by Zafar Bangash (Editorials, Crescent International Vol. 45, No. 4, Sha'ban, 1437)
Peace eludes war-torn Syria because external powers want the war to continue. The latest escalation was the provocative visit of General Joseph Votel, head of US Central Command, to northern Syria without the permission of the Syrian government.
The Syrian peace talks in Geneva are getting nowhere because one party — the so-called opposition groups — are not interested in serious negotiations. At the prompting of their foreign sponsors and masters, they are making ludicrous demands such as President Bashar al-Asad must resign. This has been the biggest factor in sabotaging prospects for peace. If after five years of bloodletting the opposition groups and their terrorist allies have not dislodged al-Asad from power, why should he surrender at the negotiating table?
In the past, the Americans — one of the biggest sponsors of opposition groups — also repeated this mantra endlessly but it has now changed its rhetoric somewhat even if the policy of “regime change” has not been given up. The American Secretary of State John Kerry now talks about “political transition” by which he means that at the end of the process al-Asad must be gone. And Kerry has stipulated a deadline — August 2016 — for this process to be completed or Syria would face endless war.
Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov are the principal sponsors of the Geneva peace talks and it was through their efforts that a ceasefire of sorts went into effect in parts of Syria on February 27. Both the Syrian government and Russia made clear that the terrorist groups — Da‘ish, al-Nusra Front and others — would not be included in this agreement. These groups in turn have vowed to continue targeting civilians, killing and maiming without regard to sanctity of human life even though they carry Islamic names, and carry Islamic flags. Russia has called for including such other groups as Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham in the list of terrorist groups but America and its allies have rejected this. Are these groups not indulging in terrorist acts?
The Americans have now escalated their provocative moves. On May 21, General Joseph Votel who heads the US Central Command, entered northern Syria and spent ten hours meeting with Kurdish groups as well as other so-called moderate Syrian rebels. This is problematic for a number of reasons. It was in clear violation of Syria’s sovereignty. The US and its allies take great umbrage if a person enters their country illegally yet here was a top US general who made a not-so-secret visit to Syria without the permission of the Syrian government.
The ostensible purpose of General Votel’s visit was to strengthen Kurdish groups in northern Syria fighting against Da‘ish terrorists. The Americans are also extending the runway at Qamishli airport so that heavier transport planes can land there. If the US and its allies are serious about fighting the terrorists, then all they have to do is to tell Saudi Arabia and Turkey to stop arming and financing them. In recent weeks, the terrorists have been supplied surface-to-air missiles that have enabled them to shoot down Syrian aircraft somewhat neutralizing Syrian army advances. Since Russia has already scaled back its air strikes, arming the terrorists with such missiles can only mean one thing: the foreign powers do not want an end to the conflict that has already claimed 400,000 lives.
It must be restated for the record that the war on Syria is waged in order to undermine the resistance front comprising Islamic Iran, Hizbullah, and their allies. The resistance front stands against Zionist aggression. America’s policy is ultimately aimed at protecting its Zionist ally. For this, the US and its allies are prepared to kill hundreds of thousands of Syrians, and displace millions more.
Is there no limit to their wickedness?