Incoherent approach

Soldiers loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad raise the national flags at a Yabroud town square in the Damascus countryside, after the soldiers loyal to Assad took control of it from the rebel fighters, in this handout released by Syria's national news agency SANA on March 17, 2014. (REUTERS/SANA)

The fall of the rebel-held town of Yabroud over the weekend is the latest sign, if anyone needed it, that the Syrian regime and its allies are dead set on settling the conflict militarily.

While this isn’t surprising or new, it also poses the question to the other side: what is your strategy for ending the suffering of the Syrian people and helping the country exit the 3-year-old crisis?

If the backers of the Syrian opposition are interested in seeing the war come to an end, then they should push for a political solution since they obviously have little appetite for getting heavily involved militarily, whether directly or indirectly.

But if they have settled on such a political approach, they are giving few signals that they believe this course is viable. There is no sign that they have forged a better relationship with the opposition National Coalition, much less the millions of Syrians who also want to see the war come to an end.

The Syrian regime, backed by loyal friends in Russia and Iran, can be expected to pursue a methodological drive to gain as much territory as possible, whether or not another round of peace talks takes place. If the leaders of the opposition and their sponsors have a coherent response, then they should make this clear because Syrians who want political change are seeing only two things – a blame game and a wave of words, not actions.

This month’s scheduled trip by President Barack Obama to Saudi Arabia will certainly touch on the crisis in Syria, and it will be eagerly watched by all sides to see if the two can make things more clear and present any hope for a better future.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 18, 2014, on page 7.




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