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Monday, March 12, 2012

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Bashar?

Unless you live under a rock or exist in some parallel university where newspapers, 24 hour television news and Twitter don't exist you'll be aware that there is something of a situation in Syria. A situation that is, tantamount to a genocide in the eyes of some people, a situation that is costing the lives of hundreds of innocent men, women and children all in the cause of keeping Bashar Al Assad and his regime in power. Its not an unfamiliar scenario. It was one that was played out only a short while a go in Libya. The only real difference is the reaction. Whilst a myriad of countries including the USA, UK, France and Qatar were quick to condemn the situation in Libya and the Ghaddafi regime and support that condemnation through a variety of military and diplomatic  actions, this time round many of these countries are less quick to commit. Whilst most politicians across the globe have expressed their horror at what is happening in Syria, many have removed their diplomatic missions and dismissed Syrian diplomats from their countries, beyond that they seem hesitant to act. A UN security council resolution on the issue was vetoed by both Russia and China and the situation remains in a holding pattern. And whilst the men and women in power hold their breathes and mark time the death toll rises and the atrocities mount.

So the big question here is 'Why'? Many would counter that this question has a brutally simple answer. Oil. Syria doesn't have any. There is nothing to be gained or lost by the continuing situation for the majority of countries who would be best placed to intervene. Its close relationship with Iran, a country long viewed with suspicion by much of the world, might be another factor. This is, quite obviously, an appalling state of affairs and one that sits very uncomfortably with the majority of decent people who care about the lives of others and feel that a government is there to serve its people and not the other way round. Go through your Twitter feed or check your Facebook news feed. Thousands of people around the world are watching in horror and asking 'Why aren't we doing anything?.

Unfortunately, to many policy makers this makes perfect sense. Whilst they decry the actions of Assad and his government they are simply not willing to put lives and hard cash on the line for something which is not in the interest of their countries. Its a terrible state of affairs, but in a world where the global economy is in free fall, we're all still reeling from the failed war in Iraq and the failing one in Afghanistan and a US election year, everyone is more cautious.

So what can be done? Clearly its not a situation that can be allowed to continue. The question lies in just whose job sorting out this mess should be. The UN is currently stymied, at least until such time as China and Russia change their position (and there is immense pressure on them to do so), individual countries such as the US and UK are reluctant to act outside of this for both political and economic reasons. So who should it be?

In my opinion its time for the Arab world to step up and take action. There have been stirrings of it. The Arab League have been attempting to mediate in countries such as Yemen, Qatar has been highly vocal in its condemnation of the various regimes whom have been challenged by the Arab Spring. Its a solution that makes sense. Western intervention in incidents in the region has been fraught with problems. Lack of cultural understanding on the side of the western forces, a feeling of being 'occupied' by those being aided and alas, often a general lack of understanding and respect from both sides mean that whilst western intervention can get rid of one problem it can often cause a greater one and the impact of this can be far reaching. The events of the last 10 years in general and specific events in the more recent past are testament to this. By using Arab forces, not only would the region be empowered with the idea that they can be the makers of their own destinies, something which a number of these nations are now beginning to realise, but it nips many of these problems in the bud. The problems work both ways and are creating further division and giving those who would damage international relationships fuel to their fire. Had Arab forces been fully involved in current international situations mistakes such as the recent Quran burning might never have happened, the trashing of the Commonwealth War Cemetery in Libya, in the wake of the UK's intervention might never have occurred, or at least might not have left quite such a  feeling of distaste in so many mouths. In addition to the cultural aspects, The Arab League contains a number of incredibly wealthy countries. Qatar alone was very recently estimated to have somewhere in the region of 9.5 Trillion dollars worth of hydrocarbon reserves. They can afford to fund military action within the region. In addition greater involvement of other Arab countries in the reconstruction period could help these countries find what better suits them. I also feel that by letting the Arab world 'keep its own house in order' so to speak, it could have a positive impact on relationships between not only the Arab world, but the wider Muslim world and the West. Greater influence within their own regions coupled with an increased profile on the world stage, I feel would lead to greater understanding between nations and lead to a decrease in conflict and prejudice on both sides.

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