Chemical weapons being destroyed, but war goes on
Chemical arsenal is being destroyed in Syria under the supervision of UN experts. Bombs, warheads, as well as equipment for mixing chemical agents and munitions filling will be eliminated. However, the war with the rebels continues. How will the situation around Syria develop? Political scientist Alexander Chekov shared his point of view with Pravda.Ru.
U.S. President Obama said that Syria will never be the same as it was before the war. What do you think he meant?
"The fact that Syria will not be the same as it was before is hard to dispute. The future depends directly on how realistic is the international intervention in the Syrian conflict despite all the peace agreements and measures. If it does happen, Syria, in my opinion, is at risk of becoming another Afghanistan.
The Syrian opposition is very fragmented, there is a very strong influence of Islamists on the one hand, there are moderate forces, but the main problem is that most of the funds go to the Islamists. First of all, they are funded by Saudi Arabia, to a lesser extent Qatar as they have their own goals regarding Syria because they have significant interest in the region.
Under these circumstances, if there is no external interference in some way, this conflict will be sluggish; rather, it will last for quite a long time until one of the sides, meaning the opposition or the government, runs out of resources to fully take control of the country. This, most likely, will not happen in the short term. Perhaps, the opposing sides will somehow agree with each other. President Assad is willing, but he is unable to bring the opposition to the negotiation table."
There is also the Israeli factor that could become decisive.
"These countries were at war with each other several times. In general, the Syrian population is negative towards Israel. I would not say it is the same hostility as towards Palestine, for example, but it is generally hostile.
There is a known problem of the Golan Heights, this is the area currently controlled by Israel and claimed by Syria. I would say that this conflict is clearly disadvantageous for Israel from a military point of view.
With regard to a political point of view, there are different currents in Israel as in any other country. Some political forces maintain pressure on the Assad regime, while others favor the settlement of the conflict. At this time, I would say that Israel is not as active as it could have been in this conflict, and is waiting for the situation to unfold. Therefore, in the case of Islamists coming to power, in case of a defeat of Assad, for Israel this situation will definitely be disadvantageous. Al-Assad may not be their favorite partner, but they understand him. Bordering with a country whose people and authorities have radical attitudes and are fundamentally against the existence of the state of Israel is a new powerful threat."
You've mentioned Afghanistan, is it possible that foreign troops enter the country?
"I would not call such a scenario very likely, after the formal reason, chemical weapons, has disappeared. But we should pay attention to Turkey that is separately capable of a local conflict under one pretext or another. At the moment, the area on the border of Syria and Turkey is not controlled by Assad's troops. It is unknown what Turkey supplies to the Syrian opposition. Turkey has its own specific interests in the region, particularly in relation to the issue of the Kurds in the north of Syria, and in the east of Turkey. I do not see any reasons for a direct foreign intervention under the Afghan scenario."
What might be the position of the U.S. that, as many experts say, has suffered the first of its alleged failures of the foreign policy? Is the U.S. ready for a direct dialogue with Syria?
"I think that a military operation in Syria at this moment is not beneficial for the Americans or any other Western country. Primarily, it is due to the fact that it is a certain economic cost. Currently for the United States economy and the economy of other Western countries it is an important factor. In Syria, most likely, the Libyan scenario where air strikes could be sufficient and the opposition with support from the air could be able to finish the operation would not have worked. This is the number one reason.
Reason number two is that the population of the United States and Western countries mostly does not support any military operations in this region. I would say that Obama has grabbed onto the original suggestion of Secretary Kerry. After that Russian has voiced it, officially made an offer to Syria, and Syria agreed. That is, in fact, the initiative came from the Americans, but the process has been implemented by Russia in close cooperation with Assad and the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Syrian authorities. I would say that this is a win-win situation for both Russia and the United States.
Currently, the U.S. is having a dialogue with Syria through the mediation of Russia. It is difficult to say when an open dialogue will happen; likely a Geneva-2 conference will be required. I think that for a likely political settlement of the situation the Americans need to be more vigorously pursuing the negotiation process. They have contacts with the Syrian opposition, both its moderate and radical representatives. But if the United States shows a strong political will and brings the opposition to the negotiating table, it is possible that this dialogue will improve. Clearly, Assad is open to a dialogue with all forces, with all countries. He does not seek in any way to shut down or move away from the political solution of this issue. The opposition or the armed rebels, whatever name you prefer, are the ones unwilling to resolve the issue."
What weapons does Syria have to strike back?