WASHINGTON, D.C.: The brutal war in Syria could grind on for a decade as Iran and Russia prop up President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and jihadist groups flood the battlefield, experts warned on Thursday (Friday in Manila).
Assad has chosen a deliberate “Machiavellian strategy” of standing by while militant groups such as al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant flourish, leaving the United States-backed moderate opposition fighting on two fronts, lawmakers were told.
“It’s now clear that Assad’s fall is not the inevitability that many analysts believed a year ago,” said analyst Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, referring to former confident predictions by the US administration that Assad’s days were numbered.
“The likeliest scenario is that which the US intelligence community now predicts, which is the war continuing for another decade or more,” he told the Senate foreign relations committee.
Geneva peace talks, orchestrated by the United States and Russia, collapsed in late February after just two rounds and there is no date for their resumption.
Meanwhile, the Syrian president’s position has been bolstered not just by weapons and cash from Tehran and Moscow, but also by his “brazen willingness” not to intervene against the militant groups.
“The major role jihadists now play has deterred Western countries and others from throwing significant weight behind the opposition,” argued Gartenstein-Ross, an expert with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.
This month marks the third anniversary of the March 15, 2011 peaceful uprising against Assad’s ironclad rule, which was sparked in the early heady days of the Arab Spring.
It was met by a brutal crackdown by Assad’s forces. So far, 140,000 people have been killed, another 2.5 million Syrians have fled across the borders and a further 6.5 million are displaced inside the country.