News from the Arab Press

What Will Be Next In Syria?

By Asaf Zilberfarb | The Media Line

December 18, 2017

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Al-Sharq al-Awsat, London, December 13

As Russian forces in Syria prepare to pack up their bags and return home, several questions arise about the war-torn country’s future. The most important one is, of course, who will rule once the Russians are gone? Moscow’s intervention in Syria undoubtedly began as a dangerous one. Since the beginning of its armed operation, the Kremlin refused to support the legitimate Syrian opposition and sided, instead, with Bashar al-Assad. While Russian forces targeted regime opponents, the United States focused its efforts on eliminating the Islamic State. These groups seem to have been dramatically weakened, if not altogether destroyed, paving the way for the upcoming Russian withdrawal. Therefore, when taken at face value, the biggest winner of the current situation seems to be Iran. Once the last Russian soldier leaves Syria, the Iranians will be free to up the ante. However, there are risks involved, as controlling Syria is no easy feat. The Russians and Americans together, after all, could barely assert their dominance over the country. Accordingly, Syria could prove to be a death trap for the Iranians. The only way for Iran and Assad to maintain their rule is to reach a negotiated agreement, and the U.S. is desperately trying to keep Tehran neutralized. The failure of the most recent round of UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva is definitely discouraging to the mullahs. Without European, Russian, and American support, Syria will inevitably remain split between Assad loyalists and dissidents. Iran must be flexible enough to reach a solution that is accepted to both the Russians and the Americans. This might just push Tehran to make concessions, as at the end of the day Syria will inevitably remain a territory within its sphere of influence. The question is how much can we reduce this risk over the long-term – Abd al-Rahman al-Rashed

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