New Age Islam
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Islam and the West ( 6 Oct 2015, NewAgeIslam.Com)

The Push And Pull Of Extremism: New Age Islam’s Selection From World Press, 7 October 2015

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

7 October 2015

The push and pull of extremism

By Kenan Malik

Are we on the brink of a religious war in Jerusalem?

By Raed Omari

Syria, Russia and the Arabs: Could it get any worse?

By Jamal Khashoggi

Are the Chinese coming to Syria?

By Dr. Theodore Karasik

A Russian journalist’s email about Syria

By Diana Moukalled

The sans-culottes of the revolution


Russia, Turkey should try to avoid a major crisis over Syria




The push and pull of extremism

Kenan Malik

06 Oct 2015

It has been a year of unfolding statistics. Some 400,000 refugees have attempted to enter Europe this year, many fleeing the war in Syria. A much smaller, yet equally significant number have travelled the other way.

Some 4,000 Europeans have, over the past few years, left to fight with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). We know why people want to flee Syria - but what draws thousands of young Europeans to a brutal, sadistic organisation like ISIL?

The conventional answer is "radicalisation", a process through which extremist groups, or "hate preachers", indoctrinate vulnerable Muslims with fundamentalist ideas - the first step on a path leading inexorably to terrorism. What makes people vulnerable is that they are poorly integrated into society.

Radicalisation thesis

Radicalisation is a concept that has caught the imagination of many politicians and shaped much domestic counterterror policy in Europe and elsewhere. The trouble is that most of the assumptions of the radicalisation thesis are untrue.

For instance, a 2008 British MI5 study on extremism in the UK that was leaked to the press observed that "far from being religious zealots, a large number of those involved in terrorism do not practise their faith regularly".

Nor is it to true that would-be jihadis are particularly poor, uneducated or poorly integrated. Researchers from London's Queen Mary College found no link to "social inequalities or poor education", while Marc Sageman, a former CIA operative who is now an academic and counterterrorism consultant to the US government, argues that terrorists are often among "the best and brightest" from "caring, middle-class families".

But if the conventional radicalisation thesis is without foundation, much of the criticism that surrounds it is also flawed. Many critics argue that it is not religion but politics that drives aspiring jihadis to terror. Western intervention in Muslim-majority countries, they suggest, has pushed many Muslims into the hands of the jihadists. This, however, is merely a different form of the radicalisation thesis. Where the conventional thesis focuses on the "pull" factor of fundamentalist Islam, such critics stress the "push" factor of Western foreign policy.

European recruits for ISIL are certainly hostile to Western foreign policy and are devoted to their vision of Islam. And yet, the "radicalisation" argument looks upon the jihadis' journey from back to front.

It begins with the jihadis as they are at the end of their journey - enraged with the West, and with a binary view of Islam - but for most jihadis, the first steps on their journeys to Syria were rarely taken for political or religious reasons. The journeys were, rather, a search for something a lot less definable: for identity, for meaning, for belongingness, for respect. Insofar as they are alienated, it is an existential form of alienation.

There is, of course, nothing new in the search for identity and meaning. What is different today is the social context in which this search takes place.

We live in more atomised societies than in the past, in an age in which many people feel peculiarly disengaged from mainstream social institutions and in which moral lines often seem blurred and identities distorted.

In the past, social disaffection may have led people to join movements for political change, from far-left groups to anti-racist campaigns. Today, such organisations often seem to be equally out of touch.

Politics of identity

What gives shape to contemporary disaffection is not progressive politics but the politics of identity. Identity politics has, over the past three decades, encouraged people to define themselves in increasingly narrow ethnic or cultural terms.

These developments have shaped not just Muslim self-perception but that of many social groups. Many individuals within white, working-class communities are often as disengaged as their Muslim peers, and similarly, they see their problems not in political terms, but rather through the lens of cultural and ethnic identity.

Hence the growing hostility towards immigration and, for some, the attraction of far-right groups. Racist populism and religious extremism are both expressions of social disengagement in an era of identity politics.

There is, however, something distinctive about the Islamist identity: Islam is a global religion, allowing Islamists to create an identity that is both intensely parochial and seemingly universal, linking Muslims to struggles across the world, from Afghanistan to Palestine, and providing the illusion of being part of a global movement.

