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Vladimir Putin has been able to act energetically in Syria , not because he is bolder or more determined than Barack Obama, but because he has a clearer strategy . Putin has an ally: the Assad Government. He also has enemies: opponents of the regime . Support your ally and fight against those enemies. In comparison, Washington and the West are, basically, confused.
In whose favor is the United States in this struggle? We know who he is against: the Assad regime. Also, against the Islamic State , who has emerged as the main opponent of the Syrian Government. Also, against all the jihadist groups fighting in Syria, such as Jabhat al-Nusra (affiliated with al-Qaeda) and Ahrar al-Sham. Oh! And also against the Hezbollah forces and the Iranian advisers who have been supporting the Syrian regime. The West is against almost all major groups fighting in Syria , which allows moral clarity, but also causes strategic incoherence .
The ‘move’ of Russia is not as bright as some argue. It is a desperate effort to support one of the few foreign allies of the Kremlin and carries the risk of turning Moscow into the ‘Great Satan’ in the eyes of jihadists around the world. However, at least Putin has a coherent plan. On the contrary, the United States is closely allied with the Baghdad government in its war against Sunni militants in Iraq. But, on the other side of the border, in Syria, he fights on the side of these Sunni militants against the Assad regime.
Washington does have some groups that it supports: Syrian Kurds fighting near Turkey , moderate forces supported by Jordan near its own border and a small number of other moderate Syrians. However, if we take into consideration the main groups that dispute the control of Damascus, the United States is against almost everyone .
It’s not foreign policy, it’s a fantasy
Kenneth Pollack and Barbara Walter describe the basic approach of the Obama Administration, which considers all the forces in combat that currently exist ‘inadequate’ in one way or another. “The United States is building a new army of Syrian opposition, that army is destined to be apolitical, non-sectarian, and highly integrated“, they write in” Washington Warterly. “” When prepared (…) will conquer (liberate) and defend the territory against both the Assad regime and against other Sunni jihadist groups. (…) The result would be a new inclusive government that would extend its protection to all minority groups. “However, after the experiences in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Yemen, this is not foreign policy, it is a fantasy.
General David Petraeus (ex-commander of ISAF in Afghanistan) recently proposed an expanded military intervention that would create security zones for civilians and, potentially, a no-fly zone to counter the barrel bombs launched by the regime of Bashar al-Assad . However, can that plan overthrow the Islamic State? When Petraeus designed a strategy to defeat the precursor group of ISIS in Iraq (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), the general emphasized that ” you can not kill or capture a very resistant insurgency.“His 2006 field manual on counterinsurgency states that” ultimate success “is only achieved by” protecting the population. “Commanders must” ensure the transition from security actions and combat operations to the maintenance of law and order. the fastest way possible. “
Until now, the West has combined in Syria a maximalist and inflexible rhetoric with minimalist and ineffective efforts. The gap makes Putin look smart.That’s the problem. The US military could, in my opinion, easily defeat the Islamic State, which has a ‘light infantry’ force of less than 30,000 men . But then Washington would be the owner of Syria. Who wants to govern that territory, protect the population and be seen by locals as a legitimate power? A senior Turkish official told me recently: “We observed how you tried to govern the Iraqi cities, and we will not make the mistake that the United States .”
If one looks back and observes the multiple American interventions around the world, there is one obvious factor. When Washington has allied itself with competent local forces and considered legitimate by the population, the United States has succeeded. But without this type of local allies , all the external effort, aid, firepower and training have no future , whether in Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria.
If Obama’s goal is to establish a peaceful, stable and multi-sectarian democracy, this requires a vast American commitment, similar to that of the Iraq war. Otherwise, Washington must accept reality and make difficult decisions. The most important are: should you stop opposing Asad ? and should he accept the partition of Syria ?
What if the jihadists take Damascus?
If defeating the Islamic State is important , then it must become Washington’s priority, allying itself with any outside force that will join the fight . If Assad is defeated and the jihadists take Damascus, it would be worse than if Assad stayed. This does not mean to support Assad, but to allow the creation of an Alawite enclave in Syria , similar to the one that is already being formed (on the coast). Moderate Kurds and Syrians are also creating their own ‘safe spaces’. Even if the civil war ends and a country called Syria remains, these groups will not live intermingled again .
