An Israeli Merkava tank patrols on the border between Israel and Syria, on 20 July 2018. (AFP)
Israel has been conflicted on the Syrian rebellion: some saw Bashar al-Assad’s reliance on Iran and thus favoured his departure; some, especially once the uprising militarized and jihadi-Salafists made their appearance among the insurgents, favoured a let-them-both-lose policy; and some saw the risk of chaos and jihadists and preferred to stick with what they knew.
The official Israeli policy, stated in the early months of the protests, was to side with the people “demonstrating for freedoms” since “the devil we know in Syria [i.e. Assad] is worse than the devil we don’t”. Continue reading →
Russian president Vladimir Putin and Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamene’i meeting in Tehran, Iran, 1 Nov. 2017 // Picture via Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader
There have been renewed claims that Russia and Iran, while both supporting Bashar Assad’s regime, have such differences in vision and interest in Syria that there is a schism Western policymakers can take advantage of.
The basic notion is to work with Moscow, which has a less maximalist position, to limit the influence of Iran, a more disruptive power that could draw in worried regional countries to a wider war. This idea is not new and remains illusory. Russia is powerless—even if it were willing—to restrain Iran, the dominant force driving the regime coalition’s war. Continue reading →
A child receiving oxygen after a poison gas attack in Douma, near Damascus, Syria || SYRIAN CIVIL DEFENSE WHITE HELMETS VIA AP
A year to the day after the United States struck at a Syrian airbase to punish Bashar al Assad for a chemical weapons attack, the regime has suspectedly carried out another devastating chemical atrocity. Signs are that the United States will, again, respond with force, attempting to rescue some part of the fraying international taboo against the use of poison gas. The larger question remains how Assad has gotten away with this for so long—and why murder only with certain categories of munitions prompts retaliation. Continue reading →
This week marks the seventh anniversary of the Syrian revolution. A movement that began with peaceful street protests calling for reform and—after the government responded with lethal violence—the downfall of the dictator, descended into war that has to this point cost the lives of at least 500,000 people and displaced nearly twelve million others—more than half of Syria’s pre-war population.
In any strategic sense the rebellion has been defeated—it is not able to overthrow Bashar al-Assad by force on its own—and its political cause is increasingly strained as the remnants of the armed opposition are increasingly co-opted by external actors, state and non-state. Continue reading →
Aftermath of an Assad regime bombardment in Hamouriyah, Eastern Ghouta, 9 January 9, 2018. Samir Tatin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
The international community tried to impose a ceasefire in Syria on 24 February, passing resolution 2401 through the United Nations Security Council. The ceasefire never took hold and it is now clear it will not. This was inevitable.
Bashar al Assad’s regime, and the governments that support him in Iran and Russia, have repeatedly made use of ceasefires to sequence their war, taking advantage of the calm on some fronts to concentrate firepower on other areas. The only question is why Western diplomats gambled that this time would be any different. Continue reading →