The West should avoid conflict in Syria
With the west seriously preparing to attack Syria on the grounds of using chemical weapons by Damascus, the on-going crisis has acquired a dangerous turn with both sides sticking to their respective position. But peaceful negotiation to this crisis is the only option for both of them.
Amid accusations by U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry that Syria has been destroying evidence of its chemical weapons shelling near Damascus, the western powers have stepped up their military build-up around the Levantine state despite bitter opposition by Russia and Iran to this latest pretext for war by the US. As the back-and forth between the Syrians and their western counterparts gained momentum, hectic and frantic efforts appeared to have been mounted to stage a military attack on Syria, without legal sanction from the U.N. Security Council.
As The Guardian has reported that "warplanes and military transporters" were reportedly moved to Britain's Akrotiri airbase in Cyprus, which is less than 160 kms from Syria. This stands confirmed by the affirmation of another top official, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who told the BBC that American forces are "ready" to launch strikes on Syria if the US President so decides: "We have moved assets in place to be able to fulfil and comply with whatever option the President wishes to take," he said.
Along the same lines, the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, held a meeting in Amman with the top military officials from ten Western and West Asian nations to discuss possible military action in Syria. Further, these meetings follow a report by Reuters that the US Navy was expanding its footprint in the Mediterranean by deploying a fourth ship that was capable of launching long-range, subsonic cruise missiles that would bring Syria within their strike range.
Reacting harshly on 27th August 2013, the Syrian Foreign Minister, Walid Moallem warned that Syria would not surrender, but, instead, defend itself in case it was attacked. "We have two options: either to surrender, or to defend ourselves with the means at our disposal. The second choice is the best: we will defend ourselves," defiantly asserted Mr. Molleam. He again stressed that neither did Damascus use chemical weapons, nor did it hinder the movement of the U.N. experts of chemical weapons intending to visit the site on outskirts of Damascus, where the alleged chemical attack took place. He said that "no country in the world would use chemical weapons against its own people....if they wanted to wage an attack on Syria, the pretext of chemical weapons is in- accurate and vague, and I dare them to reveal their evidence first."
Although it is a genuine demand, the West appears serious about going ahead with its strike on Syria as they ( the West) had attacked Iraq in the recent past and had ensured the regime change of Saddam Hussein.
With mounting tensions between Syria and the western powers, Russia has counseled the West to avoid a "clash of civilizations" type of situation in Syria. The Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavarov asserted that Moscow was "greatly alarmed by the statements made from Paris and London that NATO may intervene to destroy chemical weapons in Syria without the consent of the U.N. Security Council." He said that Russia would not start a military confrontation with anyone over Syria- a loaded statement that left the open-ended possibility of a reactive response from Moscow in the future. In the same vein Iran- being a close ally of Syria- has also warned of "dire consequences" if there is foreign military action against Syria.
Evidently, all these developments regarding Syria bode ill for the peace and security of not only Syria, but also that of the entire West Asia region and for the whole world. Iran could block Gulf oil transportation to the west and their allies. Terror activities could rise leading to insecurity and instability in the world, if the West resorts to military strikes on Syria.
As is proved in case of Iraq, peace and stability have failed to return. So the best course for the West will be to engage Damascus in constructive talks under the auspices of the United Nations and other regional or global forums like the NAM where some sort of compromise solution may be reached. The West should give up its insistence of regime change in Syria and recognize that they are a sovereign nation.
The author is an associate professor of political science in India.