Both sides are well equipped and use their weapons without restraint. Thus, they are both responsible for the deaths and devastation. But it is obvious that the Syrian government is using disproportioned force and fights as if there were a foreign army in its territory. There are reports of about nearly 600 artillery impact craters around Aleppo. It’s likely that most of these craters are caused by government forces.
Both sides accuse each other of aggravating the human tragedy and at the same time they blame third countries for the current stalemate. The opposition is especially angry at Iran because of its support for the Syrian regime, and they do everything to show their anger, including kidnapping Iranian nationals. The rebels accuse those Iranians of being military personnel assisting the Syrian army, while Tehran insists they are innocent pilgrims who were visiting a Shiite shrine. They may be agents or pilgrims; it doesn’t really matter. What is important is that the opposition has taken a clearly hostile position towards Iran and is trying to force the Iranian regime to negotiate directly with them.
In fact, the Syrian government accuses Turkey of supporting the opposition by providing them with weapons and training. We have to keep in mind that Turkey is fighting against the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and it is only normal that Ankara wants to punish, one way or the other, the regimes that support the PKK.
The problem is that the situation has become unbearable for all countries in the region. Innocent people are being killed, ethnic or religious groups have new reasons to hate each other, governments are becoming more authoritarian, citing security reasons and that economic and social conditions are deteriorating, and all this gives an excuse to foreign powers who want to intervene to the region.
The Iranian minister of foreign affairs has asked Turkey to help secure the release of the kidnapped Iranians. This is perhaps a good opportunity to ease the tension between the two countries, following harsh remarks of Iran’s chief of General Staff targeting Turkey. By claiming that the Turkish government should expect similar unrest in its own territory, he showed that he favors hostile relations with Turkey. It seems that there are two power centers in Iran, one calling for friendly relations with Ankara and the other trying to sabotage these relations.
Those in Iran who are against Turkey are also anti-American and pro-Russian. Those who promote a rapprochement with Turkey are those who believe that Iran has become too dependent on Russia and they want to establish more balanced relations with the West. Syria has become a testing ground for these rival political currents. The Iranian chief of General Staff has threatened Turkey and insinuated that Tehran may support the PKK to make Turkey worse than Syria. They may indeed provide such support, and they are probably already doing that. Turkey’s Kurdish issue may indeed become worse than it is today. But this will not serve anybody’s interests.
The US and Russia may decide in the end not to interfere directly in the Syrian crisis. If this turns out to be the case, Turkey and Iran might be left as the only countries capable of intervening. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they have to fight each other; they may still cooperate. If truth be told, these two countries cooperating is probably the only way to resolve the Syrian conflict with the minimum amount of damage.