Civil war in Syria at critical point - US National Defense University’s professor

Arab World Materials 25 February 2016 16:07 (UTC +04:00)

Baku, Azerbaijan, Feb. 25

By Elena Kosolapova - Trend:

The almost six-year old civil war in Syria has reached a critical point, Gawdat Bahgat, professor of National Security Affairs at the US National Defense University's Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Study believes.

"A few months ago, the civil war between the Syrian government and its foreign supporters - Iran and Russia- on one side and the secular and Islamist rebels and their backers - Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, some European countries, and the United States- on the other side reached a standstill. No side was able to bring the war to a complete victory," Bahgat told Trend.

The expert noted that indeed, a few months ago Syrian President Bashar al-Assad seemed to be losing the war and some analysts wondered if his days were numbered. However the strong Russian intervention in conjunction with unwavering Iranian support to President Assad has altered the balance of power.

"In early 2016 President Assad seems to have regained the upper hand. This, however, should not be seen as a complete victory," Bahgat said.

Turkey and Saudi Arabia among other regional and global powers seem determined to continue fighting, he noted.

This means that the main players are not ready yet to make the necessary compromises to reach a lasting peace and put an end to the civil war, according to the expert.

Bahgat noted that in the last few months three developments have added more pressure on all parties to intensify diplomatic efforts to end the fighting.

"First, the hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees have created humanitarian and security crises in the entire world, particularly in Europe, where most refugees want to land. Second, the skies over Syria are too crowded, with potential confrontations - intended or un-intended - between major regional and global powers. Third, the threat of Turkish-Saudi invasion of Syria can further add more fuel to the war in Syria and can start a regional war," he said.

In order to avoid these uncertainties all parties have felt compelled to negotiate a ceasefire, the expert said.

Earlier the U.S., Russia, and other countries have reached an agreement for a cease-fire in Syria which is scheduled to go into effect at midnight on Feb. 27. The agreement will not include militants from the Islamic State (ISIS) or Jabhat al-Nusra.

Bahgat said that political leaders on all sides should be reminded that a ceasefire, if accepted and fully implemented, should be utilized to intensify the efforts to end the war. Meanwhile he noted that it is likely that all sides would try to use the ceasefire to re-group and prepare for the next round of fighting.

Syria has been suffering from an armed conflict since March 2011, which, according to the UN, has so far claimed the lives of more than 250,000 people.

Militants from various armed groups are confronting the Syrian government troops. The "Islamic State" (aka IS, ISIS, ISIL, or Daesh) and Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist groups are the most active ones in Syria.

Edited by SI

Follow the author on Twitter: @E_Kosolapova