In the bombing campaign in Syria against the Islamic State group, the United States has been more or less left on its own; at the same time, international attempts to end the conflict may be moving forward.
As President Barack Obama steps up the air war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria by adding more bombers to the U.S. fleet working out of Turkey, the role of America’s onetime active Middle Eastern and European allies has been reduced to holding the Pentagon’s coat while it wages the fight. Russia, however, continues to attack Islamic State targets.
In spite of the threat to their regimes by the Islamic State, the last air attack mounted on it by Bahrain was in February, United Arab Emirates in March, Jordan in August and Saudi Arabia in September. Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia and the UAE are concentrating their military efforts on defeating the Shiite Muslim Houthis in Yemen.
The United States should be asking itself if it should care more about these regimes’ security against the Islamists than the countries do themselves.
Meanwhile, Russia has been quietly circulating a peace proposal to end the war. The conflict will be addressed once more in Vienna with talks this Saturday. Russia’s plan unfolds over 18 months and includes reforms in Syria such as a new constitution with elections. The Russian proposal contains some big snags, however.
One is that it does not address the long-term role of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Russia continues to support him as the country’s leader; Mr. Obama says he has to go. Another question is the role of Syria’s so-called moderates, backed by the United States. Given the disarray among them and their ineptitude on the battlefield, it isn’t clear who they are, much less who will represent them in negotiations.
The most positive development at this stage is that the parties will continue to talk. Only an active and serious negotiation can put a halt to the fighting and dying in Syria.