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Tensions between global powers hurt Syrians

As long as Moscow and Washington pull in opposite directions there is no resolution to the Syrian conflict. Each side’s goal is to project power. Bombs, guns and threats are worsening one of the most catastrophic and complex civil wars in living history.
What began as a civilian uprising in 2011 has evolved into a proxy war over which Syrians have little control. Russians aren’t being slaughtered, starved or forced out of their homes and neither are Americans.
Putin and Obama are the chess players, Syrian civilians the abused and neglected pawns. Both sides are out to save face and consolidate their respective spheres of influence with little consideration for the plight of civilians. Such policies of geopolitical one-upmanship must stop. How can the Syrian people be expected to reconcile when the big powers involved are at each others’ throats?
As two of the five permanent veto-holding members of the United Nations Security Council, America and Russia have a duty to act responsibly in conformity with the UN charter. Attempting to bend the will of the other with military muscle-flexing and the imposition of sanctions will deliver nothing apart from increased tensions that in the worst-case scenario could potentially spark a global conflagration.
At this stage, the overriding priority of the international community should be the saving of lives rather than quarreling over who’s right and who’s wrong. There’s enough wrong to go round. No participant can be described as having clean hands; almost all have been alleged to have committed war crimes, not least the regime which turned its guns against its own people with the sole objective of holding-on to power, the armed radicals/terrorists bent on enlarging their faux “caliphate” and Iran invested in expanding its influence over Arab states.
Far too much blood has flowed under the bridge to declare a winner. Syrians who’ve lost loved ones, limbs and homes are desperate for a return to some kind of normality, a life without constant fear for their children.
Hillary Clinton has given the impression she will stand up to Russia and for its part Moscow has taken sides in the US election process for its own interests, alleged to have hacked DNC networks. NATO has launched the biggest military build-up along Russia’s borders since the Cold War while Russia has responded in kind with nuclear-capable missile launchers hugging Poland and warships patrolling the Mediterranean. Such bilateral belligerence is destined to expand Syrian suffering and does nothing to alleviate Europe’s refugee problem, which is fueling the xenophobic far right.
Conflicts invariably end following negotiations. This particular conflict could come to a rapid close should either the US or Russia choose to proffer an olive branch prior to thrashing out solutions which place the well-being of the Syrian population first and foremost.
If these great powers could get onto the same page and jointly put pressure on President Assad to step down while working together to eradicate terrorist groups and “persuade” the various militias to disarm, that would constitute the first rung on the ladder toward social harmony.
The path is far from easy but unless the major players put their differences behind them and their geopolitical interests to bed, the weeds will grow so tall and so entangled that they will be incapable of clearing for many years to come. What’s required is real leadership and vision that, sad to say, has been sorely lacking, along with the realization that every human life has worth and should be cherished above all.

• Linda S. Heard is an award-winning British political columnist.