Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the US of having “no intentions of leaving” northeastern Syria, which coincides with a recent French military deployment there and heated rumors that the so-called Arab NATO might be the next to join the fray.
This agriculturally and energy-rich one-third of the Arab Republic is regarded as highly strategic real estate because of its natural endowments and its crucial geopolitical location that together make it a very sought-after position in the Mideast chessboard. The US has been occupying the region with more than 2000 troops and contractors spread across 20 separate bases alongside their Kurdish-led allies of the so-called “Syrian Democratic Forces”, and Washington’s representative to the UN Nikki Haley declared that America will remain in Syria until it accomplishes its three core objectives of responding to purported chemical weapons incidents, deterring the return of Daesh, and “containing” Iran.
Russia’s recognition of this troubling geopolitical reality comes as Moscow announced its regret that the recent American-led airstrikes on Syria might have made it more difficult to reach a long-sought “political solution” to the war and implies that the country’s northeast might become a stumbling block to further progress. The Kurds unilaterally declared the so-called “federalization” of what they refer to as “Rojava” in March 2016 but have since reportedly walked back their demands to the more mild “decentralization” of the region that they now more neutrally call “Northern Syria”. Nevertheless, it’s evident that the US has designs to turn whatever it is that the Kurdish-led SDF want to call the territory under their control and the system of administration that they run within it into a de-facto client state that’s strategically located at the crossroads of Turkey, Iraq, and the rest of Syria.
French resident Macron’s earlier deployment of his country’s special forces to the region in support of the Kurds and in order to thwart a Turkish military offensive against Manbij have further complicated the situation there, as has the talk that the Saudi-led GCC might get involved as well. As of now, however, nothing has been confirmed about this possible second-mentioned military mission, but it represents a Damocles’ Sword hanging over the heads of everyone in the Mideast. As relations between the US and Russia become more irreconcilable by the day, Syria inches closer and closer to what might become an “internal partition” along the Euphrates River’s so-called “deconfliction line” between both Great Powers.
Andrew Korybko is joined by Iyad Khaddour, Syrian political commentator based in the US, and Ammar E. Abou-Sarhan, Syrian political commentator based in Damascus.