The AU is still unhappy at the US, France and Britain over Libya, and the African organization's warning that the collapse of Libya might fuel instability in other areas of the continent appears to be coming true. The current war in Mali is a direct result of the massive number of weapons that poured into the rest of Africa following the Libyan war, as well as the empowering of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, an extremist groups that played a role in overthrowing Gaddafi.
As intractable as the Syrian war looks, there is room for a political resolution, but only if the protagonists and their supporters stand down. The Damascus government will have to recognize that one family rule went out with feudalism, and that its opponents have real grievances. On the other side, the opposition will have to drop its insistence that there will be no talks until the Damascus government resigns. A zero-sum approach by either side will simply translate into a continuing war.
But this will also mean countries fueling the opposition with guns and supplies will have to back off as well. And those nations that constantly talk about the threat of "terrorism" need to confront the extremists' financers.
"The US and Israeli obsession with Iran has led Washington to turn a blind eye to the dangers posed by Saudi policy," writes Anatol Lievan, a War Studies professor at King's College, London, which "has helped lay the basis for Islamist extremism in Pakistan and elsewhere."
Other countries affected by the war, including Lebanon and Iran, need to be brought into the process as well.
And, lastly, the role of regional and international organizations needs to be reconfigured. The Libya war damaged the AU, the Arab League and the UN because the political process was hi-jacked by NATO and Gaddafi's enemies. The UN can play a key role in bringing peace, but not if it serves the interests of one side over the other.
"The Western powers would be well advised to unite with Russia and China in putting maximum pressure on both sides to put up their arms and come to the table. Diplomacy, rather than war, is the only way to preserve what is left of Syria for its hard-pressed citizens," says Patrick Seale, a leading British expert on the Middle East.
The alternative is death and destruction, floods of refugees, religious extremism, restive minorities, and a divided international community. Such ground makes rich hunting for the dogs of war. It is time to bring them to heel.
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