Syria as a bargaining chip

Syria as a bargaining chip
Comment: Syria has lost its sovereignty and has become a bargaining chip used by world and regional powers to achieve their interests, writes Basheer al-Baker.
3 min read
05 Oct, 2015
Syrian sovereignty will not easily be restored, writes Basheer al-Baker [al-Araby al-Jadeed]

Syria lost its sovereignty when Iran took over internal security affairs after the start of the Syrian uprising in 2011, but Iran's involvement at that stage was shrouded in complete secrecy.

Iran exported its expertise in repression that it acquired in quelling its 2009 Green Revolution to the Syrian regime.

Leaked information at the time suggested that Iran had established operation rooms in major Syrian cities such as Damascus, Homs and Daraa to survey and film demonstrators and advise Syrian security service on how to apprehend them.

     Iran exported its expertise in repression that it had acquired in quelling its 2009 Green Revolution

This way, the leaders of the peaceful coordination committees were eliminated and second and third-line activists were arrested by the regime.

Iranian assistance included Chinese-made electronic surveillance tools that were used to arrest many activists in isolated internet cafes.

However, as the revolution grew, Iranian involvement became more direct, with Tehran sending military advisers, weapons, militias - and even taking over the Syrian president's personal security detail, according to informed sources.

Iranian involvement also included dabbling in the country's economy, providing loans and financial assistance - and observers suggest that Iran has bought entire suburbs in Damascus and Homs.

This might explain Iran's alleged insistence on moving the Shia residents of the towns of al-Fouaa and Kefraya in the Idlib countryside in the north to Zabadani on the outskirts of Damascus, and moving Zabadani's Sunni residents to the Idlib countryside.

This clearly sectarian bargain seems to be part of Iran's plan for the area stretching from the Syrian coast to the south of Lebanon.

Russia enters the fray

Russia has never been far from these bargains, as its support for the Syrian regime has not ceased over the past four years.

The Syrian regime now owes Russia billions of dollars that the Russians know will not be paid back any time soon, but will translate to military bases in Syria and an increased security presence.

However, the Russians have recently started using Syria as a bargaining chip in their negotiations with the US, Turkey and Saudi Arabia - while they exert their own influence in Syria through their allies in the armed opposition.

     Syria has become a bargaining chip open to any and all investors

The bargaining between Moscow and Washington over Syria came to the fore during the United Nations General Assembly last week, as Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin discussed Bashar al-Assad, who is Russia's most valuable bargaining chip.

The two presidents disagreed on Assad on the first day of meetings. The bargaining continued on the second day, however it appears that Russia is not quite ready to sell Assad yet; waiting for the best price.

Russia has many other bargaining chips in Syria and as good oligarchs, Moscow will utilise the Syrian crisis for years to come, and make use of both Assad and the Islamic State group.

The most interesting leak to emerge from the meeting between Obama and Putin was the US request for barrel bombs to end "in return for something" being granted to Russia.

Syria has become a bargaining chip open to any and all investors and even if the war ends sometime soon, the divisions and ruptures created over the past four years will continue to thrive.

For Syria to return to being an independent and sovereign country, it will require far more than a war of liberation.

pinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.