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Is Syrian Crisis Will Lead to Third Word War?

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] S [/yt_dropcap]yria has been passing through the throes of civil war. Due to this crisis, out of approximately 23 million Syrian population, about 500.000 people have been killed. The Syrian refugee crisis has been conceived more critical in the post-World War-II era. About 7 million people have been displaced internally, and about 3 million people had left the country,

Turkey being the largest refugee-hosting country. Currently, Syria has lost infrastructure, economy, along with exponential increasing poverty sans basic necessities. Although, the Syrian crisis has started at the local level, but now it has taken the shape of a global problem.

Currently, the Syrian War has been divided into major two groups, one led by the US and the other one by Russia. Most of the countries from the Middle East Asia have joined the US group, and some of the countries from the same region have joined the Russia side to oppose and support the Syrian regime. On 6th April 2017, the US attacked Syria’s Shayrat Airbase by 60 Tomahawk cruise missiles. Russia has warned the US with grave consequences if these attacks will continue. Many electronic and print media reports anticipating that it could turn into a World War-III. The main focus of this piece is to see, what shape it could take and how it can be sorted out?  

What is a Syrian Crisis?

Though the Syrian minorities had played a pivotal role in the liberation of it from the millennium subjugation, but these minorities (Sunni Islam -68.4%; Shia Islam -3.2%; Alawism -11.3%; Druze -3.2%; Nusayrism -1.3%; Alevism -0.7%; Yazidism -0.2%; Christianity -11.2%; Others -0.5%) have felt betrayed upon taking over the Assad regime by the Baath Party under the leadership of Hafez al-Assad (1970-2000). Assad’s long reign of authoritarianism and totalitarianism since the 1970s, characterized by the lack of political freedoms, high unemployment, limited opportunities for upward mobility, corruption, nepotism, and exponential growing poverty which had fuelled the public disgruntlement. The Sunni people (74%), have been ruled by an Assad family belongs to a minority -the Alawites (11.3%), a part of the Shia sect. Moreover, Arab Spring and successful boisterous demonstration and protests in Egypt, Tunisia, and in other neighboring countries have encouraged the Syrian people to rise against the authoritarianism regime. The peaceful demonstrations against the incumbent regime of Bashar al-Assad (2000-till date), has been started in March 2011 as the Syrians were encouraged and inspired by the successful protest marches against the governments of Egypt, Tunisia, and several other Arab states.

Syrian War –A Humanitarian Crisis

The unrest has been started on 15 March 2011. The boisterous demonstrations and protests have organized by the rebel groups, demanding the oust of the President Bashar al-Assad along with the relinquishment of political power by the Ba’ath Party, which has been ruling Syria since 1971.

To pacify the protests and demonstrations by the rebels, the Syrian Army was deployed in April 2011. In reciprocation, the Syrian Army has opened the fires on civilian protesters. As the suppressions ensued, some of the Syrian Army officers had formed the Free Syrian Army (FSA). It was formed with the objectives of protecting the Syrian people from the Assad regime’s suppression and repression and overthrowing the totalitarianism government. The law and order situation had deteriorated into a complete armed rebellion. Now, the Syrian crisis has been involving two groups. On the one hand, the incumbent government led by Bashar al –Assad has been supported by the Russia, Iran, China and Hezbollah (Shi’a Islamist militant group and political party based in Lebanon ) and wheras on the contrary, liberal groups like Free Syrian Army, Southern Front Forces, Army of Islam, and Kurdish Forces fighing against the Assad regime supported by the US, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and some Gulf countries. The terrorist groups like Al-Nusrah Front (A Syrian Al-Qaeda branch) and ISIS have also been fighting against the Syrian regime

After the World War-II, the Syrian crisis has been known as the biggest humanitarian crisis. More than half of the population has been one or the other way has been affected by the crisis. As per the reports of the UNHRC, the war crimes have been committed against the Syrian people. The violations of human rights and crimes against the Syrian people included such as murders, atrocities, rapes and enforced disappearances. The civilian peoples have been denied the access to the food, water, and health services along with sexual violence throughout the war by the rebels as well as the authoritarian regime. There are an approximately 1/3 of the Syrian population have been displaced internally. About 4.1 million people had fled to neighbouring countries, including Jordan and Turkey, to escape the violence since 2011.

