Vision, strategy, and courage might have prevented the disaster we see today in Syria. But those elements were nowhere to be found.
The Middle East is in flames. Just as Iraq was President George W. Bush’s catastrophic legacy, Syria will be Obama’s. Bush’s sins of commission wrought no less chaos than Obama’s sins of omission. If the Stop the War lobby’s primary motive was to avoid civilian casualties, then by any standard they should slither away shamefully into voluntarily redundancy.
By latest human rights accounts, Syria’s five-year civil war has left 470,000 dead. To add to our disgrace, we don’t even know how accurate these figures are because—as if in despair—the United Nations gave up collecting statistics 18 months ago. Syria has spiraled into the biggest humanitarian, political and security challenge of our time. The Cuban Missile crisis of 2016.
Last week in Munich, the “well-meaning but under-powered” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry optimistically announced a temporary ceasefire, leading up to UN-brokered peace talks scheduled for Feb. 25. Onlookers meanwhile, wondered what sort of “cessation of hostilities” allows Russia to continue hostilities, and questioned whether depressing realities on the ground truly reflect Kerry’s sleight of hand.
Those realities are dire. Through a combination of Shia-Islamist sectarianism in Yemen and Lebanon, terrorist intimidation via Hizbollah, and meddling in Iraq and Syria, Iran has succeeded in setting the region alight.
No less a culprit, Saudi Arabia has spent decades funding its own sectarian agenda—Sunni-Wahabi puritanism. As Saudi struggles feverishly to compete against the ayotollahs, Iran’s “Shia crescent” has cast its shadow from Persia through Iraq, deep into the Levant and pierces its way into the Arabian Peninsula via Oman and Yemen. In desperation, the Saudis have threatened to send ground troops into Syria, just as they already did in Bahrain and Yemen.
Turkey—bursting with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman delusions of grandeur—is desperate to prevent the triple threat of being overwhelmed by refugees, facing a resurgent hostile Assad regime, and watching as an independent Kurdish region arises on its border. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has warned that Turkey will not hesitate to act military to halt Kurdish ambitions. Already bombing Kurdish strongholds inside Syria, the Turks too are suggesting sending in ground troops to join Saudi Arabia.
Hearing of Turkish and Saudi ground troops, Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev responded by threatening “permanent war”. Hypocritically, Russia has already committed her own ground troops, and flies up to 510 combat sorties a week inside Syria from its airbase near Latakia.
Putin is pursuing his aim of dividing Europe, and dividing NATO, by championing the Kurds. As Turkey downed a Russian jet last year, Russia retaliated by amassing her forces on the Turkish border to secure a base in the Syrian Kurdish region. The two countries’ militaries are currently fighting on the ground “mere kilometers from each other” and if a clash occurs NATO could either be unwillingly dragged into war or—to Putin’s delight —lose all credibility as a common defence pact.
SOURCE: Maajid Nawaz
The Daily Beast