BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
What a complex mess confronts the world in Syria! And, the worst of it is, it didn’t have to be this way. It is a result of the U.S. and Turkey, and their twisted, hegemonic or expansionist, respectively, logic. Had they not started encouraging and arming the Syrian regime’s more extreme opponents, a civil war would not have claimed over 100,000 lives. Who knows, some accommodation might have been achieved that would have loosened Syria’s dictatorship another notch or two.
But now, we have Obama, not noted for keeping his word (think Genocide recognition) putting himself in a position where he feels compelled to… keep his word. I refer to his “red line” comments regarding the use of chemical weapons. Now, if he doesn’t act, his and the U.S.’s credibility will be seriously damaged.
But, it’s not even 100% clear the Syrian government launched the chemical weapons that have triggered the latest phase of this mess. There are reports that Saudi Arabia has funneled chemical weapons to the Syrian rebels. The Syrian regime may be calculating, cold, and cruel, but not crazy. Why would it intentionally engage in a provocative act that would trigger action by the big guys on the world scene? Conversely, the rebels have every reason to use chemical weapons in a way that makes it look like the regime launched them, so the international community would provide more support to their side.
Then we have the hypocrisy of U.S. policy. When Iraq, then on the U.S. “acceptable” list, gassed the Kurds… crickets. But now, using chemical weapons constitutes an affront to humanity. What about the cluster munitions, depleted uranium bullets, and drone strikes used by the U.S.? Are these not similar affronts?
What’s really discomfiting, undoubtedly, to many in the White House and State Department is that the Russians, and specifically Putin in his op-ed piece in The New York Times, are the ones who seem to be seizing the rational (if not moral) high ground. His argument is basically one that endorses the lesser of two evils. Bashar Assad is no angel, but the alternative is far worse.
Our community in Syria, along with Christian and other minorities, know who’s best for them in power. They have seen, all too clearly, what happened in Iraq after American intervention when the lunacy and bloodlust of religious fanatics was left unchecked by the firm hand of a regime that at least prevented what might be called “sectarian hate crimes” in American jargon.
Another aspect of Putin’s argument is that Syria, like Afghanistan, Iraq, and even Pakistan, is serving as a training ground for fighters who will then spread out all over the world (think Chechnia, Xinjiang [China], and World Trade Center). If the current regime falls, this will become even more pronounced. It’s in everyone’s interest that the nut-jobs running from country to country in the name of religion (in this case fanatical Sunni Islam) be stopped dead in their tracks. Do you remember when the target of these same crazies was Artzakh as they fought against us beside Azerbaijan’s pathetic troops?
Initially, I had trouble concluding which side of this conflict I was least uncomfortable with. The choices were all bad. But now, in every scenario, it is extremely clear to me that the side which is best —from a human, American, or Armenian perspective— is the current Syrian regime of Bashar Assad.