Sense prevails over Syria, finally

Published: September 14, 2013
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The road ahead is by no means easy though; naturally, certain caveats are going to follow the overall process of disarmament.

It is commonplace to find Russia and America at odds with one another, especially in the recent past, from the Edward Snowden saga to the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government, relations between the two have generally been cold.

In contrast, however, the latest development in relations between the two has been an amiable one, when Obama saw eye-to-eye with Putin’s proposal of disposing of Syria’s chemical weapons under international supervision. The congress vote-in, which Obama was tipped to face stiff resistance on, has been put on hold to give diplomacy a chance.

Incidentally, it seems that America is now resorting to the quintessential carrot and stick policy.

Even though skepticism is still rife for an international consensus on the strikes, Russia, in a rare diplomatic initiative, has offered a conduit to bring both Putin and Obama on the same page rrding Syria. The proposal also serves as a face-saving move for America by presenting an option other than the ‘strikes or no strikes’ mantra.

Syria, too, has been given a lifeline and can come clean about its chemical weapons and their use. Barring some, most people thought US strikes were inevitable, however, the Syrians saw an opportunity in what can best be termed as an accidental epiphany on the part of the US secretary of state John Kerry, when he responded to a reporter that, Bashar al-Assad could avoid a military strike if he handed over his stock of chemical weapons.

By expressing an interest in the proposal of handing over or disposing of their chemical weapons, Assad has cleverly curtailed -whether successful or not remains to be seen – the moral ground that the United States had in carrying out surgical air strikes on Syria.

The present scenario also sheds light on the possibility that the world is no longer a uni-polar world, where one super power’s policies are the flag bearer for every other nation to emulate and follow. Numerous power centres have evolved around the world, because of which pursuing any uni-centric policy is symbolic of instigating intractable issues and weary allies.

The British parliament’s refusal to get on board with American led strikes on Syria is compelling proof of this. Therefore, it is all the more important to create an international consensus on how to best proceed with the Syrian quagmire, and this is where the role of the United Nations (UN) comes in, although at present, the UN is more of an international forum for chastising the bad boys in the third world using the American yardstick.

The shady role that the governments of Muslim majority countries have played in further compounding the situation cannot be ignored either.

Had the strikes gone ahead on Syria or even if they still do, Muslims in general would view such an attack as a precursor to a design more sinister and furtive in nature, rather than just to deter any further use of chemical weapons by any side. Islamist fighters from around the world are going to be goaded into joining either side en-masse, furthering this revanchist battle between Assad and the rebels.

However, for an objective analysis of the situation it is of paramount importance to understand that the roots to the cause of the problem lie elsewhere as well, rather than a case of bad American policies alone. Syria has, in fact, become a hotbed of proxy wars between Arab states in a bid to win one over the other, and this must be condemned vehemently.

By UN and Reuters estimates, with over 100,000 people dead, 4.25 million people abandoning their homes, two million children having dropped out of school and 3,000 school buildings damaged or destroyed, the silver bullet solution for the Syrian crisis does not lie in unilateral air strikes or on a consensus on multilateral air strikes, but rather on the world’s consensus on drawing a line in the sand about adopting partisan warfare in the deadly conflict.

With Obama having seemingly backed off from his ‘red line‘ trope and Damascus having filed papers at the UN seeking to join the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) as part of a larger disarmament plan, these could be steps in the right direction that herald in a more reconciliatory approach among all sides affected and involved in the conflict.

The road ahead is by no means easy though. Naturally, certain caveats are going to follow the overall process of disarmament. According to one estimate by Pentagon officials Assad has 1,400 tons of sarin, VX and mustard agents. It would take at least 200 to 300 days to take control of the weapons and render them unusable.

However, diplomacy must be given a chance in Syria, because even hurry takes time.

Raja Omer

Raja Omer

A programming aficionado who had the distinction of getting rejected by Microsoft, Raja has a bachelors degree in Computer Engineering from EME college of NUST. He tweets at @raj_omer (twitter.com/raj_omer)

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