Middle East specialist Taimur Dvidar said the upcoming meeting in Astana on the Syrian crisis would be a turning point. The Syrian opposition changed its rhetoric that now concedes a partnership with the Russian side. 


News Front: What should we expect from Astana format of the Syrian settlement?


Taimur Dvidar: There in the East they always say – the devil is in the details. I offer a little bit of details on Astana.


We observed how the Syrian opposition constantly refused or threatened with refusal to come to Astana, citing the fact that Russia does not fulfill its obligations as a mediator in the pressure on the Assad regime to stop the violations of the truce. And we know that Damascus is without water, it recaptures those areas that supply water. Many experts, both from the West and East told that the meeting on January 23 won’t be held though. 


And why now the Syrian opposition agree to arrive in Astana under the influence of Turkey – an ally of Russia in the settlement of the conflict in Syria? The partnership between Russia and Turkey in Syria could be called as a kind of union: both military, we have seen the joint participation, and political. On the part of the Syrian opposition is chosen a leader of the group, which is considered as a terrorist – it’s “Army of Islam”, they are mainly in the area of Damascus. From the official Damascus would be Jaafari – a politician. And here begin the nuances.


Russia has made concessions by agreeing to such opposition’s representative. The opposition has agreed, in spite of the reproaches, the representative from Damascus is a politician, although it was assumed that only the military will participate from the both sides. We also call attention to the fact that the political wing of the main group Al-Riyadh of the Syrian opposition, which is not on the field – they don’t control much there. They will be there just as experts. Of course, this politician also represents armed forces, but do not forget that on the territory of Syria there is Iran also, a Shiite group Hezbollah and other Shiite groups. This is a “red rag to a bull” for the Syrian opposition.


Therefore, it seems to me that if it would be add up all the way planned by the best political minds of Russia and Turkey, to cross Syrian forces from both sides, and send them to fight the ISIS (banned in Russia) it would be the first victory.


Of course, some concessions should be made. Well, let us assume that pro-Iranian and Iranian groups would be removed from Syria. There’s a conflict between Moscow and Tehran. It’s obvious worldwide that Moscow is a boss, which takes decisions on Syria almost single-handedly, but Tehran says they are the ones who are doing this. The second success would be if there was a change in the direction of a political settlement. Because the militants really control the situation. For the first time – this is the third peace initiative of Russia in Syria – commanders will meet in Astana. So, this is a very big political victory. Because it became possible only after Aleppo.


NF: In this regard, senator’s McCain statement was quite interesting. He said that Russia today is a key player in the Middle East, and we – the United States, are only allowed to peep into the keyhole. That is, Mr. De Mistura in Geneva may be out of work. 


T.D.: Absolutely correct. Yes, McCain is the instigator… it’s his political credo. It is the policy. Nevertheless, everything is going very interesting. Now I find it difficult to assume actions, I’m talking about the United States – we have heard Trump’s words, but we would also love to see some of the movements that will make the new American presidential administration in January. How they would react? In fact, 50% of success depends on this. 


McCain is  ironic, but the US role in the Middle East was very influential, so it remains. De facto, they have  more than 150 thousand soldiers there. The USA is a great country, and we can not write it off in the Middle East conflict. But after the collapse of the Soviet Union it is the first time when Russia reveals itself, its diplomacy, its army, its wisdom. And what is going to happen in Astana is the accumulated historical experience of Russia on the ability to negotiate with an opponent, although this time Russia acts as a moderator of reconciliation.


Pay attention to the reaction of the Syrian opposition. The rhetoric has changed dramatically. They look at us almost like on partners. They admit it. This achievement is very large. I would personally granted medals to Vladimir Putin, Sergei Lavrov and Sergei Shoigu if I were a functionary at the United Nations.



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