Syria: different Protagonists and objectives

A new phase of the Syrian crisis was triggered by the Turkish intervention in the north of Syria. While there are many reasons for this move from the Turks, it very quickly ended the dream of a Kurdish State, which has been floated recently. There was also a PR aspect in the move to engage the terrorists directly; from a Turkish Government that has been accused of facilitating IS by allowing it to cross the Turkish-Syrian border.

In addition, a Turkish military presence in Syria deals Turkey into any agreement or post-conflict solution increasing its influence in the region. Ironically, a similar model to Turkish military presence in Syria has been one of the major goals for the US in the region over the last five years.

In the meantime, the Russo-American agreement in Syria has managed to protect the framework of a political solution and saved it from collapsing. However, while the priority for the international players has been to save the framework for a political solution, violence on the ground has been escalating.

There are clearly various protagonists in Syria with varying agendas and objectives. On the surface, the recent American strike that targeted the Syrian Army appears to be the Americans want to be the only heroes by freeing the city of Raqqa from ISIS. Much the same way it did in Iraq and its role in liberating the city of Mosul.

When you dig a bit deeper, it seems that there is a split in the US administration, as some believe that a solution in Syria should be the first priority of the incoming President. This group feel that Obama has no capital or influence left to negotiate with and any deal he and his Secretary of State, John Kerry can negotiate will be compromised and full of concessions to the Russians and Assad. Such a deal would limit an incoming President who would have to deal with the consequences. For this reason, there is an argument that an agreement in Syria is one for the next President.

The contradicting policies of the countries involved in the Syrian crisis may well postpone any comprehensive agreement. Nevertheless, the current escalation should not minimize the importance of retaining the framework, even without agreement, as it is a clear point of reference that all parties can look to when the situation is spiraling out of control.

On one hand the US is keen to play a military role in liberating the city of Raqqa. On the other, Turkey is seeking to play a key role in a political solution through its military intervention in Syria. Having these forced on them could result in compromises that undermine any political solution.

Dr. Amer Al Sabaileh