Amid war on ISIS, don’t overlook need to oust Assad

Brooklyn Middleton

Published: Updated:

As more states escalate their fight against the barbaric ISIS militant group in Syria, there should also be a renewed, collective effort to push for the final ousting of the disgraced regime of Bashar al-Assad.

The world continues to grieve over the staggering loss of lives claimed by ISIS recently, from Beirut to Sinai to Paris. But on Syrian soil, the massacres carried out by the Assad regime have continued unabated.

On Dec. 4 alone, at least 56 civilians were killed, including many children, in regime airstrikes targeting rebel-held territories. Meanwhile, since beginning its aerial offensive to secure Assad’s rule, Russia has added to the carnage, killing at least several hundred civilians and bombarding a number of hospitals.

As the West strategizes how to prevent ISIS attacks, the long-term consequences of Assad’s rule can also not be ignored.

Brooklyn Middleton

As the death toll in Syria continues to skyrocket and as the security implications of a Russia-Iran alliance on Israel’s doorstep become further evident, the time to step up efforts to end the Assad regime’s rule, while continuing to defeat ISIS, is now.

A shared effort

Destroying ISIS – a group which has now been found guilty of carrying out genocide against the Yazidi people – is an effort increasingly shared by the international community. The United Kingdom is the latest nation to stage direct military intervention in Syria against ISIS, with RAF Tornado jets carrying out a number of airstrikes just hours after MPs voted in favour of deeper involvement.

The development is positive; the U.S.-led coalition should continue leading the fight but the time has come for European nations to conduct aerial operations alongside the United States.

All involved parties should also publicly call on Arab states to recommit themselves to the anti-ISIS coalition. At the moment, the current level of military cooperation between the U.S., France and the UK represents an opportunity for cooperation on the status of the Assad regime as well. All three countries should be preparing to help facilitate the end of Bashar al-Assad’s rule while supporting the opposition militarily and diplomatically.

France’s role

In the wake of the bloodiest attacks on French soil since World War II, President Francois Hollande publicly confirmed his country would resettle 30,000 Syrian refugees over the course of the next two years. Meanwhile, the French military escalated its aerial offensive against ISIS in Syria, conducting a series of intense raids against the militant group. The entire response has been admirable and intelligent. As France broadens its own involvement in Syria, it should lead on the fight against the Assad regime, too. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has remained a consistent voice of reason on the future of the Assad regime and just over a year ago wrote an especially powerful op-ed about the need to fight ISIS but not ignore Assad’s own barbarity. Fabius wrote, “Assad and Daesh are two sides of the same barbaric coin. Assad largely created this monster by deliberately setting free the jihadists who fueled this terrorist movement. This was part of his underhanded effort to appear, in the eyes of the world, as the sole bulwark against terrorism in Syria.” His point here is as true now as it was then; efforts to defeat ISIS will ultimately be stymied by Assad’s continued rule in Syria.

In the recent term, ISIS has increasingly demonstrated both its capability and intent to carry out deadly mass-casualty terrorist attacks in the West, underscoring their degraded status in their own strongholds. Yet, as the West strategizes how to prevent ISIS attacks in our own countries, by a group that has revolutionized the concept of lone-wolf terrorism, the long-term consequences of Assad’s rule can also not be ignored.

Brooklyn Middleton is an American Political and Security Risk Analyst currently based in New York City. She has previously written about U.S. President Obama's policy in Syria as well as Bashar al-Assad's continued crimes against his own people. She recently finished her MA thesis on Ayatollah Khomeini’s influence on the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group, completing her Master's degree in Middle Eastern Studies. You can follow her on Twitter here: @BklynMiddleton.

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