In the rubble that is now, Eastern Aleppo, bombing raids have further intensified. The death toll has risen dramatically after two days of ‘milder’ attacks and peril of disease threatens to engulf the area are water routes become contaminated.
The diplomatic pressure has reached a frenzy. The British foreign secretary Boris Johnson called for demonstrations outside the Russian Embassy in the UK to protest against continued bombing of air convoys and hospitals; The French leader postponed a planned meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin after Moscow vetoed a no-fly zone at the United Nations security council and the Turkish and Russian presidents agreed to lift trade restrictions on fruit and vegetables but came to no agreement on Syria.
Syrians in the rebel-held areas and elsewhere are uncertain how Damascus which is not a member of the International Criminal Court could be brought to book, even if it could be conclusively proved that Damascus or Moscow are responsible for the airstrike which hit an aid convoy three weeks ago.
Activists speaking to the “Muslim Eye” now see the world more concerned about the global geopolitical battle between Russia and The West than a concentration on the ‘task at hand’ i.e. how to end the suffering in Aleppo and reach a political solution to the 6-year old conflict.
The fall of the already decimated city, facing destruction within 10 weeks according to the UN envoy, could signal the completion of Russian ascendency and superior diplomatic and military manoeuvre over the rest of the world with more questions being raised as Moscow confirms plans to install a permanent naval base at Tartus.
It suggests that Moscow has fixed long term aims to establish an immovable strategic military presence in the region regardless of the outcome of the political solution of the crisis. The decision will further aggravate the highly charged nature of the Russian-American relationship.
Observers are patently aware that the attempts by America and its allies to bring pressure to bear on the Syrian regime and Russia come in what appears to be a policy vacuum. The only stated strategy by the West has been to target and defeat the Islamic State group and to change the Syrian regime. Without an agreement with Russia, there is no strategic position for the West to adopt - short of military going into Syria with its allies without a United Nations mandate.
Even the American support for the Kurds when compared to the recent gains against the Islamic State group achieved by the Turkish forces pales into insignificance. One commentator speaking to “Muslim Eye” has first hand experience of American diplomacy and point to a catalogue of diplomatic back slides and duplicity aimed at getting others to do their “dirty work.”
Syrian opposition have been saying almost since the beginning of the conflict that the Islamic identity of the country is still a driving force, and indeed uniting force for inclusion in the country’s future plans, even for secular Syrians those who do not practise Islam. For some, the Syrian identity is inseparable from an Islamic identity which has a part to play in its civil and political life.
Choosing sides in the conflict between religious and secular visions of the future Syria government does not appear to be as much of a concern to Syrians as it is to foreign forces whose military support comes with ‘strings and conditions,’ or not at all. Opposition forces are continually forced to pledge allegiance to outside interests rather than to the united cause of defeating Assad. This is one of the reasons put forward for the ability for the disparate opposition forces to unite.
It is difficult to know quite how widespread is a growing conviction that the U.S. and its allies are complicit in the Russian and Syrian policy of the military bombardment of the opposition. Quietly, the view is that the U.S. has conceded defeat. Certainly, when the Russian campaign began targeting American-backed opposition forces, the noises from the U.S. seemed restrained to say the least.
This view is now being expressed more loudly and the feeling is summed up by an emerging belief that America having resigned itself to not being able to ‘get rid of Assad - is quite prepared to get rid of Syria instead!’
Given repeated and recurring failed attempts to persuade first the Qataris and then the Saudis to publically and practically take the military lead on the ground against Assad’s forces, some Syrians are of the firm belief that the restoration of a united Syria as it once existed is moving from the ‘improbable to the impossible,’ and the country as a whole, not just Aleppo as predicted by the UN envoy, could disappear forever!