Is it a Beginning of the Third World War?

Now the major question arises, does the Syrian Civil War become a launching platform for the World War-III? The US has been standing with the Syrian rebel groups with a programme of “train and equip.” The countries such as the UK, France, and Saudi Arabia are standing with the US side. On the other hand, Russia and Iran have been supporting the Syrian government with strategic support. China is also helping Syria and supporting countries by providing diplomatic support.

A chemical attack by the Assad government in Idlib province in which 80 people have been killed, invited the US missile attack on 6 April 2017. Even the US President gave future actions indication by saying that “something should happen” to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad being responsible for the heinous attack. It shows the paradigmatic shift in the Trumps’ Syrian policy. It was further substantiated by the statement of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, wherein he said, Assad would have “no role” in the Syrian government and “steps are underway” to oust him.

The supporter countries of the Assad regime took a serious note of the US missile attack on 7 April, 2017. Russia has issued a stern warning to the US by saying that further such actions would seriously challenge the global security. Moreover, the Russian FM Sergey Lavrov hosted his Syrian and Iranian counterparts in Moscow to review the prevalent situation. Lavrov said, “We call on the US and its allies to respect Syria’s sovereignty and refrain from actions similar to what happened on April 7, and which have serious ramifications not only for regional but also global security.”

Some strategic thinkers and senior journalists are of the opinion that involvement of the major powers in the Syrian conflict could turn into to a third world war. Turkey was of the firm opinion that the world would entrap into a global conflict, had America and Russia not restricted themselves in the Syrian conflict. The Daily Mail quoted Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus, wherein he said, “If this proxy war continues, after this, let me be clear, America and Russia will come to the point of the war.” Many strategic thinkers, commentators, politician etc. have expressed concerns over the engagements of major powers in Syrian crisis and consequent evolving situation.

At last, it is concluded that if this crisis lingers on, then it would have serious consequence not only the regional security but at the global level as well. It has also been affecting seriously the Syrian people, who have been obligated to lead a miserable life. They have been living a life of refugees, a life sans education, health, and many other basic needs. It is, therefore, recommended that the major powers should try to ferret out the solution to the crisis through the dialogues and deliberations. Use of the military option (missile attack/s is/are not the solution. Double standard policies by the major powers related to political regime/counter-terrors to be avoided. Like a war, if Syrian crisis turned into, would have grave consequences for regional security. Thus, the neighboring countries are exhorted to restrain the geopolitical entanglement in the crisis. A regional approach to the crisis would be an option. Moreover, the Syrian government should make some adjustable changes in the political system to avoid the unwanted interferences on the part of the major powers. A solution to the Syrian crisis could avert the probability of turning it into a major war!!  

Dr. Bawa Singh is teaching in the Centre for South and Central Asian Studies, School of Global Relations, Central University of Punjab, Bathinda, India-151001. bawasingh73[at]gmail.com

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Middle East

Breaking The Line of the Israel-Palestine Conflict

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The conflict between Israel-Palestine is a prolonged conflict and has become a major problem, especially in the Middle East region.

A series of ceasefires and peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine that occurred repeatedly did not really “normalize” the relationship between the two parties.

In order to end the conflict, a number of parties consider that the two-state solution is the best approach to create two independent and coexistent states. Although a number of other parties disagreed with the proposal, and instead proposed a one-state solution, combining Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip into one big state.

Throughout the period of stalemate reaching an ideal solution, the construction and expansion of settlements carried out illegally by Israel in the Palestinian territories, especially the West Bank and East Jerusalem, also continued without stopping and actually made the prospect of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian crisis increasingly eroded, and this could jeopardize any solutions.

The attempted forced eviction in the Sheikh Jarrah district, which became one of the sources of the conflict in May 2021, for example, is an example of how Israel has designed a system to be able to change the demographics of its territory by continuing to annex or “occupy” extensively in the East Jerusalem area. This is also done in other areas, including the West Bank.

In fact, Israel’s “occupation” of the eastern part of Jerusalem which began at the end of the 1967 war, is an act that has never received international recognition.

