Tuesday,17 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1260, (27 August - 2 September 2015 )
Tuesday,17 October, 2017
Issue 1260, (27 August - 2 September 2015 )

Ahram Weekly

Syria’s impasse

The crisis in Syria has been a bonanza for global jihadists, a political opportunity for Tehran and Moscow, and a curse for ordinary people with still no end in sight, writes Bassel Oudat in Damascus

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Al-Ahram Weekly

Though it is one of the worst human tragedies of this century, the Syrian crisis seems to have fallen through the cracks of international diplomacy.

Shunned by the Americans, sabotaged by the Russians, and mauled by the Iranians, the country is falling prey to a brutal regime, sectarian militias, mercenaries and jihadists of various denominations, and the predations of pretentious but ineffectual diplomacy.

It is four-and-a-half years since the crisis began in the country. A peaceful uprising in which protestors demanded basic freedoms spiralled into a fully-fledged armed conflict in which hundreds of thousands have lost their lives, entire cities have been levelled to the ground, and millions have had to flee their homes.

It has been a bonanza for global jihadists, a political opportunity for Tehran and Moscow, and a curse for ordinary people.

Now a training ground for militias of every sectarian shade, Syria is a failed state, its teetering regime at an impasse but still using its immense stock of explosives to bombard innocent civilians.

Year after year, the carnage has been repeating itself. The violence has morphed onto new battle fronts, the lines have been redrawn, and new militias have come onto the scene.

Only the old agendas survive. The Americans are waiting to see the country crumble, hoping for the moment when they can end the conflict at least cost and in a manner that most benefits Israel.

The Russians have been sending envoys and calling peace seminars, but their only real interest is to keep their influence in Syria and regain some of their lost international status. The Iranians manage the regime, own the country, and hope to grab as much as possible in terms of influence at the expense of a crumbling nation.

Morality has been lost in Syria. International law has receded. And any pretence of responsibility on the part of the international community is a thing of the past. The Syrians are alone, left to their own devices, abandoned by friend and foe, and with only more death and ruination to look forward to.

This, in sum, is the state of the country today, making one wonder only whether there can be life after death.

 Since Hafez Al-Assad, the current president Bashar Al-Assad’s father, came to power 45 years ago, the ruling Syrian Baath Party has controlled all aspects of life in the country. Corrupt and brutal, it has ruled through intimidation, deploying its merciless intelligence and security services to keep the population in its place, weed out opponents, and preserve its ill-won privileges.

Both Al-Assads have favoured their Alawite clan, giving members of it top posts and showering them with cultural and business opportunities. When the resistance took up arms, the regime recruited the Alawites as irregulars and then brought in the Iranians and Hizbullah to fight the war it had started.

Condemnation is cheap, and there has been no shortage of it. More than one international organisation has spoken about the war crimes committed by the regime and its allies. Diplomats have joined the chorus, and heads of state have shaken their heads in disapproval. But when it comes to action, nothing has happened.

The regime has used chemical weapons, dropped barrel bombs, bombarded entire cities, and no one has done anything to stop it.

Iran, now calling the shots in Syria, has found all this convenient. It has called Syria an extension of its own land and used the conflict to drive a hard bargain in its nuclear talks with the West.

Russia has not only blocked any international action in the UN, but has given the regime free expert advice, intelligence, and weapons to suppress the revolution. It has also masqueraded as a mediator, making sure that its diplomatic efforts are a waste of time and a diversionary tactic aiming to prolong the life of its allies in government until new allies can eventually be found.

The US cannot care less. It has sent planes to bomb the Islamic State group (IS), but otherwise has done nothing to unseat the brutal regime that has brought the country to its knees.

Washington may be thinking in terms of the endgame to the crisis, which it will make sure is in Israel’s interest. Apart from that, the Syrians have received nothing but the most perfunctory expressions of diplomatic concern, if even that.

“It seems that the US, Russia, and Iran have one thing in common: a desire to destroy Syria,” Syrian opposition researcher Omar Kosh said. The US is too busy with its internal problems, the economy and the elections, to give Syria its attention, he added.

Journalist Majed Kiyali bemoaned the lack of moral sense among the powers that could help end the conflict. “The major countries and international organisations act upon their interests, not according to the moral and cultural principles they claim to uphold,” he said.

Walid Al-Binni, a Syrian opposition member, blames international inaction for the continued ordeal. “There is a lack of decisiveness on the part of the US administration, which has failed to come up with a clear strategy on ending the crisis,” he said.

“The Syrians have been left to their own devices,” Al-Binni added. “But they will triumph in the end, however great the sacrifices.”

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