When the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London stated in 2013 that the Syrian army’s strength had been severely compromised and had fallen to about half its original size, the institute may have simply applied an incorrect scale. Perhaps the strength of the Syrian army is not measured in its numbers but rather in the amount of household appliances a soldier can carry.
Alex Rowell from Al-Jumhuriya speaks to Dr. Bente Scheller, director of the Heinrich Böll Foundation's Middle East office, on the recent German elections and their likely impact on European Syria policy, the ongoing debate over Western participation in the future reconstruction of Syria, threats faced by Syrian refugees both in Europe and here in the Middle East, recent military developments against ISIS and other actors in Syria’s east and north, and much more.
No matter how complex and religiously driven the conflict in Syria may seem, its basic constellation is this: A regime with powerful allies wages a war of annihilation against wide parts of its own population. How could it get to this point? And what is the very least we can do?
Many a time, they will reminisce about a pre-revolutionary Syria, albeit a romanticised version, from which they – due to a lack of knowledge, ignorance or quite consciously – omit that the country already was a rogue state at that time, characterised by arbitrary arrests, torture, oppression and discrimination.
Moscow is now preoccupied with bringing the strategy initiated by Bashar al-Assad to perfection: After the attempt to convince western states that the only alternatives to Assad are chaos and the “Islamic State” fell through, the powers in the centre are to be weakened and to be virtually driven into the arms of the “IS”.
If you cannot overthrow the tyrant, co-operate with him – after four disastrous years in Syria this seems to be the conclusion the international community has arrived at. While back in 2011 Bashar al-Assad’s days appeared to be drawing to a close, a growing number of people are now suggesting to see him as part of the solution, as illustrated recently by UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura in Vienna.
“It must be now clear to western defence chiefs that there is only one credible fighting force on the ground capable of fighting ISIS and that is the Syrian military. The Syrians [i.e. the Syrian regime] have held all the aces up their sleeve…” Such proposals are commonplace in diplomatic circles, but what is new this time is that this view is no longer limited to Assad’s supporters and allies.