Syrian conflict

The war in Syria is not over

Policymakers and media have recently taken to announcing the end of the war in Syria, concluding that the refugees could now begin to return home. Syrian author Tarek Azizeh, however, is convinced that as long as Assad controls the country, there will be no peace

The international community has for its part been discussing for some time the urgency of creating stability in Syria. Political decision-makers keep repeating this exhortation like a mantra – no matter whether they are allies of Assad or ostensibly side with the Syrian people and their revolution.

And no wonder, because stability has always been a magic word in the strategic arsenal of governments and in particular authoritarian regimes. The argument that stability must be achieved, maintained, or restored frequently serves as a pretext, justifying violence and massacres, or for asserting national and international interests at the expense of the people.

Under the mantle of ensuring stability, dirty deals are done and alliances formed with the worst tyrants and criminals. The posturing changes with the given situation and the cards are reshuffled. Standing on one's principles no longer seems to matter once it has been deemed acceptable to turn an enemy into a friend and to praise the executioner as a "guarantor of security and peace". Naturally all for the sake of so-called stability!

Numerous examples can be cited. Day after day, the official decision-makers stress anew how important it is that stability is returning to more and more areas of Syria. This will allegedly drive forward the "political process", encourage refugees to return home and facilitate the country's reconstruction.

Deals at the expense of the Syrian population

Meanwhile, official and unofficial deals are being made in the background between the states involved, at the expense of the country and its people. And Assad, the cause of all their suffering, is able to boast of his victories.

Whether as a political justification strategy or empty phrases batted about in the media, the attempt to present one's own attitude in a better light always implicitly amounts to admitting that the Butcher of Damascus has won the war against his own people, even going so far as to acknowledge his victory.

Syrian soldier walks past portraits of Putin and Assad in Eastern Ghouta near Damascus (photo: Reuters/Omar Sanadiki)
Shoulder-to-shoulder with Putin and Khamenei: Assad's "war on terror" has made it easier for the Syrian dictator to defeat the opposition and sell his struggle to the international community as a plan to restore stability

Indeed, these voices always grow louder whenever Assad's troops, with the aid of Russia and Iran, regain control of areas that were lost years ago. This is exactly what they mean by stability, advocating it as a solution to the chaos that has prevailed for so long due to the never-ending battles in most of these areas.

All the while, under the cloak of the "war on terror", Assad has had an easier time crushing the opposition and selling his fight to the international community as a plan to restore stability.

Jihadists against Syrian revolutionaries

Not to mention the various jihadist groups that have fought even harder against the Syrian Revolution than Assad's regime itself. To a great extent, they were the ones who made "stability" seem so desirable under the circumstances.

The way in which they fought and what they propagated summoned visions of chaos and menace that were so horrific that many decided they preferred the "stability" offered by the hellish regime.

Just to make it perfectly clear what governments and regimes mean when they tout stability: their view is something fundamentally different from the stability that people long for in society as a whole and in their own lives. People envisage education, work and family, for example, but also the feeling of being able to live securely and in dignity now and in future generations. This is precisely the kind of stability that was – and is still – missing for most Syrians living under Assad's rule.

The cost of stability

Some may reject the distinction between these two types of stability or see it as an exaggeration. The best way to respond to them is to point out the catastrophic outcome of decades of "stability" under the Assad regime. The fundamental dysfunction and tension that prevailed affected all areas of life: society, law, the economy and even the national psyche.

The terrorism perpetrated by the Syrian intelligence service and the death squads associated with it made it possible to keep this situation under cover.

But after the Syrian Revolution succeeded in briefly upsetting the regime's supposed "stability" and shaking some of its cornerstones, we are now forced to witness how high the price is for restoring this status quo.

Barrel bomb attack in Eastern Ghouta, near Damascus (photo: picture-alliance/dpa)
Dropping barrel bombs on his own people: "It was Assadʹs regime – a regime that continues to fight openly and covertly against its own people – that triggered this war. Thus, as long as the butcher and his cronies remain in power in Syria, any talk of peace is redundant," writes Syrian sociologist Tarek Azizeh

Counter-revolutions have in the meantime brought the Arab Spring to a standstill in many countries in the region, especially Syria.

The war continues

These are essentially targeted and concerted operations headed by people who will do anything it takes to defend the brand of stability that comes from maintaining a grip on power and continuing to wield control over the resources of the countries concerned.

To this end we have supported regimes whose people set out to overthrow them, in effect helping them to seize power again, as in Syria, and restore their own idea of "stability".

But that doesn't mean for one moment that the war is over. The very fact that the regime is still in existence means that the war cannot be over yet, because ever since its inception, this regime has been waging an uninterrupted war, not only against its own people, but also against even the most basic human rights and humane values, and against anyone who does not submit to it body and soul.

A ceasefire or the triumph of one side over the other does not mean the end of the war. Peace does not come about because the battle has been waged; it is achieved when the reasons for the war have been eliminated.

It was the Assad regime – a regime that continues to fight openly and covertly against its own people – that triggered this war. Thus, as long as the butcher and his cronies remain in power in Syria, any talk of peace is redundant.

Tarek Azizeh

© 2019

Translated from the German by Jennifer Taylor

Tarek Azizeh is a Syrian author and scientist. His research interests include modern Syrian history, secularism in the Arab world, and political Islam.

More on this topic