United States Launches New Military Strategy in Syria
Due to the increasingly successful destruction of the various terrorist organizations operating in Syria that are supported by the United States and the Persian Gulf monarchies, Washington has begun to pursue a new strategy. On the one hand, the Russian Air Force and the Syrian Arab Army have contributed greatly to military successes against the terrorists. On the other hand, they have continued to categorically reject any participation of the pro-American terrorist organizations operating in northern Syria and at the borders of Turkey and Iraq (al-Nusra, Jaish al-Fatah, Islamic Front, Free Syrian Army, etc.) in the negotiation process. Since the Russian Air Force has mainly bombed areas controlled by these organizations rather than those controlled by the Islamic State terrorist organization, the West seriously fears that its plans might be blown up in the near future.
Thus, on the night of January 23, US special forces took control of the Rmeilan airfield in the northern province of Hasaka which is controlled by Kurdish rebels. Attack helicopters were deployed immediately after the arrival of US special forces. The Pentagon plans to widen the runway in order to support military transport aircraft which can supply ordinances and ammunition. This logistics center will be used to support the militants of the so-called moderate opposition.
The US’ plans are much wider than mere support for allies. They include a permanent military presence in order to control this strategic center between Syria, Turkey, and Iraq. If US forces secure this foothold, they will be able to continually stimulate long-standing conflict in northern Syria as well as manipulate proxy actors in Turkey and Iraq. In the long-term perspective, this could also affect the creation of an independent Kurdistan.
However, there are two potential enemies which might interfere in these plans of the US. These are Turkey and Russia.
The town of Kamishl, which is controlled by the Syrian army and could be used by Russian troops to monitor the Syrian-Turkish border, is 80 km far from Rmeilan. Previously, Turkey acted against Russian presence at the border as it undermined Turkey’s regional interests in securing the corridor from Iraq through which counterfeit oil was transported. Turkey also intended to conduct a direct invasion of this territory. Earlier, the USA provoked Turkey to attack Russian bombers, as the original plan was intended to escalate the conflict between Russia and Turkey up to the point of military confrontation. However, Moscow’s reaction was swift and shocked both Turkey and the United States. Russia immediately introduced economic sanctions and began supporting the Kurdish opposition in Turkey.
It is significant that the United States has officially supported the Kurds in Syria and Iraq, supplying weapons to them without worrying about the fact that they could be used in Turkey. In northern Iraq as well, US-backed Turkmen united with Kurdish Peshmerga troops to fight against ISIS. The United States may attempt to build a similar alliance in northern Syria. However, since Turkey is supposed to support Turkmen in Syria and Iraq in accordance with pan-Turkism concept promoted by Ankara, there is the possibility of tensions between Ankara and Washington. In addition, the struggle of the Kurds against the current regime in Turkey could also lead to aggravation over US support for the Kurds.
No one expected that Russia would intervene so actively in the Syrian conflict as it did, just as the United States did not expect Russian airstrikes to be so intense and efficient. Now, the new US stronghold in the region might be considered to be part of terrorist activity, and therefore could become the target of Russian troops. Even if the rest of the pro-Western terrorist groups will be taken under the wing of the US military, they would still be targets for bombing since Moscow does not recognize them as a “political opposition.” For this reason, the United States will be compelled to warn the Russian operational headquarters in Syria of its actions.
The direct collision of Russian and US special forces cannot be excluded given such tense circumstances. Moreover, without air support, US special forces barely stand a chance given their reliance upon support by other types of military units and intelligence networks. In contrast to American troops, Russian special forces are more effective autonomously. Any US military losses would spark extensive political debate in the US on the deployment of its troops on the ground. Although all of this scenario can be used to demonize Russia, it is unlikely that Washington, given these conditions, will decide to further conflict with Moscow.
The paradox remains that the goal of the United States and Russia of destroying of ISIS is the same on the official, formal level, but they seriously disagree on other issues.
Nevertheless, the US is not the main enemy for Russia in the region.
In contrast to the “moderate opposition” represented by the various gangs and groups that support the US and the EU, ISIS is the main actor which is fighting against anyone and everyone involved in the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. The Islamic State has no chance of participating in the negotiation process since all sides recognize it as a terrorist organization. In this situation, it is profitable for Russia to ensure that ISIS remains in Syria as long as possible, as its existence justifies all military presence and operations in the region.
In addition, the USA will be unexpectedly surprised if Ankara and Moscow will be able to solve their issues and begin to coordinate their policies in Syria. Although this is unlikely in the near future, it is possible in select circumstances with covert diplomacy.
At the same time, Iran can actively restart its policy in the region. Since the lifting of sanctions, its status, role and opportunities have and will continue to increase significantly. The coordinative correction between Moscow, Tehran, and Damascus (with the participation of Lebanese Hezbollah) not only significantly strengthens the position of Bashar al-Assad and the legitimate Syrian government, but also promotes coordination for the joint development of Russia and Iran’s strategic plan in the region.