The Syrian crisis has now moved into a serious zone where the next developments will bring the opposite groups, which were recently involved in a ceasefire deal, to a direct confrontation in more lethal way than the prevailing stage. The reason is not very hard to comprehend as in a strike by US led coalition forces; 62 Syrian soldiers have been killed. Though US regretted saying that it was nonintentional and was intended to target ISIS but Russia rejected the contention.
The Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has said that ‘If previously we had suspicions that Al-Nusra Front is protected this way, now, after today’s airstrikes on the Syrian army we come to a really terrifying conclusion for the entire world: The White House is defending IS [Islamic State, formerly ISIS/ISIL].We demand a full and detailed explanation from Washington. That explanation must be given at the UN Security Council, immediately after the airstrike by coalition planes, Islamic State militants launched their offensive,[US coalition] strikes have cleared the way for ISIS fighters to take over Deir ez-Zor city now.’
Russia took the matter to UNO and fifteen members UN Security Council met last night and the relevant discussions are yet to open. US although has criticized the Russian demand for the security council meet calling it ‘cheap’.
These developments show that in Syria the rivalry is quite heightened between two powers, USA and Russia have looked to the Syrian crisis from different lens. The major contention of US has always been to replace Assad which is contested by Russia. This is the crux of the problem. In the aftermath of ceasefire deal by both the countries a common understanding was that this will not hold long. It happened so as since Monday when ceasefire was implemented after 9 September deal, about 199 violations till yesterday had taken place. Russia has accused US and the moderate groups for the same whereas US accused Assad regime for not allowing the humanitarian aids, consequently US said it would not set up a planned joint US-Russian military co-ordination cell in Syria.
The pro and anti groups of Assad cannot remain in silence because the US has concluded that removal of Assad is the final aim and the violations were mainly from the side of the anti Assad forces. Now the attack on the Syrian forces brings into open the US policies in Syria as the questions will be raised on several counts.
The start point will be- how the so efficient and scientifically managed US forces faltered on this point that the soldiers which were not to be attacked were killed. Was it a sheer negligence or the well thought strategy? It is often seen in the international conflicts that statements do not hold the truth and thrown only as a face saving tool. This was a well known trait of diplomatic communication and on several occasions the realities were enveloped by the use of the words. The traditional diplomacy is almost declined but the new ways and the tools cannot depart from the well established ways to save the faded faces.
Another question is related to the non coordination between the US and Russia. When a deal of non conflict was in operation, a proper understanding and the information sharing mechanism should have been established. The international norms in such cases demand the proper coordination and this is a very simple practice at the global conflict zones but since September 2015 when Russian air forces went to bomb the anti Assad targets mainly in North West Syria such cooperation lacked. USA and Russia failed to have a standard coordination and the cooperation on the issue of bombardment suggesting that a trust deficit existed between both and the main onus of responsibility was laid on US because Russia had carried more vigorous air attacks in terms of sorties than US. US never participated with the strength as it had executed during the gulf war. Its reluctance was always there not only in terms of sorties but also in terms of coordination. Though in some cases Russian strikes targeted which were to be avoided. Since those days the military cooperation between both the stakeholders in Syria survives with fragile thread.
One analysis leads us to think the likely cause of US attack may be just to measure the strength of the Syrian forces or a systematic and calculated deliberate act to destroy the Assad forces. This argument finds strength from the secrecy which is wrapped till now in the ceasefire deal which has taken place between US and Russia. The astonishing feature of modern nation state is that they desire transparency from others but when they are themselves to answer the questions they act as an innocent actor. The same has happened in case of ceasefire deal where it is still to be known to world what actually are the terms and conditions, both US and Russia have kept it a secret. The Russian stand is that first US should open then only it can follow. This secrecy supports the analysis that US may have given a thought to replace the Assad regime, its lasting goal. Russian President Putin has also given credence to such an analysis. He has explicitly stated ‘this comes from the problems the U.S. is facing on the Syrian track — they still cannot separate the so-called healthy part of the opposition from the half-criminal and terrorist elements. I don’t really understand why we have to keep such an agreement closed, in my opinion; this comes from the desire to keep the combat potential in fighting the legitimate government of Bashar Assad. But this is a very dangerous route.’
Such developments have wider implications because Russia will retaliate in its own manner. Russia will attempt to decipher the real cause of the strikes if it is deliberate then Syria will be thrust into more burring days and nights.
Dr. Vivek Kumar Srivastava is Consultant CRIEPS, Kanpur, e email@example.com