Western intervention in Syria, or anywhere else in the Middle East, would cause greater displacement and war.

Lindsey German

The latest horrific casualties in Syria, suspected of being the result of a chemical weapons attack, have been the occasion for a new round of demands for western intervention in the country.

While details of the case are disputed, the use of chemical weapons should be condemned, whoever uses them.

But this latest attack should not be used as a pretext for military intervention, which will only worsen the situation there.

This is especially true when those condemning the use of these weapons have few qualms about using them (as the US has done in Iraq and in Vietnam) or of manufacturing deadly weapons, which they happily sell to dictators and despots around the world.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has called for ‘force’ against Syria if the most recent allegations are found to be proved. Fabius has not clarified whether this means military force. It’s hard to see what other kind of force he could mean.

The latest incident in Syria crosses a red line for the Turkish government, which is urging further intervention.

A UN investigation has already begun, but that isn’t enough for the western powers and their allies in the Middle East. While the UN dresses up the move for further intervention in humanitarian demands, any such move by France, Britain, the US or its regional neighbours will not stop the war now going on in Syria. It will exacerbate it and lead to greater casualties on all sides.

The tragedy of Syria is that the civil war there has turned into a proxy war with implications way beyond its borders and with outside intervention on a scale which resembles the 19th century carve-ups of the Balkans between the various empires of Europe.

A variety of countries have already supplied money, arms and special forces. US, British and other troops are on manoeuvres in Jordan, sending warships to the eastern Mediterranean and recognising and funding a ‘government in waiting’ of the Syrian opposition.

The humanitarian credentials of the intervening countries are threadbare.

Saudi Arabia, which has poured arms and money in to overthrow the Assad regime, close ally of Saudi enemy, Iran, is one of the most repressive and illiberal regimes in the world. Its support for brutal repression of demonstrators in Bahrain, and its current support for the coup in Egypt which has led to thousands dead, belie any talk of protecting rights, freedoms and human life.

Turkey’s record on human rights, from its persecution and imprisonment of journalists to its long running war and persecution against the Kurds, demonstrates that its support for the opposition Free Syrian Army is more about its own strategic interests in the region than anything else.

It may be that the ferocious calls to use force are in part an attempt to gain more access to different parts of Syria to the UN weapons inspectors, who are in the country investigating previous claims of chemical weapons use.

Twice in the last century – after the First and Second World Wars – there was a major reshaping of the Middle East. This was done not in the interests of the people of the region, but of the imperial powers.

Their ability to learn from their mistakes has proved to be zero, while their propensity to repeat the mistakes continues.

Western intervention in Syria, or anywhere else in the Middle East, would deny freedom and justice to its people and fuel greater displacement and war.


22 Aug 2013

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