Syria #2: To The Brink Of War And Back

A lot has happened since my previous post. Obama got what he wanted: no military intervention in Syria. Instead, Putin reached out to Obama and together they’ve come up with a political solution: Assad should destroy all chemical weapons by mid- 2014 and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) will be doing inspections. A soft UN resolution was passed on Friday the 27th of September. Soft, because military intervention is completely out of the picture now. In the case Assad does not get rid of his chemical weapons, a new resolution mandating military intervention still has to pass the security council – which, of course, wouldn’t happen. Ever.

Both Putin and Obama try to sell the Russian-American deal as their personal victory. Obama claims that without a credible threat, the Assad regime would not have made such “big” concessions. Putin attacks American interventionism and presents himself as the ultimate peacemaker. Obama receives a great deal of critique over the deal. Especially the older American generation– who arguably suffer from a post-traumatic stress disorder from the Cold War — don’t like it a single bit. And what do the Russians think? Russia hardly even resembles a democracy anymore, so who knows. But I’m guessing Putin’s more succesful in his attempt — A Russian advocacy group did recently nominate him for the Noble Peace Prize. Ha.

The OPCW started the inspection of Syria’s weapon arsenal. Ban Ki-Moon says it will take another month and a half before peace negotiations come about. Lavrov, the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, says it will be challenging to bring the different parties to the table. I believe it would be even more challenging to implement the peace plan. The Syrian National Coalition (SNC), based in Turkey, will probably end up going to Geneva. Though, as the SNC lost so much support in Syria, would the Syrian-based opposition ever accept the conference and its outcome?

So, who will be attending Geneva II? Many countries want a piece of the Syrian pie. Of course, the US and Russia are in. The Arab League, initially supporting a military intervention in Syria, were quick to support the Russian-American deal and hope to be part of the peace negotiations. The EU clearly wants in as well, citing reasons why it would be an asset in Geneva II at this years’ UN General Assembly. As the EU’s foreign policy is still young, it always tries to be part of important international summits. But Europe is also eager because it fears the Syria conflict could leave its mark on the European economy and security– through an overload of refugees and a possible radicalization of returning combatants. Finally, Iran is keen to attend as well; the Syrian alawite regime is a very important ally to Iran – a friendly regime in a region of states hostile to Iran, not least Iran’s greatest threat: Israel. Possibly a deal has been made between the US and Iran – ‘You want to participate in Geneva? Let’s discuss these nuclear ambitions of yours.’ But I’m getting ahead of myself.