Syrian conflict can be resolved only through peace talks

Jatin Desai
Saturday, 21 April 2018

The US recently launched several missiles across the Damascus skyline in Syria targeting different parts of the capital.

Whether the Syrian conflict has escalated with the attack by the US and its allies UK and France, is a big question. The attack was on the pretext that Syrian government used chemical weapons in Douma near Damascus, so more than 100 missiles were targeted on three facilities that allegedly produce chemical weapons. The attack took place when the team of Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was in Damascus to verify whether chemical weapons were used in Douma.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin called it as an ‘act of aggression,’ Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei condemned it by saying it is ‘a war crime,’ and Syrian foreign ministry described it as a ‘barbarous aggression.’

Trump described the attack as ‘mission accomplished.’ In the attacks nobody was killed, only three people were injured and no Russians were injured. The attack on Syria is not going to achieve anything but it has divided the world.

Western alliance decided to attack following Syrian regime’s alleged use of poison gas on April 7 against terrorist-held Douma. The US and its allies have not provided any evidence establishing chemical weapons were used by the Syrian government in Douma. Ideally, they should have waited for the report of OPCW. The attacks were on alleged chemical weapons plant in Barzah Research and Development Centre outside Damascus and Him Shinshar Chemical Weapons Complex outside the city of Homs. The US military claimed that they completely destroyed the complex’s chemical storage facility. Syria claimed hardly any damage was done in the attacks.

Donald Trump came to power wanting to keep out of Syria but since then he has changed his position, may be on the advice of Pentagon. Even last year, US had fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles in Syria after a chemical attack in Idlib province. On that occasion, 20 Syrian planes were destroyed.

The countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and Israel are supporting the US action and Russia, Iran, Iraq, Algeria and Lebanon are backing Syria. The Western and Arab media are covering Syria conflict in detail. The Syrian conflict is too complicated and needs to be looked into seriously. Meanwhile, India has not taken a clear position on the attacks on Syria.

India has always opposed the aggression on a sovereign country but may have preferred to remain silent this time in the changed global scenario. Ideally, India should have expressed concern over the use of missiles. The dilemma before the Indian diplomats may be of how to take a stand when the US has become a close friend and Russia a traditional friend.   

The conflict within Syria is going on for last seven years and around five lakh people have been killed during the period and five million have fled the country. Terrorist organisations like Jabhat al-Nusra, Islamic State etc, have been receiving aid from various countries who want to remove Bashar al-Assad from the post of Syrian President. The Syrian army with the support of Russia has been able to recapture most of the part of the country from the terrorists.   

The immediate effect of the conflict can result in a further rise in crude oil prices. It is now at all-time high i.e. $72 per barrel since 2014. It can go further up and affect the global economy.

The conflict is not going to be resolved by mere attacking so called Syrian chemical weapons facilities. One should not forget that thousands of Syrians came on the road and condemned aggression after attacks on the Syrian soil. The attack has hardly done any damage to the alleged chemical weapons facilities.

The attack on Syria was not authorised by UNSC. Ideally, in such a scenario, SC needs to play a pro-active role, but, it did not happen. The frustration of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres can be seen from his statement when he said, ”Any use of chemical weapons is abhorrent and the suffering it causes is horrendous. I have repeatedly expressed my deep disappointment that the Security Council failed to agree on a dedicated mechanism for effective accountability for the use of chemical weapons in Syria.” 

He further said, ”The SC has primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. I call on the members of the Security Council to unite and exercise that responsibility. I urge all member states to show restraint in these dangerous circumstances and to avoid any acts that could escalate the situation and worsen the suffering of the Syrian people.”

The international community needs to play an active role in resolving the Syrian crisis. It is a political issue as well as humanitarian and the conflict cannot be resolved unless America and Russia co-operate. Earlier, US have threatened Russia with sanctions for its support to the Syrian government but now, it is believed that President Trump has scrapped a plan to impose sanctions. The best option is to revive the stalled Geneva peace talks on Syria.  

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