Majlis Inaugural Session: Operation ‘Alawistan’: Russian Intervention in Syria

The Majlis has announced its topic for the inaugural session on Friday, 29 April 2016. See details below.

Operation ‘Alawistan’- Russian intervention in Syria

Russian intervention in the Syrian conflict has long been contentious. In September 2015, when Putin announced direct military involvement in the Syrian civil war, Russian media emphasised that the intervention came at the invitation of the Assad regime and was intended to defend Russian national interests and combat the threat of radicalised Russian and former Soviet state fighters. Yet Western analysts have accused Russia of disregarding civilian casualties, of focusing air strikes on rebel-held territory rather than IS positions, and of simply propping up the Assad regime. In March 2016, Putin declared the withdrawal of Russia’s “main” forces from Syria, yet the latest reports suggest Russia is repositioning artillery in Northern Syria, fuelling speculation that a renewed assault on Aleppo by the Assad government and allies is imminent. In light of faltering peace talks and continuing debate over Russia’s motivations and goals in the Syrian conflict, we ask:

  • What was the aim of Russia’s recent military campaign in Syria, and have they achieved their goals?
  • How has the Russian intervention caused the United States and allies to reshape their own policies toward the Syrian conflict? Should it?
  • Is Western scepticism of Russian strategy just a foil for the lack of a Western strategy?
  • How has Assad’s position shifted as a result of the Russian campaign?
  • What should we expect to see going forward? What aspects of the Russian military campaign do we think will continue in Syria, and what does it mean for the Syrian regime, rebel factions, civilians, and other foreign states involved in the conflict?

We are pleased to have two experts join us for the inaugural session to guide us in discussion on these topics:

Dr Robert Bowker, a specialist on Middle East and Islamic issues, is an Adjunct Professor at CAIS. Prior to his appointment in 2008, he served with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), undertaking five postings in the Middle East, including as Australian Ambassador to Jordan (1989-92) and as Australian Ambassador to Egypt (2005-08). At different periods in his diplomatic career, he served as Director, External Relations and Public Information, and subsequently Senior Adviser, Policy Research, of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in Gaza and Jerusalem; on the Directing Staff of the Centre for Defence and Strategic Studies at the Australian Defence College, Canberra, and (in 2004) as Visiting Reader at CAIS. Dr Bowker is the author of Egypt and the Politics of Change in the Arab Middle East (Edward Elgar, 2010); Palestinian Refugees: Mythology, Identity and the Search for Peace (Lynne Rienner, 2003) and Beyond Peace: the Search for Security in the Middle East (Lynne Rienner, 1996).

Dr Kirill Nourzhanov has an MA from Moscow State University and a PhD from the ANU. His main academic interests include politics, international relations and conflict resolution in contemporary Central Asia. He has published in the Central Asian Monitor, Central Asian Survey, Europe-Asia Studies, and World Today, and his PhD thesis on “Politics and Change in Tajikistan” was published in mid-2000. He was appointed as lecturer in January 2000, and was previously a Visiting Fellow at the Centre. Kirill teaches Politics in Russia, Politics in Central Asia, and New States of Eurasia: The Emerging Issues in Politics and Security in the undergraduate program, and five units in the graduate coursework program. He also supervises a number of PhD and Masters students working on relevant topics. His recent publications include Tajikistan: A Political and Social History, Canberra: ANU E Press, 2013 (with Christian Bleuer), and ‘International Democratic Norms and Domestic Socialization’ in Emilian Kavalski, ed. Stable Outside, Fragile Inside? Post-Soviet statehood in Central Asia, Farnham: Ashgate, 2010, pp. 107-132.

The Majlis will be held from 11am-12pm on Friday 29 April at the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies, Australian National University. If you would like to attend, please contact us for catering purposes.


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