360° Analysis

Syria and Kosovo: The Fate of Old? (Part 2/2)


November 06, 2013 06:55 EDT

Why does Syria not have Kosovo's "luck"? This is the last of two part series. Read part one here.  

In contrast to Syria, Kosovo was considered as a relatively “easy task,” as the Balkan countries were more likely to fight each other rather than an external actor. The campaign ended with no boots on the ground. One should not forget the fact that almost every country surrounding Syria is suspected of possessing chemical weapons which makes the situation even more complicated; whereas in the Balkans, this potential threat for the international community did not exist.

Russia and the US both have a long history of intervening in Middle Eastern affairs; however, until this day there has been no successful “intervention.” Indeed, any potential intervention in Syria is rooted in the post 9/11 political context and American public opinion is less keen on unilateral interventions, compared to the time of the Kosovan conflict.

Intervening in Syria might also increase the spillover effects into neighboring countries, which could have a "boomerang" effect for the US government. Bashar al-Assad issued a clear warning in his interview for CBS news: ”You should expect everything. Not necessarily from the government.” This clearly states that in case of a possible intervention in Syria, the US should be prepared for serious consequences, and possible retaliatory action from any party involved in the conflict.

Lack of Support by the “Gang”

When the US was seriously debating a military intervention in response to August's chemical weapons attack, US President Barack Obama struggled to gain support from major allies. While in the case of Kosovo the coalition of Western powers was strong and persistent, on Syria, US public opinion appears to be divided and Congress did not give a green light for unilateral intervention, showing a lack of willingness to authorize another conflict in the Middle East.

At the same time, the British parliament rejected this issue at the very first attempt, while Germany all but withdrew from the Syrian debate. However, the French government, still bolstered by its successful intervention in Mali, was ready to intervene which would have left the US government with only one major European ally against a Russia- and Iran-backed Syrian regime.

Who is the Real Enemy?

A UN investigation team has clarified that chemical weapons were used in the Ghouta area on the outskirts of Damascus in August; however, confusion remains. The current state of chaos with significant infighting among opposition groups is making Syria a place of opportunities for different terrorist groups, some of them allied to al-Qaeda.

The difficulty in finding the “right enemy” is making the process more complicated; the US government has been criticized for indirectly helping al-Qaeda – the very group they have been fighting for decades – since Jabhat al-Nusra and other factions linked to al-Qaeda have come to play a significant role in the fight against Assad. Any intervention would certainly increase instability in the region, while civilians would not be protected on the ground. This also raises the question over how much trust can be put in the opposition.

As global players debate how to solve the Syrian conflict, the UN team aiming to dismantle Syria’s chemical stockpile recently arrived in the country after the passing of UNSC Resolution 2118. Parties in Syria continue to blame each other for the attack; the opposition appears very divided; and the American and Russian governments continue to represent opposing views — the situation in Syria is indeed complicated.

The recently passed UN Resolution can be considered a good step, as the five permanent Security Council members finally came to a consensus. However, despite the chemical weapons resolution, the Syrian people still suffer and there is no guarantee the situation will change in the near future.

While the international community weighs the benefits of a potential intervention against continuing diplomatic efforts, thousands of innocent civilians are being killed with millions displaced. Many people in Syria are begging and praying for an intervention while discussions are continuing on the diplomatic front.

The victims of the biggest humanitarian crisis in the Middle East are looking towards the international community, hoping that someone will respond to their call. Mass killings, refugee camps, hunger, and long-lasting high level negotiations seem to be a regular part of every conflict.

Author's Note

Personally, I know how this feels, since back in 1999, I was just a kid who instead of living out my childhood dreams, I hoped for intervention in Kosovo.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

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