This is also confirmed in a number of resolutions issued by the UN Security Council Numbers 242, 252, 267, 298, 476, 478, 672, 681, 692, 726, 799, 2334 and also United Nations General Assembly Resolutions Number 2253, 55/130, 60/104, 70/89, 71/96, A/72/L.11 and A/ES-10/L.22 and supported by the Advisory Opinion issued by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2004 on Legal Consequences of The Construction of A Wall in The Occupied Palestine Territory which states that East Jerusalem is part of the Palestinian territories under Israeli “occupation”.

1 or 2 country solution

Back to the issue of the two-state solution or the one-state solution that the author mentioned earlier. The author considers that the one-state solution does not seem to be the right choice.

Facts on the ground show how Israel has implemented a policy of “apartheid” that is so harsh against Palestinians. so that the one-state solution will further legitimize the policy and make Israel more dominant. In addition, there is another consideration that cannot be ignored that Israel and Palestine are 2 parties with very different and conflicting political and cultural identities that are difficult to reconcile.

Meanwhile, the idea of ​​a two-state solution is an idea that is also difficult to implement. Because the idea still seems too abstract, especially on one thing that is very fundamental and becomes the core of the Israel-Palestine conflict, namely the “division” of territory between Israel and Palestine.

This is also what makes it difficult for Israel-Palestine to be able to break the line of conflict between them and repeatedly put them back into the status quo which is not a solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

The status quo, is in fact a way for Israel to continue to “annex” more Palestinian territories by establishing widespread and systematic illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Today, more than 600,000 Israeli settlers now live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

In fact, a number of resolutions issued by the UN Security Council have explicitly and explicitly called for Israel to end the expansion of Israeli settlement construction in the occupied territory and require recognition of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of the region.

Thus, all efforts and actions of Israel both legislatively and administratively that can cause changes in the status and demographic composition in East Jerusalem and the West Bank must continue to be condemned. Because this is a violation of the provisions of international law.

Fundamental thing

To find a solution to the conflict, it is necessary to look back at the core of the conflict that the author has mentioned earlier, and the best way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is to encourage Israel to immediately end the “occupation” that it began in 1967, and return the settlements to the pre-Islamic borders 1967 In accordance with UN Security Council resolution No. 242.

But the question is, who can stop the illegal Israeli settlements in the East Jerusalem and West Bank areas that violate the Palestinian territories?

In this condition, international political will is needed from countries in the world, to continue to urge Israel to comply with the provisions of international law, international humanitarian law, international human rights law and also the UN Security Council Resolutions.

At the same time, the international community must be able to encourage the United Nations, especially the United Nations Security Council, as the organ that has the main responsibility for maintaining and creating world peace and security based on Article 24 of the United Nations Charter to take constructive and effective steps in order to enforce all United Nations Resolutions, and dare to sanction violations committed by Israel, and also ensure that Palestinian rights are important to protect.

So, do not let this weak enforcement of international law become an external factor that also “perpetuates” the cycle of the Israel-Palestine conflict. It will demonstrate that John Austin was correct when he stated that international law is only positive morality and not real law.

And in the end, the most fundamental thing is that the blockade, illegal development, violence, and violations of international law must end. Because the ceasefire in the Israel-Palestine conflict is only a temporary solution to the conflict.

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Iran unveils new negotiation strategy

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Image source: Tehran Times

While the West is pressuring Iran for a return to the Vienna nuclear talks, the top Iranian diplomat unveiled a new strategy on the talks that could reset the whole negotiation process. 

The Iranian parliament held a closed meeting on Sunday at which Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian briefed the lawmakers on a variety of pressing issues including the situation around the stalled nuclear talks between Iran and world powers over reviving the 2015 nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

The Iranian foreign ministry didn’t give any details about the session, but some lawmakers offered an important glimpse into the assessment Abdollahian gave to the parliament.

According to these lawmakers, the Iranian foreign ministry addressed many issues ranging from tensions with Azerbaijan to the latest developments in Iranian-Western relations especially with regard to the JCPOA. 

On Azerbaijan, Abdollahian has warned Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev against falling into the trap set by Israel, according to Alireza Salimi, a member of the Iranian Parliament’s presiding board who attended the meeting. Salimi also said that the Iranian foreign minister urged Aliyev to not implicate himself in the “Americans’ complexed scheme.”

