Muhammad Idrees Ahmad
'Vladimir Putin can face little resistance if he bombs an ambulance in Idlib when a US gunship incinerates a hospital in Kunduz. Bashar Al Assad can get away with murder because he has conveniently pronounced his opponents “terrorists”.
The conflict in Syria is often described as a “proxy war” between the US and Russia. Syrian rebels are rarely mentioned without the obligatory prefix “US-backed”. (The regime army on the other hand isn’t often described as “Russian-backed”.) The backing, though tangible, takes distinctly different forms; and the support that the contending parties have received reflects the character of their patrons.
Not used to doing things by half, Russia has supplied the Syrian regime with bombers, gunships, armour and missiles. The US, on the other hand, has spent many years trying to ensure that no anti-aircraft weapon would reach Syrian rebels lest it affect its ally Israel’s ability to bomb Syria with impunity. Instead, its support has taken the form of non-lethal aid, such as night-vision goggles and satellite phones. It took many years before it supplied outdated TOW anti-tank missiles but has refrained from passing on any game-changing technology.
On several occasions, US officials’ commitment to the war on terror ideology has obliged them to welcome Russia as a potential partner against ISIL. Little thought is given to the toll this might extract, given Russia’s looser definition of a terrorist, and what an emboldened Mr Putin might do next.
“In all times and places,” said Thomas Hobbes, “nature abhors a vacuum.” The vacuum Mr Obama left in Syria has been filled by Mr Putin. This is now Mr Obama’s legacy: the abyss gazing back. At least we can now recognise that the war on terror is also a war of terror.'