North Korea (DPRK) and Syria could have never been closer than today. On April 13th, at night, Donald Trump ordered to bomb Damascus with 120 Tomahawks, which were directly aimed at Assad’s suspected chemical facilities. A similar military operation was conducted exactly twelve months earlier, followed by the delivery of a GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast – known as MOAB (Mother of All Bombs) – to an ISIS camp in Afghanistan.
Among the many diplomatic challenges that post-election Russia is going to face, perhaps its relations in the Middle East and the Syrian war are the greatest. Moscow will have to reap the rewards of a Middle Eastern foreign policy, which, despite having brought Russia back to the stage of global politics, risks seriously overstretching the Kremlin.
Only months ago, expectations were high that the Syrian civil war was coming to an end. But today, it seems that the war for Syria is just beginning. New disturbing scenarios are opening up. Weeks ago, tensions between Iran and Israel over Syria reached an all-time high. Meanwhile, the Turkish military began the operation "Olive Branch" in the Kurdish-controlled Afrin district in the northern region of the country.
The years preceding the Arab Spring were rather calm ones for the armed forces of the Arab world: two major conventional campaigns (Iraq 2003 and Lebanon 2006) barely involved the military, and terrorism was mostly under control in Algeria and Yemen. Elsewhere all was quiet on the Arab front. The Arab Spring changed this in more ways than one: to start with, it turned the militaries of Tunisia, Syria and Egypt into political actors, and split those of Yemen and Libya in two.
In an interview given to several European newspapers last June, the recently elected French president Emmanuel Macron took a new position regarding Syria and the future of the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad: France no longer sees his departure as a priority to bring peace back to the country. “Because no one has introduced me to his legitimate successor”, Macron added.
Nowadays, the Mediterranean region’s balance of power is challenged by several conflicts and actors. Russia has taken advantage of this complex and fluid situation, becoming a key actor, expanding its military involvement, and building up political relationships. A key step in this process has been Russian involvement in the Syrian conflict since September 2015. While this was a surprising development, the paper argues that it is nonethless consistent with Russia’s regional interests and its renewed foreign policy.