The War in Syria
This paper deals with the problem of the developing Syrian conflict and its consequences, which has become the largest humanitarian disaster of the 21st century. Also, it analyzes the reasons for the war in Syria, its historical background, positions of its participants as well as their role in war events from the points of two theoretical paradigms: liberal and realistic, which gives a deeper insight into the circumstances of this war. Regarding the Syrian conflict from different views allows reflecting upon possible and the most effective ways of peace establishment from the positions of two theories. In such conditions emerges the essential problem of the U.S. participation led in peace establishment, as stated by Hillary Clinton.
The War in Syria
Humanitarian intervention is a many-sided tool that involves great responsibility while one should take into consideration the maximum amount of specifications and peculiarities of international law using it. Humanitarian intervention of the international coalition in the Syrian conflict should be regarded as forehanded and justified since it is not local. In Syria, the number of people dragged into and suffering from war amount to millions and hundreds of thousands of them are lost. Four years of running battle actions caused the largest migration crisis since the times of World War II. The humanitarian disaster increases its dimensions and is not likely to be solved in the nearest future due to not being addressed since its beginning. Nevertheless, the opposing parties need an opportunity to begin a dialog and transformations. The universe overcame its dark hours only due to complex unions, and Syria should not be an exception. Thus, it is essential to identify the reasons of the conflict which led to such tremendous consequences and look for possible ways to come to an agreement.
Historical Background of the Conflict
Many factors have influenced the development of the Syrian conflict. The history of Syria is ambiguous as well as its relations with the USA. Damascus appears to be the cradle of almost all world religions and civilizations. Its geopolitical location in the Middle East is of paramount significance not only at the local level but also at the planetary one. The USA has been trying to exert influence over this country for a long time to satisfy its various interests, including economic one. According to the U.S. Department of State, Syria ruptured diplomatic relations with the United States after the Arab-Israeli War in 1967. The cooperation was renewed in 1974. In 1979, Syria appeared in the US list of states sponsoring terrorism, and in the same year, the USA applied economic sanctions to this country. In the period between 1990 and 2001, the USA and Syria cooperated on some local issues, but in 2003, their relations deteriorated again. The situation in Syria triggers considerable concern of the USA government because of:
– refusal of the Syrian government to fight with foreign militants who use Syria as a transit base on the way to Iraq;
– Syrian refusal to deport loyalists of the former Hussein’s regime from the country;
– Syrian intervention in Lebanon affairs;
– human rights critical situation;
– Palestinian soldiers support;
– strive to obtain the weapon of annihilation.
At the beginning of 2009, the USA starts to reconsider Syrian policy in the view of changes in the country and region, which resulted in cooperation between the countries in the solving local questions. In March 2011, a group of Syrian students was arrested in Daraa for political graffiti on the walls of buildings, giving rise to a series of protest campaigns. Syrian government overreacted to demonstrations and used force against the protesters. As a result, it caused flashing uprisings that eventually overgrown into a comprehensive civil war. The USA government continually appealed to Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, to return the seaboards and give an opportunity to establish a transitional authority. The USA, with coordination of efforts with nations in Europe, Asia and Arabic countries, imposed severe sanctions on the Syrian regime (“U.S. Relations with Syria,” 2014).
However, protest campaigns is not the only the reason for the war. As a usual demonstration managed to turn into such a war, there must have been a basis within the country. One of the reasons why the opposition between the government and citizens became a war was the growing number of demonstrations against Bashar al-Assad and his party Baas that have been governing for decades. The worst al-Assad’s failing was to use tanks and snipers against the protesters. Similar events happened in Ukraine in 2014 and had terrifying consequences. Besides, this conflict has a religious background. Thus, Assad’s is Alawi, which is one of the Shi’ite tradition branches. Alawi has always suffered from oppression. But having received support from French administration, Alawi boys have formed the army officer carcass, which helped to lead Assad’s family to power. Apparently, such events shocked the Sunnis, whose group in Syria has far more supporters than Shi’ite. Assad himself and his behavior could be explained as desperate attempts to save his present power. Only a man concentrated on his position could do everything to keep it in his hands. Putting the armed army on demonstrates was a highly injudicious action that led to such horrible consequences.
Thus, the inner conflict between the Syrian government, opposition and other participants has not only civil and economic but also a religious ground. In these circumstances, other countries such as the USA and Russia act following their diverse interests. The Russian Federation does not want to lose the nearest partner at the Middle East, thus its government has never denied its military technical relations with Syria.
