The US, Syria and the need for a comprehensive strategy

The Syrian uprising started a little over two years ago and few of us remember it in its first days when thousands of peaceful protestors throughout the country joined in unison, calling for a democratic transition. However, as their protests were brutally beaten down, they were left with only one option: either submit or fight on for freedom and the downfall of Bashar al-Assad, who had failed at reforming the country from years of the cruel regime of his father, Hafez al-Assad.

Over time, the peaceful uprising turned into a civil war, with the formation of the Free Syrian Army, and numerous other factions, fighting the state's forces.

Since the beginning of the Syrian uprising, the crisis has been locked in stalemate, with the US, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia supporting the Free Syrian army and other factions, while Iran is supporting the Assad-led Syrian government, with the blessing of Russia and to some extent China. While many speculated numerous times that Assad's forces were near the end, his regime's resilience has came as a surprise to many. Others have rightly claimed that this has turned into a proxy war, showing little resemblance to what the Syrian people demanded at the beginning of the uprising. However, this should not deter us from the fact that Assad regime must go, and claims that the uprising has been orchestrated as a tool of Western imperialism, only give credence to Assad's cruel authoritarian regime.

The cost of this international and regional stalemate has been disastrous and certainly will go down as a case study of how human life is the first loser when it comes to geopolitical strategies. Last month alone, 6,000 deaths were recorded, and the UN estimates over 70,000 people have been killed, with an unimaginable number of peoples suffering physical and mental injuries; not to mention the more than 1 million refugees flooding the neighboring countries of Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.

With US Secretary of State John Kerry's visit to the region, and the recent visit of President Obama, it seems like the United States is serious about taking a more hands-on policy concerning the Middle East, especially moving forward the peace process between Palestinians and Israelis. However, unless information is being withheld from the press, it seems that the Syrian crisis will continue to be placed on the backburner, something disturbing due to the high cost of life. Unlike the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the death of Syrians has been unable to catch the attention it deserves, even in the face of its insurmountable death and destruction.

More recently, analysts correctly pointed out that one of the motivating factors for Israel and Turkey to restore ties was the continued war in Syria. Both countries know it is in their interest in keeping Syria intact and stabilizing its borders. For Israel, an Assad-free Syria could seriously change the balance of power, hurting Hezbollah, an organization that has remained immune to the suffering of the Syrian people. On this note, the fact that the fighting has not spilled over into Lebanon is encouraging. However, there are no guarantees concerning the future.

For Turkey, while they have made mistakes concerning its policy, such as short-sighted actions, such as arming Salafi and Jihadist factions, overall their zero-tolerance towards the Assad regime remains positive. The Turkish government's commitment to solve their internal Kurdish question is a positive development and it seems aimed also at strengthening relations with Syrian Kurds. Its foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, needs to continue with the same vigor as he did last year in the United Nations to keep international initiatives on the table, even if his past attempts have fallen on deaf ears. Until now, it seems Turkey has been the only country showing the courage to lead the struggle internationally.

Within the context, it becomes clear that the fickleness of the US and its allies, and the lack of a comprehensive strategy, is also to blame for the human tragedy. Even if the US, and NATO, are correct in their assessment that a foreign invasion would be the detriment of Syria, this does not mean that solving the Syrian crisis should fall along the wayside. Rather, new methods need to be explored on how to align the main countries supporting the opposition factions, with a stress on reconnecting with forces that represent the general will of the Syrian people. Just as urgent, a plan on how to defuse the crisis once the Assad regime crumbles needs to be agreed upon now.

Now into its third year, the Syrian uprising from the outset has faced many challenges. While there is no magic want to end the violence, the US and its allies need to do their utmost to adopt policies that will ensure the Syrian people with the safest and securest outcome in the shortest time possible. This will entail planning how to promise the return of refugees to their homes, and guarantees that the Free Syrian army and other factions will not take their revenge out on the supporters of Assad once his regime falls.

Today's Zaman