Showing posts tagged as "assad"

Showing posts tagged assad

1 Aug
A pincer move - Iraq’s bloody mess has helped the regime in Syria and its jihadist enemy
WHEN an alliance of disgruntled Sunnis led by the Islamic State (IS), an extremist group formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), streaked across Iraq in June and proclaimed a caliphate in the territory it holds on both sides of the Syrian-Iraqi border, Syrian rebels with a more national focus thought their day had come. Surely, they surmised, America and its Western allies would not sit by and allow to prosper a group that had grown out of al-Qaeda in Iraq and killed American soldiers during the war there in 2003? Bar the Americans getting involved militarily, the only way for them to push back IS in Syria would be to bolster the more moderate rebels there.
A little more weaponry, mainly anti-tank missiles, did indeed arrive for eight vetted groups that have been supplied by a covert programme that since last year has been run by America and states in the Gulf and Europe that want to see the back of Bashar Assad, Syria’s president. These groups have made some gains in the northern part of Hama province and the southern part of Idleb, near the regime’s stronghold in western Syria (see map). But the main picture has not changed. Syria’s regime and IS both gain from the mess next door in Iraq, whereas the more moderate rebels are increasingly being squeezed. “The aid is for a plan to deal with a 2012 problem, not a 2014 one,” says Noah Bonsey, an American Syria-watcher at the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based think-tank.
FULL ARTICLE (The Economist) 
Photo: James Gordon/flickr

A pincer move - Iraq’s bloody mess has helped the regime in Syria and its jihadist enemy

WHEN an alliance of disgruntled Sunnis led by the Islamic State (IS), an extremist group formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), streaked across Iraq in June and proclaimed a caliphate in the territory it holds on both sides of the Syrian-Iraqi border, Syrian rebels with a more national focus thought their day had come. Surely, they surmised, America and its Western allies would not sit by and allow to prosper a group that had grown out of al-Qaeda in Iraq and killed American soldiers during the war there in 2003? Bar the Americans getting involved militarily, the only way for them to push back IS in Syria would be to bolster the more moderate rebels there.

A little more weaponry, mainly anti-tank missiles, did indeed arrive for eight vetted groups that have been supplied by a covert programme that since last year has been run by America and states in the Gulf and Europe that want to see the back of Bashar Assad, Syria’s president. These groups have made some gains in the northern part of Hama province and the southern part of Idleb, near the regime’s stronghold in western Syria (see map). But the main picture has not changed. Syria’s regime and IS both gain from the mess next door in Iraq, whereas the more moderate rebels are increasingly being squeezed. “The aid is for a plan to deal with a 2012 problem, not a 2014 one,” says Noah Bonsey, an American Syria-watcher at the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based think-tank.

FULL ARTICLE (The Economist

Photo: James Gordon/flickr

1 Nov
UN Should Mandate Unhindered Humanitarian Access To and Within Syria
The U.S.-Russian agreement to remove Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal has led many observers to hope for a political breakthrough.  A more immediate and realistic objective,  as well as a more reliable yardstick by which to measure various parties’ good-will, should be on the humanitarian front, where the situation is deteriorating rapidly and relentlessly.  As the conflict’s third winter fast approaches, it is past time for this to become a priority and for all involved – the Syrian authorities, but also the rebels and the two sides’ respective sponsors – to take steps to relieve the civilian population’s intolerable and entirely man-made suffering. 
There is more than one paradox.  Even as chemical weapons inspectors enjoy unhindered access to some of the country’s most sensitive locations, UN humanitarian aid cannot reach civilians in besieged areas.  This is true even only a few miles from the international organisation’s offices in Damascus, where the regime deliberately and systematically starves people in a new tactic of modern war. Regime troops that are holding on to pockets of territory in remote parts of the country suffer a similar fate at rebel hands. 
Likewise, even as borders remain wide open to foreign fighters, weapons deliveries and cash transfers – whether in support of the opposition or the regime – the flow of humanitarian aid routinely is inhibited or blocked.  Reasons abound: UN unwillingness to circumvent the regime, which in turn prohibits cross-border assistance to rebel-held areas; the regime’s cynical use of aid, incompetence and red-tape in handling foreign assistance; Western ambivalence at working with the regime; opposition radicalisation and fragmentation; the reluctance of neighbouring states to have their territory serve as a logistical base for international NGOs; the global economic slowdown which reduces available funds; and the behaviour of countries most deeply involved in the conflict – notably Iran, Russia, and Gulf Arab states – whose enthusiasm in backing the war effort is not matched on the humanitarian front. Europe, which has every reason to fear that Syrians fleeing violence and poverty will ultimately wash up on its shores, has been unimaginative in finding ways of helping them before they depart the region.
The need for outside assistance is all the greater insofar as the parties in conflict have done so little on their own to care for the civilians they at one point purported to be protecting.  This is particularly true of the regime which, despite emphasising the state’s sovereignty and integrity, has abdicated most state responsibilities.  It focuses exclusively on a struggle for survival and treats large segments of its population as if they no longer were civilians and citizens but rather enemies to be destroyed at any cost and by all means. For its part, the exiled opposition – although it claims the right to replace the regime – essentially has ignored the urgent task of providing humanitarian aid and basic services to so-called liberated zones.  This in turn has contributed to the disruption of their social fabric, weakening of activist networks and empowerment of radical armed groups more focused on accruing resources for themselves than providing for civilians around them.
All this must end. If, as some claim, the diplomatic and political climate has changed sufficiently to make compromise even remotely possible, the first gauge of such a shift must be swift and tangible progress on the humanitarian front. 
A first priority must be adoption by the UN Security Council of a resolution calling on all parties to guarantee safe, full and unhindered access for the delivery of humanitarian assistance, including through cross-border operations if and when provision of urgent humanitarian aid proves impossible from within Syria. The resolution should include establishment of a monitoring mechanism to name and – optimally – sanction any party that resorts to starvation as a war tactic or hinders, steals or diverts humanitarian assistance.    
There is much else that can and should be done.  But this action is long overdue.  All it requires is for the Security Council to demonstrate the same unity of purpose with which it addressed Syria’s chemical arsenal and for Russia in particular to implement in practice the commitment it repeatedly voices to the well-being of Syria’s citizens.
crisisgroup.org

