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Putin and the Syrian Deadlock

During the UN General Assembly held last week on September twenty-eight, Putin declared that Russia intends to support the Syrian Regime, and would intervene in the Syrian crisis through the use of airstrikes. Contrary to the current coalition led by the United States and countries such as France, Putin is backing his long time ally, Bashar Hafez al-Assad. Putin believes that the Syrian President is the most competent individual to resolve this conflict, as he is already in the midst of it. Due to opposing interests with the U.S. and interference in the Shiite – Sunni conflict, Putin’s decisions deepened the Syrian strife, ultimately resulting in an entanglement of the international community.

By declaring his support for the Syrian leader, Putin’s actions caused an escalation of the Syrian conflict, as he is directly confronting the United States, who opposes Bashar al-Assad. Russia is already clashing with the U.S. and its European allies in regards to the Ukrainian crisis that remains unresolved. Now, even more so, the tension arises from Putin supporting the Syrian dictator, which the U.S. stated, would be impeached once the conflict eventually comes to cessation. Notably, al-Assad’s regime is governing with a tyrannical rule over Syria, and is accused of war crimes, as demonstrated by the Caesar Report (i.e. the Syrian detainee report). Russia’s intransigent decision to support the Syrian dictator was forced by the current position of the Assad Regime. Currently facing strong internal and external difficulties, the Assad Regime is unable to cope with the three other factions fighting in Syria: ISIS, the Rebels and the Kurds. Nevertheless, supporting Bashar al-Assad has led the Syrian conflict to a deadlock, as the international powers cannot even agree to terms regarding their fight against the Islamic state, since they cannot decide on the fate of Bashar al-Assad after the war. However, Russia will probably not be able to hold this obstinate stance for long, as it cannot oppose the United States and European nations on two fronts – Syria and Ukraine.

In addition to creating strain between the United States and Russia, Putin is stirring the Sunni Shiite conflict, which continues to loom dangerously over the Middle East. By supporting the Alawis Shiite Assad regime that is linked to Iran, the major Shiite power of the region, Putin has subjected himself to powerful indignation by half of the Arab world. Furthermore, the targets of the Russian airstrikes that started last week are also under scrutiny. Studies of the location of the airstrikes demonstrate that they are bombing positions both held by ISIS, but also by the Syrian rebels, whom are essentially Sunni. Countries mostly populated by Sunni Muslims, such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, who want to take down the Assad Regime in Syria, are likely to begin funding the rebel groups, increasingly now that Russian forces are bombing them.

Russia’s latest stand has unveiled the inability of the international community to deal with the Syrian case. Beyond the lack of progression for a viable solution for the Syrian crisis, major powers are unable to set conditions as a basis of cooperation. Since the recent escalation of the conflict, the need to come to an agreement and take direct action is becoming more and more pressing. Still, nations must begin by developing compromises. Russia must stop bombing rebel groups and focus on ISIS, as it is otherwise counter productive. This will only legitimize rebels who oppose al-Assad, which Russia is attempting to maintain in power. Russia and the United States need to gather a resolution regarding the status of Bashar al-Assad. He cannot continue leading a tyrannical rule while perpetrating war crimes on the Syrian population, as the United States and its allies will not tolerate such an act. By cause of its recent intervention in Syria, Russia has constrained itself in an intolerable deadlock. In order to get out of this convoluted mess in which he has gotten himself into, Putin will need to cooperate with the international community and extract a settlement before it is too late.

– Leo-Paul Jacob

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