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Opinion: A new chance for Syria - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The White House has at long last announced a significant change in its stance towards the Syrian crisis by announcing that it will provide “military aid” and will “arm the opposition.” The White House also announced its conviction that “the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons” and that “the US will defend its interests in the region” and that it “will try to come to an understanding with its allies in the G8.”

Each of these carefully selected phrases means something important. Discussions within the US administration have moved from a stage of providing arms to one of imposing no-fly zones and even bombarding the airbases and air defenses of the Assad regime. US secretary of state John Kerry seems enthusiastic about such ideas, which, even if rejected by Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, clearly shows that the US administration has passed through a long stage of hesitation for good.

As for defending US interests in the region and reaching an understanding with American allies in the G8 and in the region, this step is a notable indication that the US has taken a different tone with Russia, which maintains its stubborn stance.

Despite French foreign minister Laurent Fabius’s reserved attitude towards arming the Syrian opposition and the Free Syrian Army (FSA), “French diplomatic sources said there is a [political decision] that the demands made last week by the FSA’s chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Selim Idris, to acquire sophisticated weapons for the opposition must all be met,” reported Asharq al-Awsat last Friday

This American–French–British maneuver has already been to be put into action, as manifested by a statement from Major General Idris that the Syrian opposition troops have already acquired “sophisticated arms” that should “change the situation on the ground.”

So, now we are face–to–face with a significant change in the Syrian crisis. The question to be raised here is: Why did the American stance change? Was Russia wrong in its reading of the American policy? Has Russia gone to extremes before the US could adopt its stance? What were the developments in Syrian that prompted the US to change its stance?

These all are questions that need to be answered and analyzed. The change in the American stance has multiple causes: the Russian persistence, overt Iranian infiltration, Hezbollah and Iraqi militias, and Houthi fighters. Meanwhile, the US began to feel that its allies in the region are becoming skeptical about its policies and about whether the long-term alliances they entered into with it are of any use.

These states began to declare their stances and policies and are acting in accordance with their interests to confront the Iranian infiltration on all fronts. Anyone who observes the statements and movements of Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Saud Al-Faisal, can easily deduce that from the outset, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf tates were always determined to back the Syrian people in their bitter struggle against the Russian–Iranian axis.

Without doubt, the rules of the game in the Syrian crisis will change, and this change will be contingent upon the size of change in terms of quantity and quality as well as the actual implementation of the phrases “military aid” and “armament” the current US administration is using.

Following the announcement of the US stance, a seemingly big change occurred in the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt compared to its previous attitude towards the Syrian people, when the Brotherhood told the Russians that their stances were identical, and told the Iranians the same thing.

In fact, such a stance was intended to satisfy the Brotherhood’s overwhelming desire to please the US and Western states. Furthermore, such a stance was adopted shortly before the eruption of large-scale anti-government protests, which the opposition is mobilizing on June 30. In fact, the Brotherhood did not change its stance in a deliberate manner; rather, it moved from the stage of siding with the regime and Iran to a stage of trying to one-up the states that advocated for the Syrian people from the outset.

For its part, the Islamic Republic of Iran followed a familiar pattern: installing a hardline president to make the highest gains possible, and then bargain for a moderate president to make other gains and rectify the mistakes made by the previous incumbent. Iran, led by the supreme guide, had to install—not elect—a new president, whom they see as a “reformer” and a “moderate,” and this president is Hassan Rouhani. It seems that his hard mission will be prettying up Iran’s policies following eight hard years under former President Ahmadinejad and Ali Khamenei—policies that led only to antagonizing the rest of the world, particularly Iran’s Arab neighbors.

The Doha Conference of the Friends of Syria was supposed to dot the i’s and cross the t’s at the beginning of a new stage of the Syrian crisis, and to listen to what states like Turkey and Jordan require to sustain the assistance to Syrian refugees. Countries in the region that are friendly to the Syrian people must do their utmost to allay America’s chronic fears of a long war, such as the ones it fought in Vietnam and Afghanistan. Towards this end, these countries must provide precise mechanisms to prevent any arms from falling into the hands of terrorists who are deemed enemies of the whole world.

In his view of the future of the American power, Zbigniew Brzezinski predicted that the “most dangerous scenario is represented in the emergence of a larger alliance between China and Russia, and perhaps Iran, to act against the American hegemony, an alliance that is motivated not by ideology, but by common discontent.” The Syrian people are unfortunate that the reflections of such an alliance are seen on their own soil and in a manner that jeopardizes their lives, and is at the expense of their blood and future, regardless of the future of American power.

In fact, the change in international stances and in the Western policies towards the situation within Syria, the unlimited support offered by moderate Arab states and the new balance of powers seen on the ground between the FSA and the regime’s army and Iran’s militias, must all push the Syrian opposition to be unified. This must also push the opposition to stand firm and shoulder the historical responsibilities for a political solution to be negotiated later on. Such a solution, when reached, will be the fruit of a long struggle of a nation that suffered some of the the most dreadful crimes in this current century. The Syrian opposition must be prepared to adopt a moderate internal discourse that guarantees that extremism will not prevail.

Finally, Henry Kissinger once wrote in his memoirs an expression that came true, which reads “If history is to teach us something: There is no peace without balance, and there is no justice without moderation.”