How Will the Syrian Crisis End? – By Ehsani2

How Will the Syrian Crisis End?
By Ehsani2 @EHSANI22
For Syria Comment – October 10, 2016

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Westerners find it hard to believe that a crisis, such as that afflicting Syria, cannot be stopped. “Surely, someone can and must do something” is the consensus thinking. If the UN has failed to stop it and diplomacy cannot bring it to an end, then the White House must stop the blood letting and use military power to do so. “We just cannot sit back and let this tragedy unfold without doing something.” That is the montra of pundits on TV and commentators on social media.

The sad truth is that those hoping for a quick resolution to this crisis are likely to be disappointed. Contrary to expectations, the US is unlikely to enter into war with Russia over Syria. The moral argument for intervention cannot out-weigh the immense risks that the US military would be taking were it to engage in a direct and costly war with Russia. Despite the hawkish rhetoric of Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail, chances are that once in the White House, she will come to the same conclusion about using American military force as President Obama. Real world constraints reduce the chance that US will deploy force in Syria. The Syrian opposition and their backers will be forced to rethink their current path.

Political Solution

Most policy makers involved in the Syria crisis insist that “there is only a political solution to the Syria crisis.” The unstated problem with this argument is timing. Can a political solution be arrived at before a clear military winner emerges on the battlefield? Mustn’t one side realize that it has no choice but to accept a settlement before both sides will come to the table? The answer to this question is clear. No political solution can take place before a clear winner emerges on the battlefield. The longer this process is delayed, the longer the crisis will drag on, and the greater will be the death count.

Salafists and Jihadists

Regardless of how liberal and reform minded were the masses who made up the opposition at the beginning of the uprising, those who make up the armed groups today are largely Salafists and Jihadists. They control the battlefield. The Syrian state has long been accused of releasing Islamists from its prisons in an effort to achieve precisely this outcome. While such accusations are impossible to dismiss wholesale, it is important to recall that one of the early and consistent demands of the opposition was for the release of political prisoners. And who were those prisoners? The vast majority were Islamists. The Muslim Brotherhood had long been the central enemy of the Baathist regime. Liberals were inconsequential and presented little threat to Assad’s control. The vast majority of the political prisoners brought before the security courts and convicted to lengthy prison terms were jihadists returning from Iraq or Salafists who preached against the regime in surreptitious dawa circles. Leading up to the events of Daraa in 2011, Damascus had for decades charged Islamists with long sentences, often seven years, in prisons such as Sednaya.

The release of prisoners

As the crisis first unfolded in Daraa, Sheikh Sayasneh was invited to Damascus in an attempt by the authorities to de-escalate the situation. One of the key demands of the cleric was the release of prisoners, the majority of whom were Islamists. This pattern was often repeated throughout the early phase of the crisis. The U.N special envoy, Kofi Annan, took up this demand. He too insisted that all political prisoners be released. While many in the opposition are convinced that the release of salafists, such as Zahran Alloush, who was imprisoned for organizing prayer meetings, was engineered by Damascus to help radicalize the opposition, the truth is probably more nuanced. The Syrian State was desperately trying to stop the uprising by using both the stick (swift response against protestors) and the carrot (release of prisoners when urged). While one may still debate this argument and claim that the government’s secret intent was to turn the uprising into an jihad, the fact is that what Damascus sees today are insurgents and Islamist armed groups who want nothing less than to destroy the Syrian State and replace it with a one of their own design, one that would conform to sharia. They call it “more Islamist in identity”.

Different visions of government

The two completely different sorts of government envisioned by each side do not permit a credible political solution at the present time. As for the political wing of the opposition that maintains close relations with Washington, Damascus believes that Qatar has repeatedly prevented this largely powerless group from following US suggestions of entering into more serious political talks during the previous Geneva talks.

Only the battlefield will decide

What the above leaves us with is the hard truth that only the battlefield will decide the next phase of this crisis. This means that the war is likely to continue. The armed groups and their supporters are unlikely to give up the fight. The same is true of Assad and his backers. No one will be able to stop this war until one side begins to collapse or loses enough to bring the fight near to its conclusion. Sadly, when this point of inequality between the opposing sides is reached, the loser will have little to gain from negotiating. Until this scenario becomes the accepted wisdom, we are likely to read the inevitable daily op-eds and opinion pieces that decry the unfolding tragedy and demand that the United States escalate its military intervention.

