The path to peace in Syria is going to be difficult, given that there is one at all. And it is going to cost the world both money and time. But a possible alternative is the continuation of the civil war and the expansion of the "Islamic state." This is what the former Swedish Minister of Finance and Trade, Kjell-Olof Feld, writes for SvD.
A massive set of measures to help the fleeing population of Syria and the desire to support them has received wide coverage in the media. The war as the cause of this frantic flight has been pushed into the background and now it is regarded as a natural disaster brought on through no human intervention. Of course, the Minister of Foreign Affairs spoke about this and said that a solution can only be found through diplomacy and negotiations. But in this case there should be different goals and means, because those that have been used so far have failed.
In 2011, when the protests against the regime began, everything seemed simple. The West, led by the United States, immediately proclaimed Bashar al-Assad the villain. Syria’s chair in the United Nations was transferred (with the assistance of the Union of Arab States), to the so-called Syrian National Coalition, which was ready to replace the power of the dictatorship with that of the people. As was the case with Libya and Gaddafi, they wanted a UN resolution to deploy NATO troops. But the plan failed: Russia and China vetoed.
Now it's time to start negotiations between the parties. In 2012, the United States, Britain, Russia and China created an "action force" at the highest levels. And it faced with the same problems as the UN Security Council. At the time, Hillary Clinton insisted that the crisis could be resolved only if Assad gave up power.
The UN also appointed Kofi Annan as a mediator for talks between the Syrian government and the opposition leaders. In August 2012, he stated that it was impossible to perform the given task and resigned. He was replaced by Lakhdar Brahimi. In January 2014, he was able to convene an international conference on the war in Syria, which, however, did not produce results. Clinton's successor, John Kerry said from the start that it was necessary to oust Assad before talks began. When Brahimi left his post, he put it more clearly than Annan: the demand of immediate resignation of Assad was a serious obstacle in the negotiations. The second problem was that the government and the opposition both believed they were on the way to victory.
It’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that the US government (and Britain as well) is primarily responsible for the fact that the civil war is continuing on into the fourth year. Not only have they overestimated the willingness of the opposition to lead Syria to democracy, they also have underestimated the support for the Assad regime among the population and especially the army.
If the Syrian civil war is no longer in the media spotlight, this means that a far more dangerous character has taken the stage. The "Islamic state" in its conquests of Syria and Iraq has sown the fear of new geopolitical transformations in the Middle East. It is unclear what is on the mind of the Damascus regime, it is only clear that it has delegated the fight against ISIL to the Kurds and Iraqis. It is also possible that Damascus thinks that ISIL can weaken the Syrian rebels. However, incredibly, neither Assad nor his supporters realize how they themselves may be affected by the expansion of ISIL.
Irish journalist Patrick Cockburn in his book "The Rise of Islamic State: Isis and the New Sunni Revolution" says that the Islamic State’s plans to recreate the Ottoman Empire can only be stopped by the Syrian army. The Iraqi Army is corrupt and demoralized and armed intervention from the west would only be a gift to the Islamic State.
Hugh Roberts, a professor of history in North Africa and the Middle East Tufts University, in his review is going one step further further. According to him, if the West refuses to demand the resignation of Assad, it will facilitate negotiations between the government and the remnants of the opposition, and then move on to something, similar to the power of the people. But both sides need to stop killing each other and begin to rebuild Syria and turn it into a society of people who would not want to escape.
The path to peace will be difficult. In addition, the war will have to continue, but now against a common enemy. It will cost the outside world a lot of patience and money. But a possible alternative is the continuation of the civil war and the expansion of the "Islamic state".
Wars are started by people and can only be finished by people. They are not natural disasters.