September 11, 2013

Syria Upstages 9/11

PRESIDENT Barack Obama is in a bind. He has vowed to punish Syria’s President Bashar Al Assad, for allegedly unleashing poisonous gases on his people – many are unconvinced.

The 12th anniversary of September 11, America’s excuse for attacking spots round the world since 2001, is taking a back seat.

The war drums are beating again. Washington is angry and the world is not at ease. Russia and China are not in support, so are traditional allies Britain and France.

Germany is lukewarm. Americans at home and abroad wonder if regime change in Syria is a worthy enterprise. It is a war that may produce another anti-American regime.

Their stance has played a major role in the deal that Russia has broken to put Syria’s chemical weapons under international supervision. Obama would seek Congress’ approval and can only strike Syria if it reneges on the deal.

September 11 marked one of the most horrendous attacks on people. Nineteen young Arabs rammed four passenger planes into the Pentagon, America’s seat of military power and the World Trade in New York, killing 2,996 and injuring 6,000. Syria is upstaging this year’s memorials.

For two years, Bashar has been waging a war of survival with Syrians opposed to the hegemony of the Assad dynasty. Bashar succeeded his father Hafiz Assad who was in power for 30 years.

The gale of social discontent that swept through Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen since 2011, has found a next stop in Syria. A mass protest degenerated into a full blown war with the Free Syrian Army, an amalgam of groups opposed to Bashar.

The bloody war has seen over two million Syrians flee to neighbouring Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Yemen, and Egypt. The killed or injured are over two million.

Reports of chemical weapon attacks on August 21, which the social media alleged killed over 1,000 Syrians, have given Obama renewed reasons to invade Syria.

America in embracing diplomacy in the Syrian crisis also expects Assad would respect the agreement. The Russians should hopefully see to it.

Departures of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Col. Muammar Gaddafi in Libya and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt created more instability in the global system. Precarious security in West Africa, indeed Nigeria, has strong links to the terrorism wars in the Middle East.

Al-Qaeda groups are fighting Assad. The deployment of American might to weaken Assad would benefit Al-Qaeda backed groups that want Damascus under a fundamentalist regime.

Military strike should be a final option. We expect things would never get to that dangerous point.

September 11 is about to be remembered as the day America re-appraised its strategies on terrorism. Diplomacy may be the key to success.