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02.10.2015 Author: Veniamin Popov

Some Thoughts on the Ongoing Syrian Crisis

4b5086115It is not surprising that the dramatic events taking place today in such a relatively small country as Syria, with 20 million people and not very rich in natural resources, are now out on the front pages of the world media: the point is that they, like a water drop, reflect the main current trends in international relations.

Three events especially contributed to the entry of “the Syrian component” to the forefront of world politics, causing a storm of emotions and hot discussions.

Firstly, it is the wave of migrants that has swept Europe. And absolutely justified is the following assessment given in this regard by the American publication “New Yorker”: “Now that the West is overrun with about 350 thousand refugees, the Syrian crisis is equally the European crisis.”

It is important that most analysts had to eventually recognize that Western military intervention in the affairs of the Middle Eastern countries, in particular in Iraq, Libya, Syria, is at the root of the cause of these events.

Today the apparent quarrel in the noble family of the European Union has become more evident; nobody agrees on how to distribute the refugees between the EU countries. The European leaders are well aware that this is only the first wave of mass migration, and it will be followed by others, primarily due to the continuing tension, expansion of a zone of actions of extremist forces in Iraq, Syria, Libya, other states of the Middle East and North Africa.

The European media have been very critical of their leaders, urging them to develop a clear strategic line on the issue of influx of migrants and on the situation in the Middle East. In a number of publications the idea has been voiced that instead of continuing senseless attempts to tear Ukraine away from Russia they should focus on solving problems that directly threaten the security of Europe. This pressure after all has had its effect and impact on the line of the ruling circles of the European Union: initiative was shown by Germany, which called on Washington to find a compromise with Russia on Syria, because it had become evident to the world that without Moscow this complex of problems cannot be solved.

It is noteworthy that German Foreign Minister Steinmeier after concluding a meeting in Berlin with US Secretary of State John Kerry urged to put aside “all-too narrowly defined national interests”: “We,” said the German Foreign Minister, “are of the opinion that the civil war in Syria may be completed only if we work together to make new political diplomatic efforts.” The pronoun “we” in this case, in addition to the western states, means also Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Russia… We want to do everything so that in the coming days and weeks progress can be made.”

The second factor that forced the West to sing another tune is the Russian military aid given to the government of Bashar al-Assad, and in particular, the delivery of additional aircraft equipment and ammunition.

Finally, the third point was the complete failure of the US policy to give military assistance to the so-called Syrian rebels and the creation of new ground troops to fight ISIS. It is openly acknowledged in Washington and the world media are vying to write about it.

As the “New Yorker” wrote, the plans of the US and UK for armed resistance by local residents were a total fiasco. “Rebels trained by US in Syria are seen solely as professional killers.”

In these circumstances, the attempts of some Western political scientists to present the case so that the Assad government supposedly represents the same threat as the Islamic State, look completely absurd, unfounded, and now everyone is coming to understanding that preserving Assad’s government would be completely logical at this stage. In an editorial of “The New York Times” on September 21 of this year it is expressly stated that “Obama and Putin must be able to find common ground to deal with ISIS, which destabilizes the region and trains the next generation of international fighters.”

Today, only a blind man cannot see that the US intervention in the affairs of the Middle Eastern countries has created huge problems for the people of this region – they have to pay too high a price for the mistakes of Western politicians. In this respect, critical views of the US’ Middle East policy have become more prominent. So, the famous economist Jeffrey Sachs, in particular, noted that “today’s problems of the region began a quarter-century ago, with Washington trying to get rid of those Middle Eastern regimes that enjoyed the support of the USSR. The then Deputy Minister of Defense Paul Wolfowitz explained to the commander of the US forces in Europe Wesley Clark in 1991: “We realized that we can intervene with impunity militarily in the affairs of the region, and that the Soviet Union will do nothing to stop us… We had five to ten years in order to overthrow the old surrogate pro-Soviet regimes in Iraq, Syria and other countries, before the next superpower (China) challenges us in the region.”

After September 11, 2001 an excuse emerged to get rid of Saddam Hussein, and the protests of the Arab Spring were regarded as an opportunity to replace the regimes in Libya and Syria.

But times have changed. Now it became obvious that to cope with all the crises that are heaped upon the Western powers in the Middle East is impossible without cooperation with Russia. As the “Daily Mail” wrote on September 21 “the West today has no choice but to join the Putin’s crusade, in order to crush the “Islamic State” before the deadly sect turns into the unknown force that destroys all the infidels on its way.”

Veniamin Popov, director of the Center for Partnership of Civilizations at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) of the Russian Federation, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary – exclusively for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook”.


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