( A four-minute read)
Is there hope for resolution or are we looking at another 10 years, or more, of conflict?
These days with hyper communication we have become desensitized to the suffering of others. We are moved only for a fleeting moment by pictures of children dying or starving but feel totally helpless to contribute to any resolutions.
What we call the “Syrian conflict” is today really the conglomeration of micro-conflicts for which solutions cannot be found in the halls of the General Assembly of the United Nations.
As it stands, Putin has taken the initiative on Syria, with the West slowly coming to terms with the fact that Assad is the lesser of two evils compared with ISIL, and that he still has some role to play in the war against ISIL.
Assad’s future is Putin’s ace card in the game over Ukraine, and he will continue to support Assad until he is able to get some serious concessions over sanctions and Crimea.
The one thing that is probably working in Syria’s favour is the weariness of all its neighbours of the conflict and the negative impact it is having on them, including the endless flow of refugees. An estimate that 3.8 million refugees, half of them children, have crossed the border to find safety in other countries.
In the long-term:
No one knows how Syria’s war will end.
If it does end there is one thing for sure there will have to be transitional period and the guarantees that must be provided by the regionals to secure a buy-in from all components of the Syrian society.
What is clear is that international divisions over the greatest crisis of the 21st century is contributed to its severity and longevity.
There is no doubt that the posturing and face-saving exercises of the USA and Russia, including growing hostility in host countries and fortress Europe are slowing down the process of reaching any solution.
The United States and its Western allies seem to be trying to salvage whatever they can of their rapidly diminishing influence.
The latest Russian military initiative should have a very significant psychological effect. For the first time since the crisis started, military operations and arming of factions won’t be justified by the need to “push Assad to the negotiating table”.
Debates over whether or not Assad should be part of a transition process miss the point – the conflict is well beyond being solved by his removal.
This means thinking differently both about how we see the conflict and its solution.
Any solution that does not reflect the realities of life inside Syria today and the ecologies of violence that have taken root during the past four years cannot be taken seriously when moving forward.
Both US and Russia’s vision to end the conflict in Syria are divorced from realities.
Assad is not going to voluntarily give up power. Refugees in neighbouring countries will not return home as long as their country is in ruins.
The US and Russian approaches to dealing with the Syrian conflict are a study in contrasts.
The United States’ failed “train and equip” programme has become the butt of jokes in the Middle East.
Putin’s approach is to do all he can to protect the Assad regime. (Russia has vetoed United Nations Security Council resolutions targeting the Syrian government.)
Putin has invested in Assad’s survival, and it is naive to assume that he will be willing to abandon him unless the cost of propping him up dramatically increases.
It is equally unlikely that Russia, Iran and the Assad regime will devote resources to defeating ISIL.
The West looks at the Syrian conflict through three lenses:
First, the security threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL); second, the influx of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees into Europe; and third, there was little public support for another intervention in the Middle East and there is no clear Arab demand for intervention. In the end western countries are doing very little Diplomatic. All Diplomatic efforts to end or contain the war have gone nowhere with Isis casting a long shadow over the future of Syria in recent months.
Western governments were still dazzled by the speed and drama of the early Arab spring and paralysing by the cold war-style battle lines that split the UN’s top table.
In western capitals counter-terrorism efforts have trumped all other aspects of the crisis.
Neither defeating the jihadis nor forcing Assad to come to the negotiating table now look like realistic prospects.Syria’s bloody stalemate thus seems destined to continue indefinitely“The violent grind is just going to go on and on,”
Talking with Assad will neither defeat ISIL nor achieve a political solution.
Instead, the US, Europe, and their regional allies should talk to his Russian and Iranian sponsors while increasing military pressure on the ground to deny them and Assad a military victory in Syria.
The UN’s possible role in the peace process in Syria is a joke.
Perhaps if we stopped selling arms the world would be a more peaceful place. As I have said there is a need for a series of difficulties to be overcome before the necessary forces can be raised to end the war.
Any solutions or proposals welcome.