The Russian Withdrawal, for Jordan!

By: Jumana Ghunaimat

تم نشره في Wed 16 March / Mar 2016. 11:08 PM
  • جمانة غنيمات

The situation on the southern front for Syria comprises one of the leading causes of concern for Jordan over the past period, especially with the breach of Moscow’s prior agreement with the Kingdom not to tamper with the southern region, and to keep it as it was before the Russian military intervention.

Accordingly, in the past five months, the case in southern Syria changed due to Russian military operations expanding into the region, raising justified alarms in Jordan of there being Hezbollah fighters and supporters of the Popular Mobilisation front and other Iraqi militias, near the borders with Jordan.

The deterioration of moderate Syrian opposition forces —close to Jordan, in that region, contributes to the probability of the emergence of armed extremist factions. This is in addition to the anxiety of massive waves of displaced Syrians, by the hundreds of thousands, closer to Jordanian borders, as a result of military operations in Daraa, and the regime and allies recapturing parts of it under Russian air cover.

Now, on the other hand, the surprising Russian withdrawal —even to some of those close to Vladimir Putin, will impact on the southern region, obviously. As the decision simultaneous to the cease-fire that seems to be holding despite continuous violations, makes viable to anticipate that there will be no further expansion of the regime and their allies in the region, an expansion that is —both consequential and backed by Iranian militias, one of the causes of Jordanian restlessness. Bearing in mind that the Russian withdrawal does not prevent, at all, the threat coming from the northern frontlines, due to the possibility of increased Iranian presence to cover for Russia’s withdrawal; this could exacerbate confliction between opposition factions of the regime forces and allies. Especially if these factions tried to recover territories lost under Russian “Sukhoi” skies. On top of that, Syria will remain a source of danger long as the war endures, specifically in terms of continued attempts by some members of terrorist groups to crossover to Jordan.

Nevertheless, the Russian withdrawal is of clear benefits to Jordan. One is in the reasonable anticipation of intensified confrontations with ISIS, particularly since these terrorist organizations were not primary targets of Russian air strikes. Contrarily ISIS were saved from these strikes, according to all reports in this regard. Hence, the withdrawal of the bulk of Russian troops in Syria, with the continuation of the role of the remaining some, in Humaimam and Tartus bases specifically, to fight ISIS, may strengthen Jordan's efforts on this front. And this is a big benefit; the risks of ISIS and its ilk poses endless insecurities to the region, and Jordan —one of the most targeted areas, as the Irbid operation confirmed not long ago.

More to it, surely, the other “wishful” benefit is in that Russia’s military exit may push towards the development of a political solution to the Syrian crisis —at its sixth year. Withdrawal just hours ahead of the "Geneva 3", is a reducing factor to the ego of the Assad regime and intransigence that has grown with the Russians at their side. The very chance of there being an impending political solution —next to the logical premises of economic, political, and social gains for Jordan— backs Jordan’s view, long asserted, that the end of the "proxy war" in Syria can only be achieved politically.

Jordan remains in a relatively comfortable position as for relation to players in Syria. The open cease-fire also gives the Kingdom the opportunity to put forward propositions in a calmer atmosphere, with a more balanced out setting for the various actors in the crisis.

The matter, however, remains —of the withdrawal of Russian troops, a stage of the conflict in Syria, just as it was Moscow's decision to intervene directly overnight. Thus, the Russian new decision does not automatically put an end to the war in Syria, which is the origin of the challenges facing Jordan and stability on our northern border.

Notwithstanding, I must say; reading analysis of causes and consequences of Putin's surprise decision, keeps it rationale open to interpretation, and keeps it very complicated.