All eyes on Mosul, Aleppo

All eyes on Mosul, Aleppo

With all eyes on the ongoing battle to regain the Iraqi city of Mosul from the clutches of Daesh, the Syrian city of Aleppo is on a high alert and people of this ill-fated city are awaiting their fate with bated breath after the Russians and the Iranians rejected international calls for a cease-fire.
In Aleppo, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) is stationed with a few hundred fighters inside the city’s neighborhoods along with fighters from other armed factions. There are reports about the presence of Al-Nusra Front’s fighters as well.
The FSA is facing forces, which have resorted to the tactic of total destruction of neighborhoods of the besieged city to drive people out of their homes by instilling in them the fear of death.
There is an important question that comes to one’s mind: Are these two battles, in Mosul and Aleppo, going to change the situation in Iraq and Syria respectively? Will the battle in Mosul end the Iraqi war against Daesh? Should we brace for an end to the five-year Syrian civil war? I seriously doubt.
The problem of the two countries lies in the nature of the Syrian regime and practices of the Iraqi government. As a result of the continued marginalization and exclusion of certain communities, the cities of Mosul and Aleppo may be cleared of insurgents, either through expulsion or through death but sooner or later we will hear about them (insurgents) in other cities and provinces.
The emergence of militant groups is not a difficult thing under the two regimes, which are incapable of introducing reforms and inclusive policies in the larger interests of their respective countries.
As far as Syria is concerned, it is a civil war that reflects the overall situation. It is not a war with foreign groups that could be disposed off easily? Arab Sunnis represent 20 percent of Iraq’s population, and 40 percent along with the rest of the other Sunni ingredients. It is not easy to marginalize them?
In Syria, Sunnis represent 80 percent of the population, or more than 20 million people. Even if five or 10 million of them were displaced, the rest remains an overwhelming majority.
Iraqi parliamentary regime is moving closer toward sectarian rule, which will end at some point after the liberation of Mosul to the division of Iraq into smaller and less stable states.
For Syria after cleansing Aleppo from most of its people, not only the fighters, the fighting will move to another city, and the battle will continue because there is no looming political solution as a result of the insistence of the Iranians to defend the man responsible for all this bloodshed, as they are also sticking to Hezbollah, which is acting as an indirect ruler in neighboring Lebanon.
The difference is that Syria is a big country, and is geographically situated in the middle. Its events have a direct impact on the ethnic, sectarian and partisan levels on its neighbors, such as Turkey, Iraq and Lebanon.
Those who wish to celebrate the “liberation” of Mosul and Aleppo should understand that their celebrations would prove to be temporary, as the policies of the Syrian and Iraqi regimes would only add fuel to fire and these insurgents would resurface in some other part of the two countries.
Around Mosul, there is now a large number of multinational forces, generals eager to appear on air in television programs in their home countries, politicians trying to take credit for the almost certain victory and the international media that already know the outcome of the battle, and like other politicians believe it is not important to know what will happen later.
The wars of Mosul and Aleppo are merely two other battles in a long struggle that is not likely to end without a just political solution.

• Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is a veteran and internationally acclaimed columnist. He is the former general manager of Al Arabiya news channel and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat.

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