LET us face a harsh reality: the militant Islamic State group in all its hideousness has made the world forget Syria’s human tragedy, for such is the callousness of the global community that the number of Syrian dead has become a statistic — it does not matter whether it is a quarter million or 300,000.
Last week, diplomats from 17 countries met in Vienna and chalked out a road map that will take at least two years to give Syria peace, a provisional constitution and an elected government. However, President Barack Obama and President Bashar al-Assad both disrupted the plan when they made it known what they thought of the Vienna exercise in diplomacy.
The American leader said peace could not be restored unless Mr Assad quit, while the latter believed he could not visualise an election while large swathes of Syrian territory remained under the dissidents’ control.
The entry of various Islamist militias into what originally was a struggle between the Baathist regime and pro-democracy forces radicalised the character of the conflict.
Things worsened as IS began an offensive that took the fanatic hordes from Iraq’s Anbar province to the Turkish border. Since then, a mysterious status quo has prevailed, with the US-led coalition failing to push IS back.
With Paris now dominating the headlines, only France seems eager to go after IS. America insists it, too, is keen to degrade the group, but there is no evidence that it has succeeded in mobilising its European allies and the Gulf states to put their shoulder to the wheel.
Unless IS is routed in Syria, there is no possibility that any peace plan can progress. Deferring a major onslaught against IS only helps the Assad regime and prolongs the Syrian people’s suffering.
At the same time, a large-scale Western invasion could be misunderstood and prove counterproductive, unless regional states such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran cooperate and take on the military challenge to roll back the tide of the militant group.
Published in Dawn, November 21st, 2015