MOSCOW, August 28 (Itar-Tass) - U.S. President Barack Obama is not interested in launching a military operation against Syria but will most likely have to start it, Russian political scientist Sergei Karaganov said.
According to media reports, the United States and its NATO partners are planning to deliver strikes at the Syrian government army’s facilities in the next few days, but Obama has so far not given the green light to the operation that is supposed to be the West’s reply to the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria, Karaganov, who is also one of the leading international affairs experts in Russia and the co-founder of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, told ITAR-TASS on Wednesday, August 28.
“The U.S. president has come under the increasingly growing pressure because of the delay in the decision on Syria both inside the country and outside it. U.S. allies have accused America of inaction and called it a paper tiger that no one is afraid of. I am not a sorcerer but the likelihood of missile strikes on army facilities in Syria is growing before our eyes,” Karaganov said.
He believes that Obama may limit himself to “a symbolic gesture” just to keep his face and order surgical strikes on key strategic army targets in Syria within several days. This act of intimidation will provide an answer to the allies’ expectations.
When asked about Russia’s reaction to U.S. and NATO actions, Karaganov said, “Moscow will condemn the violation of international law and remind [everyone] that Washington and its allies acted without the U.N. support but will not join in the fight.”
As for official Ankara’s statement about its readiness to take part in the U.S. and NATO operation against Syria without the U.N. approval, Karaganov said “the political situation in Turkey is unlikely to allow it to get involved in the military operation. Turkey will most likely provide military bases and planes to allies but it will not send its own army to fight [in Syria]. There is instability in the Middle East and in Turkey itself. Ankara understands that one must not throw rocks in a crystal palace.”
Karaganov warned that “the region will be swept by chaos” if missile strikes were delivered on Syria. He does not rule out that Syria may break up as a state. “If [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad resigns, the civil war will inevitably continue in the country and the population will drown in blood,” he said.
However, in his opinion, “Bashar al-Assad has the chance to stay in office even if the U.S. and NATO start a military operation because the army is on his side. His regime will become weaker of course, but it has been holding out quite long amid internal and external confrontation and it may as well hold out further.”
He thinks that the main risk associated with a possible military operation in Syria is “the growth of the terrorist plague in the very heart of the Middle East.”
Karaganov noted that following the dramatic cooling of relations between Russia and the United States following Moscow’s decision to give temporary asylum to former U.S. National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, the disagreements between Moscow and Washington on Syria will lead their relations to a dead-end. Obama’s refusal to meet President Vladimir Putin in September marked the highest point of frustration in bilateral relations.
He said the Snowden factor was “the straw that broke the camel’s back.” The Syrian factor can upset bilateral relations completely. However Karaganov believes that these are secondary factors. The main reason for the deterioration of relations between the two countries is that the previous, mainly nuclear, agenda has exhausted itself.
Karaganov says that apart from the reduction of nuclear arsenals Russia and the United States have many other common interests concerning future problems, such as assistance to the peaceful development of China and the situation around it. “Russia and the U.S. should also be concerned about the spread of the Arab chaos to the rest of the world. The two countries can help the international community prevent a deterioration of the situation concerning the climate, water, food and cybercrime.”
The expert believes that the current pause in relations between Russia and the U.S. should be used for drafting a new agenda committed to the future.