Comments (23)


1. Eugene said:

How many of these civil wars have been taking place since the end of WW 2? The death toll-genocide/massacre/displaced population-numbers in the millions, yet the only results seem to be lip service, while the war manufactures reap untold profits. There isn’t any incentive to end such wars. Indeed, it seems to ignite another as the former winds down, be it through peaceful means, defeat, ??? It seems one conflict follows another, sometimes, as in the case of the so-called war on terror, it’s really continual. Until the arms business ceases to be, there sems tobe no end in sight to stop the madness.

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October 11th, 2016, 12:42 am

 

2. Pablo said:

From Clausewitz to Foucault and back again! Thanks for that short, sharp and insightful piece. It is refreshing to have such a clear – if bleak – perspective, particularly one that cuts through the poisonous miasma of what passes for “debate”. Here in the UK, the latest example of this ratcheting up of hysterical rhetoric (and epic misreading of history) is the equation between modern Russia with NAZI Germany and Aleppo with Guernica.

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October 11th, 2016, 3:28 am

 

3. Robert HARNEIS said:

The big failing of this otherwise perceptive article is the failure to admit frankly that tens of thousands of the jihadis are not Syrian, they are foreign invaders some of them at least sent from Saudi prisons. There are apparently two thousand from Russia. These invaders are paid and have in some cases been rewarded with the land and houses of the Syrian citizens they have killed or driven off. Whatever grievances some Syrians had with the Government the fact is this conflict has become a foreign invasion sponsored, armed and financed by the Western powers and their medieval Gulf allies. What is this ‘moral argument’ for intervention that the writer refers to? What we are seeing is a brutal attempt to otherthrow or at least neutralise a government that has chosen to defy the West and allows Russia and Iran access to the Mediterranean. America do something? If only they would go home instead of blundering about like a bull in a china shop.

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October 11th, 2016, 3:55 am

 

4. Ghufran said:

Yes, the sheikhs consistently focused on releasing jihsdists and to a lesser extent women. The regime tried and failed to buy time and support by caving in to islamists demands, the only result was bringing new jihsdists to the battle field. Having said that I have to remind all that the regime chose to keep non violent figures in prison, so I am not ready to give the regime a pass on the subject. For decades there was an unwritten agreement between the regime and islamists where the latter side was given a green light to build mosques and Islamize the society as long as those islamists stay away from politics. That agreement was broken largely due to assurances and support received by islamists from the GCC, turkey and even the West where islamists were led to believe that ” the days of the regime are numbered”.
Sadly, there is little chance for diplomacy to work now after hundred of thousands of Syrians were killed by both sides, the urge to avenge the “fallen comrades” is certainly stronger than the desire to end the war. Armed rebels tried and failed to topple the regime by force and they are now afraid of answering questions by their supporters if they agree to lay down their weapons and talk peace.
There is no real tradition of forgiveness and compromise in most middle eastern and islamic cultures, instead there is vengeance and people of the Middle East call that justice !!
يا امة ضحكت من جهلها الامم

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October 11th, 2016, 4:03 am

 

5. machoki said:

Yes, but maybe it could be possible to reach an agreement like the Westphalia treaty. Great article in Foreign Affairs about that.

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October 11th, 2016, 5:28 am

 

6. Abu Sinan said:

A point often forgotten is that we do not have any moral ground to stand on in Syria. We are involved in exactly the same sorts of crimes in Yemen. We are arming and providing intelligence and combat logistics for the Saudis in Yemen.

It is amazing to watch Kerry and Powers blast the Russians on the international stage for being a part of the very same things we are doing in Yemen. It is a joke.

