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Radu Dobriţoiu

30 Aprilie 2018
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Syrian crisis has reached a new episode with international implications in a war that seems endless, after the conflicts began in this country in 2011.

International Implications of the Syrian Crisis



Producer Radu Dobriţoiu: Syrian crisis has reached a new episode with international implications in a war that seems endless, after the conflicts began in this country in 2011. The April 7 chemical weapons attack in Douma determined the United States, France and the UK to launch, on April 13, precise attacks on facilities belonging to Bashar al-Assad's regime, where there were information that chemical weapons were being produced. An operation coordinated by three major allies within NATO, also permanent member states in the UN Security Council. Five days after arriving in Syria, Inspectors of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) still had to wait to have access to the area where the attack took place in Douma. This is a Syrian city where opposition representatives and volunteers involved in supporting the civilian population argue that on April 7, Bashar al-Assad-controlled aircraft launched bombs charged with toxic gas and killed at least 40 people, including children, women and old people. The attack with high-precision weapons and missiles, led by the United States, France and the United Kingdom on the night of 13 to 14 April, provoked the reaction of Moscow, a power that patrols the totalitarian regime of Bashar al-Assad. In this new episode of the Syrian crisis, Russia did not react from its strategic bases on the ground in Tartus and Latakia. The 15 members of the UN Security Council had a three-day informal meeting in Sweden, starting on Friday, April 20, to reach a consensus on Syria. 

Radio Romania News Producer Radu Dobriţoiu, military reporter, analyzed the new evolutions of the Syrian crisis in the “Euroatlantica” show of Radio Romania News (Radio Romania Actualități), broadcasted on April 19, having as special guest Professor Ştefan Popescu, PhD in History of Contemporary International Relations, with interventions of Radio Romania News correspondents in Moscow, Washington and Jerusalem. 

Radu Dobriţoiu: Professor, a new episode of the Syrian crisis, a chemical weapons attack, followed by a clear response from the United States, France and the United Kingdom. Precision strikes with high performance weapons, this time with France in the lead. How justified was this military action?

Ştefan Popescu: Certainly, it also had a component, so to speak, of humanitarian military intervention, to punish the Syrian regime for not respecting the 2013 agreement, regarding the destruction, abandoning...

Radu Dobrițoiu: Abandoning the chemical arsenal.

Ștefan Popescu: Yes. A deal endorsed by Moscow, therefore a military action that also targeted Moscow.

Radu Dobrițoiu: Let’s remind that at the time, Russia had committed to destroy, on its territory, Syria’s chemical weapons.

Ştefan Popescu: Absolutely! But this does not exclude a repositioning. Only about 10 days before the French-American-British military intervention, there was a sort of Yalta type effect on Syria. In Ankara, Presidents of Turkey, Russian Federation and Iran were dealing on Syria, on what would it look like, at the Astana Process (..)

Radu Dobriţoiu: Peace negotiations for Syria at Astana, separate from Geneva (…) opened without the United States (…)

Ştefan Popescu: Absolutely. And a couple of months ago, France had been close to be accepted as an observer of the Astana Process. The three refused (France, n.a.) to attend. In this case, Western intervention also has the role of rebalancing things a little ...

Radu Dobriţoiu: And to re-enter the game, we can say ..

Ştefan Popescu: And to re-enter the game. It remains to be seen, because the three actors do not ... their goals do not overlap completely. (It remains to be seen, n.a.) if France wants to regain its place in a traditional area, Syria being a French Mandate in 1920-1946. We also know the French interests in Lebanon, so it is an important area for France. I believe that Britain no longer plays such an important role in the Middle East.

Radu Dobriţoiu: Although there have been British interests in Syria. We remember everything that happened there at the end of the First World War, and it was managed by France, along with the United Kingdom.

