While the on-and-off episodes of co-operation have certainly left a very negative impact on the state of war in Syria—the latest episode leading to a lot of military and political escalation in and around the city of Aleppo—the reason for such breakdowns continues to be the one that had fundamentally caused the war: the disagreement over Assad’s stay in or exit from Syria’s presidency. The plan, as the sequence of events, prevailing circumstance and the American policies and actions in and around Syria show (read: the US to send more troops in Iraq as it anticipates escalation in Syria) in a rather explicit manner that, for the US, anything less than Assad’s exit can’t effectively solve the war-riddle.
However, a big irony is that—and to make the matters worst—the US does not want Assad’s replacement merely by a popularly elected leadership but by its (the CIA) funded, armed and trained militias, for it is only through them that the US and its allies can force Russia and Iran out of the conflict, and at the same time, transform the Syrian territory into a transit route for the spread of chaos further into Iran, Central and East Asia. Both Russia and Iran are very well aware of this ‘terror project’, its scope and the impact it would leave on the part of the world they happen to be geographically located on.
This was precisely the situation Russia FM had in mind when he recently spoke to BBC about the failure of truce in Syria. Lavrov said that Washington has still not delivered on its promise to persuade the US-backed ‘rebels’ to separate from Jabhat al-Nusra jihadists. He also said that the reason for this could be Washington’s desire to “change the regime” in the country. “They still, in spite of many repeated promises and commitments … are not able or not willing to do this and we have more and more reasons to believe that from the very beginning the plan was to spare al-Nusra and to keep it just in case for Plan B or stage two when it would be time to change the regime,” Lavrov said.
This is the basic policy-framework that remains unchanged in the US and continues to shape the American policy makers and advisers’ mind-set. Thus Frederic C. Hof, a former US advisor on transition in Syria, argued in his latest piece, published in The Washington Post:
“For military victory over the Islamic State to be sealed, Washington and its allies must prepare their partners in the Syrian opposition to govern liberated areas. All of this is painfully and gratuitously overdue. A regional and European coalition of the willing under U.S. leadership should have been organized right after the Paris attacks of November 2015” [emphasis added].
Not only can he be read advocating a military invasion of Syria to force Iran and Russia to back away from their support of Assad, and by default from the strikes they have recently had against the terrorists, but also tends to paint Assad’s so-called brutality as the primary reason for groups like ISIS to grow. Hence, as he implies in another piece, no possibility of co-operation between the US and Russia because they don’t have “common grounds.”
The first glimpse of this particular policy as also that of the ‘Plan B’ came only a few days ago when the US warned that the Gulf countries may start arming the “rebel groups” with advanced missiles. However, it is quite obvious that the US is using Gulf countries only as a cover while it has itself maintained a large number of man-portable air defense systems around Syria since the beginning of the conflict, and particularly since the beginning of Russia’s military campaign against IS and other terror groups, acknowledged an unnamed US official in a recent interview.
A lot of propaganda of this sort as mentioned above can be observed in the corporate-funded mainstream Western media which, more often than not, engages in corroborating—as much as it creates them– the US policy makers’ vicious designs than report on the actual reason for the spread of terrorism in the Middle East and other regions.
As such, while advisors like Frederic C. Hof continue to advocate the use of military means to send Assad home, the big question they have not yet answered is: how will they make sure that these Gulf and US supported groups would not spread, after the end of the war, into other countries, such as Iran, who are clearly the in the hit list of Saudi Arabia and its allies? How sustainable and effective an administration, consisting largely of mercenaries, be built to manage the war-torn Syria?
Given the kind of experiencing Libya has had since Gaddafi’s collapse, the answer is not so difficult to grasp. Syria too will collapse into conflict and extremist violence will spread inevitably. Therefore, transition in Syria, followed by a victory march of terror groups, would only end up making Syria the worst place in the world to live. The ‘plan B’ against Assad, as also Russia and Iran, is therefore nothing but a sinister way of keeping the country embroiled in conflict on perennial basis. Hence, the minimum possibility of real co-operation between the US and Russia.
Salman Rafi Sheikh, research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistan’s foreign and domestic affairs, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.