Most homegrown jihadis possess, however, a peculiar relationship with Islam. They are often as estranged from Muslim communities as they are from Western societies. Most detest the mores and traditions of their parents and have little time for mainstream forms of Islam. It is through the internet that most jihadis discover both their faith and their virtual community.

How should we respond? Simplistic narratives about "radicalisation" miss the complex roots of homegrown terrorism. Conventional solutions, such as banning organisations or censoring speech, betray liberties without addressing the issues that make extremism attractive to some in the first place.

There is an uncomfortable question we need to ask: Why is it that so many intelligent, resourceful young people find an ideology that espouses mass beheadings and slave labour more appealing than anything else society has to offer them?

Until we are able convincingly to address that, the outflow of European jihadis will not be staunched.

Kenan Malik is a London-based writer, lecturer and broadcaster. His latest book is The Quest for a Moral Compass: A Global History of Ethics. Previous books include From Fatwa to Jihad, shortlisted for the 2010 George Orwell Prize. He writes at Pandaemonium:


Are we on the brink of a religious war in Jerusalem?

Raed Omari

 6 October 2015

Escalating clashes between Israeli settlers and Palestinians in Jerusalem have been framed as a religious war by the media and right-wingers on both sides. That is understandable given the frequent assaults on Al-Aqsa mosque compound, mostly by Jewish settlers under heavy police protection. However, the clashes are described as religious in nature more by the Israelis than the Palestinians, as if to justify acts that cannot be legally or morally justified.

The supposedly democratic and civic state of Israel has never cracked down any extremist Jewish groups in the way Arabs have been doing against Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and other radical Islamist organizations.

After recently writing about Jerusalem, an Israeli professor at an American university emailed me, advising me to tone it down regarding the clashes in the Old City, and claiming that the Islamic Waqf (trust) in Jerusalem has been working to change the Jewish identity of the city.

How? Have Muslims in Jerusalem ever stormed the Wailing Wall, the Kotel or any other Jewish holy site? Have Jerusalemites ever attacked settlers unless in retaliation? The fact is that insecurity, tension and religious fanaticism in Jerusalem are always ignited by settlers under Israeli army protection.

Status quo

Of course, when Al-Haram al-Sharif is under attack, Palestinians will respond using all possible means to defend their third-holiest site. However, this is not a religious war. It is Palestinians resisting settlers who are pursuing a political agenda of changing the status quo in Jerusalem regarding holy sites, which has been in place since 1967. This is part of the Israeli scheme to transform the multi-religious, multi-cultural city into a purely Jewish one.

The recent Israeli ban on Palestinian worshippers in illegally annexed East Jerusalem is not a security measure, but an affront to the administrative status quo that guarantees followers of all three Abrahamic faiths the right to worship. Changing that status quo violates Israeli commitments and closes the door on the two-state solution.

Jerusalem and Al-Haram al-Sharif is a red line for all Muslims. I was told days ago by a Pakistani ex-general that his country - a nuclear power - cannot remain idle over Jerusalem. “Al-Haram al-Sharif, like Mecca and Medina, is in our hearts and blood. We were taught that in the military academies.”

Raed Omari is a Jordanian journalist, political analyst, parliamentary affairs expert, and commentator on local and regional political affairs. His writing focuses on the Arab Spring, press freedoms, Islamist groups, emerging economies, climate change, natural disasters, agriculture, the environment and social media. He is a writer for The Jordan Times, and contributes to Al Arabiya English. He can be reached via, or on Twitter @RaedAlOmari2


Syria, Russia and the Arabs: Could it get any worse?

Jamal Khashoggi

 6 October 2015

Last Wednesday, the Russians bombed Homs at noon, and the Americans bombed Aleppo in the afternoon. Both say the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is the target, while the Syrian opposition - which published a list of the names of around 40 dead civilians - claims it is the one being bombed. Meanwhile, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must have been following news of these bombings with a map of his homeland in front of him and a smile on his face.

Thousands of defeated Arabs are toasting each other over Russian aggression against an Arab land. Things cannot get any worse, but we need to prepare for another tragedy at the hands of Assad. The Russians are cruel players at war, and do not value human rights. They burn the land and its residents just to eliminate one fighter. They did that in Afghanistan, displacing 5 million Afghans in one year. They did the same in Chechnya.

If the Russians are not stopped, they will repeat the same crimes in Syria, leaving us with more displaced, dead and wounded civilians, while the only relief we can offer is more camps, caravans and another donor conference.

