Late into the night on Tuesday, May 7, 2013, Secretary of State John Kerry met with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, in the hopes of reestablishing some kind of political solution to the conflict raging in Syria that has resulted in over 70,000 deaths and millions of refugees. Kerry’s visit comes after a botched attempt at peace during last year’s Geneva conference. However, Kerry seemed somewhat more optimistic from the outcome of last nights meeting. Dare…could there be a little glimmer of hope for some sort of peaceful end to the now two year-long conflict?
Will there be a peaceful resolution for Syrian Civil War?
According to the Guardian news network, reporting from last night in Moscow, both Kerry and Lavrov emerged from the meeting, confirming to reporters of a renewed co-operations in dealing with the Syrian crisis. “Russia and the United States have pledged to convene an international conference aimed at ending the civil war in Syria, hoping to give the situation a new diplomatic push following two years of bloodshed,” the Guardian reports. “Officials from both sides hope that representatives from the regime of Bashar al-Assad and the opposition will attend.” Both Russia and the U.S. are calling for an end to the violence in Syria and the creation of a transitional government that would include members of Assad’s regime. During an interview with reporters in Russia’s capitol, Kerry recounted of the meeting that, “Despite different points of view, committed partners can accomplish great things together when the world needs it. And this is one of those moments.”
Just what are those differing points of view?
According to an Independent news report, Secretary Kerry’s visit to Moscow has come at a time when our two nations have been in…well…a bit of a feud. Not too long ago, President Obama signed some legislation implementing a ban (or black list) on a number of Russian officials believed to be implicated in human rights abuses while traveling to and within the U.S. You can check out the CNN report on said issue here. Of course, the black list didn’t sit very well with the Kremlin, which prompted a reciprocal list and further accusations that the U.S. had funded street protesters which so happened to spring up last year against President Putin. However, this is all just a bunch of back and forth, nay-saying. The most significant difference is how each nation has reacted toward the Syrian government. On one hand, Russia has been a constant staunch supporter of Assad, opposing foreign involvement whilst simultaneously rearming Assad’s regime. And on the other hand, we’ve been kind of loosey-goosey with what’s been going on over there in Syria. Currently, President Obama is facing increasing support from Washington to rearm the rebel forces, in light of recent reports of the use of chemical weapons from the Syrian military. In an interview with CBS news, Bob Corker commented that he thinks “we’ll be arming the opposition shortly.” However, during a Washington press conference while visiting the South Korean president, Obama responded that, “There are continuing re-evaluations about what we do.” Basically, should we even be arming the rebels? According to Reuters, “Islamist fighters pledging allegiance to al-Qaeda [have] highlighted how some of the rebels are also hostile to the West.”
Do we even know who we plan on arming?
Consider the outcome from the Iran-Iraq War. Who did we back? None other than Saddam Hussein. We gave the Iraqi government billions in economic aid, technology, weapons, military intelligence, special ops training and, at times, direct involvement in the war itself. When the Second Gulf War broke out a couple years later, and Iraq was doing the invading, this time in the small but rich country of Kuwait, Ted Koppel, on a special ABC News Nightline episode, which aired during the night on June 9, 1992, reported that:
“It is becoming increasingly clear that George Bush, operating largely behind the scenes throughout the 1980s, initiated and supported much of the financing, intelligence, and military help that built Saddam’s Iraq into the power it became, and Reagan/Bush administrations permitted — and frequently encouraged — the flow of money, agricultural credits, dual-use technology, chemicals, and weapons to Iraq.”
Basically, we backed Iraq against a post-revolutionary Iran, and look at what happened. And all of that ugliness was still going on all the way up into 2003, when G.W. and Dick Cheney decided to invade Iraq and hunt down Saddam. If you want to check it out, here is Koppel’s full episode transcript.
So, kudos to President Obama for wanting to take things a bit slow. Obviously, his “shoot first and ask questions later” opponents do not feel the same way. To this, understandably, waiting while watching millions suffer from a long and drawn out civil war is not a popular choice. But we have to show some discretion here in the face of what could be another costly (and I’m not talking money; I’m taking about human lives) Middle East war. And in light of the recent Kerry and Putin meeting, it looks like we might actually come to some diplomatic resolution. As, according to UN-Arab League envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, “this is the first hopeful news concerning that unhappy country in a very long time. The statements made in Moscow constitute a very significant first step forward. It is nevertheless only a first step.” This first step comes after a long stand still after last year’s Geneva conference, where Russia and the U.S. butted heads with differing opinions on what to do with the Syrian government, namely, Assad. However, with the new accord between our two great nations (i.e., veto-welding nations), perhaps together with the UN, we can convince both the Syrian government and the rebels to accept, at least some of, the solutions based on the final communiqué. You can find that document here.
According to BBC news, Kerry and Lavrov have announced during the Moscow meeting that they would try to organize said above international conference, if possible, before the end of May.
Could there finally be peace in Syria? Could diplomacy actually prevail?