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October 11th, 2016, 8:08 am

 

7. Louis Proyect said:

The notion that Assad was trying to placate the protests in 2011 by releasing mostly Islamist prisoners strikes me as ludicrous when at the same time his snipers were firing on the protests whose demands were for democracy rather than Sharia law. In fact your own contributor Aron Lund had it figured out: “The regime has done a good job in trying to turn the revolution Islamist. The regime claims that it released the prisoners because Assad had shortened their sentences as part of a general amnesty. But it seems to have gone beyond that. There are no random acts of kindness from this regime.”

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October 11th, 2016, 8:24 am

 

8. Jasmine said:

What has happened in Syria was wwIII by proxy financed by the ego centric diplomacy of the Gulf,the sick ideology of Wahhabis and Salafist,and pushed by the arm industry from the west.
Having USA as a policeman for the world hasn’t worked at all for the last 30 years at least,it has destroyed the Middle East and this has been great help to advance the Israeli agenda.
The only way to stop this war which has ceased to be Syrian war a long time ago,is regime change in the Gulf,and this will save more war in the rest of the ME,and bring some freedom and equality to women at least.
I think that USA is working on that by draining slowly the resources of SA.

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October 11th, 2016, 3:31 pm

 

9. Angelis Dania said:

This article does not seem to account for that fact that according to their own declassified and leaked documents and emails, the US government was planning and working towards regime change in Syria long before March 2011, and was sponsoring and supporting Syrian opposition.

The narrative we’ve been fed has come from terrorist rebels-come-activists who are supported by the US coalition, and from some shut-in in Coventry London who cannot even describe his verification methods, probably because he doesn’t have any and just quotes these same militants fighting against the Syrian people.

So the problem with US involvement has certainly not been their inaction. Their inaction would have resulted in an end to this proxy war for regime change.

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October 12th, 2016, 12:41 am

 

10. Willy Van Damme said:

Wise article, indeed a political solution doesn’t exist as the jihadist groups leading the rebellion only want the total surrender. But these jihadists first wanted the release of prisoners and afterwards complain about it. It shows their falsehoods.
And indeed as both visions of a Syrian society are opposed to it talks are useless and only used to give the impression they would like to negotiate.
Missing however is the chaos regarding the Syrian policy in Washington. It’s hawks (liberal and neoconservatives) versus realists with no one thinking one minute about international law and non-interference in the affairs of other countries. And it is obvious the friends of Washington are on the losing side.

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October 13th, 2016, 8:51 am

 

11. Hopeful said:

The fact that previous comments are all over the place when it comes to the “narrative” would explain why this war will not end anytime soon. No one seems to mention the elephant in the room: this is now a civil war with a heavily sectarian element, and each side is seeking help from the outside (all the devils) to try to force a complete surrender of the other side. No compromise.

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October 13th, 2016, 12:52 pm

 

12. Majedkhaldoun said:

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October 13th, 2016, 2:07 pm

 

13. Akbar Palace said:

Jasmine’s Gulf Handicap NewZ

The only way to stop this war which has ceased to be Syrian war a long time ago,is regime change in the Gulf…

Jasmine,

I noticed your answer to the civil war in Syria is “regime change in the Gulf”.

What about regime change in Iran, Syria and Lebanon?

Majedkhaldoun,

Not sure what’s going on with Russia, but I sense that Putin sees an opportunity: a weak anti-war Obama at the end of his term. He may recognize no such weakness like this for a long time to come, and therefore, initiate some sort of military conflict. I can see Russia, Iran and China getting more aggressive and testing Obama now, before he goes back to community organizing…

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October 13th, 2016, 2:10 pm

 

14. Jasmine said:

Asghar hut’s apartheid little sucker of state News @13

Why don’t you worry about peace in your own place,you were fighting Palestinian for the last 70 years, huts are not qualified to discuss Syria.

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October 14th, 2016, 7:44 am

 

15. ALAN said:

US is on the Verge of Nuclear War !
https://youtu.be/ZiZxFR8ZlRk

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October 14th, 2016, 2:42 pm

 

16. Jamal said:

A lot of comments on here are just plain ridiculous.

The US and Russia are turning a local or sectarian conflict (one that has gone on for centuries) into an excuse for a third world war.

