It is impossible to beat IS without tackling the foundation on which it builds its success. The priority must instead be on ending the war in Syria.
Yet today we are faced with a situation where none of the conflicting parties have any interest in negotiations. The rebel groups and their sponsors, the gulf monarchies and Turkey, have noted that the regime keeps loosing territory. They hope that it will eventually crumble under military pressure. In turn, the Assad regime has felt pressure from the West diminish since the rise of IS. The regime benefits from Russia and Iran’s increased support and believes its days are not yet numbered.
What the West needs to do is convince both camps that there is no military solution to this conflict. But before negotiations start, it needs to send out strong signals that it does not tolerate the regime’s strikes against civilians. Several options are on the table.
Some are calling for a no-fly zone. This is a radical measure and difficult to implement without the consent of the UN Security Council. Clearly Russia would veto it. Some kind of timely retaliatory measures against planes bombing civilian areas would be easier. This is not a declaration of war against the regime, but an important measure to make the regime pay for its attacks on civilians. Every time Assad’s army bombs civilian targets, an attack against a Syrian airbase could follow in retaliation. With a bit of determination, this is possible.
Only then can negotiations start. No side will agree to negotiate if it fears a total defeat, or is certain of victory.
Read the full article: The Problem with Coalition Airstrikes in Syria, by Jean-Marie Guéhenno, International Crisis Group, 15 September 2015.