What’s Next in Syria?
by Stephen Lendman
On March 27, Syria formally accepted Kofi Annan’s six-point peace plan. His spokesman, Ahmad Fawzi said:
“The Syrian government has written to the Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan accepting his six-point plan, endorsed by the United Nations Security Council.”
“Mr Annan views this as an important initial step that could bring an end to the violence and the bloodshed, provide aid to the suffering, and create an environment conducive to a political dialogue that would fulfil the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people.”
At the same time, the Western-backed Syrian National Council (SNC) rejected the plan. SNC member Naji Tayara spuriously accused Assad of wanting “more time to continue with the killing.”
Russia welcomed Assad’s acceptance. A Foreign Ministry statement said it’s a way to end violence if both sides agree to talk and end violence. Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said:
“Moscow met with satisfaction the statement of UN and Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan that he had received the confirmation of the Syrian government’s consent to his proposal for peaceful settlement in the Syrian Arab Republic.”
“We are convinced that this offers a real opportunity for the realization of lawful aspirations of all Syrians with respect for the country’s sovereignty and independence and consolidated support by the entire international community for Annan’s mission.”
“This opportunity must not be lost. It is extremely important in this context that Syrian opposition groups should follow Damascus’ example and state clearly their consent to the proposal for peaceful settlement made by the UN and Arab League special envoy and supported by the UN Security Council.”
Assad showed he wants peaceful resolution. The ball’s in the opposition court. Elements in it remain fractious. SNC/Free Syrian Army killer gangs spurn peace. So does Washington to keep the Syrian pot boiling and its regime change plans on track.
Syria’s National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change (NCC) wants negotiations to resolve contentious issues peacefully. It rejects violence and SNC/Free Syrian army elements pursuing it.
On March 29, a BRICS Summit (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) issued the following statement:
“The principles of normalization for Syria have all been made clear ever since Kofi Annan’s mission got down to work. There can be no foreign intervention in Syria.”
“The Syrian government, on the one hand, and the opposition forces, on the other, should engage in dialogue. The government and the opposition in Syria should believe in dialogue rather than follow a short-sighted approach by saying that dialogue is doomed and that only military operations can restore order in the country. Russia will exert efforts to secure the success of the dialogue.”
“The BRICS countries have swapped opinion on this issue and Russia has called on them to render humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people. Russia has already been providing Syria with relief supplies.”
In contrast, US-led “Friends of Syria” will meet Sunday in Istanbul. Key players plan conflict, not peace. As many as 70 countries may participate. Only major Western and anti-Assad Middle East ones matter.
Russia and China won’t attend. A Foreign Ministry statement said participants “aren’t looking for dialogue” to end conflict. Indeed not, and Moscow and Beijing know the stakes affecting their own regional interests.
Ahead of Sunday’s conference, Arab officials and Syrian opposition elements met in Istanbul. At issue was forging consensus and unity. Efforts fell short. Divisions remain.
Former SNC leader Haitham al-Maleh, several Kurdish delegates, and others walked out. Syria’s main nonviolent opposition group, the National Coordination Committee (NCC) for Democratic Change, boycotted the meeting. Those remaining claimed success.
Violent opposition elements alone agree, despite claiming they support a “civil, democratic, pluralistic, independent” sovereign Syria. In fact, they want the country turned into another US vassal state like their own.
On Thursday, Arab leaders met in Baghdad. Divisions were clear. Sunni-led Gulf states Saudi Arabia and Qatar support regime change, including violently ousting Assad to get it. Host country Iraq’s firmly opposed. So are others supporting Annan’s peace plan.
UK Writer Patrick Seale on Syria
UK writer Patrick Seale knows Syria well. He wrote Hafez Assad’s biography, Bashar’s father, titled: “Asad: The Struggle for the Middle East.” On March 28, 2011 his Foreign Policy article headlined, “The Syrian Time Bomb,” saying:
“Syria lies at the center of a dense network of Middle East relationships, and the crisis in that country….is likely to have a major impact on the regional structure of power.”
He called Syria the “linchpin” of a Tehran/Damascus/Hezbollah “bulwark” against US/Israeli regional dominance. Like other Middle East states, Syria’s comprised of “a mosaic of ancient religions, sects, and ethnic groups held uneasily and sometimes uncomfortably together by central government.”
Internal conflict profoundly disrupts the region. If Assad falls, “blood-thirsty sectarian demons risk being unleashed, and the entire region could be consumed in an orgy of violence.”
In February 2012, Seale said the Syrian conflict’s not only an assault on Damascus but one on Tehran and Hezbollah. It’s waged to thwart their “bulwark” against US/Israeli regional hegemony. That’s what we’re witnessing, he said.
“It’s a struggle for regional supremacy, regional dominance, as well as an internal struggle between the Assad regime and its enemies, of whom the Muslim Brothers are the most organized and best funded element, the only element perhaps in the (SNC) opposition that enjoys some support at a public level.” At the same time, it represents a small minority.
He added that Assad seems in no imminent danger of being toppled. His army and security forces remain loyal. Russia and China support him. India, Brazil, and other nations likely do as well. In addition, he benefits greatly from divisions among opposition elements.
At the same time, most Syrians back him as the only way to stop violence and prevent possibly replicating the worst of Iraq or Libya.
After years of US led regional violence, many people want Assad to survive rather than open “the door to the Pandora’s box of the opposition.”
If another war erupts, Seale, like others, sees regional disaster resulting. They’re easy to start, hard to end, and risk spreading uncontrollably to something much greater with potentially devastating consequences hopefully no one wants.
Nonetheless, he sees a possible replay of the run-up to attacking Iraq in 2003. Dialogue’s the only way out. Continuing conflict’s likely to end badly for all sides. On March 27, he called for a Middle East “Grand Bargain,” saying:
Conflicts plagued the region for decades. It’s time to curb the rage for war. The five permanent Security Council members are key. Other influential ones like Germany, India and Brazil can help.
Together they can bring conflicting sides together peacefully. They’ve got muscle enough to do it. The nature of regional conflicts requires global action. All sides must make concessions.
Facilitating Palestinian self-determination would improve chances for success. Doing so would “puncture a (longstanding) boil” that’s “poisoned political relationships in the Middle East for decades,” and erupts often in violence.
A Final Comment
Washington, of course, is key. It’s the main obstacle to peace. So far, achieving it’s impossible given its rage to replace independent regimes with client ones by any means, including war.
Changing that requires international opposition from major Western and regional allies. Wars beget more of them. Endless carnage results. Instead of solving problems they magnify them.
Peaceful resolution offers hope. The key to peace and keeping it always requires give and take, as well as a realization that wars solve nothing. Didn’t two global ones prove anything?
Imagine another now with nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. The potential disaster’s too horrifying to allow.
Maybe cooler US and Israeli heads one day will prevent it. Wouldn’t that be “grand” indeed, though so far it’s nowhere in sight.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.