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AMBASSADOR'S ARTICLES

05.09.2013

Syrian impasse: a tragedy of errors (by Alexander Yakovenko, Russian Ambassador to UK, for Russia Today)

In the course of its walk to Congress the US Administration has to devise a strategy for using force against Syria. That appears to be leading inevitably to a regime change, quite an orthodox option that failed utterly in other countries of the Middle East, but still reffects traditional value-for-money calculation of the US strategic mentality. How else one ought to understand plans to degrade Syrian military and upgrade capabilities of the opposition? The goal of finding political solution to the crisis is still professed. But the military intervention outside the international law can only render the situation more intractable.

Russia has always dealt with other countries on the basis of non-interference in domestic affairs. Though reluctantly, we received Oliver Cromwell's ambassadors. We helped ensure that nobody interfered in American affairs, were it at the time of the War for Independence or the Civil War either by way of policy of "armed neutrality" or naval demonstrations. That is why Russia can rightfully claim clarity and consistency in her foreign policy.

It is the bread of politics, domestic or foreign, to have to deal with the people we don't like. It is now widely admitted that the Western policy on Syria was based on a fundamentally flawed assumption from the very start of this crisis. The Syrian Government was expected to fall quickly or deserted by its base. It wasn't an innocent error of judgment, since it resulted in the Western partners' reluctance to encourage the opposition in earnest to negotiate with the Government on political settlement. The opposition seems, in its turn, to have been counting on Western military invasion. That is why the lack of movement on launching political process.

An idea of a traditional contact group on Syria is being put forward in Britain. It is a good point. But such a group was assembled a year ago, it agreed the Communique on 30 June 2012. The problem is that it is incomplete with Iran and the Saudi Arabia left out. We have got to have all the regional players on board since the Syrian crisis requires a regional solution. Another problem is that when Russia and US agreed on 7 May 2013 to revive this initiative, both of us undertook to bring the two side to the negotiating table. We delivered on it, when the Syrian Government accepted to go to Geneva-2. But the opposition preferred to continue waiting for the military option.

It is next to impossible to try to start a political process after the military strikes. All the more so, that the tactics of waiting for an invasion opened the door for influx of all sorts of terrorist and extremist groups of foreigners who have their own ideological agendas which have nothing to do with the national interest of Syria. As a result, the situation has degraded to the point when there is no secular/moderate alternative to the present Syrian Government, as admit Western observers.

And all of it is blamed on Russia! Tom Graham is absolutely right in questioning this dishonest shifting of responsibility. After the end of the Cold War the West/US became in charge of a truly global empire. But intellectual complacency and shortsightedness led to a tragic waste of time, political capital and financial resources required, had there been political will, to soft-land the Middle East, dominated by Western-supported authoritarian regimes into modernity, including resolution of the Arab-Israel conflict. Who will answer for that?

I truly believe that it is not late yet before the guns have spoken, to pursue the political option.




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