Mapping the Way out of the Syrian Crisis

25.12.2015

The US has decided to seriously consider Russia's proposal to tighten control over the funding of ISIS and other terrorist groups and to interrupt their supply routes, primarily the illegal oil trade.

On December 18, the UN Security Council unanimously approved Resolution 2254, which includes a roadmap for a peaceful process in Syria. The absence of dissention is not just a major achievement in the common fight against terrorism but is also evidence of the rapprochement of Russian and US positions on this crucial international issue.

This resolution provides a legal framework for practical efforts to settle the Syrian crisis. However we are not out of the woods yet. It, therefore, is of key importance to faithfully comply with the agreements reached.

Russia has been acting consistently for the past five years, saying that the main threat to international peace and security comes from the cutthroats of ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra and other terrorist groups. It also said that the Syrian settlement should be based on the Geneva Communique of June 30, 2012.

The efforts of the International Syria Support Group, which coordinated the main principles for the Syrian settlement at its meetings in Vienna on October 30 and November 14, have resulted in the drafting of the UN Security Council's roadmap for the peace process in Syria. According to its main provision, the Syrian people will decide the future of Syria. The UN Secretary-General's Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, has been issued a clear mandate to start preparing a meeting between the Syrian government and the opposition "on an urgent basis." However, many issues have yet to be addressed, such as the criteria for identifying who the terrorist groups are, in order to prevent those who have endangered the lives of civilians and carried out terrorist attacks from sitting down at the negotiating table.

Opinions also differ on the role of President Bashar al-Assad after the creation of a transition government in Syria. But all the 18 countries of the Support Group have agreed that Syria should remain a united, secular, multiconfessional, and multiethnic state, comfortable and safe for all groups that make up its population.

There are three core reasons behind the gradual change in Western attitudes.

The first is the Russian air raids that began on September 30, 2015 (and we need to openly admit this) including also the use of Russia's latest weapons against ISIS.

The second is the flow of refugees pouring into Europe, which has provoked serious quarrels in the European Union that Brussels has yet to settle.

And the third reason is the formidable threat of Islamic terrorism, about which Moscow constantly warned the international community. Regular terrorist attacks in the Middle Eastern countries, the bomb that destroyed a Russian passenger liner over the Sinai, the terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2015 and the ISIS attack on Americans in San Bernardino, California, all proved the threat had become real.

The general mood is also changing in the US. A growing number of Republican and Democratic presidential hopefuls have called for joining forces with Russia against international terrorism and for creating a broad international coalition for this fight. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has urged this more than once, and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton has recently expressed her support for Trump. Another Democratic candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont has said: "We have got to get our foreign policy and our priorities right. It is not Assad who is attacking the United States – it is ISIS."

For the past few months, US officials kept up the mantra that they are for a Syria without al-Assad. But when Secretary of State John Kerry addressed the media after his meeting with President Vladimir Putin on December 15, he said for the first time that the US wanted to see Syria without ISIS.

It's notable that the US has decided to seriously consider Russia's proposal to tighten control over the funding of ISIS and other terrorist groups and to interrupt their supply routes, primarily the illegal oil trade. The UN Security Council has adopted a resolution to this effect, and US aircraft now join Russia's jets in the bombing of ISIS oil trucks headed for Turkey.

The US administration has supported the proposal to seal the Turkish-Syrian border as soon as possible. We hope that eventually the US will also accept Russia's proposal for closer military coordination between Russia, the US and the international community to enhance their practical efforts in the fight against terrorists in Syria and Iraq.

History shows us that it's best when Moscow and Washington act jointly with the other permanent members of the UN Security Council, as evidenced by the liquidation of chemical weapons in Syria in 2013, the prevention of an all-out war in Syria later that year, and the convening of the Geneva conference on Syria.

Most political analysts have noticed that continued Russian-US cooperation in Syria would enable the international community to strike a mortal blow against the Islamist monster known as ISIS (or Daesh) and other terrorist groups.

In this rising multipolar world, the best way to deal with major international issues is to address them collectively based on respect for the interests of the parties concerned, as it was done to find a solution to Iran's nuclear issue.

This is the only option if we really want to settle conflicts and make this world safer, and not a place of uncontrollable chaos.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.

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