H A Hellyer writes: It is a peculiar thing when bittersweet outcomes are cast as victories. But this is Syria. Last week, the forces of Syrian president Bashar Al Assad, who have killed more Syrian civilians than any other force in history, retook the ancient city of Palmyra from the brutes of ISIL. Celebration should be in order – but this is Syria.
From the beginning of the Syrian uprising, the Syrian president has been trying hard to cast the battle as one between him on the one side, and the radical Islamist camp on the other. He appears to be gambling that the rest of the world will come to the conclusion that while they may not like him all that much, they like the likes of ISIL and Jabhat Al Nusra even less – and, as such, they’ll leave him be.
Mr Al assad isn’t foolish in this regard. Certainly, for a large proportion of the international community, his wager is paying off. Many western journalists, who used to be noted for their anti-imperialist and contrarian tendencies in western capitals, are now describing Mr Al Assad as somehow “defending civilisation”.
Officials in Washington, Brussels and Paris are murmuring about how much they do not trust Mr Al Assad, but how, perhaps, he’s what Syria needs, at least for now. And so the pact is being drawn – as it was meant to be. [Continue reading…]