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US, Russia And The Great War Game In Syria – OpEd


As to be expected, the USA and Russia, the former adversaries of the Cold War, want to decide the fate of Syria, as well as Arabian world. Syria is under siege as the super powers showcase the superiority of their terror capabilities by killing Syrians who in fact do not know what exactly is happening to their nation. They are indeed playing a Great War Game in Syria

Refusing to step down, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad seems to enjoy the bloodbath and refugee crisis swirling around him. Last week world the powers agreed in Munich, Germany to seek a nationwide “cessation of hostilities” in Syria to begin in a week’s time, although it would not apply to the battle against “terrorist” groups ISIS and al Nusra Front.

The talk of new ceasefire plans comes as the US, Russia and more than a dozen other countries met in Munich, Germany, for a security conference from 12-14 February to try to halt five years of civil war in the Arab country. Russia has proposed a March 1 ceasefire in Syria, but Washington believes Moscow is giving itself and the Syrian government the weeks to try to crush rebel opposition groups and ensure the continuity of Assad regime. The USA would not accept Russia’s offer because opposition forces could suffer irreversible losses in northern and southern Syria in the meantime. The US counterproposal to Russia is a ceasefire effective immediately, accompanied by full humanitarian access to Syria’s besieged civilian centres. Peace talks between major parties Russia and the USA are supposed to resume by February 25.

Russia says it is supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government as part of a “counterterrorism” campaign. But the West says the majority of its strikes are targeting moderate groups that are opposed to both Assad and the ISIS. The most recent Russian-backed offensive, near Aleppo, prompted opposition groups to walk out of peace talks last month in Geneva, while forcing tens of thousands of civilians to flee toward the Turkish border.

Assad cast doubt on the prospects of a ceasefire proposed by big powers in his country’s grinding civil war. He told a group in Damascus that “no one” was capable of bringing about the necessary circumstances for a planned truce to take effect later this week.

Having entered Syria on invitation from the frantic Assad regime, Russia has accelerated its brutal bombing campaign and is working with Turkey’s Kurdish enemies to seize as much land as it can — before peace breaks out. Northern Syria has been the scene of intense fighting recently, killing hundreds and displacing tens of thousands of people as Syrian regime forces, backed by Russian jets, pursue a major offensive on the key city of Aleppo, and Turkey shells Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, near Azaz. The pattern of Russian airstrikes suggests three principal battlefield aims: cutting off all cross-border traffic to and from Turkey, including resupply of rebel fighters and humanitarian aid; encircling Aleppo, Syria’s biggest city prior to the war; and facilitating the territorial gains of the Kurdish YPG across northern Syria.

Russian or Syrian missiles targeted at least three hospitals, completely destroying one in the town of Maarat al-Numan, and damaging two others in Azaz, close to the border with Turkey. Also targeted Monday were two schools in northern Syria. At least 50 civilians died in these attacks alone.

The Russian-backed offensive in and around Aleppo has killed more than 500 people this month, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based organization. The Russian defence ministry said last week it had carried out 510 military sorties in Syria from 4-11 February. Since 2012, the city has been divided into a government-controlled section in the west and rebel-held areas in the east. Up to 400,000 residents in the east – equivalent to the population of New Orleans – risk being trapped without access to food. After three years of bombing, much of the city is already rubble; now it’s being described as Syria’s Stalingrad. The most recent Russian-backed offensive, near Aleppo, has prompted opposition groups to walk out of peace talks in Geneva, while forcing tens of thousands of civilians to flee toward the Turkish border.

The capture of Aleppo would surely represent a major victory for the Syrian regime plus Russia and significantly strengthen its control over the most densely populated parts of the country. Rebels in northern Aleppo Province are under massive pressure from regime forces in the south, Kurdish-led factions in the west, and the ISIS in the east.
Russian airstrikes and regime troops have cut off rebel supply lines from the Turkish border to Aleppo. Tens of thousands of city residents have fled towards the border in fear of a protracted siege, raising tensions with Turkey, a key backer of Syria’s opposition. The rebels’ battlefield setbacks have shown a spotlight on an apparent pullback by their international supporters ahead of failed UN-led peace talks last month to resolve Syria’s conflict.

