The mist in Sochi covers Idlib


Al-Quds Al-Arabi – Oct. 01, 2018, issue 9322, p. 21

The observer of political affairs must stay out of emotions so as to be able to see the full picture of the political climate and the conventions associated with it. This does not in any way mean that the researcher loses his humanity and does not direct his opinion according to the human interest regardless of his religion or race. For Syria, for example, despite international, regional and geopolitical complexities, human life is more important than any interests or international balances, in my personal opinion. However, this does not apply to the leadership of the countries involved in this conflict. Turkey is not interested in the success of the Syrian revolution, and the Russian government does not care about the interests of people living in the Assad regime, nor has it set them as a priority for its intervention in Syria. Everyone sees his interests and follows them without taking into account the benefit of the simple Syrian citizen.

On 17 September, the Russian city of Sochi hosted a meeting of high importance for the future of the Syrian revolution, between the presidents of Turkey and Russia. During this meeting, Turkish President Erdoğan and his Russian counterpart, Putin, talked for four consecutive hours about Idlib, the last fortress of the Syrian revolution, and its surroundings. They reached an agreement that was, in general, considered a turning point for the future of the Syrian issue. The two presidents decided to declare a demilitarized zone extending across the line of fire between Assad and Iranian allies and their militias on the one hand and the Syrian military opposition of all shades on the other. More details are related to the time frame, including the withdrawal of the heavy armed forces of the Syrian military opposition, as well as the fight against extremist groups in the region. This agreement had direct Iranian support and the prior approval of the Assad regime, and was considered by many Syrian activists, supporters of the Revolution, as a victory for the security of the people of Idlib and their popular movements over the past two weeks. The most important question remains: In this atmosphere of optimism who is really the winner? The Syrian military opposition or the Assad regime?

At first, this meeting came one and a half weeks after the Tehran summit, during which there was a public tension between Turkey and Russia, which ended without reaching common points between the two sides. Both countries see Syria within their own interests alone. At this point, we need to clarify the interests of each and every one.

Russia

Since the beginning of the Syrian revolution, the alignment of the Russian side with the Assad regime has been clear. Moscow, which lost its influence in Iraq as a result of the US invasion of 2003, followed by the loss of its friend Gaddafi in Libya after NATO’s intervention to support its Libyan gas-restricted interests, saw Assad as the last ally in the Mediterranean. It also benefited from the inertia or rather the green light of the US in Syria. Russian interests in Syria are mainly linked to the fact that it is a major military point of influence for Moscow. Especially after Russian control on the Crimean Peninsula in the Black Sea, Syria is a gateway to Russia’s influence in the Middle East. In addition, Syria’s natural gas, oil and phosphate is a reasonable reward for it. But the funds for the rebuilding of the country are the main dish. International estimates exceed $ 500 billion. In the midst of EU financial sanctions and the US against Moscow, Syria is the way out for it. The Russian government regards the Syrian military opposition as an obstacle to be eliminated in any way while seeing it acceptable to deal with the Kurds, supported by the United States and the West, and satisfy them by offering a federal state in Iraq. On the basis of this, Sochi’s agreement for Idlib is only a postponement of the battle from which Moscow will not retreat. Putin has explicitly stated at the Tehran meeting that the entire Syrian territory sooner or later should return to control of the Syrian regime in order for the agreement for Assad and Russia to be satisfactory.

Turkey

With the onset of the Syrian revolution, Ankara supported the Syrian rebels diplomatically in the light of the success of the Arab Spring in both Tunisia and Egypt. The best thing for Turkey was to have a friendly government next to it. When the Syrian scene became complicated, Ankara’s interest was limited to removing the danger represented by the rise of Kurdish militias in eastern Syria. That is why it organised the operations “Euphrates Shield” and “Olive Branch”. Following the geographical decline of control by the Syrian military opposition, Idlib remained the only Turkish card on the Syrian issue. Its loss at the moment means Turkey’s exit from the final settlement table in Syria, as was the case with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt and Jordan. The Turkish proposal for Idlib and its surroundings is that Ankara is ready to sit down and  reach a final solution after reaching a solution that satisfies Ankara with regard to the Syrian East. The atmosphere surrounding the Middle East shows that military development may soon begin aiming at Iran and its hands in the region. It is therefore in Ankara’s interest to buy time.

Certainly Sochi’s agreement, despite the negativity and ambiguity in the announced and unpublished points, prevented the death of thousands of Syrian civilians in Idlib and its surroundings. But that does not in any way mean that it is a lifeline or the right way to achieve the goals of the Syrian revolution. At a time when the players involved are examining the best ways to protect their interests in Syria, the Syrian political opposition is divided between supporters and personal interests. The answer lies with the military leaders in Idlib: either they will be diplomats with the Turkish ally and accept a deal that will save the blood of civilians, but will mean the end of the Syrian revolution, or re-share the deck and take advantage of the next international juncture in the region.

Turkey’s interests met with those of the Syrian rebels, so it supported them militarily at the permissible limits and diplomatically within the framework that satisfied it. Just as US interests linked to Iraqi Kurds in an earlier stage and sold them for the sake of Iran and Turkey last year, Ankara will give Istanbul to Russia in a golden plate once it has received guarantees to prevent the Kurdish threat in the Syrian East.

As Mahmoud Darwish said: “Will our death result to a state or a tent?”

Syrian Revolutionaries, do not change your dream of a country of justice and freedom for a tent at the Turkish-Syrian border.