Analysis: Russia’s robust stance puts America’s imprudence in Syria on leash
Damascus, Syria (Xinhua + DIPLOMAT.SO) – Tension has recently hit a new high between Moscow and Washington over the situation in Syria, which prompted the Russian leadership to send clear messages to the U.S. that the double-dealing and duplicity are no longer tolerable, analysts say.
The Russian messages to the United States were on the military and diplomatic levels, following a number of statements and actions by Washington, regarding possible escalation against the Syrian army.
ON MILITARY LEVEL
Russia has deployed the S400 and S300 air-defense systems in Syria, which was seen as a clear message to the U.S. that any possible military intervention or attacks on Syrian army positions will not pass with impunity.
The deployment of the powerful air-defenses came against the backdrop of the strikes of the U.S.-led anti-terror coalition against the Syrian army positions last month, when 90 Syrian soldiers were killed by the airstrikes while fighting the Islamic State (IS) group in the Deir al-Zour province.
After the strikes, which marked the first U.S.-led strikes against the Syrian army, analysts said the U.S.-led anti-terror coalition was shifting its stance in Syria toward carrying out strikes against Syrian military positions to help the rebels in their fight against the Syrian government forces, particularly as the Syrian army was making strides against the rebels with the help of Russia.
Even though the strikes were claimed by the U.S. of being accidental, analysts said it was the first in a sequence of events that signaled the U.S. shift.
The U.S. administration has later pulled out of deal with Russia regarding Syria’s cessation of hostilities plan, which was followed by a barrage of accusations on Russia and the Syrian army of committing war crimes against civilians in Aleppo.
The Syrian military offensive against the Western-backed rebels in Aleppo has nurtured the Western fears that the Syrian army may actually regain control over the entire city of Aleppo, something the West, mainly the U.S., vehemently oppose.
“The Western officials keep repeating a broken record that if the army regained Aleppo, it will attract more radicals seeking revenge, and will also cause a new wave of refugees, but these are all statements that don’t make any sense,” Maher Ihsan, a political analyst, told Xinhua.
He said the main backers of the jihadi groups are the Western countries and Turkey.
“At the beginning of the conflict, when the insurgency took hold in Aleppo countryside, the city of Aleppo itself was calm, and the people there were branded by the rebels as cowards for noting wanting to join the alleged revolution, and later on the rebels, who were receiving cash and weapons through Turkey, attacked Aleppo and took hold in the eastern part of the city,” he said.
Ihsan added that “the possible recapture of the rebel-held part of Aleppo city by the government forces would be a strong blow to the jihadi groups and the rebels who are supported by Turkey and the West, and that’s why the Western powers are diplomatically fighting so that they don’t lose their leverage in Aleppo, because they know that President Bashar al-Assad will have the upper hand in the conflict, if Aleppo falls back to him.”
With the Russian deployment of the air defenses, “gone will be the days, when the U.S. would express untrammeled power to push for a regime change in Syria,” Ihsan added.
Meanwhile, Samih Sa’b, a Lebanese writer, said that when the U.S. recently said it was studying “all options,” it gave the sentiment that it may resort to military strikes against the Syrian army, akin to the threats of U.S. military actions on Syria in 2013, which ended when Moscow suggested the dismantling of Syria’s chemical weapons as a deal that saved Syria from a possible U.S.-led attack.
At the time, though, the Russians were not engaged militarily and politically in Syria as they are now.
He said that any American military strike, even if it targeted Syrian military positions, will deal a blow to Russia’s role in Syria and it’s international status as well.
“This is why Russia is now amassing its air force and ground troops, not necessarily to engage in a direct military confrontation with the U.S., but to send a message to Washington that there will be consequences to any direct military actions on Syrian army, with the aim to weaken the regime and impose a settlement on it.”
The Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov warned the United States in a statement “to think twice” before striking any Syrian airbases, saying “I would like to suggest that in Washington, it should be clear about the consequences of such a plan.”
ON DIPLOMATIC LEVEL
Russia, on one side, and France, Britain, Spain and the United States on another side, clashed during the UN Security Council on Saturday, with each party staring daggers at one another, marking another escalation in the UN venue.
Moscow, for the fifth time since the crisis began in Syria over five years ago, used the veto against a French draft resolution.
The aforementioned Western powers returned the veto to Russia, by raising their hands against a Russian draft resolution put forward in the same unusual session on Saturday.
The French draft presented to members a few days ago called for efforts to ground Russian and Syrian military planes over Aleppo, while the Russian draft included many elements of the first draft, added support to references of a Sept. 9 Russia-U.S. accord and prioritized separation of armed opposition groups from the Nusra Front terrorist group but excluded the no-fly zone proposal.
Ambassador Vitaly Churkin of Russia, this month’s president of the Security Council, speaking in his national capacity after it was defeated, said “We were not expecting it to be adopted. It was just a political demonstration, if you like.”
“While it wasn’t implement — while we think it could have been — I’d like to reassure you that very complicated multilateral and bilateral work is ongoing and we do continue to hope that the situation in Syria will go back to normal and this would have a most beneficial effect on the situation in eastern Aleppo and we hope that happens as quickly as possible,” he said.
It was another testy session of the council, normally a model of decorum.
“Normally I begin my statements in this Council with the words ‘Thank you, Mr. President.’ I cannot do that today,” said British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft, opening his remarks after the first resolution failed to be adopted.
“Because today, we have seen the fifth veto in five years on Syria from you, Mr. President, a veto that has once again stopped this Council from creating the unity needed to give the people of Syria any hope for respite from their suffering, a veto that has once again denigrated the credibility and respect of the Security Council in the eyes of the world,” Rycroft said.
Analysts said the Russian veto was another message to Washington and its Western allies that any move to support the radical rebels is unacceptable, as grounding the airstrikes over eastern Aleppo will only empower the rebels, most of whom are with the Nusra Front, which has rebranded itself as the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, after ostensibly cutting ties with al-Qaida.
“If it wasn’t for the Russian veto, the Western powers would have repeated their hegemony and irresponsible actions, which we had seen in Iraq and Libya, they wanted to create a no-fly zone to support the rebels on ground, and prevent the Syrian government from dislodging the insurgents out of eastern Aleppo,” Ahmad al-Ashkar, a journalist and political analyst, told Xinhua.
He noted that the Western powers haven’t even touched upon the fresh proposition of the UN Special Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura, who recently proposed the evacuation of the ultra-radical rebels from eastern Aleppo, something the Russian side accepted and embedded in their draft resolution.
The Western powers, he said, “have proven their failure in resolving other country’s crisis in the past, and, particularly, the United States cannot be lecturing other countries about human rights and ending wars, as the heinous war against Iraq in 2003 is still in our memory.”
“The United States was the one using the al-Qaida jihadists in Afghanistan to defeat the Soviet Union, and its invasion to Iraq was the main reason the IS group exists today, as the leaders of the IS were in Iraq and grew radicalized by the U.S. invasion,” he added.
With the Russians now standing in the face of U.S., the world could see other solutions to the Syrian crisis, where the “Western policy of fomenting chaos, rather than solutions, will be put on tight leash,” he remarked.