Deciding Syria’s future

Deciding Syria’s future
The heads of state of Russia, Turkey and Iran are slated to hold a summit to discuss the future of the Syrian conflict. Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President..

The heads of state of Russia, Turkey and Iran are slated to hold a summit to discuss the future of the Syrian conflict.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Erdogan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani are scheduled for a meeting in Turkey. There will no representative from Syria.

Background

Over the span of several centuries, Syria, which was at the forefront of the Islamic Caliphate witnessed multiple invasions and occupations. The Romans to the Crusaders and the Turks have tried to gain control of the region.

In 1946, the modern state of Syria was born when it got its independence from France. A country of fertile plains, high mountains and deserts, it is home to diverse ethnic and religious groups, including Kurds, Armenians, Assyrians, Christians, Druze, Alawite Shia and Arab Sunnis. The majority of Muslim population in Syria is made up of Arab Sunnis.

The Syrian Civil War has been going on since 2011. It began during the Arab Spring protests and due to resentment towards the government of President Bashar al-Assad. The war is being fought by several factions: the Syrian government and its allies, a loose alliance of Sunni Arab rebel groups (including the Free Syrian Army), the majority-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Salafi jihadist groups (including al-Nusra Front) and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), with a number of countries in the region and beyond being either directly involved, or rendering support to one or another faction.

The United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, has been at the center of all efforts to bring the parties to the negotiating table and put an end to the war. Previous rounds were held between 23rd February to 3rd March 2017; 23rd March to 31 March 2017; 15th May to 19th May 2017 and 10th July to 14th July, 2017. The eighth round of negotiations concluded on December 14th, 2017 ended in a stalemate with lack of progress.

 

Analysis

On April 4th, 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Erdogan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will be holding a summit to discuss Syria’s future. The meeting will take place in the Turkish capital.

The three parties are currently supporting the opposite sides of the conflict. Russia’s leader Putin and Iranian President Rouhani have both been enthusiastic supporters of the regime. In contrast, Erdogan has repeatedly called for the ouster of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. In addition, Turkey has also supported Syrian rebel forces. The matter is further complicated as in January 2018, Turkey launched a military operation in Syria in a bid to drive out YPG rebels. This particular faction is considered a key ally in the fight against ISIS and has gotten the support of Washington in the past. The three countries have worked together before despite their different positions.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is presently in Turkey for the ground-breaking ceremony for a Russian-made nuclear power plant being built on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast at Akkuyu. It is also an effort to thaw the tense ties shared by the two countries in the recent times.

There will be no representative from Syria attending the event.

Experts have expressed their skepticism over the upcoming meeting. An analysis by CNN notes, “Syria's three dominant forces -- Turkish-backed rebels, US-backed Syrian Kurds and the regime supported by Iran and Russia -- have backers with totally opposed agendas. Turkey wants to defeat the Kurds. The regime wants to defeat the rebels Turkey is backing, and keep the US out. And the US wants to defeat Iranian and regime ambitions in the region, while also keeping Russia in check.”

Assessment

Our assessment is that without the presence of a Syrian representative, the summit is unlikely to yield any tangible results with regards to the Syrian conflict. Additionally, there are many factions with multiple agendas within Syria and there isn’t one clear cut solution to address all the problems in the embattled region. 

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