Given how much has changed the situation in Syria for the last year, tempted to say that the new – 2017 – in terms of victory in the protracted war will be decisive. But you have to be an incorrigible optimist, and the government in Damascus is not to repeat past mistakes, to change priorities, not to drop a clanger in Idlib, find new allies and to disperse the old.
The war in Syria can be conditional (in this analysis is always a lot of conventions) to be divided into several major components, or vectors, which in this military-political geometries cross each other not far away in infinity, but here and now. Who will unravel this tangle – win. The only problem is that the ball is able to crush anyone.
Ideology and bread
“In 2017, it would be logical to expect from Bashar al-Assad, the phasing out of all programs on attracting to their side some not quite formatted allies. First, the Shiites”
Many Syrians resent when the reason and the main motive power of civil war, foreign commentators call the conflict between religious communities. Nevertheless, the opposition of a considerable part of the Sunni community from the rest of the world has been around for hundreds of thousands of Syrians – the daily reality. Academically too it is possible to accurately talk about how one of the most secular and tolerant countries in the Middle East was on the verge of destruction due to religious strife, but it happened – and it’s difficult to keep silent, even for reasons of propaganda. And not yet restored or created new principles of the relationship between communities, war in one form or another will continue.
Of course, religious strife is not the only reason for the confrontation that began six years ago. There is demographic factors, and external influences, and purely personal reasons of individuals, and even climatic conditions. But if in parallel with the continuation of hostilities, the government in Damascus will not begin to look for solutions to key problems within Syrian society – the war will continue indefinitely. Even if you knock with Syria all jihadists, they will find a way to come back and prove himself, and so-called moderates will continue to create a government in exile and other forms of pressure on Damascus.
A year ago seemed promising practices for reconciliation with the small settlements that have been dragged into a civil war because of the circumstances (“all shot, and I shot”), and the resettlement of large armed groups of various opposition hopelessly surrounded from positions to the North in Idlib province. In the first case, the tactic is justified even in relation to those cities and towns who have taken up arms consciously. But the practice of resettlement led to the creation of “parallel Syria” – the fortified and heavily armed region, almost no random people having the same transparent border with Turkey. What initially seemed to be a method of reconciliation has led to another factor of the split and substantial factor, not dogmatic religious or ideological-political. Thus, the share of all “moderates” gathered in Idlib, insignificant in comparison with the jihadists. And traditionally, the jihadists quickly crushes under other groupings in the power of unbridled aggression in the home.
Active struggle with the promotion of jihadism, radical Islam, blatant sectarianism on the terrorist database (call it what you want) is not conducted until now. The most negative role was played by who conducted three years ago talking about the fact that ISIS* and other – social phenomenon, almost purely Iraqi, and associated primarily with the protest of former members of the Baath party against the American occupation. But this is only partly true, and there is someone who used – still a big question. The Sunni masses in a number of cities and other settlements actively supported the way of life that offered them jihadists in the occupied territories, and blissful portrait of the “fighters anglosanksonskoy expansion” quickly turned black and purple tones, ending Mosul, Aleppo, “Noureddine al-Zinki” and monstrous scenarios executions. Now how to behave with these people. In Mosul, shooting at everything that moves, of course, is not our method. But the government in Damascus should take lessons from a simple fact: the former rural population living in major Syrian cities as a result of economic crisis and climate change, is rapidly losing the patina of civilization that fostered them “cannibalistic Assad dynasty” for half a century reign.
Now Damascus is trying to solve the basic task is to feed them and build them new housing. Recently, Bashar al-Assad has signed the budget for 2017 in nominal terms a record high. Where’s he gonna get the money – another story, but it is clear that, to a lesser extent they will go to the army, and more on social spending and reconstruction. This is a reasonable and humanly right move, but the war shook the foundations of Syrian society. This process was long, about 80 years, and the open and destructive confrontation, it was brought to its logical end. And it is not yet clear that Damascus, in the priority “to finish off the snake” or to create some kind of “new idea” for the population, divided into many groups, many lines.
Offensive for the sake of unification
At the end of November, three of the General staff of the Syrian, Russian and Iranian – have begun consultations on planning offensive operations against the big jihadi garrison in the province of Idlib. The situation there is, to date, is that reasoning about what a group is fighting for what and who is adjacent, has lost all relevance. All of 2016 such academic surveys were common entertainment in the expert community, but by the fall it became clear that all the brothers it’s time to row under one comb. A maximum concentration of jihadists and “moderate” on one square kilometer it is now in Idlib, and it should be reduced. In these series we’re going to stop to seek out the characters “good people”, demonstrating the “kitchen Fronde” against the policy of supporting the legitimate government.
