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Syria: Fighting Talk

By Tim Marshall

There’s a lot of talking around Syria this month, but there’s even more fighting, and these two things are probably connected.

Photo courtesy of Coordinating City Douma.

Photo courtesy of Coordinating City Douma.

There are signs that the outside powers realize that no-one can win in Syria and so are edging towards trying to put together a deal. However, inside the country, those that have done the fighting appear to be in no mood whatsoever to limit the violence to help give space to the talking.

The airstrikes by government warplanes on Douma was the most terrible example of this. It is a mark of how inured governments and media around the world are now to the daily slaughter that even a death

toll possibly exceeding 100, including many children, in a single incident, no longer makes the front pages of newspapers.

The government said the attack on Douma was targeting insurgents from the Islam Army (IA) group. IA is one of the more powerful opposition forces which has been threatening the capital, Damascus, which lies just 10 miles south of the town. Opposition sources said the war planes bombed a market and then when rescue workers came rushing to help the wounded, they attacked it again. There were further air strikes on the town on Monday.

If President Assad’s intention was to further ensure that talk of peace is untenable amid such slaughter he succeeded. As the W&Y has written, moves are afoot to work out a deal for a post assadAssad Syria, it is in this context that the response to the attack from the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces must be seen – “Any talk of political and peaceful solutions in the shadow of massacres and excusing the criminal from punishment will have no meaning in realizing stability in Syria.”

But the opposition are also doing their bit to undermine the idea of peace talks as well. Last week saw more shelling of civilian areas of Damascus in which 13 people died. The UN issued a statement saying “”Hitting crowded civilian markets killing almost one hundred of its own citizens by a government is unacceptable in any circumstances…… the indiscriminate shelling of Damascus last week by armed opposition groups and the cutting of water supplies, are also unacceptable”

A rare ceasefire between the warring sides fell apart a few days ago when fighting again broke out in Zabadani which is close to the border with Lebanon.

Further north the coastal city of Latakia, which has been spared the levels of violence elsewhere has been hit by several barrages of rockets fired by opposition forces. Several people were killed in what is a government stronghold. President Assad is from the Alawite sect of Shia Islam and the Alawites mostly hail from the Latakia region. If Assad was ever to lose control of the capital the route up to city of Latakia is one of several escape routes he might have.

Despite the fighting the talking is still going on with a flurry of diplomatic visits taking place in various capitals. They did not seem to making much progress, the level of fighting is hardly conducive to success, but the talks have not yet run out of steam.


3 Comments on "Syria: Fighting Talk"

  1. nehad ismail - United Kingdom | 18th August 2015 at 11:11 am | Reply

    The so-called talks are destined to fail.
    The term: “political solution” means different things depending on who you talk to. For Moscow and Tehran it means protecting Assad and keeping him in power with cosmetic changes like giving jobs to Opposition figures.
    To most rebel groups: Political solution means “Assad steps down and goes peacefully”.
    To Turkey and Saudi Arabia: it means the removal of Assad and the return of the refugees
    To Israel it means peace and quiet on the Golan Heights
    To Jordan it means security in the South of Syria and the return of refugees from Zaatari camp
    The UN Security Council on Monday backed a new push for peace talks in Syria adopted by Russia and the other 14 member states, despite reservations from Venezuela. The UNSC is so vaguely worded, heavily watered-down to appease Moscow and Tehran it does not mention clearly and specifically the stepping down of Bashar al- Assad and will be rejected by the Opposition.
    Assad will not go except by military force. The sooner the world realizes this the better.

  2. Mahatmacoatmabag | 18th August 2015 at 3:21 pm | Reply

    Hi Nehad, very well put, you have covered all the main points except for one major one. If Assad goes is there anybody on the opposition who can run a unified Syria? I sincerely doubt it & Syria is unlikely ever to become a democracy, at best we can hope for a de facto canton like state with power devolved to the regions/factions with each ethnic group managing its own affairs locally & cooperating on a national scale on things like roads, electrical power, water, external trade etcetera, that is if any sort of settlement is in fact feasible which at the moment does not seem very likely

  3. nehad ismail - United Kingdom | 18th August 2015 at 4:54 pm | Reply

    Thanks Mahatmacoatmabag. Good point. Top priority after Assad has gone is for all other rebels to unite against ISIS. Once ISIS is sorted there has to be elections. I can foresee lot of trouble and in-fighting between proxies of Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. We all agreed that Assad has destroyed the country and killed people on an industrial scale. So far he got away with it thanks to Russia and Iran.

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