The Kremlin has renewed a bombing campaign in Syria that the the U.N. German envoy for Syria is describing as a battle even worse than those for Aleppo and East Ghouta put together. And few are paying attention – certainly not here in the U.S., nor in the European Union, which is dealing with an immigration crisis as Germany’s Angela Merkel struggles to maintain her political position. What, if anything can challenge Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s actions in Syria, and his plans to consolidate power in the wider world?
The Syrian government is attempting to retake the city of Daraa, backed by Russian air strikes. Daraa is where the Syrian civil war began in 2011, and has symbolic significance for rebel groups. It has remained under opposition control since the war began, but as the Syrian government has strengthened its hold on other parts of the country, Daraa has become a new target.
David Lesch, Ewing Halsell distinguished professor of Middle East history at Trinity University and Author of “Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad” says the government has made gains in Daraa because the international community is no longer focused on what’s happening in Syria.
“The United States, which had been a strong supporter of the Syrian opposition, particularly on the southern front in Daraa – the Trump administration has come to kind of a modus vivendi with Russia, [allowing] Syrian troops to retake the area, as long as Iranian troops are not involved, or involved too much,” Lesch says.
Lesch says Israel, too, has acquiesced to Syrian and Russian actions, as long as Iranian forces are prevented from coming too close to the Israeli border with Syria.
“Israel has been helping Syrian refugees in the Golan [Heights] area,” Lesch says. But the current crisis is likely to result in a far larger number of refugees approaching the Israeli border, Lesch says.
With world attention focused elsewhere, Lesch says, Syria and Russia are likely to continue a brutal campaign to destroy rebel forces and the civilians who live in the areas where rebels have maintained strongholds.
“This has been their modus operandi in Syria,” Lesch says “along with the Syrian government – to beat the Syrian population to weariness so that they will, out of desperation, agree to these reconciliation agreements, and to come under the control of the Syrian government again.”
Written by Shelly Brisbin.