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Western guilt

Sollich Rainer Kommentarbild App
Rainer Sollich
November 29, 2016

Syrian regime forces are poised to retake the last rebel-held areas of Aleppo. This could be the beginning of the final victory for President Assad, says DW's Rainer Sollich.

Aleppo Syrien Ruinen
Image: Reuters/Sana

For years, politicians have said that there is no military solution to the Syria conflict. Russian President Vladimir Putin, his Syrian protégé Bashar al-Assad, and his Iranian and Lebanese allies clearly see things differently.

After systematically starving and bombing eastern Aleppo for weeks, Syrian government forces and allied Shiite groups are now about to retake the last rebel-held areas in what was once Syria's industrial and financial center. The fate of the people in the city doesn't matter to them. All that counts is a military victory and a chance to humiliate the opponent.

And what are the United States and European Union doing? Practically nothing. The West issues warnings, holds conferences, and sponsors resolutions. But in fact, it is just standing by as the situation unfolds. The fall of Aleppo is just one more declaration of the West's moral bankruptcy when it comes to Syria.

Sollich Rainer Kommentarbild App
DW's Rainer Sollich

It seems a bit ridiculous to suggest that Putin and Assad are using the current power vacuum in the US resulting from the presidential election. They don't even need to! Barack Obama didn't suddenly become a lame duck on Syria because of Donald Trump's election victory. He always was a lame duck.

No new power vacuum

Obama wanted to avoid the fatal mistake in Syria that dogged his predecessor, George W. Bush, in Iraq. But in reality, this supposed pacifist approach made Obama and the entire Western world guilty of playing a part in the Syrian tragedy. That approach encouraged Russia and Iran, as well as increasingly unreliable US allies, such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey, to use Syria for their own interests, and transform the country into a religious and ethnically loaded battlefield.

Despite the latest developments, a way out of the spiral of hatred and violence in Syria is just as elusive as a political or military "solution." If Aleppo really does fall back under Assad's complete control, then this will be a strong, symbolic demonstration of power. The regime will show that, with Russia's backing, it has the upper hand and cannot be toppled. But both moderate and radical rebels will continue to fight in rural regions, as well as find Sunni allies to arm. And it will mean that the terrorists from the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) remain a force to be reckoned with, mainly because, despite claims to the contrary, Moscow and Damascus have not seriously been fighting them.

War criminals in charge

The tragedy of Aleppo symbolizes something that has long been recognized: Bashar al-Assad, who is likely the biggest war criminal of our day, will remain in power as long as Russia and Iran refuse to let him fall, and as long as the US continues to stand idly by. But Assad will not be able to bring peace to Syria, even if Donald Trump, as Syrian opposition groups fear, really does pursue closer ties with Putin. The death and destruction, then, will continue.

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