It’s been more than four years since the conflict in Syria started and things have gone downhill with the advent of the Islamic State (IS).
It appears to be a conflict with no end in sight, but in less than a fortnight that seems to be changing with Russia’s deployment of a military force along Syria’s Mediterranean coast. By sending troops Russian President Vladimir Putin has brought an interesting dimension into the conflict.
In the absence of a cohesive strategy to fight the IS, Mr Putin’s plan to back Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime is welcomed by some nations — and that’s a glaring reflection of how the United States has failed to chalk out a plan. Washington’s efforts to tackle the crisis have not shown the Obama administration in a good light with reports stating that US-trained Syrian rebels, intended to fight the IS, defected to al-Qaeda.
This comes on the heels of analysts at the US military’s Central Command (CENTCOM) complaining that reports on Syria and Iraq were watered down to show that the US was winning the battle on terror.
By inserting Russia into the West Asian conflict, Mr Putin has ensured that any solution to the crisis will now have to include Moscow. But this move also comes with its risks.
If Mr Putin refuses to accommodate the concerns of the West, its regional allies and the moderate rebels, Moscow will soon find itself entangled in the conflict without an exit route. Thus, it is in Mr Putin’s interests to tread a middle path.
Whatever be the case, one thing is clear: Assad has no future in a post-war Syria — not after the bloodshed unleashed by his regime on innocent civilians. Now, the US, Russia, West Asian allies, moderate rebels and the UN need to work together on three aspects: Put an end to the IS, plan Mr Assad’s exit and a transition to a coalition that reflects all sections of Syrian society, and, plan the democratic future of Syria.
It is imperative to involve the moderate Sunni groups in a post-Assad plan, because if excluded, there’s no incentive for them to fight the IS. The mistakes committed while drawing up plans for a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq must not be repeated in Syria.