Global Independent Analytics

5 years after the spark, Syria war at a critical juncture

A diplomatic framework is in place to end the Syrian carnage, a two-week-old partial cease-fire is holding, and peace talks are set to resume in coming days.

Zeina Karam for Associated Press reports:  peacetalks in Syria have reached its tipping point.

Some say that still there is a lot that remains to be reached: contemporaneous fragile partial truce is unstable and might be overturned in any moment. It is common view that the fighting will not end right away: divisions over the future of President Bashar Assad threaten to scuttle any serious negotiations for a political transition in the immediate future.

However, there are some indicators, which clearly demonstrate that the war is switching gradually from guns to politics. The world leaders share a desire to put an end to the war that resulted in an enormous distribution of Islamic terrorists all over the world.

Karam provides a quote: "International opinion is drifting away from the opposition and the idea of political change in Syria," said Aron Lund, nonresident associate of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and editor of Syria in Crisis. "Much of the world just wants stability, an end to terror sanctuaries, a stemming of refugee flows. They don't want to see Syria on the front page of their morning newspapers anymore."

The current conflict begun five years ago when a series of protests swept across Syria, from Damascus to Daraa, when students have been arrested and tortured for expressing anti-government views.

“Coming after a string of so-called Arab Spring uprisings that toppled dictators in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, the protests triggered panic in the echelons of the Syrian power structure. Security forces responded with brute force. Within a few months, the confrontations morphed into an armed insurgency and the conflict slid into one of the most savage civil wars in recent history.

As the U.S., Iran, Hezbollah, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and ultimately Russia poured in weapons and cash to back up opposing sides of the war, the fighting became more brutal. Massacres were committed on a massive scale, and entire blocks in major cities were reduced to rubble.

Through it all, Assad has been unflinching, maintaining that he is fighting terrorism. The rise of the Islamic State group and al-Qaida's branch in Syria, the Nusra Front, has eclipsed the original core of nationalist activists seeking an end to dictatorship — so completely that Assad claims that it's a myth that the uprising began with the arrest of students in Daraa and subsequent protests,” Karam summarizes.

Back then ordinary Syrian citizens could not have imagined that in five years they will not be able to believe that the events unfolded so rapidly, irrevocably and immensely. Some say that Syria, as they have known it before, will never be the same again, all because of the Civil War.

Several political analysts admit that they have never thought that Assad’s regime would last so long, let alone military intervention of Iran, Hezbollah and Russia. In the meantime, the U.S. had hard time deciding whether Syrian opposition forces deserve its support, neglecting the current conflict for the fight against ISIS. That, and Russia’s position in Syria, finally led world leaders on a path of a discussion which ended in engineering a partial cease-fire beginning from February 27, which surprisingly has held mostly despite being rather limited and experimental.

Karam assumes: “[N]egotiations could collapse over the seemingly insurmountable issue of Assad's fate. Though the opposition dropped its demand that he step down before negotiations, it says it will not accept any process that doesn't end with his removal. Assad has shown no sign that he is willing to go — and it's not clear his international backers, including Russia, are willing to force him out.”

However, some fear that exhausted and illegitimate Assad might be too weak to hold the war-torn country together; the anticipated partition might become inevitable which eventually will lead to a harder fighting. So much remains to be seen, after all, this political deal is but a toe in the water. 

By Stefan Paraber for GIA

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