Executive Intelligence Review


In Syria Peace Effort, More Evidence Shows All Roads Do Lead to Moscow

Jan. 2, 2018 (EIRNS)—The evidence continues to grow that there is no solution to the conflict in Syria without the involvement of Russia, especially in the aftermath of President Donald Trump’s Dec. 19 announcement that U.S. troops would be leaving. Reports continue to proliferate, indicating that Russia is exerting great efforts to set the conditions for some sort of settlement that will give all interested parties—other than designated terrorist groups—incentives to avoid a major conflict. New agency Al Monitor’s Moscow correspondent Maxim Suchkov reported on Jan. 1 that, in Turkey, the view is that the Trump decision further reinforces Russia’s role as a deal-maker in Syria and that all roads involving the situation in Idlib and the east of the Euphrates now lead to the Kremlin. Trump’s “handing over” of Syrian operations to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is largely seen in Moscow as “a reflection of this intent,” Suchkov writes.

Suchkov says that the Russian approach is not to drive a wedge between Ankara and Washington, but rather to offer the Turks a set of incentives so powerful that they “cling” to Moscow instead of Washington, while, at the same time, Erdogan plays both America and Russia to get the best deals for Turkey’s own interests. In the current state of affairs in Turkey,

“Russia shows empathy for Turkey’s fundamental security concern about the YPG and other Kurdish forces. Turkey, in turn, has to side with the Russian agenda on preserving Syrian territorial integrity and on Assad as being ruler of the country at least for now.”

The Kurds are also looking to Russia; in their case, to mediate talks between them and Damascus that would include “comprehensive defense” of their territory from the Turks. Rudaw, the Iraqi Kurdish news site based in Erbil in northern Iraq, reported that, in Dec. 14 meetings at the Russian Foreign Ministry, a Syrian Kurdish delegation presented a roadmap for dialogue focusing on protecting northern Syria “according to a comprehensive defense system of Syria from external threats,” constitutionally including their region in a unified Syria, and fair distribution of economic wealth in the country. This was stated by Bedran Ciya Kurd, a senior official in Syria’s Kurdish administration, to local ANHA news on Dec. 31.

The delegation asked Russia to mediate such a dialogue. Russia’s Foreign Ministry reportedly said they would take that role “very seriously” and were ready to “work together to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria.”

Al Monitor’s Week in Review section argues that keeping the peace in Syria will ultimately require deeper U.S.-Russian coordination to prevent another round of costly bloodshed, beyond what the Russians have already done in holding off a Syrian army assault on Idlib or an Israeli-Syria-Iran escalation. While the Russians are taking into account the interests of Turkey, the Kurds, and even Israel, America remains the missing piece in the Russian strategy. Al Monitor observes that former U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford, in a Dec. 27 column in the Washington Post argued that the United States should offer

“Russia cooperation in smoothing the way for a deal between the [Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces] SDF and Damascus that would allow Syrian troops to return to eastern Syria in a manner that meets Turkish security concerns and gives no new space to the Islamic State.”