Syrians have been passing five consecutive years under fierce conflict and there is yet no sign of peace.
However, the failed meetings and the “talk-shop” conferences among local and regional parties led by the global powers have been continuing in usual intervals. Questions arose as to how long will it take to reach “peace”? How much more blood will be spilled? How many refugees had to risk their lives into Europe? How many more meetings and conferences in lavish vicinities are required to agree to life by disagreeing deaths?
UN RESOLUTION 2015: TOO AMBITIOUS TO REVOLVE INTO REALITY
Meetings, conferences and ceasefire-agreements have been taking place since the beginning of Syrian war, without any success. Last December (2015), the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) endorsed a road map for a peace process in Syria, adopting unanimously the resolution 2254 (2015). The resolution called for an immediate ceasefire, endorsing a non-sectarian government in Syria within “6 months”, and set a schedule and process for the drafting of a new Constitution. The resolution also endorsed for UN-monitored elections within “18 months” pursuant to the new Constitution, reiterating the call for the Syrian people to decide the future of Syria.
However, although 10 months have already gone-by since the UN resolution, the formation of the said non-sectarian government in Syria still seems far away. Furthermore, it appears from the current conflict-rattled Syrian scenario that the expected new Constitution and the UN-monitored elections that were projected in the abovementioned UN resolution are just too ambitious to be taken seriously, atleast not in near future.
PROLONGED SYRIAN WAR
The Syrian civilian mass have been suffering a prolonged brutal war. The prolonging of the war was possible because of certain factors: (i) almost all sides have foreign support in order to prolong the war, (ii) the sides are well matched and (iii) each faction has sufficient willpower and resources to continue the war for a longer period.
Indeed, each side is truly well matched. If one side’s willpower is at the peak, the other sides have either the best military resources or financial resources or foreign backup to fill up their lacking in other aspects. While groups like al-Nusra and ISIS (and Hezbolla as well), who are driven by the thought of paving their way to paradise, lack no determination or willpower to continue the war, the ‘Sunni Arab’ rebels have backups from regional powers (mainly Saudis, Qataris and Turks) to carry on their part of the campaign. The ‘socialist kurdi’ rebels (within Syria) are backed by the West (mainly the U.S.). On the otherside, the Assad regime, which is largely manpowered by its army’s Alawite (shia) fighters and Lebanese shia-oriented armed organization Hezbolla, has the blessings of Russians and Iranians to continue its part.
IRAQ: OCCUPATION, DESERTION OF SUNNIS & RISE OF ISIS
Foreign involvements in the Middle Eastern region are nothing new. The U.S. led foreign involvement (occupation) in Iraq – by using the excuse of saving the world from Saddam Hossain’s chemical weapons – is a burning example of what the impact of a foreign intervention could look like for any Middle Eastern country.
When the U.S. was largely leaving the occupation, they, instead of leaving a harmonized Iraq, left an Iraq that was unstable, sectarian and chaotic.
During US’s full-fledged Iraq occupation, the U.S. troops, with the help of Iraqi ‘Sunni Arab’ tribes, largely defeated Al-Qaeda in Iraq (now ISIS) by 2008. But the desertion of the ‘Sunni Arab’ tribes by the U.S. (on its large departure of troops from Iraq) in the hands of a shia-oriented sectarian government caused the tribes to lose their trust completely on the U.S. and the Iraqi regime. Out of the widespread tortures that they faced from the sectarian Iraqi regime and out of their distrust for the regime, one large part of the ‘Sunni Arab’ population in Iraq started to vision for an independent state or, atleast, for an autonomous region for their own. For this reason, even before the rise of ISIS, they had been aiming to form a separate ‘Sunni Arab’ state, which would be completely independent from Iraq. Right before the emergence of ISIS, the continuous protests in places like Fallujah (a city within Anbar province of Iraq) and the breakout of armed protests every now and then increasingly showed their frustration towards the sectarian regime in Bagdad. The uncompromising nature of those protests portrayed that they won’t settle down unless they earn their independent state or, atleast, an autonomous ‘Sunni Arab’ region for their own within a reformed non-sectarian federal Iraq.
Although this part of the ‘Sunni Arab’ population did not work for any state or non-state actors in primary, their desperation towards independence (or atleast autonomy) had pushed them for searching helping-hands in achieving their purpose. In other words, this portion of ‘Sunni Arab’ population seemed to be ready to help any groups or sides whosoever could help them back with their vision of independence.
After the rise of ISIS, this portion of ‘Sunni Arab’ population had started to collaborate with the militant organization for fulfilling their own purpose, without accepting and embracing the ideology of the militant organization. On the otherhand, the other part of the Iraqi ‘Sunni Arab’ population, which was exceptionally frustrated from the tortures by the shia militias, had directly jointed ISIS after accepting and embracing their ideology. Thus, it appears that the U.S. occupation of Iraq, followed by the desertion of the ‘Sunni Arab’ tribes by the U.S. in the hands of a shia-oriented sectarian regime of Iraq, had caused the ‘Sunni Arab’ population (largely) to walk in line with the ISIS strategy.
