The whole world is at risk
There has been a plethora of bad news surrounding the Middle East for the past few days. The condition in Palestine, Iraq and Syria is getting worse with every passing day. A colossal number of innocent citizens are being killed in cold blood every day. However, the majority of the world population is unable to understand the intensity of the situation or the situation at all. Therefore, it is important to first look at the foreign policy of these countries in relation to their internal circumstances. Only then will we be able to analyse appropriately as to what exactly is happening with regard to their involvement in Syria. Iran, Saudi Arabia, Russia, the US, Europe and Turkey have long been involved in these wars and contentions, either directly or indirectly.
Firstly, let us have a thorough look at Saudi Arabia. The Arab Spring preceded almost all the revolutions in the Muslim world. The process extended from Tunisia to Syria. The Spring, in essence, was an end to the monarchical Arab kingdoms that, in turn, resulted in sheer tension among them and sent shivers down the spines of the rulers. Some of the Arab countries had relatively successful revolutions as a result while others did not. Moreover, some countries in the region have yet to arrive to a solid conclusion regarding the Arab Spring. Amusingly, some countries tried resisting the Arab Spring and ultimately succeeded in doing so. Saudi Arabia, as expected, tops the list.
Saudi leaders carried out a number of facilitative activities when they sensed the rising upheaval in the Arab world. Subsidies for the common public were increased substantially; treasures were opened for the general population so nobody could raise their voice against the absolute monarchy. Saudi Arabia, in fact, helped General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to a significant extent to avert the Arab Spring from entering its own boundaries. Saudi Arabia’s interior as well foreign policies are a living testimony to this doctrine. The fear of Arab Spring still persists in the country. Oil prices have been on the decline for the past few years. The United States of America was one of the biggest buyers of the oil but in the recent past it has started to extract its own oil through fracking. Even China, the second biggest buyer, has reduced its consumption due to its own economic slowdown. Since oil income was Saudi Arabia’s biggest source of earning, the reduction in the demand for the oil, as has been mentioned, has proved to be a major setback for its economy. Consequently, the number and amount of subsidies being given to the general population are expected to fall as well. Moreover, Saudi Arabia is spending a big portion of its income on Yemen. Now that the Saudi population has become accustomed to the subsidies, it is very difficult to bring them down from their current level. Therefore, the government is facing a severe dilemma as to how it should cut down on the public subsidies for doing so might lead to another Arab Spring. The confirmation of death penalty for the Shi’a Cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr and several others is a clear manifestation of the fact that the Saudi Arabia is opposed to mass uprisings of any kind. These executions seem to be symbolic gestures from the Saudi rulers that anyone who challenges their government will be dealt with sternly. Other than Saudi Arabia, Iran is another big player in the Middle East.
Iran has been constantly at odds with the US for the past four decades. However, the Syrian war has rendered Iran hopeless economically. The country was already struggling with a number of constraints on its economy because of trade sanctions due to its nuclear program; the five-year war in Syria has put even more pressure on its economic resources. As a result, Iran capitulated to America and other world powers. At this moment, Iran cannot step back as far as its support for the Syrian President Bashar al Assad is concerned. This is because Syria is the only land route through which it can maintain contact with Hezbollah in Lebanon. Moreover, it is also because of Syria that Israel (its archenemy) lies in its radar range. In order to better understand the situation, a look at the map of the Middle East would suffice. If we remove Syria from the middle, Hezbollah is likely to be weakened. Iran’s access to Israel would be reduced as well. Israel wants the pro-Iranian government in the Syria to end so it can get out of its reach. Even Iraq’s government is supportive of Iran to a great extent. In order to save Bashar’s government, Iran has bent its knees before the west and this is one of the reasons why Iran shall not step back from Syria. Similarly, Turkey is another important country.
Turkey has largely supported the Muslim brotherhood in Egypt. As a result, their relationships with Saudi Arabia suffered a lot. However, after the change in the on-ground facts, both countries have now similar views about Syria. Kurdish militants are getting stronger in Syria where they are carrying out successful activities against the Da’ish. They enjoy full support of America and other western countries. On the other hand, Turkey considers these Kurdish militants its utmost enemy but America has declared rather explicitly that the Kurds are not terrorists but their allies. The statement has made Tayyip Erdoğan furious. The increasing hold of the Kurds in Syria is not good news for Turkey.
America wants Iran to interfere in Syria’s war so that it eventually gets weakened and that was the main impetus that led USA to support anti Bashar forces. The consequences are already before us. Iran has agreed to hold talks with America. It is quite evident that the Arab Spring was supported by America as well as it wanted to replace American-oriented governments with all the kingdoms and monarchies. However, it did not succeed in overthrowing Bahsar because it underestimated the extent to which Iran and Russia would go to save Syria. Although, Iran, Iraq and Hezbollah have suffered a lot in this war, the Russian entry has turned the tide. Here, the question arises: what good has Russia achieved through all of this? Russian is another key player in Syria conflict.
Russia has been fighting extremist forces in its country for quite a while now. On the foreign level Russia supported Bashar al Assad so that it can overshadow NATO. The good basically lies in Russia attaining power internationally and that has been its main goal throughout. Russia is facing trade sanctions and condemnation from west due to its annexation of Crimea. Russia pre-empted the west in Syria and consequently proved that it is an important world player that cannot be ignored or cornered by the world powers. Therefore, it is currently witnessing the awakening of the Bear. Moreover, Da’ish harbours many Russians. These warriors can cause a number of problems after going back to Russia. Hence, the Putin government has decided to deal with them in Syria before it is too late. One of the key players in the Syria conflict is the Kurds. They are the only entity that can counter the sectarian/religious narrative of Da’ish and other extremists as the Kurds are Sunnis. On the other hand, Kurds are considered to be liberal and progressive at the same time. These traits are in accordance with the western, Russian regimes and to an extent the Syrian regime.
Keeping in view all these facts, it is possible to understand the role and aspirations of all the major countries currently involved in the Syrian war. Sadly, in the end, it all comes down to the killing of human beings. Old people, women, and children are being slaughtered every day in Syria while the world waits, contemplating on the dynamics of the war.
The recent ceasefire seemed to have lived up to the expectations of the people. However, it is premature to assume that Syria is set on the path to peace. It is the need of the hour that countries from both sides sit together on a single table and try and talk through the entire problem. Otherwise, this war if prolonged unnecessarily can engulf the rest of the world as well with its gnawing teeth.