Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Syria, The Center Of A Storm

A Bombed out Street In Syria
Again we are forced to revisit the issue of Syria because of both ISIS and the refugee crisis. The big surge of Syrian refugees arriving in Europe may be relatively new, but the displacement caused by the war that has forced people from their homes all over the Middle east has been going on for years. Often they spill over into neighboring countries and nowhere is that more pronounced than in a country like Lebanon where one in four of the country’s current residents are refugees. This is causing great hardship and putting the lives of tens of millions of people on hold. The images we see of a constant stream of refugees only highlights and puts a spotlight on the fact that people just want to live their lives in an environment free of fear.

After the infamous "red line" was crossed in Syria several years ago, few people have yet to talk about the most likely and only real solution which is to break the nation into two parts. Over two years ago I wrote an article advocating the only viable solution for Syria would be to divide the country,  at that time I pointed out if Assad remains in power those who have suffered and been displaced will never forgive him and live under his rule. It is also important to realize a change in ruling factions is not a viable solution in that it would most certainly create a power vacuum  and unleash a wave of killings, and reprisals. Remember the Shiite-related Alawites rightly fear an Al Qaeda or ISIS led triumph as the worst possible outcome because these groups would  make the mass killing of Alawites their first priority.

The secular leaders of the Syrian rebels, clustered in the exile group known as the Syrian National Council, also must worry about the extremist threat of ISIS. Now that ISIS entered the mix we now have a situation where the Assad  Government is no longer the only party blocking the road to peace. With Americans tired of war and frustrated after years of spending a fortune with little to show for our efforts we are facing a debate as to which is the "best worst choice" in how to proceed. The media has been fast to point out the complexity of the situation and how muddy the politics will be going forward, no easy answer or silver bullet exist for the problem plaguing Syria and the whole region.

Back when the world saw the pictures of dead women and little children killed by a chemical weapon attack Putin stepped in and to his credit helped broker a deal where Asaad, the U.S. and Russia agreed on a framework for Syria to destroy its chemical weapons stockpiles. The U.S. said Syria had as many as 45 chemical weapons sites at the time. Under the agreement, the initial on-site inspections were to be completed by November and Syria’s chemical weapons infrastructure would be dismantled by the first half of 2014. Where few things go as planned in a time of war this all progressed reasonably well, but it did not halt the war and allow Syria to begin to heal.

Today not only do we continue to see the pictures broadcast across television screens throughout the world of city streets bombed and blown to smithereens we also see millions of people displaced and forced to flee the war torn region. Syria has become a country far different from what it was when we decided to go into Iraq. Today Syria is not a stable country with a bad leader, it is a humanitarian disaster. The best solution will ultimately be to push towards a breakup of Syria with Assad or one of his people allowed to remain in control of the Alawite area in exchange for freeing the remanding part of the country to rule itself. This would allow the people in both areas to focus on driving ISIS from their borders. Russia and Iran could aid the Alawites in the task while America and a coalition of other countries worked to restore peace to the remaining area.

Borders are a creation of man and not visible to the birds flying above. Much bloodshed and many wars could be avoided if the issues of regime change or borders could be handled in a more rational and constructive way, but do not expect this to happen. Borders and political control is a problem that haunts man since before the written word. President Obama and other officials have talked about the legal sanctity of sovereign borders, but in reality this is an argument of convenience for politicians wishing to mask deeper issues of control and power. When it comes down to it people are just pawns in this sad power game. If you doubt this just ask some of the many people displaced from their homes in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria or Ukraine.

Many options exist as to taking action in Syria, thoughts range from, doing nothing to the opinion that intervention is long overdue. Years ago Secretary of State John Kerry called what was happening in Syria a "moral obscenity"and things have only gotten worse. We can only speculate as to the full extent of America's responsibility. During the election on August 20th, 2012 Obama running as a anti-war president drew a red line in the sand concerning how far Assad would be allowed to go before America would end his rule, this galvanized those opposed to him to take a stand. A strong case can be made that Obama's failure to stand by his word has led to their death and destruction. This case becomes stronger when links are made to America supplying weapons and training to the group that eventually morphed into what we now call ISIS.

It has become clear that America's decision to keep Iraq as one country following the toppling of Saddam Hussein is coming back to haunt the world. Many factors funneled into plotting this course as those in power tinkered and played with the experiment of nation building. The two most notable elements being their love of sovereign borders and the second being to make the country a counter weight to Iran. It is now clear the decision not to allow different factions to go their own way has destabilized the whole region and created a breeding ground for what we now know as ISIS. As far as whether America should get more involved in sorting out the mess it created the polls show that most Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to military force or involvement.

As Europe and countries around the world have spirited debates as to where to put and place the refugees, more important is ending this nightmare and helping those who want to return home rebuild their lives. Life in a refugee camp will have a long-term negative effect on these people and especially on the children. The people in this part of the world are a hardy bunch seasoned by hundreds of years of war, but millions living in tents and bombed out buildings is saddening and heart breaking. Again, I return to the message at the beginning of this post, few people have yet to talk about the most likely and only real solution, that is to negotiate a way to break Syria into two parts giving those outside Assad's control a safe-place to live after ISIS is driven from the area. The goal of turning back ISIS appears to be something most people of the world agrees has merit, this includes not only those in America, but Russia and Iran as well.

Footnote;   This post dovetails with many of my recent writings. Other related articles may be found in my blog archive, thanks for reading, your comments are encouraged. Below you will find a piece that delves into the origins and goals of ISIS as well as an article dealing with just how ineffective American policy has been..

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