The recent positive development is that Russia is promoting a peaceful solution that includes the involvement of the Syrian opposition for the first time since the military entered the war alongside the Syrian and Iranian regimes. The downside is that Russia wants to keep Bashar Al-Assad and this is a bad solution and will not succeed because the opposition wants the removal of Assad.
Is it possible for the Russians to develop their ideas to enable the negotiators to finally reach a solution?
The Russians entered the war six months ago, and despite using the latest weapons that were developed in their laboratories, they have not fulfilled their vows to defeat the enemies of the Assad regime. Even the city of Aleppo, which the Russians vowed to liberate, is mostly in the hands of the opposition. This does not negate the fact that Assad’s forces and its ally Hezbollah have made progress on the ground by seizing some locations and towns, but they are not conclusive victories. Conclusive victories do not look likely either. The regime’s limited victories are not a result of the military efforts of the Russians and Iranians but rather the result of pressures on Turkey that has been forced to close routes used by armed men and to transport funds. This had led to a decrease in the support provided by countries that back the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and other armed Syrian forces.
Despite these setbacks, the Syrian opposition still controls a third of Syria, the regime less than a third and terrorist groups about a third as well. The Russians tasted their first painful defeat last month when their helicopters which were stationed on the ground at their military base between Aleppo and Palmyra were destroyed, and armed groups destroyed a long line of trucks that were used to transport funds. The Russians denied the incident but the Stratfor intelligence firm provided pictures that undoubtedly show the extent of the devastation before and after the attack.
Whether the attack was carried out with support or guidance from external forces to restore balance on the battlefield which has become unbalanced because of Moscow’s intervention and the shrinking role of Turkey, or was carried out by ISIS or FSA attackers, it remains a remarkable development. It confirms that the costs of war will be expensive for everyone and not just for the Syrian people who are being attacked by explosive barrels and are being bombed randomly by an unaccountable regime.
Assad’s three main allies; the Russians, Iran and Hezbollah discovered that victory in Syria is impossible without a political solution, contrary to their previous perceptions. They face two problems; the first is their inability to progress because the majority of the Syrian people are most certainly against the Assad regime. The second challenge faced by the aggressors is that they will not be able to continue fighting without their losses increasing.
The political solution which made a little progress last week is an exit for the Russians and the Iranians. However, it will not be achieved without real concessions; the proposals adopted by the Geneva II Conference.
As for the US team, it has assumed the role of referee and hopes that the game ends in a draw or that the presidential term ends without political losses in Syria, leaving the crisis to the next president. Russian pressure on the US administration is doubling in order to expand the circle of its military goals after other military campaigns have so far failed to produce a military victory.
We must not be distracted from the core of the conflict – Iranian expansion in the region that wants to control Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. This cannot only be dealt with a solution that pleases the Russians in Damascus. Making concessions to Russia means making concessions to Iran in the entire region, not just in Syria.