Syria: The Equation Changes As Germany’s Merkel Makes a Move
Will the U.S. government catch up to Russia, China, Iran and Germany as they shape a new global consensus on Syria?
- German Chancellor Angela Merkel acknowledged that Western policy of Syria has been a failure.
- Germany is now saying that refusing to involve Assad in any negotiations is futile.
- Washington is now scrambling to catch up with this broadening international consensus on Syria.
- US policy in Syria has delivered anything but stability and peace in the region.
- The situation in Iraq is not exactly an advertisement for the plans Western powers have for Syria.
- Turkey's government, under Erdogan, has played far from an innocent role in the broadening chaos.
Angela Merkel’s recent statement that any resolution of the war in Syria requires the engagement of all major regional parties including Iran and Saudi Arabia could well break the stalemate on the Syria issue.
She has clearly stated that no solution could be achieved without the involvement of the government of Syria, led by President Assad.
With her move, the German Chancellor and leader of Europe has acknowledged that to date the Western policy of working to destabilize and to topple the government of Syria has been a failure.
It has been part of the dynamic which has allowed Daesh and other extremist groups to take root and expand across the region.
Germany is now saying that refusing to involve Assad in any negotiations is futile.
With her move, Merkel effectively endorsed the position that President Putin and many others, including the governments of China, Iran, India and Syria itself have maintained for many painful months as Syria, indeed the entire region, has sunk deeper and deeper into tragic chaos, death and destruction.
The Pope in his address to the UN General Assembly on Friday also endorsed these basic conditions when he spoke of the fundamental reality that no solution could be found unless all relevant parties are involved in the process.
Washington, the odd one out
Washington is now scrambling to catch up with this broadening international consensus on Syria. The position of the West to date has delivered anything but stability and peace in the region.
Witness the catastrophic war against Iraq and the equally mindless policies that have led Libya to become a cauldron spewing out chaos near and wide.
Indeed, without a change of course, prospects are that millions more refugees will flee this region, despite daily bombing runs targeting Daesh-held regions.
The situation in Iraq now is more perilous than at any time since the catastrophic they-will-throw-rose-petals-under-the-feet-of-our-regime-changing-liberators decision was made in Washington a dozen years ago.
Because of that, there is very little support anywhere around the world, except in the Beltway, in Whitehall and in the Elysee for policies that seem destined to create still more chaos in Syria.
Ankara has also played less than an innocent role in the destabilization of Syria.
Various Turkish agencies have turned a blind eye, if not directly facilitated the movement of men, money and arms, including a flood of arms and munitions from the depots of the former Gaddafi regime in Libya, to the various Sunni extremist groups operating in Syria.
Turkey-based operators have also been the main buyers of the oil that these groups now control. Saudi Arabia and Qatar, for their part, have also been deeply involved politically, financially and ideologically and funneling arms to into the region.
A coalition is a probable solution
Given the catastrophic consequences for the region of the war against Iraq and the widening zone of chaos across Syria, it has always been difficult, to put it mildly, to think that there was ever any prospect at all of a sufficiently strong group of “moderates” emerging to bridge the extreme polarization destroying the region.
While many may not wish to admit this, but the only hope at this point to begin to stabilize the region, given the reality on the ground, is some coalition of forces which includes at its core what remains of the Assad regime and those it represents.
Indeed, that was probably the case from the beginning of this conflict.
Washington has been surprised by the recent moves of Moscow in the region, which when supported by Iran, China and India, among others.
With Germany now tipping in the same direction and conditions on the ground going from bad to worse in Syria itself, the United States and its junior allies of France and the UK have little choice but to rally to this broadening international consensus or to find themselves locked into a position which is increasingly isolated and problematic
Germany has now signaled its position that all parties central to the conflict in the region, including Iran, Saudi Arabia and the government of Syria itself must be involved in any discussions.
Therefore, we face the prospect that the West will move from the self defeating strategy of “the enemy of my enemy is my enemy” to “the enemy of my enemy is maybe someone I will stop pounding.”
The priority has to be to crush Daesh. Period. Anything else is to misread what is at stake.
Turkey’s refugee move forced action
By “facilitating” the transit of hundreds of thousands of refugees to Europe in the last few months, Turkey has caused Europe, at least as led by Chancellor Merkel, to wake up to the reality of what the realistic options in Syria are.
Further destabilization means inevitably millions more refugees, and not just from Syria, but indeed more broadly from the region.
It is against this background that the meeting on Monday in New York between Presidents Putin and Obama takes on its full importance.
Achieving a lasting resolution to the conflicts raging across the Middle East will be a long and arduous process.
Part of getting there will require thinking through how we got to where we are and assessing accountability for the vast reign of mayhem which has pulverized so many lives in the region in the last dozen years.
To do less, or to do otherwise, will result in more and still wider regional chaos and destruction.