In a statement sure to raise tensions between Russia and the USA, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated on Thursday that US forces must leave all of Syria.
“Speaking to Interfax news agency on Thursday, Lavrov stated that the UN Security Council has not approved the work of the United States and its coalition in Syria, nor has been invited by the Syrian legitimate government.”
Of course, pulling out of Syria is not an option for the US. With major operations against ISIS underway by the Kurdish majority SDF in the North and the US forces at Al-Tanf crossing there to protect Jordan from militants, the idea that the US will just up and leave is a non-starter.
Is Assad Legitimate?
Russia has for a while insisted that any long term presence of foreign troops must be in accordance with the legitimate government of Syria. For Russia this means Assad. The problem with this line of reasoning is that large areas of Syria are clearly not under his control. This is does not refer to pockets of ISIS or Jihadists, but rather indigenous people such as the Kurds of Rojava or Arab Sunnis in the North. These groups along with ethnic Turkmen had been kept down by the minority Allawite regime for decades.
It would seem that any decisions on who gets to stay in Syria should be decided by the most democratic elements in the country. That is, if you consider Syria an actual country at this point. Syria, like many of its Arab counterparts across the Middle East are artificial creations that sprang into being after World War One. given the fact, that Syria has been ruled by dictators for a good part of the last 100 years, it make sense why Russia would view this as trait to determine who is legitimate. Afterall, Russia is currently ruled by an ex KGB chief who snuffs out opposition. This point of commonality between Russia’s Putin and Syria’s Assad would be reason enough for the two to work together, but the truth is Russia doesn’t care about legitimacy just control over Syria in order to press against the West and drain energy from it while Russia pushes against Eastern Europe.
How Does this Affect Israel?
With the US not leaving Syria anytime soon and Russia digging in its heels throughout the country, the stage is set for a serious confrontation between the two super powers’ proxies. Iran-Syria-Hezbollah forces will be used by Russia to push against the US proxies of Israel and the SDF. This will be done under the Russian protective umbrella and threatens to spill out into a far greater war.
In the weeks ahead Israel and the Syrian regime will move beyond tit for tats and go directly against one another while the big powers push from behind.