Russia has (surprisingly) gone all in and become the military muscle of the entire Shia sect. Foreign Shia jihadists from around the world are joining the fight in Syria yet, neither the US nor the UN classify these jihadists in the same way as they do Sunni jihadists.

The Sunnis are the majority of the Syrian land and the Sunnis are the majority in the region. What bin Laden (ra) initiated (as far as contemporary times) – the idea of a trans-national Sunni state – will only continue to increase. Particularly in the face of a unified Shia front that is allied with Russia in Syria, and even the US indirectly in Iraq.

As time goes by, the contradictions and inconsistencies that various rival powers and regional forces and international groups will become more apparent, leading to further chaos and instability. Think about this…

The US fell into a trap set by AQ when it invaded Iraq (Gulf War 2).
The US fell into a trap by not invading Syria and doing to Assad what it did to Saddam. This is because Russia stepped in first, and the consequence has been a miraculous boost for AQ and like-minded groups and ideologies. When the US invaded Iraq, this was a consequence of 9/11 and perceived (what an illusion) success against the Taliban. By contrast, the people of Syria rose up against Assad as they had several times in the past few decades. Thus, had the US removed Assad it would have had a beneficial effect on the reputation of the US in the Muslim world (similar to US action in Bosnia) whereas US support for Israel, support for police states in the Middle East, destruction of Iraq, and bombing of Afghanistan ruined that reputation with the greater Muslim world.

So by invading Iraq, AQ and its ideology grew in Iraq.
By not invading Syria and allowing the Alawites, Shia, and Russians to destroy the country, AQ and its ideology has also grown in Syria.

That is where we are today. Some comments talk about the Syrian regime wanting to release Islamist prisoners in order to taint the non-Islamist opposition. But Egypt shows that the people always wanted some kind of representative form of government mixed with some kind of Islamic identity and Islamic governance. There isn’t necessarily contradiction between the two, yet western analysts including the likes of Joshua Landis and Charles Lister fail to accept this. In the end, people are pushed to demanding Islamic governance by force. The secular forces than also realize they have no chance but to further oppress their citizens in order to maintain control over them. This was the end result in Egypt. Syria used Sunni Islamist fighters to keep the US occupation busy in Iraq since the US had threatened that they would be next after the removal of Saddam. So it is no surprise and no conspiracy to find that Syria’s current opposition is dominated by Islamists.

It was said during the time around 9/11 and shortly thereafter that US foreign policy was AQ’s closest ally since the consequences of that foreign policy created the anger and circumstances for such non-state actors to thrive. Now, the exact same thing is true of Russia which doesn’t pretend to be on some sort of humanitarian conquest but rather, openly supports one sect and assists that minority sect in displacing the majority sect. This Russian foreign policy is AQ’s new closest ally. All the while, the US can only stand by and watch given the multitude of its failures over the last decade and a half. Failures so severe that many people simply don’t even believe it (and thus, the rise of so many Internet conspiracy theories to help explain this event or that inconsistency).

The bottom line of the above article however is that the end of the Syrian conflict will come about through military victory only. This is true to only a certain extent. Military victory by one side or the other will lead to the defeat of the other side. But that doesn’t mean that war and conflict won’t continue. War in Iraq as well as the Arab Spring are the two main factors that lead to the current conflict in Syria. Despite the numerous times that it was said that the Iraqi Sunni insurgency had been defeated…they continued to morph back into the battlefield. No permanent victory can be achieved against a guerilla group with sufficient popular support, a cohesive ideology, and territorial flexibility. Time is on the side of the Sunni fighters in Iraq and Syria just as it has proven to be on the side of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. If these Sunni fighters were invading and occupying a Shia majority area like Iran or southern Lebanon, then the opposite would be true (the shia forces would have the advantage of time).

The greatest injustice here, the greatest form of terrorism, and the greatest moral bankruptcy falls upon the foreign powers (i.e. America, Russia, and Europe) who are interfering in the affairs of others, as well as any attempts by a minority group or sect to rule over and enforce their will upon the majority group or sect.

