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Studies 23 December, 2015

Russian Intervention in Syria: Geostrategy is Paramount

Azmi Bishara

General Director and Member of the Board of Directors of the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies. Dr. Bishara is a researcher and writer with numerous books and publications on political thought, social theory and philosophy, as well as some literary works. He taught philosophy and cultural studies at Birzeit University from 1986 to 1996, and was involved in the establishment of research centers in Palestine including the Palestinian Institute for the Study of Democracy (Muwatin) and the Mada al-Carmel Center for Applied Social Research. In 2007 he was forced to go into exile after being prosecuted by Israel. In 2002 he won the Ibn Rushd Prize for Freedom of Thought, and in 2003 the Global Exchange Human Rights Award. He received his doctorate in philosophy in 1986 at Humboldt University in Berlin, having previously completed his master’s degree there in 1984.

Dr. Bishara has published hundreds of papers and studies in academic journals in various languages. His best-known publications include: On the Arab Question: An Introduction to an Arab Democratic Manifesto; Civil Society: A Critical Study; Religion and Secularity in Historical Context (two parts in three volumes); On Revolution and Revolutionary Potential; Is There a Coptic Issue in Egypt?; To be an Arab in our Times; The Army and Politics: Theoretical Problems and Arab Models; Essay on Freedom; Sect, Sectarianism and Imagined Sects; What is Salafism?; and The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Daesh): A General Framework and Critical Contribution to Understanding the Phenomenon. Some of these books have become seminal works in their field.

He also produced a series of three books documenting the Arab revolutions that broke out in 2011: The Glorious Tunisian Revolution; Syria: The Painful Road to Freedom; and Egypt’s Revolution (two volumes). These books deal with the causes and stages of the revolutions in Tunisia, Syria, and Egypt. These books are a rich contribution to the field of contemporary history thanks to their combination of documentation and narration of the day-to-day details of these revolutions and sharp analysis making connections between the social, economic and political backgrounds of each individual revolution.

Introduction

Russia’s military intervention in Syria is the only direct military intervention there by a state from outside the region. Iran was there first, but its intervention took different forms. No state, be it Arab or foreign, has sent experts and fighters against the Syrian regime – direct intervention by foreign states has worked exclusively for the benefit of Assad’s regime.

Examining Russia’s recent military campaign through the prism of world powers competing with each other in Syria and the wider region is futile. Those who speak on behalf of the conflicting sides consider any foreign intervention that is to their advantage as an act of solidarity, and that which benefits the other side as imperialist intervention. The intention here, rather, is to explore the intervention from the perspective of Russia’s own motivations. Sadly, it is not the powers in the Arab world at present that decide who will intervene militarily in our region, they might be able to call for or condemn the intervention, but they do not get to decide.

What has become very clear in Syria is that the states allied with the respective parties there are not differentiated from each other on the basis of their morality. States are supporting one side over the other for reasons entirely disconnected from the Syrian people’s cause. Hence the burden of the justice of the cause falls exclusively upon those struggling in Syria, and it is they who will have to answer to history in the future.

To continue reading this Research Paper as a PDF, please click here or on the icon above. This paper was printed in the 17th Edition of Siyasat Arabia (Nov. 2015). An earlier version was delivered at the ACRPS Symposium on Russian Military Intervention in Syria, held in Doha on October 24, 2015.