Saudi challenge

What is happening is a big challenge for Saudi Arabia, which will not bare an Iranian victory in Syria that would take away the beating heart of Arabism. This is not a Russian occupation, but a Russian-Iranian deal. Assad could not win this war despite the ferocity of Iran and Hezbollah. His aircraft is capable only of killing civilians with barrel-bombs. This is why he resorted to Russia. It is a partnership.

It would be ignorant to believe that the Russian military presence in Syria will be at the expense of Iran. President Vladimir Putin clearly stated that Russian participation will be aerial only. They are all standing in one operation room. The first fires smart bombs and provides satellite photos, while the others move on the ground to destroy the Syrian revolution. They will continue to do so if we do not make a move.

If they achieve victory, Assad will keep his presidential palace, while Iran will keep all of Syria and spreads Shiism in it, displacing whomever it wants into and out of Syria. Maybe one day we will discuss the “right of return” of Syrian refugees. Some will think I am exaggerating, but does Iranian insolence have any limits?

Saudi Arabia will resist all that. I expect it will move diplomatically first to form an Arab stand rejecting Russian interference, then to establish an international stance. Then it will increase its support for the resistance.

These are dangerous grounds. The formation of an Arab stance will put to the test the sincerity of some of its allies. Egypt, for example, is enthusiastic about the Russian aggression, but no resolution can emanate from the Arab League without Egypt, and Saudi Arabia will not accept that its ally provides unprecedented support to its Russian opponent.

Riyadh must point out to the Americans that this is due to their weakness. They must act to stop their dignity falling apart from Ukraine to Damascus. While Assad’s partisans in Beirut, Cairo and Tehran were celebrating an expected Russian victory in Syria, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir was more decisive, saying “military action” was one of two options to overthrow Assad. Riyadh believes that no peace will be achieved in his presence.

Those who are not acquainted with Saudi Arabia must know that it does not resort to threats and intimidation if it cannot act on them. For example, it never threatened to destroy Israel. This is why Jubeir’s insistence on the expression “military action” means Riyadh is ready for confrontation.


There are 1,000 ways to thwart the Iranian-Russian project in Syria, and Saudi Arabia will have to make a choice depending on its knowledge of the Syrian arena and its popular support there. The first step will be to protect the two most important factions targeted by the Russians: Ahrar al-Sham and the Army of Islam, whose images are being distorted to make them seem like ISIS, even though they are fighting it more than the regime.

Ahrar al-Sham is being subjected to a smear campaign in Germany, where it was sent to court to be considered a terrorist organization. If such a decision is issued, it will be easier to criminalize its members throughout Europe. This will mean criminalizing the most powerful moderate Syrian faction.

Saudi Arabia is carrying a heavy weight on its shoulders, but this has to be done. Iran now feels more confident in becoming a bully. The Russians are taking charge of the aerial war, while Tehran sends thousands to complete the mission on the ground.

Its confidence has pushed it to venture into Yemen too. Iranian shipments of weapons, confiscated by coalition forces, are an example of that. So too are threats by Supreme leader Ali Khamenei to use force against Riyadh following the hajj pilgrim stampede.

Russia too has tools of pressure, as it is a superpower that can influence the U.N. Security Council to behave negatively regarding the war in Yemen. It would be naïve to believe that Riyadh can choose between Yemen and Syria. This is not a struggle for land, or a conflict between a secular Syria and an Islamic one. It is a struggle between tyranny and freedom, and freedom will prevail. This is the real Arab liberation war, so we must win.

Jamal Khashoggi is a Saudi journalist, columnist, author, and general manager of the upcoming Al Arab News Channel. He previously served as a media aide to Prince Turki al Faisal while he was Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States. Khashoggi has written for various daily and weekly Arab newspapers, including Asharq al-Awsat, al-Majalla and al-Hayat, and was editor-in-chief of the Saudi-based al-Watan. He was a foreign correspondent in Afghanistan, Algeria, Kuwait, Sudan, and other Middle Eastern countries. He is also a political commentator for Saudi-based and international news channels. Twitter: @JKhashoggi


Are the Chinese coming to Syria?

Dr. Theodore Karasik

 6 October 2015

Russia’s military activities, coupled with the Kremlin’s diplomatic solutions to the Syria crisis, are bringing Chinese views and actions into sharp relief. Moscow and Beijing are linked together through a number of channels, including the BRICS association, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and other institutions that illustrate a mix of political-economic unity.

