Syria has become an unimaginable disaster over the course of four-and-a-half years of civil war. The international community must do everything it can to deal with it, in the hope that the crisis does not reach unmanageable proportions.
While the Syrian war is terrible enough in itself, the UN’s humanitarian agencies have added to the country’s problems by saying that they were on the verge of bankruptcy as a result of the number of people needing help. This is not surprising as nearly four million Syrians are either displaced or are seeking asylum as refugees in other countries.
As for the events on the ground, there is now a new player in the conflict; Russia has launched air strikes in Syria, but it is not clear whether these attacks are aimed at the Islamic State (IS) fighters – which is what the Western powers have been doing – or the opposition forces fighting the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
At the UN General Assembly session, it became rather clear that there is significant disagreement over how to tackle the crisis. While US and France insisted that Assad had to go, Russia said that it would be a grave mistake to dismantle the regime in Damascus and not concentrate on defeating the IS. The United Kingdom was willing to consider Assad staying temporarily in power as part of transition. The leaders eventually agreed to work towards a diplomatic end to the war, but this is the least they could have done.
The question of how to deal with the Syrian crisis is obviously immensely complicated. Some things, however, should be easy enough to observe and act upon accordingly. There needs to be a concerted effort to protect Syrian civilians and punish, by overwhelming military force, those who target them, whoever they may be. Furthermore, there is something on which all sides agree – they want IS defeated and eliminated from Syria. This should, therefore, be the first thing that the ‘allies’ do. Once the IS is effectively out of the way, the diplomatic process should commence. It is imperative that all war crimes are documented and punished, which will almost certainly exclude Assad and the rebel leaders from playing part in the country’s future. As such people are prone to relinquish power, it is going to be a long and delicate process.
Overall, the Syrian crisis must be tackled in all its complexity. This will require a mixture of rapid, targeted and decisive use of military force, as well as painstaking diplomacy. There must be a credible peace process, to be followed by reconstruction and the return to some kind of, as yet unknown, normality. However difficult this may seem – and it is – the objective of stopping the bloodshed and protecting millions of innocent Syrians mustn’t be abandoned.
– Drazen Simic, Correspondent (Our World)
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