The situation in Syria and Iraq and prospects for their development
Material posted: Publication date: 16-10-2017

The successful operation of government forces in Syria and Iraq against ISIS and other radical Islamist groups by the end of 2017 is welcome, however, to talk about the imminent victory over the jihadists and their ultimate elimination as terrorist organizations would be premature. The situation in Syria and Iraq remains complex and should recognize that the regimes in Damascus and Baghdad are not yet able to consolidate their society and are still largely dependent on foreign military and other assistance.

As you know, the governmental troops of Syria and Iraq has been significantly weakened during civil wars and the decisive factor in their offensive against ISIL militants and "Jabha al-Nusra" were military and other assistance by international coalitions and individual States, and foreign non-state actors.

Basic financial and material assistance to the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria comes from Iran. Currently fighting on the side of Syrian government forces involved military, the revolutionary guards of Iran, the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah, Iraqi Shiite militias "Hashd al-SHAABI", as well as volunteers and mercenaries from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen.

In the North-East with Syria, ISIS militants grapple is also formed under the auspices of the United States "Democratic Alliance" (militia from among Kurds, Sunni Arabs and Syrian Christians). Force Western coalition and US special forces provide them with firepower and logistical support.

Included in the Northern areas of Syria under the pretext of fighting the terrorists the Turkish military presence focused on punitive operations against the Syrian Kurds and the militants "Jabha EN-Nusra" and the Islamic state, the Turkish authorities prefer to negotiate their relocation and division of their zones of influence.

From 30 September 2015 in Syria have started to act and armed forces (VKS, Navy, special forces of military police, engineer, military advisors and specialists). Recently reported on the mercenaries to the number of Russian private military companies. As originally stated, Russian military aid to Damascus by the state is directed only against known international terrorist groups.

Achieved 27 February 2016, at the initiative of Russia the Agreement on cessation of hostilities between the government forces and the armed opposition, as well as later in may 2017 a Memorandum on the establishment in Syria of areas of de-escalation allowed is mainly to stop the internecine civil war in this country, to prevent an impending humanitarian catastrophe and focus on the fight against ISIS. The militants "Jabha an-Nusra" and other, smaller, groups of radical Islamists have moved to the province of Idlib and while active hostilities are not. Allegedly, the Turkish authorities intend to negotiate with the Islamist leaders about the termination of their armed resistance and connecting them to the future peace process.

As expected, the release of the jihadists of the strategically important city of Mosul in Northern Iraq and the gradual ousting of ISIL militants from the country has not yet brought peace and tranquility to the country of Iraq. The fundamental contradictions between the major ethno-religious groups in Iraqi society remain. The Arab-Sunni and Kurdish minorities still do not trust the Central Iraqi government. They believe that Baghdad is pursuing a sectarian policy in the interests of the Arab-Shiite leadership and the Iranian ayatollahs, does not allow to create a genuine coalition government. After the expulsion of ISIL fighters from Sunni areas of Iraq, Shiite non-governmental teams "Hashd al-SHAABI" there is carried out a punitive operation and Stripping of the settlements, there are kidnappings, extrajudicial killings, etc. crimes. The United Nations has repeatedly expressed its concern about this.

25 September 2017 in Iraqi Kurdistan and surrounding areas with Kurdish population held a referendum on independence for Kurdish region. With a rather high voter turnout of over 90% voted for independence of Iraqi Kurdistan. The Central government and certain neighbouring States (Iran, Turkey) did not recognize the outcome of this referendum and tried to provide diplomatic, military-political, economic and other pressure on Erbil. The domestic political situation in and around Iraq has again sharply escalated.

International experience in combating radical Islamist groups shows that, figuratively speaking, out of the bottle the Genie of terrorism to drive them back very difficult. Created with the direct participation of foreign intelligence services and various non-governmental organizations (Islamic funds) al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Boko Haram, "Al-Shabab", LIH, "Jabha EN-Nusra" and dozens of other terrorist organizations with the ideology of radical Islam, as a rule, adapted to direct military impact on them from the outside, go to the guerrilla and clandestine warfare and continue on a sustained basis constitute a terrorist threat to regional and international security. Giving control over certain cities, rural settlements and areas, the militants seep to other areas and even countries, shave beards, change documents, go underground, cleverly disguised among civilians, some of them are replaced by the names of their organizations black flags on the green, joins the ranks of so-called armed opposition to the ruling regimes. A constant flow of new members through the recruitment of fighters from among local population and jihadists from around the world enables terrorist organizations to replenish losses in manpower and continued financial flows Wahhabi funds, the money coming from the sale of drugs, illegal trade in weapons, Museum artefacts, petroleum products create financial and material resources to continue the armed struggle. Many who survived the battles, the fighters returned to countries from which they came for Jihad in Syria and Iraq and create a new so-called recruiting centres and sleeper cells of terrorists. Periodically the world becomes a witness to another bloody raids and attacks of the jihadists with numerous victims.

Preservation of the combat capability of terrorist groups, Islamist and their survivability contributes to the ongoing process of Islamization of the societies of individual countries and whole continents. The events of the "Arab spring" 2011-2017 in the middle East was accompanied by not only the Arab revolutions, the change of the ruling regimes and elites, but the collapse of the ideology of Arab socialism or Arab nationalism. Instead of the expected in Washington and Brussels, the democratization of Arab totalitarian regimes according to Western patterns there has been a breakdown of a number of countries (Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen). The civil war weakened these States, replaced the previously dominant ideas of BA'athism and pan-Arabism came the ideas of radical Islam and pan-Islamism. Primitive Islam of the 7th century ad was once again in demand individual terrorist leaders and the latter-day caliphs in the struggle for power, resources and territory. Local and external actors skillfully played the region's continuing ethnic and religious contradictions and radical Wahhabi Islam as it became the basis of the protest ideology not only in the middle East, but around the world. Millions of ordinary people were in thrall to this ideology, and aided by new information technologies. Moreover, it was succeeded to ignite, and a long-standing feud between the major sects of Islam: Sunnis and Shiites. Syria, Iraq and Yemen for a long time turned into polygons of the Sunni-Shiite wars which have been fuelled, on the one hand, the Gulf monarchies, Jordan and Turkey, and Iran.

It can be assumed that the military defeat of ISIS in Syria and Iraq will not lead to a speedy normalization of the situations in these countries, because all the internal contradictions and differences remain, and different approaches of external players towards resolving these ethno-religious conflicts. Most likely, Syria will long remain divided into several States with the presence of foreign troops. In these circumstances, will be problematic returning from abroad 8 million refugees, rebuilding war-torn infrastructure and human settlements, Economics and agriculture.

Relatively better is Iraq, where much will depend on the ability of the Central government to initiate the establishment of a genuine coalition of legislative and Executive power. Without equal participation in political and economic life of the state, Sunni Arabs and Kurds of Iraq are unlikely to be preserved as a unified state. Artificially created a Kingdom on the ruins of the Ottoman Empire in the years 1921-26 Iraqi state proved to be unsustainable, and today is experiencing yet another crisis. The desire of the Iranian leadership more and more to influence domestic and foreign policy of the government of the Arab-Shiite majority in Baghdad provokes the division of the country arbitrarily into three parts: the Shiite South, Sunni center and Kurdish North.

Stanislav Ivanov

Tags: war , Syria , Israel , Iraq