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Published On: Fri, Dec 12th, 2014

Syria: Two Different Approaches to Resolving the Conflict

TND Guest Contributor: Victor Mikhin |obama-syria-map_239x162

“The main task of Syria’s leaders is to avoid becoming directly dependent on the Western powers,” Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said curtly in an exclusive interview with the French weekly Paris Match.

That crucial statement represents a significant phase in the unfolding Syrian crisis. First of all, the Syrian president’s opinion evinces the stoutness of Damascus in the face of its successful struggle against militants from various terrorist organizations. Second, Assad made clear his administration’s unyielding stance in dealing with the West and the Persian Gulf Arab monarchies. Finally, it is a direct rejoinder to all the enemies of a free Syria that the president, his Cabinet and the whole Syrian people will fight until victory is theirs. To put it another way, the struggle will end only when the last terrorist who is being supported, armed and financed from abroad retreats from Syrian soil.

And no matter how difficult and dangerous that struggle is, Syria is completely and scrupulously following the international rules of war and honoring its commitments. Syria’s destruction of its chemical weapons stockpiles and commitment not to reconstitute its chemical arsenal in the future serve as clear examples of the mindset in Damascus. “Our decision to get rid of chemical weapons is final,” Assad said in the interview. In addition, he gave assurances that government troops had never used chemical weapons during the conflict in Syria. Addressing reports according to which U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry accused Syria of using chlorine gas against the opposition recently, Assad said that no such thing had happened and that anybody in Syria can procure chlorine gas.

In this noble struggle for liberation of its land, Syria and its leaders enjoy the enthusiastic support of Russia which regards the principle of nonintervention in the domestic affairs of other countries as fundamental. Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs Walid al-Moallem’s official visit to Russia provided a showcase for the shared solidarity. During the visit, al-Moallem held talks with Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The negotiations demonstrated both countries’ unanimous desire to find a peaceful end to the Syrian conflict. The negotiations also took place against a backdrop of rapidly increasing tension in Syria, as the terrorist groups the Islamic State (IS) and Dzhebhat en Nusra have stepped up their activity. All of that is being compounded by the clear violation of Syrian sovereignty by the United States and its allies, who are skirting the UN and attacking the militants without coordinating their actions with the Syrian leadership.

Moreover, representatives of the so-called international coalition against the Islamic State convened in Brussels where they confirmed their intention to continue their end run around the legitimate government of Syria. The meeting which took place at NATO headquarters was attended by ministers of foreign affairs of the countries participating in the operation. One of the outcomes of the meeting was a statement “that encompasses our message: that we are united and moving ahead on all fronts and that we will engage in this campaign for as long as it takes to prevail,” Kerry said.

“We have some questions about the activity of the coalition created by the United States, which has proclaimed the right to strike ISIS-controlled regions of Syria without the approval of Damascus. We believe that this is contrary to the fundamental principles of international law. Washington’s clearly ideologically-driven refusal to cooperate with the Syrian Arab Republic against terrorism looks especially inappropriate in view of the successful completion of Syria’s chemical disarmament, which has confirmed the Syrian government’s ability to reach an agreement,” Lavrov stated.

It must be further noted that the Islamic State and Dzhabhat an-Nusra militants have shifted their tactics and are now concentrating their forces in densely populated urban areas of Syria. At the same time, American and coalition warplanes are strafing precisely those areas on a daily basis, causing the number of civilian casualties to rise continually. But that doesn’t seem to bother any of those Americans who fight for human freedom, nor does it perturb Barack Obama, the owner of a Nobel Peace Prize. If Obama is ordering brutal crackdowns by the police and the military in American cities that are currently experiencing upheavals, then what is there to say about the rights of those who Washington deems “second-class people”, namely the Syrians?

The Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs has repeatedly emphasized his suspicion that American peacekeepers are likely to use anti-terrorism operations in Syria as a pretext for preparing the ouster of a Syrian regime they find inconvenient. However, Russia and many other countries regard that as unacceptable. “Russia condemns the use of extremist groups in efforts to change the regime,” Lavrov said.

Leading American intellectual Noam Chomsky who is one of the world’s most frequently quoted scholars offers a similar assessment. After analyzing Washington’s policy in the international arena, especially in the Middle East, Chomsky said that the United States is no longer a democracy but more like a one-party state in which an oligarchic elite rules on behalf of the people, often contrary to their interests. On the Internet portal TruthOut, he recently published a critical article that presents a litany of CIA-sponsored covert American operations abroad. His criticism, for the most part, is that interference in other countries’ domestic affairs has resulted in destabilization and tragic humanitarian consequences. In a similar vein, The New York Times told of a CIA report that the Obama administration used as a basis for concluding that covert operations in Cuba, Angola, South Africa and Nicaragua were so unsuccessful that the entire strategy ought to be reconsidered. In light of that conclusion, the newspaper expressed skepticism about the White House’s policies against Syria and the aid Washington is providing to the Syrian rebels. Another key argument of Chomsky’s is that NATO has undergone radical changes as well. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the North Atlantic alliance has morphed from a European defensive alliance into a subservient instrument of the US-controlled interventions and an aggressor thirsting to dominate the global oil and gas sector.

In contrast to the aggressive policy of the West, which targets undesirable regimes and suppresses them militarily, Russia and Syria are pursuing ways to establish an internal Syrian dialogue and a peaceful resolution of the conflict. Lately, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia has intensified contacts with influential Syrian opposition figures, some of whom, such as Muaz Al Khatib and Qadri Jamil, have visited Moscow. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, there is talk of an all-inclusive meeting of Syrian factions in the Russian capital, although negotiations are still in the early stages.

Putin believes that confronting the Islamic State and other radical groups in the Middle East and North Africa is one of the most important tasks of the international community. However, it must be emphasized that all actions taken to eliminate the threat should be based on the decisions of the UN Security Council in observance of the rules of international law: the principles of state sovereignty and nonintervention in domestic affairs. In the fight against terrorism, Russia will support Syria and Iraq as well as other governments faced with the problem of extremism. Putin stressed the importance of a deep analytical approach to solving this issue and noted that in order to attract new recruits the extremists take advantage of the prolonged Israeli-Arab conflict and the unresolved Palestinian problem. The Russian president also believes that the Islamic state and other radical groups encouraged by the West are the primary threat to the region today.

It is readily apparent that two different approaches are being taken in the Syrian conflict. One is the policy of the United States and its allies, which is geared toward the continuation of the bloody conflict and further death and destruction in Syria. The other is the course Russia and Syria are following. It aims to end the bloodshed, and al-Muallem’s negotiations in Russia have clearly demonstrated that.

Victor Mikhin, a member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, , exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”. 

This article was first published at New Eastern Outlook and is reprinted with permission.

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