Thursday, July 19, 2012

How should Europe react to the worsening Syrian crisis?

For the past couple of years we are seeing a great animosity in our world. From our own economic crisis, to the turbulent uprisings in our own very neighborhood, with "the Arab Spring."

One after another, people in the Arab countries demand change in their societies and reforms. They want to get rid of the established elites and bring democracy in their nations. For the past one and a half year, Syria is the country that is in the eye of this storm of events in the region and the one that after Libya, has experienced the most violence.

Between 18,000 to 25,000 people have died already, between them 500 children. An outcry for the rest of the world, but still this carnage continues. Yet things are not as easy or straight forward as they seem. Russia and China, though critical of the Bashar al-Assad's regime and its actions, they block any foreign intervention especially from the West. Others like Iran, support the regime totally.

But we should not try to explain the events according our version or understanding of politics and social issues. The Middle East and Syria, have a different culture and if we examine their history, it was always violent and full of coups and instability that often was supported by powers outside the region.

For example in 1949 the democratic rule was overturned by a coup backed by America. And when a coup or a civil was comes to a nation, it leaves wounds that are very hard to heal. The country's old divisions between its religious and ethnic minorities have been ever since at odds in many occasions. Sunnis against Shia  Muslims, Kurds against Arabs, Christians against Muslims and vice versa.

And so because of  this mosaic of peoples, instability, need for social coherence, foreign intervention and with its important geopolitical position, Syria created its own peculiar to us political and social system. In this system certain clans gained more power and monopolized the country's politics. But why is the West so critical of this? The same happened in my native Greece where a similar situation exists, yet our partners seem to support and encourage it.

Nevertheless nothing justifies the violence and number of deaths that Mr. Bashar al-Assad's regime is bringing on to their own people. We are in the middle of a power struggle in the region that dates back centuries and is fanned by foreign powers, trying to protect their interests in the region.

So what should Europe do, to help the people of Syria? Is Syria the next Bosnia, and can Europe solve the crisis there with an invasion like in the Balkans?

We should be really careful in this conflict. The Russians have already sent troops down there and so have the Chinese and the Americans. Each one trying to protect their own interests. The Americans want a change of the regime, since the current one do not serve their plans for the region anymore. The Russians have a long trading relationship with the Syrians, especially with the arms trade.

They also have a naval base in Syria, the only one that remains outside their borders since the times of USSR and it is their only gateway to the Mediterranean. They are showing a great interest in the region, especially now that a huge amount of gas was found in Cyprus. The Russians are investing hugely on the island and they are prepared to defend their interests. Therefore they sent troops to the region, ever since Turkey started threatening Cyprus again.

So the Turks are in a power struggle with Russia, with the backing of their long standing allies the Americans. They also have interests in the region themselves, both in the Cypriot waters and the Middle East. A region that is located in their borders and they have long seen as an great importance. Turkey in the recent years have been trying to establish itself as a leading power in the region. They also support the Syrian rebels for all the above reasons, in hope to change the status quo in the country and promote their interests.

The Syrians on the other hand showed their teeth to the Turks, by shooting down one of their air-crafts that had trespassed their aerial space down. China, showing support for Russia have also got involved in the region. Can Europe enter such situation, we can not afford to enter a war right now. Our economies are not performing well at the moment and we have so many things to solve in our own back yard. But we do not want another Bosnia either.

I think we should only intervene under the UN lead, and only if we have to. The Russians won’t let go of Syria so easily, it is their only ally in the region. It is sad that the Syrian people must pay for the geopolitical games of power between East and West and the established powers of this World. But it has always been this way.

The Syrian situation is far more serious than the Yugoslavian war. It could implicate all major World powers, leading to a hot war that could spread in the whole region and even worse, become global. Can Europe be at odd with the Russians? We need them and unless we find alternative energy resources we can not be hostile to them.

And even if we do, Russia borders so many EU states and in the future they may become even more. We should re-establish new relationships with them, growing away from the Cold War days. But this requires effort and trust from both sides.

In my opinion we should give the UN full power and control over the situation, and if needed Europe will assist the UN and bring peace. But the question is, will the Americans allow it? They have ignored the UN so many times before. Europe is enough involved in hostilities and wars in the Arab world already.

Can Europe be seen to be siding with America once again and get involved in yet another conflict in yet another Arab nation? We could be giving more fuel to Islamic fundamentalists to promote their anti-Western propaganda, if we keep meddling in their affairs.

We should pressure the Arab League to take a more active and decisive role in the conflict. They have suspended Syria's membership in their organization so far, but perhaps they could get more involved. Their actions can not be seen as anti-Islamic or anti-Arab. They have to understand the importance of the situation and for once the Arabs must start uniting and speaking with one voice too, while getting more involved in global issues just as the Europeans are doing.

Europe has a great experience in negotiations and could play a decisive role as a peace broker, as a moderator for the conflict. We should not side with anyone in this conflict in the region.  I do not trust the Western media, after what they have been saying about Greece during the economic crisis.

Some say that the Christians of Syria are being attacked by those same rebels that the EU wants to support.  Why doesn’t Europe protect those people, are we using one-sided drama stories to justify our plans to expand our sphere on influence?

Europe should offer humanitarian aid in all sides of the conflict indiscriminately, we should be seen that we really care for the suffering of the people of Syria, not just for those who we support because our interests dictate so. We should not pour oil in the fire and side with either the Sunnis or the Shia, the Christians or the Kurds.

Diplomacy, aid, and the use of a united voice in the UN, while bringing on board the Arab League to try to bring knowledge and legitimacy in our peaceful involvement in the conflict, should be the preferred solution. For once Europe must start acting ethically, giving an example to the rest of the World.

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