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GIST OF RAJYA SABHA TV (RSTV): Syria Crisis - US Backs out

Published: 12th Oct, 2019

Context:

US President Donald Trump decided to abandon Kurdish fighters in Syria as fulfilling a Poll-campaign promise to withdraw from "endless war" in the Middle East; even as Republican critics and others said he was sacrificing a US ally and undermining American credibility. Trump declared US troops would step aside for an expected Turkish attack on the Kurds, who have fought alongside Americans for years, but he then threatened to destroy Turkey’s economy if they went too far. Even Trump's staunchest Republican congressional allies expressed outrage at the prospect of abandoning Syrian Kurds who had fought the Islamic State group with American arms and advice. Trump said he understood criticism from fellow GOP leaders but disagreed. Pentagon and State Department officials held out the possibility of persuading Turkey to abandon its expected invasion.

Background

  • Unemployment, corruption and a lack of political freedom rocked Syria under President Bashar al-Assad, who succeeded his father, Hafez, after he died in 2000.
  • In March 2011, pro-democracy demonstrations erupted in Syria, inspired by the "Arab Spring" in neighbouring countries.
  • When the government used deadly force to crush the dissent, protests demanding the president's resignation erupted nationwide.
  • Many groups and countries - each with their own agendas - are involved, making the situation far more complex and prolonging the fighting in Syria.
    • Russia- which already had military bases in Syria - launched an air campaign in support of Mr Assad in 2015 that has been crucial in turning the tide of the war in the government's favour.
    • Iranis believed to have deployed hundreds of troops and spent billions of dollars to help Mr Assad.
    • The US, UK and Francecoalition has carried out air strikes on IS militants in Syria since 2014 and helped an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias called the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) capture territory once held by the jihadists in the east.
    • Turkeyhas long supported the rebels, but it has focused on using them to contain the Kurdish militia that dominates the SDF, accusing it of being an extension of a banned Kurdish rebel group in Turkey. Turkish-backed rebels have controlled territory along the border in north-western Syria since 2016.
    • Saudi Arabia, which is keen to counter Iranian influence, has armed and financed the rebels, as has the kingdom's Gulf rival, Qatar.
    • Israel, meanwhile, has been so concerned by what it calls Iran's "military entrenchment" in Syria and shipments of Iranian weapons to Hezbollah that it has conducted hundreds of air strikes in an attempt to thwart them.

Edited excerpts from the debate

Question: what are the implications of withdrawal of US from Syria?

  • Invasion by Turkey: Turkey says that it wants to establish a peaceful corridor along the Syrian border so that it can build housing for two million Syrian refugees to relocate them inside Syria. Turks, actually have been planning to enter Syria to flush out the PKK, a Kurdish terrorist organization. Under this pretext, Turkey is interested in the annexure of the northern Syria actually.
  • Prolongation of Syrian Civil War: Turkish invasion will be met with Kurdish resistance and there will be another flare-up which will further disturb the already disturbed area. Now Americans want Turkey to be in a quagmire (Vietnam-sort of) so that Turkey to get embroiled not only with Kurds but other Syrian elements including Syrian Government which is waiting to take over entire Idlib area.
  • Rejuvenation of Islamic state: Turkey has been asking for the safe zone both with Russia and USA. Russians were willing to listen to President Erdogan while Americans were not in a way to concede Turkish demands as they were not in mood to abandon their allies, Syrian kurds. Now with the withdrawal of US, the Iran, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Russia combine will in a help rejuvenating the Islamic State. There are ISIS fighters on the other side of the border of the Syrian Kurds and Europeans or Americans are not ready to take them as ISIS prisoners.
  • Russian Role in Syria: With the exit of US forces a larger role has been carved out for Russia to play for the stability of Syria and the Arab region.

Question: Kurds who have been fighting along the American troops to wipe out ISIS from the region. US has left them alone and what is going to the dynamics of the region?

