What will Happen if Russia Left Syria?

What will Happen if Russia Left Syria?

Wednesday, 13 December, 2017 - 12:15
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad.

Assuming that Russia's statement about its intention to withdraw most of its troops from Syria is true, such a decision will most likely mix the deck all over again for this country, which appears to be on its way out of the war.

Ironically, Russia played a negative role that enabled both the Assad regime and Iran to take control, having previously failed to defeat the revolutionary forces and terrorist groups.

Now, Moscow has a "positive" role in balancing the forces, precisely in limiting Iran's activity and its militias on the ground.

According to the Russian news agency, President Vladimir Putin was clear when he said: "I have taken a decision: a significant part of the Russian troop contingent located in Syria is returning home to Russia."

Whether Russia gets out of Syria or reduces the number of its troops, its influence will diminish. Here, the more likely possibility is that Russia's decision will be in Iran's favor.

Al-Khamenei regime seeks near-total control of Syria, with the exception of Kurdish or neighboring Turkey areas.

Its influence can be noticed through its militia centers across the Syrian borders with Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, and of course in Damascus.

It is not clear what Russia's motives are for announcing this partial withdrawal. Is it the result of disagreements with Iran over control and management of the situation on the ground, or is it part of the truce brokered with the United States, which also has a limited presence in Syria?

It is normal for Assad's allies to disagree on the post-war era. Iran wants to dominate the area in order to to pressure and defy the US.

Russia, however, wants to establish a balanced situation with the United States in a number of areas of conflict around the world.

Both motives may coincide but can only be temporarily achieved, as was the case during the war.

Both countries entered Syria under the pretenses of fighting terrorism, but the battles which their forces fought were directed at the Syrian armed opposition. Only US-led coalition focused on fighting ISIS.

Moscow has no interest in protecting and supporting Iranian forces, which are made up of tens of thousands of multi-national militants recruited by Tehran from different countries.

How will Iran return Russia's military favor? Technically, it is offering nothing.

Reduction of Moscow's military presence will weaken the Syrian regime and Iranian militias. Is the Kremlin willing to abandon its Syrian ally and sacrifice everything it did?

All of this will depend on a regional and US plan, if any, against Iran's influence in Syria itself.

If there is any sense of danger from Iran's expansion and a desire to confront it, Syria is the perfect trap for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

Iran's militias will not be able to settle in a hostile environment, especially if peace negotiations fail. As long as Assad, and Iran, are hampering any solution that brings the regime together with the opposition, negotiations will not succeed.

The partial withdrawal of Russian troops and failure of the recent negotiations in Geneva, could be developed into two major elements that can pressure Assad regime and Iran to reconsider and make realistic concessions.

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