RUSSIA & U.S. IN SYRIA: SEEKING NOT A SOLUTION, BUT OWN INTERESTS
Such a situation in Iraq, where both the parts of ‘Sunni Arab’ population are either collaborating with ISIS or directly working under ISIS, is impacting occurrences in Syria as well. This is because, ISIS operates in both the countries, with recruits and resources of ISIS in Iraq taken to Syria every now and then for military operations.
Moreover, the recent increased military operations all over Iraq against ISIS are signalling that a more alarming imperial vision is in making. The U.S. has been backing the Iraqi troops and shia militias across Iraq in order to push ISIS out of the Iraqi cities towards the Iraqi borders with Syria. The ongoing operation in Mosul, which seems to have started without taking adequate time for military preparations or sufficient time for removing the civilians out of the area, is another of such imperial vision where the U.S. is hastening to push the ISIS fighters out of Iraq towards Syria, so that it becomes easier to weaken the Assad regime further in line with the imperial vision of the U.S. While it is true that the Assad regime has committed atrocities across Syria, this does not legitimize the U.S.’s attempt of using ISIS against the Assad regime.
On the other side, out of its adamant ambition of keeping Syria under its geopolitical influence, Russia is utterly backing Assad’s army, which has been massacring villages after villages and bombarding civilian areas indiscriminately by the excuse of fighting rebels and, in some cases, militants.
While both the coalitions, one led by Russia and the other by the U.S., claim to be working to find a solution for the Syrian conflict, the reality appears different from their actions. The U.S.-led Western alliance, the Saudi-led Sunni alliance and the broader coalition between these two alliances could not deliver any set plan for Syria in last five years. On the otherhand, the other coalition – involving Assad regime, Iraqi regime, Iran and Russia – claim that they have a plan. Though, no one else otherthan themselves knows what the plan is!
SCHEMES IN IRAQ & SYRIA
The Middle East is of strategic importance to the world, particularly because of its supply of oil. Many analysts believe that the U.S.’s plan is to engineer a conflict between the two major regional foes, namely Iran and Saudi Arabia, in order to make accessibility of the region risky for adamant Russia and energy-starved China, both of which are trying to reshape the current global order that is led and dominated by the U.S. On the otherhand, many other analysts say that it is Russia, not the U.S., which wants to engineer such a conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and then get the U.S. embroiled into the mess and drive up the cost of oil, benefitting Russia that is suffering from lower global oil price.
There is another analysis regarding the regionwide conflict in the Middle East. The Western powers want to redraw the map of the region in such a way that serves their current-day interests. There is a widespread view that a Kurdish state, which would be carved out of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran, is within the western powers’ working desk. Moreover, a comparatively smaller number of analysts believe that two further states, a Sunni Arab state and a Shia Arab state, might as well emerge out of Iraq, making Iraq obliterated as a nation state from the world map. However, all these analyses, and perhaps willingness, might go into vein as two regional countries, namely Turkey and Iran, might put their full efforts into spoiling such abovementioned attempts of carving out new nation states for the sake of their own national territorial integrity and their greater regional geopolitical interests.
One reality-check regarding any international involvements in an independent country is that foreign interventions themselves are the real problems. One burning example of ‘problems brought by the foreign involvements’ in the an independent country could be found in the rise of ISIS in Iraq, which, as mentioned earlier, was caused by the U.S.’s occupation of Iraq and its subsequent desertion of the ‘Sunni Arab’ tribes.
The actions and apparent intensions of the global and regional powers with regard to Syria clearly show that foreign involvements in the country are doing more damage than solving problems. Infact, foreign involvements are solving no problems at all. Rather, the prolonging of the Syrian war seems to be largely caused by the foreign engagements in the country.
Because of such foreign involvements, the ongoing destructive process in Syria reached the point of no return. No efforts can save Syria if foreign involvements are not completely eliminated. Continuation of such involvements will only be followed by the final disintegration of the country.
Therefore, would it not be better to end all sorts of international interventions by all international parties in Syria? Would it not be better to leave the Syrians alone to solve their own problems? Innocent people in Syria and Iraq are suffering from the ongoing conflict. The influx of refugees in Europe is a sheer reflection of this reality. These sufferings will only end when the U.S., which is backing one warring side, and Russia, which is backing the other side, will end their interference in the country. The country is better off without foreign involvements. Let Syrians solve their own problems. Let the international powers – Russia, the West and the Middle Eastern powers – not interfere anymore in Syria. Only then a constructive, meaningful and permanent solution could be reached sooner.
*Bahauddin Foizee, primarily associated with law practice, is an analyst & columnist on international affairs, and specializes on Middle Eastern, Asia-Pacific & European geopolitics.