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Syria war may last 10 more years - experts

07 March 2014, 17:03

Washington - The brutal war in Syria could grind on for a decade as jihadist groups flood the battlefield and Iran and Russia provide support for the Bashar Assad government, experts said on Thursday.

Assad has chosen a deliberate "Machiavellian strategy" of standing by while militant groups such as al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant flourish, leaving the US-backed moderate opposition fighting on two fronts, lawmakers were told.

"It's now clear that Assad's fall is not the inevitability that many analysts believed a year ago," said analyst Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, referring to former confident predictions by the US administration that Assad's days were numbered.

"The likeliest scenario is that which the US intelligence community now predicts, which is the war continuing for another decade or more," he told the Senate foreign relations committee.

'Major tragedy'

Geneva peace talks, orchestrated by the United States and Russia, collapsed in late February after just two rounds and there is no date for their resumption.

Meanwhile, the Syrian president's position has been bolstered not just by weapons and cash from Tehran and Moscow, but also by his "brazen willingness" not to intervene against the militant groups.

"The major role jihadists now play has deterred Western countries and others from throwing significant weight behind the opposition," argued Gartenstein-Ross, an expert with the Foundation for the Defence of Democracies.

This month marks the third anniversary of the 15 March 2011 uprising against Assad's rule, which was sparked in the early heady days of the Arab Spring.

So far, 140 000 people have been killed, another 2.5 million Syrians have fled across the borders and a further 6.5 million are displaced inside the country.

Gartenstein-Ross described the policy of the US administration, which has steered clear of providing rebels with heavy weapons while pouring humanitarian aid into the country, as "confused" and lacking a "desired end state".

"The Syria war is a major tragedy, and it's likely to have a tragic ending. And the US is probably unable to avert that even if we choose to become more deeply involved."



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