The successful Gulf Seminar 2015 will continue in 2016 on the findings summarized by Joost Hilterman (ICG) as follows:
Conflicts in Yemen Libya, Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine have now seen regional intervention by proxy and direct means when necessary. Russia is a regional actor with an aspiration to be treated as a global actor. In terms of local conflicts: both Iran and Saudi Arabia have been sucked into security vacuums in their own states. Military actions in Yemen, Iraq and Syria were essentially defensive moves. Two powers that have limited power in countries they intervene; they lack soft powers and don’t have an exit strategy so they are stuck with the mess they created. If they leave the place would crumble and harm their interests.
What are the US interests in the region? Strategic interests: A channel of oil protection, support allies, but the Obama administration is staying out of conflicts where the US doesn’t have direct stake - Syria is one of those. The pulling out from the depression by the Bush administration has been slow, but it is a focus of Obama administration. The US sees transnational threat in IS that is also a threat to US interests and therefore should be defeated.
The US policy in Syria is divided in two types - „let them bleed" and "let them stew":
1. the direct "let them bleed" calls for a direct military intervention, bombing, no fly zone..
2. the indirect "let them bleed" calls for provision of missions to rebels, missiles, things that cannot be done by Turkey and Saudi Arabia without US approval.
3. option is sabotage, various forms of prohibiting Syrian planes from taking off - air control system..
"let them stew": Basically means to do nothing, let the Syrian army fight it out with rebels, let Russia intervene and see that they have to come to the negotiation table. They have to show results and find out that they cannot prevail militarily and cannot get victory with air power alone.
China is on the side lines, it is a US-RUS equation. EU plays role, especially France and Germany.
Russia and US in Syria: The Russian intervention in the US view offers opportunities on common issues:
1. De-conflicting, a military basic tactical thing and major concerns for both sides. It forces them to cooperate on an intelligence level that provides certain basis for coop
2. Defeating the IS
3. Agree on political negotiation for transitional government. Assad eventually would have to leave - the notion is not impossible.
4. Agree that Syrian territorial integrity must be maintained.
Regional security architecture:
1. IS is no one’s priority; Turkey fighting Kurds; Russia protecting Assad
2. No balance in the Gulf between Iran and Saudi Arabia
3. No one has exit strategy; you would need that
4. Short term interests are very dangerous
In Cooperation with IPI Chairman Hannes Swoboda