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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 (ACRPS). He is also the Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies. A prominent Arab writer and scholar, Bishara has published numerous books and academic papers in political thought, social theory, and philosophy, in addition to several literary works, including: Civil Society: A Critical Study (1996); On the Arab Question: An Introduction to an Arab Democratic Statement (2007); Religion and Secularism in Historical Context (3 volumes 2011-2013); On Revolution and Susceptibility to Revolution (2012); The Army and Political Power in the Arab Context: Theoretical Problems (2017); Essay on Freedom (2016); Sect, Sectarianism, and Imagined Sects (2017); What is Salafism? (2018); The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Daesh): A General Framework and Critical Contribution to Understanding the Phenomenon (2018); What is Populism? (2019) and Democratic Transition and its Problems: Theoretical Lessons from Arab Experiences (2020). Some of these works have become key references within their respective field.

As part of a wider project chronicling, documenting, and analyzing the Arab revolutions of 2011, Bishara has also published three key volumes: The Glorious Tunisian Revolution (2011); Syria's Via Dolorosa to Freedom: An Attempt at Contemporary History (2013) and The Great Egyptian Revolution (in two volumes) (2014). Each book deals with the revolution’s background, path, and different stages. In their narration and detail of the revolutions’ daily events, these volumes constitute a key reference in what is known as contemporary history along with an analytical component that interlinks the social, economic and political contexts of each 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.

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