The five-and-a-half year old civil war in Syria does not appear to die down anytime soon. Repeated airstrikes across its biggest cities like Aleppo have left the country in chaos after continuous failures of peace agreements between the US and Russia. Such is the situation that the ceasefire talks have also been suspended and nerves are as tense as the end of the last cold war between the countries.
The civil war has pushed Syria to the edge and each day a huge number of people are suffering injuries and death due to indiscriminate bombing and killings. What started out as an intervention to ‘stabilise the region’ and restore peace has now turned to an almost collective punishment exercise where civilians are being brutally killed and with no clear picture whether the ceasefire between US and Russia will be agreed upon again.
Several landmark agreements signed between the two countries have been pulled down in past days, like the one Russian president Vladimir Putin scrapped by signing a decree that governed disposal of weapons grade plutonium.
Russians have repeatedly alleged that the US has failed to tackle the extremist terrorists groups like ISIS and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham while offering open support to rebels. Both the countries have failed in separating the moderates from the terrorists and the country is now divided in multiple parts. The territory is now held by the Assad regime, ISIS, rebel groups, Kurdish forces, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham and other contested areas.
Bunker buster bombs have blown the town centres to smithereens and hundreds of thousands of people now lay under siege in Aleppo at the hands of Russian forces. Some documents have surfaced in the past that have claimed the hand of western powers in destabilising Syria and engineering unrest to trigger a change in regime. However, it is subject to speculation and scrutiny.
There will be grave repercussions should Assad’s regime fall and thus Russia is willing to go all out to helping Assad gain control of his country from rebels even at the cost of the lives of citizens.The immediate fallout of Assad’s removal will give the US a chance to exercise authority over the country and expand its influence in the Middle East. As for Russia, it needs to stop that from happening as Russia will ultimately end up losing Tartus-its strategically crucial naval base coupled by loss of Iran’s access to Hezbollah.
The US interest in Syria is not related to oil since Syria is not a major producer. Its interests are more focused on contemporary geopolitical scenario and developments that have a bearing on regional US interests. US will be comfortable with a more acquiescent president at the helm in Aleppo and the Saudi’s would obviously want a Sunni leading the country. Escalation of conflict between the government and rebels would have laid ground for an eventual regime change. Russia has however played spoilsport.
Assad has been seen as a person who is moderate, forward thinking but a complicated leader. He has bombed his own people and ordered action on many that extended to torture or mass murders. Till some time before the civil war, he endorsed Hamas as well. He has allied with Tehran and Hezbollah and has hence earned the scorn of the US and Israel. Obama believed that Assad was a person the US could do business with and he reached out with renewed diplomatic relations as part of his outreach program for the Muslim world.
As the war broke out, Obama was caught off guard and was unable to deal with the problem effectively. Syrian conflict was left for the janitors.to clean up with no clear strategy. The US denied arming moderate factions that were fighting against the regime. This was key in paving the way for the Islamists who by now are the only formidable force standing against the regime apart from the Kurds. In all fairness, the Syria debacle will widely be seen as the Obama-Putin legacy for years to come.