Syria’s conflict—A war without an end

Thursday, 2016-09-22 12:42:08
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A man carries an injured child after airstrikes on the rebel held al-Qatirji neighbourhood of Aleppo, Syria. (Credit: Reuters)
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NDO—The rapid breakdown of the ceasefire in Syria mediated by the US and Russia has caused the country’s crisis to take a turn for the worse. The two powers on the “Syrian chessboard”—Russia and the US—have blamed each other for the failure of the agreement. Disagreement between the two makes the situation in the Middle Eastern country even more complex.

Fragile hopes for peace in Syria crumbled after a “mistaken” airstrike by the US-led coalition killed dozens of Syrian government soldiers. Although Western countries have called it a “mistake,” Russia has raised questions about the US’s will for peace.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has warned that the US-led coalition’s airstrike against the Syrian Arab Army had threatened to derail the implementation of the truce. Russia urged the US to put pressure on armed groups it supported to unconditionally implement the ceasefire. Moscow also criticised the unconstructive, incomprehensible stance of the US at an urgent meeting of the United Nations Security Council, convening at the request of Russia after the airstrike.

According to the Russian side, the US has not only failed to provide a satisfactory explanation for the attack, but has also sought to distort the facts surrounding the incident. The Russian Foreign Ministry has said that the air strike was a result of the US’s resolute refusal to cooperate closely with Russia in the fight against the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) and other terrorist groups.

Meanwhile, the US accused Russia of weakening the ceasefire, demanding that the Russian side pressure the Syrian government to implement a ceasefire and allow relief supplies to be delivered to rebel-held areas of the city of Aleppo.

The accusations and finger-pointing that caused the ceasefire to crumble have exposed the deep disagreement between Russia and the US on many issues. According to analysts, Washington and Moscow have not reached consensus on expanding cooperation on intelligence-sharing and military operations, as the two sides have mentioned.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the US of delaying the implementation of its commitment to separate “moderate” Syrian insurgents from terrorist groups. The Russian side raised concerns that the US had been slow in fulfilling its promise so as to take advantage of the ceasefire to facilitate terrorist groups in consolidating themselves.

Meanwhile, the Syrian authorities accused the world powers of backing terrorist organisations, including the IS. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said that with each step that Damascus has made on the battlefield or the international diplomatic front, anti-Damascus governments have strengthened their support for terrorist groups, and the recent airstrike on a Syrian military position near Dayr al-Zawr’s airport, which killed 62 soldiers, was one example of this.

After declaring the week-long ceasefire had ended, Syrian government forces resumed their airstrike campaign, and fierce fighting resumed in areas controlled by the opposition in Aleppo. Although US Secretary of State John Kerry still wanted to salvage the truce, saying that the deal was “not dead,” the resumption of the fighting was a fait accompli. Another opportunity for peace in Syria was missed, and the civil war became more complicated. Russia said the ceasefire in Syria could only be resumed if terrorists stopped attacking government forces.

With the latest developments in the Syrian crisis, expectations for US–Russia military cooperation on the battlefield seem like a pipedream. There are many differences between the two sides, and they are just too far apart in their views on the Syrian issue.

Despite regarding peace talks and a political settlement as the only way out of the Syrian crisis, Russia and the US’s intentions are at cross-purposes, and their backing for opposing sides in Syria will make it difficult to end the country’s civil war.