The picture of the 5-year-old boy Omran Daqneesh, bloodied and petrified after he was pulled from the rubble in the Syrian city of Aleppo following air strikes by government forces, has become the latest symbol of Syria’s suffering and resonated around the world.
Omran, in fact, is lucky because at least he is still alive and in one piece.
Hundreds of thousands of Syrian children have lost their lives over the past five years since the civil war began, and the international community has largely remained indifferent to their ordeal.
Like Iraq, Syria is another example of how western intervention in the name of promoting democracy has resulted in chaos and violence in the Middle East.
Under the rule of former president Hafez al-Assad and his son, the incumbent president Bashar al-Assad, Syria had remained politically stable even though its people had been subject to oppression.
However, things began to change drastically in the wake of the “Arab Spring” in 2011, when the Syrian opposition, mostly Sunnis, started mounting an armed uprising against the Bashar regime with the encouragement of the United States and its western allies.
Washington wanted to seize the window of opportunity left behind by the Arab Spring and topple the pro-Russia Bashar regime by providing money and weapons for the Syrian Sunnis to fight against Damascus.
However, against Washington’s expectations, the supposedly short proxy war has turned into a full-scale and long drawn-out conflict with no end in sight.
To make things worse, the conflict between government troops and Sunni rebels left a large part of the Syrian territory in a virtual state of anarchy, and the power vacuum eventually gave rise to the Islamic State (IS).
Desperate to save its only ally in the Middle East, Russia quickly intervened by mounting heavy air strikes against both the Sunni rebels and the IS in Syria in order to secure the Bashar regime.
So far both Washington and Moscow have failed to coordinate a long-term ceasefire in Syria and reach a consensus over the future of President Bashar.
Unless the US and Russia can put aside their differences at least for now and make compromises, the bloody conflict in Syria is likely to drag on indefinitely, and the country might end up becoming another Lebanon, or even worse.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Aug. 22.
Translation by Alan Lee with additional reporting
[Chinese version 中文版]
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