As the Syrian war enters its 10th year
As of yesterday, the deadly Syrian civil war entered its 10th year and with no precise prospect when it could be over.
Being one of the bloodiest regional conflicts, the civil war in Syria has claimed the lives of more than one million people, while around seven million fled the violence, as well as millions of people having become internally displaced. Almost all the cities were reduced to ruins with destroyed infrastructure, leaving millions without water, food, health assistance, etc.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad continues his rule even by consolidating his grip in the western part of the country except for Idlib and Afrin provinces thanks to the enormous support of Russia and Iran since 2015. This will, however, not save him from passing into history as one of the most bloody-handed and cruel dictators and as responsible for the killing of more than one million people.
The current situation in Syria tells three ongoing stories. In the west, the Syrian regime and Russians are trying to secure complete control by forcing the withdrawal of the Turkish troops from the Idlib province, the last rebel-held enclave. As a result of intense clashes between Turkish and Syrian forces, a deal between Ankara and Moscow could be brokered for a temporary cease-fire on March 5.
Almost all experts and pundits agree that it will be highly difficult to turn this cease-fire into a permanent one. This relative calmness in the Idlib theater would last a few months, they suggest, underlining the Syrian-Russian duo has no intention to stop before they could completely secure the region by wiping out the radical terrorist elements.
In the meantime, Turkey and Russia started a joint patrolling mission along the security corridor in the north and south of the M4 strategic highway on March 15, signaling a continued commitment to implementing the March 5 agreement.
In eastern Syria, the situation is not less complicated. Turkey controls an around 100-kilometer strip between Ras ul-Ain and Tal Abyad after its Operation Peace Spring while the Syrian army and Russian troops have the control on the western and eastern banks of the strip.
A vast majority of eastern Syria is under the control and influence of the YPG/PYD, heavily backed by the United States whose limited military presence has a hold over the oil fields in Deir al-Zor province.
That tells an already disintegrated Syria of three pieces: The regions under the control of the regime backed by the Russians and Iranian militias, the region under the control of the YPG/PYD backed by the U.S. and regions under the control of Turkey along with moderate opposition groups.
The third story is about efforts to end the ongoing civil war through political talks under the resolution 2254 of the U.N. Security Council and with the mediation of Turkey and Russia. Unfortunately, this track has long been used by Russia and Syria to gain time for the accomplishment of their military operations in different corners of the country. Works for rewriting the Syrian constitution will likely go nowhere.
The Syrian conflict, today, illustrates a tragedy beyond national or regional borders. Millions of Syrians are seeking shelter in the neighboring countries or trying to reach wealthy European countries at the expense of risking their own lives and the lives of their beloved ones. The reflections and impacts of the Syrian conflict can now be seen in the streets of Istanbul, Berlin and Paris, creating new social, economic and political fault lines over migration.
Some of these issues will surely be addressed at a videoconference summit between Turkish, German and French leaders this week if there would be no last-minute cancellation. It will surely be difficult for them to get focused on Syria while they are all fighting the COVID-19. But this is also urgent.