Five ways to solve the crisis in Syria: Stop the War's reply to the Guardian

Five ways to solve the crisis in Syria: Stop the War's reply to the Guardian
11 February 2012     Chris Nineham     Middle East and North Africa

By Chris Nineham
Stop the War Coalition
9 February 2012

The Guardian newspaper asked Stop the War to comment on five different ways the outside world could respond to the crisis in Syria. Chris Nineham, national officer of Stop the War, gives our reply.

Full-scale military intervention
Up to a million Iraqis lost their lives as a result of western intervention. The same people who backed that war are now pressing for further war. The Nato bombing of Libya increased the killing of civilians. National Transitional Council sources in Libya themselves admit that while between 1,000 and 2,000 people died before the intervention, around 10 times that many died after Nato became involved. Libya remains in a state close to chaos with the civil war intensifying since the fall of Tripoli. If this is the advert for humanitarian bombing, there is something wrong with the product. Given the utter disaster caused by western intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq it is amazing that this option is even being contemplated.

Safe zones and humanitarian corridor
The reality is safe zones and humanitarian corridors have to be enforced militarily. They involve foreign tanks on the ground or fighters in the air and most likely both. This means a military violation of Syria's sovereignty: in other words, an internationalisation of the conflict, which is one of the things most commentators are rightly terrified of. In the Libyan case, the misnamed "no fly zones" - really zones in which only foreign fighter planes are tolerated - morphed in to a massive bombing campaign without even one western plane being attacked.

Train and equip the FSA
The era in which western powers feel they have the right to try and determine who should run foreign countries in the Middle East or anywhere else should have ended long ago. Arming the FSA would be to adopt a position of regime change, which is illegal in international law and would by definition increase the intensity of the fighting and killing.

Sympathisers of the Free Syrian Army need to think carefully what the implications of the west arming them would be. Nato support for the worst dictatorships in the Middle East shows their humanitarian rhetoric is just that. When they act, they do so exclusively in their own interests. In this case, they would be manoeuvring to insure a post-Assad Syria would be fully Washington compliant.

‘Friends of Syrian people’ package
In Iraq sanctions proved to be prelude rather than alternative to war, a pattern set to be repeated over Iran unless we can mount effective international pressure against plans for an attack. Unicef documented the hundreds of thousands of child deaths caused by western sanctions against Iraq in the 1990s, and all the evidence is that sanctions on Iran are currently causing great hardship for the poorest in society. To take action in defiance of the UN security council decision would leverage tension with Russia and China to a level that would have frightening implications in flash points around the world. One of Nato's semantic achievements over the last two decades has been to transform sanctions from a murderous form of siege warfare, which is what they are, in to a mysterious force for progress and democracy.

Mediated talks between Damascus and opposition

Who is going to carry out the talks? The Arab League is composed of countries whose leaders have no interest in democracy and who repress their own people. The western powers act as though they are part of the solution in the middle east when in reality they have long been part of the problem. There has to be a political solution to the problems of the Middle East and that can only be achieved by the people themselves. In this process, why should they listen to the dictators of the region or those from the west who have supported them for so long?