Also, a new historical background of the Syrian war involves not participation of Russia, but rather relates to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine on the Eastern territory of the latter. Moscow facilitated the escalation of the Syrian conflict in order to deflect attention of the world community from Ukraine and reinforce its position of international anti-terror coalition participant in the relief of sanctions. Furthermore, Lund points that the Syrian conflict depends on the foreign support of the USA and Russia, referring to them as to two essential actors. Thus, Ukraine does not represent some interests on the territory of Syria, but can impact relations between the U.S. and Russia (Lund, 2014).
Nowadays the developing Syrian conflict and global refugee impelled the U.S. government to face a significant challenge. According to the White House data, the National Security Advisor released a statement about refugee admission to the territory of the USA. The government has begun to work on “strengthening the integrity of the refugee program,” and after achievement of this goal, the USA will devote its efforts to enhancing international responsibility to humanitarian crises in the world (“Statement by National Security Advisor,” 2016).
Humanitarian intervention in Syria can be analyzed from two theoretical positions, namely realism and liberalism. Thus, according to realism, a nation is a unitary player. By contrast, liberalism admits pluralism in nation’s work. Therefore, preferences will differ from country to country, depending on culture, economy, and political regime. As the U.S. government activity shows, its policy is grounded on liberalism that implicates interaction between nations not limited by only national security problem but also going through business cooperation, different organizations, private actors and support in various spheres. Inevitably, instead of building an anarchy system, the USA appears develop a more complex system of international relations. Also, the U.S. policy maintains transnationalism, a social movement originating from an intensive interconnection between people all over the world and weakening the barrier between countries. The policy is manifested by the European Recovery Program, Ford, Rockefeller Foundations, and many others (Levitt, 2004). Therefore, it shows the intention of the US to work in the aspect of global cooperation between people and encouraging actions crossing the national boarders and in which state governments do not play a high-priority or even substantial role. Also, as it was pointed above, the USA will actively work on strengthening the international responsibility for humanitarian disasters, so there are obvious signs of enhancing international unity and cooperation.
In addition, the international community realizes the need to defeat chaos, despair and depression, which lead to the development of radical forces and climate, and to create conditions allowing to hear the voice of ethnic and religious groups, as prescribed in the UN Security Resolution № 2118 (“Security Council Requires,” 2013). Undoubtedly, only the dialog between the opposing parties for settlement the conflict would bring positive results. Once it has worked in Iran; now it can work again in Syria. No one could suppose that the world community would manage to come to an agreement with Iran about control over its nuclear program. By contrast, coordinated air strikes and even land operations could hardly help to solve the problem. Therefore, although negotiations seem ineffective in resolving war conflicts, in reality it is only the matter of perspectives.
Then, from the point of practical politics, i.e. realistic, all the participants of the events act following their geopolitical interests, and only some of them are intended to enter into a universal dialog to settle the issue. Thus, Mediterranean oil and gas resources, which might be located in the Syrian zone, can also be an object of geopolitical interest. However, these reserves do not play any significant role in the Syrian conflict because no oil or gas deposits have been discovered in the region up to now. Consequently, it remains a “virtual question”. At the same time, power industry in the Syrian conflict should be regarded in two geographical terms. Firstly, at the Syrian level, the question lies in the striving of the conflict participants to take control over oil production complexes (at the northeast of the country) for deriving economic benefits. Secondly, at the local level, the matter lies in the role that Syria would play in the transportation of energy commodities. It gives a partial understanding of the positions of the neighbor countries in the present crisis. Syria shares boarders with Iraq and Turkey and has access to the sea, which makes the country a perfect sea-lane for Middle East gas transition to Europe. Before the Syrian crisis, Iran and Qatar reflected upon the construction of exports pipeline from their common South Parsi giant field. Qatar gas pipeline should go through allied Saudi Arabia and Jordan, and the Iranian one – through Iraq. Finally, Damascus preferred the Tehran project in 2011 (Mohammed, 2011), which caused extreme dissatisfaction in Qatar. Such energy opposition has influenced civil war positions of the participants. Thus, Iran became the Damascus fighting partner, and Qatar began to finance disaffected rebel groupings of the regime.
