John Nixon’s (ex-CIA Analyst who interrogated Saddam Hussein) describes the removal of Saddam Hussein a huge blunder, and without a doubt this is an undeniable fact. Principally, his recommendation of “placing diplomacy back into foreign policy” and “to deal with people and leaders that we (US) abhour if we want to help bring stability back to the region and limit the scope of terrorism’s reach” is correct. But, to the point, where the war in Syria and Iraq has reached, his idea can only partially be the answer to the problem. The former part of his viewpoint is the solution, but the latter part is not practical any more in case of Bashar al Assad.

Assad and a stable Syria cannot coexist. The endless brutality by Assad forces against the Syrians, especially people living in rebel held areas, has made it impossible for him to govern a country any longer. As a security state, with the help of his pro-militant organisations and international allies, he can have the control through military muscle but the moral authority and legitimacy necessary to govern or even rule, is something he has unarguably lost long ago.

Just bringing diplomacy back in foreign policy to resolve the crisis in Syria and Iraq will not be enough for the US, unless it is ready for a great deal of sacrifice. US has huge strategic and economic interests in Middle East, which it does not seem to want to sacrifice especially after the appointments of hawks by Donald Trump at key positions in government. Most importantly, despite the decision of making General James Mattis Secretary of Defense and General Flynn as National Security Advisor, the announcement of David Firedman as an Ambassador to Israel and his will to shift the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, reveals an altogether a horrible game plan for Middle East.

Although the remapping and reshaping of the Middle East might suit the global establishment along with the US and other emerging international powers, it also serves militant organisations. The greater the disorder, the greater will be the gains.

Iraq has been going through a war for more than a decade, but currently the humanitarian crisis in Syria has moved to a disastrous point that it needs to be stopped.

The removal of Assad is inevitable for the revival of some sort of order in Syria. Still the restoration of pre-Arab Spring Syria is impossible.

The solution to the Syrian conflict is impossible without the removal of Assad. However, following his recent position in the war, with the absolute support of Russia and Iran, it is certainly impossible in the near future for the Syrians to get rid of Assad, as a result of any peace deal or diplomatic settlement.

Contrary to the preferences of the Syrians, the presence of Assad suits Russia and Iran. The continuation of the vulnerable government that is totally dependent on them provides them not just the presence and control in the Syrian territory, but in fact considerable influence in the region.

On top of everything, a new alignment that is pushing US on the side of Russia and Iran, might result in new and more lethal arrangements and alliances among the militant organisations and rebel groups along with the Turkey.

The Russians started air strikes across Northern Syria since they have finally got the control of the remaining rebel-held areas of Aleppo. The city of Aleppo, the commercial hub of Syria, ever since the beginning of Civil War has been the most decisive battleground for Regime as well as for the opposition. The fall of Aleppo is the biggest victory for regime and its allies. They have been endeavouring for Aleppo and this was the primary reason for the failure of the previous “Cessation of hostility”. The regime was trying to get control of Aleppo to strengthen their position in negotiations.

The Moscow Declaration by Russia, Turkey and Iran to end the Syrian Civil War, is not going to last for long.

The conflict is worsening with every passing moment, while effective peace settlement does not seem to take place. Even though, mainly because of the vested interests of Russia, Iran and US, any peace deal will not going to settle, still, a meaningful cease-fire in Syria could be and has to be executed, so that the much needed relief work can be done.

The bloodshed intentionally carried out by the Assad regime and its allies in Aleppo and other parts of the country have destroyed the people. According to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, almost 50,000 people have lost their lives in 2016. Nonetheless, it has been estimated that up till now, in total, this war has caused nearly 400,000 casualties. The humanitarian catastrophe needs to be halted, whereas Assad and his allied forces are not ready to pause their atrocities.

Any expectations from the Moscow Declaration and Astana talks is senseless in a scenario when the central stakeholders are at the forefront in violating it.

Furthermore, with the compatibility of Russia with the upcoming Trump administration, any solution to the ongoing crisis seems out of the question. Extremism is growing. From Somalia and Nigeria up till the Pak-Afghan region, instability and radicalism is prevailing.

A tug of war between globalist and anti-globalist ideas has been generated in the Western World. A wave of hardcore nationalism is getting strong roots with the entrance of refugees into Europe. This, together with augmenting islamophobia with increasing terrorism is creating global hostilities.

In terms of the strategic significance along with diversified religious, ethnic, sectarian and civilisational nature of the highly intense Syrian Conflict, the fact of the matter is that this particular conflict is creating a sense of deprivation and animosity within the Muslim World. If it will not be sorted out on an urgent basis then it will definitely lead to hostility across the lands of all the stake holders that are acting as a power brokers in Syria.


The writer is a research analyst based in Islamabad.