Syria Assad

The Syria Quagmire

On Syria’s state television, President Bashar al Assad criticised German Defence Minister Kramp-Karrenbauer’s plan to create international security zones in Syria as these would restrict Syria’s control. It is control Assad seeks to gain back soon. Mainly Turkey needed to retreat; otherwise, war could become an option.

Kramp-Karrenbauer, who is also the chair of Germany’s CDU, recently proposed an UN-backed security zone in northern Syria. Her idea was greeted with scepticism, not only within her party and Germany’s grand coalition, where it stirred controversy with Foreign Minister Maas but within the international community alike. Nonetheless, Kramp-Karrenbauer presented her plan at a NATO meeting. With limited success.  No state has agreed to her proposal, yet.

Not surprisingly, Syria’s President Assad has not welcomed the idea of international security zones, either. In an interview with Syrian state television, Assad praised the agreement between Russia and Turkey instead, which will allow the Kurds to withdraw from the area peacefully. Assad prefers the temporary agreement over a permanent security zone solution. The current agreement was a positive step he said, one that would “reduce the damage and pave the way to liberate this area in the near future hopefully.” Most importantly for Assad, the agreement had not only put a stop to Turkey’s invasion and the “internationalisation of the area” proposed by Germany.

Kramp-Karrenbauer’s proposal was about restoring security in the region under international auspices, Assad continued. It had solidified the notion that the area was beyond the control of the Syrian state and had increased the extent of the country’s division, Assad opined.

Instead, Turkey and Russia have now agreed to control the northern Syrian border region. Turkey’s President Erdoğan seeks to settle one to two million refugees who are currently living in Turkey in the area.

How and when Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s plan can be facilitated is uncertain at this stage. Nonetheless, Assad has made it clear that a further occupation of Turkish troops on his soil was unacceptable. So much so, that he did not rule out war.

It was essential that a “political process must be given space soon”, Assad said. If Erdoğan did not go leave after exhausting all sorts of policies, then there would be “no choice but war, that is obvious,” Assad clarified, before calling the Turkish president a “thief” who “lied and blackmailed everyone.”

Meanwhile, the international community desperately seeks a solution of its own. The newly-formed UN Syrian Constitutional Committee has begun its work in a tense atmosphere the previous week. Syrian government and opposition sit at a negotiating table for the first time. How constructive the committee will be able to operate remains to be seen, particularly as Assad has rejected UN mediator Pedersen’s plan to find a political solution to the ongoing crisis via the committee. The latter was simply “impossible”, as long as there were “terrorists” in Syria, Assad said.

Proposed elections under UN supervision were also, and unsurprisingly, rejected by Assad. He emphasised that his government was not part of the constitutional committee anyway. Only one group supported by the government and representing their views was present. A serious commitment to process sounds different.

Thus, the international community continues to display the same inaptitude and helplessness since the Syrian quagmire transpired in 2011 while attempting to cover it up via symbolistic diplomacy. With the Americans semi-out of the picture, Russia has further emerged as the indispensable power in the Middle East – a development that will likely not stabilise the region anytime soon.