Battle over Syria (II)


BERLIN/DAMASCUS/BAGHDAD (Own report) - Germany's close allies have torpedoed the agreement to halt combat in Syria, reached at the end of last week in Munich. Turkey has begun attacks on Syrian territory, with the objective of forcing Kurdish troops to withdraw from the airbase near Aleppo, which would be of benefit to the al Qaeda offshoot, Al Nusra, which had previously held the base. Saudi Arabia has also announced intentions of sending ground troops into Syria. This threatens an escalation in the war with Saudi Arabia and the NATO member Turkey fighting on the one side, and Syria's armed forces and Russia on the other. The consequences would be unpredictable. While not only having massively built up Turkey and Saudi Arabia's arsenals, and allowing AWACS airborne radar systems to be used in the Syrian war, Berlin is focusing on the period after combat has ended. Refugees are supposed to serve as channels for enhancing German influence in Syria. The German government is also hoping to enhance its influence in Iraq through a Marshall Plan-like reconstruction effort. German military personnel are beginning to consider Russia's intervention in Syria as having prevented IS/Daesh from taking power in Damascus and carrying out offensives against other countries - including Israel.

Turkey Attacks

Following the signing of the "Munich Commitments," just before the opening of the Munich Security Conference, which provide for the cessation of combat in Syria within the next few days, Germany's close allies have proceeded to torpedo hopes for a ceasefire. Over the weekend, Turkey began systematically attacking Syrian territory. Among its objectives is to force the retreat of Kurdish troops, who, a few days ago, had liberated the Menagh Airbase near Aleppo. If they would be forced to withdraw, the Al Qaeda offshoot, Al Nusra, which had previously held the base along with the Ahrar al Sham militia, would be the beneficiary. Germany's Federal Prosecutor has classified the Salafist jihadi Ahrar al Sham militia a terrorist organization.[1] The Turkish attacks have heightened the dangers of an open confrontation and possible escalation of the war between NATO allies and Russia.

Saudi Arabia Intervenes

In addition, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are weighing whether to send in ground troops, to help, according to their most recent statements, drive IS/Daesh from its stronghold in Raqqa - an idea, until now, never expressed by Riyadh. The announcement comes at a moment, when Syrian government troops are closing in on Raqqa, raising hopes of reconquering the city. If Saudi units arrive first, together with their allied Syrian rebel militias, an escalation - in this case, an open Syrian-Saudi war - can also not be ruled out. Last year, Saudi Arabia attacked Yemen to bring Riyadh's allies back into power. It is using also German weaponry, which it has at its disposal for eventual combat in Syria.[2]

Indirect War Support

Beyond its direct participation in the war up to now,[3] Germany will soon expand its indirect war support. Last week, NATO Defense Ministers rejected a proposal for using the war alliance's AWACS planes directly over Syria's combat zones. The AWACS are stationed in Geilenkirchen, near Aachen, with the German military furnishing up to one-third of the crew personnel. From the outset, within the so-called anti-IS/Daesh coalition, there has been massive opposition to a formal NATO engagement because the Arab coalition members fear irreparable damage to their images. The AWACS, from Geilenkirchen, will now be deployed in another country, with the same type aircraft, where they will replace its national fleet, so that these can be used in Syria. Experts point to Great Britain.

Channels of Influence to Syria

Beyond German - this time indirect - support for the war, Berlin is systematically focusing on the post-war period. Over the weekend, Defense Minister, Ursula von der Leyen announced that the Bundeswehr should train Syrian refugees in civilian occupations. "Rebuilding" Syria will "not only need stones, but, above all, people" with "versatile capabilities," said von der Leyen at the Munich Security Conference. "Over 100 trades" are taught by the German Armed Forces, "from electrical technician to firefighter ... from logistics specialist to administrator."[4] This could benefit Syrian refugees. As soon as a ceasefire would be established in Syria, "the refugees should return home," because they "will be needed - for the protracted reconstruction." Then, "in a second stage" Berlin seeks to render "support for rebuilding" the "police and military," which means having influence on Syria's armed forces. Berlin is not only seeking to win influence within Syria's Bundeswehr-trained middle classes and its organs of repression, but also within the future elite of the country. Since quite some time, it has been seeking to assure this also with an elaborate scholarship program, open exclusively to Syrian students. ( reported.[5])

Ties through Reconstruction

Last week, along the lines of this same plan, Berlin suggested comprehensive support for Iraq's reconstruction. During his visit last week to Berlin, Chancellor Angela Merkel offered Iraq's Prime Minister al-Haider al-Abadi a 500 million Euro credit "particularly for rebuilding the infrastructure."[6] Al-Abadi in turn, promised that Baghdad "would like to learn from German expertise in the field of investment and business development." "We welcome all German businesses to Iraq," declared the Iraqi Prime Minister, who hopes "that more German companies will participate in Iraq's economy." Since the beginning of February, Joachim Rücker, the German Foreign Ministry's "Special Representative for the Middle East Stability Partnership" is coordinating German lobbying activities in Iraq and Syria. The idea is a new "Marshall Plan for the region." ( reported.[7]) After WWII, the Marshall Plan gave substantial aid for Western Europe's reconstruction, while simultaneously tying the recipient countries closely to the transatlantic alliance.

Russia's Merit

An end to hostilities is the prerequisite for the success of German efforts to win influence by participation in the reconstruction. Harald Kujat, the former Inspector General of the German Bundeswehr, declared that Russia has enabled the current negotiations on a cease-fire. According to Kujat, in late summer, the Syrian army was at the brink of defeat, when the West was giving free hand, or even supporting Salafist jihadi militias - even though it was trying to prevent IS/Daesh from proliferating. He gave the government in Damascus only "a few more weeks. Then Syria would have collapsed and IS/Daesh would have taken over the country."[8] IS/Daesh would then have targeted Lebanon and thereafter, Israel. Moscow prevented this. "With its military intervention, Russia has enabled the peace process." The current battle for Aleppo is also part of the struggle against IS/Daesh. "Putin's goal is to support the advance of Syrian troops towards IS/Daesh areas," according to Kujat. "Aleppo has been an obstacle on this route, because the city was held by the Syrian insurgents." The government troops are directing their advance particularly toward Raqqa, the city Riyadh is now targeting.

[1] See Steinmeier und das Oberlandesgericht.
[2] See In Flames (II) and In Flames (III).
[3] See In den nächsten Krieg.
[4] Rede der Bundesministerin der Verteidigung anlässlich der Eröffnung der 52. Münchner Sicherheitskonferenz. München, 12.02.2016.
[5] See Leadership for Syria.
[6] Pressekonferenz von Bundeskanzlerin Merkel und dem Premierminister der Republik Irak, Haidar Al-Abadi, am 11. Februar 2016 in Berlin.
[7] See Ein Marshallplan für Mittelost.
[8] Ex-Bundeswehrgeneral lobt Russlands Rolle in Syrien. 12.02.2016.