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article imageOp-Ed: Assad remains part of the problem, not a solution

By Paul Iddon     Aug 24, 2014 in Politics
In Syria the so-called realists continue to make a point of missing the point. Assad isn't a solution to the Islamic State threat. He is in fact part of the reason it gained so much ground in the region.
It shouldn't be forgotten anytime soon that one “realist” approach taken in response to the growth, and indeed the rise, of 'Islamic State' over the last 18 months or so was indeed taken by the Assad regime. It essentially stayed out of regions in Syria (the most salient being the Raqqa region) where the Islamic State forces were engaging other opposition forces and avoiding targeting or getting in the way of the Syrian military. Its strategy (as recently outlined by the head of the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights) saw to it that its forces didn't intervene until one side got the upper hand over the other and then attacked that stronger side. In recent months that stronger force has more or less consistently been the Islamic State group which has built upon its successes and momentum to launch offensives against important installations to the Syrian regimes war effort and even a major one from Syrian territory into Northern Iraq – where they still retain control over large areas of Nineveh province where they continue to terrorize the population and are fighting to gain more ground and expand their reach to massacre more minority groups.
Assad had focused his efforts in recent years first and foremost on destroying all the more moderate opposition groups and in the process allowed Islamic State to enhance further its power and reach. The result of that policy has seen to it that Islamic State is now able to destabilize and threaten the very existence of minorities in northern Iraq. It is also reaching a position whereby it is more posed than ever to threaten the interests of western powers among others.
In Syria they have garnered enough power and territory to hit the regimes interests where it hurts. Last July they engaged the Syrian Army in ferocious clashes over control of the Shaar gas field in Homs stealing more military equipment before vacating that area under heavy fire. They killed about 1,000 Syrian Army soldiers in July alone since they are confident they are now in a position to challenge the regime and continue to wreck havoc across the country and terrorize millions of Syrians in the process. Today they have consolidated their control over the whole of the Raqqa province in Syria seizing Tabqa military airport, the last of the Syrian military's outposts there.
They have gotten into such a position because the primary aim of Assad in past two-years has been to let them gain ground once it was at the expense of other more moderate forces. Primarily to deny any moderate group from establishing themselves on the ground as a feasible alternative to his despotic rule as part of a political solution to the ongoing war – and of course so he can continue to pretend that there was always truth to his claim that he was from the start solely fighting Islamist terrorists and not brutally crushing a revolt against his autocratic rule. By doing so Islamic State have been given a relative freehand when it comes to acquiring the power it has today. A position which has seen to it that it is now able to threaten the lives of hundreds-of-thousands across the region.
Assad has terrorized Homs and Aleppo for about three-years now and continues to unleash horrific attacks from the air. His use of barrel-bomb munitions is on the increase. A horrible situation considering that barrel bombs are nasty weapons to unleash on urban areas since they are completely indiscriminate and serve to do little more than terrorize millions of innocent civilians trapped in the crossfire in Syria's densely populated cities.
While there are elements in his regime that wish to re-brand it as a useful ally, necessitated by the cruel circumstances, for the west to have in the battle against Islamic State it mustn't be forgotten that it was this regime that indirectly aided Islamic State in its rise. And for this it bears part of the responsibility and will suffer some of the costly consequences.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Bashar alAssad, Syria, Islamic state, Isis, Iraq
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