I am trying to get my head around this conflict, the most recent episode in Aleppo, and the ambivalence to it in the West.
* A personal reaction to Riham Alkousaa: "Aleppo: The guilt, the resentment, the indifference" (aljazeera.com – 17 Dec 2016) & Katharina Brunner, Sarah Unterhitzenberger und Benjamin Moscovici: "Wen Russlands Bomben in Syrien treffen" (sueddeutsche.de – 17 Dec 2016) *
So far it seems to me:
- Economic and environmental issues laid the ground work for dissent.
- Due to the Western Socialist ideological basis of the Syrian Baath Party, and the fact that the impoverished disgruntled were often Sunnite Muslims, the early rebellion received a religious Sunni spin, which has found its echo in the broader sectarian conflict of the region.
- There has apparently long been a plan on the part of the US and its Allies to do away with the Assad government. Most recent nuisance to the West was Assad’s refusal to allow a pipeline from Qatar to be built across Syrian territory, but the animosity dates back to the Cold War. General destabilization of the region as well as the active support of anti-Assad tendencies by the US and its allies gave the initial impulse for the rebellion of 2011, which has degenerated and convoluted over the last 5 years, to the extent that the West has no real control over the innumerable splinter groups and tendencies, some of whom have become nothing really but marauding bands of criminals, which in turn increases the sympathies for more radical Islamist participants in the conflict.
- Russia fears for its last remaining naval base on the Mediterranean as well as fearing the conflict exacerbating inner Russian conflicts with Muslim minorities for example in Chechnya.
- Iran sees the Saudi and US backing of Sunni rebels as a threat to the power balance in the region.
- Aiman az-Zawahiri and al-Qaida view the conflict as a part of the fight against Western imperialism in the region and have progressively swung the narrative around from a domestic conflict to a matter of principle, elevating the matter to a part of the world wide Jihad. The Islamic State in Syria and the Levant (IS) is in turn a spin-off and a sub-group of this.
So we seem to have 3 basic participants:
1) US-Western/Saudi backed rebels arising out of the initial conflict with the Assad government.
2) The Syrian government backed by Shiite minorities in Syria, non-Muslim minorities fearing repression should a Sunnite majority government seize power, Russia and Iran.
3) The broader supra-regional struggle typified by Aiman az-Zawahiri and al-Qaide/IS.
|Controlled by the Syrian Armed Forces|
|Controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces|
|Controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant|
|Controlled by the Syrian Opposition forces|
|Controlled by the al-Nusra Front|
|Government & Opposition stable mixed control (truce)|
|The disputed frontline between the forces|
For more detailed legend go to wikipedia.org Syrian_Civil_War_map.svg.
So a guess as to why the West did nothing to aid the citizens of East Aleppo – The western Allies with Saudis and Qatar hope that the Assad regime will clean up the mess they created by supporting a heterogeneous, uncontrollable Syrian opposition, and then go on to combat the more powerful foe under Aiman az-Zawahiri, at which point the West can see to it that the Assad regime is removed once an for all.
I am not sure whether the West has thought about what is to come next, should their plan to remove Assad succeed, but it is my impression, that the US and their allies’ strategy has been typified by a lack of clear logic and frequent vacillation, so that it can be feared that there has been little attention given to the question, “And then what!?”
Map: Syrian Civil War map.svg. Author: Ermanarich. Laste update: Aug 2016. URL: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Datei:Syrian_Civil_War_map.svg. Last viewed: 17 Dec 2016.
For further reading: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syrian_Civil_War. Last viewed: 17 Dec 2016.
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