Vladimir Putin Will Have The Last Say

Al-Hayat, London, April 14

As horrific footage continues to come from Syria in the aftermath of the recent chemical attack perpetuated by Bashar al-Assad against his very own people, and in the aftermath of the limited French-British-American response, one cannot help but wonder: will these strikes be enough to change the situation on the ground? US President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron have kept a close line of communication in the past few days over the events unfolding in Syria. This close coordination between the two powers should not be ignored or overlooked. However, Trump has already committed to withdrawing all US force from Syria in upcoming months. Western governments, similarly, have no interest in getting involved in the Syrian war. The traumatizing memories of the American invasion to Afghanistan and Iraq, together with the public debate that surrounded them, are enough to deter any rational Western leader from agreeing to help the people of Syria through on-the-ground action. Meanwhile, the situation in Syria continues to be determined to a very large degree by Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani. These two dictators have no obligation to their people and their demands and can therefore do whatever they seek in Syria. Despite growing criticism at home surrounding the cost of the military involvement in the Syrian war, the mullahs in Teheran can simply ignore the call of their people. The situation is not much different in Moscow, where President Putin continues to deploy Russian forces to Syria, despite growing public concern over Russia’s role in the war. It is for this reasons that I believe the only way to drive real change on the ground in Syria is through diplomatic negotiations, not a military campaign. The solution for the Syrian war lies in an agreement between Washington and Moscow, which will facilitate the removal of Assad and the formation of a transitional government. US, British and French warships and warplanes can continue bombing targets in Syria all they want. It is Putin who has the final say in what happens once the smoke fades away.   Randa Takya al-Din

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