By Vahid Pourtajrishi

Iran’s missile attack on ISIS is game changer: Indian analyst 

July 22, 2017 - 11:50
‘U.S. playing pretentious game in Syria’

TEHRAN - Bhakti M. Desai, an Indian international relations analyst, is of the opinion that Iran’s missile attack on ISIS strongholds in Syria on June 18 was a “historic game changer”.

Desai also says BRIC members including India appreciate Tehran’s approach toward Syria.

Following is the text of Desai’s interview with the Tehran Times:

Question: During the BRICS meeting in Beijing last month Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov asserted it is better for the U.S. to end its unilateral activities in Syria. How could Russia and the U.S. work shoulder to shoulder in Syria to fight terrorism? Is it is possible?

Answer: The recent meeting of BRICS foreign ministers at Beijing saw fruitful discussions and talks on terrorism, trade and commerce. So when Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov chose to use this potent platform to assert his country’s concerns over Syria, it did not really come as a surprise to anyone. Russia has constantly called upon the U.S. to stop unilateral activities in Syria and appealed for well-coordinated multilateral approach to solve the Syrian crisis. Russia also believes that any action in Syria should be coordinated with Damascus. Trump on his part throughout his election campaign had been vocal about the threat that ISIS posed to humanity and had showed willingness to co-operate with even Iran and Russia to eliminate ISIS; he had also spoken of reducing U.S. involvement in Syria.

However post-elections Trump has gone back on his words. The U.S. is now involved not only in a power game politics in Syria but is also concentrating more on targeting the Syrian regime forces rather than the ISIS. The fact remains that no matter who comes to power in the U.S., their foreign policy is driven by corporate interests. In my opinion the recent developments in Syria as well as past experiences clearly indicate that there can never be a U.S.-Russia rapprochement on Syria.

BRICS (which includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) as a whole could play a key role in peace building efforts and post-conflict reconstruction in Syria.There is no possibility of the two former cold war foes working shoulder to shoulder in Syria. First and foremost both Russia and the U.S. have contradictory interests and intentions in Syria.  While Russia has long standing geo-political interests in Syria, it supports the Assad regime and has been focusing on eliminating ISIS so that the region can be stabilized. On the other hand the U.S. like always is playing a pretentious game in Syria. It is more interested in downing the Assad regime and bringing in a puppet government rather than fighting ISIS. The U.S. is actually fighting a proxy war in Syria by supporting the rebel groups. The recent downing of a Syrian warplane by U.S. forces and the consequent Russian response have sparked fears that the two countries could be heading for a confrontation which could manifest into a prolonged proxy war in Syria.

Q: Basically, the Syrian issue and conditions in Middle East were two of the main topics of negotiations between BRICS members. How these states, which are not in Middle East, can help find a solution to the wounds of the Middle East?

A: The Middle East in general and Syria in particular have increasingly become a main thread of discussion at consequent BRICS summits and meetings. The international political scenario in the past decade has been dominated by issues of the Middle East and Syria. The Syrian crisis in particular has escalated enormously over the years with a potential of a possible spillover.  Even though the BRICS countries are not located in Middle East, the involvement of Russia as a direct actor in the Syrian conflict has made the group a key actor in solving the Syrian crisis. BRICS approach towards Syria is largely driven by its standpoint of questioning certain international norms and pushing for a more just international system based on peaceful relations and respect for national sovereignty. BRICS has challenged and criticized tendencies of the U.S. and its allies to carry out crafty military interventions in the Middle East to suit their political designs. While Russia has been historically close to the Assad regime the other BRICS nations too have not only maintained full diplomatic ties with Syrian government but also kept their embassies in Damascus. Russia and China as permanent members of the UNSC have blocked several unfair and unbalanced resolutions against Syria and certain other Middle East countries. India, Brazil and South Africa on their part have also held non-interventionist approach in the Middle East. The summit documents of BRICS have directly addressed the Syrian crisis reiterating their stand of respect for national sovereignty and independence of Syria while devising any political solution to the escalating crisis in that country. They have acknowledged terrorism as a salient aspect of Syrian crisis. The Middle East being rich in natural resources has always been on radar of the U.S. and its allies. The U.S. and its allies are always on a lookout for opportunities to topple popular governments in these countries and replace them with puppet governments which could help them control the resources and markets of these countries. BRICS nations have objected to the use of Responsibility To Protect (R2P) framework to justify military intervention by the U.S. and its allies in the Middle East in general and Syria in particular. The BRICS clique could play a crucial role in resolving the issues of the Middle East because this group promises a fair and innovative approach to the problems of the Middle East as opposed to western self-motivated solutions. To begin with BRICS on account of its vast political, economic and cultural weight can influence the shaping of international attitude towards Syrian crisis. Further while Russia’s intervention has helped in fighting the ISIS, China and India can play a major role in facilitating humanitarian aid for the war-torn nation. BRICS as a whole could play a key role in peace building efforts and post-conflict reconstruction in Syria.
Q: As, you know, Iran attacked ISIS strongholds in Syria on June 18 using its ballistic missiles for the first time. How India sees this. What is your opinion?

A:  I believe Iran’s attack on ISIS strongholds in Syria is a historic game changer in many ways. For the first time in 30 years Iran has chosen to fire missiles from its territory. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard clearly announced that the attack was in retaliation for double terrorist attacks in Tehran two weeks ago (June 7) and also warned that Iran will not hesitate to launch more missile attacks if the ISIS militants plot any future attacks on Iran. This is a bold step and will now change the dynamics in the Middle East in many ways. Through this attack Iran has sent a clear and stern message to the ISIS, and various other terrorist outfits and its enemies that Iran is fully prepared to retaliate with full force to any threat to its people and its national interests even beyond its boundaries. India would completely understand and support this stand of Iran because India too faces cross border terrorism and has resorted to cross border surgical strikes in retaliation of terrorist attacks. Moreover India too is opposed to the ISIS and would like to see the ISIS out of Syria. Past experiences have proved time again that Iran is the most reliable friend India has in the Middle East. Hence India would appreciate Iran s presence and involvement in Syria. India shares Iran’s concern about terrorism and has similar approach towards ISIS.  Moreover like Iran, India also supports the Assad regime and understands that Iran’s involvement in Syria is part of an effort to fight terrorism and extremism in the Middle East. Though India is not directly involved in Syria but like Iran it endorses peaceful solutions to the ongoing crisis on the basis of respect for Syrian independence and sovereignty. India would like to see a stable, ISIS-free Syria which in my opinion is possible only with Iran’s involvement.


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