In addition to Azerbaijan, Abdollahian also addressed the current state of play between Iran and the West regarding the JCPOA.

“Regarding the nuclear talks, the foreign minister explicitly stated that the policy of the Islamic Republic is action for action, and that the Americans must show goodwill and honesty,” Salimi told Fars News on Sunday.

The remarks were in line with Iran’s oft-repeated stance on the JCPOA negotiations. What’s new is that the foreign minister determined Iran’s agenda for talks after they resume. 

Salimi quoted Abdollahian as underlining that the United States “must certainly take serious action before the negotiations.”

In addition, the Iranian foreign minister said that Tehran intends to negotiate over what happened since former U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the JCPOA, not other issues. 

By expanding the scope of negotiations, Abdollahian is highly likely to strike a raw nerve in the West. His emphasis on the need to address the developments ensuing the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA in May 2018 could signal that the new government of President Ayatollah Seyed Ebrahim Raisi is not going to pick up where the previous government left. 

This has been a major concern in European diplomatic circles in the wake of the change of administrations in Iran. In fact, the Europeans and the Biden administration have been, and continue to be, worried about two things in the aftermath of Ayatollah Raisi taking the reins in Tehran; one is he refusing to accept the progress made during six rounds of talks under his predecessor Hassan Rouhani. Second, the possibility that the new government of Ayatollah Raisi would refuse to return to Vienna within a certain period of time. 

With Abdollahian speaking of negotiation over developments since Trump’s withdrawal, it seems that the Europeans will have to pray that their concerns would not come true. 

Of course, the Iranian foreign ministry has not yet announced that how it would deal with a resumed negotiation. But the European are obviously concerned. Before his recent visit to Tehran to encourage it into returning to Vienna, Deputy Director of the EU Action Service Enrique Mora underlined the need to prick up talks where they left in June, when the last round of nuclear talks was concluded with no agreement. 

“Travelling to Tehran where I will meet my counterpart at a critical point in time. As coordinator of the JCPOA, I will raise the urgency to resume #JCPOA negotiations in Vienna. Crucial to pick up talks from where we left last June to continue diplomatic work,” Mora said on Twitter. 

Mora failed to obtain a solid commitment from his interlocutors in Tehran on a specific date to resume the Vienna talk, though Iran told him that it will continue talks with the European Union in the next two weeks. 

Source: Tehran Times

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Shaping US Middle East policy amidst failing states, failed democratization and increased activism

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The future of US engagement in the Middle East hangs in the balance.

Two decades of forever war in Afghanistan and continued military engagement in Iraq and elsewhere in the region have prompted debate about what constitutes a US interest in the Middle East. China, and to a lesser degree Russia, loom large in the debate as America’s foremost strategic and geopolitical challenges.

Questions about US interests have also sparked discussion about whether the United States can best achieve its objectives by continued focus on security and military options or whether a greater emphasis on political, diplomatic, economic, and civil society tools may be a more productive approach.

The debate is coloured by a pendulum that swings from one extreme to the other. President Joe Biden has disavowed the notion of nation-building that increasingly framed the United States’ post-9/11 intervention in Afghanistan.

There is no doubt that the top-down nation-building approach in Afghanistan was not the way to go about things. It rested on policymaking that was informed by misleading and deceitful reporting by US military and political authorities and enabled a corrupt environment for both Afghans and Americans.

The lesson from Afghanistan may be that nation-building (to use a term that has become tainted for lack of a better word) has to be a process that is owned by the beneficiaries themselves while supported by external players from afar.

Potentially adopting that posture could help the Biden administration narrow the gap between its human rights rhetoric and its hard-nosed, less values-driven definition of US interests and foreign policy.

A cursory glance at recent headlines tells a tale of failed governance and policies, hollowed-out democracies that were fragile to begin with, legitimisation of brutality, fabrics of society being ripped apart, and an international community that grapples with how to pick up the pieces.

Boiled down to its essence, the story is the same whether it’s how to provide humanitarian aid to Afghanistan without recognising or empowering the Taliban or efforts to halt Lebanon’s economic and social collapse and descent into renewed chaos and civil war without throwing a lifeline to a discredited and corrupt elite.

