Studies 23 December, 2015

Russian Intervention in Syria: Geostrategy is Paramount

Azmi Bishara

General Director of the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies (ACRPS) and Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies (DI). Bishara is a leading Arab researcher and intellectual with numerous books and academic publications on political thought, social theory and philosophy. He was named by Le Nouveau Magazine Littéraire as one of the world’s most influential thinkers. His publications in Arabic include Civil Society: A Critical Study (1996); On The Arab Question: An Introduction to an Arab Democratic Manifesto (2007); To Be an Arab in Our Times (2009); On Revolution and Susceptibility to Revolution (2012); Religion and Secularism in Historical Context (in 3 vols., 2013, 2015); The Army and Political Power in the Arab Context: Theoretical Problems (2017); 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. His latest publication titled The Question of the State: Philosophy, Theory, and Context (2023) with a second volume forthcoming in 2024 titled The Arab State: Beginnings and Evolution.

Bishara’s English publications include Palestine: Matters of Truth and Justice (Hurst, 2022); On Salafism: Concepts and Contexts (Stanford University Press, 2022); Sectarianism without Sects (Oxford University Press, 2021), among other writings. His trilogy on the Arab revolutions, published by I.B. Tauris, consists of Understanding Revolutions: Opening Acts in Tunisia (2021); Egypt: Revolution, Failed Transition and Counter-Revolution (2022); and Syria 2011-2013: Revolution and Tyranny before the Mayhem (2023), in which he provides a theoretical analysis in addition to a rich, comprehensive and lucid assessment of the revolutions in three Arab countries: Tunisia, Egypt and Syria.


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.