Until now, the West has combined in Syria a maximalist and inflexible rhetoric with minimalist and ineffective efforts . The huge gap between them makes Vladimir Putin look smart.
But what lead to this chaos? The people of Syria hold Bashar Al-Assad, the President of Syria, responsible for this inhumane massacre. He is the one responsible for chlorine gas attacks as well as thousands of civilian killings all across Syria. Let’s have a look at Assad’s profile to analyse his life in politics and before that.
The whole world is not alien to the situation in Syria: refugees, attacks and deaths come to us, they touch us, they concern us. But what about your country, specifically? Why does that happen? Who is its president? What role does ISIS play in that territory? There are many questions that arise when we think of Syria and its government.
It is time to get to know in depth Bashar al-Assad the president – who can also be called as a dictator – of Syria. And it is necessary to begin with the last facts: although they do not confirm it, it is believed that it was their government who made the decision to carry out a chemical attack.
Facts about his life
- He was born on September 11, 1965 in Damascus, Syria.
- His father was Syrian President Hafez Assad and his mother Anisa Makhlouf al-Assad.
- He is married to Asma al-Assad since 2000.
- He has three children: Karim, Zeína, Hafez.
- He studied medicine at the University of Damascus and ophthalmology in London.
- He did military service in Syria.
- He became president in 2000.
How he came to power
His father was president in Syria for many years. His regime had many restrictions and was considered a dictatorship. When he died, who was going to succeed him in the presidency was Bashar’s brother. However, when he was studying in London he was called and he learned the terrible news: his brother had died in a car accident and had to return to Syria to prepare himself as a successor.
Already in Syria he had to perform military service (1999) and when his father died in 2000 (after 29 years as president), he was ready to take his place. There were elections a month after the death of his father, but the funny thing was that in those elections there was no opposition. Is a democracy with these restrictions possible?
What was the Damascus Spring?
When he became president, Bashar tried to be a more flexible president than his father. In the speech that inaugurated his presidency, he promised reforms. Among them the modernization of the economy, the fight against corruption and the birth of a new democratic experience . Hundreds of prisoners were released and, finally, freedom of expression seemed to flourish again in that country.
Everything seemed perfect, that’s why it was called the Damascus Spring . However, from one day to the next, Bashar al-Assad changed his mind and the spring was over. The licenses for the intellectuals were denied, the opposition was stopped and press freedom limited .
It was said that his brother Maher – head of the Republican Guard – and his cousin Makhlouf – one of the richest in Syria – played a very important role in this radical change.
When the civil war started
In 2011, the situation in Syria was already painful . The demonstrations began to increase for al-Assad to leave power. However, during a demonstration four people were killed and several people arrested: that was the beginning of a terrible civil war in Syria .
In 2013, the president was accused of a chemical attack (like this one of 2017), but at that time he killed 1,400 civilians, of whom 426 were children. It was at that time when Obama, the former president of the United States, proposed to bomb the area where the planes had left with chemical weapons but Congress rejected it (separate paragraph: Donald Trump at that time criticized him for wanting to attack Syria, and now it was him who made the decision for the terror that al-Assad generated in that country).
The fight against ISIS
The growth of the terrorist group ISIS aggravated the civil war. The rebels clashed with the Syrian army and those who suffered the most were the civilians. Between them, a real war was created, cruel and without limits.
Aleppo, which was taken by the rebels, became a target of war. A city that was beautiful and populated became a ghost town, without history and without people.
Is it a dictatorship?
When in 2000 he came to the elections he did it through the democratic vote but without the existence of an opposition. In 2007 other elections were held. At that time he won with 97% of the votes (without opposition) and remained president for 7 years. When the elections were held in 2014, he again won, but in a suspicious way: you could only vote in the areas of the country he controlled .
Although he does not consider himself a dictator, he never gave sufficient guarantees for his country to be considered a democracy .
Dead from the conflict
Since the conflict began, more than 5 million people have left their country and become refugees. In addition, until 2015 the death toll was 250,000 although probably the figure has already exceeded 300,000.