Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton talks to reporters about the explosion in Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, New York, as she arrives at the Westchester County airport in White Plains, U.S., September 17, 2016.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Syrian opposition appears to be counting on a Hillary Clinton victory in Tuesday’s election in the hopes this will lead to greater American engagement on the side of the rebels, who are currently losing ground in the civil war.
The opposition hopes a Clinton presidency “will bring about change in the negative and irresolute position of Washington towards the Syrian tragedy, in the form of taking an active role that can change the balance of forces on the ground,” wrote Akram Bany, a Syrian writer who opposes the Assad regime, in Thursday’s edition of the London-based pan Arab newspaper al-Hayat.
At the same time, Bany wrote that the Syrian man in the street is uninterested in the electoral contest that is gripping the world. “Perhaps it is because of the feeling that the White House has been shamefully refraining for the past five and a half years from protecting civilians and has been careless amid the brutality, destruction and ruination,” he wrote.
Clinton has signaled she would stake out a more activist US role after President Barack Obama, influenced by the disastrous US invasion of Iraq, studiously avoided intervention, even after the Syrian regime crossed a “red line” he had set by using chemical weapons in 2013. Russia, by contrast, has intervened militarily, with its air strikes enabling the Assad regime to get the upper hand in the fighting.
More than 400,000 people have died, and with the regime convinced it is winning the war there seems scant chance of a halt to the fighting in the near future.
Clinton has called for establishing a no-fly zone and “safe zones” in Syria to protect civilians, something Obama has rejected. In practice, this means preventing the Russians and the Assad regime from bombing civilians in rebel- held areas like Aleppo.
But Trump last week said Clinton’s plan would lead to World War III by sparking a confrontation with the Russians, and he indicated his administration would not focus on the Assad regime as an enemy. “What we should do is focus on [fighting] ISIS. We should not be focusing on Syria,” he told Reuters. “You’re going to end up in World War III over Syria if we listen to Hilary Clinton.”
Trump has emphasized that he can begin a new, more cooperative relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, meaning he would likely shy away from challenging Russian primacy in Syria.
The fighting in Syria has intensified in recent days, with rebel groups waging an offensive in a bid to break the siege of Aleppo, where about 250,000 civilians are trapped. Trump last month all but conceded Aleppo to the Assad regime, arguing that it “basically has fallen.”
Bany, the pro-opposition writer, stressed that the emergence of a more activist US policy is the only hope for ending the conflict.
“The Syrians are not tricked by the Russian offensive and its success in filling the vacuum left by the absence of Washington and by the US policy to decrease its role and weight. Most are aware of the leadership of the US internationally and know the Russian escalation will be calmed down when it is confronted seriously by the Americans. The masses are aware that the negative American position towards our agony has a great impact. There can be no qualitative change in the balance of forces, unless the US adopts a decisive policy of extinguishing the fires in this tense region.”