Assad is more than happy to play a waiting game

Hassan Hassan writes: During this month, a military escalation by both sides of the Syrian conflict has led to a dramatic increase in bloodshed. For weeks, the Assad regime has been pounding Zabadani, a city near the Lebanese border, and Douma, near Damascus. The rebels have shelled the Shia villages of Foua and Kafraya in Idlib.

The regime’s offensive this year has probably been the worst in terms of human casualties and devastation. An air raid on a marketplace in Douma left more than 100 civilians dead and hundreds injured. The humanitarian situation in Zabadani was similarly catastrophic: Staffan de Mistura, the UN envoy for Syria, described “unprecedented levels of destruction” in the city, the last of the rebels’ strongholds in the Qalamoun region.

The escalation prompted speculations that the two sides may be trying to prop up their bargaining positions after Iran and Russia initiated a flurry of diplomatic activities. On Thursday, Reuters quoted a western diplomat as saying that the increased hostilities were the warring sides’ way of preparing for a political solution: “It is still fragile, but it is the most concerted move yet to find a political solution. Everyone needs a political solution. Everyone is exhausted.”

But the statement appears to echo the hopes of the backers of the opposition rather than the thinking inside and outside Syria. [Continue reading…]

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