Meanwhile, even as Russia targets Turkey over shooting down of a Russian jet war plane that entered Turkish airspace in November, the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in a nationally-broadcast speech that the country will be patient up to a point over the Syrian crisis and will then be forced to take “action”. He said Iran-backed forces were carrying out “merciless massacres” in Syria and that the UN needed to do more to prevent “ethnic cleansing”. In the past, Turkey has called for the creation of a buffer zone along the border on humanitarian grounds. But any such intervention by Turkish forces would probably lead to rapid escalation with Russia. The two countries are already at odds over the downing by Turkey of a Russian warplane.

It appears that Moscow actually stepped up its barrage of missiles and cluster bombs targeting primarily rebel-held towns close to Aleppo and on their main supply route to Turkey. Russia has even coordinated its airstrikes with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia, which captured towns and villages held by anti-Assad rebels after an intensive bombing campaign.

Four hospitals and a school were struck on Monday in the northern Syrian provinces of Aleppo and Idlib. Western powers blamed Syria and its military ally Russia for the strikes on the hospitals. France and Turkey labeled them war crimes, and Britain said they could amount to war crimes and must be investigated. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu blamed Russia for the strikes in Azaz, which is near the Turkish border, claiming Moscow had targeted the complex with ballistic missiles fired from the Caspian Sea.

Turkey considers the YPG to be terrorists, while the United States backs the group in the fight against ISIS. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has spoken of her support for the creation of a no-fly zone in northern Syria. Ankara has long advocated the creation of a no-fly zone in northern Syria, despite its bombing of Kurdish positions in the region. Turkey would not conduct a unilateral military operation in Syria, but would participate in a joint ground operation with coalition partners like USA. Saudi Arabia would deploy warplanes to Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey by the end of the month, in a sign of a reinvigorated Saudi commitment to the US-led coalition air campaign against ISIS.

Given Turkey’s premeditated ambush of a Russian warplane on the Turkish-Syrian border last November, it is certain that any attempt to send Turkish planes into action over Syria would provoke a swift response. Russia has deployed advanced S-400 antiaircraft weapons systems in Syria for just such a purpose. Assad issued a warning to this effect on Monday, saying that any ground invasion of Syria would have “global repercussions” and that Turkish and Saudi forces would find that such an adventure would be no “picnic.” Assad’s statement follows similar warnings by Russian Prime Minister Dimitri Medvedev, who said last week that such an intervention would pose the danger of sparking a new official world war.

The attack amounts to a clear violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2254, which was passed in December and was referred to prominently in the Munich agreement. The resolution “demands that all parties immediately cease any attacks against civilians and civilian objects as such, including attacks against medical facilities and personnel, and any indiscriminate use of weapons, including through shelling and aerial bombardment.”

The US government has criticized both Turkey for shelling the YPG and the Kurdish militia for seizing territory from US-backed rebels. As the war in northern Syria escalates, it’s not clear which side Washington favors to end the ever-more chaotic situation on the ground if it can..

However, US Secretary of State John Kerry’s agreement with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, billed as an opening to the cessation of hostilities in Syria, turned out to be the starting shot for more intensive Russian bombing of cities and towns, hospitals, and schools in the north of the country. The accord the secretary of state reached in Munich on Feb. 11 contains a big loophole: A cessation of fighting wouldn’t take effect for an entire week, and Russia could continue bombing in Syria. The accord also calls for the signers to “use their influence” to ensure immediate and sustained delivery of food and medical supplies to areas under starvation siege. It seems that Assad’s focus is not on humanitarian access, but rather on clawing back the large parts of the country now out of his control.

Faced with a manpower shortage, the Assad regime is relying on the Kurdish YPG to seize key real estate from rebels on the main route to Turkey. Turkey, concerned that the YPG was staking out new Syrian territory to join with its self-ruled territory further east, shelled the Kurdish militia Saturday for three days running and warned that it would not tolerate any further territorial gains by them.

Even as Turkey is pressing for the USA and its allies to launch a ground invasion as the only means of ending the nearly five-year-old civil war in Syria, the call for a major escalation of the imperialist intervention in Syria has been accompanied by a propaganda campaign over alleged Russian strikes on hospitals. The Saudi royal regime transferred four of its warplanes to Turkey’s Incirlik air base. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which, like Turkey, are key patrons of the Islamist militias in Syria, announced that they were prepared to send troops into the country.

