Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Sherif Elgebeily on Russia's Involvement in the Syrian Conflict (SCMP)

Sherif Elgebeily (CCPL)
South China Morning Post
8 October 2015
It has been over a quarter of a century since the collapse of the USSR, the fall of the Berlin Wall and, accordingly, the thawing of the cold war that crippled international relations for decades in the mid-to-late 20th century. But it seems that Russia's decision to enter the war in Syria with military strikes - as opposed to simply bolstering and protecting President Bashar al-Assad on the international stage and supplying arms - has jolted East-West relations back to a time of high tensions.
     Syria looks set to become the battleground for a proxy war between titans: pro-Assad Russian forces and the anti-Assad Western coalition that includes the US, France and the UK.
     Syria therefore threatens to be more dangerous than the post-millennial wars in Iraq, Afghanistan or Ukraine, where foreign forces were fighting local militaries or populations. The conflict in Syria pits East against West in ways not seen since the Korean or Vietnam wars.
     For Syria, its population, its heritage and its infrastructure, a proxy war would be catastrophic - it is yet more calamity to add to the existing menaces of Assad and Islamic State
     Under the guise of fighting Islamic State, both sides have intervened with military force, bombing targets each claims are strategically linked to the group. Yet despite superficial US-Russian talks on deconfliction of Syrian airspace last week, designed to avoid overlap in operations and mid-air collisions, the first Russian strikes not only targeted areas that were not affiliated with Islamic State, but focused on the US-backed Syrian opposition fighters that pose a threat to Assad instead. 
     Indeed, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said Russian forces are in Syria to rescue the Assad administration. There can be no doubt as to the motives behind Russia’s intervention....
     Russia's intervention in Syria is legally sound under international law. Russian chief of staff Sergei Ivanov has stated that the Assad government explicitly requested Russian military assistance.
     From a Russian standpoint, it may also be politically sound; with a military base in Tartus dating back to the era of the Soviet Union, and a historic Russian-Syrian alliance spanning over four decades back to Assad's father Hafez, Russia's last strategic bastion outside the former USSR is worth protecting.... Click here to read the full article.

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