Attempts to tackle immediate problems in Lebanon and Afghanistan by working through NGOs might be a viable bottom-up approach to the discredited top-down method.

If successful, it could provide a way of strengthening the voice of recent mass protests in Lebanon and Iraq that transcended the sectarianism that underlies their failed and flawed political structures. It would also give them ownership of efforts to build more open, pluralistic, and cohesive societies, a demand that framed the protests. Finally, it could also allow democracy to regain ground lost by failing to provide tangible progress.

This week’s sectarian fighting along the Green Line that separated Christian East from the Muslim West in Beirut during Lebanon’s civil war highlighted the risk of those voices being drowned out.

Yet, they reverberated loud and clear in the results of recent Iraqi parliamentary elections, even if a majority of eligible voters refrained from going to the polls.

We never got the democracy we were promised, and were instead left with a grossly incompetent, highly corrupt and hyper-violent monster masquerading as a democracy and traumatising a generation,” commented Iraqi Middle East counterterrorism and security scholar Tallha Abdulrazaq who voted only once in his life in Iraq. That was in the first election held in 2005 after the 2003 US invasion. “I have not voted in another Iraqi election since.”

Mr. Abdulrazaq’s disappointment is part and parcel of the larger issues of nation-building, democracy promotion and provision of humanitarian aid that inevitably will shape the future US role in the Middle East in a world that is likely to be bi-or multi-polar.

Former US National Security Council and State Department official Martin Indyk argued in a recent essay adapted from a forthcoming book on Henry Kissinger’s Middle East diplomacy that the US policy should aim “to shape an American-supported regional order in which the United States is no longer the dominant player, even as it remains the most influential.”

Mr. Indyk reasoned that support for Israel and America’s Sunni Arab allies would be at the core of that policy. While in a world of realpolitik the United States may have few alternatives, the question is how alignment with autocracies and illiberal democracies would enable the United States to support a bottom-up process of social and political transition that goes beyond lip service.

That question is particularly relevant given that the Middle East is entering its second decade of defiance and dissent that demands answers to grievances that were not expressed in Mr. Kissinger’s time, at least not forcefully.

Mr. Kissinger was focused on regional balances of power and the legitimisation of a US-dominated order. “It was order, not peace, that Kissinger pursued because he believed that peace was neither an achievable nor even a desirable objective in the Middle East,” Mr. Indyk said, referring to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Mr. Indyk noted that in Mr. Kissinger’s mind the rules of a US-dominated order “would be respected only if they provided a sufficient sense of justice to a sufficient number of states. It did not require the satisfaction of all grievances… ‘just an absence of the grievances that would motivate an effort to overthrow the order’.”

The popular Arab revolts of 2011 that toppled the leaders of Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and Yemen, even if their achievements were subsequently rolled back, and the mass protests of 2019 and 2020 that forced leaders of Sudan, Algeria, Iraq, and Lebanon to resign, but failed to fundamentally alter political and economic structures, are evidence that there is today a will to overthrow the order.

In his essay, Mr. Indyk acknowledges the fact that “across the region, people are crying out for accountable governments” but argues that “the United States cannot hope to meet those demands” even if “it cannot ignore them, either.”

Mr. Indyk may be right. Yet, the United States, with Middle East policy at an inflexion point, cannot ignore the fact that the failure to address popular grievances contributed significantly to the rise of violent Islamic militancy and ever more repressive and illiberal states in a region with a significant youth bulge that is no longer willing to remain passive and /or silent.

Pointing to the 600 Iraqi protesters that have been killed by security forces and pro-Iranian militias, Mr. Abdulrazaq noted in an earlier Al Jazeera op-ed that protesters were “adopting novel means of keeping their identities away from the prying eyes of security forces and powerful Shia militias” such as blockchain technology and decentralised virtual private networks.

“Unless they shoot down…internet-providing satellites, they will never be able to silence our hopes for democracy and accountability again. That is our dream,” Mr. Abdulrazzaq quoted Srinivas Baride, the chief technology officer of a decentralised virtual network favoured by Iraqi protesters, as saying.

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