This morning's news describes a meeting in Vienna to end the war in Syria, "the first talks bringing together all foreign powers backing rival sides in Syria's civil war." There is talk today of Iran signaling that it favors a six-month "transition" period in Syria followed by elections to decide the fate of President Bashar al-Assad.
From the first year of the war, angling to stay in power, Assad has spoken of reform, but his enemy the Free Syrian Army (FSA) has rejected it, vowing to fight on against the man they had come to hate. Assad's military has held to a policy of retaliation against neighborhoods from which attacks by the FSA and some other enemies have occurred. Assad's military has held to an old tactic: striking against civilians and warriors alike, believing an entire neighborhood the enemy. Assad's military has been doing this with barrel bombs, which Assad has claimed do not exist.
To now, making war against Assad has not produced light at the end of the tunnel for them. The Obama administration made Assad's use of chemical weapons a red line rather than Assad making war on civilians. Without the benefits of better weapons and a no-fly zone, and with Russia and Iranian support for Assad, the FSA's cause appears hopeless. Many neighborhoods have been destroyed. The death toll so far is said to be 220,000. It's enough to make a non-pacifist believe that the opposition to Assad should have remained non-violent, organizing itself peacefully to pressure public and international opinion.
There is talk now of the need of keeping Syria's state structure in place, including its military, for the sake of avoiding chaos. If there is to be the transition to democracy that is being talked about there will have to be a start structure.
The Obama administration has been pursuing a policy that Assad must go, but it has been not been willing to go far enough in making the overthrow of Assad possible. Now perhaps it should make a policy adjustment: give up trying to look tough when in fact it is not; support a negotiated settlement with Assad and his allies Russia and Iran. Between this and making it possible for those its support to win is a nowhere gap where it is likely to find more futility.
Of course there is the US option of waiting for a new administration in 2017 and intensification of military action hostile to the Assad regime and its allies in Syria.
Copyright © 2016 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.