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Tuesday, 24 July 2012

The Sands of Time : The Syrian End Game (Part 4)

By Mpundu Mukanga (PhD)

In the previous article (Part 3), I explicitly stated that should major world powers fail to come to a comprehensive and binding resolution on Syria the only logical conclusion for the country would be an escalation of violence culminating in a brutal civil war. Since then diplomatic efforts have all but failed and Syria in on a dangerous path to an all-out internal armed conflict.

On 7th July 2012, during the friends of Syria meeting in Paris, the USA was the first nation to declare that it would openly provide non-lethal assistance to the rebel movement sighting diplomatic failure and civilian massacres attributed to the Assad regime. The problem with the statement is that there are more than 20 rebel groups operating in Syria with minimal or no coordination between them, and most of these groups are radically opposed to the presence of the USA or any foreign powers in the Middle East.

During the same meeting, the Secretary of State explicitly stated that Russia and China will pay a price for aiding the Syrian regime. This statement is odd too for several reasons, first there is sufficient evidence to show that in the last 50 years, all the major world powers (France, UK, USA, Russia, China, etc.) have supported the Syrian regime directly or indirectly via proxies. Secondly, the statement shows contempt for Kofi Annan’s led peace plan and can only be described as remisecent of 1980s cold war rhetoric perhaps comments designed to play more to the US audience.

On the other hand, Russia and China have always had public military and business ties with Syria, and for Russia in particular, this goes back to the emigration to Syria and Turkey of the Circassian minorities during the 19th century and thus there is a small but prominent population of people who could be classified as being of Russian descent in Syria. Therefore, the fall of Damascus would be much more felt by Russia than for instance China as it would dramatically cut the influence of the Kremlin in the Middle East and shift the power back to the West and NATO.

However, the resistance by Russia and China to side with Western powers on Syria is perhaps due to their distrust of NATO based on what happened in Libya when NATO went beyond resolution 1973 and forced regime change through armed conflict in a sovereign state, and it could also be that they want to send a clear message that plays well to global audiences about their non-interference policy. However, Russia and the USA want Syria without Assad but differs on the way to get there and what replaces the regime.

To many the escalation of the fighting in Syria is the end of the beginning of sporadic resistance and marks the transition into a full-fledged internal armed conflict were a proxy war is being fought by super powers. Due to wide spread violence against civilians by both sides, the International Red Cross (IRC) on 17th July 2010 declared Syria to be in a state of civil war. This change in classification opens the door for the application of the humanitarian or rule of war which permits all parties to use appropriate force to achieve their aims without harming civilians or detained enemies but leaves them open to possible prosecution for crimes against humanity. On 18th July 2010, one of the Syrian army headquarters in Damascus suffered a suicide bomb attack which killed the Minister of Defence, his deputy, several top military aides including Assad’s brother in law.

The whole Syrian saga has opened old wounds between Russia, China and NATO with the rest of the world caught in a diplomatic purgatory. Like many other countries before, the fate of Syria as a sovereign state is left to the political games of the few powerful nations while ordinary civilians are being slaughtered in numbers by western backed rebels and by a brutal regime fighting for survival. It is odd that some of those countries in the region calling for the end of Assad are themselves brutal authoritarian regimes.

Syria did not have to descend into a violent armed conflict had the powerful countries agreed to either let Syrians decide for themselves or intervened diplomatically from the beginning but by supporting either side at this stage they have opened Pandora’s box of instability with the potential to engulf Lebanon, Iran, Yemen, Bahrain, etc. Those authoritarian regimes in the region who have managed to subdue the Arab spring are under the illusion that political superficial changes have bought them survival. However, they are forgetting that the anti-dote to the winds of political change and reform in the era of globalisation and technology does not exist as citizens are fully aware of their human rights including the importance of equality, rule of law, transparency, good governance, etc. For the Middle East autocracies and theocracies, the dominoes have started falling and the writing is truly on the wall for the Assad regime. Assad and his comrades have been weighed by the winds of change and found wanting. The days of the regime are indeed very numbered.

1 comment:

  1. Straight to the point. Another good piece from our expert. What are your views on the south pacific and iran?


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