“Cui Bono” is a phrase from Latin and over the years, it has seen a unique increase in its literal use in political commentary. It means, “who benefits?”. When it comes to politics, especially in the international arena, it serves as the perfect backdrop, the perfect background to initiate an inquiry into what it all means.
Different players, multiple end games and unique motivations, all tied by one aspect, who benefits. Al-Qaeda, ISIL, the United States, the Bashar al-Assad regime, Russia, Putin, Kurds, all players with vested interests in one particular global political enigma presently, Syria. A great starting point in the quest to unravel this quagmire would be to ask, cui bono?
The ISIS, as of right now is seen as the principle, albeit not the singular, most important adversary in the Syrian conflict. The self-proclaimed Islamic caliphate with its own Caliph in the form of al-Baghdadi has terrorized the region and the world with a spitefulness that has rivaled even that of its ideological cousin, al-Qaeda. A threat not just in Syria but crossing borders well into Iraq, the Islamic State has managed to perplex experts on the region as to what exactly led to its rapid and emphatic rise culminating in it establishing a full-fledged state. Though, its threat has largely been neutralized with Iraqi forces along with several other allies, including the Kurds making their final assault on the IS’s “capital” of Mosul at the time this piece is being written. The ground realities still retain enough potency to eviscerate any expert as to how exactly was all of this allowed to come to fruition in the first place.
And then, of course, there’s the Assad regime. Though the regime has seen its military power and capabilities dwindled as a result of its parallel conflict with ISIL, it still possesses a problem that continues to linger. The main reason, or justifiably the only reason the Assad regime still retains control of the country is because he has had a powerful ally in the shape of Russia providing their uncompromised support, against ISIL in the battlefields and psychologically against the impulses from the American side that long had a rhetoric in favor of intervention inside the country.
Aside from that, the Assad regime has also managed to form a bond with the Iranian government giving it more leverage in the strategic aspect of the region. As mentioned earlier, though Assad may not have a large plethora of military capability at his disposal, the Russians are willing to provide air support and air power while the Iranians have been more than willing to provide basic ground troops along with command and control.
That has made up for any paucity the Assad regime may have had. This should also seek to underline the growing sphere of influence that Russia now commands in the region, plus the growingly warm ties between Moscow and Tehran, evident from the recent proposal from the Shia state to make military purchases from Moscow. The Syrian situation is not a standalone conflict, it has a great many sub plots operating in the background which affects the overall outcome of the conflict and seeks to reshape the ground realities as well as regional ties and new diplomatic exchanges taking place as a counter measure to the US interest in the region.
This perplexes the international community because such an exchange has major trade locations within its immediate military vicinity, such as the Suez Canal which would cripple, trade through that channel hurting not just the US interests but also the interests of other parties that seek to grow influence within the region. Moreover, the losses in Syria are themselves tantamount to a distinct failure of all the concerned parties in managing the conflict by reducing losses on the civilian side of the isle. Nearly 400,000 Syrian civilians have been killed, 5 million are now refugees while a further 6 and a half million are internally displaced. And despite the out roar over these exasperating losses, there seems no entity in the region capable enough or excusing the naivety, noble enough to be given the responsibility to handle the situation.
The Assad regime has managed to hold on to power even when there have been whispers dating back to almost the beginning of the conflict of its days being numbered. It still remains in control of the large part of the country, particularly in the western part of the state where most of the densely populated cities and economically vital locations are. There have been losses on that front too but the crux of the situation still remains abundantly clear, the Assad regime is still in control despite the polemics of his rivals over the past 5 or so years.
All this aside, the Assad regime still has had its fair share of defeats that have led to it losing morale as well fundamental control over troubled regions, one of the many reasons that led to the swift rise of ISIL in the first place. It should be thanking its lucky stars that it had the support of the Russians in the area that has helped in shoring up the visibly shaken regime. However, the Russian forces in the region are still a fraction compared to that of the US.
No one expects a war or even something close to a skirmish between the two forces but it should be telling indicator of how things are shaping up in the region that has been subject to an intense statement of a strategic overhaul for all parties concerned. For the US, it is about protecting its pried strategic depth within the region, for the Assad regime its survival and for the Russians negating the presence of the US. As stipulated in the start, the answer to puzzles as Syria, lies fundamentally in figuring out cui bono? In this case, no one benefits, from which the question arises, who benefits from no one benefiting?
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy and position of Regional Rapport.