One cannot undermine the Russian interests in persuading Syria to lay a gas pipeline to Europe through Turkey, which appears an obvious desire of Moscow. Kremlin entrance to the Syrian conflict also resulted from its intention to hold the region under control, and as inferred from its actions, sustain the political realism theory. Recent bombings of the opposition forces and peaceful towns with Russian Federation airpower in no way aligned with the suppression of ISIS military organizations. Moreover, Moscow tries to show its power to the USA and Europe. Not only Syrian civilians suffer from it but also U.S.-Russian relations. At the same time, the USA and the international coalition pursue three major goals in Syria:
– ISIS terror group conquest;
– ending Syrian civil war by means of diplomatic negotiations;
– help for regional allies.
Also, as it was pointed above, Russia follows only its interests and tries to protect itself by using various approaches, such as participation in the conflict, and attracting attention to Syria in order to escape from sanctions for provoking Ukrainian conflict and prevent establishment of relations with the USA. However, as the Ukrainian conflict has some impact on Russian actions, the situation can become either unpredictable, or result in a shift of dynamics in Syria in “more direct ways” in the case of development of the “lasting standoff between U.S.-EU camp and Russia” caused by Ukraine (Lund, 2014).
No doubt that the achievement these goals of conquering terror groups and ending the Syrian conflict would create an opportunity for building an independent democracy. Thus, comparing the present situation from the perspectives of two theories allows creating the whole picture of the Syrian conflict. Realism helps to understand positions of its participants and conclude that every action of each participant aims at receiving some profit, and as it often happens, at the expense of another.
Humanitarian Intervention and Humanitarian Imperialism
In other words, humanitarian intervention is the military force employment against a foreign state or other forces for preventing a humanitarian disaster. Taking into consideration the seriousness of conflicts, it becomes a fundamental thing to define distinct intervention conditions accepted by the major law subjects in the world because intervention is the last-ditch influencing method. However, defining principles that would satisfy everyone is highly challenging due to the divergence of conditions in each particular case. Thus, humanitarian intervention is disapproved as an occurrence.
Nevertheless, the question of the development and consequences of humanitarian intervention in Syria remains open. For example, Iddon said that Turkey proposed creating military establishment with an objective of guarding safe-zones on the North of Syria, which could serve as places for refugee resettlement. Humanitarian intervention is regarded in different ways according to different goals.
For instance, Jean Bricmont in his book Humanitarian Imperialism shows a compressed formulation of the dilemma facing the western leaders and intellectuals after the Soviet Union collapse. The author observes the question about the reasons for western leftist’s humanitarian intervention and persuades that humanitarian intervention has an imperialistic nature, i.e. interventions supposedly happening in the name of human rights is nothing but the continuation of the old western imperialistic policy under comely ideological disguise (Bricmont, 2006).
Clarifying his “arguments against Western interventionism and its humanitarian justifications,” Jean Bricmont scarcely offers a sensible alternative, being, as he ironically pointed, captivated by “youthful illusions”. Embracing left ideas, Bricmont (2016) is inclined to regard even Russian and Chinese communistic experiments as forms of decolonization and “catch up”. For example, in one of his interviews, Bricmont argues that Fidel Castro might have been a dictator, but the Cubans would need satisfactory medicine more than political liberties. After the Soviet system collapse, European leftists rejected the dead Marxian philosophy and methodology, especially in the aspects of class struggle, proletariat impoverishment, etc. Thus, Bricmont claims that the loss of western supremacy is already inevitable, and ruin of socially oriented European powers in consequence of globalization and western leftists will renew the battle for their economic and political rights. Also, the author seems to live in his imaginary world with left rules and perceive humanitarian intervention only from the negative side and, apparently, with nostalgic and rather old-fashioned view.
There is no doubt that in the modern western community, humanitarian intervention is represented as the best possible variant, and moreover, the only one where human rights are fully acknowledged. Apparently, humanitarian intervention and responsibility to protect do not work or work badly for the reason of their imperfect fulfillment rather than their entire falseness. However, right things can be used in a wrong way by unpracticed hands. It is enough to mention about hesitation, wrong and halfway measures of Obama’s administration in Iraq and Syria that led to a new conflict escalation.
