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Russia’s pullout from Syria good news for Jordan on different levels — analysts

By Mohammad Ghazal - Mar 17,2016 - Last updated at Mar 17,2016

AMMAN — Russia’s decision to begin withdrawing troops from Syria is likely to help decrease fighting across the borders in south of Syria as well as limit the influx of Syrians fleeing to Jordan, commentators said Wednesday as the government reiterated that armed forces were ready to deal with any developments at the borders.

The government expressed hope that Russian decision will be a step to support the desired political solution in Syria.  It added that the armed forces were ready to deal with any consequences at the borders in light of the Russian pullout.

"We hope that the decision will help support and sustain the political process and achieve the Geneva I agreements towards a transitional political process that is inclusive of all the segments of the Syrian society," Minister of State for Media Affairs and Communications Mohammad Momani told The Jordan Times on Wednesday.

Momani added that the Kingdom’s northern borders are protected by the best military defences against any spillovers from the raging Syrian conflict.

The commentators said that Jordan previously reached understandings with Russia regarding the northern borders with Syria and stressed that, regardless of any such deals, Jordan has been able to control its borders throughout the five-year-long conflict in Syria.

“This is a good decision for Jordan as the Kingdom feared that possible Russian air strikes in the south of Syria would lead to more refugees fleeing to Jordan… In addition, several shells fell from Syria in Jordan recently causing some injuries,” Fayez Dweiri, a retired major general and a military analyst, told The Jordan Times over the phone.

The commentators said the decision is likely to ensure calm at the Syrian areas bordering the Kingdom and help reduce the number of Syrian refugees coming to Jordan placing further pressure on the country’s infrastructure and resources. Currently, Jordan is home to more than 1.3 million Syrian refugees.

“The decision is positive, and it will eventually have positive consequences on Jordan, which sees that a political solution to the Syrian crisis is in its best interests,” retired major general and strategic analyst Adeeb Sarayreh said Wednesday.

“Jordan greatly succeeded in preventing infiltrations from Syria over the past years and is capable of protecting its borders,” Sarayreh added.

The experts said the Russian decision reflects dismay over the Syrian regime’s stances and is a turning point that is likely to strengthen the opposition in the Geneva peace talks that went under way Monday.

The pullout of Russian forces from Syria is expected to push for a political solution to end the five-year crisis in Syria, the pundits agreed, pointing out that Russia’s decision came at a time when the super power faces economic hardships and failure in its mission to uproot terrorism in Syria.

The surprising development, they said, will eventually have a positive impact on Jordan only if Geneva talks succeed in ending up with a political solution that leads to a national unity government in Syria and eventually joining forces to fight terrorist groups in Syria. The push towards a political solution is a testimony to Jordan’s prudent foreign policies.

“Russia has repeatedly stressed that it supports the Syrian regime, not Syrian President Bashar Assad, and in spite of that, Syrian officials keep stressing that Assad is a red line. Russia’s pullout reflects dismay over these repeated statements,” Sarayreh said.

On Saturday, Syria’s foreign minister, Walid Mouallem said peace talks would fail if any party insists on Assad’s stepping down in the transitional period.

Even Iran, a key ally for Assad, welcomed the Russian step as “positive”, noted Sarayreh, referring to Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif reaction on the pullout as “a positive sign”.

“This, again, strengthens the Syrian opposition,” said Sarayreh.

Russia was also forced to take the decision as it has been under economic pressure from the West, facing economic difficulties due to the drop in oil prices and the value of the ruble and Moscow’s unwillingness to be in direct confrontation with the US and several regional countries that have been warning of sending ground troops to Syria, like Saudi Arabia and its allies, said the commentators.

“It seems there was a US-Russian agreement to bring an end to the conflict and push for a political solution amidst growing crisis the EU is facing due to influx of massive numbers of refugees,” said Sarayreh.

“Any progress towards a political solution in Syria will reflect positively on Jordan,” he said.

Dweiri said Russia must have realised that its mission in Syria was a failure and although it temporarily succeeded in backing the Syrian forces to regain control over several areas, it did not want to “sink in the Syrian quagmire”.

“Russia was also accused of committing massacres and crimes against humanity during its air raids… These are all factors that forced Russia to pull out… Russia at this stage is trying to sell the world the idea that it is the one that succeeded in pushing for a political solution although it contributed much to the destruction of Syria,” said Dweiri. 

Jamal Al Shalabi, a professor of political science at the Hashemite University, said the step seems to have been taken in line with an understanding between Russia and the US that are both pushing for a political solution to end the Syrian crisis.

“The decision will help keep calm in most areas in Syria, which will reduce the number of Syrians fleeing the violence to Jordan and neghbouring countries,” he said.

“When Russia first sent forces to Syria, it did not do that to flex muscles but to make political gains and the step was certainly taken in coordination with Iran,” said Shalabi in a phone interview on Tuesday.

“World powers realised that there is no point in prolonging the fight in Syria amidst rising terrorist groups and refugees influx... This is a positive step,” he said.

 

 “What is happening at this stage and the push for peaceful solution proves Jordan has been right in its position on the Syrian crisis,” said the expert.

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