After Aleppo, the Syrian army passed the phase when military actions are largely determined by political circumstances or the fact that they were given. Perhaps it took external pressure on the General staff or at least attempt to explain that in the middle East above Damascus somehow deliberately losing to their opponents and inevitably gets stabbed in the back. Inability to resist the anti-Assad propaganda in the foreign market have led to the loss of tempo attacks, unjustified thrashing between different objectives and, as a result, loss in 2015-2016, a few precious months. However, now the time is spent on the development of operations rather than internal disputes.
The second front will be the direction Palmira – raqqa. But if the PAL is more or less clear, to keep her LIH objectively you can not, then the liberation of Raqqa will have to coordinate with the Kurds – traditionally heavy partner, and even with the Americans, a new line of conduct which in the region is not yet visible. Will this involve increasing the Russian contingent is impossible to predict. It is possible that this measure is unnecessary and it is sufficient to use the capacity of the fleet and long-range aircraft directly from Russia.
And most importantly – for the Syrian army changed the basic principle of warfare. Now this is not a struggle separate groups of different ethnic, religious or political origin, and the struggle for the restoration of the integrity of the country, which already does not provide lists of “good” and “evil” opposition, and demands the unconditional subordination of the authorities of Damascus. This will automatically affect the changes in some purely military circumstances, such as the tactics of combat, the use of aircraft and artillery. In addition, the Syrian army has changed dramatically over the past year, and in parallel with the continuation of the war will be a process of further restructuring, in particular the formation of a new “numbered” parts, tightening of the militia to the level of professionals and the improvement of moral climate.
Americans, Turks, Saudis
Who is friends with whom and the war in Syria and Iraq In 2017, the nature of warfare will still depend on a number of external factors, but some vectors can be greatly affected. While it is impossible to describe what is the case of the new US administration will administer in the region. Mosul sooner or later they will take, or, more likely, razed to the ground along with those residents who have nowhere to go or no reason – a number of tribes do not tend to migrate into the desert. But how much is Donald trump ready to move the Marines or “federates” (to use the Roman terminology) on the ark or somewhere else. Rather, it will consistently support Israel than that will start to make sudden movements to unknown fronts, but again, the reservation is out of the realm of guesswork.
But what we can say with a high degree of certainty right now – the US will cease daily to provide petty pressure on Damascus and Moscow to terrorize the UN resolutions, emotional and – most importantly – unable to reconsider its position on financial and military support of certain parts of the armed opposition. Now the activity of the American intelligence community in the region has been reduced to the formation of a private tribal armies and communicate with leaders, and not – as before – the cobbling together of some of the United opposition, which could be a major player and at the front, and in politics. Stop financial and organizational assistance to the militants in one motion, despite the fact that the CIA and other mind and some time even to sabotage this decision (until the accumulated funds just won’t end).
“Only a colossal effort managed to prevent direct confrontation of the Turkish and Syrian forces near El-Baba, but everything is just beginning”
In this case, the center of influence on the armed groups finally moves in some countries of the Persian Gulf, “play” which is simultaneously harder and easier than with the Americans. Fat oil for decades, the Arab monarchies have convinced themselves that they are in all circumstances the most subtle of all the Europeans and Americans together, and who will not be deceived, to deceive, charm or buy. This view is often supported by European (and Russian) experts are in love with middle Eastern charm in all its guises – from sugary brutal Arabic to Turkish. But that is also the weakness of our Arab partners. They too believe in his trick and at the same time in their innocence of the Europeans, including Russian. So carry with them the game can and should be – they don’t look as scary as they were described in English literature.
A separate topic will remain Turkey, cooperation with which is on the Syrian track has already acquired the character of trading in the Istanbul fish market. The interests of Ankara at first glance seem obvious – the struggle with the Kurds, creating a buffer zone by the occupation of Syrian territory and Vatsyayana security guarantees. The reality is much more complicated and literally every paragraph brings to life a lot of additional sub-items, even the listing of which pull in thesis. In addition, our dear partner Recep Tayyip Erdogan often confuses the interests of Turkey as a state with its own interests, as the wool, or places them in the context of internal political contradictions. In such a situation, the Turks have seven Fridays in the week, and all of them sometimes festive.