On Syria, China is maintaining, for now, its usual policy of patience and heart. As Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the U.N. Security Council, the world cannot afford to stand by, but must also must not “arbitrarily interfere” in the Syrian crisis. He emphasized the humanitarian challenge with vigor. Those comments seemed to be a message to Moscow on airstrikes and other activity.

However, in the age of information warfare, comments may be interpreted in different ways, especially on Syria. The Chinese see the internationalization of what to do with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), but also Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Throughout the Syria debacle, Beijing has supported Russia, but there is more to the Chinese policy. It also involves an expanding presence in the Mediterranean and other sea lanes. China is part of the EUNAVFOR counter-piracy mission, which is set to expire next year.

In addition, a 700-strong Chinese battalion is in Sudan under an UNMISS mandate. The Chinese are involved where needed most on the regional and international stages. Down the road, Russia will need Chinese help on the Syrian transition away from Assad, through negotiation and elections, to a new government.

That type of thinking was seen when Wang met with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem in New York. In that discussion, Wang said China believed the world should respect Syria’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. Those comments sound like they came from the Kremlin.

Naval presence

Shady reports and rumors are fuelling the perception of China’s partnership with Russia on the latter’s military operations in Syria, especially in the maritime domain. The presence of Chinese naval ships in the Mediterranean is fuelling speculation that Beijing may be sending military personnel to Syria to reinforce the Assad regime.

Zhang Junshe, a senior researcher at the PLA Naval Military Studies Research Institute, said hyper conspiracy theory reportage might have been confused over the movements of the Chinese navy’s 152nd fleet. It is headed by the Jinan guided-missile destroyer, along with the Yiyang frigate and the Qiandaohu supply ship, and has been conducting naval activities in the Mediterranean with Russia and Egypt.

Zhang said after completing a four-month escort mission, the fleet began a five-month global tour from Aug. 23 that began from the Gulf of Aden, and included a passage through the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean and the Baltic Sea. The fleet has so far visited Sudan, Egypt, Denmark and Finland, after passing through the Mediterranean in late August or early September.

The Chinese do have a vessel in the Syrian port of Latakia. According to a security official of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the vessel is “just sitting” there, possibly in case Chinese diplomats or other officials in Damascus need help or evacuation out of Assad’s areas of control. Or perhaps the vessel is observing Russian actions.


The Chinese are very worried about ISIS. Beijing’s policy has remained to avoid becoming a target. Its policy in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq all follow that line. Now, with Russian actions in Syria, China may well see itself on the cusp of getting involved against ISIS in new ways in the near future.

Uighurs are the key Chinese concern. In July 2014, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi called out Chinese oppression of the Muslim Uighur minority in Xinjiang province. “Your brothers all over the world are waiting your rescue, and are anticipating your brigades,” he said.

In September, ISIS taunted China in its online magazine Dabiq, featuring “the sale” of Fan Jinghui, a freelance consultant from Beijing. Reports of ISIS recruiters in Hong Kong approaching Indonesians and using Malaysia as a hub for gathering potential fighters only forces China to be more cautious but calculating.

The plight of the Uighurs is not new, but what is new is disenchanted Uighurs who take up the ISIS message of violence. Caliphate Uighurs number perhaps over 1,000, each a ticking time bomb from Beijing’s point of view.

That view came into sharp relief in Aug. 2015 in Bangkok, Thailand, when Uighur terrorists killed almost two-dozen people at the Hindu Erawan Shrine. Although not an outright ISIS attack, the Uighur bombing is a harbinger of things to come.

China is playing its game slowly and methodologically, using its usual practise of principals for engagement, whether diplomatic or militarily. Beijing is approaching the Russian action in Syria from a sense of being a partner, urging cooperation and strategy.

The Kremlin understands Chinese foreign policy approaches very well, and Moscow and Beijing will approach each other within the following omnidirectional concept on Syria and ISIS: “You agree, I agree; you disagree, I disagree; you abstain, I abstain.” If necessary, China will perhaps see its first real display of force projection using concepts found in irregular warfare if the conditions merit such activity.