  • Regime change in Arab region was the part of the American foreign policy. Syria was part of that regime change policy that US had been implementing whether it is Arab spring or followings of Arab spring in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen and rest of the Arab. US is looking for military bases throughout the world and not foothold on the ground. President Trump is not implementing his personal policy but the policy of deep state of instability and fragmenting Syria. Americans have betrayed Kurds ten times since World War I.
  • Both Turks and Americans are partners in crime in the eyes of Syrians as both are the occupational and unwanted forces. They have not been invited by the Syrian government unlike Russia and Syrian Government has been trying to push them out.
  • Kurd has been an integral part of Syria. When Turkey was fighting against Kurds Syria has received thousands of Kurds as refuges and gave them citizenship. Kurds have been subjugated at the hands of Turkey. Now Turkey created this as an excuse to create a neutral zone to bring the Syrian refugees and keep them there as they always wanted to annex the northern part of Syria.
  • The day American joined hands with Kurds they did their ethnic cleansing. They allowed in a way one village of Kurds surrounded by 100 villages of Arabs. Arabs were not allowed to come back to their villages or farmland because Americans were doing ethnic cleansing there as this portion of Syria has 30% of Syrian oil, natural resources and agricultural business. America tried to create an enclave and Turkey joined them in the invasion of Syria and also allowing the infiltrators to come from Turkey and settle there. Now Turkey felt that America is creating an enclave for Kurds and Turkish interest will be sabotaged anytime and America will be like a stab in the back. Now Kurds will be used to fight Turks in entire Syria and relations of Turkey with European countries will deteriorate. The Turkish people in European countries have therefore risen to criticize the partial pull out of America from Syria.

Question: What prompted President Trump to move US troops out of Syria?

  • Fulfill Election Promises: President Trump has promised people of US that US troops will not be allowed to wage and fight other countries wars. He later introduced America First doctrine. He promised to bring back US troops from Afghanistan and Syria. He is just fulfilling his election promise and eying re-election in 2020.
  • To put Turkey in a quagmire so that it will fight against Kurds in entire Syria now.
  • Trump does not want a war with Iran this time.

Question: What role Russia will play in Syria now?

  • Greater Role for Russia in Syria:
    • Russia is now seen as a dependable ally and has successfully carved good relations with Iran, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Jordan and Israel in the recent past. President Putin has been able to re-establish the credibility and legitimacy of Russian interest and stakes in the region.
    • They are taking serious steps in bringing the stability and their insistence on the Syrian constitutional committee to work for a new constitution which will involve all the groups in Syria. Though Bashar-al-Asad was quite reluctant but Russia has been quietly pushing this idea to Syria
  • Emerged as Security Provider to Gulf Region:
    • Russia has come up with the security proposal to provide security to Gulf countries and this is being discussed not only with Iran but also Saudi-Arabia, an old US ally.
    • To resolve Yemen crisis, Russia has come up with proposal through Iranians and also some direct proposals to Yemen.
    • Russians have started many rounds of talks in Kazakhstan and many other areas in Russia too. After being invited by Bashar-al-Asad in the fight against ISIS, Russia has actually brought stability in the country.
    • Now the countries are looking towards Russia instead of USA to manage several conflicts within their border regions. So Russia is going to play an important role notwithstanding the American interest in Syria.

Question: Russia has its domestic economy crippling and other problems others at home. Do you think that Russia has the bandwidth to take on and try to stabilize the entire region?

  • The main cause for the war on Syria was that America wanted no foothold of Russians in Syria. America wanted Russia to remove its military Bases from Syria which have been there for more than forty years.
  • Russia said no to this and Americans started all-out war again the Syrian Government and Russians came to their help in 2015 and saved the government from falling. They have been playing a major role in stabilizing the region.
  • Russia recognized that the tool of terrorism should be eliminated from the region and therefore Russia is filling the vacuum of United States in west Asian region and have an upper hand in the foreign policy decisions of many of the countries in the region. Countries now trust Russia than America even when Russia has some domestic problems like crippled economy. America goes to the area, invades it, creates the anarchy and then tells the local and international parties to handle the situation and leaves the area.

Question: What are the implications of US forces exit going to have on Israel?

  • It has not only made Israel uneasy but Iran too due to imbalance of power in the region with the incursion of Turkey in northern Syria.
  • Iranian Foreign Minister even telephoned President Erdogan not to enter Syria and create further instability in the country and the region.
  • Many lawmakers in America said that this decision will benefit Russia, Iran and Syrian government and it will rejuvenate the ISIS.
  • Victory for Iran because the Americans were with the Israel and now Hizbullah, Syria, Iran,Iraq and Russia would be forming the Persian side axis to fight the Syrian war and other conflicst in the region. This will make Israel tizzy.

What are the implications of this decision on India?

  • India is having its own problems as India is dependent on the region for its energy security apart from its nationals living in several countries there. There could be a lot of turmoil for them and therefore any further escalations in Middle East are a concern for India.
  • India should friendly counsel to all these countries in the involved in the Syrian war. India does not want any conflagrations in the region.

Question:

With the partial exit of US troops from Syria, Turkey has started military campaign in northern Syria which can lead to further conflagrations in the Arab region. In this context what are the concerns for India and also suggest some ways to mitigate them?

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