“Does the end justify the means” is a saying that is surely being whispered in the corridors of the White House this week as America’s desperate attempt to remove Bashar al-Assad from power spirals further out of control.
Another Syrian cease-fire has collapsed, this time through the action of an apparent Russian airstrike on a United Nations aid convoy. This war that has claimed half a million lives and displaced many millions more must come to an end.
If this is to happen we must stop referring to this as Syria’s civil war, and start calling it for what it is: Syria’s proxy war. It has become clear that at its core this conflict has become a battle between the US and Russia in a wrestle over control of the Middle East.
Russia and its regional ally Iran — the last Kremlin friendly state in the region — are determined to ensure that incumbent president Bashar al-Assad remains in power. Russia has been selling arms and providing diplomatic cover for the Assad regime at the United Nations since the start of the conflict in 2011.
Fighting against Assad are the rebels backed by the US and its regional ally Saudi-Arabia. Both countries have been at odds with Assad and have been attempting to destabilise the regime for many years, with the goal of replacing it with their own more western friendly regime.
Unless America and Russia can come to an agreement, the bloodshed and displacement will not stop as both sides in their current state are too weak to gain an all out victory. Chemical weapons are now being used in conflict, as well as barrel bombs and starvation, simply because neither side have any other options. This is how desperate the war has become.
Don’t get me wrong — the added dimensions of Islamic State, Hezbollah and the Kurds are not to be forgotten as serious players in the conflict. But they have only been able to get such a strong foothold due to the destabilised state of the country. If this could be dealt with their removal would be possible with relative ease.
Recent scenes at the United Nations this week of US Secretary of State John Kerry publicly reprimanding his Russian counterpart Sergie Lavrov over Russian actions is little more than grandstanding. America has the ability to end this war now; it will unfortunately require them to accept a loss of face and control in the region.
Surely however this is a price that can be paid if it means putting an end to this terrible war and returning peace to the country.
The Pentagon must realise there are many ways to ‘skin a cat,’ and that this isn’t their only chance to remove Assad.