UN Should Mandate Unhindered Humanitarian Access To and Within Syria

The U.S.-Russian agreement to remove Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal has led many observers to hope for a political breakthrough.  A more immediate and realistic objective,  as well as a more reliable yardstick by which to measure various parties’ good-will, should be on the humanitarian front, where the situation is deteriorating rapidly and relentlessly.  As the conflict’s third winter fast approaches, it is past time for this to become a priority and for all involved – the Syrian authorities, but also the rebels and the two sides’ respective sponsors – to take steps to relieve the civilian population’s intolerable and entirely man-made suffering. 

There is more than one paradox.  Even as chemical weapons inspectors enjoy unhindered access to some of the country’s most sensitive locations, UN humanitarian aid cannot reach civilians in besieged areas.  This is true even only a few miles from the international organisation’s offices in Damascus, where the regime deliberately and systematically starves people in a new tactic of modern war. Regime troops that are holding on to pockets of territory in remote parts of the country suffer a similar fate at rebel hands. 

Likewise, even as borders remain wide open to foreign fighters, weapons deliveries and cash transfers – whether in support of the opposition or the regime – the flow of humanitarian aid routinely is inhibited or blocked.  Reasons abound: UN unwillingness to circumvent the regime, which in turn prohibits cross-border assistance to rebel-held areas; the regime’s cynical use of aid, incompetence and red-tape in handling foreign assistance; Western ambivalence at working with the regime; opposition radicalisation and fragmentation; the reluctance of neighbouring states to have their territory serve as a logistical base for international NGOs; the global economic slowdown which reduces available funds; and the behaviour of countries most deeply involved in the conflict – notably Iran, Russia, and Gulf Arab states – whose enthusiasm in backing the war effort is not matched on the humanitarian front. Europe, which has every reason to fear that Syrians fleeing violence and poverty will ultimately wash up on its shores, has been unimaginative in finding ways of helping them before they depart the region.

The need for outside assistance is all the greater insofar as the parties in conflict have done so little on their own to care for the civilians they at one point purported to be protecting.  This is particularly true of the regime which, despite emphasising the state’s sovereignty and integrity, has abdicated most state responsibilities.  It focuses exclusively on a struggle for survival and treats large segments of its population as if they no longer were civilians and citizens but rather enemies to be destroyed at any cost and by all means. For its part, the exiled opposition – although it claims the right to replace the regime – essentially has ignored the urgent task of providing humanitarian aid and basic services to so-called liberated zones.  This in turn has contributed to the disruption of their social fabric, weakening of activist networks and empowerment of radical armed groups more focused on accruing resources for themselves than providing for civilians around them.

All this must end. If, as some claim, the diplomatic and political climate has changed sufficiently to make compromise even remotely possible, the first gauge of such a shift must be swift and tangible progress on the humanitarian front. 

A first priority must be adoption by the UN Security Council of a resolution calling on all parties to guarantee safe, full and unhindered access for the delivery of humanitarian assistance, including through cross-border operations if and when provision of urgent humanitarian aid proves impossible from within Syria. The resolution should include establishment of a monitoring mechanism to name and – optimally – sanction any party that resorts to starvation as a war tactic or hinders, steals or diverts humanitarian assistance.    

