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Syrian Gambit

September 11, 2013, 15:53 UTC+3 Itar-Tass correspondents Dmitry Dubrovin, Dmitry Zelenin
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A new situation regarding the Syrian chemical weapons issue has arisen on the diplomatic arena. The Russian initiative to give it up to international control has created a way to resolve this crisis.

U.S. decision to postpone the Congress vote on a military operation in Syria illustrates that the White House is yet to reach a final political decision and is willing to seek peaceful resolution. The ball is in Syria’s court – Damascus has to persuade United States and other members of the UN Security Council that it’s truly willing to give use and, later, possession of its chemical weapons.

Now it’s important to answer the question, just how beneficial a military campaign against Syria is to the U.S. and its allies?

Threat to U.S. national security

It’s safe to say that launching a military strike on Syria will lead to a very real threat to national security of the United States.

According to the country’s Secretary of State, Syria currently stockpiles around one thousand tons of various chemical agents, which include sarin, mustard gas and adamsite. The Arab republic also possesses warheads for artillery shells, air bombs and, likely, tactical missiles. The U.S. cannot destroy warehouses with this ordnance with air raids, cruise missiles or other precision weaponry – otherwise toxic agents will be diffused in the atmosphere, rendering the chemical attack which happened in Damascus August 21 tame in comparison.

All the U.S. can do is to strike military command infrastructure, airfields and missile units. This may give insurgents the upper hand in the Syrian conflict, thus potentially leading to Bashar Al-Assad’s downfall. In current conditions victory of the opposition will unlikely allow the country to pursue a path of secular democracy. The Libyan scenario is more likely: powerless government in the capital and chaos all over the country, which has split in different parts under control of various factions.

Having this in mind, Syria will still possess its chemical weapons arsenal. Who will control it then? No comments.

Europe and refugees

The only real allies of the United States on this issue are France and United Kingdom. These countries were initially ready to launch a strike on Syria. Other countries, including NATO partners, could only provide general political declarations of support. Meanwhile, United Kingdom has backtracked after its parliament blocked the military operation.

As far as France is concerned, a war with Syria does not benefit it in practical, economic or political ways. François Hollande pursues solely domestic issues – the country is in a tough economic situation and a short successful war will distract the population from pressing matters; this may slightly boost the president’s approval rating.  

At the same time, all European nations are facing a major problem which will undoubtedly exacerbate in case of Syrian intervention – immigrants and refugees. EU nations have already accommodated over half a million Syrian refugees and their inflow is only growing. Experts believe that if Syria is bombed by foreign countries, population outflow will increase significantly: Europe will then have to deal with 2-2.5 million immigrants.

Seeming unity of the Arab world

On the Arab political arena the idea of “severely punishing” Bashar Al-Assad is supported primarily by Saudi Arabia and Qatar – leading sponsors of the Syrian militant opposition. A recent session of Foreign Ministers of the Arab League in Cairo has illustrated that not all Arabs support the aggressive stance of Riyadh and Doha against Damascus. Egypt, Iraq and Algiers have openly opposed American intervention.  Saudi Arabia and Qatar supporting it can be explained by the inherent issue of the Arab world – opposition of Sunnites and Shiites. Both of these nations are strict Shiite monarchies, which treat Syria as their enemy, as its power is held by Alawites, including Assad’s family, who follow a branch of Shia Islam.

Israel’s silence

Israel’s unusual silence when it comes to this issue did not go unnoticed. It seems that its rulers are pondering ecological repercussions of bombings. Damascus is located in close proximity of densely populated regions of Israel – “autumn wind” blowing from Syria could bring unpleasant surprises. And if Hezbollah will resume massive missile strikes on the northern border, the situation will definitely not look similar to any of the previous Arab-Israeli wars.

Turkey’s opinion

Practically from the start of the Syrian civil war Turkey launched its support of the insurgents. There is a number of reasons for that, including islamization of the country in the recent years as well as operation of a number of agents on its territory, who finance radical Islamist organizations and thus anti-governmental forces in Syria. Turkey has supported possible military intervention of the United States, but it’s not willing to voice its readiness to participate in the military operation. What will it gain from the military campaign? Primarily it will be dozens if not hundreds of thousands of refugees.

Analyzing the aforementioned, the obvious conclusion is that a Syrian war can be politically beneficial for leaders of western coalition member-states as long as it’s quick and with low casualties. As far as long-term interests are concerned – economic benefits or national security – western countries will only suffer losses.

An operation against Syria is beneficial and even needed for most radical powers in region, which are represented both in the ranks of the Syrian opposition and in leadership of a number of Persian Gulf monarchies, not to mention terrorist cells which how to secure bases and human resources in Syria.

One question remains. Will two weeks be sufficient for the United States to realize that they’re risking giving Al Qaeda a present, when 12 years ago, September 11, 2001, it conducted terrorist acts by commercial airliners in New York and Washington?


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