It is not correct to assume that an intervention by the United States in Syria would be the key to solve the conflict – concluded the experts of the Institute for Foreign Affairs and Trade’s roundtable discussion, which received a particular media attention and was held in front of a full house at IFAT on 5th October, 2016.

It is not correct to assume that an intervention by the United States in Syria would be the key to solve the conflict – concluded the experts of the Institute for Foreign Affairs and Trade’s roundtable discussion, which received a particular media attention and was held in front of a full house at IFAT on 5th October, 2016.

Péter Wagner, senior researcher of IFAT exerted that the conflict is multi-layered: while Syrian forces fight each other, regional players like Iran, Turkey, Hezbollah, Iraqi militias are also present, and as well as with the presence of the U.S. and Russia the interests of great powers rear their heads. Furthermore, a part of the opposition is supported by the Gulf countries. Wagner pointed out that the large amount of different parties in the conflict makes the situation interesting, this is why the interests and acts of the participants are very difficult to follow.

Máté Szalai, research fellow of IFAT and assistant professor highlighted that because of this delicate situation, it is important to have a solution which is more or less acceptable to each party. Szalai noted that many people expected lately that major powers will resolve the conflict with the U.S. and Russia reaching an agreement. However, this perception is rather a 'bad Cold War reflex' – added Szalai. The researcher included that it is equally essential to bear in mind how much pressure external players could put on their local allies in the light of recent tensions between Russia and the Syrian government.

According to Zoltán Egeresi, external expert of IFAT and associate of the National University of Public Service, it is extremely hard to predict the impact that the Syrian conflict will have on the world history. At the moment, it seems like that the prolonged conflict is a symptom of the currently changing world order: a new realist balance of power has started when the role of the U.S. begun to decrease and has a smaller room for manoeuvre than at the beginning of the 1990’s – explained Egeresi. He also added that in the meantime new powers like Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia have emerged and they started to claim bigger influence for themselves; nonetheless, small states like Qatar are also playing an active role.

Máté Szalai added that regional actors are no longer waiting for the U.S., they started to build alliance systems for themselves within the circles of the Syrian opposition, and that the fragmentation or polarization of the opposition is the result of this tendency. He thinks though global powers are not controlling the conflict, their interests are strongly present: the fight against terrorism is important for the U.S. while Russia wants to keep the existing Syrian regime in power exactly for the same reason why the U.S. wants it to go – Russia feels that the failure of a new regime would significantly increase terror threat.

Máté Szalai recalled: the Syrian civil war started with the cleavage within the society along the axis of supporters and opponents of the regime. On the other hand, the U.S. does not see the conflict from the same perspective, they consider it as a threat posed by the Islamic State, and therefore, they were looking for allies willing to fight against the terrorist group. For the local opposition, President Bashar al-Assad is the main enemy, not the Islamic State – concluded Szalai. Furthermore, he said that this is the reason why Kurds became key allies in the American strategy.

Zoltán Egeresi added that Turkey’s interests regarding Syria are changing constantly because the Syrian situation and the balance of power are also changing similarly to the Kurdish question. At the end of 2011, Turkey assumed that the Arab Spring would reach Syria, Assad would hand over the power to another grouping, and pro-Turkey power would have been beneficial for Ankara. This was the reason why Turkey supported the opposition – recalled the researcher. He underscored that the overthrow of Assad is still an official aim of the Turkish government, however, the focus shifted to the suppression of the Islamic State and to the prevention of the reinforcement of Kurdish forces.