Nine years after dictator Bashar al Assad launched his war on the Syrian people, countries which once claimed to support the opposition have left it to its fate. Only Ankara has consistently and practically opposed the regime since.
When Turkey backed the popular uprising against the dictator Bashar al Assad it knew that ending ties with the regime would hurt economically and diplomatically.
It did so anyway because to continue relations would amount to tacit approval of the regime’s brutal war against the Syrian people.
In the face of such atrocities, there was no way any civilised country could continue to maintain ties.
At the time, the feeling was ostensibly widespread as western powers poured help into to the opposition’s cause and set ‘red lines’ against the regime. Nine years later, however, only one country remains willing to implement them.
Turkey has made huge sacrifices for the cause of the Syrian people. Its soldiers have died protecting them from Assad regime forces, as well as terrorist groups, such as Daesh and the YPG - the Syrian branch of the PKK.
Ankara also opened its doors when Syrians fled the regime, taking in 3.6 million refugees from the country.
While there is no change in Turkey’s stance on Bashar al Assad and his regime between 2011 and 2020, the same cannot be said of others.
States, which had called for Bashar al Assad’s removal at the start of the uprising, are now silent and seem to have forgotten about the red lines they set.
Their only interest in Syria now appears to be arming their preferred proxy group, regardless of whether it is the branch of a terrorist group they have proscribed themselves.
Even Arab states, which once helped to arm the opposition, have done an about-face and worked to secretly or openly restore ties with the Assad regime.
Late last year, at a party at the UAE’s restored embassy in Damascus, Ambassador Abdul Hakim Ibrahim al Nuaimi heaped praise on Assad for his “wise leadership”, declaring that the ties between the regime and the UAE were based on a policy of “Arab unification through moderate policies.”
Missing from this show of reverence was any mention of the more than 500,000 Syrians, many of them women and children killed as part of this “moderate policy” or the more than six million Syrians who have fled. In 2012, the UAE had broken ties with the regime purportedly over its suppression of the uprising.
While support for the Syrian opposition and the millions of Syrian citizens has withered away, Turkey stands alone in trying to avert a humanitarian disaster caused by the regime’s Russian-backed offensive in Idlib province.
But while Turkey prepares to fight by itself, the consequences of a regime success will not fall on Ankara alone.
Ankara does not have the capacity to take any further refugee inflows. The collapse of Idlib as a safe area for displaced Syrians to find sanctuary in will be the first domino in a chain reaction that will reach Europe’s doorstep in the form of a new refugee crisis.
Those waiting for Bashar al Assad to win will first have to deal with that crisis before benefiting from his victory.