Studies 23 December, 2015

Russian Intervention in Syria: Geostrategy is Paramount

Azmi Bishara

Azmi Bishara is the General Director of the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies and a member of its Executive Board. A prominent researcher and writer, Bishara has published numerous books and academic papers in political thought, social theory, and philosophy, in addition to several literary works. He was Professor of Philosophy and History of Political Thought at Birzeit University, from 1986 to 1996. He also co-founded Muwatin, the Palestinian Institute for the Study of Democracy, and Mada al-Carmel, the Arab Center for Applied Social Research. Bishara was the principal founder of the National Democratic Assembly (Balad), a Palestinian-Arab party inside the Green Line, which supports democratic values irrespective of religious, ethnic or national identity. For four consecutive session, from 1996-2007, he represented his party as an elected member of parliament. In 2007, Bishara was persecuted for his political positions at the hands of the Israeli authorities, and currently resides in Qatar. He is the recipient of the Ibn Rushd Prize for Freedom of Thought in 2002 and the Global Exchange Human Rights Award in 2003.


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.