Syria, its Neighborhood and Division |
Al Hayat - 09 July, 2012
Author: Mostafa Zein
All the pleas made by the Syrian opposition to Western and Arab countries to topple the regime militarily the way they did in Libya (some Western theorists found inspiration in the Bosnian model) have failed to be answered. There are many reasons for this, most important being the fact that Syria, with its strategic location, is completely different from Libya or Bosnia – its borders are open on Iraq, which is likely to erupt once again, and that is what the Americans do not want; they are also interlocked with the borders of Lebanon, which is more than ever before primed to revert to civil war (its new course taking on a confessional nature). At its borders also lies Jordan, which fears that the battle might move to its interior and revive the “option of the alternative homeland”, if chaos were to prevail and Israel to enter as party to redrafting the map of the region, and if Palestinians were to be displaced or to willingly emigrate to it. This explains Amman’s confused and unclear stance on what is taking place in its neighbor country, despite indications emerging over the past two weeks that it has made its choice in favor of the opposition.
And ahead of all this, Syria lies at the border with Palestine and has a territory under Israeli occupation. Indeed, the Hebrew State will not wait long, if the regime were to fall, to ensure for itself a space of new measures, helped in this by many new factors that have emerged over the past few years, as well as by the reality of the confessional struggle taking place in the region, in addition to the defeat of the defiant state and its turning, again if the regime were to fall, into “constituents” fighting over power and influence. This appeared clearly during the Cairo conference sponsored by the Arab League when the different “wings” of the opposition disagreed over shares, and the Kurds withdrew in protest of their particularity not being recognized. Several parties in fact declared to be opposed to the closing statement and not to recognize the legitimacy of those participating in the conference.
As for the regime’s Syria, it has been absent from the conferences of its “friends” in Istanbul, Tunis, Cairo and Paris, and has not been responsible for the failure of all these conferences. It was also (made) absent at the Geneva conference – attended by countries concerned and unconcerned with the crisis, great and small, influential and non-influential – where decisions were made that will not be implemented, despite everything that has been said about Russia and China changing their stances.
As for the insistence on issuing resolutions at the Security Council under Chapter VII, by which I mean the insistence of the Arab League, it is like asking for the impossible on the background of international division and of the bitter struggle over Syria’s geostrategic location among the Council’s permanent members – or between the United States and its allies on the one hand, and Russia along with the BRICS countries on the other. Indeed, asking for Chapter VII without resorting to military force, as per the Arab League’s statement, is a way of admitting its own powerlessness and compensating it with verbal escalation, which is neither useful for the opposition nor frightening for the regime. Indeed, the power of Chapter VII lies in the fact that it threatens with the use of armed force.
The main weakness of the opposition lies in the lack of unity of its vision of the main goal of the rebellion, aside from toppling Assad. It also lies in the lack of clarity of the strategy of opposition factions, which are multiplying like mushrooms, for what would come after the fall of the regime. It is not enough to put forward the slogans of democracy, freedom and pluralism. Indeed, as important as these slogans may be, their application remains contingent on the democratic spirit of those raising them, which did not seem apparent at all the conferences that have been held. Syria’s importance resides in its geostrategic location. The current regime, as well as the regimes that preceded it, has made use of such a location, sometimes successfully, to consecrate Damascus as an essential player in its neighborhood, and in the regions it considered to be part of the Levant – in Lebanon, Palestine and Jordan; and also in its direct neighborhood, i.e. Iraq.
The struggle now is over this location, not over democracy, as important as it may be. It will thus either be a unified Syria with an active presence or a weak Syria divided among sects and ethnic groups, with every country, great or small, affecting its orientation.
The danger of division and chaos looms over Syria – and over its neighborhood as well.