Thursday, 29 August 2013

Syria: The West Blunders Closer into the Syrian Civil War.

Hans Blix, the UN weapons inspector in the run up to the Iraq War has given his opinion on Syria.
'Obama, like Bush and Blair, seems ready to ignore the council and order armed strikes on Syria with political support from only the UK, France and some others.
While much evidence points to the guilt of the Assad regime, would not due process require that judgment and consideration of action take place in the UN security council and await the report of the inspectors that the UN has sent to Syria – at the demand of the UK and many other UN members?'
Given the British government's threat that it could launch an attack on Assad's state without UN Security Council backing, the responsibility for the possibly justifying any attack depends on the absolute proof that it did use chemical weapons intentionally and poses an imminent threat to the Middle East.

Without giving time for the UN inspectors to complete their findings, any military strike is an act of aggression that sets a precedent for taking international law into the hands of the US, Britain and France. Even the 'responsibility to protect' is a shaky pretext with regards to Syria.

Missile strikes by the US on Syria's military installations cannot do anything to protect the civilians on the ground on either side of the sectarian divide in a brutal civil war. As the West cannot be intending to take out chemical weapons facilities, the argument about deterring further chemical attacks is weakened.

The aim cannot be to get full 'regime change' as that would lead to greater chaos and a worse version of the lawlessness that has engulfed Libya after the US, France and UK promised to use air power to prevent a massacre in Benghazi.

Moreover, by effectively siding with the anti-Gaddafi insurgents in 2011 the West overstepped its mandate after China and Russia approved of a limited use of air power in a nation not as crucial to their geopolitical interests as Syria and, by extension, Iran is.

The fact is that any response to the Syrian crisis has to involve diplomacy and not military intervention. If 'the West' ignores the other global powers, there is no longer any reason why China and Russia would need to take Western states interests or opinions into account in future.

The ratcheting up of the drive towards military action against Syria is about maintaining Western credibility and being seen to stand by Obama's previous declaration in August 2012 that Assad's use of chemical weapons would 'cross a red line'.

A 'red line' however is a rhetorical device not an international law. More evidence in US foreign policy for two and a half years after the civil war broke out; that is is the use of the threat of coercion to bring Assad to the negotiating table based on the precondition he hands over power.

The apparent drive towards war at present and the presence of ships in the Eastern Mediterranean armed and ready to strike is an extension of the most coercive form of diplomacy short of effectively threatening military action. It could be a way of breaking the 'political deadlock' with Russia on US terms.

One aim is to force Russia into a corner should the UN inspectors find evidence that chemical weapons were used and then it could be proved that Assad must have used them. The Western powers will in the next three days before the UN inspectors complete the task be searching for a legal pretext for action.

However, it looks very unlikely Russia is going to withdraw its backing for Assad nor for there to be a clear version of events and evidence presented as to 'who did it'. The US claims it has all the intelligence already but if it wants to pursue even a semblance of legitimacy in dealing with the crisis it has to renew diplomacy.

But now the drive to war has been cranked up it is very difficult how the West is going to be able to back down without 'doing something'. This would be an idiotic blundering into the unknown as military strikes unleash their own dynamic and create unforeseen circumstances that could draw it in further to the Syrian civil war.

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