Cartalucci’s articles entangled in the conspiracy theory have evident tendentious and preconceived nature. Scarifying the USA in his article with saying that “Washington has incoherently and dishonestly blamed Russia for what it calls the driving of moderates into the arms of terrorist organizations” (Cartalucci, 2016) and aggrandizing Moscow, the author tries to justify aggressive Kremlin actions in Ukraine and Syria. The journalist repeatedly stresses that Russia does not strive to conquer new territories. It appears in direct contradiction to the rhetoric and acts of the Russian President, who publicly expressed regret about the Soviet collapse and, in violation of international agreements, annexed Ukrainian Crimea and occupied a part of Ukrainian territory. Cartalucci has not yet articulated his opinion concerning the accident with Malaysian airliner MH-17 on the East of Ukraine even though the International Commission of Inquiry convincingly demonstrated incontestable evidence of Moscow involvement in the accident that resulted in 298 deaths. Also, Cartalucci said that Russia not only solves the problem of global terrorism in Syria but also protects the country and the world from US imperial ambitions, keeping quiet about the hasty growth of Russian imperial ambitions.
After all, the journalist affirms in his article that the war in Syria began far earlier than in 2011, supporting this idea with the words from Hersh’s work. Cartalucci says that the Syrian conflict was provoked not by protesters, as it is commonly known, but by policymakers in 2007. Then he quotes Hersh’s article containing information that the war began to continue the times of Bush’s Administration and was caused by its decision to “reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East” (as cited in Cartalucci, 2016). Cartalucci agrees with Hersh’s statement about the U.S. participated in “clandestine operations” aiming at Iran and Syria (as cited in Cartalucci, 2016). Unfortunately, none of them has specified any particular actions of the administration’s shadowy activity. But they claim that those operations contributed to the development and enlargement of Sunni terror groups supporting Al Qaeda. Generally, it has an absurd claim that the USA purposely antagonizes other countries.
Both Bricmont and Cartalucci are against humanitarian intervention, blaming the USA for imperialism and causing conflicts between the nations as a result of following its interests. The main reason for this is Bricmont’s leftist position, due to which he cannot perceive events in a proper way. Cartalucci seems to pretend that he does not know the real policy of the Kremlin and supports Putin in all his actions. The works of these authors could hardly give an opportunity to analyze the reasons and consequences of the conflict in an appropriate manner because humanitarian intervention can be justified depending on the situation and who is going to provide it.
Previous Humanitarian Interventions (Libya)
Libyan violent conflict began in February 2011 as one of the stages of the Arab Spring. Protest actions aimed at abdication of Colonel Moammar el-Gadhafi, the Jamahiriya leader, who governed the country for 40 years in the context of clannish and intertribal system flashed in Libyan provinces. Benghazi became a stronghold of Gadhafi opponents. Governmental forces and rebellions began military confrontation within the country (CIA Factbook, n.d.).
On March 17, 1973, the USA and western partners initiated adoption of a resolution by the UN Security Council providing the establishment of air-exclusion zone over Libya (“Security Council Requires,” 2013). On March 19, the foreign military operation against Gadhafi’s regime began in Libya. It involved Her Majesty’s and the United States Armed Forces as well as French, Canadian, Belgian, Italian, Spanish, and Danish Forces. Having flown from the Saint-Dizier airbase, the aircraft of the French Air Force made the first attack on the Libyan military hardware in Benghazi neighborhoods. NATO command representatives fully took on the Libyan campaign guidance on March 31. The violent upheaval in Libya continued for approximately nine months. Moammar el-Gadhafi, the leader of Libyan Jamahiriya, was brought down and killed by rebels near his hometown Sirt on October 20, 2011. NATO operation in Libya ended on October 31, 2011.
After Gadhafi’s death, various clans and militant groups began the struggle for power both at national and regional levels. The conflict of Islamists and moderate forces with the assistance of the military force resulted in another violent conflict that produced an establishment of diarchy in the country in August 2014 (CIA Factbook, n.d).
The current political process in Libya is supported by the international community and is aimed at creation of the government of national unity in the country. On December 23, 2015, the UN Security Council approved the agreement for forming a GNU in Libya, which was achieved by contending parliaments of the country on December 17(CIA Factbook, n.d). The resolution was unanimously adopted by fifteen UN Security Council members.
On the contrary, there is some information about exposing lie after destroying Libya. Leupp considers that establishment of an air-exclusion zone and other actions to protect Libyan civilians turned into a trick. He says it was not a humanitarian mission but a precision strike on “newfound western ally” who would be trapped in “Arab Spring”. Thus, Leupp (2016) states that Hillary Clinton will have to make a rough passage to rally the public opinion for the air-exclusion zone because there were no prescriptions of “bombing government and troops fighting Islamist militias”.
