- Posted October 8, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Are chemical weapons a ‘red line’?
Risks and Consequences of Supporting Current Western Diplomacy on Syria
Ostensibly, the Geneva talks between the US and Russia concerning Syria is looking good for peace and security of the planet, in particular for the worlds at-risk populations. The risks associated with a US-led punitive strike against Syria in response to the use of chemical weapons were enormous. Intervening in a country as geostrategically important as Syria, where Russia has important interests was only going to mean making a bad situation worse.
Now Russia and the US have hammered out a draft agreeement designed to provide for the destruction of the Syrian regimes entire stock of chemical weapons by mid-2014. President Obama has heralded the agreement as providing the "foundation" for the political settlement that the UN maintains is the only possible solution to the conflict.
So what risks, if any, are connected to the new found diplomatic energy designed to dampen down the conflict? Surely they must be of a lesser magnitude than those connected to a US led strike against Syria. I argue, however, that the risks of a wider war still loom large due to the inability of the recent negotiations to stop the conflict, and in particular, to the descent into a situation which will involve Israel.
Crucially, the Geneva negotiations between the US and Russia do not cover any distance towards resolving the root causes of the conflict. They are merely window dressing aimed at negotiating the continual lack of military intervention into the Syrian conflict by the West, an intervention ultimately against the interests of Russia, the US and Syria. In Geneva, the interests of these three actors coincided. US interests are connected to the fortunes of the Democratic Party, and the potential political and economic costs of intervention. Those of Russia and Syria are due to any US action making the conflict a more level playing field, where regime change becomes possible. On the ground in Syria, the causes of conflict following the successful outcome remain unchanged. Indicatively, the Syrian opposition is the only actor whose interests were not served by the negotiations. In other words, the outcome of the latest Geneva talks is continuation of the conflict, of "business as usual" for the killing machines of Syria.
The continuation of the Syrian civil war carries risks of its own however, and those risks should be communicated to the masses, to the electorate in the West whose governments retain the power to stop this conflict in its tracks, and with it the descent into deeper, regional conflict. Although there will be no spectacular intervention by a foreign power, no event to catalyse an instant intensification of the conflict, the already considerable risks of sectarian conflict remain.
Firstly, the Syrian opposition will, following the diplomatic cyclone caused by the 21st August attacks, be increasingly aware of the logic of what Alan Kuperman terms "moral hazard". Regardless of who carried out the East Ghouta attack, and conscious that the use of chemicals precipitates action by the international community on their behalf, they will be emboldened to carry out a further chemical attack, no matter what the risk to themselves or to their compatriots. They will have been convinced that any second use of chemical weapons against civilians in Syria will precipitate a US military intervention on their side.
Secondly, the war will grind on just as it did before due to the impossibility, after two years of war, of compromise between the Sunni opposition and the Shia status quo power, and the high stakes connected to the hegemonic expansion which is the coverted prize of he who wins. Ladkha Brahimi maintains that the Syrian civil war can only end through negotiation. I disagree. The Syrian civil war will end when one side wins, or else, will end when the country, the region or indeed the world is consumed in the conflict. It is up to the world to ensure that the first of these two options becomes a reality.
Accepting for a moment the impossibility of a political solution, the war will end quite simply when one side wins. I contend that the side which will win will be the side who have more resources, more support in the general Syrian population. Furthermore, in order to prevent a potential global conflict, the side which wins should be that which maintains in Syria the pre-existing status quo, the side whose victory does not go contary to the interests of Russia, Iran and China. In other words, the Syrian civil war will end when it is won by the side of Bashar al-Assad. Syria will then begin to return to what it was before the rebels took up arms.
In the case of neither side attaining quick victory, the war will continue as it has since March 2013. It will grind on until the losing side will decide to play the Joker card, a massive strike on Israel which would elevate it to the status of vanguard party in the struggle to rid the Middle East of Israel. Accepting the extreme moral risk inherent in such an action, whichever side of the Syrian civil war which undertook it, would potentially succeed in uniting both sides of the present sectarian divide against their common foe. Israel would of course, strike back with the effect that the US would be seen as directly implicated in the Syrian civil war, as combattant against both sides. Perhaps both sides would even become aware that the US was never interested in intervening in the conflict for humanitarian reasons, but in order to weaken both sides of the sectarian gulf to advance its regional national interests.
If the US public and that of its Western allies want to avoid the Doomsday scenario of a full blown war between Israel and the Muslim world, they should convince their governments of the necessity to change sides in the Syrian civil war, to support instead of oppose Bashar al-Assad. In Syria, a single, small country, the West needs to learn the lesson of Edward N. Luttwak to "give war a chance" and allow the side of Bashar al-Assad to win the war. It is necessary for tough decisions to be taken.
Negotiating with Syria through Russia will ultimately do nothing to bring this war to an end. Even if the US, Russia and Syria agree in destroying the stocks of chemical weapons, the situation in Syria will prevent it from getting off the ground. The rebels will oppose it, not allowing its personnel to enter Syria without risk. Even if everything is agreed between the US, Russia and Syria, by mid-2014, the chemical weapons will remain. The US would then be unable to act due to the perenial resistance of Russia, with any military aaction then seen as obvious agression. Most of all, the Syrian civil war would have continued unabated until one side launched strikes against Israel. History will by then have shown that the US had been unable, despite its huge military, to stop the descent into regional war, due to their support for the opposition. It is necessary now to support Bashar al-Assad, before it is too late. Your choice Mr Obama.