With the lack of a coherent and united strategy, not much has been achieved, playing into the hands of Syria’s brutal leader, Bashar al-Assad. The EU has been able to do little more than impose sanctions on the Assad regime. At a recent meeting of EU foreign ministers new sanctions, aimed at the Syrian state airline and additional members of the ruling circle, were agreed upon.
Turkey’s situation has becoming increasingly precarious and complicated as the Syrian crisis continues to impact the southeast of the country, with tensions between the two countries dangerously high: ongoing cross-border attacks from Syria; the closing of Turkey’s airspace to Syrian planes as a consequence of the incident on Oct. 10 when Turkey was forced to down a Syrian plan on route to Damascus over fears it was transporting arms from Russia; and most recently, the attack by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) on a gas pipeline carrying Iranian gas to Turkey, which injured a number of Turkish soldiers. Moreover, Turkey now has more than 100,000 refugees in its territory and is struggling to cope. Calls from Turkey to Europe to help shoulder more to the burden have fallen on deaf ears.
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt is reported as saying the EU wants a development “that makes it possible for these hundreds of thousands of people who have been forced to flee to return home. And that’s what they want as well.” German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle agreed with Bildt but added, “Naturally we are ready, as far as the situation allows, to take in refugees, for example for medical treatment.” The EU’s ongoing economic and political crisis has resulted in little appetite for a new flow of refugees.
The Syrian crisis is turning into a geostrategic, regional struggle, a struggle that is focused on the Sunni-Shiite divide. While Turkey seems to have been put into the same box as Saudi Arabia and Qatar – both key allies of the United States -- the Shiites seem to be getting closer to Russia.
This was underlined by the recent arms deal signed in Moscow last week between Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his Russian counterpart, Dimitri Medvedev. The deal is worth a massive $4.2 billion, with al-Maliki reaffirming Iraqi plans to purchase combat platforms and other military equipment from Moscow including MiG-29 fighter jets, Mi-28 attack helicopters and a Pantsyr-S1 defense system. At the same time Moscow is also hoping to expand its energy sector presence in Iraq. Moscow, which has gone against the international tide by not wavering in its support of the Assad regime since the beginning of the crisis, seems to be trying to build up new alliances in the region while consolidating those it already has.