Alwaght – Since the eruption of devastating crisis in Syria, various international and regional powers vied for influencing the course of developments in the West Asian country, turning the conflict into one of the most complicated issues of the 21st century.
The US and Russia are the key powers racing to hold a sway in the conflict, while some other parties are also seeking a similar role in the future developments of the country in coordination with each of the two key players. China is one of the emerging powers which as the crisis draws to an end shows a willingness to join the negotiation process between the government and the opponents and even the battlegrounds in favor of the Syrian army which is bracing for the recapture of the northwestern city of Idlib, last main stronghold controlled by foreign-backed militants.
On Saturday, the Chinese Ambassador to Syria Qi Qianjin suggested Beijing could soon deploy forces to assist the Syrian army in its upcoming Idlib offensive against militants, in addition to anti-terrorist operations in other parts of the country. Speaking to Syria’s Al-Watan newspaper on Thursday, the Chinese diplomat said they are monitoring the conflict, adding that the Chinese military “is willing to participate in some way alongside the Syrian Army that is fighting the terrorists in Idlib and in any other part of Syria,” the Russian Sputnik news agency has reported.
Meanwhile, Chinese military attaché Wong Roy Chang told the Al-Watan newspaper there is “ongoing” military cooperation between the two countries and said China wishes to advance its relationship with the Syrian Armed Forces, Sputnik maintained.
Last week, the Syrian Arab Army announced liberation the city of Daraa in the south, which was held by the anti-government militants for four years. The army said it will immediately launch an offensive to retake Idlib from the militants, which was under their control since the conflict sparked in 2011. The analysts expect Syria to enter a new stage of reconstruction once the city is restored to the control of the legitimate administration.
China presence in Syria
Beijing is one of the key allies to the Syrian government. Later last year, the Chinese administration announced the intention to send two special forces units, dubbed “Siberian Tigers” and “Night Tigers”, to the Syrian battlefields to assist the Syrian government forces in their operations against ISIS terrorist group in the country’s east.
Before that in 2015, the Syrian government issued an authorization for 5,000 Chinese troops to enter the country. Reports suggested that Beijing stationed its forces in southern Lattakia port city in the northwest. At the time, the Chinese ministry of defense stated that military advisors along with combat forces and air and navy equipment were deployed to the war-hit country.
But China’s role is not restricted to the combat grounds. China, one of five powers with veto leverage at the United Nations Security Council, over the past six years tried to check the US-led West’s anti-Syrian resolutions and efforts at the UNSC in association with Russia.
Only in 2013, the US pressed for three resolutions at the UNSC, which sought to limit the access of the Syrian government to arms for fighting the terrorists across the country, were vetoed by China and Russia. To date, the Chinese and Russian governments have maintained their diplomatic, alongside military, backing to Damascus against the various Western intervention moves.
Legitimizing presence beside Russia
Expressing the interest to take part in upcoming Idlib assault against the terrorists from one aspect looks to be motivated by Beijing’s predictions about the future of field developments in the country. Now the Syrian army, aided by Russia, is getting ready to launch a major liberation operation in Idlib. Having in mind that the Western governments and media launched a propaganda campaign against Damascus each time the Syrian government was ready to make a major advance against the terrorists— for instance, in Aleppo or the south and Eastern Ghouta in the capital’s suburbs—, this time they will predictably do the same job in relation to Idlib operation. China coming on board in favor of the central government can tangibly ease the media and diplomatic pressures on the campaign, a situation that will shore up Idlib liberation international legitimacy.
China and Russia’s past cooperation at the UNSC marked the coalition between the two heavyweights in support of the Syrian government. Now, this alliance is expanding to cover the ground developments and Idlib operation.
Currently, vast tracts of Idlib territory is held by factions of al-Nusra Front, the Syrian branch of Al-Qaeda which is widely blacklisted as a terrorist group. The blacklisting is expected to buy considerable international validity to the possible involvement of China and Russia militarily in favor of Damascus campaign.
Prelude to involvement in reconstruction
Looking at the case from another dimension, the Chinese help offer to the Syrian administration can be seen as an effort to build a prelude to engage in the reconstruction of the conflict-hit nation. Beijing’s strategy has always revolved around the securing its economic interests using diplomacy and closeness to the countries. This strategy helped the Chinese leaders to gain sway in various parts of the world in a fierce competition against the US.
The welcomed Chinese entry to Syria’s rehabilitation becomes significant against the uninvited entry of the US and other adversaries to the Syrian government to the rebuilding efforts. Once the US and other allies are cut from the list, other pro-Damascus actors, including Beijing, will find it a great opportunity to play a role in a post-war Syria.
For the Chinese leaders, participation in Syria’s rebuilding will help with stronger presence and coalitions in the Levant and West Asia regions. This prospect is what encouraging China to join the prospective Syria rehabilitation projects.
Beijing flexes muscles to Washington
China’s presence in Syria in the form of military involvement in the Idlib or engagement in reconstruction process is aimed at, beside gaining a toehold, flexing the muscles for the rival US. West Asia, with its geopolitical position and being home to huge energy reserves that make it economically attractive, is one of the world’s key competition fields for the great powers. China strategically needs to expand its foothold in the region to unseat the US as an economic superpower. Moreover, amid intensifying trade war between the US and China, Beijing in response seeks to squeeze Washington in other areas, including Syria.