Many argue that the Islamic State (IS) wouldn’t have taken northeast Syria as a safe haven if Washington had taken action to resolve the situation militarily with the Syrian regime in the early days of the Syrian crisis, before the threat of IS and Al-Nusra Front and the militant factions that adopted their school of thought spread; is this an accurate assumption? More importantly, is the door still open for an American “military resolution” that eliminates IS and overthrows the “tyrant”, as claimed by some who have outdone themselves in promoting delusions and believing the lies they told themselves?
We have two “fresh” examples of American military intervention in the Arab region, the first in Iraq and the second in Libya. What were the results of American military intervention and why do some assume that Syria would face a different fate if the military intervention is repeated for the third time in 10 years?
Washington “fabricated” evidence of Saddam Hussein’s regime’s involvement and links with Al-Qaeda to be used as the second justification for its war on Iraq in 2003. The first justification of war was the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. After 11 years of invasion and occupation, the American-British narrative was tangibly proven to be a lie, but more importantly, since the invasion, Iraq entered a state of prolonged chaos, strife, and civil war, and turned into a safe haven for terrorism in the years after the war. In addition to this, its political life became “sectarianised” and “denominational” in an unprecedented manned, and today, Iraq is subject to division and fragmentation, with the support of at least half the population (the Kurds and Sunni Arabs), not to mention its transformation into a playground for all the regional and international actors. It also suffers from economic and social destruction, the collapse of the services and education system, rampant poverty, unemployment, corruption, and a shortage in water and electricity have all been added to the latest list of failures, disappointments and defeats.
As for Libya, three years after the overthrow of the dictator at the hands of the NATO forces and American Air Force, it is witnessing one of the worst phases of its ancient and modern history. It has become a haven for terrorism and shelter for weapons and jihadists and is on the verge of division. Actually, it is practically divided into mini-states and emirates, two parliaments and two governments, and rampant militias. It has repelled all Arab and foreign diplomats and journalists, and has become a place where tribes and rival militias have wiped out what is left of Libya. It is also a source of threat to the security of its neighbours including Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria and Chad, and even poses a threat to those who are farther away. This is the Libya you were promised.
Why do some people firmly believe that if there is international intervention and resolution the situation in Syria would be better off than it is in Iraq and Libya? Syria is a denominational, sectarian and nationalist mosaic, like Iraq, and even more so than Libya. Syria is a base of great challenge for political and armed Islam more so than both Libya and Iraq, and the Syrian geography has an astonishing ability to attract regional and international intervention, as it promises oil, gas, and wealth. Syria is also connected to the Arab-Israeli conflict, making it a target for all sorts of conspiracies, and it is entangled in many regional issues, making it a base of vulnerability and, at the same time, influence. Once again, why would Syria face a different fate if NATO and Washington had decided to resolve the crisis with the regime militarily?
If the Islamic State controlled over a quarter or a third of Syria today, and Al-Nusra Front controlled other provinces, then the two organisations would undoubtedly have been fighting in Damascus, Latakia and Aleppo, but instead, we saw gallows being erected on the peaks of the Alawites and Druze mountains. Also, the Christians of Syria would have beat their Iraqi counterparts to the world of exile and diaspora and the number of Syrian refugees from different sects and denominations would have been more than the three million refugees mentioned in the latest United Nations report.
In any case, we are not talking about a history that is long gone; we are talking about a future that some parties are still filling with delusions and losing bets. If Washington was hesitant on its war on IS, then how can we ask it to fight a battle on two fronts, IS and the regime? And who said that the reasons that prevented Washington from waging war on the regime in the past have now been resolved and that the way is open to wage a delayed war on the “tyrant”? Also, where is Russia in all of this; it is acting like a wounded tiger in its Ukrainian den. Where is Iran, which understands what is going on in Syria and Iraq, and Lebanon and Gaza, is actually a war on its role, influence and aspirations? Where are the allies and supporters of this axis who are willing to burn everything and everyone in a battle to defend not only their roles, but their existence as well?
The most optimistic scenario is that one that assumes that an American war on IS would be coordinated with the Syrian regime, and the least optimistic scenario is that Washington wages this war without the regime or any coordination or participation from it. However, I do not believe that the scenario of an American war on IS and the regime is on anyone’s agenda, except for those who spent the three and a half years of the Syrian crisis promoting lies and delusions and “Waiting for Godot”.
Translated from Addustour newspaper, 1 September, 2014
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.