By Al Emid Author Journalist Broadcaster
The Glamourous Life of an Author
The recent downing of a Russian warplane by Turkish jets serves as a reminder of the complexity of the various conflicts currently underway in Syria: a civil war, two conventional wars and some more local skirmishes. Both Russia and Turkey say that Turkish F-16s shot down the Russian SU-24, an all-weather attack aircraft, in the Turkey-Syria border area on November 24.
Part of the complexity flows from the incredible number of opposing forces and conflicts and so in this post I will list many of them.
While many hesitated to use the phrase at the time, the Syrian civil war actually started in 2011 when rebel forces took up arms against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as a reaction to his crimes. According to some analyses, up to 1000 separate rebel groups opposed Assad at one time but later many of the groups merged.
Later, both ISIS and to a lesser extent Al-Qaeda have challenged the Syrian government after the civil war started.
The so-called ‘moderate rebels’ – in the way that observers often use the phrase – applies to those rebels fighting Assad or ISIS or both.
In August 2011, American President Barack Obama had openly called for Assad’s ouster, but hostilities in Syria have certainly given him a reprieve of indeterminate length. At this time, Assad shows no signs of leaving the scene and the United States and Russia disagree both on the future of Syria and the fate of Assad. Indeed, his fate appears to be one of the biggest choking points preventing a true alliance between the American-led anti-ISIS coalition and Russia.
Russia needs Assad to stay in the Presidential palace because it needs Syria for strategic reasons and could lose them in the event of a radical change in government, as would likely follow a forced departure by Assad. It also stands to leverage its participation as a way out of the isolation that followed the Ukraine adventure.
Moreover, Russia also fears jihadists from within its own territory who have become trained and radicalized by ISIS and might return home to cause trouble there.
Iran supports Syria and Assad and his government and to an extent opposes ISIS. However, Saudi Arabia opposes Assad and is nervous of Iran’s looming ascendancy in the region as a result of the recent nuclear treaty.
Saudi Arabia supports Syrian rebels while Iran supports Hezbollah fighters attempting to strengthen Assad’s very tenuous grip on power. Saudi Arabia categorically opposes any Russian effort to keep Assad in power and plans to boost aid to Syrian rebels if Assad does not soon head for the door and that appears an unlikely development at time of writing. It has participated in air strikes with the American-led coalition but currently has a greater concern about the mess in Yemen.
Britain opposes Assad, ISIS and Al Qaeda and backs moderate rebel groups and British Prime Minister David Cameron hopes to overcome Parliamentary opposition to increased involvement in Syria. As a part of the fallout from the Paris tragedies he stands likely to get that support next week.
France also backs moderate rebel forces and opposes both Assad and ISIS and has increased its bombing of ISIS targets as a result of the Paris tragedies
Qatar finances and equips anti-Assad groups and allows the coalition air forces to use its bases.
Turkey participates in the U.S.-led coalition, opposes ISIS and backs rebel forces in Syria. It allows the coalition to use its air bases and has permitted supply routes across its territory. It opposes and is opposed by some Kurdish factions who can be expected to demand autonomy when the time comes to work out a peace settlement.
The Turkmen who killed one of the two Russian pilots who ejected from the airplane (the other one escaped) are rebels from Syria’s ethnic Turkmen community, whose villages Turkey said had been bombed by Russian aircraft in recent weeks. Not surprisingly, the Turkmen opened fire at the crew as they tried to parachute to safety from the doomed warplane. Turkey has hotly and repeatedly protested Russia’s bombing of the Turkmen villages in Syria and complained that the Russian operations have complicated the possibility of creating a safe zone in northern Syria to protect civilians, as well as moderate rebels fighting Assad.
The killing of the Russian pilot by the Turkmen appears an act of revenge for Russia’s bombing of their territory.
Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan have little in common except for acceptance of refugees and a fear of the total number of them.
The complexity of these overlapping hostilities suggests that real true peace will be a long time in coming and that whenever the warring parties manage to find some accommodation, the peace time negotiations will be equally as complex as the sorting out the various forces in wartime.
Following almost a year of research, Al Emid’s fifth book entitled What You Need to Know About ISIS – Terror, Religion, War and the Caliphate and set for release by Quidne Press in early 2016 goes behind the news about ISIS and examines what might lie ahead. He has begun developing a follow-up book tentatively set for release later in 2016.