There is much else that can and should be done.  But this action is long overdue.  All it requires is for the Security Council to demonstrate the same unity of purpose with which it addressed Syria’s chemical arsenal and for Russia in particular to implement in practice the commitment it repeatedly voices to the well-being of Syria’s citizens.

crisisgroup.org

18 Oct
"Any viable resolution of the war requires a representative opposition. But to endlessly search for a more credible and coherent political opposition is to mistake cause and consequence: only a political process viewed as credible and coherent by the opposition’s base will produce viable representatives – not the other way around."

—Peter Harling, Project Director for Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, Anything But Politics: The State of Syria’s Political Opposition

17 Oct
"The Coalition has become locked in a cycle of misunderstanding and frustration with Washington, the most important of its Western allies. Though both share the goal of a Syria without Assad, neither has developed a strategy that takes sufficiently into account the constraints of the other, including growing American risk aversion."

—Noah Bonsey, Senior Syria Analyst, Anything But Politics: The State of Syria’s Political Opposition

30 Aug
With Britain Out, Allies Abandon Obama on Syria | Nico Hines
If President Obama orders a military strike against Syria in the next few days, America will almost certainly be forced to act in isolation. The battle to secure a broad international coalition has collapsed in disarray as a swath of regular allies sought postponements or rejected the idea of firing missiles toward Damascus.
The drumbeats of war appeared to be strengthening in Washington, but recent partners from conflicts in Libya, Iraq, and Afghanistan have been backing away from direct involvement in the proposed military action against President Bashar al-Assad.
FULL ARTICLE (The Daily Beast) 
Photo: The Prime Minister’s Office/Flickr

With Britain Out, Allies Abandon Obama on Syria | Nico Hines

If President Obama orders a military strike against Syria in the next few days, America will almost certainly be forced to act in isolation. The battle to secure a broad international coalition has collapsed in disarray as a swath of regular allies sought postponements or rejected the idea of firing missiles toward Damascus.

The drumbeats of war appeared to be strengthening in Washington, but recent partners from conflicts in Libya, Iraq, and Afghanistan have been backing away from direct involvement in the proposed military action against President Bashar al-Assad.

FULL ARTICLE (The Daily Beast) 

Photo: The Prime Minister’s Office/Flickr

27 Jun
"None of this would fundamentally alter the trajectory of the conflict or truly point to its resolution. But at least it would be a start, which is far more than one can say has been achieved at this sorry stage."

—from Crisis Group’s recent report, Syria’s Metastasising Conflicts

Syria’s Metastasising Conflicts
Damascus/Cairo/Brussels  |   27 Jun 2013
While a diplomatic settlement of the Syrian war is unrealistic at present, it remains the only viable option. It will require difficult steps by local, regional and international actors to accommodate competing interests.
Syria’s Metastasising Conflicts, the latest International Crisis Group report, examines a war that has produced scores of thousands of dead, a mushrooming regional sectarian conflict and millions of refugees and internally displaced persons. The evolving positions of regime and opposition alike have made both military and negotiated solutions ever more elusive, while transformation of the broader strategic context has made escalation even more likely.
The report’s major findings and recommendations are:
The conflict continues to escalate incrementally, with no decisive breakthrough in sight for either side, although each continues to pin its hopes on one. Thus, the conflict keeps growing, sucking in more players, taking on new layers and becoming ever more destructive and intractable.
Both sides pay lip-service to a “political solution” which each conceives as capitulation by the other. With no Russian-U.S. exit vision, a polarised region, amorphous opposition and a rigid regime, there is little to work with. But that is no reason to invest further in alternative pipedreams.
Three options exist to radically change the dynamics, all unpalatable or currently unrealistic. Toppling the regime requires massive intervention with no guarantee of longer-term “victory”. Putting up with the regime – arguably the quick way to end the bloodshed – would exact a significant moral and geopolitical price with no assurances that it would refrain from revenge. A third option, to seek a negotiated solution involving genuine local power sharing among Syrian actors and regional understanding among their patrons, is optimal but unfortunately hard to imagine for now.
Mid-way measures – such as arming the opposition, air strikes or establishing safe havens – might produce ancillary benefits for the West but not what its proponents typically advertise, whether “changing the regime’s calculus”, containing violence or limiting jihadi influence.
Given the current impasse, focus should be on a negotiated endgame: What kind of power-sharing solution can protect regime and opposition interests alike? What kind of state could emerge from a political process and be the foundation of a lasting solution? How must existing institutions change for this vision to gain substance? Is there a way to accommodate the concerns of rival regional actors? This is where most agreement is to be found among Syrians and where the concerns of their allies can be addressed in practice. This report suggests ideas as a basis for further discussion.
“This war is not a zero-sum game in which one side’s gains definitely mean the other side’s losses”, says Senior Middle East Adviser Peter Harling. “It is past time to put daydreams away and come to terms with a realistic assessment of the situation on the ground and available options”.
“If Russia and the U.S. wish to signal seriousness, they should start with efforts to de-escalate the war,” says President Louise Arbour. “This would not fundamentally alter its trajectory or truly point to its resolution. But it would be a start, which is far more than has been achieved at this sorry stage”.
FULL REPORT

Syria’s Metastasising Conflicts

Damascus/Cairo/Brussels  |   27 Jun 2013

While a diplomatic settlement of the Syrian war is unrealistic at present, it remains the only viable option. It will require difficult steps by local, regional and international actors to accommodate competing interests.

