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The legitimacy of international intervention in Syria

Abdul Wahab Badrakhan

Published: Updated:

After chemical weapons have been used in Syria, the international community, particularly the U.S., seems to be searching for formulas on how to coexist with this reality. The U.S. seems unwilling to confront it and punish those behind it, considering that chemical weapons are used for genocides and that keeping silent on their usage means an agreement to this genocide and a frank disregard of using prohibited weapons.

And even before that, has anyone been able to make an effective rejection or international attempt to prevent shelling residential areas using ballistic weapons which are also categorized as "weapons of mass destruction," like the Scud missiles which are also prohibited? Of course not. International powers overlooked these missiles then coexisted with them as if they are everyday realities.

There has been an American president who fabricated the lie of weapons of mass destruction to invade Iraq. When Barack Obama said using chemical weapons is a "red line," in addition to Iran and Hezbollah's interference later, he meant to propose legitimate reasoning to intervene in Syria. But his steady hesitation will lead to losing this legitimacy.

Turning a blind eye

There is also a Russian president who turned a blind eye and decided to regain the glories of his great country at the expense of Syrian corpses. He is doing so because he was raised to despise his own people and not care about any other people or their aspirations. He is also an old ally of a ruler who imitates him in what he did in Chechnya or is even doing worse. For Russia and China, there is no doubt that the Syrian regime is fighting a war on their behalf to prove that breaking people's will is possible.

What Assad knows well, but has not said, is that arming the opposition and the Free Syrian Army faces challenges due to renewed suspicions over the al-Nusra Front and similar groups in Syria.

Abdul Wahab Badrakhan

During his recent meeting with a delegation of "Lebanese allies," Bashar al-Assad said that Russia "considers the battle to defend Damascus as one that defends Moscow's position and interests" and that "Americans side with the winner at the end" – meaning with him.

But the difficult part is yet to come. He knows very well that he has not won this war yet and that he will never win it even if he limits it to Damascus. However, he persistently attempts to surround the capital with burnt land and massive destruction. Meanwhile, the Iranians and the Russians are making pressure so the regime alters the field formula soon or rather alter it by mid-June, the date of the meeting between the Russian and the American president at the G-8 Summit in Ireland.

Although Assad is not sure of what he may achieve, even with using chemical weapons, he argues that his regime is what will influence this summit, believing the summit will not impose its rhythm on him, since both presidents [Obama and Putin] are waiting to observe how the situation develops on the ground in Syria in order to decide on action.

Supplying lethal arms

What Assad knows well, but did not say, is that arming the opposition and the Free Syrian Army faces challenges due to renewed suspicions over the al-Nusra Front and similar groups.

Why has the supplying of weapons to opposition fighters recently lessened? Al-Nusra's stupidity and the revelation of its connection to al-Qaeda, and not Syria, maybe the most important of reasons.

However, the Istanbul meeting was the most important Friends of Syria conference which pressured the opposition to take the path towards a political solution. This suggestion is still on the table for the opposition coalition and it will finalize it during its meetings in Istanbul to elect a new chief and look for means to expand its representation. This issue is also linked to the meeting of Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin.
The essence of their discussions will be a political solution on the basis of evaluating the situation of all parties on the ground in Syria. Putin has dispatched his envoy Mikhail Bogdanov to Beirut for an accurate mission of figuring out the possibilities of using Lebanon as a "bazaar" for the crisis and.

If the Russian president will only base his acts on what the Damascus battle will achieve, then he and Assad are betting on a naivety they assume is present in Obama and thus they are expecting the U.S. president to translate his pragmatism by admitting that the regime is still strong and steadfast. Therefore, the solution must reflect the balance of military powers. But Obama and his allies already know that the regime still represents a coherent front and that the opposition is getting more divided as it was not possible to unite it under one strong political military entity.

Solidarity with Assad

The Russians and the Iranians displayed strong solidarity with Assad. But the Friends of Syria have committed a lot of mistakes as they "aided" the opposition in organizing and uniting itself. The situation remained more complicated than the image that the Syrian and Russian presidents are trying to market. Assad's regime is not like China's which suffocates Tibet and buys the West's silence through trade. It is also not like Russia's regime which isolated Chechnya crushing its people and led to having the Americans bargain and admit Russia's control over it.

Russia holds on to the idea that the dirty brutal war which the regime is fighting does not bother it or push it towards altering its stances for moral considerations. Therefore, it observes developments on field. And it can wait and wait.

Now if this war really annoys the U.S. and its allies, then they have two options. The first option is that they make all possible efforts to alter the military formula. However it does not seem that they are inclined towards making this choice due to the presence of al-Qaeda - even if the media exaggerates its presence and does not reflect it accurately. The second option is that they endeavor to end the crisis through a political solution. In this case, they must deal with the current givens, that is they must depend on the regime considering it is the only present "leadership" capable of achieving a political solution.
There are no doubts that this logic is being thought of a lot by the Americans, Europeans and Arabs because they are aware of the importance of ending the crisis before it extends to outside Syrian borders and before extremist groups gain strongholds. But the weakness in the Russian logic lies in its imbalance and its absolute overlooking that to achieve the "political solution" there are preconditions that must be met especially if the means to achieve this solution is through dialogue between two parties or even among more parties.

Throughout the entire phases of the Syrian crisis, it has not been clear whether the regime informed Moscow of concessions it is willing to make to provide suitable circumstances to launch dialogue. It's almost been a year now since the Geneva Agreement. Ever since this agreement, it gets clearer that Moscow deceived all parties by its continuous support for the Assad regime in carrying on with a military solution. Russia does so in order to impose the its vision of the "transitional phase."

So, it can be said that talks are now about a political solution which its circumstances are not yet available and may never be available. Even if Washington admits this fait accompli and even if it attempts to impose it on the coalition, neither the latter nor the armed opposition inside Syria can move forward towards a political solution that reproduces the regime as if it is one that did not commit war crimes or crimes against humanity or as if it is one that did not displace people, destroyed cities and adopted a genocide approach.

Even if we assume, and just assume, that succumbing to pressure to end the regime's surge which aims to divide the country, the opposition inside and outside Syria does not guarantee that the revolution parties will unite to carry out what they are forced to do.

This article was first published in al-Hayat on May 2, 2013.

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Abdul Wahab Badrakhan is a Lebanese journalist, who writes weekly in London's Al-Hayat newspaper among other Arab publications. Badrakhan was a journalist in 'Annahar' (Beirut) until 1979, in 'Annahar Arabic & international' magazine (Paris) up to 1989, in 'Al-Hayat' (London) as managing editor then deputy editor in chief until 2006. At present, Badrakhan is working on two books. The first book is on the roots of the experiences that have motivated young Arab men to go to Afghanistan. The second is devoted to Arab policies to counterterrorism, starting with the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 and covering the ensuing wars.

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