Alwaght- Since the second half of the 20th century, the possession of weapons of mass destruction and advanced military equipment by the world powers implied that any direct war between them would have extremely high-cost with no winners and, resulting in buildout of proxy confrontations on the world stage. A proxy war is explained as support by a foreign country to some actors to influence the outcome of a violent conflict in favor of its interests. Syria, Libya, Yemen, and recently Ukraine are conspicuous examples of disastrous proxy wars between regional and international powers in recent decade.
Since the very beginning of Russian “special military operation” in Ukraine, there was possibility of proxy and mercenary forces being present on opposite fronts, and there have been may reports about hiring foreign fighters, with one of the main origins of these militants being Syrian territories. Turning into a safe haven for the gathering and activity of international terrorist and takfiri groups over the past 10 years where the Western and Arab governments used terrorists as a tool to serve their geopolitical interests in Syria and other regions, Syrian territories are back to the center of attention for supplying manpower to Ukraine fronts.
According to a new report, terrorists based in Syrian province of Idlib are being moved to Ukraine to fight against Russian forces. The report continues that most of the fighters transferred to Eastern Europe for anti-Russian purpose are members of Chechen, Caucasian, Uzbek, and Tajik brigades, as well as a group of Albanian military personnel, and a majority of them are affiliated with the Idlib-based Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham led by Abu Mohammad Al-Julani. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based monitoring group, announced that since last October, more than 170 militants left Syria and moved to “a European country” at the request and under duress of Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham. Also, a video has been released showing Rustam Azhiev, better known by his mom de guerre Abdul Hakim al-Shishani, the commander of Ajnad al-Kavkaz, fighting alongside his forces in Ukraine against the Russians. Russian media published this video, as a proof that the US has started using terrorist groups to back the Ukrainian army.
The reports about Syria terrorists’ transfer to Ukraine are not new and since the beginning, Russians warned that the US sent tens of terrorists to Ukraine battlegrounds.
The dispatch of terrorists to Ukraine is while these groups claimed in the past decade that they were fighting for restoration of Islamic sharia in the region and demanded the destruction of governments in some Islamic countries, which they claim have deviated from Islamic beliefs, but now they have shown that they would fight in the ‘lands of disbelief’ if the interests of their Western backers require.
Terrorist motivations for fighting in Ukraine
With the absence of a clear outlook for Ukraine war end and clashes growing increasingly erosive, the West feels a need for fresh forces to continue fight against Russia. The Idlib-based terrorists who honed their war skills in last decade can considerably help the West.
Apart from the plans of the West to send terrorists to Ukraine to ground Russia, there are other motivations behind this deployment. Terrorists have always considered Russia’s powerful presence in the Syrian crisis as the main cause for their failure to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Actually they were looking for an opportunity to take revenge for their defeats, and the Ukraine war seems to have given them a chance.
Another issue is that at the beginning of Syrian crisis, these terrorists were supported by Persian Gulf Arab monarchies but they have lost their supports now and continuation of their life depends on financial supports, and Ukraine war is the best the way to keep the finances flowing. The US and European countries as Ukraine backers seem to be paying the bill.
Another issue is the widening divergence in the ranks of Syria terrorists that paves the way for their movement to Ukraine front lines. At the beginning of the Syrian war, the terrorists were apparently on a united front with the help of the Western-Arab-Israeli triangle, but now the Takfiris do not obey the former leaders, and the bloody conflicts that have occurred among these groups in recent years show this reality well.
“Caucasian and Albanian groups are leaving Idlib for Ukraine because they find that Ukraine is freer for them than Idlib and the fighting there is real. They appear to follow Ayman Harosh’s old fatwa that going to balad al-kofr (lands of disbelief) is better than staying in Idlib under the rule of al-Julani,”Ali al-Arjani, a defected member of Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham said in a post in his Telegram channel.
Turkey transit gate of terrorists to Ukraine
In addition to financial and ideological motivations, the terrorists have another reason to move to Ukraine and it is their backer Turkey that plays an important role in their transfer. Thought Turkey playing as a neutral actor in Ukraine war and even a pro-peace mediator, what is clear is that Ankara in the past 11 months showed that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan finds continuation of confrontation between Russia and the West beneficial to Turkey. A prolonged war helps Ankara extort both sides, and beside arms sales to Ukraine and offering political support to Kiev, it wrests privileges from the West. It has already done so by selling drones to Ukraine and opposing Russian campaign in that country.
On the other hand, Turkey has used the opportunity caused by Western sanctions against Russia to its advantage and has been able to up its trade interactions with this Moscow. According to statistics, after the Ukraine crisis, the volume of trade between the two countries has increased by about $1.3 billion. In the absence of European companies, Turkey tries to take over the Russian market and at the same time, by transferring Russian gas to the European markets, it intends to turn itself into the energy hub of the region, and agreements have been made to this end. Therefore, the longer war in Ukraine, the more benefits to Turkey.
Moreover, tensions between Russia and Europe is beneficial for Turkey in terms of tourism, with tens of thousands of Russians who once traveled to European countries as tourists now head to Turkey as borders with Europe are closed. Thus, one of the ways for longer war is transfer of terrorists to Ukraine, a plan backed by Ankara.
In the Syrian crisis, Turkey also played the role of a transit route for terrorists from abroad to the Arab country after preliminary training. It is following the same policy in Ukraine. Saeed Faris al-Saeed, a Syrian analyst of strategic and security issues, disclosed a few weeks after the war in Ukraine that about 2,500 terrorists under the supervision of the Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) were preparing to go to Ukraine to fight Russian military.
Although Turkey finds Ukraine crisis a good opportunity to wrest privileges from Russia, it has scores to settle with Moscow. It is still infuriated with Russia for not allowing terrorists to remove Assad from power and not allowing Ankara to eliminate separatist Kurdish militias in northern Syria. Finding its spending over Syrian war over the past 11 years going in vain, Turkey wants to take revenge on the Russians in Ukraine. Transferring terrorists to fight against Russian troops somehow satisfies Turkish leaders.
Turkey considers Ukraine war a sign the world order is drifting to a multipolar fashion in which Ankara can play an active and effective role in regional and international developments. It knows that this war would not end any time soon, therefore it is rushing to take the most of the conflict to save its declining economy.
Failing to make any gains on Syrian battlegrounds and finding Russia the main cause, the US and its allies are now resorting to Ukraine front to reverse their defeats by dealing blows to their traditional rival with the help of terrorists. But many agree that this time, too, the West is betting on the wrong horse.