turned his attention to Aleppo, the second largest city of Syria, an industrial hub, and also a key rebel held fortress. Starting off in June 2016, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), Hezbollah and other pro-government militias enforced a siege over the rebel held Aleppo cutting of the supply lines. Aided by Russian air force raids and Russian Special Forces operations, President Assad scored a decisive victory in the confusing battle map of Syria in early December of 2016. While taking on Aleppo, Syrian government lost the control of Palmyra, which they again took back in the early March of 2017. However Aleppo was a prized victory for President Assad over the rebels and ringed the emergence of Russia as a key global power.
However, another key question has now arisen in Syria, the Kurdish question. Turkey is more concerned over the territorial gains by the Kurdish dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), than anyone else. It also actively denounces US aids to this force. Turkey fears the ultimate effects of the SDF gains will help the Kurdish insurgents that are fighting Turkish military inside Turkey. The recent Russian and Syrian Army collaboration with SDF in capturing Aleppo from Turkey and USA backed rebels, setting up of a Russian base in Kurdish controlled Afrin and handing over of some territories in Western Manbij by SDF have only added fuel to the growing concerns of Turkey. Turkey’s main NATO ally USA is also in an awkward situation in addressing the Kurdish factor for Turkey, given that Turkey’s massive contributions to NATO. Turkey has the second largest army among the NATO contingent.
As the world waits for a peaceful solution for the Syrian question along with the Syrian people, the Syrian landscape is growing murky with conflicting interests of the parties involved. More importantly, two opposing super powers, USA and Russia are dangerously close here. Regional power Turkey has troops inside Syria and they are advancing.
The most reasonable solution to Syrian question can be federalization, given that Kurdish collaboration with Russia and Syria, their readiness to eliminate the terror outfits inside Syria. The Kurdish question is an important factor that has emerged in Syria lately, and they have shown willingness to cooperate with Syrian government with autonomy. The Syrian government although uncomfortable with the proposed federalization, but it has agreed to establish a constitutional commission in the Syrian parliament which was reached with Russia’s state Duma’s visiting delegation in Syria, which might involve addressing the federalization.
Although the federalization may not make Turkey a happy party, but the future of Syria should rest with Syrian people, not any other entities.