Thus, it is difficult to define whether humanitarian intervention in Libya has played a positive role. Nonetheless, in such cases as in Libya, one should take into consideration that a military campaign is not a good variant to help the militias. Also, rebels often have a tendency to exaggerate the government’s cruelty towards civilians. But in any case, the authoritarian regime was toppled, and despite temporal conflicts, the Libyans received a chance to develop a law-based society.
Current Non-Interventions (Bahrain, Qatar, Yemen, and others)
Although Islamic fundamentalism aims to occupy mainstream positions in all Arabic countries, most of Iraq and Syria neighbors managed to avoid the Arab Spring shock and other adverse consequences of the subsequent period. The United States and the Western world pursue the policy of non-interference in internal affairs of these nations. The exemplar of stability is the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, including Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Saudi Arabia. Yemen conducts membership negotiations from 2005. The organization exists since May 25, 1981, and its policy is defined in the Charter that was ratified in 1982. The core target of the organization is coordination, cooperation, and integration in economic, social and culture spheres. Sufficient coordination was achieved in economic and financial matters, business, customs and communication, education and culture, social problems, healthcare, travel industry, lawgiving and administrative matters.
According to the terms of the united economic agreement, tariff barriers were abolished between six states, so their citizens have equal opportunities to establish business in every country. As early as 1984, the Peninsula Shield Force was created, amounting 40 thousands of people. Kuwait and Bahrain are constitutional monarchies. The rest four countries are absolute monarchies. Saudi Arabia is a special keeper of the main Islamic relics (Mecca and Medina), the only nation in the world where the established religion is Wahhabite Islam. The organization members extensively resist expansion of radical and terror groups. The conflict between Saudi Arabia (supported by Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates) and Qatar emerged in 2014. The joint application of three countries was published, which accused Qatar for violating the Agreement about cooperation for security (signed in December 2013 in Riyadh), which relates to “organizations constituting a danger of safety and stability of Council member-states”. Under “organizations” was implied the Muslim Brotherhood, admitted as a terrorist group in many countries. In March 2014, Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador from Doha, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates followed its suit. The conflict was solved only in November 2014 when five countries of the Council (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Kuwait) completed an agreement in Riyadh.
Due to of colossal oil riches for relatively small population, the living standards within the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf are extremely high. Most work, except for chief positions, are fulfilled by numerous migrants from poorer Arabic countries and Southeast Asia. Generally, there are no democratic procedures. Women devoid almost all civil laws. Nevertheless, the mode of life here is established, and radical changes in the nearest future could hardly happen because the societal life in those places is governed by religious rules rather than social prescriptions.
Analysis of the Syrian conflict from the point of modern international relations can be narrowed down to two well-known paradigms: realistic (including classical realism and neorealism) and liberal (traditional idealism and neoliberalism). In political realism, the key role play the definition of interest determined in power terms and definition of power balance and geopolitical strategy bent with it. Therefore, the core of the realistic approach lies in understanding the world policy as a national uncompromising struggle for power and influence, as can be seen from the example of the policy of Russia, which does not neglects interests of other countries but tries to receive some benefit.
On the contrary, liberal paradigm was formed after the realistic one. With the end of the cold war, the political realism standing was seriously shaken. Undoubtedly, the realistic thesis about radically diverse political interactions within a state and international scene has a sound basis. But at the same time, the nature of international relations is changing into deliberate anarchy, under which western liberal-democratic nations (for example, the USA) are able to play the role of national security guarantees, and as a result, achievement of progress becomes available for all states, including weak ones, and their citizens. Regarding the security aspect, it can be concluded, that the idea of international cooperation is more successful; however, it is possible only when each country wants to settle all the emerging conflicts. Classical realists’ views on the conflict are fairer and give an understanding of what the real politics is. Although the international relation anarchy continues to exist and increases, there are opportunities for settlement. Among these opportunities is humanitarian intervention, which is a contradictory but still the only right tool to resolve conflicts.
In November, the USA is going to elect a new president, and one of the main positions is the American external policy is dependence on antiliberalism growth. If Hillary Clinton becomes the President, it will surely result in continuation of the international policy, involving the USA in the world affairs approximately at the level observed during the last decades. As the centrists and rightists predominantly consider Obama’s external and defense policy weak, Clinton is expected to be stronger. Most probably, she would have to take a firm position to China and nuclear dealing with Iran signed in summer 2015. Also, she would have to show more severe approach to Russian expansionism revealed in Ukraine and Syria. The Middle East conflict increases, involving new participants with high ambitions, which will be one of the key issues in the global arena that Clinton would have to cope with.