Syria’s Assad must agree to a peace deal
The enormous suffering inflicted on the country by the insistence on a military solution is fuelling regional instability: a negotiated peace is the only solution
Syrian president Bashar al-Assad is on the verge of claiming his biggest triumph in the country’s civil war. An agreement between his ally Russia and Turkey for the withdrawal of Turkish-backed rebels from Aleppo signals the approaching end of the four-year fight for the nation’s second city. But the battle has taken a terrible civilian toll, particularly among women and children. Victory will inevitably be declared, although it cannot be anything other than hollow; the government’s refusal to seek anything other than a military solution has caused immeasurable harm.
Two weeks of rapid advances by the Syrian army supported by Russian air bombardments and Iranian-backed militias pushed the rebels to ever-smaller pockets in eastern Aleppo.
Tens of thousands of civilians were caught up in the fighting, resulting in untold numbers of deaths and injuries and further destruction of the once-flourishing city. Atrocities described to the UN as “modern evil” have occurred.
Taking Aleppo will put Assad in control of Syria’s five main cities. But they account for only one-third of the country’s territory, with vast rural areas in the hands of rebels, Muslim extremists and Kurds. Islamic State (IS)still holds sway in the east and although losing ground in neighbouring Iraq, has shown it remains a force to be reckoned with by recapturing the ancient city of Palmyra. There is no end in sight to the six-year civil war that has killed 400,000 and displaced half of the population of 22 million.
Assad’s successes are due to the support of Russia and Iran, but neither will want to be indefinitely engaged in the conflict. The longer it drags on, the more the nation will be torn apart and instability engulf the region; proof of this are recent bombings in Turkey that killed 38 police and at a Coptic Christian church in the Egyptian capital that left at least 25 dead and was claimed
The misery will continue until Assad admits that a peace deal is the only way forward.