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10/5/16

Middle East: Opinion: Unbearable helplessness in Syria - by Alexander Kudascheff

As the saying goes, hope dies last. Given the clearly conflicting interests of the forces taking part in the Syria war, no solution is on the horizon at the moment, writes DW's editor-in-chief, Alexander Kudascheff.

The war, the killing and the dying goes on relentlessly in Syria. It is a war that has still not bled out, even in its fifth year. This is war being waged with inconceivable cruelty, primarily at the expense of the population, which is already being held hostage by all sides. And now, the last hope of containing the war - and perhaps even ending it - through negotiations between the Americans and Russians has died. The communication lines between Moscow and Washington have broken down and the last glimmer of hope has thus been extinguished.

The failure of the talks - as one is not certain whether they can be called negotiations - was foreseeable. Negotiations are based on the capability of perceiving the interests of the other party and comparing them with one's own to see whether a deal can be struck. How were the Syria talks conducted? The Russians have one overwhelming interest: They want to keep President Bashar al-Assad in power and come into play as a global force that is once again a weighty influencer in the Middle East. To Russia, any means, especially military means, justifies the end. Assad obviously wants to stay in power and is not at all interested in compromise because any compromise would herald the end of his political career. Turkey does not want a Kurdish state to be established. Iran would like to expand Shiite domination; Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, wants to prevent it. They are all against "Islamic State" (IS) whenever it suits their political or military aims.

The international power struggle will continue after the new American president has been elected. In the meantime, one cannot ignore the fact that Putin is taking swift action in Syria. However, Moscow will recall that it its military and political involvement in Afghanistan was initially successful before the Soviets were weakened and had to leave the country as losers. What will happen to Syria if Russia's and Assad's military forces are successful? Will it become a deathly silent Middle Eastern Chechnya? Or will it become a Middle Eastern Afghanistan that will descend into the chaos of everyday terror? The West must immediately decide on a containment policy but no one seems to be anywhere near such a decision. Right now, it looks like the West will have to resort to standing by helplessly and watching people get killed in Syria. Then the war will really become morally unbearable.

Read more: Opinion: Unbearable helplessness in Syria | Opinion | DW.COM | 05.10.2016

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