For seven years, the Syrian War has displaced millions of people and resulted in one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, as well as one of the worst crises of modern times. In order to end this war, all the players involved in Syria need to look ahead to creating constructive solutions that work for the Syrian people and figure out how to arrest this conflict as soon as possible.
The events in Syria are getting worse, but they are also getting different with new challenges. DAESH is weakened in Eastern Syria along the Syrian-Iraqi border, Turkey’s Olive Branch operation is still gaining friction in northwest Syria, and Syrian Arab Army forces are initiating an operation to retake the last stronghold of the rebels in Eastern Ghouta. Although, we have seen some progress in different areas in Syria.
In the south, the ceasefire zones near the Jordanian border are showing some promise, the Kurdish zones are showing some promise as well, but there are so many different pieces to work with and now the question is how to create some kind of political solution where Assad stays in power temporarily until the next elections because that is the reality on the ground, while providing autonomy and recovery in a few of these ceasefire or de-escalation zones. This could be one realistic way forward, but the only solution to the Syrian War is a diplomatic solution.
Since its intervention in 2015, Russia has played no small role in supporting Bashar Al-Assad. Russia has troops in Syria along with two vital naval bases (Latakia and Tartus) on the Mediterranean and has provided air support for Assad as well. From the very beginning, Russia’s ultimate goal in Syria has been to restore the territorial integrity of Syria since Syria is a sovereign country that has a seat in the United Nations. Russia interfered in the Syrian conflict when it was getting out of control, and Moscow has seen what happened in Libya and Iraq, but the Russians saw the Syrian conflict as a dynamic that was spreading all over the Middle East.
Seven years on, we have to leave the past and look towards the future. First, the international security structure of the United Nations has failed miserably by mismanaging this conflict or even de-escalating the conflict. Secondly, there is no point in having a multi-national settlement when the parties of the conflict are pointing fingers at each other, and most importantly, everyone is guilty in the suffering of the Syrian people and the destruction of a sovereign nation.
Since DAESH has dissipated, Syria has now turned into a geopolitical game, where there is a struggle between uprising countries like Russia, Iran, and others versus the United States and western countries who have little appetite to accept new players in the international arena.
For Assad, he has lost his legitimacy primarily from Kurdish and Sunni populations who want more autonomy, but by the same token, Assad is still in power and has come closer to winning the war than losing it. Realistically, there needs to be a strategy that helps the areas in the northeast and the south temporarily govern autonomously and get recovery assistance from the global community.
Meanwhile, Assad will eventually have to face the prospect that if he wants to see the population get recovery and reconstruction assistance, Assad will need to figure out a strategy to ease himself from power. The Geneva process looks dead, and as a result, it may not create a new coalition government for national unity because for Assad, this would mean defeat. What Assad could do is broaden and open up the government’s representation and find a way for himself to step down; otherwise, the global community is not going to provide the assistance that Damascus and other areas need to get back to normalcy. In conclusion, it looks like there will be no clean change in rule and no clear win for Assad come the next elections.
Seven years of war in Syria has left hundreds of thousands of people dead, millions displaced, more civilians at risk with intense fighting in Eastern Ghouta near the capital Damascus, Afrin near the Turkish border, and a United Nations Security Council ceasefire passed on March 3, but failed to stop the violence. It is important to note that this war and this anniversary of the Syria conflict began because it was an internal uprising of Syrians against the government, which was truly a civil conflict.
The other layer of the Syrian conflict has been the regional influence of actors where Syria has turned into a geopolitical playing field for different motives for shaping the map of the Middle East and the way governments in the region are functioned. As a result, this is why actors like the GCC states, Turkey, and Iran intervened in the conflict.
The last layer has been the external action of American and Russian involvement in 2014 and 2015 respectively, that made the Syrian war even more complicating with Russia supporting Assad and the U.S backing the rebels. All three of these dynamics have endured but waxed and waned to certain extents.
Syria has turned into a tragic maelstrom of different interests because every player has aligned interests with others. For instance, one example is every big player claiming to fight terrorism where players have the same objective, but on the same side of the coin, different players have different motives.
So far, the Syrian conflict has dealt with the horrors of Aleppo and Ghouta, but the global community seems ill-equipped to deal with maintaining a diplomatic solution. Tthe Syrian government feels content with regaining as much territory as it can and Damascus has been indiscriminate for the number of civilian casualties that we are seeing throughout Syria. As long as the Syrian government has enough control of territory, Damascus will keep going. Even if the conflict does come to an end, reconstruction will take decades for Syria to rebuild itself.