George Mason University Director of Middle East Studies and founding editor of Jadaliyya, Bassam Haddad, in a presentation titled “Syria and the Idea of an International Community” asserted that the conflict in Syria had reached a “destructive equilibrium of sorts” in which no side can be decisively defeated militarily in the short term. With 9.5 million displaced Syrians, half of the population in need of urgent aid, and well over 150,000 killed, the conflict has transitioned from a conflict about Syria to a conflict over Syria, a globalized and complex “web of struggles”; the war has become a grand geopolitical struggle with a limited role for the population. The uprising has died, and the “precious civilian component” of Syrian politics has been drowned out by violence.
Those struggling over Syria have no credibility because of previous collusion with the al-Assad regime, so by extension no concern for Syrian welfare. This includes the United States, which has a deplorable and brutal record in the region at odds with its own values and interests. Haddad questioned the notion of an “international community,” which he characterized as a small group of nations that spring to action around the U.S and a handful of its closest allies. The efforts of the U.S. and its Gulf allies in Syria have been destructive, concerned primarily with toppling al-Assad rather than building a new Syria. The U.S.’s “moderate” Syrian allies have even been congratulating Sisi for his victory, while Sisi jails and kills the Egyptian opposition. Failures in Syria to put the population first have also “wittingly or unwittingly” strengthened takfiri groups that wish to repeat their Iraq scenario in Syria (and now back in Iraq). U.S. support for the Saudi crackdown in Bahrain also indicates a lack of serious U.S. support for democracy, and its preference for geopolitics and for protecting world energy supplies. The U.S. is in fact benefitting by seeing its enemies, the al-Assad regime, Hezbollah, Iran, and Al Qaida deplete their strength in Syria (albeit at the expense of the entire Syrian population).
The solution in the U.S. is for Americans not to believe what they hear about intermittent and questionable humanitarian impulses on Syria and to force their government to stop supporting authoritarian regimes throughout MENA.