Sunday,22 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1266, (15 - 21 October 2015)
Sunday,22 October, 2017
Issue 1266, (15 - 21 October 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Editorial: A Russian faux pas?

Al-Ahram Weekly

Russia’s intervention in Syria has sent everyone back to the drawing table. Diplomats and analysts are divided, but most have taken a sombre view of it.

It is worse than Afghanistan, a morass from which the Russians will emerge battered and bruised, some opined. It is a game of deception, in which the Russians claim to be fighting Islamic State (IS) while actually pulverising the opponents of Bashar Al-Assad, their long-time ally.

The Americans fumed, the Turks wobbled, and the Arabs  with the exception of the pro-Iran camp  swore under their breath.

The Russians are up to no good. This sums up the bulk of official statements and commentary over the past few days.

But is this true? Is it true that the Russians are stumbling blindly into a minefield and are bound to meet the worst possible fate?

The fact is, of all the options that come to mind, this seems to be the least probable. The Russians may not be the most altruistic player in world politics, but neither are they imbeciles. They know that the Arab and Muslim countries that sent, with Washington’s blessing, hordes of mujahaddin to make their life hell in Afghanistan are not going to try it again, now that the blowback effect is all too understood.

The Russians want to keep Al-Assad in power, but are they desperate to do so? Most likely, they will be willing to ditch him if a deal is reached that gives them a toehold in the country, one that they have for decades considered a close ally.

The Russians, despite the current frenzy in the media, are not going it alone. They talked it over with the Israelis, with the Turks, and with other players in the region. And so far, they have made it clear that they seek no confrontation with the US-led coalition.

Militarily, the jury is still out. Some of the Russian actions suggest a strong pro-Al-Assad intent. But the Russians have hit IS once or twice, and are likely to keep doing so.

The Russians may not have disclosed their intent in full, but neither, for that matter, have the Americans. Superpowers have their own hidden agendas, and it’s all about controlling land and putting friendly governments in power.

What matters, deep down, is whether the Russian intervention will shorten or lengthen the Syrian crisis. The jury is still out on that one too, but there is at least a glimpse of hope that the Russian intervention may shorten the war, if only because it is a signal to the US-led coalition that things have been going nowhere for too long.

At the end of the day, one hopes that a unified Syria will be preserved, a country with territorial integrity and solid regional connections. The Russians may make gains, and so will the Iranians and other regional players.

If that is the price that has to paid for resolving one of the region’s  and the world’s  worse crises, then so be it.

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