A decade of war in Syria and no end in sight

What began as demonstrations for reforms in 2011 in the wake of the Arab Spring has ended in disaster: according to activists, at least 388,000 Syrians have died, tens of thousands have been imprisoned or disappeared and millions have fled the country since the start of the civil war. The media point the finger at external players in the conflict.

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tagesschau.de (DE) /

Country was never really important for the West

There were many opportunities to help the Syrians militarily before Russia got mixed up in the war in September 2015, laments Middle East correspondent Carsten Kühntopp on tagesschau.de:

“But in the end, Syria was never important enough for the West. And so the states of the West were able to hide behind the Russians' blockade in the UN Security Council. Putin has protected his client Assad with at least 15 vetoes so far. The West always allowed him to get away with this instead of simply ignoring the Security Council in the interest of millions of people in Syria. Only when they suit us are we interested in international law and the rules of the game at the UN. The US didn't care about them when it invaded Iraq in 2003. International law on the one hand, the duty to protect a population on the other - it's not a real dilemma.”

Tygodnik Powszechny (PL) /

A ruthlessly exploited training ground

Tygodnik Powszechny also comes to a bitter conclusion:

“Syria has become a training ground for several countries (Russia, but also Iran and Turkey, which were previously inexperienced in this field), where they can wage war cheaply and safely and gain military and political experience. ... For them, the war and chaos there is a natural, permanent state of affairs. The war in Syria (like other current conflicts, but even more so) is the triumph of chaos over order.”

T24 (TR) /

West sticking to policy of sanctions

The US and EU are still seeking to topple Assad through sanctions, T24 explains:

“The US has been imposing tougher and tougher economic sanctions in a bid to bring about the desired change of regime. And the European Union, which aligns itself with US foreign policy at certain levels, has not been any more restrained. The fact that the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell openly stated last week that there would be no end to sanctions until a political transition is underway is an indicator that the policy of sanctions will continue.”

Milliyet (TR) /

Only one thing remains of the old Syria

Assad may not have been defeated, but he has lost his country, Milliyet comments:

“If we survey the field on which the Syrian civil war is entering its tenth year, we see an extremely chaotic picture, broken up into the regions east and west of the Euphrates and those controlled by the Assad regime. ... In short, in the past decade, in bloody and tear-stained Syria every asset - political, social, economic, cultural, scientific, or of whatever nature - has been lost. Only one thing remains of the old Syria, and that is Assad.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Culpable indifference

The international community has merely looked on impassively, laments La Stampa:

“We were lulled into the false sense that the worst was finished and the war in Syria was over; we told ourselves that yes, it was a catastrophe, but what could we have done? However the war continues to claim victims. ... The regime's prisons are full, half the population is on the move within the country or outside it, 90 percent of Syrians are poor and have to queue up for bread. ... Every night we saw the images of the dead on the news, and year after year we watched them accumulate and pile like bags full of rags. Without compassion. And that too is a crime.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Make Assad offers

Instead of continuing to watch helplessly, Europe and the US should once again develop their own initiatives, the Süddeutsche Zeitung urges:

“They could start making limited but concrete offers to the regime: wheat, for example, in exchange for information on the fate of the disappeared, medication in exchange for the release of prisoners, while maintaining the arms embargo and sanctions against mafiosi affiliated with the regime. Without question this would not be an easy undertaking - until now Assad has been able to channel aid from abroad in such a way that it mainly benefits his cause. The alternative, however, is for the misery to continue until hunger kills all those who have survived the war.”