Middle East reporter for The Independent Patrick Cockburn writes that the butchery could end now that the U.S. and Russia want it too. He writes:
The US and the Europeans now genuinely want to end the war, something they have claimed to want since 2011 but which – for all their lamentations – always sounded somewhat hypocritical. Put another way, they wanted the war to end but only if Assad was overthrown or stepped down; and, since his forces have never held less than 13 of the 14 provincial capitals, this was a recipe for the war to continue. Until early last year, many foreign politicians, diplomats and intelligence officials believed that Assad was bound to go. But this was never likely to happen without a regime split or full-scale foreign military intervention.
At the time, the states and movements being weakened by the war were the Syrian government, Iran and Hezbollah – all enemies of the US, western Europe, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies. As for the jihadi groups, it seemed preferable to Western intelligence for them to be heading for Syria rather than to Afghanistan, and their ability to flourish there was underestimated. This was the private view of many Middle Eastern politicians such as Mowaffak al-Rubaie, the former Iraqi national security adviser, who told me last summer that the Syrian civil war “is the best option for the West and Israel because it knocks out Syria as an opponent of their policies and keeps Iran busy. Hezbollah is preoccupied by Syria and not Israel”.
… It is difficult to be optimistic in the face of such butchery, but the US and Russia are now closer than ever before on an agreement over ending the war. The Syrian proposal made in Moscow last week for a ceasefire in Aleppo, along with a prisoner exchange and an aid delivery to besieged rebel enclaves, may be propagandistic and made to wrong-foot the opposition. But the very weakness and disarray of the rebel groups means it has become easy for Damascus to make such offers because the opposition is no longer a serious competitor for power. Just possibly, the war may soon begin to wind down.