Don't make Syria become a second Iraq
Belgian former prime minister, Guy Verhofstadt is today the leader of ALDE group, the liberal faction in European Parliament. Mid February 2012 he launched a plea for humanitarian intervention in Syria. He favors material and financial support for the opposition, eventually including weapons. With his known sense of drama he spoke before the European Parliament of “Syria's Benghazi moment”.
Just pro memory: Guy Verhofstadt was a staunch supporter of the military operations in Libya to save the 'democratic revolution'. One year later, however, things in Libya don't run smooth at all, but we don't hear from Guy Verhofstadt on this point anymore. Libya has vanished from public attention. The old Flemish saying in practice: what one doesn't know, can not hurt. NATO-operation Unified Protector set up to 'protect civilians' caused yet an estimated 50000 deadly victims with enormous destructions in various cities. Based on recent reports from human rights organizations the conclusion emerges that the country has come close to an Iraq scenario. Uncontrollable armed militia take the law into their own hands. Torture and murder have become common practice. Ethnical religious tensions risk to turn violent and to escalate.
Politicians like Mr Verhofstadt have an unstoppable drive to act, in which they forget the warnings of experts. They risk to create exactly the opposite of what they wanted to avoid: a humanitarian catastrophe. There are not many people who doubt that the Syrian regime does not respect human rights, that it oppresses manifestations and armed uproar in a brutal way. But Verhofstadt's solution to arm 'the' opposition is like pouring oil on a fire. For the violence in the city of Holms where we witness a humanitarian drama, is the result of a fight between the army and the armed opposition. Further arming this opposition and giving it air protection like in Libya is laying a heavy burden on the country's political future. Military intervention in the complex political and ethnical religious Syrian landscape is like writing a scenario for an endless bloody conflict between unregulated armies. Remember Lebanon. The peaceful democratic opposition forces – that do exist but receive no platform in the western media – will be completely wiped out. It is a scenario in which the revolution of the political forces which fight for democratic reforms, will be kept hostage and will disappear. The two main opposition platforms in Syria are aware of this and are officially opposed to a (foreign) military intervention.
Many people can't justify for themselves not to intervene when obvious crimes against humanity are being committed. This is of course very understandable, the only problem lies in the fact that such an intervention is immediately seen as a military one. In other words, the diplomatic arsenal of the international community is reduced to passivity so that the only option left is bombing. Moreover, we should notice that there are many crocodile tears shed by politicians. The cynical geostrategic reality makes no exception for the Syrian population. Qatar and Saudi Arabia repeat in Syria the dirty role they played in Libya. Their objective is the fall of the Syrian regime. Together with Turkey they count that the power will shift to their allies, the 'moderate' Sunni Muslim Brotherhood. It is no secret that Qatar and probably Turkey do deliver weapons to the opposition that is sympathetic to them. We also know that the conservative monarchies in the Gulf States, who themselves oppress each democratic claim in their own country, try to limit the influence of Shiites and Iran in the region. This includes an alternative route for the oil distribution. At the moment 40% of the oil from the Arab states are shipped through the Street of Hormuz where tensions with Iran are growing. So the alternative of a mega pipeline over land arises. The easier way is then via the Syrian coast and through... the city of Holms, which could become an important hub. At the Syrian coast, in the port of Tartus, Russians have developed a naval base. Without these strategic positions and without the energy resources of the region, the violence in Syria would have probably escaped from our attention.
In a common call some Belgian peace organizations, one of which is Vrede vzw, reject Mr Verhofstadt's war scenario. But this doesn't mean the peace movement is pleading to do nothing. Who wants to be a real 'friend of Syria' is to form a contact group for dialogue and peace, not for threats and war. “We do not count for this on NATO or the European High Representative, lady Ashton”, states the peace movement. Responsibility to Protect was only an excuse for NATO to realize regime change in Libya. “Dialogue could seem an unworldly concept when conflicts turn in armed clashes, but all ending of violence will require a minimum of consensus over the political future under the various populations. A military intervention merely changes the mutual power relations but doesn't bring closer such a consensus. On the contrary. It makes the warring parties the only protagonists of the conflict. It will not be easy, but it is the only alternative for further hopeless military violence, chaos and misery, with the Syrian population as collective victim.”
Ludo De Brabander
Ludo De Brabander is a staff member of Vrede vzw