Last Updated: Fri Aug 31, 2012 13:08 pm (KSA) 10:08 am (GMT)

U.S. puts action on Syria on hold until end of elections

Raghida Dergham

Quick and improvised initiatives were launched to address the highly important Syrian crisis, but the reality shows that the international majority is waiting until America is over with its upcoming presidential elections.

The approaching electoral date has intensified the American desire to keep the American politics “in inaction” and “postponement” – mainly from the side of republican candidate Mitt Romney and democratic candidate President Barack Obama. However, this does not mean that the end of elections on the Nov. 6 will automatically lead to the emergence of a determined American policy with strict procedures.
It is a matter of mentality as much as it is a matter of politics. The U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East often times remains the same regardless of who is at the White House, be it a republican or a democratic president.

Currently, the United States is not eager to take a role that would put it on in the frontline. It is rather comfortable with the change happening in the Arab region. The United States does not seem terrified of a potential Iranian-Israeli clash, but it is rather sparing no effort to protect itself from being lured into waging military operations against Iranian nuclear sites. The U.S.’s main policy-makers are not worried about the positions of Russia and China because they are assessed as merely poor reactions to the countries’ lack of serious influence on the Syrian regime. The United States is not concerned by the arrival of Islamists to power in Arab Spring countries.

They are disregarding the drumbeat of terror due to the outbreak of al-Qaeda in Syria. This is the impression that U.S. political officials want to give. They are at the point of refraining from getting involved without being the victims of their own measures due to the exclusion policy. In fact, isolation is not a choice for the governing American institution, including the military and the secret intelligence that are rather forging a strategic presence for the United States in more than a country in the Middle East. This is what makes Russian leaders burn with anger and jealousy. American and Russian stances are not less contradictory or ambivalent than the stances of China, the West, Arab countries, Turkey or Iran. They are all manipulating international laws and conventions either as an excuse or as a justification. Russia and China are attached to the international law in their support for the sovereignty of the Syrian regime under the cover of supporting state sovereignty and by insisting on the inadmissibility of interfering in the affairs of other states. However, they are intentionally disregarding international conventions that put the prohibition of massacres, crimes against humanity and war crimes above all other considerations. Western governments, starting with the U.S. administration seem to be slowing down on the issue of human rights and personal status for the sake of interests’ considerations. As for Turkey, it is adopting a fluctuating policy by launching timid threats at times and intimidating Kurds at others. Arabs are divided in many directions and at many levels. They sometimes seem very enthusiastic towards a radical change in Syria but seem at times subjected to the U.S. electoral calendar acting according to Washington instructions to local players.

Egyptian President Muhammad Mursi has come up with the novelty of the regional solution for the Syrian crisis, as if he had invented the wheel or as if the Syrian crisis is still at the phase of pacific demonstrations and demands of reform. The Egyptian president seemed to improvise when he suggested the idea of finding an exclusive regional solution by the regions’ most powerful states, i.e. Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey and Egypt. He proposed this idea as if it had come up to his mind while addressing a statement during the Islamic Summit in Mecca. Since that day, he did not suggest any implementation mechanism that confirms that his proposal was a thoughtful and not an impulsive idea.

Muslim Brotherhood Egyptian president probably wanted to show that the Egyptian diplomacy was active, vital and pivotal in the region. However, by proposing this hasty and thoughtful solution, he seems to fancy a role that Egypt is not capable of fulfilling at this historical turn. In fact, Egypt is still in the intensive care and is still incapable of resuming its traditional role no matter how patriotically hearty the Egyptian president or any other official was. In all cases, it is already too late to suggest an Egyptian regional solution that eliminates the United States or Russia. And the Saudi- Iranian- Turkish relations have reached a new stage where it is no longer possible to address the severity of these ties in the circle of the four states suggested by the Egyptian president. Moreover, there are radical contradictions and differences at the steak like when the Egyptian president has asked Syrian president Bashar Al Assad to leave power while the Iranian leadership considers that the survival of al-Assad and his Regime in power lies at the core of the national Iranian interests.

