Prabir Purkayastha, the editor of Newsclick, discussed the change in military situations in West Asia, particularly in Syria and Iraq, as a background for the Paris attacks. By explaining the geographic locations, Purkayastha explained the strategic presence of IS, US lead NATO alliance, and the Russian backed Syrian military. He said, the entry of Russians has changed the overall scenario in the area. The fall of Sinjar is a major set-back to IS. The major battle in Aleppo is another one. After the Paris attack, France started attacking Syria for the first time. Purkayastha said, the change in situations have made the West to rethink their positions. The NATO and it's alliances are looking for negotiations and elections in Syria. He underlines that the far right-wing ideology of promoting military assault lie at the root of these issues.
Pranjal (P) - Hello and welcome to Newsclick. France has seen a series of terrorist attacks which have left approproximately 130 people dead. We are going to discuss about the attack, what impact it will have on Syria and military situation in Syria. To discuss the issue, we have with us Editor of Newsclick, Prabir Purkayastha.
Hello Prabir, welcome to Newsclick. What is the actual military situation that we can talk about Syria?
Prabir Purkayastha (PP) - You know, one part is very clear that the entry of Russians, the military situaions has been improved considerably with Syrian government. Syrian government was otherwise in the back foot, in the defensive and it was really two major forces. IS from the East and North. From West and South, it was the Jabhat al-Nusra li-Ahli ash-Shām. These are the two fronts which can distinct. IS on one side, which is in Eastern side. from the North. While on West and the South, it was really Jabhat al-Nusra, which is key player over there and Al-Ahrar ash-Sham along with free Syrian army groups which all of them acting in alliance. So you have these two military alliances against the Syrian government. Let us have quick look at the map and what is happening Syria and Iraq if we really need to take that together. One of the element that has been changed is the attack by the Kurdish forces in Sinjar which was under IS occupation. IS was connected to Mosul and Raqqa, two strong holds. One in Syria(Raqqa) and Mosul in Iraq and it is really connected to Sinjar. So the attack of the Peshberga of this site on Sinjar and YPG and the Yazidis on Sinjar and both have resulted in the fall of Sinjar to this forces. So the Kurds have taken over Sinjar. As a result Mosul and Raqqa connections have been broken at least on the highway. Of course there are other roads which connect two so it is not that they have lost complete connectivity. So this is a major military development. The sense that IS is really lost the vital strategic point in Iraq. This Sinjar is in Iraq. Coming to the other side, coming to Syria, which is where of-course the major battle that currently being fought. If we see the map of Syria, we will find for instance, that the Turkish border is under the control of Kurds for a substantive part in the East as well in the West. It is only in the middle, it is only about 90KM that the IS and bit of it also the Jabhat al-Nusra who have controlling the border between Syria and Turkey, which means the supply lines to the rest of the insurgency which is Jabhat al-Nusra and IS still can get it's lifeline from Turkey. So one set of battles have been fought in the North-West. But the Syrian forces are moving in towards Aleppo and therefore threatening the Northern corridor that links essentially Jabhat al-Nusra with Turkey. The Kurds have not yet attacked at this point. Their main focus seems to be on Sinjar which we discussed earlier and also possibly Raqqa but the US is pressing them to attack. So that we have to see how that develops but this 90KM corridor has been broken. That really mean the isolation of the the Jabhat al-Nusra and IS, from it's secure supply line which is Turkey. The main battle right now seems to be in Aleppo and Aleppo there is at the moment seeing a lot of Russians strikes. It is largely against Jabhat al-Nusra who pose the main threat to Aleppo and Al-Ahrar ash-Sham who are actually in coalition with Jabhat al-Nusra. So these are the two sections which threaten Aleppo and at the moment, the Syrian government forces with the help of the Russians as well as the Iranians and Hesbollah have seized the initiatives in the sector. They have taken over the Qusayr airbase which was under seizure for almost two and half years and they are also taking over parts of the outskirts of Aleppo and probably the East of Aleppo which is almost become a ghost city. That probably would also fall to the government forces soon. The battles on the South of Syria seem to be less intense a the moment. Though IS and Jabhat al-Nusra together did managed to severe the connection between Aleppo and Damascus but that seems to have again covered because that highway is under the control of the Syrian forces. The battle between Hom and Hamam which is the other major battle, that seems to be again at a lower end at the moment doesn't seems to have hotted up much or the battles South of Damascus which really is the border between Lebanon and Syria, that part of it doesn't seems to be also hotted-up so much. Also the border with Jordan. It seems these are the forces who are more under the control of the Americans and what is called the Free Syrian Army and they seems to have not taken a very active role as yet. So the main battle is really with Jabhat al-Nusra and Al-Ahrar ash-Sham with which bulk of the Free Syrian Army units are also in alliance, that is what called the Jaish al-Fatah Front, in which they are also participants and IS. And this is the major battles which have been fought. The main threat to Damascus, Hom, Hamam, Aleppo are from Jabhat al-Nusra more than IS and that is one of the reason major fight or the major air-strikes have been against Jabhat al-Nusra and Al-Ahrar ash-Sham.
P - Prabir also when we have seen that there is a series of terrorist attack on France, and France has said that, it will give a merciless reply so what impact will it have on Syria, when on one hand US and Russia coming together to say that we are going to fight ISIS together?
