By Sunday Orinya
The collapse of the last month ceasefire between rebels and government forces in Syria brokered by Russia and the United States should concern every body concerned about the crisis in Syria. It has serious implications. So much was expected from the deal. It was hoped that the ceasefire would have provided the necessary background for a genuine peace talk between the two parties. It was suppose to test both the confidence of the two parties (government and rebels) in the process and the third party (Russia and the US).
The success of the deal would have meant a lot to the Syrian peace process. It would have, in the interim, given hope for a common front to fight the Islamic States terrorists. On the long run, it would have set the stage for lasting peace. But for inexplicable reasons a bomb attack on Syrian government forces by US-backed rebel forces left over 62 soldiers dead and scores wounded. The US claimed it was a mistake but it inexorably gave the Syrian government and its Russia ally no room to invest any modicum of confidence in the US.
Confidence is very critical in any peace process. Whenever confidence is eroded suspicion and outright skepticism take center stage. Both the peace process and the third party must enjoy the confidence of the parties to the conflict before it can succeed. It is from this backdrop that the damage done by the “mistake” of the US, which led to the collapse of the ceasefire, can be imagined. It is simply incalculable! The picture coming from Aleppo is bad and the US should be held responsible. They created the suspicion that has led to the current barrage of attacks on Aleppo.
The success recorded by Russian air force in the fight against terrorism in Syria and the powerful offensive of the Syrian Arab Army, which has forced ISIS out of its strongholds has been impressive. Turkey has complemented this in recent times with attacks on ISIS, which has seriously weakened the terrorist organization. But each time one is getting close to respite the US always finds way of truncating it. It does not make any humanitarian sense to focus attention on the Syrian President, Bashar Al Assad, while thousands of innocent people are dyeing and millions forced out of their homes as refugees.
One thing the US and its European allies should know is that the more the fight in Syria is prolonged the more terrorism would be brought closer home to their corridors. The likely destination of the terrorists and mercenaries being displaced from Syria may be their home countries in Central Asia and Muslim regions in Russia. They will surely engage in radicalizing people with their extremist ideas, which will definitely prove tough for their home governments.
Already, extremists have already started to take practical steps to destabilize the former Soviet Union states. They use jihad propaganda to recruit young people into the ranks of Islamic State to carryout extremist activities. European foreign policy experts are beginning to warn that the influx of returnee fighters from the Middle East portends danger. They are trained fighters with experience in warfare, which they can deploy to terrorize not just Russia and Central Asian states but also to destabilize Europe.
The EU is seriously concerned about the possible losses in the economic sphere, but another pressing problem is the migration crisis that is already proving difficult to handle. The spread of extremism in Central Asia will inevitably provoke a flood of refugees who will seek refuge in prosperous Europe countries. Endless crowds of migrants will storm European borders, as already being experienced in Turkey, Italy, Greece and the Balkan countries.
Another potential hotbed of terrorist threats in the underbelly of Europe is Ukraine and the nearby Crimea peninsula. The peninsula bordering the Kherson region of Ukraine is reported to be witnessing increased activity of radical and nationalist groups. It is not only local (Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar) activists, but also visiting Turkish. The Turkish neo-fascist group, Grey Wolves, which has taken responsibility for shooting down the Russian military aircraft and pilot on 24 November 2015 in Syria, is very much on the ground there.
This group participated in undermining the power lines and energy blockade of the peninsula. They have also set up camps in southern Ukraine to local radicals for subsequent destabilization of Crimea, now a Russian territory. These growing terrorist activities should concern European politicians for two basic reasons. Firstly, the destabilization of the region would lead again to increased flow of migrants. Majority of those that may likely be displaced from Ukrainians will naturally head to EU countries. This will increase the likely number of terrorists in Europe. Secondly, it will be easier to move its fighters and weapons to commit terrorist attacks there.
The emergent situation will make Europe more vulnerable to terrorism. EU will simply be unable to tackle the extremists on many fronts. Brussels will come to the realization that it needs countries with regional experience in combating terrorism. The primary reason Central Asia and Russia set up the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) was to combat terrorism. Their collective rapid response force and the regional anti-terrorist structure of the SCO have established themselves as a reliable guarantor of security in the post-Soviet space.
European countries must learn to appreciate the fact that blind support of the US commitment to ousting the Assad regime will do nothing to combat terrorism. Rather it would only increase it and Europe would be worse of. It is hoped that the European political class will demonstrate enough political wisdom on how to develop a joint strategy against the common enemy, ISIS. As the Russian President Vladimir Putin said, the international community must find the strength to unite against a common evil.
— Orinya wrote in from Lafia, Nasarawa State