NEW DELHI: The US interest in Syria has been relatively much less when one looks at its attitude towards the rest of the region. With an estimated 500 troops in the country, which is next to nothing compared with the other major actors such as Russia, Turkey and Iran, talk has been on for some time that Washington may even withdraw all its troops together. However, Rajendra M. Abhyankar, former Indian ambassador to Syria and author of a recently released book ‘Syria: The Tragedy of a Pivotal State’ believes such an attitude will be influenced by US-Iran talks as and when they occur. In an interview with Ashwin Ahmad, Abhyankar states that it is quite possible that the fallout of the talks could even lead to increased activism by Washington in Syria, something he believes may also happen given the US’s stated policy to punish Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for using chemical weapons against his own people. This is something Biden will certainly have in mind.
On the ISIS threat, Abhyankar points out that though there are 3,000 ISIS fighters still in Syria there has not been a “concerted effort” by all parties whether it is the Americans or the Syrian government or anyone else to finish them off. This is a mistake as he believes that ISIS remains a grave threat and that while nations must work together on the ground to finish off the terror group, Islamic nations through bodies such as the OIC must also work together to marginalise the group internationally. If this is not done, not only are lone-wolf terror attacks likely to continue but the number of foreign fighters in ISIS – there are currently 300 in Syria – will go up.