Only a colossal effort managed to prevent direct confrontation of the Turkish and Syrian forces near El-Baba, but everything is just beginning. Another thing is that Turkish troops in a direct frontal collision was even worse than predicted, and the operation “shield of the Euphrates” stuck for six months. Yes, and it is still not clear which group the Turks in control, and some simply allow its territory to be used as a base (independently or at the request of the CIA). And we are talking about small even by the standards of Syria’s sector of the front where the overrated Turkish army can not cope with the situation of a town with mostly friendly people and simple terrain. The unraveling of this tangle of interests and circumstances in the background of the offensive in Idlib could become much more complex problem than a fascinating conversation with water sheikhs. And not difficult because of its insolubility and because of the huge number of actors and the unpredictability of their behavior. Equations with as many unknowns is able to bury any math.
Shia is not needed
What made the army of Syria with the help of Russian troops (infographic)In 2017, it would be logical to expect from Bashar al-Assad, the phasing out of all programs on attracting to their side some not quite formatted allies. First of all we are talking about Hezbollah or couple-three volunteer units from among the citizens of other countries. Not necessarily Shia, but even in the promotion of “moderate” (i.e. not really jihadists) Shia – alien and local – in the last couple of months turned into demons, and the rhetoric against them took almost racist. Even Western (not to mention the flood), the media in the last days of the battle for Aleppo has changed the target of criticism in one place saber-toothed Russian firmly took even more saber-toothed Shiites. Have agreed even before that, the Russian really good, they at least humanitarian corridors organized, fed and warm refugees, and Shia chasing civilians, all killing and hurting the Russian.
However, their own Shiite population in Syria has not been canceled. Surrounded in Idlib province and even from Raqqa have some of the largest Shiite settlements, which is not the first to survive without any help from the government army in a totally hostile environment. The same Hezbollah, not to mention the Shiite parts of the government army, will not rest until you withdraw from the siege of these cities. Only then Hizbollah will return to Lebanon, what will cause a surge of indignation on the part of Israel. Tel Aviv is beneficial to keep Hezbollah on the Syrian fronts by any means, and for this he will go to any measures. That is why the Russian-Israeli negotiations are always so weird and ambiguous, despite, it would seem that the presence of a natural common enemy. Israel is not interested in the collapse of Syria, but also Hezbollah side – worse.
That to Iran, he suffered very large losses in several serious operations over the past three years, but got a lot of experience. His interests in this war are not only practical and even understandable, but much more ideological than it might seem at first glance. The confrontation with the Gulf countries, with their ideology and religious practice is waitoriki and non-political character. And we must understand that Iran is still embroiled in a war in Yemen, with exactly the same ideological and political attitudes, and on both fronts it just will not go away. These conflicts are for Tehran almost a civilizational nature, and all other circumstances are the only elements of the immediate tactics.
In General, we can assume that the war in Syria will retain the same character as in 2016, but with the change in the geography and details of fighting. The tangle of contradictions is unlikely to be disentangled, moreover, some “threads” confused even more. Another thing is that in 2017 Damascus became the winner, and the total foreign background gradually began to change in his favor. But if it makes someone feel any better, only slightly. The government will be a new challenge – restoration of the destroyed state and the establishment of new social and interethnic relations.
Wait for the global Syrian settlement until it is too optimistic, even despite the fact that the big players have already started to think about the future of the regeneration of post-war Syria, and the fact that New year’s eve was a truce between government forces and the opposition. This is not the first agreement and, unfortunately, unlikely to last. And the fact that a number of opposition groups stressed their commitment to the ceasefire even in the case of terrorists (first of all, the notorious “al-Nusra”), which validates the careful assessment of the terrorists will remain part of the fighting outside of zavisimosti their desires or the desires of other players, thus several sections of the front ceasefire is just a temporary by definition. On the other hand, this approach will help the staff of Syria to concentrate on the terrorist areas, while not being distracted by the opposition, that will really help to reduce the distance to a lasting and comprehensive peace, under which some parties had taken dolgosrochnyi conomics, while others are simply destroyed, or weakened so that they no longer can lay claim to significant role. And the fact that part of the anti-Assad factions should be only a truce in order to regroup and gather strength, you can not even clarify: this originally come everything. Naive they don’t survive here, and the random long gone – not the first year of fighting.
* Organization in respect of which the court accepted entered into legal force decision on liquidation or ban the activities on the grounds stipulated by the Federal law “On countering extremist activity”