The Syrian War has dragged on for years and may have now caused approximately 400,000 deaths according to a visiting UN official. Although accurate figures are impossible to come by, 50,000 to 100,000 of these deaths are from casualties suffered by Assad’s decimated military forces.
Long time US allies Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey have been providing significant support to Islamic fundamentalist groups like ISIS and Al-Nusra that are intent on taking down the Assad regime, an outcome that the Americans have been interested in for a long time (as this 2006 State Department cable reveals).
Western powers including Europe even turned a blind eye to Turkey (a NATO member) dealing in ISIS oil, providing hundreds of millions in hard currency funds to a major terrorist organisation. (How NATO/US satellite surveillance could have missed up to 12,000 oil trucks sitting at the Turkey/Iraq border is mystifying at first glance.)
And now the geopolitical stakes are now being raised further.
Of course, no one is claiming that Assad is a nice guy. However compared to having the black ISIS flag run up over Damascus – a situation which would be immediately terrifying for ethnic minority groups, Christians, Alawites, Shiites and women in Syria fearing Islamist slavery, decapitation or imolation – Assad is a relative angel.
Perhaps what is needed now, is a far sighted US President who is willing to work directly with President Putin, to get rid of the scourge that ISIS represents to both the civilised Western and Islamic worlds.