PP - Let us talk about what French are going to do. The French till now the most vocal opponent of Bashar al-Assad in the West, in fact along with Cameron and United States' neocolony lobby. They have been demanding regime change and attacks Bashar al-Assad government, arguing that there should be what would call safe heaven in North of Syria, would then be protected by the NATO forces as well as of-course Turkey and therefore providing essentially a safe platform for IS as well as Jabhat al-Nusra to continue their attack on the Syrian government. So that was the basic situation before IS attack. With the IS attack, for the first time, we see French taking more active role in bombing Raqqa which is supposedly the IS capital in Syria. Earlier they had bombed in Iraq but they hadn't bombed IS in Syria. So now they are willing to come in bomb Raqqa. The Americans have also intensified their strike on Raqqa and now are working along with YPG, which is the PKK aligned Kurdish forces in Syria. And they are also trying to support supposedly the different Arab groups to work with YPG against the IS. The question, this is really big question in all this. How serious are they in fighting IS and Jabhat al-Nusra, and still want regime as their top priority. Earlier their focus was regime change; fall of Bashar al-Assad regime and in they were also identifying all the terrorism is due to his regime as a consequence. And therefore their argument was only if his government falls, then we can talk about fighting IS and Jabhat al-Nusra, which is really al-Qaeda. This is the line that, Saudi Arabia and Turkey were also peddling. So what you got was really very right-wing rapacious kind of argument which is very strongly anti-Shia, anti-all kinds of sex, anti-Jews, anti-Christians. So all of them as enemies including of-course Allahanhu which a re suppose to be Shiyats. So you had very very strong right-wing extremely fascistic if you will, religious fascistic forces, which will looking at all these minorities and they were also trying to establish different kinds of Islamic regime. All of them have their sustenance from Saudi Arabia, Turkey as well as the Gulf Monarchies.
P - So the international Syria support group has come out with a statement which was addressed by the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, UN's De Mistura, US Secretary Kerry; they have said that continuous killing that has been taking place, that must come to an end. We may disagree on various stands. Can you through some light on this press-statement and what impact actually going to have?
PP - Well, the roadmap they have identified is 18 months there would be election, that is the one. Whether it will happen or not we have to see. But the argument is within 18 months, they could have independent groups which would contend the election under the UN agency.
The second part of it is Kerry for the first time clearly identified the Jabhat al-Nusra and IS are the two groups that are outside this discussion and they are not part of any settlement, any negotiations that would takes place in the Syrian government and other groups which are fighting them. The question is of-course what happens to the group like Al-Ahrar ash-Sham, which are very much similar in their outlook and what they have been doing and are in alliance with Jabhat al-Nusra, what happens to all those group which are part of what they called Jaish al-Fatah, which is front end Jabhat al-Nusra leads. So are they going to be declared also outside of this negotiation or are there going to be a distinction between not so bad groups, not so bad jihadiis, moderate jihadis and not so moderate jihadis. So I think that part of it we have to see how it place out on the ground. But on the ground, the distinction between all these forces are really not there at the moment. So will they separate out this groups, will this group break from Jabhat al-Nusra, will sit on the table and negotiate something, will they participate in elections, all these needs to be seen. But the important part is that for the first time, that we are seeing that they are sitting with Russians and talking about what is future going to be in Syria. Till now they said, the Russian intervention in Syria was totally wrong, they were opposed to it, and they were also claiming Russia is not really fighting the opposition but we are. But now it is very clear that unless they act in conjunction, it is not possible to fight any more without Russian support or at least acceptance, it is not possible to carry out air-strikes in Syria. It also two or three sets of air-forces over there. If they fight each other, you can get very close to nuclear war in the world. So I think those are the kind of things people are sort of coming in terms with, that Russia is a player and if they want to fight IS that IS now seen to be a threat, Al-Qaeda has been a long time threat to them anyway. So if they want to fight these forces then they have to really come to terms with Iran, Russia, Syria and Hezbollah. But the point is, the military situation on the ground will not substantively change unless they boots on the ground. And boots on the ground are not going to come from France and America. So the likely-hood of any victory over IS demands that they come to terms with who are doing actual physical fighting on the ground. At the end of the day, physically they have to hold the ground. Otherwise IS will come back or Al-Qaeda will come back.
P - Prabir, also an impact of the attack that we have seen, that the European countries or United States which there were taking-in refugees. They have stopped taking refugees. What impact, I mean the refugee crisis we are witnessing, is it going to get worse?
PP - You know, one part of refugee crisis is the one in Syria. Also the war in Iraq. So the question is the refugee crisis can be addressed in the larger sense only when these countries are stabilised. And that something that if don't do then effectively the refugee crisis will stay. You can erect boarders, walls, fences, you can do various things but the same time the issue will still remain because people would like to escape from this kind of wars. And that is what seems to be doing. So I think that is a much larger issue, how do you handle the refugee crisis but it does show that there is a rising right-wing political forces both in the US, almost all the states who have said, we will not take refugees in republican states, those who are the ones declaring this and Europeans very clearly right, which are saying, which has been saying for quite some time no refugees and so on and are trying to confuse the terrorists and refugees. Let us not forget the major attacks that have taken place in Europe have been by European citizens. If you export 3000, 5000, 10000 Europeans to fight in Syria, then don't be surprised when it comes back to bite you. So that is what they have done. They have been promoting one way traffic of people to go and fight in Syria and now they are surprised that the home-ground terrorism which is what they fomented by sending them to Syria to fight, encouraging them to go and fight Bashar al-Assad. Now they are surprised that they have come back to hit them.
P - Thank you very much Prabir for giving us your time and the things proceed, we will be coming back to you on such issues. Thanks a lot.
Thank you for watching Newsclick.
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