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Missile strikes may bring about disintegration of Syrian state, analyst says

August 28, 2013, 16:09 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara

MOSCOW, August 28 (Itar-Tass) - Although U.S. President Barack Obama is not interested in a military operation in Syria, he will most probably have to launch it anyway, says Dr. Sergei Karaganov, dean of the world economy and politics department at Moscow’s Supreme School of Economics and a leading Russian expert on international affairs.

Dr. Karaganov, President Emeritus and founder of Russia’s Council for Foreign and Defense Policy, made the comment in noting reports that Washington and its North Atlantic partners had already begun preparations to deliver missile strikes at the bases and installations of Syrian government troops.

Along with this, reports indicate that Obama has not given the go-ahead for a full-scale military operation in retaliation for a recent incident in which forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad allegedly used chemical weapons.

“The U.S. president experiences increasing pressure both inside and outside the country over delays to decisions on Syria,” Dr. Karaganov said. “The allies accuse the U.S. of inaction and call it a paper tiger unable to scare anyone. I’m not a fortuneteller by any means, but the possibility of missile strikes at Syria is growing visibly.”

He said Obama might confine his actions to symbolic face-saving steps and order sting strikes at the Syrian armed forces’ critical facilities over a period of several days. This act of intimidation would become a response to the allies’ expectations.

When Itar-Tass asked him about Russia’s possible reaction to the U.S. and NATO activities against Syria, Dr. Karaganov said “Moscow will most probably condemn the encroachment on the norms of law and will remind Washington of the absence of UN support for the strikes but it will stay away from the brawl nonetheless.”

He expressed doubts about Turkey’s stated readiness to throw its shoulder into a U.S.-led military operation against Syria in the absence of UN sanctions for it. “The internal political situation will scarcely let Ankara engage in a military operation conducted by larger players,” he said.

“In most probability, Turkey will offer its military bases and warplanes to the allies but it won’t send its troops.” Dr. Karaganov said. “The Middle East and Turkey are plagued by instability and the Turkish government realises only too well there is no throwing stones around if you live in a glass palace.”

He said he felt apprehensive of a wave of chaos that might sweep the region in the wake of U.S. missile strikes on Syria.

Dr. Karaganov predicted a possible disintegration of the Syrian state. “If Bashar al-Assad resigns, the civil war will inevitably continue there and the population will drown in blood.”

The irony of the situation was that President Assad would have a chance to keep power in Syria in his hands even in the event of a U.S./NATO military operation. “The army is siding with him and although his positions will quite naturally be undermined, he may hold down state power for quite some time in conditions of a domestic and external stalemate,” Dr. Karaganov said.

The main danger inherent in a military action against Syria was “a surge of the risks posed by terrorism in the very heart of the Middle East”.

He pointed out the complete deadlock that Russia-U.S. relations, already chilled by the granting of temporary Russian citizenship to the fugitive CIA technologist Edward Snowden, would be driven into by the contradictions between the White House and the Kremlin over Syria. President Obama’s refusal to hold scheduled summit talks with Vladimir Putin in September became the culmination of that cooling.

The Snowden factor turned into a straw that broke the camel’s neck, Dr. Karaganov said. As for the Syrian factor, it may push Russian-American relations into a total impasse. The cornerstone problem for both Moscow and Washington was that the previous agenda of bilateral contacts - the one mostly hinged on nuclear armaments - did not deliver the goods any more.

In spite of this, Dr. Karaganov said that Russia and the U.S. have many common interests in the solution of other global problems of the future, aside from nuclear armaments. “One of them is assistance to China’s peaceful development,” he said. “Moscow and Washington should be concerned by averting the spread of the Arab chaos to other parts of the globe.”

“Also, both nations could help prevent the worsening of the situation with climate, water, foodstuffs, and cybercrime.”

Dr. Karaganov called on Russia and the U.S. to use the current pause in relations for pondering an agenda aimed at the future.