Red lines and lack of ac­tion – how the big­ger pic­ture in Syria is over­looked

The Kurdish Globe - - NATIONAL - By Bash­dar Pusho Is­maeel

With the death toll from the Syr­ian cri­sis rapidly sur­pass­ing 80,000, over 4 mil­lion dis­placed Syr­i­ans forced to live in poor con­di­tions and the hu­man catas­tro­phe deep­en­ing on a daily ba­sis, the con­tin­ued dis­cus­sions in Amer­ica and Europe about the tres­pass­ing of “red lines” and what ac­tion should fol­low is an in­sult to the suf­fer­ing of the Syr­ian peo­ple.

When will the con­flict be con­sid­ered a cri­sis wor­thy of firm ac­tion? When the whole re­gion is em­broiled in the con­flict, when the death toll sur­passes 100,000 or even 200,000 or when most of Syria lies in rub­ble?

The point is, whilst the regime’s brazen and clear use of chem­i­cal weapons, meant that the US “red line” was crossed a long time ago, no mat­ter what tools or ap­pa­ra­tus is used by the ever des­per­ate Bashar al-As­sad, whether it is Sarin gas, bal­lis­tic mis­sile or clus­ter weapons, the end re­sult is the same – de­struc­tion of Syria and mass civil­ian ca­su­al­ties.

Just as in Iraq when the de­bate was side-tracked by search for weapons of mass de­struc­tions, the West of­ten over­looked the big­ger pic­ture. Sad­dam Hus­sein, amongst his far reach­ing ter­ror, sys­tem­i­cally used chem­i­cal weapons on a mass scale on the Kurds and was by far worse than any weapon. By the same token, the As­sad dy­nasty has ruled Syria with an iron fist for decades. It is not just the As­sad ac­tions of the past two years and the re­cent death tolls, what about the thou­sands dead be­fore and im­mense suf­fer­ing that his dic­ta­tor­ship has pro­duced?

Syria is clearly a dif­fer­ent case to Egypt and Libya, it has firm al­lies in the re­gion in Iran, Hezbol­lah and sec­tions of Iraq, not for­get­ting their chief arms sup­plier and bas­tion at the UN in Rus­sia. How­ever, the dif­fi­culty in know­ing how to act or find­ing com­mon ground to act should be no rea­son to re­main idle for such a lengthy pe­riod of time.

US Pres­i­dent Bar­rack Obama’s seem­ingly blur­ring red line and back-ped­alling of the White House sends all the wrong sig­nals to Iran, North Korea and be­yond.

Last week Turk­ish Prime Min­is­ter Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan stated that any red line was crossed long ago. Then less than a week later two car bombs al­legedly or­ches­trated by a group with ties the Syr­ian in­tel­li­gence ripped through the Turk­ish bor­der town of Rey­hanli slay­ing 46 peo­ple and re­sult­ing in scores more wounded. The Turk­ish elite warned that a red line was crossed, yet another line, but Turkey is un­likely to re­tal­i­ate.

While some­what pro­duc­tive talks took place last week be­tween UK, US and Rus­sia, Rus­sia con­tin­ues to hold the keys to end­ing the con­flict. The con­flict has al­lowed it to come to the fore in a pow­er­ful and in­flu­en­tial man­ner, stamp­ing its au­thor­ity on the UN and the re­gion, while the US has largely tak­ing a back-stage.

With the EU arms em­bargo in force, the rebels re­main crip­pled by a lack of arms, as Rus­sia and Iran, for their strate­gic goals, sup­ply the regime with so­phis­ti­cated weaponry and Hezbol­lah lends hun­dreds of its fighters.

The talk of the past sev­eral months in the West is to whether sup­ply the rebels with “lethal” aid and these dis­cus­sions are in­ten­si­fy­ing.

Yet for all the pos­i­tive talk that came from US and UK dis­cus­sions with Rus­sia last week and the prom­ise of a new in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ence aimed at strik­ing a po­lit­i­cal res­o­lu­tion to the con­flict, Rus­sia al­legedly sup­plied As­sad with an ad­vanced air de­fence sys­tem while UK and France and hawks in Wash­ing­ton con­tinue to push to di­rectly arm rebels.

Clearly, no po­lit­i­cal tran­si­tion can ever be suc­cess­ful if the same failed for­mula is merely reap­plied. As­sad must go, and with blood drain­ing from his hand, his role or cred­i­bil­ity in any tran­si­tional govern­ment would be ironic and in­sult­ing. As long as As­sad and his in­ner cir­cle re­main, the con­flict will not end.

Amer­ica may still be reel­ing from its per­ceived loss of cred­i­bil­ity over the in­va­sion of Iraq, but as it is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly clear, ac­tion may be un­de­sired, but in­ac­tion is far worse.

Over 2 years of lack of clear poli­cies by the West, has meant that flames from the con­flict have al­ready reached neigh­bour­ing coun­tries, a fear that orig­i­nally de­terred in­va­sion. Is­lamist groups have suc­cess­fully as­sumed the vacuum on the Syr­ian bat­tle­field and thou­sands of refugees, de­stroyed in­fra­struc­ture and in­creas­ingly frag­mented Syr­ian land­scape, now make a post-As­sad era as prob­lem­atic as the leisurely pace at which the con­flict has been ap­proached.

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