The Failure of Western Approach in Syria

COVER1The Syrian military and political quagmire has been greatly exacerbated by foreign interventions. This is due to the failure of foreign powers to adequately understand the manifold nature of the Syrian conflicts, or the variety of competing ideologies of different groups. As a consequence, the Western approach has been a military one, despite the fact that no functional military resolution is possible, without first attaining a political one. Rahmanovic & Owens et. al. argue that the political situation has been made worse by the military approach, and has left the West in a precarious position where the various rebel groups that have, or have had, Western support also have ties to questionable organizations. What has been lost in the military ideology is the facts on the ground, including the escalating problem of refugees, and viability of a politically functional future Syrian state. The short-sighted use of foreign military intervention has resulted in the varieties of seemingly irreconcilable political differences, which now plague the attempts at a political resolution for Syria.

With regards to the recent cessation of hostilities, there are reasons to be optimistic and pessimistic. The half-measure nature of the cessation has been taken advantage of by the Syrian Army and its Russian allies to continue their efforts to retake Aleppo. In addition, the fragmented nature of the foreign support and rebel factions within Syria means that the cessation will continue to be no more than a partial ceasefire. On a more positive note, Russia has not fully taken advantage of the latitude within the cessation, and has removed some of its air forces. Ultimately, the cessation of hostilities has resulted in only a decrease in violence. This is cause for hope, but weaknesses built into the agreement make it a tentative one at best.

With regards to the ongoing negotiations, there have been disagreements as to who should represent the rebels. While the issue of who should be part of the negotiations has been resolved, the matter of how these groups are represented has not. The opposition’s negotiating team consists of both political opposition and armed opposition, but has at times made the mistake of giving the political opposition the senior position in negotiations. This approach will not work, as it is ultimately the armed groups, not the political ones, whose agreement is necessary for any final treaty. The opposition is on the verge of making this same mistake again, which increases the likelihood of the negotiations making no progress.