FEATURE ARTICLE

Augustine C. OhanweTuesday, September 3, 2013
chyinaho@yahoo.com


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THE UNITED STATES AND THE SYRIAN SITUATION:
A CALL FOR CAUTION

Late Prof. Chinua Achebe

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o matter what the United States and her allies say about Syria, the hidden agenda is “regime change”. And any other advanced reason to shield this objective will still be categorized as credit worthy when seen through the prism of international political chess game. A few hawkish Republican have literally cross-carpeted, and have registered their solidarity with Obama in his bid to strike at Syria. But such Republican support for Obama might turn out to be a clever political ploy to lure the US president into a cul-de-sac, an act that will definitely tarnish his tenure record and discredit his leadership. The US Middle East allies that support the proposed US attack are mostly two Syria’s Middle East traditional enemies. As Obama and Assad are locked in intemperate verbal fisticuffs, American warships have set sail towards Syria’s geographical position. It is yet to be established whether the move has the complexion of gun-boat diplomacy, or a move to underscore the seriousness of the US intention.

The US intention, if implemented, falls under the political doctrine of unilateralism. Unilateralism, which is thought to be moribund or passé seems to be exhibiting a new international vigor. By going it alone, the US has relegated the United Nations to the status of 2nd fiddle player. Britain, the staunchest traditional and trusted ally of the US, has analysed the configuration of political events on the ground and has refused to join the bandwagon. The Syrian situation, instead of strengthening the US-UK relationship, has created an ad hoc divide.

The Anglo-Saxon traditional empiricism seems at odd with American pragmatism. Like the tortoise, London has withdrawn its legs into its hard shield, and prefers to watch the evolution of the Syrian situation from the fence. It has expressed its reservations against the US intention, and not in the mood to commit troops or any form of support in a conflict whose geopolitical algebra is unclear. While most of the US Western allies have maintained “dubious neutrality”, France has kept it army on standby and ready to commit them under the US-led operation. Within the US itself, its citizens are fiercely divided. There is a virtual babble of voices calling for action against Syria. But while the poise to strike looms large, proof of chemical weapon is at the moment, in short supply.

Is Syria alone? Within Russian strategic thinkers there is a growing skepticism and suspicion about the reason upon which the US premised its intended military action. Russian seems to understand the power play going on in the Middle East. President Putin of Russia has made overt criticisms against the US, and has challenged President Obama to present a credible proof that supports his claim that Syria had used chemical weapon against its citizens. As at the moment of writing this short piece, the US response to such query has been confined to “intelligent reports” as the only source. Even if chemical weapons were used in the Syrian domestic conflict, how do we know whether such deadly weapons were used by Syrian government soldiers or the rebels fighting to remove Assad? If the Syrian government soldiers did use such weapons, did the order emanate from the Syrian leader or an act done by an overzealous military officer? These facts have not been established yet.

China feels the US has exceeded bounds in the execution of its foreign policy and would do everything possible to torpedo the Security Council resolution that will mandate attack on Syria.

Hezbollah militant group is watching and plotting a response to any US negative move on Syria. Iran does not hide its agenda in response to any US aggression against Syria. It has made it clear that Israel will bear the brunt should the US attack Syria.

But time and diplomacy can still husband the situation with the participation of Iran, the US, Turkey can also come on board. If regime change in the main bone of contention, durable peace will elude Syria should it be imposed from outside through military means. We should glean some lessons from the demise of Ghaddafi which was engineered from outside. It generated the secessionist Benghazi and left Libya with a serious political tension that continue tosimmers beneath the political surface. Iraq is not even at peace. Is that the type of “peace” being constructed for Syria?

There is the possibility that the US unilateral approach will lure her into a nutcracker between Hezbollah and its affiliates, Iran, Russia and China and the court of international opinion that has not yet been convinced of the chemical weapon issue. More disturbingly it’s an attack that did not receive the imprimatur of the United Nations.

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