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SPEECHES, INTERVIEWS, ARTICLES

04.09.2013

One mistake after another. It is still possible to prevent the foreign aggression in Syria. (Igor Ivanov, President of the Russian International Affairs Council, Russian Foreign Minister (1998-2004), Published in Rossiyskaya Gazeta (Federal issue) No.6170 of 2 September 2013)

Top Western politics lately have been talking more and more sincerely and insistently about their determination to carry out a military operation in respect of Syria. At the same time, they are forced to acknowledge that the Syrian problem has no military solution, that such solution is possible only within the framework of a political dialogue among all participants of the conflict.

An evident logical discrepancy, to put it mildly, is obvious. By trying to justify such inconsistent position, the West frequently appeals to different precedents of the recent past, in particular to the NATO’s aggression against Yugoslavia in 1999 and to the United States’ and their allies’ military operation in Iraq in 2003. They say that both interventions, although they were not approved by the UN Security Council, have demonstrated their effectiveness and have led to desirable results.

It seems that those, who appeal to the precedents of 1999 and 2003 cannot find more convincing arguments in favour of a military intervention into Syria. On the other hand, they seem to assume that the world has already forgotten the conditions of those tragic events. However, the experience of Yugoslavia and Iraq is a true evidence that the use of military force in such situations not only is not able to resolve the existing problems, but rather will cost even more severe consequences.

If we take Yugoslavia, a formal cause for NATO’s operation were the affirmations about a “humanitarian disaster” in Kosovo. As NATO’s formidable military machine was put into action in response to the situation in Kosovo. 10 million country in the centre of Europe was subjected to mass air attacks. And these events took place at the end of the 20th century, when the “cold war” has been a history for a long time!

NATO forces earnestly bombed Yugoslavia for 78 days. By the way, not only military objects, but also industrial companies, bridges over the Danube were subjected to air strikes. The traces of those bombings are still visible on façades of buildings in Belgrade. And what can you say about an American missile, which “accidentally bounced” into the window of the PRC’s Embassy in Belgrade?

Even if we leave moral and ethical aspects of NATO’s aggression outside the parentheses, any objective observer must admit: the NATO’s operation has not attained its goals. The solution of the question was returned to the UN Security Council, where it had to be resolved. And the Western aggressors were left nothing other than agreeing with the President of Serbia Slobodan Milošević, against whom the entire military operation was organised. The long-term result of this military operation was the breakup of Yugoslavia, an artificial creation of incapable Kosovo, which has become a hotbed of international crime and chronic instability. Of course, that time government of Yugoslavia also made many mistakes, did not use all political opportunities to prevent the war. However, it is another issue.

As to the Iraqi precedent, there is even no need to go deeper into details of 10 years old events. It is sufficient to read messages of news agencies from Baghdad coming almost every day to make an evident conclusion: the military intervention has left the country, which is being puled apart by regional, ethnic and religious conflicts, the country, where authorities cannot ensure security to its citizens. Who will now answer for the tragedy the Iraqi population is experiencing today? May be those “experts”, political leaders and military persons, who justified the need of intervention and carried out this military operation in the country ten years ago?

Also, let us not forget that the intervention into Iraq split the Western world, having opposed the United States to several leading European allies. The war in Iraq also created a wide opposition made of various political forces inside the United States. By the way, the current President of the United States Barack Obama was initially against the military operation in Iraq, thinking that this was is a strategic mistake of United States’ foreign policy and made the promise to end this unpopular war as soon as possible one of main slogans of his presidential electoral campaign.

If we return to the situation in Syria, we may note that there are no grounds to expect that a military operation against the regime of Bashar al-Assad will be more effective and less destructive than the known operation in Yugoslavia and Iraq. Two and a half years long civil war have already thrown Syria decades back, bringing uncountable losses and sufferings to the Syrian people, and mass air strikes of the United States will, in fact, complete the process of destruction of the country. May the military operation in Syria will be called a “tragic mistake” in the United States after some time. And, as before, no persons guilty in this crime will be found.

What can we do to prevent the tragedy in Syria? Unfortunately, there is no use to expect that the use of veto power by Russia and China in the UNSC will stop the war. This is another negative result of the operations in Yugoslavia and Iraq – dangerous precedents of actions bypassing the United Nations, violating fundamental principles of international law were created. So, why the growing uncontrollability of international relations surprises us?!

Many things depend on the Syrian government, which should understand, that the military operation, which is being prepared, may lead to disastrous consequences not only for the political regime in Damascus, but, the worst of it, for the Syrian independent state as such, for the suffering Syrian people. One of fatal mistakes of Slobodan Milošević and Saddam Hussein was that both of them did not believe to the end that the intervention is possible. Both leaders hoped to overplay their opponents in diplomatic bargaining, and both lost.

In the current conditions, the Syrian government should show its state wisdom and to appeal to the common sense of the international community. We need not only to create maximally favourable conditions for the work of UN observers, but also to open the country for international humanitarian, human rights, peace making organisations, mass media and independent experts. We need the public opinion to form on the basis of real facts and objective information about the events in the country, rather than on unverified rumours, idle speculations and random interpretations, which are distributed by not always fair opponents of the Syrian government. Such position of Damascus would certainly receive active support from Moscow and other parties advocating for a political settlement of the Syrian crisis.

It is still possible to prevent the foreign aggression in Syria, but we have little time for that.

Published in Rossiyskaya Gazeta (Federal issue) No.6170 of 2 September 2013




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