Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Will olive oil do? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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I was recently sitting in a cafe with a Syrian friend listening to him put forward his viewpoint about what is happening to his country, and the developing situation in his courageous hometown Homs. Indeed, Homs has become a model of steadfastness and the struggle against suppression and tyranny which is similar to that narrated in the Quran about the likes of Pharaoh and Nimrod and their injustices and evil deeds. The atrocities committed by these figures bring to mind the atrocity [Hama massacre] that the Syrian city faced some thirty years ago. My friend expressed his shock and disgust at the international community’s position on what is happening in Syria, and the world’s hesitation to intervene and end the violence and massacres being carried out by al-Assad, in the same manner that it intervened against the Gaddafi regime in Libya, and the Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. As he spoke, my friend seemed to realize that the reason that the international community mobilized and indeed took up arms to liberate Iraq and Libya from their mad rulers was due to the presence of oil in these countries. Therefore, it seems that the economic significance [of a country] is more important than the humanitarian or political reasons, when it comes to international intervention, regardless of the violent and bloody reality on the ground. Utilizing the well-known Homs acerbic sense of humour, my friend asked “In Syria we have some great olive oil, will that not suffice?” I answered, “an important example occurred in central Europe, when the former President of Serbia and Yugoslavia, who was responsible for terrible crimes against the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo, was eventually arrested and these areas were liberated from Serbian domination. Will that not suffice [for Syria]?”

However I am also now certain that we are facing a new era which is unprecedented in international diplomacy. Today, there is a horrible humanitarian scene filled with violence and bloodshed in Syria, whilst there is intensifying international condemnation against the suppression and violence being practiced by the al-Assad regime against its own people. This means that only a handful of countries continue to support Damascus, most prominently Russia, whose geo-political objectives are served by this, particularly with regards to Moscow’s competition with the US and its diminishing influence in countries that were previously within Russia’s sphere of influence. Damascus’s other major ally is Iran, which considers Syria to be a natural extension to the sectarian dimension of its Islamic revolution and a major conduit of support for its strategic ally Hezbollah in Lebanon. Al-Assad is also receiving support from other countries like Lebanon, Iraq, Algeria and Venezuela, for their own petty reasons.

The Arab League, with the decisions it has taken during its most recent meeting in Cairo, has moved away from the hesitant stance it adopted to take a decisive position on Syria, namely taking the decision to back the Syrian opposition with finance and equipment, and end the Arab Observer Mission farce that was the subject of controversy and met with discontent, criticism and condemnation. The Arab League is now keen to bring the Islamic world into the Syrian crisis, and crystalize the idea of mobilizing Arab and UN troops to end the violence that the Syrian regime mercilessly continues to perpetrate against its own people and which has entered its eleventh month. On the contrary the violence and killing is on the rise in Syria.

Whilst it is true that Syria has no oil or gas to lure the world to intervene to rescue its people, as occurred elsewhere, Syria is an ancient country and the cradle of important religions and civilizations, therefore it deserves to be defended by the international community in the name of values, principles, morals and religion. The crisis in the bilateral relations between Russia and the US today has had an extremely negative impact on the ground in Syria. Russia believes that it was “deceived” over Libya and the UN resolution that was issued to protect Libyan civilians, whereby NATO troops became a tool to oust Gaddafi and his regime. Therefore Russia will not allow itself to be entrapped again, or lose a significant foothold in the Middle East.

Russia chose the regime over the people, although it is now discovering the price of taking such stances, with an unofficial boycott of Russian products taking place in Libya. This is a price that Moscow must pay for such stances and its diplomatic relations. This is certainly a position that Russia will find itself in once again after the al-Assad regime is overthrown in Syria.

The Arabs who continue to support the al-Assad regime at the expense of the blood and lives of the Syrian people will – in the future – be classified by every Syrian citizen as false witnesses and traders of Syrian blood.

The Syrian revolution has entered its final and decisive stage, and the al-Assad regime is now drawing its last breaths. If Syria’s olive oil is not enough to prompt the international community to intervene and rescue the country and its people from this brutal regime, then we must gamble on the international community’s conscience.