The Struggle Over Syria

It is unquestionable that the crisis in Syria is getting worse by the minute. Thousands of people have been killed, hundreds of thousands have fled their homes, and Turkey hosts almost 20,000 refugees. While the account is tragic and discouraging already, the Assad regime does not stop shelling his own country’s cities and killing his own people. In this climate, the international community – if there is such a coherent thing – is trying to manage the crisis. It is true that for most of the international actors involved, what is going on in Syria is unfortunate and they would frankly rather not to be dealing with it.

It is obvious that Russia and China for example do not want another US puppet-state in the Middle East after Assad, while Iran is at the brink of losing perhaps its most valuable regional ally. Israel, more than the US, sees the crisis as an opportunity to weaken Iran’s regional power, while the US, although it wants Assad gone, is more cautious and reluctant to get drawn into another endless war that might involve Iran, especially during an election period. Turkey, on the other hand, after almost 13 years of increasingly good relations with Syria, since the 1998 crisis and the Öcalan case, is really unhappy that it has to return to the same old insecurity about its territorial integrity and the fear that Syria might support the secessionist PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party); let alone the fragile diplomatic balance that it wants to maintain between the US and Iran.

And now that Syria has become an arena for conflicting regional and international interests, here comes the “Annan Plan”. The “Annan Plan” includes six main points which, in short, indicate the following: (1) the cooperation of the Syrian government with the Envoy (joint UN and Arab League) for a solution that would address the concerns of the Syrian people; (2) a UN supervised cease-fire; (3) the ensuring of humanitarian assistance and, “…to this end, a daily two hour humanitarian pause”; (4) the intensification of “the pace and scale of release of arbitrarily detained persons”; (5) the ensuring of “freedom of movement throughout the country for journalists and a non-discriminatory visa policy for them”; and (6) the respect of “freedom of association and the right to demonstrate peacefully as legally guaranteed”. The Assad regime said that it had accepted the plan and that it would work toward implementing it. At the same time, there is much distrust about Assad’s motives and intentions as to why he accepted the proposal; some say that he only wants to buy some more time.

While the international community “figured out” a “plan” for Syria, only part of the “international community” is now going to meet in Turkey to “figure out” what to do next, but this meeting is not going to be without problems. Even with China, Russia, and Iran missing from the meeting, the participating parties still have different views – if they have any – on what should be done. Saudi Arabia and Qatar, for example, want to arm the opposition. Turkey is trying to manage the humanitarian and national security crisis at its border by making plans for a buffer zone – war is still not an option. The US, as already noted, is far from abandoning the diplomatic route. To be sure, the Iraqi Prime Minister, Maliki, was probably right when he said that “arming either side in Syria would lead to a ‘proxy war’”. So, what is it going to be? I will not give the answer…yet.

A person from Syria told me the other day, “I want my nation to be left alone”. I would not know whether that notion is prevalent among the Syrian people, but the fact is this: the “struggle in Syria” has now become the “struggle over Syria”. It is not about the people of Syria anymore. It is about Iran; it is about the Kurdish issue; it is about Hezbollah; it is about the Arab-Israeli conflict; it is about the balance of power in the Middle East; it is about who will fill the power vacuum in Iraq; it is about Turkey’s ambitions and inabilities, at the same time; it is about oil and natural gas; and geopolitics; and economics; and world dominance; and the cockfights between the US, Russia, and China. The problem is that no one missed the point, because no one ever cared.

If the “international community” wants to give humanitarian aid to the Syrian people, let them do it. If they want to urge Assad to stop shelling cities and killing people, let them do it. But if they want to save Syria to save themselves, do not let them do it. If they want to exploit a revolution for their interests, do not let them do it. If they want to “fight for Syria” for all the wrong reasons, do not let them do it. If they want a “new” Syrian government because it will be controlled by them, do not let them have it. If they want to arm you to fight for them, do not let them do it. A revolution belongs to the people that started it, and it should serve them alone.

The time we mixed up the rights of the people with the right we think we have to determine the “rights of the people”, was the time morale and politics got separated; and then politics won.

Published on TheGWPost (www.thegwpost.com), 31/03/2012.

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