Mursi did not go to Tehran to participate in the Non-Aligned Summit in order to support his improvised suggestion with implementation mechanisms. He did not insist on the Iranian leadership to cut military and economic supply in support of Syria and the President whom Mursi has called to leave power.

He has probably gone to Iran to prove that he is not under the influence of the United States although many have a strong impression that strong ties are being weaved lately between the United States and the Muslim Brothers inside and outside Egypt. By visiting Tehran, Mursi wanted to suggest that Egypt is an independent state that is not influenced by American pressure and that Muhammad Mursi does not surrender to American, Western and Arab pressures.

The Egyptian president could have sent the minister of foreign affairs to Tehran but he chose to attend the summit personally. Thus, he has intentionally participated in the wave of support granted to the credibility of the Islamic Republic of Iran from the leadership of the non-aligned movement. He has therefore contributed completely to the restoration and the end of Iran’s isolation. The visit of a president affiliated to the Muslim Brothers in Egypt to Iran, the country of Mullahs is not an ordinary matter. But there is a common denominator between the Brothers in Egypt and the Mullahs in Iran, which is showing – or pretending- to be against the United States. In fact, they both want a privileged bilateral relationship with Washington and they are sparing no effort to have that kind of relations.

Decision makers in the U.S. Department of State seem satisfied with managing relations with the Mullahs in Tehran and pruning ties with the Brothers everywhere. Some of the veteran decision makers considered that the strategic subtle of a great state lies in the awareness of its interests in the outcome of the wind of change. They believed that Russia would eventually lose because it made the arrival of Islamists to power its personal nightmare. He also pointed to the limited Russian tools of influence in the phase of change in the Arab world, even its limited influence over its Syrian ally. Russia is refusing to be lenient and internationally involved because it is incapable of actually and practically influencing the Syrian regime’s pillars. Consequently, Moscow prefers to stickle rather than playing a cooperating role. But it will then witness the failure of its efforts and be therefore stunted into a weak ineffective player.

This is an interesting evaluation if it was true and accurate or if it seeks to further tarnish the image of Russia. It is clear that international negotiations have reached a deadlock and that the cold war ambiance is prevalent. Moscow is acting as if Syria is a red line and is insisting on the inadmissibility of interfering in other states’ interior affairs in addition to the respect of state sovereignty. These two principles are probably at the heart of Russia’s direct concerns because it is afraid from being “the next in line.”

Russian president Vladimir Putin is known for his violent stances which nourishes the fear of a potential military confrontation similar to a “war of dogs” where killing comes snapping without a strategy. This fear emerges when talking about the so-called “Kosovo model” which suggests a military intervention under the pretext of humanitarian duty and international conventions that put the responsibility of humanitarian response above all other considerations.

This humanitarian window is only available at the Turkish- Syrian border and such an intervention is only possible if the NATO takes such a decision or if Turkey asks for the collaboration of NATO according to article 51 of the United Nations Charter for Self-Defense. The means and tools of the Kosovo model are implemented in secure areas and humanitarian channels; they impose no-fly zones to support humanitarian response. Refugees are usually at the core of such procedure however there are other motivations. Turkey is capable of activating the Kosovo model but Turkey is afraid and is reluctant over the policy of vacant threats, seizing opportunities, restricting Kurd ambitions and the fear of the citizenship right of Kurds.

Moscow is professing and stickling. It is now calling for investigating the “barbaric” acts of violence in Syria and it is still providing the fiercely barbaric regime with military help. The prolongation of the crisis has improved the regime’s military skills and has contributed to the participation of the Islamic radicalism in the Syrian scene. Moscow has been an active player in the prolongation of the conflict. Perhaps Moscow prefers to adopt the Afghan model instead of the Kosovo model or perhaps it considers both models as the same. However, the armed Syrian opposition is rich ammunition for Russia because it is spreading radical Islamism slogans every time it wages a military operation.

Between improvisation and appeasement, the future of Syria is at the tipping point of the haste and red lines of great states and regional players who are taking their places on the new, yet not completed, regional map. Until now, nobody knows when would the Syrian sorrow end- after the U.S. elections, at the end of the year, in few months, two years from now? One thing is sure, and here certainty is transient, there will be no qualitative change before those presidential elections.

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