DEBATE / SYRIA – Race for Syria’s east

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Mainstream media has recently revealed that the United States and Russia have reached a ceasefire deal for southern Syria. Two states which “officially” aren’t at war against each other are negotiating peace deals in a sovereign country, while directly supporting opposite sides.

International law and state sovereignty has been absent for a long time in Syria by now.  Major powers are contributing to further complicate the conflict, which are having disastrous consequences to people who have once lived there peacefully.

In the east of Damascus governorate, the USA have set-up a military base, in al-Tanf (close to the border of Jordan and Iraq), to “train and equip” Syrian militias for the fight against the Islamic State. Their goal was to reach the Iraqi border and prevent Iraqi Shiite militias to cross over and break the siege of Deir ez-Zor in the east. To protect the al-Tanf base, coalition air force has bombed Syrian army convoys in the area. Bashar al-Assad, since june 2017, responded by encircling the American base, and reached the Iraqi border, thus making it impossible for the American supported rebels to attack the Islamic-State.

As consequence to this new status-quo, Putin and Trump reached a deal during the G20 meeting (Hamburg, July 2017 – which was prepared months ago) for a cease-fire in the South. In the south, Syrian forces will continue to fight the remaining rebels, but will now be able to divert forces to the East, and perhaps relieve Deir ez-Zor (if that’s actually what the Syrian government wants at the moment).

Presidents Trump and Putin are deciding who will win what in Syria. Both parties have set up bases in the west, south and north. What’s remaining is the east and Deir ez-Zor where the city is divided, and tens-of thousands of civilians and government allied forces are besieged and encircled by the Islamic State.

Raqqa will soon fall to the Syrian Democratic Forces (mainly Kurdish forces) supported by the US. Russia’s intervention has stabilised the north, where Bashar al-Assad’s forces are looking eye-to-eye against the Al-Nusra Front in Idlib and other Salafist groups. Many of whom have been bussed there from Aleppo and Damascus.

What’s the endgame in the East? In what capacity will the ever-expanding US bases remain inside Syria? What is this if not the partition of a country?

 

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Noel Daniel Vig

Political Scientist-Director of The Maghreb and Orient Courier Editions

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