Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, had some comments for the United States government regarding Syria and the Islamic State that deserve acknowledgement. While the future of this situation can be debated, the past cannot. And the truth sometimes hurts.
“I think Western politicians are already realising the growing and fast-spreading threat of terrorism,” Lavrov said, referring to Islamic State advances in Syria and Iraq.“And they will soon have to choose what is more important, a [Syrian] regime change to satisfy personal antipathies, risking deterioration of the situation beyond any control, or finding pragmatic ways to unite efforts against the common threat.”In comments likely to irritate Washington, Lavrov said the US had made the same mistake with Islamic State as it had with al-Qaeda, which emerged in the 1980s when US-backed Islamist insurgents were fighting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. (Emphasis added)“At the start the Americans and some Europeans rather welcomed [Islamic State] on the basis it was fighting against Bashar al-Assad. They welcomed it as they welcomed the mujahideen who later created al-Qaeda, and then al-Qaeda struck like a boomerang on September 11, 2001,” Lavrov said.“The same thing is happening now.”
We have to accept, for the moment, there is no perfect solution from the U.S. government’s perspective where both the Syrian regime and the Islamic State can be ousted from the situation immediately. At this point, the best case scenario is to only have to deal with one or the other while trying to push for the quelling of one.
And the lesser of two evils is without a doubt the Assad regime in Syria. This, of course, means working as a partner with Russia in order to exert as much pressure as possible on Assad to hope for eventual regime change while making sure the Syrian government is stabilized enough to fight the Islamic State.
In fact, hindsight being 20/20, one has to wonder if working with Russia from the beginning on Syria would have been the better solution for the Syrian people. While living under Assad has certainly been no picnic, it’s very likely the casualties from the fighting, now closing in on 200,000, would have been significantly less had a heavy UN peacekeeping presence been placed in the country when the violence broke out. And in order to have done this, the U.S. would have had to accept not initially ousting Assad, with the hope change could have come later and more peacefully.
We’ll never know whether that solution would have turned out better. One thing, however, is clear: not choosing that path has been an absolute disaster.