Dr. Theodore Karasik is a Gulf-based analyst of regional geo-political affairs. He received his Ph.D in History from UCLA in Los Angeles, California in four fields: Middle East, Russia, Caucasus, and a specialized sub-field in Cultural Anthropology focusing on tribes and clans.


A Russian journalist’s email about Syria

Diana Moukalled

 6 October 2015

In an email to me, a journalist who wants to come to Lebanon to do a documentary on Syrian refugees wrote: “Hello, I am your colleague from Russia from Russian national TV.” That phrase kept going through my mind as I looked at photos of Russian President Vladimir Putin and read news of his new military adventures in Syria to save his tyrannical ally Bashar al-Assad.

I felt that this alleged friendship by this journalist, who works for a government channel in Russia and follows the orders of the Kremlin, aimed to involve me in what I have previously rejected and still reject today. Why does this journalist want to come to Lebanon and do a report on refugees? Did Putin send her?

Why does she want to work with me? Does she want to do this report out of sympathy with those escaping death, or out of a desire to confirm that refugees fled Syria to escape the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)? Does she want to send a message that the war that Moscow is fighting in Syria is sacred, as the Russian Orthodox Church announced? Who gave her my name and email address? How and why?


I may have exaggerated my analysis of this email from a complete stranger. I may have had some far-fetched conspiratorial concerns, but why not, after Moscow and Tehran imposed a formula stipulating that Assad is part of the solution to the Syrian crisis, and that he may be present in the transitional phase?

Was thinking of the possibility of him staying in power not considered insane? Did being rational not conclude that Assad would step down during the first weeks of the Syrian revolution? Did rational analysis not suppose that the murder of protestors and the deaths of detainees due to torture would mobilize the world against Assad? Did rational analysis also not stipulate that the regime’s use of prohibited weapons would not go unpunished, and would not be tolerated by the world’s conscience?

What was irrational years ago - the death of thousands of Syrians without anyone acting to save them - has become our reality. We are now being asked to accept that Assad - a murderer and a criminal - is part of the solution, and that the problem in Syria is limited to ISIS. Is it not irrational that the first Russian military strike in Syria did not hit ISIS? It actually killed civilians in Homs.

Justifying Assad’s presence in a transitional phase by saying this is the rational solution actually reflects the depravity of values in today’s world. Can we imagine a future for Syria with Assad? I cannot, and neither can many Syrians. The world’s stance on the matter remains confused despite the roar of Russian jets in Syrian airspace.

Diana Moukalled is the Web Editor at the Lebanon-based Future Television and was the Production & Programming Manager with at the channel. Previously, she worked there as Editor in Chief, Producer and Presenter of “Bilayan al Mujaradah,” a documentary that covers hot zones in the Arab world and elsewhere, News and war correspondent and Local news correspondent. She currently writes a regular column in AlSharq AlAwsat. She also wrote for Al-Hayat Newspaper and Al-Wasat Magazine, besides producing news bulletins and documentaries for Reuters TV. She can be found on Twitter: @dianamoukalled.


The sans-culottes of the revolution



One the most troubling pieces of news to come out of Turkey this past week was an attack on Ahmet Hakan Coşkun, one of the country’s top journalists. After presenting a show on CNNTürk, four men followed Coşkun’s car all the way to his home before beating him in front of his apartment. He was seriously injured and hospitalized, and had to undergo surgery for his nose. Luckily, Ahmet Hakan will recover soon and be back with us with his daily column and TV show, but what happened to him needs to be thought out.

First, I should tell more about who Ahmet Hakan is. It would not be wrong to say that he is probably Turkey’s most influential pundit. His column in daily Hürriyet, the country’s top paper, is always on the top of the most-popular list. His show on CNNTürk, “Non-Aligned Zone,” is one of the most popular political discussion programs. He is a graduate of the religious İmam-Hatip schools, and began his career in the Islamist media. This conservative background allows him to be critical of the current government sometimes with religious references. And it is precisely this feature that makes him one of the most-hated figures among pro-government (or, more precisely, pro-president) writers.

One such writer, who is notorious for issuing threats to other journalists, media bosses, or businessmen “in the name of the Turkish state,” openly threatened Ahmet Hakan a few weeks ago. “We will smash you like a fly,” this man wrote to Ahmet Hakan in his column. “You are only alive thanks to our mercy.”

The attack on Ahmet Hakan came very soon after this. Moreover, the four men who beat the journalist were arrested by the police, and it turned out that three of them were members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). (The AKP affirmed this and announced that they had been expelled from the party.)

