Will the Syria Conflict Continue to Escalate?

    Nadana Fridrikhson

    Security, Middle East

    Smoke rises from the besieged Eastern Ghouta in Damascus

    Moscow, Washington, Tehran and Ankara are all jockeying for power.

    In early February, western media reported that the United States had led a strike on the Russian mercenaries of Wagner PMC. The number of casualties was constantly changing; Bloomberg News reported hundreds, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced a smaller number and noted that “Russian citizens” were injured.

    Clearly, the battle was for oil and gas resources in the Deir-ez Zor region, which were not supposed to fall into the hands of the opposition and the Kurds in particular; this flows from the logic of restoring Syria under President Assad. Iran and Russia specifically are holding this position. This reasoning is understandable—the leadership of whoever controls these resources will set the tone for negotiations.

    After the defeat of the ISIS militants, the United States made a farsighted deal with the Kurds, although at the cost of relations with Turkey. The Kurds should become Assad’s main opponent. Except worsening the fight against the Kurds is more dangerous than that with the ISIS militants. The Kurds were one of the major forces that fought against the terrorists. How can Damascus now raise its hand against them?

    But now, with an open conflict underway, the Kurds are perceived by a number of parties as an integral part of the Syrian opposition. At the same time, Assad does not intend to leave the presidential post. And he cannot. He is the guarantor of the presence of Russian forces on the territory of an Arab country and of Iran’s “Shiite Arc” project. In addition, the departure of the victorious president would undermine the morale of the army, and a new wave of escalation could tear the country to pieces. Indeed, the proud Syrian Army believes that its own role has been more important than that of Moscow or Tehran.

    There is also another reason. Russia may be interested in establishing a military base in the Deir-ez Zor area to monitor the actions of the United States in neighboring Iraq and, at the same time, to keep a finger on the “pulse” of Iranian projects, among other purposes.

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