How do you see the tension between Russia and the US on the ground in Syria?
During the Syrian crisis, the US and Russia had occasional coordination in the past which led to a situation in which their influence zones was out of reach for the other and they had their active areas separately defined. However, the Duma chemical attack and the consequent missile operation by the US led to the fresh tensions.
Do you think this will escalate? How is it different with Khan Shaykhun and the US response then?
Good question. Following the chemical attack in Duma and a hyperbolic campaign, Trump said they would take some action and threatened to attack Syria. From the beginning, a missile raid on several military bases and targets in Syria seemed probable but the intensity and extent were not clear. Parallel with that, which worsened complications in Syria, came the Israeli attack where several Iranians were martyred. It was a risky move for the region and deteriorated the crisis and conflict of interests.
I believe this is quite different with Khan Shaykhun. Back then, Russia and the US had agreed to avoid aggressions against each other in Syrian sky, through codes they exchanged. The coordination was evident and the Russians had taken their arms out of the region. If you remember, when the US attacked Khan Shaykhun, the Russians said they would violate the air safety agreement. Thus, coordination between the two country’s in Syria’s sky is clear. They did not clash because they had agreed not to mess with each other. It is different now. I believe a second cold war has just begun. The 1947 cold war, began two years after the WWII and ended with the Fall of the Wall and collapse of the Soviet Union. And it ended for real. However, many analysts and observers now believe that, with different issues such as continued Russian intervention in elections or the ever-growing case of ex-Russian spy poisoning episode in the UK, a new cold war has already begun, with the sides confronting one another. All these lead us think that Russia insist on its refusal to withdraw from Syria and all the signs indicate that they are steadfast in their position.
Could this threaten the Astana peace talks too? Turkey has thrown support behind the US move in Syria.
I do not think so. During the recent leaders’ summit held in Ankara, the three presidents talked behind closed doors. The talks has led to guaranteed decisions in Syria. One of these guarantees is that terrorists in East Ghouta, which is of high significance as it is near Damascus, should be removed at whatever cost and this has been successful as we know thousands of terrorists have been pushed out and Syria has declared the operation finished. It seems that this could give the Syrian government the upper hand and we can say Mr. Assad has survived the crisis. East Ghouta can have vital impact on the end or continuation of the crisis.
Do you think Russia stay with the talks until the end or could they could play with the card?
In my opinion, Moscow have started a good game in Syria and will continue to work with Iran and Syria even though there are ifs and buts about the possibility for them to play the Iran card or pull the rug from under Iran’s feet in Syria or that they are not trustworthy. However, one can say Iran should sort its national interests so that it can have the upper hand in the talks working with Russia. At the moment, our national interests require that we continue the collaboration. I believe, while we are exposed to these risks, as a regional power, we have established a triangle with Russia and Turkey. I think this triangle is imports, we should value and strengthen it and not give up on it.
The missile raids by the US, UK and France on Syria as an independent country and a UN member lack international legitimacy. It is disrespecting the sovereignty of a country and we have seen oppositions within the US, Europe and at global level in the face of the assault.
One of the motives for it was a response to the final defeat of terrorists in East Ghouta. If they did not do it, Trump had announced he would leave Syria. The extremist neoconservative party and US power would then be under question.
Of course, the day after the invasion, the resistance of the Syrian government and its main allies Iran and Russia, the decline in the power of terrorists and their sponsor and the fact that the previous situation cannot be restored became evident.
Continued contact and negotiations among Russia, Turkey, and Iran who have openly stressed on protecting the territorial integrity of Syria is of great importance as it shows that the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia are left out of affairs in Syria.