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How should Europe react in the worsening Syrian crisis?
by Christos Mouzeviris
2012-07-23 07:46:59
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For the past couple of years we are seeing a great animosity in our world. From our own economic crisis, to the turbulent uprisings in our own very neighborhood; the Arab Spring as they call it.

One after another, people in the Arab countries demand change in their societies and reforms. They want to get rid of the established elites and bring democracy in their nations, as they claim at least. For the past one and a half year, Syria is the country that is in the eye of this storm of events in the region and the only one that after Libya has experienced the most violence.

Between 18,000 to 25,000 people have died already, between them 500 children! An outcry for the rest of the world, and still this carnage continues. But things are not as easy or straight forward as they seem. Russia and China, though critical of the Bashar al-Assad's regime and its actions, they block any foreign intervention especially from the West. Others like Iran, support the regime totally.

But we should not try to explain the events according our version or understanding of politics and social issues. The Middle East and Syria, have a different culture and if we examine their history, it was always violent and full of coups and instability that often was supported by powers outside the region.

Like for example in the 1949 when democratic rule was overturned by a coup backed by America! And when a coup or a civil was comes to a nation, it leaves wounds that are very hard to heal. The country's old divisions between its religious and ethnic minorities have been ever since at odds in many occasions. Sunnis against Shia  Muslims, Kurds against Arabs, Christians against Muslims and vice versa.

And so because of  this mosaic of peoples, instability, need for social coherence, foreign intervention and with this great and important geopolitical position with everything that this brings, Syria created its own peculiar to us political and social system. In this system certain clans gained more power and monopolized the country's politics. But why is the West so critical of this? Isn't the same happen to our countries as well? I will bring the example of my native Greece where a similar situation exists, yet our partners seem to support it and encourage it.

Nevertheless nothing justifies the violence and number of deaths that Mr. Bashar al-Assad's regime is bringing on to their own people. But if the opposing side wins and come to power, I am sure that they will do exactly the same few decades down to try and stay in power. Will then the West support the civilians or will they call them terrorists and assist the new regime to stub out the uprisings? Remember, one man's terrorist and villain is another man's hero.

We are in the middle of a power struggle in the region that dates back centuries and is fanned by foreign powers, trying to protect their interests in the region. So what should Europe do, to help the people of Syria? Is Syria the next Bosnia, and can Europe solve the crisis there with an invasion like in the Balkans?

I think we should be real careful, we should tread very carefully. The Russians have already sent troops down there, so have the Chinese and the Americans too. Each one trying to protect their own interests. The Americans want a change of the regime, since the current one do not serve their interests for the region anymore. The Russians have long trading relationship with the Syrians, especially arms trade and want to protect their interests as well. Nothing to criticize here, the Americans and the Europeans have been doing the same so many times before in so many other regions.

The Russians also have a naval base in Syria, the only one that remains outside their borders since the times of USSR. And it is their only gateway to the Mediterranean. The Russians are showing a great interest in the region, especially now that a huge amount of gas was found in Cyprus. They are investing hugely on the island and they are prepared to defend their interests. Therefore they sent troops to the region, ever since Turkey started threatening Cyprus again.

 So the Turks are in a power struggle with Russia, with the backing of their long standing allies the Americans. They also have interests in the region themselves, both in the Cypriot waters and the Middle East, a region that borders with them and have long seen of a great importance to them. Turkey in the recent years have been trying to establish itself as a leading power in the region. They also support the Syrian rebels for all the above reasons, in hope to change the status quo in the country and assist their interests and those of the West too.

The Syrians on the other hand showed their teeth to the Turks by shooting down one of their air-crafts that had trespassed their aerial space down. China, showing support for Russia and of course serving their own interests have also got involved in the region and have sent troops over there too. Can Europe enter such situation? We can not afford to enter a war right now... Most of us anyway. Our economies are not performing well at the moment and we have so many things to solve in our own back yard first. Never mind the human cost and ethical dilemma. But then again we do not want another Bosnia.

I think we should only intervene under the UN lead, and only if we have to. The Russians won’t let go of Syria so easily, it is their only ally in the region. It is sad that the Syrian people must pay for the geopolitical games of power between East and West, between the established powers of this World. But it has always been this way.

This is far more serious than the Yugoslavian wars though. It could implicate all major World powers, leading in a hot war that could spread in the whole region and even worse, become global. Can Europe be at odds with Russia? It is not in our interests. We need Russia and unless we find other energy resources we can not be hostile to them. And even if we do, Russia borders so many EU states and in the future maybe even more. We can not ignore them. We should re-establish new relationships with them, growing away from the Cold War days. But this requires effort and trust from both sides.

In my opinion we should give the UN full power and control over the situation, and if needed Europe will assist the UN and bring peace. But the question is, will the Americans allow it? They have ignored the UN so many times before. Aren’t we enough involved in hostilities and wars in the Arab world already? Can Europe be seen to be siding with America once again and get involved in yet another war in yet another Arab nation? We could be giving more fuel to Islamic fundamentalists to promote their anti-Western propaganda with meddling in their affairs.

Also we should pressure the Arab League to take a more active and decisive role in the conflict. They have suspended Syria's membership in their organization so far, but perhaps they could get more involved? Their actions can not be seen as anti-Islamic or anti-Arab. They have to understand the importance of the situation and for once the Arabs must start uniting and speaking with one voice too, while getting more involved in global issues just like what the Europeans are doing. But then again, will they be allowed to do so? Who would like a strong Arabic Islamic voice in the World?

Europe also has a great experience in negotiations and could play a decisive role as a peace broker, as a moderator for the conflict. Europe should not side with anyone in this conflict in the region.  I do not trust the Western media, after what they have been saying about Greece during the economic crisis. All the propaganda and lies, the slander. So in this case too, I do not trust our media again and I am a skeptic about our motives to enter such conflict and get involved. Who says that we are always on the right? Some say that the Christians of Syria are being attacked by those same rebels that the EU wants to support.  So why doesn’t Europe protect those people too? Are we using one-sided drama stories to justify our plans to expand our sphere on influence?

Europe should offer humanitarian aid in all sides of the conflict indiscriminately, we should be seen that we really care for the suffering of the people of Syria, not just of those who we support because they are going to serve our interests in the future. We should not pour oil in the fire, we should not side with the Sunnis or the Shia, the Christians or the Kurds. Diplomacy, aid, and use a united voice in the UN, while bringing on board the Arab League to try to bring knowledge and legitimacy in our peaceful involvement in the conflict.

Because if the case is that we will get involved to serve our elites' interests or even worse America's, Turkey's, Israel's or anyone else,  I will not support any move that implicate Europe in this. Not for this, not for the interests of the few power and wealth mongering elites of this world, European or not. I will not consent to sacrifice human lives to materialize this propaganda. And for once, Europe must start acting ethically, giving an example to the rest of the World.


Christos Mouzeviris is the writer of the blog: The Eblana European Democratic Movement 

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Emanuel Paparella2012-07-23 17:23:10
"And for once, Europe must start acting ethically, giving an example to the rest of the World."

Indeed, when I read the writings of the founding fathers of the EU (Monet, Schumannn, De Gasperi, Aidenauer, etc.) it seems to me that such was exactly the message they wished to convey.

Are we talking about amnesia about the foundations of the EU or perhaps betrayal of principles and ideals as spelled out by the founding fathers?

Democracy is of course essential but even that can become an ideology to further one's power-grabbing agenda. Perhaps it is time to re-read those writings, and even more importantly, pay attention to the exemplary lives of those founding fathers.

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