Maybe we will never know what exactly has been discussed between the US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the meeting in Helsinki. But for many reasons it has been gradually evident to us that the main focus of the meeting was Syria. In fact, the things that have shadowed the relationship between Washington and Moscow (Russia’s intervention in 2016 elections, conflict in Ukraine, expansion of NATO, etc.), among which Syria is perhaps the easiest thing, to restore this relationship to the previous state.
There is no real interest in Syria for the United States without the intention of controlling Iran after the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or ISA’s defeat. After the crisis began in Syria, the United States has prevented any pressure or interference from the country. Following the fall of the city of Mosul in Iraq, the United States decided to intervene in Syria after the announcement of caliphate and ISIL’s expansion. But the United States had limited its war against ISIL and Washington was very careful about not being involved in the Syrian civil war.
President Trump repeatedly said that after ISIL’s defeat, he does not want US military presence in Syria. He also said that he wants to see that Iran has reduced its military presence in Syria and has cut regional influence. These two objectives can be accomplished only through Russia’s cooperation. According to several media reports, Russia wants to cooperate with Syria. But Russia’s main purpose is to keep interference in Syria’s internal affairs rather than keeping Bashar al-Assad in power.
Russia has announced its presence in the Middle East by military intervention in Syria in September 2015 after removing herself from the world stage for more than two decades. In fact, President Putin has applied his aggressive foreign policy in other places before (in Georgia in 2008 and in Ukraine in 2014). These risky initiatives of Russia were largely self-defense. The issue of interference in Syria’s internal affairs is not defensive. It was the display of power outside the former Soviet Union territories for the first time since the Russian Cold War. Putin tried to restore Russia’s world power with the United States war on tiredness.
Russia has been able to maintain Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria and the victory of US-backed opponents. In fact, the main purpose of Russian intervention in Syria’s internal affairs is to demonstrate their own strength in the international arena. Through this, Russia took the initiative to change the characteristics of a pole in the cold post-war international system. To achieve this goal, Iran was an important tool for them.
Russia has given political and diplomatic support to Assad’s administration since the beginning of the Syrian crisis. Russia has resisted Arab spring as a Western conspiracy to destabilize the region. Despite Russia’s anti-Arab perspectives, until the summer of 2015 (when Bashar al-Assad and his Iran-backed forces were defeated) Russia could not see military intervention in Syria.
In July 2015, Tehran, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards commander General Qasim Brigade, sent a message to Russia in Moscow to discuss the details of Russian intervention in Syria. Before that, Iran was very optimistic that its relationship with the Obama administration will be improved in the previous month’s signing of the nuclear deal and it will be easy to put pressure on Bashar al-Assad. But it has been proved wrong. Turkey and Saudi Arabia increased support for Syrian opponents, and after the nuclear deal with Iran, the pressure of the United States on Syria has dropped a lot. Russia then agreed to Iran’s request and the two countries emerged as an effective coalition in Syria’s war. Iran sends troops to Syria and Russia supplies bombs to fire from the plane.
Until now, Iran is an important partner in Syria’s war in Syria. Iran has greatly helped Russia to defeat Western-backed rebels in Syria, to resist the victory of Turkey and Arab Gulf countries, and to counter Western intervention in Russia’s ally Libya. Having done this with the help of Iran, there was a conflict of interest between the two allies. Now Russia wants to use Syria as a means of bargaining with the United States on its fundamental issues, including Ukraine and economic sanctions. And Iran wants to increase its military presence in Syria to prevent possible US or Israeli attacks.
US and Israel want to reduce Iran’s influence in Syria Putin’s role is important in this regard. If Putin decides to cooperate with the United States, then Iran’s position will weaken. And if he wants to keep his alliance with Iran, Washington and Tel Aviv’s attempts to reduce Iran’s influence will fail. It seems at this moment that he will cooperate with the United States and Israel. But only after taking America’s economic sanctions on Russia. The United States has imposed sanctions on the occupation of Ukraine. What Putin did to the end, that is to see.
Translated from English Taken from Al Jazeera
Marvan Kablan Syrian educationist and writer