By Kunihiko Miyake, Canon Institute for Global Studies research director
Interviewed by international news reporter Minako Sasago
Russia is supporting the Assad regime of Syria to use this as a bargaining chip to make the Western countries lift their economic sanctions imposed over the Ukraine crisis. This support is not based on any long-term strategy, but merely a tactic to use Syria as a bargaining chip in dealing with the U.S. While it has no desire to commit double suicide with Syria, it nevertheless wants to maintain its presence there. It would probably not allow the toppling of the Assad regime.
The U.S. also does not desire direct confrontation with Russia. Its real target is Iran. The deadline for the U.S. to decide whether to reimpose sanctions on Iran that were lifted in accord with the nuclear agreement with Tehran falls on May 12. Iran has many military bases in Syria, so the U.S.’s intention is probably to attack these bases.
However, Iranian bases in Syria overlap with the Russian bases, so the U.S. is unable to take action. Therefore, it wants to drive a wedge between Syria and Russia, isolate the Assad regime, and move on to attack Iran.
Syria is Iran’s most important base in its struggle for hegemony in the Middle East. It is unthinkable that Iran would withdraw from Syria as a result of the recent attack. It will probably use Hamas, the Islamic organization operating in Palestine, the Shiite group Hezbollah in Lebanon, the anti-government group Houthis in Yemen, and other militant groups to intensify attacks on U.S. allies Israel, Saudi Arabia, and others in an all-out counterattack against the U.S.
While the Syria attack will not have a direct impact on Japan, it has cast a dark shadow on the North Korea situation. The attack must have been intended to apply psychological pressure on North Korea. It is possible that the U.S.’s attitude toward the DPRK may harden, thus narrowing the margin of compromise in the U.S.-DPRK talks. This is bad news for a peaceful solution to the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula.