Last week, The United States and Russia agreed on a cease-fire that would involve all parts in the conflict – except #ISIS and al Nusra -- for an indefinite lapse of time. The agreement, though still standing at the moment I am writing this, seems to be close to collapse as Russia and the US are crossing accusations of not fulfilling their parts in the agreement.
The fact that both superpowers – that support opposing forces in Syria -- got to an agreement came as good news this week not only for Syria, but for the entire world. After more than 5 years of war and 300,000 deaths, any news of both superpowers finally collaborating came as good news.
Nevertheless, regardless of how well the cease-fire could go – or is going – it seems almost impossible to believe that both parts were making a serious attempt at peace since the intervention of both countries in Syria carries its own interests, and in these interests one has to lose for the other to win. The war in Syria has brought back memories of a cold war conflict where both superpowers seem to be more interested in achieving the victory they want, than the one Syria probably needs.
Russia’s opportunity to regain their position in the world
For Russia and President Vladimir Putin, Syria has been the perfect excuse to put Russia back on the geopolitical map, a place it had disappeared from after the collapse of the USSR. Since the intervention of Russia in Syria – and let us not forget Ukraine -- Russia seems to be again back in the game as a powerful third option to the US and China.
In geopolitical terms, the war in Syria has been an opportunity for Russia to stand up for their ally – Bashar al-Assad -- and regain part of the influence they have lost over the last two to three decades. Russia needs to be seen as one of the key players in the defeat of ISIS in Syria, while at the same time assuring the survival of al-Assad’s regime. Only with these two victories will Russia be able to shape the #Middle East from a position of power.
The last step before disengaging from the Middle East
For the United States the Syrian and Iraqi war is one of honor and commitment. The United States committed to a “war on terror” that started right after the attacks of the 11th September, 2001. The US got involved once again in the Middle East in wars hardly nobody has the doubt have been the seed to the rise of ISIS and the wars we have nowadays.
Once again, like in Vietnam, the United States got (too) involved in a conflict in which they didn’t predict the consequences beforehand. It seems like the United States wants to disengage from the Middle East – to focus on the Pacific -- as soon as possible in a way their image of superpower doesn’t seem too damaged.
The United States wants to learn from past errors, and in order to do so, they have to be an active part in the reconstruction of Syria and Iraq after the war. Every war has its end eventually, and for the United States it is important for them to be seen with the victors to assure they won’t be dragged again to the Middle East in another war any time soon.
For the United States and Russia, the matter isn’t that much about peace in the Middle East, but about who is seen as the main victor in achieving it. Therefore, it is difficult to imagine both countries collaborating in a serious attempt any time soon. There is too much at stake for both countries to share the first prize as victors. #Foreign Affairs