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Opinion

Opinion: Assad, the cynic

With Russia's help, the Syrian government intends to liberate Aleppo from jihadists - many of whom are the same extremists it released from jail years ago. DW's Kerstin Knipp says it's a sign of bottomless cynicism.

Syrien Gefecht in Aleppo

Aleppo has largely been destroyed by the many battles fought here during the Syria conflict

Russian air force fighter jets are flying again. Their missiles are aimed at their target, the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, whose eastern city districts are still held by the terrorist organization "Islamic State" and other jihadist organizations. Since the end of February, a ceasefire agreement has been in effect between the government and opposition groups. The jihadist groups have explicitly been excluded.

It is expected that the jihadists will yield in the long run and will suffer another defeat. This is good news. Less pleasing is that Bashar al-Assad’s regime will consolidate its power after it has taken Aleppo. It may be that Assad himself will eventually resign and leave to save face. The peace negotiations beginning this week will at least unofficially deal with this topic.

The decline of political culture

The question is: What has been won? Actually, not only must Assad replace his entire government, but also the country's political culture itself must be renewed – after 40 years of Assad rule, this is admittedly wishful thinking.

Knipp Kersten Kommentarbild App

DW's Kersten Knipp

Assad and his father are responsible for an unprecedented decline of political culture and a depreciation and brutalization of political relations. This becomes particularly obvious when looking at the jihadists that the government is pretending to battle.

Since the beginning of the new millennium - at the latest - the Assad regime has used religious fighters as an effective means of enforcing its interests. In 2003, with the American invasion in Iraq, the regime smuggled hundreds of jihadist fighters into the neighboring country.

The well-known Sinjar Records that were found in the fall of 2007 by US troops in the city of the same name in northern Iraq documented the travel routes of more than 600 fighters between August 2006 and August 2007 alone - all the jihadists traveled through Syria. There, they also took part in combat training. The scheme: Americans should be fought so hard that they would not even think of trying to intervene in Syria after the Iraq war.

Genie out of the bottle

When protests broke out in the spring of 2011, the regime released the jihadist genie from the bottle. At the end of June of that year, the Assad regime ordered a general amnesty for all previously committed crimes, which the murderous jihadists have to thank for their release. The scheme: The democratic uprising which found support in all parts of the population was to be portrayed as a jihadist uprising.

It worked. The Sunni extremists, who were serious criminals, beleaguered the Shiites and the Christians to the point that none of them wanted to even consider cooperating with Sunnis.

Staying in power at any cost

At the same time, the regime attacked Sunni civilians so brutally that jihadists all over the world became aware of the suffering of their fellow believers and went to Syria, ultimately turning the uprising into a jihadist one. The regime was thus able present itself to Syrians and the rest of the world as a protecting power.

The cynical schemes have already cost hundreds of thousands of Syrians their lives. The regime has taken the deaths in its stride. With unparalleled ruthlessness, it has sacrificed its own people to remain in power, whatever the cost. The number of citizens killed has played no role in the center of power in Damascus. In Aleppo, one evil will defeat the other.

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