More worryingly, one of the attackers told the police that they were instructed to conduct the attack. Reportedly, it was a retired police officer named Yahya Kemal Gezer who found them in a cafe and said, “There is a man that needs to be beaten.” The same retired police officer also promised them 100,000 Turkish Liras for the job and helpfully explained:

“He [Hakan] calls martyrs as dead [people]. He says his vote is for the [People’s Democratic Party] HDP. He is instigating the people; he is encouraging people to vote for the HDP. He has to be taken out. The instructions will be given tonight. The [National Intelligence Organization] MİT is also involved. The police and the chief are also involved.”

Of course, like every “confession” at the police, this must be taken with a grain of salt. Further investigation is needed (if it will ever come) to see whether this retired police officer who allegedly encouraged the attackers was really encouraged by some people in the political establishment.

But it is already worrying that the culture of political violence, which has dark precedents in Turkish history, is once again showing its ugly face. I don’t think that the AKP, and the Presidency, supports this culture directly, but the campaign of hate that is going on in the pro-government media (and social media) inevitably calls for it.

Deep down, the problem is that the AKP era, which began as a modest initiative for reform, has recently recast its mission as a historic “revolution.” Just like in the FrenchRevolution, it demonized the “ancien régime” and the “reactionaries” that supposedly hearken back to it. And now, just like in French Revolution, we see these “Jacobin” ideas taking form in the streets in the hands of the vulgar “sans-culottes.”


Russia, Turkey should try to avoid a major crisis over Syria



Air Forces Commander Gen. Abidin Ünal’s statement on Oct. 5 amounted to a brief summary of the state of affairs in Turkey’s neighborhood.

“We are fighting on two fronts,” Ünal said at a meeting in Ankara, referring to the Turkish Armed Forces’ ongoing military campaigns against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in northern Iraq and inside Turkey and against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria.

Both the PKK and ISIL fronts are full of danger, but Russia’s recently increased military involvement in Syria and its violations of Turkish airspace make the latter much more difficult to handle. Tension along the border significantly rose over the last weekend as three separate incidents put the Turkish and Russian armies face to face. There were reportedly two separate incidents of airspace violation by Russia warplanes and serious harassment of a Turkish jetfighter by another MiG-29 whose nationality could not be identified. The Turkish army announced on Oct. 6 that Turkish warplanes were harassed once again on Oct. 5 by Syria’s aerial defense systems and by another MiG-29.

Turkey immediately turned to NATO to seek strong support and a statement against Russia, while President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğluseriously warned Moscow to avoid a repetition of such violations. It is certain that statements from Russia, NATO and Turkey will continue to come as defense ministers of the alliance will hold a special session to discuss the developments in Syria during their regular meeting in Brussels this week.

At the point where we have arrived, one can argue that the Syrian problem has turned to be one of the most complicated issues of recent world history, with no quick answer on how it can be resolved. Currently the air forces of the United States, Turkey, France, Russia, as well as Syria, are flying over the tiny Syrian airspace and pounding different positions. The U.S.-led coalition has been focused on stopping ISIL’s march toward the west of the country and on ISIL’s positions around the strategically important Raqqa, while Russia is bombing moderate Syrian opposition forces in northern Syria near the Turkish border.

Syria has clearly turned into a dangerous battlefield prompting concerns over a potential conflict between the two rival coalition groups. Any unwanted, unintentional development could lead to serious consequences that will surely have enormous effects on Turkey as well.

Russia’s game-changing move envisages not leaving the domain of the Middle East to the U.S.-led coalition and keeping Bashar al-Assad in power for as long as possible. The formula that Russia is pressing for is to provide an agreement with the West for a political transition process with the continued role of al-Assad for a certain period of time.

It is not yet clear whether Moscow will be able to push Washington for such a formula, but its aggressive military campaign against moderate rebel groups and airspace violations will not facilitate this process. Apart from all of these efforts, a further escalation of tension in Syria will not be to the advantage of any party and can only deepen the crisis. Therefore, both Russia and Turkey should be cautious in their moves and work to diffuse the tension.  All other options will be to the advantage of no one other than terrorist organizations like ISIL, al-Nusra, and others.

The Syria crisis can only be resolved through the cooperation of all of the mentioned forces - not through their fighting.