Sunday / November 18.
HomeNewsboxFor Bashar al-Assad, Winning the Syrian War May Lead to New Troubles

For Bashar al-Assad, Winning the Syrian War May Lead to New Troubles

“Putin looks tough and wily, while America looks incompetent and unable to sustain its commitment, and that’s a big win because you have a lot of countries in the region which are re-evaluating their relationships,” Mr. Hokayem said. “Now, Russia is a relatively weaker power to the U.S., but with Trump there’s no expectation that the U.S. will serve as a guarantor of regional security, so Russia is a very attractive partner.”

Gradually, Mr. Assad has worn down his most determined opponents.

The regional actors who oppose Mr. Assad — Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf countries — have limits to their support of the rebels.

In particular, Turkey, which at one time turned a blind eye to the Islamic State’s transit of its borders, has recently embraced fighting the extremist group and made that, rather than fighting Mr. Assad, its top mission. In large part, its motivation for putting its troops into Syria has been to make sure the Kurds, its main enemy, do not gain control of more territory along the Turkish border.

The Europeans, at one time fierce adversaries of Mr. Assad, have been largely silent as he obliterates Aleppo. But this victory will also come at a cost, analysts say.

Mostly, Continental Europe just wants the war to stop in order to stanch the flow of refugees trying to cross its borders.

In Germany, economically the strongest country in the region and the one which has taken by far the most refugees, “Angela Merkel is just hanging on,” said Mr. Crocker, who was recently in Berlin, referring to the German chancellor.

“Either the U.S. leads or no one leads,” Mr. Crocker said. “Merkel can’t do it.”

Yet, Mr. Assad’s victory could confront Europe with a Hobson’s choice: Help pay for Syria’s reconstruction or face having the flow of refugees continue. Without economic help, there will be little to keep people in Syria, particularly if the insurgency continues, as analysts expect.

Other than Europe, it is hard to see where Mr. Assad could attract the funds he would need to rebuild his devastated country.

That could leave Syria in a long-term state of war and poverty. “Where’s the financing for rebuilding? I don’t think that Russia and Iran can afford it, and I don’t think China will do it,” Mr. Ford said. “They need hundreds of billions of dollars.”

The American Congress is unlikely to contribute, and neither are institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, where opponents of Mr. Assad’s like the United States and Saudi Arabia have considerable influence.

It is also unlikely that the United States will make a renewed effort in Syria. Mr. Obama always resisted involvement in the civil war, focusing on defeating the Islamic State and giving limited training and support to the rebels opposing Mr. Assad. Mr. Trump is expected to continue to focus on the Islamic State, and he has expressed little interest in maintaining support for the rebels.

Meanwhile, the Assad government appears to be moving methodically to destroy the remaining rebel positions around Homs, Damascus and Aleppo.

The desperate words used by political activists, civilians and fighters interviewed on WhatsApp, a phone and messaging service, from inside places now being bombed repeatedly suggest the rebel resistance may be nearing its limit — especially in Aleppo.

An Aleppo rebel activist, Hisham, who refused to give his full name for fear of reprisal from the government, said over the weekend that the rebel groups were meeting continuously to discuss options, most involving deals with the Syrian government to try to get aid to civilians in eastern Aleppo, who are in desperate need of food, fuel and clean water.

The rebels have a dilemma: go on fighting and allow people to die of starvation or from bombings, or agree to lay down their weapons so the Syrian government, Iranian militias and the Russian military will allow aid convoys through. But if they do that, they will have ceded the ground to the Syrian government.

“It’s not easy to decide what to do: If we refuse, that means the decision is to execute 300,000 people, and if we agree to transform the revolution into aid and lifting the siege. … ” Hisham’s voice trailed off.

Sheer deprivation can make the intentions of even the most fervent activists begin to dissolve, which is the whole point of the Syrian government strategy of besieging rebel holdouts.

Bassem Ayoub, another activist in Aleppo, described the sense of barely hanging on late last week. “Many foodstuffs are missing in Aleppo: vegetables, fruit, coffee and baby milk,” he said, as well as tissues, diapers, gas and cookies.

“If you ask the children about their dreams, they will tell you, ‘We dream of bananas, apples, chicken.’ Those are their dreams.”

Continue reading the main story

NYtimes