Ştefan Popescu: Sykes-Picot-like agreements can be seen, but the UK at the moment thinks it wanted to punish Russia in the Skripal case. As for the US, this is what we have to monitor, because you have seen that there is a polemic ... President Emanuel Macron said he had persuaded President Donald Trump to stay, President Donald Trump refused, he said that on the contrary…

Radu Dobriţoiu: We are talking about the military action in Syria.

Ştefan Popescu: ... and perhaps we could also look at the US involvement through an internal reading grid, the advance of (Robert n.a.) Mueller's federal prosecutor's investigation, the US electoral context, the installation, the hearing of Mike Pompeo by the Congress ...

Radu Dobrițoiu: And why not, maybe the desire of the US and of the Trump Administration to demonstrate a denial, with the quotes, of Russia.

Ştefan Popescu: And the Obama administration, because why not admit it  ... its’ not just the program of Mr Trump that counted, but also the desire to demarcate himself completely from the previous democratic administration.

Radu Dobriţoiu: It is a moment, we can say, when situation in Syria marked a new major episode, through the very active involvement of France, plus, as you reminded, these local negotiations between Russia, Turkey and Iran. You recalled the peace negotiations for Syria in Astana, which were opened separately from the peace talks for Syria in Geneva, which seemed much closer to what the Western world wants for Syria. In Astana, but also in these talks in Turkey, US, France and the United Kingdom were not accepted.

Ştefan Popescu: Because the West has a big problem, and this problem will still remain, even after the military intervention, the presence of the West on the ground is marginal, circumscribed to some northeastern parts of Syria, Kurdistan ... the so-called Syrian Kurdistan and it must be said ...

Radu Dobriţoiu: Rojava, the region called historic Rojava over there, where we have, on one side, US support for the Kurds and, on the other side, US attention of course not to damage relations with Turkey that is against the Kurds. This is not an equation, we do not have the same solution, equality, and in cross-border Iraq, we have Kurds who do not get along with the Kurds in Syria.

Ștefan Popescu: Absolutely.

Radu Dobriţoiu: Because you have referred to an extremely complex and complicated area, the one in northeast of Syria, where the US could have this Kurdish lever.

Ştefan Popescu: Even enjoying tacit support or at least acceptance by Moscow, because Moscow also had a historical relationship with the Kurds in Syria. Let us not forget that in 1946, the Soviets were those who proposed the creation of Kurdistan, a Kurdish socialist republic and their ties continued. Even recently, the Russian Federation delivered weapons to the Kurds in Syria, but on the other hand, the US involvement there provides comfort to the Russians, as it is a guarantee that Turkey remains in the tactical alliance with Moscow.

Radu Dobriţoiu: Let's say these Kurds, the same ones, got weapons from both Russians and Americans.

Ştefan Popescu: And also supported by French forces.

Radu Dobriţoiu: Yes. That is a very complicated situation, and as we can see, it is increasingly complex, through the involvement of powers we can say nuclear, not just permanent members in the Security Council.

Ştefan Popescu: Absolutely. That is why we must not be surprised that the Russians were kept up to date on the targets set by the Westerns. War is ruled out between powers possessing such nuclear arsenals. But what I wanted to say in line with the previous idea is that the solidity of Russian, Turkish and Iranian positions in Syria cannot be called into question.

Radu Dobriţoiu: Certainly. The geopolitical interests for Syria, as well as the disputes between the various Islamic confessions are, according to US analysts, issues that require a long-term US strategy for this country. Washington experts say that although US influence in Syria is declining, the US still has two potential instruments: Kurdish militias and the ability to support reconstruction at the end of the conflict. 


