Russian troops withdrawal

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Answers to Questions

 

First question: What are the dimensions and the fallouts of Russia's decision to withdraw the bulk of her forces from Syria?

Answer: The Russian withdrawal has coincided with the resumption of the current Geneva talks; Putin did not conceal the fact that the withdrawal of his forces would positively support the negotiations between the opposition and the Syrian regime. The talks are being conducted against the wishes of Bashar Assad and his men since they are expected to result in an interim authority; the Russian withdrawal would weaken their stance and compel them to comply with what is dictated to them. Hence, the Russian withdrawal has come after an evident agreement had been reached with the Americans to whom the Russians had been of service in terms of their plans to divide Syria. This is clearly reflected in Russia's call for the federal solution a few days ago. This is the same solution Bremer endorsed in the new Iraqi constitution after the occupation, the same solution the UN-sponsored National Dialogue Conference endorsed two years ago in Yemen and the same solution proposed to end the ruling crisis in Libya. Such solutions serve the Greater Middle East Initiative the US administration has adopted to weaken the region by fragmenting it on ethnic and sectarian grounds.

The timing of the withdrawal, which is impacting positively on the current Geneva talks, was the golden opportunity that spared Russia the embarrassment of being in a political and military quandary. She avoided being implicated further in the Syrian quagmire and being forced end her embroilment, as was the case of her predecessor the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, when it was forced to withdraw in a humiliating manner unbefitting its position as a major power. In fact, the timing of Russia's withdrawal from Syria projected her as a supporter of the Syrian peace process and not totally biased towards the barbarous regime of Bashar Assad which damaged her regional and international reputation. The high profile given to the tripartite meeting of Putin with his defence and foreign ministers was deliberate. Putin praised the achievement of the Russian forces and claimed that they had successfully achieved their task. On the political plane, in which Putin reiterated the link between the withdrawal and the Geneva talks, the positive feature of Russia was highlighted to turn the achievements of the Russian army into a significant contribution to peace in Syria, thus concealing its barbaric acts. Russia has generated, through her military intervention in Syria, a telling pressure on the opposition factions after she had pounded their strongholds and their popular incubators which compelled them to lower the ceiling of their demands and bring those who had been averse to sitting with the regime to the negotiation table. Russia's intervention has also weakened the faculties of the major factions and restored equilibrium in the balance of power to the advantage of the Assad forces that succeeded, under Russian supervision, in recapturing sizeable areas from the opposition's grip thus drawing the borders of the Alawite entity dubbed by the Syrian regime as "viable Syria". The Russian intervention has also drawn the borders of another entity, namely the Kurdish entity, ever since it had been conducting the operations on the ground. In fact, what the regime's forces recaptured from the opposition exceeded what was supposed to be negotiable in terms of borders for the future provinces expected to form the federal Syrian republic which will be endorsed in the new Syrian constitution to be drafted during the transitional period.

Russia has for sure reaped some benefits in return for her intervention in Syria since she never offers her services for free; hence, several deals have most likely been arranged with the American side and they are likely to be related to ending or scaling down the sanctions imposed upon her following her intervention in Ukraine, her occupation and annexation of Crimea and ending the oil price war that has depleted her economy and her development projects. What indicates the good omens of her intervention is Europe's satisfaction, especially the hints related to ending her political isolation - following the Ukrainian crisis -, about her cooperation with the international community in finding a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis. As for the economic aspect, the Syrian truce was preceded ten days earlier by a meeting between Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Russia and Qatar to fix the oil production quota, and no sooner the Syrian truce came into effect, the price of oil jumped from $28 to $41. The prince of Qatar, one of the largest gas-exporting countries in the world, Tamim Bin Hamad visited Moscow recently where the Russian parliament speaker Sergey Naryshkin announced that: "Moscow hopes to corroborate coordination with Doha in the context of the Gas-exporting Countries Forum." This indicates that the Russian anxieties about gas-exports from her lands or from the future Alawite entity have been dissipated. Russia had signed a host of agreements with the Assad regime on gas explorations around the Syrian coastline with 60% in her favour in some of them; the reserves are estimated at 12 billion cubic metres in the gas fields on the Syrian coast. It has also been reported that a host of huge Russian arms deals are being concluded with Gulf funding, in addition to directing several Gulf investments towards the Russian Federation.

Nevertheless, the Russian withdrawal from Syria does not necessarily mean she will end her military presence there; maintaining the airbase of Hmeimim and the naval base of Tartus is necessary to protect the Alawite statelet and maintain the balance of power. It will also contribute to imposing the federal system as the only option available to the Muslims in Syria. Should the rival factions reject this option, the alternative plan would be a return to war as de Mistura stated few days ago. What further corroborates the Russo-American agreement on regulating Bashar's movements and reining him in, lest he should spoil America's attempt to reap the political fruits of the dirty war Russia has undertaken on her behalf by exerting pressure on some of the opposition's factions, is the sudden rise in the worldwide calls for prosecuting Bashar Assad and his allies for war crimes. The latest call was the non-binding resolution of 14 March that the US Congress voted on to probe the Syrian regime's "serious violations that are tantamount to war crimes and crimes against humanity."

7 Jumada al-Akhira 1437h
16 March 2016