What stopped the fighting in Syria was the Syrian refugees flow to the EU the Assad regime, with help from Putin, exacerbated by striking civilian populations to force the West into finding a way to stop the war against his regime. Everything that happened since the refugees flow threatened Europe points to this reality.
At first, Chancellor Angela Merkel met the challenge posed by Vladimir Putin by absorbing the million or so Syrian refugees. However, when 40% of the German people objected to her policies, she, reluctantly, admitted defeat by backtracking on her promise. Today, Germany is seeking the return of all Syrian refugees once the country settles into peace or a stalemate of sort. Once again, Putin and the Assad regime, outfoxed the West by using war crimes as a tool to force their hand.
The problem for Europe is not about resettling one million Syrians in a continent that boasts over 742 million people. The problem, they realized, was that ISIS threatened their security. And if by chance, ISIS did not manifest itself, Assad was ready, for his second act, to direct the ISIS terrorists to bludgeon the continent to force stopping a civil war that has almost depleted his armed forces. The regime has been relying on Iran and Hezbollah to defend Assad aided by mercenaries from Afghanistan, Pakistan. and possibly North Korea. Assad desperately needs the war to stop. Nothing frightens him more than those Syrians, who after a 5-year of his savagery and that of ISIS, still found the energy and the will to protest peacefully again once the hostilities ceased. It shows the Syrian people are not exhausted like he is.
Russia was seeking to stop the war as quickly as it can because its leadership knew that its coffers cannot withstand a long protracted war at a time when their economy is wallowing. Putin wanted to cement Assad’s position quickly but also stop the war. He achieved both goals, as well as few more (i.e. Showing off a new well-armed Russia and testing his new toys in real live combat conditions). With those moves, Putin has played his top cards in a Bridge game he controls the suit. What frightens him today is Saudi stubbornness with regard to Assad’s removal and the Syrian people still manifesting the stamina to fight until they free themselves from the Assad tyranny. As such, we can assure you that Putin has the name of the Assad alternative in his top drawer. If his economy does not permit him to spend hundreds of millions more to shore Assad up, then he will force his new choice upon a willing US administration and possibly a Syrian opposition eager to see the Assad family rule eradicated permanently.
It is important for the Arab countries to outmaneuver Putin by playing the patience game. The half a million graves Assad has produced in this war are enough to keep Sunni anger simmering for another 100 years, and hard enough on his Alawite sect, which may have suffered up to 200,000 deaths of its fathering youths it can ill-afford considering the sect numbers less than 2 million (Alawites do not permit multiple wives). If the goal is to remove Assad from power, then both Saudi Arabia and the Syrian opposition should continue calling for his ouster. Eventually, Putin will get the message that it has to choose between Assad and another six-months of a bombing campaign it can ill-afford.
It is not about the Alawites, it is all about Assad and his cursed family the Syrian people will not stand down until they are buried and gone. Like Rafik Hariri of Lebanon protected all Lebanese equally to include the Christians, there exists such a leader in Syria to veer Syria away from Iran, protect the minorities, and be acceptable to the majority of Syrians.
What the hell are you waiting for Mr. President?