RRA Correspondent Doina Saiciuc, reporting from Washington for 'Euroatlantica': What is needed now is a long-term US strategy for Syria. Above all, however, the bleeding of the patient must be stopped - says Frederic Hof, analyst at the Atlantic Council. The West's stance on crime instruments, chemical munitions, rather than crime itself, decisively facilitates in fact - although certainly, unintentionally - mass killings in Syria, says Mr. Hof, because in his cynicism, Mr. Bashar al-Assad perceives the red line that refers to the use of chemical weapons as a green light for other instruments that they could use to kill civilians. And, if the American objective - Mr. Hof points out - is simply to let Assad win, God will decide what will happen next. The strategy would involve, on the one hand, Syria's bombing following its use of chemical weapons and, on the other hand, only raising shoulders when Assad uses conventional weapons against hospitals or schools. This strategy is a path to disaster. Once the Syrians are massacred to be subjected, Iran and Hezbollah will have less of a problem in building a so-called front of resistance against Israel, and loyal Syria becomes a smoking ruin chaired by thieves, Russian President Vladimir Putin will demand a triumphant tribute to Europe in order to avoid another wave of desperate Syrian migrants. In addition to this, once the Assad regime is violently restored throughout the country, Sunni Islamists from around the world will send a message to their recruits about the West's complicity in Syrian crimes. Susan Rice, a former presidential adviser on national security in the Obama administration, says that although US influence in Syria is declining, the United States still has two potentially valuable books to play there. First - Kurdish partners control an important part of north and east of Syria. Second - the unparalleled ability of the United States with its European allies and the Gulf to support the reconstruction of Syria and the return of refugees. Without American and Allied money, Russia and Iran will be in a position to bear the burden of a very costly failed state.


Radu Dobriţoiu: Professor Ştefan Popescu, with regard to the precise strikes led by the United States, France and the United Kingdom, the European Union had a common position and agreed to hit these chemical facilities of Bashar al Assad. What can we say, however, about the European Union when it comes to Syria?

Ștefan Popescu: Surely it was a solidarity, a European unity but with shades (..)... according to the weight of each country, but we cannot speak of a Syrian policy of the European Union. We can speak of a French policy in Syria, because France has the expeditionary military capacity, it is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and a nuclear arsenal owner. So, therefore, it is a credible power in front of Russia and Iran and has the will to play a particular role in the region, and that gives France a leading role in the European Union. But it is the only one who has a power, (there are, n.a.) countries, for example, who could have played an even more important role..

Radu Dobriţoiu: Such as Germany.

Ștefan Popescu: Such as Germany. Look at Greece, for example, which from the start – due to geographical proximity, fearing that it would be called upon to play a role, considering its good relations with the Russian Federation - announced it would not take part in any military action. Or countries completely neutral such as Belgium. Here is the Belgian statement. We understand our allies, but solving the political crisis in Syria can only be political. So, here are the big differences in shades. Germany is following France, though. And its involvement in the Middle East, including the Iranian nuclear file, is to give Germany a more important role in the safe, remote prospect of the United Nations’ reform.

Radu Dobrițoiu: You reminded of Germany. I want to read out a news-story that just arrived. It's coming from Moscow. Moscow claims to have found in Eastern Ghouta the chlorine containers from Germany. Syrian governmental forces found in the freed territories from Eastern Ghouta, close to Douma (where the chemical attack took place) containers with chlorine coming from Germany, they say, and smoke-producing materials manufactured in the city of Salisbury in England, as said the spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zaharova, quoted by Tass News Agency.

Ştefan Popescu: It's part of the same war ...

Radu Dobriţoiu: Informational war.

Ştefan Popescu: Informational war between the two sides. Now, I wonder if the chlorine produced in Germany was the stock of the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) or was it not specified?

Radu Dobriţoiu: Yes, I mean how is it that you can find ... we know that Germany is extremely sensitive to everything that means military interventions, except for those on campus level or maybe special forces ...

Ştefan Popescu: And there is something else in the European Union. You know there is a trauma that followed the use of toxic gases in the First World War, and the European Union, the French and the Germans were among the pioneering countries who have supported the conventions of ...

Radu Dobriţoiu: It was a nightmare for Europe during the First World War, the widespread use in confrontations and first-line battles.. 

