The G8 summit in Northern Ireland has not brought Syria any closer to a solution despite the fine words from world leaders on Tuesday, writes Roshan Muhammed Salih.
But the summit was important because the reality is that there is so much outside meddling in Syria’s affairs that the destiny of the country no longer lies in the hands of Syrians themselves.
Both the rebels and the regime seem dependent on outside forces for ther survival and their ability to wage war. Assad relies on the Iranians, Hezbollah and the Russians. The rebels rely on Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and the West.
But the G8 summit made no major breakthrough on the fundamental differences between the major powers.
Russia reiterated that it would continue to supply the Assad government with arms because they are the “legitimate authority.” Vladimir Putin warned against the West arming the rebels because that would pour fuel on the fire and lead to more death and destruction. He added that terrorism would stalk the streets of Europe if the West armed jihadis.
The Russians and the Iranians have clearly drawn a thick line in the sand when it comes to Syria. They will not allow the Assad regime to fall because that would directly threaten their interests and, in Iran’s case, perhaps even their survival.
On the other hand, the US and the UK have stopped talking about how the Assad regime is “doomed.” Instead, they say they cannot imagine a future in Syria with Assad. This change of rhetoric is obviously a recognition of the regime’s recent major advances on the battlefield.
So the West is now clearly trying to entice regime supporters to defect by promising them a role in the future Syria and vowing not to completely destroy state institutions. Meanwhile, they continue to make miltary preparations in Jordan and Turkey while talking of Assad having crossed a “red line” with his alleged use of chemical weapons.
Overall, I think the West can be quite happy with its work in Syria over the past two years. It has helped to severely weaken a country which was (generally) an impediment to imperial domination because of its alliances with Iran, Hezbollah and formally Hamas. It has managed to incite Muslim against Muslim through its clever use of sectarianism. And it has got Muslims fighting each other instead of the West and Israel.
But now it seems that the West is concerned that the situation might be getting out of control with the presence of thousands of foreign jihadis in Syria so close to Israel’s border. And, along with the smooth flow of oil, the protection of Israel is the West’s main priority in the Middle East.
What is clear is that no one can prevail in this war because both sides have powerful backers. It is also clear that a political solution is the only way to save what’s left of Syria. But that looks like a long way off because of stubborn belligerence and the fact that many are still suffering from the delusion that a military victory is possible. Maybe it is, but at what cost?
So even if the major powers hold a peace conference in Geneva later this year with representatives from all the major parties present, it looks like Syria’s devastating, self-defeating and ultmately futile war has a long way to run.