The hardest part – clearing the alleyways of the Old City – still remains. But already diplomats are thinking about the coming battle to drive Islamic State out of its headquarters in the Syrian city of Raqqa.
How could the Middle East be put back together once the jihadist group no longer controls major cities? Wadah Khanfar, the co-founder of the Al Jazeera network, has a blueprint for a new regional order. Not surprisingly, he offers no magic wand. He does not see state borders crumbling, as many have predicted. Instead, he argues that the state system can be revived, with democracy and decentralization replacing the old authoritarian order where dictators put their own survival above the national interest.
So far 11 million Syrians have fled their homes, including 1.5 million to Lebanon. With no end to the war in sight, Haid Haid reports that compassion fatigue has set in, and the Beirut government has imposed strict visa requirements. The effect is that refugees who used to be visible to the Lebanese authorities and the aid agencies are now living illegally in fear of deportation.
When the Syrian uprising erupted in 2011 it did not immediately cause a refugee crisis - most Syrians resisted fleeing as long as they could. It is worth looking at our first report on the Syrian refugees. After visiting Jordan and Turkey in the summer of 2012, Christopher Phillips was quick to see that a refugee crisis was developing which could have huge political consequences in the region. ‘Already the dynamics of Kurdish politics in Turkey have been affected, with the secessionist Kurdish militants, the PKK, emboldened both by renewed support from Assad’s government and recent gains by Syria’s Kurds.’ That was certainly prophetic.