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Great-power gambit in a messy Syria

With Turkey switching its allegiance from the West to the Russian-Iranian-Israeli one, the ground reality in the strife-torn nation is set to get murkier by the day

Gulf News

Crisis management sometimes does not necessarily mean actually resolving a crisis. For example, some crises are never resolved because that is not the desired outcome. That is the current state of the Syrian conflict.

In the absence of private media agencies, leaked stories from the battleground become scarce and so those interested in news on Syria have no option but to read between the lines of what is published.

Reading American papers associated with the Department of State and CIA, in addition to Turkish national and private papers and official Russian news websites, one can glean that none of them know what exactly is going on in Aleppo or what will happen once events come to an end in this ancient Syrian city.

Current events in Aleppo have not only captured the attention of political observers, but also of countries around the world, particularly the two global superpowers — the United States and Russia — and the regional superpowers — Turkey, Iran and the Gulf countries.

The situation in Aleppo today is chaotic due to battles between different parties and everyone wants to win the fight for the control of the Syrian city because whoever succeeds in Aleppo will also succeed in other battles to come. And those who lose in Aleppo will find themselves seriously disappointed. The warring parties in Aleppo are many, some are not even known by the media. The current situation will not die down any time soon and must be followed closely.

There are indications that the Syrian regime’s forces, along with its Russian allies and Iranian militia, will gradually emerge victorious at the expense of both, the moderate and non-moderate Syrian opposition. Meanwhile, Turkey has its hands full owing to its internal affairs, while fierce battles are breaking out between the Syrian Kurds and Daesh (the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant).

What was not factored in, though, is that if the Syrian regime emerges victorious in the battle of Aleppo, then that will allow it to embark on a battle with the Kurdish party, which was once a friend of Damascus and engaged in border skirmishes with Turkey.

The reason behind such a battle is that the new alliances that have emerged after the failed coup in Turkey have affected events in Syria, thereby setting new rules to the game that will serve Turkey’s interests.

A new alliance is expected to emerge in the international political arena comprising Russia, Turkey and Iran and perhaps Israel as well. This alliance will have a hand in the events in Syria, and therefore, Turkey will have a presence in Syria. This will not be the same old Turkey, but rather a new Turkey that has switched its allegiance from the US-European alliance to the Russian-Iranian-Israeli one. This switch will provide Turkey with an opportunity to be present in Syria in order to face its arch-enemy — the Kurdistan party and its foreign supporters.

The question that arises here is: Does this mean that Turkey will side with or against Syrian President Bashar Al Assad’s regime?

Perhaps because any alliance may sometimes impose terms and conditions on its members, the role played by the Syrian regime’s forces and Turkey in Syria will not be far from the new alliance’s set terms and conditions.

On the other hand, one can say that the Kurdish dream for a sovereign state will not materialise due to Iran and Turkey. But what does Israel stand to gain from this alliance?

How Israel will benefit

Israel will benefit economically during the first phase of its presence in this alliance, particularly anything that directly pertains to ongoing oil-and-gas exploration off the Syrian coast.

Economic studies and research have revealed that the sea area that stretches from Syria-Lebanon to the Turkey-Cyprus regional waters are areas rich in oil and gas. Israel would dare not explore those areas had it not been a part of this new alliance. In fact, Israel would seek the protection of Russian fleets present there.

These fleets will protect it from any security-related turmoil emerging from Syrian coasts and will facilitate understanding between Israel and Turkey. It is worth pointing out that an understanding between Turkey and Israel will be in place before this new alliance is announced.

The US is not staying away from events in Syria either and, if it is willing, can change the entire equation. The US can back one Syrian opposition faction or more with high-quality weapons that can bring about changes to the situation on the ground in Aleppo and in other areas of Syria.

So what can be gleaned from the understanding between the US and Russia? So far, the details on this particular aspect are shrouded in mystery.

Mohammad Hassan Al Harbi is a renowned columnist and author whose writings cover various fields ranging from media studies to education.

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