Syria’s Metastasising Conflicts, the latest International Crisis Group report, examines a war that has produced scores of thousands of dead, a mushrooming regional sectarian conflict and millions of refugees and internally displaced persons. The evolving positions of regime and opposition alike have made both military and negotiated solutions ever more elusive, while transformation of the broader strategic context has made escalation even more likely.

The report’s major findings and recommendations are:

  • The conflict continues to escalate incrementally, with no decisive breakthrough in sight for either side, although each continues to pin its hopes on one. Thus, the conflict keeps growing, sucking in more players, taking on new layers and becoming ever more destructive and intractable.
  • Both sides pay lip-service to a “political solution” which each conceives as capitulation by the other. With no Russian-U.S. exit vision, a polarised region, amorphous opposition and a rigid regime, there is little to work with. But that is no reason to invest further in alternative pipedreams.
  • Three options exist to radically change the dynamics, all unpalatable or currently unrealistic. Toppling the regime requires massive intervention with no guarantee of longer-term “victory”. Putting up with the regime – arguably the quick way to end the bloodshed – would exact a significant moral and geopolitical price with no assurances that it would refrain from revenge. A third option, to seek a negotiated solution involving genuine local power sharing among Syrian actors and regional understanding among their patrons, is optimal but unfortunately hard to imagine for now.
  • Mid-way measures – such as arming the opposition, air strikes or establishing safe havens – might produce ancillary benefits for the West but not what its proponents typically advertise, whether “changing the regime’s calculus”, containing violence or limiting jihadi influence.
  • Given the current impasse, focus should be on a negotiated endgame: What kind of power-sharing solution can protect regime and opposition interests alike? What kind of state could emerge from a political process and be the foundation of a lasting solution? How must existing institutions change for this vision to gain substance? Is there a way to accommodate the concerns of rival regional actors? This is where most agreement is to be found among Syrians and where the concerns of their allies can be addressed in practice. This report suggests ideas as a basis for further discussion.

“This war is not a zero-sum game in which one side’s gains definitely mean the other side’s losses”, says Senior Middle East Adviser Peter Harling. “It is past time to put daydreams away and come to terms with a realistic assessment of the situation on the ground and available options”.

“If Russia and the U.S. wish to signal seriousness, they should start with efforts to de-escalate the war,” says President Louise Arbour. “This would not fundamentally alter its trajectory or truly point to its resolution. But it would be a start, which is far more than has been achieved at this sorry stage”.

FULL REPORT

31 May
"As things stand, the regime cannot reconquer, it cannot reconcile, it cannot reform and it cannot rebuild."

—Peter Harling, Crisis Group’s Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria project director, in Reuters’ “Analysis: Syrian war seen dragging on for years

1 Sep
"Turkey faces a dilemma: it wants the (Assad) regime to go, but not to the benefit of the Kurds, and especially not the PYD/PKK… .Turkey is now working with Barzani to contain the PKK."

—Joost Hiltermann at International Crisis Group in “Analysis: Syrian Kurds sense freedom, power struggle awaits" Reuters by Patrick Markey.

21 Aug
Syria: a peaceful uprising turned brutal civil war | AFP
By Tanya Willmer
The spark was lit in March 2011, when a group of young boys were arrested and cruelly tortured for daubing walls in the southern Syrian city of Daraa with anti-government graffiti.
A year and a half on, a once peaceful uprising against President Bashar al-Assad inspired by the Arab Spring revolts against other autocratic regimes has descended into brutal civil war with no endgame in sight, analysts say.
FULL ARTICLE (AFP)
Photo: FreedomHouse/Flickr

Syria: a peaceful uprising turned brutal civil war | AFP

By Tanya Willmer

The spark was lit in March 2011, when a group of young boys were arrested and cruelly tortured for daubing walls in the southern Syrian city of Daraa with anti-government graffiti.

A year and a half on, a once peaceful uprising against President Bashar al-Assad inspired by the Arab Spring revolts against other autocratic regimes has descended into brutal civil war with no endgame in sight, analysts say.

FULL ARTICLE (AFP)

Photo: FreedomHouse/Flickr