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October 14th, 2016, 10:15 pm

 

17. ALAN said:

12. MAJEDKHALDOUN
Why is your leader eyes swollen in this manner?
CHINA’S MILITARY ARRIVE IN SYRIA TO HELP RUSSIA !
http://www.alamongordo.com/china-military-arrive-in-syria-to-help-russia/

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October 15th, 2016, 11:38 am

 

18. ALAN said:

Aleppo’s War Battlefield – al-Kindi hospital
https://youtu.be/pf8Fx7Ognrk

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October 16th, 2016, 1:38 pm

 

19. Eugene said:

#17 Alan, we won’t see this on the western media, do you think?

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October 16th, 2016, 1:57 pm

 

20. Amin said:

“The Syrian State was desperately trying to stop the uprising by using both the stick (swift response against protestors)”

One cannot be but perplexed when reading Mr Ehasni writing about what so called the “Syrian State”. What state he is talking about? a state in which the rule of law prevails? a state where the constitution is protected by a debating parliament? or a state in which the constitutional court has the final saying?
It seems that those who attempt to defend the regime are infected by memory’s betrayal. Syria does not have a state, it has security apparatus, it has an unqualified president (he because president only after constitutional change which took place in less the 24 hours) and it has Rami Makhlof. Are these bodies able to contain a popular unrest? Can these negotiate a safe path with their opponents? We see the results.

Mr Ehsani alleges that most of the opposition to the “Syrian State”are islamists, jihadist, terrorists and so forth. Are personalities like Farouk El Shaar (the former Syrian foreign minister), Ryad Hijab, Kamal Labwani, Micheal Kilo or Ali Ferzat islamists? There is in Ehsani’s state not even a definition for an islamist. Micheal Kilo can be accused of being Jihadist.

Another issue: where from does Mr Ehsani KNOW that most of the prisoners are islamists? Are there any statistics in the Syrian jails?

There are too many more issues to write about, but for space reason, I leave it there.

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October 18th, 2016, 11:25 am

 

21. ALAN said:

19. EUGENE
Really hope that the Americans stood up against the villain of the American establishments and their customers from bankers and oil-drug traders beneficiaries from the military industrial complex.

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October 18th, 2016, 1:49 pm

 

22. Amin said:

“The Syrian State was desperately trying to stop the uprising by using both the stick (swift response against protestors)”

One cannot be but perplexed when reading Mr Ehasni writing about what so called the “Syrian State”. What state he is talking about? a state in which the rule of law prevails? a state where the constitution is protected by a debating parliament? or a state in which the constitutional court has the final saying?
It seems that those who attempt to defend the regime are infected by memory’s betrayal. Syria does not have a state, it has security apparatus, it has an unqualified president (he because president only after constitutional change which took place in less the 24 hours) and it has Rami Makhlof. Are these bodies able to contain a popular unrest? Can these negotiate a safe path with their opponents? We see the results.

Mr Ehsani alleges that most of the opposition to the “Syrian State”are islamists, jihadist, terrorists and so forth. Are personalities like Farouk El Shaar (the former Syrian foreign minister), Ryad Hijab, Kamal Labwani, Micheal Kilo or Ali Ferzat islamists? There is in Ehsani’s state not even a definition for an islamist. Micheal Kilo can be accused of being not only islamist but a Jihadist.

Another issue: where from does Mr Ehsani KNOW that most of the prisoners are islamists? Are there any statistics in the Syrian jails?

There are too many more issues to write about, but for space reason, I leave it there.

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October 19th, 2016, 4:27 am

 

23. Akbar Palace said:

Jasime’s Green Thumbs up Victory NewZ

Asghar hut’s apartheid little sucker of state News @13

Why don’t you worry about peace in your own place,you were fighting Palestinian for the last 70 years, huts are not qualified to discuss Syria.

Dear Jasmine,

How long will you delude yourself about Israel? All while arab-Israelis enjoy the most economic opportunity, freedom and PEACE anywhere in the Middle East.

Enjoy…

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arab_citizens_of_Israel

http://elderofziyon.blogspot.com/p/eoz-posters-for-apartheid-week.html

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October 19th, 2016, 7:45 am

 

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