No hope for peace with Syria’s ‘mini-state’ divisions

Jamal Khashoggi
Jamal Khashoggi
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How many times this year, did the West look like it was on the verge of taking decisive actions against the Syrian regime to put an end to the war on its own people? How many times did Western leaders talk about their determination to arm the opposition with quality weapons that allow them to protect the Syrians and put an end to the ongoing war?

They have done so several times but then stepped back and reiterated the same old stories stating that sending weapons might lead to further suffering, or that the arms may be seized by the wrong parties, and that would be a threat to the whole region. So what is happening? Is there someone who reacts when the West’s conscience wakes up to the Syrian reality, and forces them to return to a state of indifference? Are the following thr principle of “leave them alone, let them kill each other and eventually someone will win.”?

Is it Israel? Well, I can hear people say: “You always blame Israel so you would avoid accusing the Arab countries and the affected countries in the region (or supposedly affected by the deterioration of the situation in Syria). In fact, Israel is important and influential, particularly in Washington that as soon as it begins to talk about its intention to send quality weapons or even intervene, many officials speak up and enumerate the reasons advising not to intervene in this war. Such reasons include the high costs, that might reach up to billions dollars, and the need to mobilize tens of thousands of soldiers and hundreds of aircrafts.

In a report sent from the Pentagon to the Senate, it was said that any intervention would represent a monumental task costing billions of dollars that may repercussions on the United States. They intentionally published the letter so that everyone would know about it and no American would ever again support Syria intervention. Especially after frightening details about wasting billions of dollars and sending soldiers to be killed as happened in Iraq and Afghanistan, while at a time when major U.S. cities are facing bankrupt and a bad economic situation.

How many times this year, did the West look like it was on the verge of taking decisive actions against the Syrian regime to put an end to the war on its own people?

Jamal Khashoggi

How does Israel benefit from that? Those who have heard Israeli officials’ statements know very well that Israel is the first to warn against arming the opposition. Much like the Syrian regime and Iran, it focuses on the danger emanating from Islamic extremists and overstates the strength of al-Nusra Front and al-Qaeda. So what does Israel want? How does it think the conflict will end?

A few weeks ago, Israeli army radio quoted security sources saying: “Nothing will be threatening us in the next 20 years, because the division of Syria into three mini-states has become a reality.” The sources noted that “intelligence evaluations confirm the establishment of Kurdish, Druze, Alawite and Sunni cantons in Syria in light of the diminishing space controlled by the regime in Sunni regions and other minority areas.

A divided conflict, a divided Syria

So will the situation in Syria now lead to division? The opposition is advancing in Aleppo while the regime is progressing in Homs. The Kurds, al-Qaeda, the al-Nusra Front and the Free Syrian Army are fighting everywhere; is this a deal to end the Syrian conflict? Sunnis seized control of the north, the regime controls the south, a Kurdish region in the east, and the rest seized small areas here and there. It is certainly a catastrophic solution for Syria’s neighbors, especially Saudi Arabia and Turkey. But on the other hand, it is an ideal solution for Israel which will benefit from Syria’s division into three weak rival states that will never again represent a strategic threat for Israel. It will also feed its moral complex as it is the only “ethnic” and “communal” country in the region (even if Iran is sometimes characterized as so).

The Arab Levant, despite ethnic and religious differences, was immune to sectarian division schemes despite the weak state structure, thanks to the Islam’s legacy of tolerance, retained since the Ottoman Empire. The rise of national affiliation, which prevented division and fragmentation has also played a major role. Nevertheless, after the decline of Iraq and Syria due to oppression and mismanagement, both countries’ citizens had no other choice but resort to their ethnic and religious affiliations. Establishing an Alawite state from Homs to the Syrian coast, will morally justify Israel’s “Jewishness” in the modern world that rejects this kind of fanatics.

If this is convenient for Israel and acceptable for the West, it is certainly not suitable for Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Both countries believe in the national unity; KSA is fully allied to Arabism, and Turkey is proud about its Turkish Ottoman heritage. They are linked through a strategic alliance and their strong affiliation to moderate Islam, extended from Jakarta to Casablanca, while narrowing sectarianism.

The visit of the Saudi Chief of General Intelligence, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, to Russia last Wednesday and his prolonged meeting with Russian President Putin, is surely a major obstacle against any reasonable solution to the Syrian crisis. They work for a solution that satisfies the Syrian people first and then, Saudi Arabia and its views on the new Arab east. Saudi Arabia has confirmed several times its adherence to the unity of the people and the land and its commitment to preserve Syria as it is.

There is a guaranteed formula that protects the interests of major regional countries and Syrian minorities, while building a unified and democratic Syria. It is the only possible solution that guarantees peace for all; this state will be weak and will need to be cared for to protect the affected region's countries. It can also have in the future, friendly powers to protect community security and prevent any adventurer from making any foolish decisions, like creating an Islamic state, Druze canton or Kurdish province.

The only actors who will not cooperate are Iran and Hezbollah on one hand and Israel on the other. The latter will not directly intervene in case of a firm Saudi–Turkish stance but Iran and Hezbollah will resist because they both want an Alawite state so that Iran won’t lose its Shiite obstinate dream and ensure the supply line for Hezbollah that subsequently remains dominant in Lebanon. Saudi Arabia certainly does not want that.

This article was first published in al-Hayat newspaper on August 3, 2013.

Jamal Khashoggi is a Saudi journalist, columnist, author, and general manager of the upcoming Al Arab News Channel. He previously served as a media aide to Prince Turki al Faisal while he was Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States. Khashoggi has written for various daily and weekly Arab newspapers, including Asharq al-Awsat, al-Majalla and al-Hayat, and was editor-in-chief of the Saudi-based al-Watan. He was a foreign correspondent in Afghanistan, Algeria, Kuwait, Sudan, and other Middle Eastern countries. He is also a political commentator for Saudi-based and international news channels.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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