Ştefan Popescu: And international law has evolved under ... as a result of the impact of these events.

Radu Dobriţoiu: Situation in Syria seems uncontrollable even now, seven years after the beginning of the civil war. Territory is divided between Sunni or Kurdish militias, armed groups, loyal forces to Turkey or Iran, plus Hezbollah militia and Iranian troops concentrated around Damascus, but also Russian troops from Tartus and Latakia. Iraq's air forces attacked positions of the Israeli State terrorist group in Syria. All these developments are carefully watched by Israel.

RRA Correspondent Dragoş Ciocîrlan, reporting from Jerusalem for 'Euroatlantica': There is chaos in Syria, with all Russian military presence, Iranian Shiite, band recruited from Afghanistan and Pakistan plus Hezbollah. Situation is precarious and no one knows exactly who is in control: Assad's faithful troops, Russians, forces of the rebels, Kurdish units, Turkish forces, Daesh, and what’s left of al-Qaeda are all in a space crushed by the Syrian internal conflict. Lines on the field are changing not from day to day, but from hour to hour. Iran is not strongly infiltrated in Lebanon and Syria, it does not have a serious information-gathering infrastructure and has no shock troops. In the diaspora, the so-called Vanguard of the Imam, Islamic Revolutionary Guard, has infiltrated elements in Africa, Asia, South America and in the former Soviet Muslim republics, backing the local Muslim population. Israel has a sad experience in this area, same as in Buenos Aires, where high-level political factors from Argentina have been involved. Israel takes any threat seriously. Tehran Foreign Ministry spokesperson said that sooner or later Iran would attack. In February, the drone that was launched from Syria and shot down in Israel had ammunition. Here, Tehran played with fire and got burned in Syria. Israeli army can take down cargo airplanes, carrying Iranian military material into Syria, and it's not just weapons for Lebanese Shiite militias. Iranian press claims that Israel will not be able to impose a restrictive red line, and Jerusalem has officially replied: "Do not try to test the determination of Israel!" Hezbollah's Deputy Secretary-General, Naim al-Qassem, said that Israel and Iran are in direct confrontation. His comments could be intertwined as a message from Tehran on the anger of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps following the bombing of the T4 base in Syria, where seven Iranian soldiers lost their lives. What happened on April 9, according to Israeli experts, is more than just cutting grass. It reflects a period of prolonged conflict with the hostile groups of the State of Israel. The use of force is intended to weaken the enemy. Tehran prefers to send contradictory messages through Hezbollah. Qassem claims that Israel is trying to trace a red line, limiting the axis of resistance. Tehran still complains about the soldiers who died in Syria, including a colonel leading the drone unit.


Radu Dobriţoiu: Professor Ştefan Popescu, France is again a major player in the Middle East, as we can also see that President Macron decided to double the budget funds for the French foreign missions; the external presence and troops equipping is viewed with a much more attention. It is possible for France to take advantage of this policy of the Washington administration to get the Élysée to come there  ...

Ştefan Popescu: France (n.a.) has started to profit right from the time of the Obama Administration. Think of it, it has penetrated into areas in the context of the British and American retreat, it has also penetrated into areas that traditionally came out of the sphere, so to speak, from the French pré carré, like the Abu Dhabi military base, where there are 600 soldiers ...

Radu Dobriţoiu: From where the French attacked.

Ştefan Popescu: Yes ... So they have an ambitious presence also towards Saudi Arabia. Think about involvement in the crisis between Saudi Arabia and Lebanon. Lebanon is, well, the fief of the French influence, but also of Hezbollah, so it is an ambitious policy.

Radu Dobriţoiu: Lebanon, where President Macron had scheduled an official visit in April.

