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Syria’s Only Path to Peace

Throughout Syria’s seven-year-old conflict, the West – like Russia – has consistently put its own strategic interests before those of the country’s peaceful majority. Syrians want genuine democracy and equality under the law; but that will not happen until the extremists are removed from the equation.

PARIS – Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reached a deal to forestall a full-scale assault on Idlib by the Syrian regime. But even though the final “Battle of Idlib” has been avoided, that is no reason for the world to ignore what is still at stake in Syria.

The regime – along with its Russian and Iranian allies – is poised to achieve victory over the remaining so-called Syrian rebels, a collection of extremist groups that includes the Islamic State (ISIS) and the al-Nusra Front, as well as others who espouse a similarly poisonous and perverted ideology. Insofar as the Russian-Turkish deal saves civilian lives, it is to be welcomed. But if it ends up protecting extremists, it will not bring peace to the country.

In fact, now is the time for the international community to join forces to rid Syria of all Islamist groups across the board – not just ISIS and the al-Nusra Front, and not only in Idlib. That is the only way to ensure that no extremists are left to derail a future political solution to the conflict, or to launch terror attacks around the world. And with extremist forces checked and a political solution implemented, Syria would no longer be a battleground in the larger struggle for hegemony in the Middle East, because Turkish and Iranian troops, as well as the militias they support, also would have to leave.

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