New position of Egypt (where events are changing rapidly) and Jordan on Syria, the US statement that they have evidence of the use of Damascus chemical weapons, and the prospect of confronting the guards of the Islamic Revolution with the American special forces seemed to have alienated the idea of convening a peace conference, to which they had already placed a timid hope, reinforced by an active attack on the positions of the Syrian army militants. Experts talked about the Iraqi scenario, which became a consequence of “Colin Powell's test tubes”, and the Syrian issue turned out to be the central topic of discussion at the G8 summit, the results of which, contrary to forecasts, showed quite real parameters of cooperation on the Syrian crisis.
The United States almost crossed the border, the consequences of the crossing of which would have been impossible to prevent when a dangerous decision was made to supply weapons to the Syrian opposition (albeit with certain reservations). At the same time, the White House said that the American intelligence report that Syrian government troops use chemical weapons was the last straw (despite the fact that one of the members of the independent commission under the auspices of the UN, Carl del Ponte, reported that the opposition used chemical weapons).
The question of evidence of the use of chemical weapons in Syria by government forces was extremely important for Western countries, since this fact could justify the need to sell weapons to the rebels. Since the EU did not extend the embargo on the sale of weapons to Syria at the end of May, the countries of the union have such a right, but they are not in a hurry to use it. British Foreign Secretary William Hague said that you first need to try to resolve the conflict by political means.
The US’s decision to supply weapons to the Syrian opposition caused a variety of assessments, and senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham added fuel to the fire, who in a joint statement noted that the United States should not limit itself to increasing the volume of military assistance to the opposition, but must undertake a military operation and strike cruise missiles on the troops of Assad.
It is clear that the US president is under heavy pressure from the so-called hawks. However, it is also extremely important for Americans to have loyal military force among the Syrian opposition, which they could quickly provide with arms, train and begin to control. After two years, the Syrian free army still remains extremely fragmented, Islamists and radicals are gaining strength, there is a struggle for leadership, it is experiencing an internal crisis, not subject to a single center (after injuring its former commander Riad Al-Assad) and is weak in terms of military training. There are independent Salafi detachments (the largest of them is Jabhat al-Nusra), and on the side of the militants representatives of other countries, including Russia (about 200 people) take part in the battle, which was officially announced by FSB director Alexander Bortnikov.
At the same time, a process began on the Syrian-Jordanian border, which is associated with the preparation of a no-fly zone. Patriot anti-aircraft missile systems, F-16 combat aircraft and five thousand soldiers arrived in Jordan, according to the official version, as part of the annual Life of the Lion exercises. During these maneuvers, not only purely military operations, but also the actions of the police and humanitarian organizations, including assisting refugees from Syria and neutralizing possible unrest in their camps, were practiced. At the same time, after the completion of the exercise, the weapon must remain in Jordan. However, for the introduction of a no-fly zone, a UN Security Council sanction is required, which cannot be obtained without the consent of the Russian Federation and China. Moreover, after the sharp statement by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon about the unacceptability of unilateral taking such steps without a proper UN mandate, it is clear that it will be practically impossible to implement.
Moreover, the dynamics of events in the Middle East are increasingly demonstrating the limits of the possibilities of American policy: after the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, this country is increasingly moving away from the patronage of the United States (taking, in particular, a firm position on Syria), and recently the United States announced the beginning negotiations with the Taliban on the future of Afghanistan (and this is almost 12 years after they were removed from power with the direct participation of the Americans).
Therefore, the situation is still intensifying in order to involve neighboring countries in the Syrian conflict, implying that Turkey can also get involved in it, although for her the Syrian issue is still in the background, as the authorities, stubbornly not wanting to meet the rally participants, may resolve internal serious contradictions. But the Israelis have bombed Syria three times over the past year, it has become for them a field of confrontation with Iran. Israel is not ready to coexist with a nuclear Iran, whose leadership has repeatedly called for the destruction of the Jewish state, and the Israeli Prime Minister, in turn, from the podium of the UN General Assembly, stated that if there is no progress in curbing Tehran’s nuclear program, Israel reserves the right to act alone. Therefore, the force scenario with respect to Iran continues to be preserved, and the calculation is apparently being made that the Sunnis (in the face of having strengthened their influence in the region of Saudi Arabia and other monarchies of the Persian Gulf) will support it.
What is the reason for such a frank decision of the United States, adopted with respect to the Syrian opposition on the eve of the summit? First of all, they were pushed by the events in Syria itself, when government forces after the winter defeat began to press the rebels and turn the situation around, regaining control over many parts of the country, and especially their strategic success was to take the stronghold of the armed opposition of the city of Quseir on the border with Lebanon. After this, the Assad troops launched an active offensive and attacked Aleppo, with the result that confidence appeared that they could win the war. The rebels declared an urgent need for anti-tank and anti-aircraft equipment to counter the government offensive. Al-Qusayr was of paramount military importance for the militants (as a point of receipt of military aid from Lebanon and a springboard for launching a large-scale offensive against Damascus). That is why the Syrian opposition as a condition of their presence at the international conference on Syria demanded an immediate stop of the storming of this city.
Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi (ousted from power) after the US decision to supply weapons to the Syrian opposition hurried to make a statement about the severance of diplomatic relations with Syria. Moreover, the former president requested the leaders of the Lebanese Hezbollah to withdraw their troops from Syria, and also called on the world community to establish a no-fly zone over it. Official Damascus described this statement as joining the orchestra of conspirators and instigators led by the United States and Israel.
