Before I begin, I do not have a formal education in the area of foreign policy nor am I a seasoned journalist who understands the granularity of the sectarian issues in the Middle East. What I present here is the synthesis of whatever I have consumed over the past few days on this issue and my recollection of significant world events during my adult life.
The conflict in Syria has been on for almost two years and it is only now that the United States has decided to step in to deliver ‘a rap on the knuckle’ to the Assad regime for the alleged use of chemical weapons. In his address to the nation, President Obama highlighted how this was the red line his government had drawn and the breach demands for an action from the world’s oldest constitutional democracy. He went on to elaborate on how this is a fight for the children who had been gassed and human dignity at large, which needs to be protected by them – the Americans.
Thankfully, President Obama concedes that his strike will not end the crisis in Syria. In his address he spoke about how the sectarian differences in the region go a long way and cannot be be resolved by a short term military strike. Which only brings to question what exactly does the United States hope to achieve through their actions? If this is solely to model the consequence that one can expect in the decision to use chemical weapons, then:
- Why can’t this strike wait until the tests to be run by the UN (to adjudge the nature of chemical weapons used if at all) are completed and the results released for the Security Council to debate?
- What is this classified evidence that is constantly being referred to in order to justify the strike right away? Why cannot that be shared? Haven’t we learnt already from Julian Assange or Chelsea Elizabeth Manning episodes that classifying everything in hand is not really a security solution.
The announcement of the strike, is fairly an apparent warning to both Iran and China. I believe what we are going to soon see will be Iran, China, Russia, Lebanon on one side fighting US, UK, France Israel and Saudi Arabia (strongest proponent of going to war with Syria helping rebels with weapons, funds and maybe some sarin gas as well) which would only lead to heightened conflict and more war.
The alliances these “clinically precise” strikes will forge are going to determine the political and economic future of most countries one way or the other. For example, Iran supports the Assad regime in Syria. With its current account deficit crisis, India needs to buy oil from Iran (since we use Rupees instead of Dollar to buy oil from Iran). Under these circumstances, who is to say that US will not impose sanctions on India alleging that we support a dictatorial regime and hence are anti-democracy.
I read somewhere that the hidden logic (or the lack of) in this whole strike is to keep the jihadist rebels with strong ties to the Al Qaeda occupied in overthrowing the Assad regime that they do not cause damage elsewhere. This is so preposterous that I cannot bring myself to believe it. Also because, the jihadists rebels fighting the regime are not one single entity – there are many factions some of which carry strong anti-western sentiment and hence may resort to more violence after the strike leading to further chaos.
I believe the answers lie somewhere in this article which talks about a gas pipeline between Qatar and Turkey (http://www.thenational.ae/business/energy/qatar-seeks-gas-pipeline-to-turkey). The article reads and I quote, “The reports said two different routes for such a pipeline were possible. One would lead from Qatar through Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq to Turkey. The other would go through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and on to Turkey. It was not clear whether the second option would be connected to the Pan-Arab pipeline, carrying Egyptian gas through Jordan to Syria.”
US has two strong allies in the Middle East – one in Saudi Arabia and one in Qatar. Both these allies back the rebels in Syria but have conflicting views on what happens after the civil war because of different takes on the Muslim Brotherhood. Saudi is not comfortable with the Muslim brotherhood taking the lead in building the government postwar and Qatar feels otherwise. By siding with the Saudi Arabia on this one (to ensure groups like al-Nusra do not come into power) the US has put itself in an awkward position with Qatar. I believe US will make it up to Qatar by promising to help its gas pipeline come through the country of Syria.
With global economy’s reliance on oil continuing, I see this strike as US’s intent to consolidate its control over oil reserves in the Middle East by pitting different countries against one another while furthering its economic interests. This is not about human dignity. This is about oil reserves as is everything else when it comes to the US – be it Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran and now Syria.
What we need to think about is the challenge we will be up against with Pakistan Taliban sending hundreds of men to fight alongside the rebels in Syria. Where does this put us in relation to US – with US providing arms to rebels and in turn arming the Pakistani Taliban? What does this to us with armed Pakistani Taliban coming back with allied rebels from across the globe to “liberate” Kashmir?
Are we going to simply be collateral damage?