Articles > > Comfort and Concern

Articles - Addostour - Date: 2019-07-12
By: Oraib Al Rantawi

Some of the news from Syria inspires comfort, while some of it warrants concern and precaution.
The good news is that UN envoy Geir Pederson held fruitful, promising talks in Damascus with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Mu'allem on the political process and the formation of a constitutional committee. Sources indicate that the political crisis now hinges on only a handful of names that can be counted on one hand – those of the candidates for the committee tasked with drafting a new constitution for Syria. This atmosphere is reflected in the optimistic statements that both men gave at the end of their talks.
In further good news, some progress appears to have been made in the U.S.-Russian coordination track over Syria, especially after the tripartite security summit in Jerusalem between U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton and his counterparts, Russian National Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev and Israeli National Security Advisor Meir Ben Shabbat. Indicators of relative progress include the U.S.'s acknowledgment that Idlib has been transformed into a safe haven for terrorism and a U.S. air strike on a meeting between jihadist organization leaders in the area. Washington and Moscow still have their major differences, as evident from the post-summit statements that mainly focused on Iran's presence in Syria.
Also good news, especially for Jordan: The number of inhabitants in Rukban refugee camp is steadily, if slowly, winding down. The camp once housed nearly 80,000 people, and last year its population settled at around 50,0000, while today it is merely half that. Yesterday, Damascus announced that a number of refugees from the camp would be funneled through a safe humanitarian passage back towards their cities and towns of origin. Refugees have already been leaving in small but increasing numbers, on a daily, semi-organized basis. All that stands in their way are the extremist [opposition] organizations sponsored and protected by the U.S.'s Tanf military base in the country's Southeast.
However, the good news is tempered by bad news that is cause for concern and precaution, as we have already mentioned. In the first item of bad news, the U.S. and certain European and Arab [Gulf] countries have intensified their political-security moves in Syria's Northeast with the aim of establishing Kurdish self-governance in these areas and developing their institutional capabilities. More specifically, certain high-ranking Arab [Saudi] representatives are being tasked with addressing Arab-Kurdish divisions in the region, encouraging Arab [Sunni] clan militias to work side by side – preferably aligning behind the Kurdish YPG (People's Protection Units) – and ensuring that these clans are not responsive to the Syrian regime's efforts attempting to sway and incite them against Kurdish militias.
We believe this warrants concern because it falls under the framework of the U.S.'s project to divide Syria up into mini-states and cantons on the one hand, and build the groundwork to maintain and aggravate the Turkish-Syrian crisis, on the other.
In other bad news, the Syrian army's advance on the Aleppo, Hama, and Idlib countrysides' front has flagged, while the Turkish/Russian Sochi agreement to enforce de-escalation [i.e. disarming the jihadist groups] in this area is on shaky ground. It has failed to bring peace and stability to this part of Syria, and the strange, abnormal situation that has prevailed there for years does not leave room for a military solution, especially now that the sheer extent of Ankara's desires and aspirations to annex large swathes of Syrian territory under Turkish sovereignty has become clear.
"The good news is in a race with the bad, but the circle of life dictates that new goods will replace the old and push them out of the market; and so I believe that the positive developments in Syria will end up driving out the negative, even if it takes a while.