With their harsh statements, the United States effectively nullified the seemingly established dialogue on Syria and put Russia in a difficult situation on the eve of the G8 summit. The main intrigue of the negotiations at this forum was whether the communiqué would be adopted with or without Russia (according to the formula “7 + 1”, as Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper put it).
The negotiations were not easy, as the West initially sought to endorse a new “road map” in Northern Ireland and finally convince Russia not to persist in the Syrian issue, putting an end to diplomatic solutions to the conflict. French President Francois Hollande again criticized Moscow for the supply of weapons to Damascus, and British Prime Minister David Cameron presented a draft statement on Syria, including the question of transferring power from Assad to the transitional government, as well as the G8’s commitment to develop a detailed plan for resolving the political situation after Assad. Seven forum participants were ready to subscribe to this document, but the question of the departure of the Syrian president was unacceptable for Russia. The head of Russia, as noted by various media, in matters of the Syrian conflict and the future of Bashar al-Assad was one against the "seven".
The final document, however, was accepted jointly, but most importantly, in the wording that suited Russian diplomacy: without demanding Bashar al-Assad’s departure, but condemning the use of chemical weapons by any party to the conflict, and not only by government forces. The G8 also agreed on the need to hold a conference in Geneva and noted the importance of a political solution to the problem with the participation of all parties to the conflict. Separately, the importance of excluding al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups from the political process was highlighted. At the same time, the Russian side, in turn, agreed with the wording about the special responsibility of the Syrian government for the observance of human rights and international humanitarian conventions. All this demonstrated: the talk of extreme disagreements in the G8 was somewhat exaggerated and confirmed the fact that the reserves of a diplomatic settlement have not yet been exhausted. And following the summit, Barack Obama made it clear that the United States is not going to organize a military invasion of Syria.
Russia, as always, was supported by Germany, perfectly aware that it is now necessary to solve its own economic problems. This deepened the split within the European Union, whose leaders, due to a different understanding of the tasks, act separately, often entering into competition, which naturally complicates the conflict resolution process and creates favorable conditions for the activities of extremists of all stripes. German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged not to allow isolation of Russia, since without Moscow the conflict in Syria could not be resolved, and also clearly stated that Germany would not supply arms to the opposition.
It is difficult to say with certainty whether Geneva-2 will take place, but one very important outcome of the summit on the Syrian crisis is that now the United States is unlikely to start supplying opposition weapons in the near future. This means that the Syrian government forces will have time to continue the offensive operation on the militant positions and the chance to complete this operation successfully. Moreover, the opposition will have no reason to put forward preliminary conditions to sit at the negotiating table, if the opposition itself by this time still has something to represent.
The situation in Syria is often compared with the situation in Iraq or Libya. However, a direct analogy to the Algerian events of the 90s suggests itself. At that time, too, it seemed that Algeria would not be able to emerge from the growing spiral of violence, and the Algerian army was unable to suppress the armed Islamist groups operating throughout the whole country, which was inundated with weapons. Having chosen the President of the country in 1999, Algeria, despite the darkest predictions, went on its own way, moving to the path of political reconciliation of the parties to the conflict with the mutual desire to create conditions for joint activities and finding common goals for further development in the framework of the model of the national-Islamic state. The entire subsequent political process only reinforced this tendency: a coalition of pro-government parties (which included, in particular, the moderate Islamic party, the Society for Peace movement, which secured the majority of seats in the legislature) acted along with two other political forces: the Islamic Alliance and berber parties and independent deputies.
In Algeria, this balance of political forces was preceded by a long period of civil war, which lasted almost ten years, and an equally long period of formation of a new political system, which is aimed at creating a state mechanism capable of resisting and actively resisting possible attempts to destabilize it. Such a model was justified during the period of the “Arab Spring”, when the performances that began in Algeria quickly faded away. The significant difference, however, is that the Western countries supported the political transformation in Algeria by actively supporting President Abdel Aziz Bouteflika in his endeavors, as well as oil revenues that helped this state stabilize the economic situation and restore the country's image in the international arena. In contrast to Algeria, Syria actually survived for many months, under the siege of external threats from the world community, which, of course, made the process of stabilization much harder. And the political transformations that began to resolve the conflict with the political opposition by fulfilling its demands (referendum on the new constitution, the introduction of a multiparty system, elections), were almost immediately blocked by external forces that declared the Syrian president illegitimate. Subsequently, the armed struggle acquired an uncontrollable character, and in Syria, the interests of regional and extra-regional players were tied up in a tight knot, which brought the process of political settlement to a deaf impasse.
Moscow continues to advocate a dialogue between the conflicting parties with the participation of all interested countries, including Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Such a position of Russia implies the development of a tool for making a political decision in a multipolar world, but not the approval of the right of a specific group of states to solve all internal and regional problems by military means. And it is precisely this sequence with which our policy was pursued in the Syrian issue that allowed us to keep the situation within the framework of international law. It is clear that the further process of Islamization or democratization of the Middle East depends on how this conflict is resolved. Non-interference in Syrian affairs will open up prospects for further reorganization of the country. The final communiqué of the summit on Syria, adopted jointly with Russia and designed to keep regional players from intervening in the Syrian crisis, is aimed precisely at this. In this sense, Russia at the G8 summit was the winner, and the winner, as you know, is always the same.