Security Concerns Behind China Engagement in Syria

Security Concerns Behind China Engagement in SyriaSecurity Concerns Behind China Engagement in Syria

A lawmaker said the threats posed by militants operating in the Syria conflict to China and recent victories of the Syrian Army in battlefields have led to a Chinese decision to upgrade military cooperation with Syria.

Mojtaba Zolnouri, a principlist member of Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, made the statement in an interview with ICANA on Saturday.

A spokesman for Beijing's Defense Ministry said on Thursday China's military will provide training for Syrian armed forces on Chinese soil.

"The Chinese military will provide the Syrian side with professional medical and nursing training," defense ministry spokesman, Wu Qian, told reporters at a monthly briefing.

Zolnouri said, "China has made the decision to provide advisory services to Syria because of the threats posed by the self-styled Islamic State [and other terrorist groups] and recent achievements of the Syrian Army in the fight against militants."

The announcement followed a visit to the war-ravaged country by a senior Chinese officer, Guan Youfei, on August 14.

Youfei met Syrian Defense Minister Fahad Jassim al-Freij in Damascus, and according to the Chinese Defense Ministry, the parties came to an understanding on Beijing's assistance in providing humanitarian aid for the Syrian people and training the Syrian government troops in their efforts to restore order nationwide.

  Tehran-Moscow-Beijing Alignment

The lawmaker said China's view on the Syrian conflict is close to that of Iran and Russia, which back the Syrian government in the five-year crisis.

"While some countries supported terrorists fighting the army, some others such as China stayed away and backed the legitimate government of Syria," he said.

There are media speculations that China is worried about the comeback of some Uyghurs who are a mostly Muslim people from western China's Xinjiang region who have traveled to Syria and Iraq illegally and are fighting alongside militant groups there.

Zolnouri said the other reason behind the Chinese decision is victories of the Syrian Army that, in the past few months, has launched a major operation to liberate the militant-held areas of Syria's second biggest city, Aleppo.

The lawmaker said supporters of the militants thought they can defeat the Syrian Army in a short time, but "in view of the efforts of Iran, Russia, Iraq and the resistance of people, the condition of terrorists is now worsening," he said.

Iran has been providing advisory assistance to Syrian Army from the beginning of the conflict and since September 2015, Russia has been conducting airstrikes against the self-styled Islamic State and other terrorist groups.

The Chinese move comes at a time when Russia and Iran have boosted their military cooperation on Syria.