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Do we, don’t we? UN stalls on whether to include extremists in Syria ceasefire

Manipulated by phobias and mistrust, UNSC member countries have lost the ability to listen and debate

Maria Dubovikova

Published: Updated:

The UN Security Council (UNSC) has been paralyzed by vetoes. Manipulated by phobias and mistrust, member countries have lost the ability to listen and debate on the problems the international community faces. This has turned the Security Council into a battlefield of verbose aggressive skirmishes serving the national interests of the countries involved, mutual accusations and veto games.

The French draft resolution called for an immediate halt of hostilities in Aleppo and for the creation of a no-fly zone over the city. What this really means is that all the sides involved in the conflict on the ground and in the air should stop fighting and all the groups would be included in the ceasefire, including extremist group Jabhat al-Nusra.

The impossibility of differentiating between the sparring groups in Aleppo has occurred because of the inability of the global powers to settle the conflict properly and in time. The longer the conflict, the stronger the process of radicalization of the general masses and the easier the work of extremist recruiters.

It seems that the extremist groups are always better equipped, better organized and more prosperous than the patriots and moderate rebels due to the numerous sympathizers of the extremist ideology from all over the world who generously provide them with financial resources and all kinds of assistance.

The war and the natural instinct of self-preservation push even those who do not share the extremist ideology to join the ranks of radical groups in order to survive. They make a deal with the devil, but do they really have other options? The moderates have practically no one to rely upon, except themselves. Their resources are limited.

The extreme conditions push them to take decisions they would never take otherwise. The international community has no moral right to blame them for this choice and this is a true paradox of the Syrian war.

The paralysis of the UNSC is mirrored by the paralysis of conflict resolution in the case of Syria. As the war deepens and radicalizes, people lose hope and there is nothing more dangerous than people who have lost hope

Maria Dubovikova

Sparring on the international level

Russia has vetoed the French draft resolution on Syria because it included extremist groups. However, it should be noted that excluding terrorist groups automatically leads to the continuation of hostilities that are provoked, among other reasons, by bombings performed by the Syrian army and Russian air force.

Russia demands that groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra be gotten rid of but this is impossible to realize. Russia is firm in its position that all rebels and groups affiliated with the organization are terrorists themselves. Western powers, on the other hand, are drifting toward the opinion that all belligerent sides should be a part of the ceasefire if any progress is to be made. It is clear that the naive appeal of the UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura to the al-Nusra fighters to leave eastern Aleppo and save the city from complete destruction will remain unheeded.

Furthermore, Russia is extremely afraid of the recurrence of the Libyan scenario in Syria. Russia considers itself responsible for the catastrophe that happened in Libya as it abstained from voting on the resolution - a move which opened the door to aerial military intervention, the consequences of which the international community bears until now. Thus, whatever resolution is proposed by the West, it is most likely that Russia will veto it.

At the same time, the West and US-led coalition members don’t trust Russia and its initiatives, considering them all a mere extension of Russian geopolitical goals. The paralysis of the UNSC is mirrored by the paralysis of conflict resolution in the case of Syria. As the war deepens and radicalizes, people lose hope and there is nothing more dangerous than people who have lost hope. If they have lost hope, they have nothing else to lose.

Thus the dilemmas over Syria are growing and becoming more complicated. The West wants to solve the Syrian crisis but that is a politically impossible task without Russia. A military solution will inevitably bring about a direct clash with Russian forces and unpredictable consequences. To find a solution with Russia’s involvement entails sharing success with a rival and reaching success on Russia’s terms, which is undesirable to the West.

Furthermore, the mistrust toward Russia makes any agreement extremely weak. Then we have a dilemma of whether to include al-Nusra as a part of a solution in Aleppo or not. Russia will always oppose this idea. If we do not include the group as part of a solution, the ceasefire will never work. Here comes another dilemma - who is the lesser devil: Bashar al-Assad and his army or the terrorists?
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Maria Dubovikova is a President of IMESClub and CEO of MEPFoundation. Alumni of MGIMO (Moscow State Institute of International Relations [University] of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia), now she is a PhD Candidate there. Her research fields are in Russian foreign policy in the Middle East, Euro-Arab dialogue, policy in France and the U.S. towards the Mediterranean, France-Russia bilateral relations, humanitarian cooperation and open diplomacy. She can be followed on Twitter: @politblogme

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.