As President Assad is adamant and refuses to quit presidency or leave Syria to let peace return to save the remaining Syrians, Saudi officials have said they could send ground troops to Syria to fight the Islamic State – a move that could also allow it to prop up its allies. But few see this happening anytime soon since Saudi forces are already overstretched in Yemen.

The Syrian opposition is deeply embittered as they feel the USA and its allies, after giving them hopes, have thrown them under the bus, unwilling to give them the firepower or protection necessary to resist a resurgent Russian-backed Assad regime now pushing into Aleppo. Aleppo city once counted 2 million people and has been an opposition stronghold for much of Syria’s five-year civil war.

The Obama government says it has been trying for months to clinch a ceasefire and pave the way for a transition government in Syria that would allow parties to the conflict to concentrate on defeating the “threat” posed by ISIS and the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front. After having long demanded Assad’s ouster, the shift in the US focus to combating terrorism has resulted in a confusing mix of priorities that do not work.

The USA says it is preventing everyone from supplying the opposition with weapons out of fear they will fall in the hands of Islamic State. German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she is “horrified” by the impact that Russia’s relentless airstrikes on Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, are having on civilians. US Secretary of State John Kerry has exhorted Russia to heed a United Nations Security Council resolution from December, calling on combatants in Syria to spare civilian populations.

Meanwhile, the UN convoys are expected to start delivering aid in the coming days to besieged areas inside Syria after receiving authorization from the Assad government. Critics have expressed doubts about the prospects of the proposed truce as the Syrian army, backed by Russian air power, pursues a major offensive in northern Syria.

US national security adviser Susan Rice told reporters that the escalating military campaign called into question “Russia’s willingness or ability to implement the agreements achieved in Munich….The intensified bombings, the displacement, the fact that civilian entities have been hit by the regime and its backers, is of grave concern,” she said.

USA and Russia fighting in alien nations to showcase their military supremacy are just waging a usual proxy war in Syria. But Turkey and Russia try to compete for future influence in the West Asia region. Peace is not the prime concern of any of these nations.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, who arrived in Germany on February 10, had talks with UN peace envoy Staffan de Mistura and Adel al-Jubeir, the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia, a key backer of Syria’s rebel groups. Kerry said the Aleppo battle makes it much more difficult to be able to have a serious conversation.

Russian and Syrian forces conduct deliberate attacks on hospitals, schools, other similar human establishments; such inhuman terror attacks that amount to war crimes, must end.


Conventional wisdom holds that Russia’s goal in Syria is to force the USA, regional powers and Syrians into accepting President Bashar al-Assad’s Damascus regime as the only reality. Russia’s aim perhaps is to change rebel groups’ cost-benefit analysis to encourage them to participate in talks on something closer to the Assad regime’s terms.

Apparently, the post- Cold War era has witnessed a new phenomenon in world politics with the former super power adversaries and the main UNSC veto members, USA and Russia, for quite some years, pursuing a policy of “collaborative conflict”, ably hidden by their usual, confrontational tactics. They pretend to be fighting for ideological reasons though today ideology is not their concern but they just advance only their mutual interests. Russia wants to establish its trade links in Mideast.

The USA continues to insist that the Syria conflict will not be decided on the battlefield but will only be resolved through a political settlement encompassing all Syria’s political factions and religious and ethnic communities. That approach, at least officially backed by Russia, was at the heart of peace talks.

It appears, the USA and Russia are engaged in deciding the issue of an early ceasefire in Syria where indeed a war on Islam by many countries is in progress. The five year old conflict has killed more than a quarter-million people, created Europe’s biggest refugee crisis since World War II and allowed the ISIS to carve out its own territory across parts of Syria and neighboring Iraq. Turkey and Saudi Arabia fear sooner or later the ISIS would establish itself in their countries as well.

Washington has tempered its calls dating back to August 2011 for Assad to immediately leave power. And to get Russia on board, it now won’t even say that Assad should be barred from running for re-election if and when a new Syrian constitution is drafted.

