Negotiations and maneuvers have been taking place over a political solution for the crisis that arose after the Bashar Assad regime used chemical weapons against its people, in order to see the regime avoid a military strike by the United States and western countries. On the sidelines of these negotiations and maneuvers, one can stop and take notice of some of the notions, conclusions and ironies, which are well-removed from the propaganda about victory being achieved by this or that country, whether in diplomatic, security, or military terms.
One of the leading observations is as follows: the countries supporting the Syrian regime have not relied upon their military force and capabilities in order to spare Assad a US military strike. Instead they are wagering on the impact of the US Congress’ stance and its vote against supporting US President Barack Obama’s move toward carrying out this strike.
Those who follow the statements made by leaders of the Syrian regime’s leading supports, Russia and Iran, have surely noticed that they avoided threatening the US with a response if Obama carries out his decision. They preferred to issue warnings about the repercussions of the strike, in terms of al-Qaeda and terrorist organizations benefiting from it in order to expand their operations against western and US interests. Moscow stated clearly that it would not take part in any war that breaks out, to the degree that it said it would not respond if one of its ships were hit by mistake, or even on purpose. Meanwhile, the political-media campaign waged by Iran stressed that Israel would be the country that is most harmed by the strike. Iran threatened that missiles would fall on Israel when they begin to strike Syrian regime locations. The excuses put forward by Russia and Iran were aimed at influencing members of Congress who have been hesitant, or who might change their stances if they are influenced by the campaign waged by Obama to bring them around to his point of view. Moscow and Tehran descended to engaging in the democratic game in Washington, in parallel to Moscow’s sending ships to evacuate its nationals, and monitor US military moves in the Mediterranean. Perhaps Russia’s radar will help the Assad’s regime’s early-warning system when the rockets are launched from US warships. Meanwhile there have been reports that Hezbollah has taken over responsibility for some of Syria’s rocket launch platforms, in Syria, hinting that it could responds from Syria, and not Lebanon, against Israel. Tehran has wagered on this leading the Israeli lobby in Washington, due to its deep anxiety over Israel’s security, to influencing certain members of the US House and Senate to reject a strike, while preserving Israel’s security continues to be a priority for Russia.
Tehran has exploited the “lobby” in America to work on warning the US public about the repercussions of a strike, and perhaps this will help preserve a congressional majority that rejects such military action. Iran has promised to provide humanitarian and economic support to Syria. Russian President Vladimir Putin has gone so far as to write an editorial for The New York Times, to speak “directly to the American people and its political leaders,” in a rare move. He called for protecting international law, and distanced himself from protecting the Assad regime.
Obama himself has played the game of using external influence on Congress, by drumming up European support. He managed to make progress via the EU call for “a strong and clear response to the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons.” However, it is ironic to see everyone talk about “hesitation” by Obama, for merely deciding to refer to Congress to obtain its support, even though this resembles the resort by Moscow and Tehran to peaceful and “democratic” means to confront the possible strike.
It is the economy. US public opinion does not want to hear about a new war after America’s failures in Iraq and Afghanistan caused a slowdown in the US economy. This was behind Obama’s hesitation – he fears that a military strike will have a negative impact on the economic situation, and on his promises to Americans that the economy will recover. And the economy is equally important for Russia and Iran. The economic situation in both countries is not enviable. If they move in the direction of any kind of military confrontation with the US if it carries out a strike, whether directly or indirectly, their economic difficulties will become even greater, compared to the cost of their moving toward any compromise. The likely economic cost is what prompted China’s president, Xi Jinping, at the G20 Summit one week ago, to warn about the negative impact of any war.
There is the irony that the Syrian regime has acknowledged it possesses chemical weapons, while Russia has implicitly acknowledged that Damascus used these weapons, as they have both suggested putting them under the authority of the United Nations (because the crisis resulted from their use, and not merely the possession of these weapons). Another irony is that the Russian initiative allows a return to the UN to deal with the Syrian crisis, after three vetoes by Russia and China in the Security Council prevented this.
This (serious) return to the UN was an American demand, and not a Russian one. Washington has retreated from unilaterally leading the world less than a year after it invaded Iraq and failed to govern the country, during the Bush administration. We should recall that the first fruits of this fall-back in the US’ leading role came with UN Security Council Resolution 1559 on Lebanon, which was followed by several decisions, most importantly related to sanctions on Iran, with Russian and Chinese approval. Washington insists on cooperation with Moscow, to preserve international consensus on the Iranian nuclear issue.
However, what deserves the most pity and ridicule in playing the game of influencing American democracy is the letter sent by the speaker of Syria’s Parliament to the legislatures of Britain, France, and the US, asking their members to "not rush into any irresponsible reckless action."
The views expressed by the author do not necessarily represent or reflect the editorial policy of Arabstoday.