Wednesday, 21 August 2019
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Syria

Prudent optimism: Turkish Ambassador. The Defence Viewpoints interview by Nick Watts

Turkey sits at the nexus of a region beset with geopolitical issues. Developments in Syria; the prospects for the Middle East Peace Process; developments in the north and south Caucasus; the continuing tensions with Iran and the situation in Iraq. Reflecting on these matters and on its relationship with the EU Turkey’s Ambassador to London HE Mr Ahmet Ünal Çeviköz characterized his outlook as being based on “prudent optimism.”

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HRH Prince Saud al Faisal, Saudi Arabia's long serving Foreign Minister, talked to Defence Viewpoints in Riyadh today. He's calling for greater efforts from the international community to resolve the Syria crisis, but "nobody is asking for a military force to conquer all of Syria." Read more below.

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The crisis in Egypt is already having a negative effect on Syrian civil war and contributing to further destabilisation of wider Middle East. Important as events in Cairo are, they distract Western attention from the much bigger game being played out in Syria which significantly risks changing the Levant after a century of relative territorial stability, according to a new paper from the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). (More on next page)

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The United States is not eager to launch an air campaign against the Syrian regime that would be similar to the NATO campaign in Libya even though numerous U.S. lawmakers have called for such a campaign. Not only did Libya not have the formidable air defense systems that Russia has provided to Syria, but Syria's rebels have not been able to control large areas of territory. These factors would complicate any air campaign against the al Assad regime, but Washington's reluctance to get involved militarily is based on the fear that it could slip into a much messier conflict than it did in Libya.

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By Nick Watts, Great North News Services

The Middle East is described by commentators variously as a powder keg, a region on a precipice and other dramatic metaphors. From the standpoint of a policy practitioner from the region, it seems like a three dimensional chess puzzle. Speaking at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in London yesterday, Dan Meridor gave his reflections on recent changes in the region, and on continuing uncertainties. Meridor combines the role of Israeli Deputy Prime Minister along with the posts of Minister of Intelligence and of Nuclear energy. This and his long experience in Israeli politics gives him a very good perspective.

 

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Communique agreed at the UK-France Summit on Syria.The UK and France:

1. Reiterate their condemnation of the horrific violence in Syria, which, as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has said, may amount to crimes against humanity, and demand that it end immediately.  By ordering massive use of force against his own people, President Assad has lost legitimacy and must step aside in the best interests of Syria and the unity of the Syrian nation.

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Thinking the Unthinkable: ISIS, Iran, Al Qaeda & Syria. by Nehad Ismail (See also Axis of Opportinity Part 3 published by Defence Viewpoints on 25th June 2014)

Part Two

That leading members of al Qaeda were based in Iran from 2002 onward was known to the U.S. government at the time. In a letter that bin Laden wrote just five days before he died, he described a document from his son Saad, who had lived in Iran for years. The document exposes the truth of the Iranian regime's relations with al-Qaeda.

A letter to bin Laden from his chief of staff, dated 11 June 2009, contains a detailed account of a group of "mid-level" al Qaeda members recently released by Iran, including three Egyptians, a Yemeni, an Iraqi and a Libyan. In Feb 2014, the Lebanese Daily Star reported that the Obama administration accused Tehran of assisting al-Qaeda operatives based in Iran to transfer Sunni fighters to Syria.

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President Obama has finally and most reluctantly agreed to arm the Syrian rebels. But he is still clinging to the Geneva 2 conference as the most preferred option. David Ignatius writing in the Washington Post Thursday June 20th said that President Obama doesn't have a strategy and is still playing for a negotiated diplomatic transition.

Nehad Ismail argues in this article that it is not the use of Sarin gas or chemical weapons that has led to the sudden change of strategy. It is the direct intervention by Iran and Hezbollah in the conflict on the Bashar al Assad's side and the routing of the rebels in Qusair which alarmed the US administration, and was the catalyst for the change. If this success is repeated elsewhere that would be the end of the revolution and a major victory for the Moscow, Tehran and Damascus alliance.

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 A study commissioned by UN human rights commissioner Navi Pillay concluded that there had been 59,648 deaths between February 2011 and November 2012, and that figure would now have risen above 60,000. She described the bloodshed as "truly shocking" according to news reports.

Syrian opposition groups had previously estimated 45,000 people killed. Had the world powers taken the right action a year or eighteen months ago the total would have been a lot smaller.

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By Anthony Etchells, UKDF Research Associate

 The future is challenging. The Arab Spring has shaken the region, and the UK will have to review and possibly reset its relationships with certain states after new governments have taken power and established ones have made various concessions. Iran seems as determined as ever to realise its nuclear ambitions. Syria's Bashar al-Assad is accused of widespread human rights violations against his citizens, but has shown no willingness to step down; international partners have so far achieved little but rhetoric; al-Assad agreed to a Kofi Annan's peace plan, but it remains to be seen whether he will stick to his word. British troops are still in Afghanistan, with the government aiming to withdraw all combat troops by 2015 to leave behind a strong and stable country. The final US combat troops quit Iraq in December 2012, and since then the country has shown signs of returning to the bombings and sectarianism that marked its darkest days after the 2003 invasion.

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