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OPINION: It’s time to make peace in Syria

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After listening to guest speaker Bassam Haddad, opinion writer Sam Smith more clearly understands the need for peace in Syria. 

After the unnecessary deaths of 465,000 civilians, the displacement of over 12 million more and the overall collapse of the country, it is time to get serious about bringing peace to Syria.

Bassam Haddad, director of Middle East and Islamic Studies at George Mason University, spoke to the level of disrepair and destruction facing the Middle Eastern country during a forum in Porter Hall in March called “After ISIS: Prospects for War and Peace in Syria.”

Haddad rightfully said that the solution to the Syrian conflict lies in ending aid to militant rebel groups in favor of funding peaceful civilian organizations in Syria that could bring aid, negotiations and reform to the country. Both the U.S. and Russia need to quit using ISIS as an excuse to perpetuate the conflict in Syria and rapidly remove their military presences to the region to help make this reform possible.

Syria
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Haddad said that the fight against ISIS is nearly over. As of Dec. 2017, the terror organization has lost over 97 percent of the territory it held at its peak. The territories that ISIS occupies in Syria are mostly rural and not of strategic military importance. So why doesn’t America eliminate the remaining pockets of ISIS?

In Syria, America seems to be fighting a proxy war with Russia. When America backed Syrian rebels, Russia supported Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Haddad made clear that the Russians jumped at the chance to further their interests in the region, challenge American authority and distract the world from their own domestic turmoil and invasive actions in the Ukraine.

Both nations entered Syria using ISIS as an excuse to defend their respective interests. Russia wants to maintain an ally in the Middle East while America wants to promote a democracy that would prevent terrorism. While both initiatives are understandable, they are not sufficient reasons to perpetuate a war that has been killing innocent people.

There is now a tense situation between Russia and the U.S. relating to the Syrian conflict. America is already the most powerful country in the world. It has nothing to gain from war. Russia, however, is a rising military power and could dethrone America if it were to engage it. Haddad said America’s desire to avoid such a war has created another stalemate in the Middle East. It is time to end it.

ISIS is no longer a viable excuse to stay in Syria, as it is nearly crushed. The situation will likely not change if America and Russia continue to perpetuate reasons to stay there.

In promoting several weak resistance groups, America is lengthening the fight. By supporting the Assad regime, Russia is maintaining its tyranny. Both must end.

The strategy that both are pursuing is not effective. As opposed to supporting rebel groups and regimes that do not even act cooperatively with one another, both need to support civilian organizations to bring peace.

A couple years ago, this may not have been possible. However, now that the fighting is slowing down, this objective is plausible. Haddad said supporting Syrian peace organizations such as businesses, research institutions and hospitals would not only foster dialogue between opposing groups, but also deliver much needed aid to the Syrian people. He is correct.

Haddad outlined a potential situation for dialogue: The Kurds in the northeastern part of Syria hold much of the oil that the Assad regime needs to function, and the Kurds want more legitimacy and sovereignty. This sets an ideal stage for negotiations. If dialogue can be had, solutions can be reached.

Instead, America and Russia keep the conflict going to help their economies, test each other’s limits and further their own agendas. Both need to back off their military aid to both sides. If this military aid were never granted, the conflict in Syria may have already come to an end.

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