Three Main Blocks For a Political Solution to the Syrian Crisis
Three Main Blocks For a Political Solution to the Syrian Crisis
The Syrian crisis is often referred as a “proxy war” implying that domestic forces are not the only actors involved in the crisis. So, for a solution, the idea of “peace” should also be shared by those actors. The prolongation of the war, which created a catastrophe for the people of Syria, also negatively affects the legitimacy of the international system. This article claims that at least three main blocks (the Islamic world, the emerging East, and the West) need to mobilize their constructive forces to increase their problem-solving capacity as well as their perceived legitimacy.
Syrian crisis is an important issue testing the ability of the international system to solve major crises. At least three main blocks (the ‘Islamic’ world, the emerging East, and the West) need to combine their constructive forces for a solution in the region, which would restore the legitimacy of all these three blocks.
The toll of the crisis
In his statement on 30th June 2015, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon cited that the Syrian conflict caused more than 220,000 deaths since March 2011 when the conflict erupted. The number of internally displaced Syrians reached 7.6 million by April 2015. Around 4 million refugees were registered in the neighbouring countries Turkey, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan (EC, 2015), of which around 1.8 million in Turkey alone (Jolie, 2015). Within 4 years, Syrians became the largest refugee population in the world (EC, 2015). While some of them find shelter and food after having escaped barrel bombs, yet an important portion of them sleep on the streets and live in extreme poverty. Among them women and children are most at risk of being abused and exploited sexually, physically and mentally. This screaming picture on one hand, and the deafness of international community on the other is a reminder of the concept ‘banality of evil’ coined by Arendt to explain how the genocide had become ‘a normal’ of the life during the Second World War.
This normalization of the lock-in-to-inaction is shared by multiple parties from varying points. The Muslim world, an ‘emerging” East, and the West, need to responsibly mobilize their constructive forces if they share a peace vision for the future of Syria.
The Muslim world
First of all, the agenda-setting along religious and sectarian lines (mainly Sunni and Shia) in the third millennium seems to be rather exemplary. Religious and sectarian politics are not playing a virtuous role in the Middle East; rather it is apparently causing political fragmentation and polarization. Another issue, which is attached to the Islamic world, is that the ‘Islamic terror’ became a phenomenon, thanks, at least partially, to the wholesaler approach of media, Islamophobic politicians and pro- and anti-Islam extremists. Yet, under these circumstances, a clear and convincing message on not only what Islamic values are, but also how Muslims interpret the developments in the contemporary world are yet to be heard from the Muslim world. If they are to play a constructive role, the ‘ulema’ and other opinion-makers in the Islamic world need to be truly transparent and accountable by making necessary clarifications over major issues. Otherwise, ambiguities in crises atmosphere only feed suspicion, fragmentation and polarization in different societies and among different political actors, which obstruct international coordination.
The emerging East
The ambiguity of the ‘emerging’ world in approaching the major global crises is another cause for concern. While their joining to the capitalist world as represented by the record gross domestic product (GDP) ratios of China and the paced catch-up of the Asian Tigers were met with enthusiasm in the West, multiple issues – the Syria issue for example – have shown that the East has not proven its problem-solving capacity. In fact, it seemed to be suspicious about the notions such as “responsibility to protect” and human rights. Russia and China, both exerting veto powers over four United Nations (UN) draft resolutions intending to isolate the Syrian regime, gave strong signal to the Syrian ruler, Assad, that he does not need to take the international community seriously (UN, 2015). The result is endless atrocities along with the emergence of new extremist streams.
The West and burden sharing
There needs to be further discussion in the international domain about the burden-sharing of the costs of crises, which is perhaps most related to another block of the international system, the West.
In the Syrian crisis, neighbouring states bear the biggest burden. Turkey hosts half of the total Syrian refugees in the region, and Lebanon hosts 1.2 million, representing more than a quarter of the country’s population. UNHCR called for a $5.5 billion aid for the Syrian refugee crisis for the year 2015. Early honouring of the pledges is vital to allow timely planning in the provision of shelter, health and education to meet with the winter conditions (3RP, 2015). It is a must for the international community to wake up to heal the wounds of their fellow men, women and children, otherwise, further degradation of legitimacy will leave the world less civilized, as it already did so far with the butcheries of the ‘Islamic’ State, Charlie Hebdo killings, Boston bombings, etc. and, whether securing a resolution ‘for peoples’ of the region is still off the agenda of the international community or not, the world still needs to share some bread with the refugees.
In the Muslim world, the fasting month of Ramadan is referred to as the ‘month of sharing.’ As part of this tradition, municipalities in Ankara -from every ideological stream- set up dinner tents in various neighbourhoods of the city to offer free dinner. When I queued up at a tent set up in Kocatepe, a central vicinity of Ankara, I saw very few Syrians. Another day, I went to a tent in poor slum vicinity, Hacı Bayram, where almost all waiting in the queue for dinner were Syrian (upper picture). The summer, whether it is Ramadan or not, is relatively easier for refugees to find at least a precarious job and to get shelter. Now, the Ramazan is over, and winter is always harsh, particularly for women and children who are the most vulnerable. Various reports focusing on the results of the Syrian crisis reveal that the extended crisis has exposed the vulnerable groups to risks of begging, child marriages, prostitution and other types of exploitations.
The “biggest threat to global peace”
Once, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres stated “This [Syrian] conflict has not only caused one of the worst humanitarian crises in decades, but it is also the biggest threat to global peace and security the world has seen in a long time” (Guterres, 2014). Angelia Jolie, Special Envoy of UN High Commissioner for Refugees (2015) issued a statement on the refugees totalling 60 million in the world, after visiting refugee camps in the last weeks. She said, “it [the suffering and displacement] cannot be managed by aid relief, it must be managed by diplomacy and law… And it is self-evident that we have to start with Syria.” She highlighted the importance of “a credible plan to reach a political solution to end the conflict”
Jolie, Ban and Guterres all remind us the naked reality that inability of the international community to credibly commit to the democratic solution of the major political crisis is a further reminder of an on-going degradation of legitimacy of the international system. Without legitimacy, the tools such as the “responsibility to protect” are becoming ineffectual. Therefore, the international community needs to develop better approaches for coordination to increase a common perception of legitimacy among main actors as well as towards them in order to competently solve these major political crises, which, otherwise endlessly lead to conflicts, deaths and displacements.
Ozan Arar, MSc Graduate in Political Economy of Europe, LSE, UK
Please cite this publication as follows:
Arar, O. (August, 2015), “Three Main Blocks For a Political Solution to the Syrian Crisis”, Vol. IV, Issue 8, pp.6-12, Centre for Policy and Research on Turkey (ResearchTurkey), London, Research Turkey. (http://researchturkey.org/?p=9535)
3RP. 2015. 3RP Regional Progress Report. www.3rpsyriacrisis.org (Accessed: 20/6/2015).
Guterres, António. (2014) ‘Donor nations pledge US$2.4 billion at Kuwait meet for Syrians in need,’ http://www.unhcr.org.tr/?lang=en&content=535 (Accessed: 24/7/2015).
Jolie, Angelina. (2015) “Statement by Angelina Jolie, Special Envoy of UN High Commissioner for Refugees.”
EC. (2015) Syria Crisis,
http://ec.europa.eu/echo/files/aid/countries/factsheets/syria_en.pdf (Accessed: 20/6/2015).
UN. (2015) “Security Council-Veto List.” http://research.un.org/en/docs/sc/quick/veto (Accessed: 24/7/2015).