USA plays essentially a Zionist role in Middle East. Russia has very clear intentions in Syria and is using military means to accomplish them. Russian President Vladimir Putin “has a plan” for rescuing Assad and reinvigorating Russia’s role in the Middle East. Putin knows the USA has no intention of going up against Russia militarily in Syria any more than it did over Ukraine and so it is left to try to pressure Russia to curtail its indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas through diplomatic channels.

Following the deal with Iran last year on its nuclear program, the USA is determined to be less confrontational with Iran and is considering the involvement of Iran in the resolution in Syrian conflict. Iran has ground forces and advisers aiding government forces in the Aleppo battle, and Iran is seen as more intent on keeping Assad in power than is Russia, which above all wants to prevent a regime collapse.

The US ambiguity has emboldened Assad’s supporters, Russia and Iran, while upsetting American allies in the Middle East, who are frustrated by a process that appears to lock the Syrian leader in place well into 2017 – and perhaps beyond.

USA cannot control Russia and Americans do not accept Russians being equal to them. Beyond Russia, the USA has often struggled to keep its own allies such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia in line.

US partners in the region are increasingly questioning their ability to rely on a strong US presence. Russia’s unchecked intervention in Syria is a further destabilizing of Europe by another unstoppable wave of refugees that would cause further fragmenting of Europe over the migration issue.

Although Moscow does not seem to be seeking a military victory, Russia’s policy could still encourage Syrian leaders to want one.

The USA is not about to do anything that would involve going up against Russia and risk a direct confrontation in Syria. US support for Russian onslaught in Syria is seen as the effort to degrade the so-called Islamic State. But the key reason appears to be that no one in the West has the appetite to confront Russia as it pursues its interests in the Middle East. It is a US determination not to end up in a conflict with Russia in a region that the USA, under President Obama, is trying to play down.

Veto members do not wage wars directly. The Russians are using a full array of military tools in Syria, as they have been in Ukraine, while the US and the Europeans, the West, are using the soft tools of humanitarian aid.

If Putin can tell Assad that Russia’s military will not continue operations at their current intensity for much longer and, accordingly, Assad would be wise to make the best deal he can, such an approach could facilitate a political settlement while also earning Moscow some credit with US and Western diplomats. It would likely do more for Russia’s reputation and influence in the Middle East than long-term support for Assad’s unpopular regime.

Destabilization of Arab nations is a pet project of Neocons led American rulers. Russian interest in Syria is to serve the Assad regime by supplying arms and forces. Russia cannot hesitate to commit genocides in Syria. Neither USA nor Russia seeks peace in West Asia, although President Obama says his government has been trying for months to clinch a ceasefire and pave the way for a transitional government in Syria. Officially, the USA has staked its hopes for an end to the five-year civil war in Syria on the peace talks and Assad’s eventual departure, saying the American public has no appetite for a military solution.

The great tragedy of Syria’s civil war is that even after five years, there is no critical mass among the parties seeking peace. What is going on in Syria and Mideast at large is a joint terror war on Muslims! And there is no real possibility for peace in the region even after the regime change at White house party rules the US government pursues imperialist policy that benefits its major terror ally Israel as well.

How far and how soon Moscow would expand its influence in Mideast remains to be seen, however!

The so-called war on terror launched by the USA and its western allies under the NATO has killed more people than the World Wars. The target of this terror war has been Muslims, Islam and Islamic nations. The enemies of Islam have murdered millions of Muslims without declaring a war on Islam. That is their unique success!

This terror success prompts the enemies of Islam to continue the war as a permanent feature and does not let them end their terror wars until, perhaps, Israel takes full control of Arab world.

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Dr. Abdul Ruff

Dr. Abdul Ruff is a columnist contributing articles to many newspapers and journals on world politics. He is an expert on Mideast affairs, as well as a chronicler of foreign occupations and freedom movements (Palestine, Kashmir, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Xinjiang, Chechnya, etc.). Dr. Ruff is a specialist on state terrorism, the Chancellor-Founder of Center for International Affairs (CIA), commentator on world affairs and sport fixings, and a former university teacher. He is the author of various eBooks/books and editor for INTERNATIONAL OPINION and editor for FOREIGN POLICY ISSUES; Palestine Times.

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