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US policy complicates Syrian crisis

US policy complicates Syrian crisis
By sending troops in support of the Assad regime, the Russian President has opened a new phase in the four-year-long Syrian civil war. Unless Moscow backs this up with a global diplomatic initiative to end the crisis, it could be sucked into another Afghan war-like situation. Despite a meeting between the two leaders on Monday night, where discussions were on about Moscow and Washington finding a way to work together, a clear strategy was still not forthcoming.

The continuation of Assad as President has been at the root of the four-year-old Syrian crisis. While the USA would like to have Assad sacked from office, Russia is opposed to it. It is unfortunate that Syria and its people have to suffer for America’s hegemonic policy and politics. While Obama and the French President Francois Hollande favoured a plan, where Assad stepped down from office before a direct campaign against the Islamic State was launched, Putin rejected it outright. However, Putin added that Assad would be a willing participant in that change.

It is most unfortunate that the Syrian crisis has killed over 250,000 people and driven away more than 11 million from their homes. It is shocking that the number of children affected by the crisis since March 2013 has more than doubled from 2.3 million to over 5.5 million. The number of children displaced inside Syria has also tripled from 920,000 to almost 3 million. The number of child refugees has quadrupled from 260,000 to more than 1.2 million, with 425,000 of those under the age of five. Over 3.8 million Syrians have left their country since March 2011, the beginning of the turmoil. More than 7.2 million Syrians have also become internally displaced, according to the United Nations.

Russia has already stored its weapons in Latakia, 85 km away from the Tartus naval base; the only base outside the erstwhile Soviet Union region. In case the Assad regime collapses, Moscow would not hesitate to move troops further. Syria has long been a pillar of Moscow’s West Asia policy. Its aggressive diplomacy was instrumental in thwarting U.S. air strikes on Syria in 2013.

The Russian President accused the US and its Western allies of inaction in ending the war in Syria and termed the move to isolate Assad as an “enormous mistake”. Putin, delivering his first address at the United Nations in a decade, took direct aim at America’s record in Syria, in the Middle East and Libya, and vowed to seek a Security Council resolution to forge an anti-terror coalition that he likened to the Allied Forces in World War II. But Putin’s move is viewed with suspicion by the Obama administration. 

The US held that Russia has been indulging in a double game and on the plea of helping Assad has been establishing an airfield on the Mediterranean coast. In the wake of terrorist activities, accusations are being levelled against America for promoting the ISIS and drowning the entire region in a state of uncertainty. Observers feel that the violent clashes were unleashed as part of the strategy to accomplish The Brookings Institute’s plan for splitting Syria as soon as possible. Ironically instead of adopting an objective view, US Secretary of State John F. Kerry warned the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov of actions that “could further escalate the conflict and risk confrontation” with the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State. It is a known secret that there is no love lost between Washington and Assad. Washington nurses a feeling that Assad tacitly aided and abetted Saddam Hussein. To dethrone Assad, the US encouraged militants, as it had done in Afghanistan, to take up rebel activities. There is no denying the fact that America has fathered terrorism in Syria. These terrorist activities gradually started posing problems for Russia.

America has been following an inconsistent policy on the Syrian crisis. It was reluctant to accept the forces that were not willing to endorse its motto of pushing Assad out of power. While it commended Peshmerga forces for their efforts, it condemned the Free Syrian Army (FSA) that has contributed substantially in fighting IS. Ironically the American administration never acknowledged their contribution. Instead it opted for the Kurds in the international alliance against the IS, providing them with weapons and the necessary expertise for the battleground. The Obama administration agreed to talk to Putin only for the reason that Assad was seemingly on his way out. In fact, it was in July that President Obama had confidently declared, “Assad regime is losing a grip over greater and greater swaths of territory”, and “that offers us an opportunity to have a serious conversation with them.” The spontaneous uprisings that started in March 2011 went on as peaceful protests for six months despite the violent response of the regime. But why did the regime respond violently in the face of unarmed protestors? In the battle for supremacy, the worst sufferers have been Syria and its people. 

The people have almost been broken despite their courage, tenacity, and their integrity.
Since 2002, the Assad regime has facilitated the movement through its territory of al Qaeda fighters bound for Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon. It has allowed these insurgents to train in Syria and has provided sanctuary to al Qaeda-affiliated killers of Americans. In the lead up to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, when it became clear that Syria was helping shuttle Islamist insurgents to Iraq, Washington warned Damascus of the folly of this policy.

The US State Department simply complicated the scenario by recognising the Council of the Syrian opposition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people and provides it with the status of a foreign mission. The US government has also issued a request to Congress for the approval of a $27 million supply of “non-lethal aid”. Moreover, Obama had met with the head of the Syrian National Coalition Forces Ahmad Jarba during his visit to Washington. During the meet, the Syrian delegation was officially recognised to be on a foreign diplomatic mission. Syria has slammed the US and some European countries for their duplicity after the countries in a letter called on the United Nations to exert more pressure on Damascus to stop airstrikes on militant positions in Aleppo. The Syrian government forces backed by fighters from the Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah have managed to drive militants out of an area in Qalamoun region, along the Lebanese border.

What has indeed been ironic with the Obama administration is that instead of appreciating the Russian initiative, it described Putin’s efforts as gangsterism. Russian President rejected the allegations saying: “How can I be a gangster if I worked for the KGB?” Vladimir Putin has strengthened his support for the Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, dismissing evidence of widespread atrocities as enemy “propaganda”. The USA would welcome a Russian role in the fight against ISIS but insists that Assad’s departure from power has to be part of the solution. However, Putin made clear that “there is no other solution to the Syrian crisis than strengthening the effective government structures and rendering them help in fighting terrorism.” Putin laid bare how ISIS had drawn its strength from former Iraqi servicemen made jobless by the US-led invasion in 2003 and then by the Western bombing of Libya that led to the destruction of the Gaddafi regime in Tripoli. He alleged that the religious extremists were sent deliberately to Syria to destroy the secular, anti-western government in Damascus. IPA

(The views expressed are personal)
 
Arun Srivastava

Arun Srivastava

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