Ştefan Popescu: Absolutely. Prime Minister (of Lebanon, Saad n.a.) Hariri came out of that complicated crisis with Saudi Arabia thanks to Emmanuel Macron's mediation, I saw the visit to Paris of Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the signing of important agreements of cooperation with France, including major French investments of hundreds of billions of dollars, this visit happened, which means ...

Radu Dobriţoiu: And France has again imposed itself in front of Russia - starting from the intelligence and the information provided for these precise blows, to the actual military action in the setting up of Bashar al-Assad.

Ştefan Popescu: It has also imposed on Russia because it is a credible country, one of the few actors with a 10-year constant presence in the region.

Radu Dobriţoiu: Moscow's reaction was expected, considering Russia’s support for the totalitarian regime of Bashar al-Assad. However, Moscow admits that the targets of the missile attacks were Syrian military bases and not civilian areas. Also on Syria, there has been a discussion in Baku between the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe and the Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Army. Coming up with updates, 


RRA Correspondent Alexandr Beleavski, reporting from Moscow for 'Euroatlantica': President Vladimir Putin condemned the allied strikes against Syria as an act of aggression against a sovereign state in the forefront of the fight against terrorism. The attack, he said, was committed without the permission of the Security Council, under made-up context of use of chemical weapons against the civilians in Douma by the Assad regime, and before the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) mission to start investigations on the field. Another fundamental Russian-Western controversy addresses the targets and effectiveness of the allied attack. The United States announced that all cruise missiles have reached their targets and destroyed the main objectives, namely the chemical facilities at Barzeh and /.../. Russian Defense Ministry said that Syria's anti-aircraft defense has killed 71 of the 103 cruise missiles detected in Syrian airspace. Russia also states that the main targets of the attack were the Syrian military objectives, primarily six military aerodromes. Russian Defense Ministry points out that the Syrian air force, rebuilt and re-trained with the help of Russia, participated in countering the attack. After the attack, Russian Defense Ministry said Moscow could supply Damascus with S 300 systems, an idea it had previously renounced, at insistence of some partners, see United States and Israel. Russia has its own S 300 and S 400 systems in Syria, at Khmeimim and Tartus bases, which, like the Russian Aviation, were alert but did not go into action. Developments have shown that between Russian and American militants, and possible at other levels too, communication channels were functioning at the time of conflict, which has made it possible to avoid confrontation. Immediately after the attack, Russian Defense Ministry said the Russian anti-aircraft defense in Syria did not come into action because allied missiles did not enter its areas of responsibility. Both sides have respected the red lines. On April 19, in Baku took place the first meeting, since 2013, between Russian Chief of Staff Valeri Gherasimov and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), Curtis Scaparrotti. According to Russian media that does not provide details, talks referred to situation in Syria and Europe, including confidence-building measures and conflict prevention.


Radu Dobriţoiu: Professor Ştefan Popescu, do you think this attack will have consequences, I refer first of all to the regime of Bashar al-Assad?

Ştefan Popescu: I think only of the use of chemical weapons, but otherwise I do not think it will have any effect. Bashar al-Assad is ... he has a solid position, backed by the Russian and Iranian ally. I do not think there will be any significant change in the field in Syria. And talking of reconstruction, let us not make illusions that the Russians, in the territory they control, will let the Westerners come and build anything. Nobody raises the question if China, for example, would be associated.

Radu Dobriţoiu: And Russians have already concluded gas contracts in the respective region. "Euroatlantica" at the end, we have discussed the international implications of the crisis in Syria. Special guest of this edition was Professor Ştefan Popescu. I am Radu Dobroţoiu and, together with the Producer of the show, Nicu Popescu, thank you for listening to the "Euroatlantica" show at Radio Romania Actualităţi (Radio Romania News).

Source:RRA.Translated by Miruna Matei


Etichete Exclusiv RadioEmisiunea Euroatlanticaprofesor Stefan PopescuRadu DobritoiuNicu PopescuDragos CiocirlanAlexandru BeleavskiDoina Saiciuc

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