Reprinted from To The Point Analyses
Russia -Turkey Row. The first time a NATO member has downed a Russian plane in a half-century.
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Part I -- Russia
The Russians may be the only party interested in the
long-term political stability of Syria. There is certainly no doubt that President Putin is more determined than Western leaders to act on the fact that the various so-called moderate parties standing against the Assad regime cannot work together, and that this fault cannot be corrected by enticements from the United States. For the Russians, this fact makes the Damascus government the only source of future stability.
Some might object that both Assad and Putin are dictators and thugs (by the way, thugs in suits in the U.S. government are all too common). However, this cannot serve as a serious objection. The only alternative to Damascus's victory is perennial civil war fragmenting the country into warlord zones. With the possible exception of Israel, this scenario is in no one's interest, although it seems that the leaders of in Washington and Paris are too politically circumscribed to act on this fact.
Part II -- U.S. and France
Thus, it would appear that neither the U.S. nor France really cares about Syria as a stable nation. Once the present military capacity of ISIS is eliminated, Washington and Paris may well clandestinely continue to support a low-level civil war against the Assad regime. In this effort they will have the help of Turkey, the Kurds and Israel. The result will be ongoing decimation of the Syrian population and fragmentation of its territory.
As if to justify U.S. strategy, President Obama, with French President Hollande by his side, recently boasted that the United States stood at the head of a "65-country coalition" fighting terrorism in Syria. However, this is a hollow claim. Most of these countries are coalition members in name only, and some of them, like Saudi Arabia and the Gulf state governments, play a double game. And then Obama dismissed Russia and Iran as "outliers" and "a coalition of two." Yet those two countries are the Syrian nation's best hope for future stability.
The fact is that U.S. policy in Syria has been a losing proposition from the beginning just because of its hostility to the Assad government. Despite its air campaign against ISIS, Washington has no ground component nor any answer to the political vacuum in Syria. Both missing parts are to be found in an alliance with Damascus.
Part III -- Turkey
It is not easy to explain Turkey's animosity toward Damascus. Prior to the civil war in Syria, the two countries had good relations. Then something changed. It may have been something as foolish as President Erdogan's taking personal offense against President Assad because the latter chose to heed the advice of Iran rather than Turkey at the beginning of the war. Whatever happened, it sent Ankara off on an anti-Assad crusade.
That anti-Assad mindset is probably the backstory to the recent reckless Turkish decision to shoot down a Russian warplane operating in support of Syrian government troops close to the Turkish border.
The Turks say that the Russian jet strayed into Turkish airspace. The Russians deny this. The Turks claim that they tried to communicate with the Russian plane to warn it away. When it did not respond, they destroyed it. Of late the Turkish Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, has said that Ankara "didn't know the nationality of the plane that was brought down ... until Moscow announced it was Russian."