The impossible end of the war in Syria

Spring 2015, Nuclear negotiations in Lausanne. From left to right: Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, John Kerry US Secretary of State, Philip Hammond, then Brithish Foreign Minister and Sergeï Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister. (European Council – Council of the European Union Audiovisual Services. Shoot location: Lausanne, Shoot date: 29/03/2015).

Spring 2015, Nuclear negotiations in Lausanne. From left to right: Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, John Kerry US Secretary of State, Philip Hammond, then Brithish Foreign Minister and Sergeï Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister. (European Council – Council of the European Union Audiovisual Services. Shoot location: Lausanne, Shoot date: 29/03/2015).

The United States and the Russian governments without the slightest remorse announced that it was with their guns the Syrians have been killing each other for the last six years. This is the translation in plain English of last weekend’s news, which is that Washington and Moscow agreed on a truce in Syria, after very detailed and difficult negotiations between themselves only. The two powers blatantly sidestepped the U.N. peace process under Staffan de Mistura.

It’s also a proof of the full dependency of their proxies on the ground, who will be called to observe a truce they didn’t help conclude. In reality, this truce will be imposed on people who thought they were killing and getting killed for their own good causes. This doesn’t mean that at least some Syrians aren’t truly fighting for their lives and the lives of their families and the very existence of their ethnic-religious group.

It is easy to find out who are the Syrians who battle for their survival. It suffices to know how, and who armed the initially peaceful political opposition to the Damascus autocratic rule of Bashar al-Assad. And furthermore, who encouraged or opened the way for the murders of ISIS and other minor warring groups which turned Syria, a once inward looking and rather peaceful country, into an inferno. Assad has also to be blamed for denying political negotiation with the opposition and having bombed his own people.

Syria to be dismembered

Alas, it’s an undeniable fact that after six years of civil war and fighting in all possible directions, it’s now impossible for the country to be kept in one piece. So, it’s obvious that the US and Russia have scrupulously agreed what part of the dilapidated place their proxies will get and hold. But then again, if this proves to be impossible to achieve, the two foreign powers will let the place burn for decades. All that blood and fighting has helped the most ruthless and extreme elements of every ethnic, religious or mercenary group to surface and dominate, having sidestepped and silenced the voices for conciliation and compromise.

During the past twenty years the world kept watching a number of countries and territories being destroyed by their own mistakes and of course by the ‘help’ of outside forces. Yugoslavia and Ukraine in Europe plus Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, Eritrea, Somalia, Chad, Niger, Mali, Libya and Syria in Asia and Africa all have been ruined by civil wars and lawlessness, brought about by every possible and impossible warlord, being armed, financed and controlled by foreigners.

Evil modern colonialism

This is quite a different colonial policy than the one the world powers, including Russia, followed in the previous century. For one thing, in India the British Empire left a common language, English, and basic democratic structures. Today’s colonialism is immensely more ruthless and doesn’t target to conquer a country as such. It targets just the soil and what is beneath it or it just wages war for its own sake.

The case was made crystal clear in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria. In Libya, the US and Europe must have plainly aimed at the destruction of the existing state services and social structures. Of course, they were very careful to keep the oil wells and pipelines intact. The invaders knew very well that gone the Gaddafi regime, the country would become a no man’s land in the hands of hundreds of local warlords and tribal chiefs.

In Syria the pattern was the same, but Assad happened to be not only the head of the state but also the leader of the country’s Alawites. This religious-ethnic group was threatened with extinction by ISIS and the other Sunni armed groups backed by Saudi Arabia, Turkey and others. However, this reality built an iron pact between Assad, the Alawite population and the country’s secular elites with roots deep in the tradition of the Arab version of socialism (Bathism).

Assad is not Gaddafi

As a result, the military cohesion and strength of the mainly Alawite Syrian Army, effectively backed by the Russians, proved strong enough to repel ISIS and the many Sunni warring factions controlled, financed and armed by foreigners including the US. As for Moscow, she saw in Assad her only chance to play a role in the Middle East and secure a piece of the pie. So, the Russian military machine did what it took to block the assailants in the air and, actually, in the early days of the war downed two Turkish F-16s.

The years that followed turned Syria into a real hellhole, with half of the population abandoning their homes or been killed. Almost 5 million have left the country and 7 million are internally displaced. According to rough estimates, half a million of men, women and children have lost their lives. All that was ‘needed’ for the US and Russia to finally recognize that it’s impossible to throw out the other guy.

Those who fought for their lives

Sunni Saudi Arabia and Turkey, and Shia Iran and the Lebanon Hezbollah have also played a very active role in the conflict, claiming a piece in the premeditated dismembering and looting of Syria. As a matter of fact, though the Assad regime had gone, Hezbollah in Lebanon would have been next, while Iran would have been badly cornered in the wider region. No wonder then why the Shia fighters from Lebanon and Iran fought bravely alongside the Syrian Alawites against the largely mercenary ISIS and the other Sunni armies.

In the case of the North Syria Kurds the circumstances ware similar. ISIS plus a number of Sunni, possibly Turkey backed, militias wanted to annihilate them. So, the Kurds like the Alawites had to fight for their very existence and the survival of their race. Their bravery became legendary in September 2014, when they managed to hold the key city of Kobane on the borders of Turkey.

Can the truce hold?

Coming back to today’s problems, the truth is that the US – Russia sponsored truce is threatened by the realities on the ground. The situation is largely out of control in many spots. Only the areas controlled by Assad’s Syrian Army and the three provinces constituting the well organized Syrian Kurd semi-autonomous administration may be considered as being in safe hands. Everywhere else a kind of a Libyan effect is developing, with local, tribal or missionary warlords claiming absolute authority on the ground they hold, demanding to be considered as key players in any possible arrangement.

By the same token, the ISIS forces may have suffered repeated defeats, as in Libya, but those who inflicted the losses on the crazy butchers insist to keep the spoils and the ground for themselves. To be reminded, that, in the last Lebanese civil war, the conflict lasted for fifteen years. Undoubtedly then, the US-Russia sponsored truce, which is observed mainly around Damascus, will not put an end to the war.

No end to the war

The conclusion about the prolongation of the war is supported by many analysts. What the Sting offers with this article is a different look at the whole picture. Washington and Moscow are mainly interested in securing a position for themselves through their proxies on the ground. The Russians want Assad to maintain his status, while the Americans are mainly interested that the Syrian Kurds remain under their strong influence, in exchange of their control of the lands east of Euphrates.

The ISIS may continue its murderous existence in the desert for as long as it stays away from the oil rich regions of North Iraq. As for the rest of the foreign powers involved in the war, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran, they may get what they want, only if they do not disturb the US-Russia arrangement.

The fight to continue

The truth remains though, that the many smaller warring factions, which emerged from six years of bloody clashes, will continue to fight between them. Of course, the number of independent small armies is much less than in the case of Libya. Still, it’s not at all easy for a possible long lasting peace arrangement to contain the demands of all those armed factions. In short, if and up to the point that the US and Russia secure their strategic goals in Syria and convince their proxies to stop fighting between them, the fight will continue elsewhere, hopefully to a much more restricted scale, but without a visible end.

Already, Assad, emboldened by the latest military advancements of the Syrian Army, has laid claims on all Syria. Similar rhetoric and more so aggressive action, will just fuel a full scale continuation of the war. In any case, what matters to the big powers is their zone of influence. Everywhere else can annihilate each other all they want.

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