The rise of the Russian Phoenix

Crisis in Syria continues to reveal outlines of new international competition we thought was dead and buried.

2016/12/25 Issue: 87 Page: 7

The Arab Weekly
Mohamed Kawas

Historians will see the battle for Aleppo as a turning point that laid the foundation of a new world order that obliterates the maps drawn in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Aleppo is part of a process started in 2011 in which the United States has gradually relinquished its role as world leader. In Syria, the world seems to have entered a grey zone of uncertainties.

Due to the paranoia in reaction to thousands of refugees entering Europe, Britain has voted to exit the European Union. Conserva­tive movements within the European Union are also talking of abandoning ship.

Because of Syria, voices have risen in the West doubting democracy and praising dictator­ship as the best means to impose stability on the world. Thanks in part to Syria, US President-elect Donald Trump has become infatuated with Russian Presi­dent Vladimir Putin and conserv­ative leaders in Europe have followed suit.

Aleppo is a chance to discover the real might of world powers. The United States stayed away from Syria but granted freedom to the rest of the world to inter­vene. Taking their cue from the United States, European coun­tries also preferred to stand aside while others jumped on the opportunity and chose to invest in the Syrian drama.

“The tragedy in Aleppo did not come out of a vacuum; it was created by a vacuum, a vacuum of Western leadership, of American leadership, British leadership,” former British Finance minister George Osborne told parliament.

Turkish-Russian talks about evacuating civilians from eastern Aleppo symbolise US indiffer­ence. The United States has chosen to become a simple observer.

In Syria, as US influence fades, the Russian phoenix rises from the ashes. China has also sneaked in on the Syrian scene and shocked the world by declaring an alliance with Russia, a gesture meant to counteract the potential damage from the American meteorite Trump.

The crisis in Syria continues to reveal the outlines of a new international competition we thought was dead and buried.

Putin would have never started his Syrian adventure if the West were interested in Syria’s fate. It seems the United States is satisfied to have Russia do the job it does not want to do.

US President Barack Obama began rapprochement with Russia and Trump would be happy to continue collaborating with Putin, a figure he admires. For its part, Russia did a good job closing the deal with the United States over chemical weapons in Syria. Thus, Israel is safe and Russia has become a reliable partner.

It might be argued that the real target of the US strategy is China. Whether by seducing Russia or miring it in the Syrian quicksand, China would be deprived of a sizeable ally. This theory is difficult, but not impossible, to defend.

Russia is laying the foundation for a long stay in the region. While the United States antago­nises Iran and Turkey, Russia makes friends with them. Russia knows it is in the interest of Iran and Turkey to become its allies and align themselves with Putin.

The Russian president wants to appear as the major player in Syria. Until further notice, the conflict in Syria is no longer international but regional with Russia playing the leading role. All the major voices in the world calling for the departure of Syrian President Bashar Assad are just ambient noise with no real effect in Syria. What counts in the end are the positions of Moscow, Ankara and Tehran.

Mohamed Kawas is a Lebanese writer.

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