To define Syria as a quagmire of conflicting interests is an understatement. In the long run, because of all the countries fighting a proxy war in Syria with competing goals, there is no credible military solution in sight which is why the U.S. cannot add to this complication by diving into the equivalent of a high flying bar fight where one cannot predict the winner.
First of all, the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is of the Alawite Shia sect but Syria’s population consists of mostly Sunnis.
The Sunnis and Shia are like the Protestants and Catholics used to be in Northern Ireland. They hate each other which means that there is no way that a Sunni population is going to be accepting of a Shia leader of any sect which is why President Assad has been so determined to maintain tight controls.
Meanwhile, Russia has its military bases including a huge permanent base in Syria and he requires the naval base on Mediterranean waters for strategic reasons. As a pragmatist, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin understands that the Russian naval base located in Crimea, Ukraine is not a sure bet.
So, for President Putin to protect his interests, he has aligned himself with Iran (Shia) country and with Hezbollah (Shia terrorist group) to keep the Syrian President Assad’s regime propped up.
Plus the neighbor Saudi Arabia (Sunnis) with Turkey’s help until January 2017, have been assisting with the arming of Syrian rebel groups to fight against the regime of President Assad.
And this only gets further complicated because of the Turks hatred for the Kurds. The Turks hatred of the Kurds is so intense, that for a long time they were arming ISIS and then lying to the US about this because the US was supposed to be fighting ISIS.
Of course, there is still the elephant in the room, which is the existence of Islamist extremist groups including ISIS which can no longer have a stronghold in Syria.
However, as of January 2017, Turkish officials have announced that they are no longer calling for the ouster of Syria’s President Assad. Turkey is supposed to be a U.S. ally and a NATO member.
Now, as of April 2017, the U.S. has entered the into the mix to push for the removal of the Syrian President Assad under the pretext that the world can no longer close their eyes to his continuation of war crimes against his own peoples.
So, the question is, how does one thread the needle to come up with a political solution satisfactory to all parties? There would have to be a substitute leader for President Assad who would put into practice better treatment for the Syrian peoples while being an acceptable choice by Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran with Hezbollah and while protecting Russia’s long term access to its numerous military bases already located in Syria.
While I was definitely in favor of the US military retaliatory action in Syria to make Syria’s President Assad pay a price for using sarin gas on his peoples, this is not an area where our participation can lead to a reasonable resolution. And I do not credit the U.S. republican President Donald Trump with the ability to lead all the disparate voices toward a viable political solution.
The following report highlights Russia’s military investments in Syria and Turkey’s flip-flop in now being accepting of President Assad continuation in power…
On 1/20/17, Rod Norland of the New York Times penned the following article, “Russia Signs Deal for Syria Bases; Turkey Appears to Accept Assad.”
“Russia signed a long-term agreement on Friday (1/20/17) to greatly enlarge its military presence in Syria, more than doubling the space for warships in Russia’s only Mediterranean port and securing rights to an air base that may already be adding a second runway.”
“The agreement covers the port in Tartus and an air base near Latakia, which have been pivotal in Russian assistance to President Bashar al-Assad of Syria in fighting an array of insurgents. It ensures Russia’s ability to deploy forces in Syria for the next half-century and perhaps beyond.”
News of the agreement came as Mr. Assad received what appeared to be another positive development: A Turkish official suggested publicly for the first time that Turkey would accept a peace deal in Syria’s six-year-old war that would allow Mr. Assad to stay in power.”
“The remarks by the official, Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, indicated that Turkey — Syria’s northern neighbor and one of Mr. Assad’s most implacable foes — had softened its position in the interest of finding a solution.”
“While Turkey’s government later said that Mr. Simsek’s remarks had been misconstrued, it was clear that he had said a settlement without Mr. Assad would be “not, you know, realistic.”
“Both developments came as Russia, Turkey and Iran prepared to convene Syrian peace talks in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, on Monday (1/23/17). For the first time, it looked likely that the main Syrian opposition, along with many other factions, would sit down with Mr. Assad’s government for peace talks. The last effort at such negotiations was held by the United Nations in Geneva in February, and it collapsed in days.”
“The new Russian military agreement with Syria provides for an expansion of Russia’s Tartus naval base on the Syrian coast under a 49-year lease that could automatically renew for a further 25 years, according to Tass, the Russian news agency.”
“Tass said the expansion would provide simultaneous berthing for up to 11 warships, including nuclear-powered vessels, more than doubling its present known capacity there.”
“Tass reported that the agreement also provided for a similar long-term commitment for the Russians to use the Khmeimim Air Base in the Latakia area, which the Russians built in 2015 as they mobilized to help Mr. Assad’s forces.
There were news reports that the Russians were building a second runway at the air base.”
“Mr. Simsek’s remarks were made at a World Economic Forum session titled “Syria and Iraq: Ending the Conflict.” He suggested that Turkey would accept continued rule by Mr. Assad.”