Analyses

The new international variables and their impact on the Syrian crisis

The Syrian crisis is affected by political and military variables at the international and regional levels due to the presence of the great powers – the United States and Russia – along with the regional countries such as Turkey and Iran on the Syrian territory. The US withdrawal from Afghanistan and handing it over to Turkey will affect the Syrian crisis, as the US is trying to support Turkey in Afghanistan and it may support the Turkish Council (Turkish-speaking countries) to form a union similar to the European Union in order to stand in the face of the Chinese project One Belt One Road (OBOR) and weaken the Russian influence in Central Asia and redeploy its forces in the region to besiege Russia in Syria alongside the Iranian threat and its militias in Syria. In a statement, the US military announced the closure of its military bases in Qatar (the main camp of al-Sailiya and, the southern camp of al-Sailiya and an ammunition supply point called Falcon), which were used as warehouses for ammunition and weapons, and transferred its forces and equipment to Jordan, and it may work in the near future, to expand its bases in the areas of the Autonomous Administration in northeast Syria and strengthening them with weapons and air defenses. On the other hand, Turkey is trying to distort the image of the Autonomous Administration by changing the facts and accusing the Autonomous Administration and the SDF of committing violations against civilians and the military like the mass grave in Afrin, which is basically a cemetery for martyrs with their photos on the tombstones, the ceremonies held at the time and the confessions of the martyrs’ families, in addition to the case of the activist Amin Issa and the bombing of Afrin Hospital. By distorting the facts and the image of the Autonomous Administration, Turkey is trying to pressure the US and exploit its need in Afghanistan to give it the green light to invade the Autonomous Administration’s areas and prevent it from obtaining an international recognition.

While Russia demands the Autonomous Administration to be more independent that is, to disengage from the US and start dialogue with the Syrian regime to reach a settlement that would allow the return of the regime’s forces and their militias to the region. Russia is not far from the Turkish policy, as it is cooperating with Turkey to distort the image of the Autonomous Administration, impose a siege on it, prevents the arrival of foodstuffs to its areas, prevents the Kurds from entering the regime’s areas in order to create internal strife and incite some parties against the Autonomous Administration and prevents the entry of UN aid into the Autonomous Administration’s areas through the Tel Kochar (al-Ya’roubiya) crossing as in January 2020, the UN Security Council repealed the mandate given to the UN using the Tel Kochar (al-Ya’roubiya) border crossing between Iraq and northeastern Syria due to Russia’s threat to veto the mandate. On the other hand, Russia fears yjr Turkish treachery, especially after Turkey took over the Afghan file, as it realizes the dangers of the expansion of jihadist groups on its southern borders, which may mean exporting jihadist thought to the rest of the regions after Turkey became the world’s first source of mercenaries such as in Libya, Azerbaijan, Southern Kurdistan (northern Iraq), and currently Afghanistan. Also, there is an increase of the Turkish activities in the Turkish-speaking countries, the “Turkish Council.” In the event that Turkey returns to the American incubator, Russia will become besieged and threaten in its national security. Therefore, Russia is trying to increase its influence in Afghanistan, control the jihadist movements and indirectly threaten Turkey by granting the Autonomous Administration areas an autonomy similar to the system of the governing in Iraq, where Lavrov stressed during a press conference held in Moscow with his Bahraini counterpart, Abdul Latif al-Zayani that Moscow, since the beginning of the Syrian conflict, has encouraged direct contacts between the Kurds and the regime with the aim of reaching agreements on how to coexist together in one country, noting that the neighboring Iraq is a good example that can be used in this regard. Therefore, Turkey’s failure to deal with Russian interests and goals in Afghanistan will reflect on the situation in Syria, especially in the Euphrates Shield areas (Turkish-held areas in northern Syria such as al-Bab and Jarablus), with the increased bombing on Idlib.

China, as a result of Turkey’s intervention in Afghanistan, is trying to find a foothold in Syria that would enable it to support its OBOR economic project to influence Turkey indirectly, as the latter’s support for the Uyghur group and its intervention in Afghanistan poses a threat to its internal situation in the Xinjiang region (East Turkistan). Syria is the alternative for Turkey towards European and North African markets in the event that relations between the two parties worsen, in addition to supporting the regime militarily, albeit to a limited extent, to put pressure on Turkey. The visit of the Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs to the Syrian capital, Damascus on July 17, falls within this context and comes in support of Assad. However, in order not to get involved more in the Syrian crisis and cause more disagreements with the US, China is demanding the regime, in return for financial support and reconstruction, to implement the UN Resolution 2254.

As for Iran, after its economic relations with Turkey have grown as a result of the US sanctions and their cooperation similar to the Astana and Sochi alliance in the Syrian crisis, it may turn into an indirect conflict between the two countries as a result of conflicting interests and goals. At the same time, it fears the occurrence of a Turkish-Pakistani alliance, i.e. a Sunni alliance, especially since Turkey stipulated the participation of Pakistan and Hungary with it in Afghanistan, which might threaten Iran’s national security. As for Turkey, it claims that strengthening its influence in the Central Asian region is a natural cultural and ethnic extension of it, which may reflect negatively on the situation between the two sides in Syria.

In this context, the Afghan crisis may turn into a crisis similar to the Syrian one. The countries that are trying to extend their influence in Afghanistan are the same countries that are involved in the Syrian crisis, which may mean conflicting international interests, i.e. yesterday’s friends may be today’s enemies, and thus the impossibility of the parties concerned with resolving the Syrian crisis reaching a final solution, and the situation may become more complicated and it is possible in the coming period. As a result of conflicting international interests, the barter policy or the emergence of Turkish-Russian-Iranian differences in the near future may emerge, which will be the beginning of military operations to regain the occupied lands, starting with the Euphrates Shield areas (Jarablus and al-Bab) and ending in Idlib. Or, as a result of the increase in international crises, the international community may move towards recognizing the areas of the Autonomous Administration and the areas of the so-called Syrian opposition coalition after the liquidation of terrorist groups affiliated with the so-called the National Army and the transformation of Syria into a federal system similar to Iraq.