One of those million dollar questions? Definitely. Only that no one can dare guess the answer. With the UN showing increased signs of uselessness and allied countries taking individual decisions on involvement, the future for Syria is at best, bleak. Despite the involvement of the west, following the horrific chemical attack on rebel-held Douma, some factions argue that the important question is: how and when will the war end?
Simon Jenkins argues that only Assad’s victory over the rebels will end the Syrian conflict.
Some factions predict that the conflict will end when the Russians, Americans, and Iranians decide so. The complexity of the conflict and the groups involved shows a possible prolonged war. The Shia sub-sect is led by Assad, the Sunni by everyone else, and the Kurds are in between trying to find a place to call their own. There is no easy way to go about it.
When Assad will get the victory is an entirely different and difficult question altogether. It is comparable to building a community of people who can predict the future.
The complexity of the Syrian conflict
Assad is trying to survive, ISIS is trying to survive, and the various Syrian forces are motivated by justice and revenge.
Russia is striving to pay the piper after getting what it wanted – a warm port in the Mediterranean.
Iran is motivated to keep its ally (Assad) in power. The Middle East states are doing their best to keep Iran in check and assert their power and influence. Turkey despises Assad and does not want the Kurdish to have an independent state.
The Americans want to Russians, Iran, and ISIS.
The whole scenario is a complete whirl around.
Exploring the options
The Syrian conflict will last for a while, but the end remains uncertain. The Rebels and ISIS are on the retreat from the Russian air attacks. But the lack of trust between warring factions complicates the situation even if the war was to end today. The implications for every intervention by outsiders have far-reaching aftermath.
The debate, like the war itself, has no strategic goals or objectives. The US is caught in the crossfire between ISIS, Assad, and Russia. Its decision to leave may have unwanted consequences on its pledge to fight global terrorism.
On the other hand, efforts to bring a ceasefire to pave room for negotiations for peace face challenges. Even if a peace deal was to be struck, how long it will last is a matter of concern to all parties.
The uniqueness of the Syrian war is that it is a civil conflict of ethno-sectarian stature. It is not an insurgency. It is not a rebellion. Such conflicts reflect and unleash powerful forces that constrain any interventions. They cannot be ignored or turned off.
Any chance of ending the war is dependent on numerous concerted efforts to deal directly with these forces.
The first of the dual approaches in which such wars end – victory by one side in a murderous fashion- is unlikely. This leaves the second option – intervention by a third party with sufficient firepower to snuff out the fighting.
The second option, the most viable, faces limitation from restrictions by the UN. Moreover, intervening countries have fractious relationships defined by the differences in motivations.
An end to the Syrian conflict cannot be predicted. America, Russia, and other countries involved in Syria must be brought to the table to agree on the way forward – joint operations to stop the fighting between the warring factions in Syria. Only then can talks of when the war would end start to make meaning.