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Will peace prevail in the Middle East?

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Message Jean-Luc Basle

It's All You Need (Really)
It's All You Need (Really)
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Will peace prevail in the Middle East?


Paris -- September 20, 2013


The answer is no. As in any conflict, there are many forces contributing to the Syrian conflict. Those favoring peace are much weaker than those favoring war. Let's do a tally.


Who favors peace? A large majority of Syrians but their voices do not count for if they did there would be peace. Bashar al-Assad wants peace but his record speaks against him. The Americans want peace. So do the British, the French and many people around the world. Our most sacred principles, enshrined in the United Nations charter, speak in favor of peace.


People wishing peace place their hopes in the " Framework for Elimination of Syrian Chemical Weapons", signed by the United States and the Russian Federation on September 14. But, this document is nothing more than a last ditch effort by Russia to save its alliance with Syria. Its language regarding schedules, both imprecise and unrealistic, opens the doors to widely different interpretations. The United States may use it to accuse Bashar al-Assad of dragging his feet, and to justify its strikes. Not a good omen.


On the other side of the ledger, the tally is abysmal. The Syrian conflict is said to hide many conflicts: tribal, religious, economic, political, geopolitical, etc., and it certainly does. Within the country, the Sunnis want to regain the power they held up until 1971 when Hafez al-Assad, Bashar's father and a member of the Alawite minority, seized power. Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood want control of the country, each one to extend its own version of a religious revolution in the Middle East. Qatar with the world's third largest reserves of gas, wishes to build a pipeline through Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria to link up with the Nabucco pipeline in Turkey. This would give it access to both the Turkish and European markets while diminishing Europe's dependency on Russian gas. Bashar al-Assad, who signed an agreement with the Iranians in 2011 to build a pipeline going through Iraq, must go for the Qatari pipeline to be built. Israelis whose ultimate goal is Iran, also wants the Syrian leader to depart. From their point of view, missile strikes would be a clear sign of the United States' resolve to deal with the Iranian regime appropriately. The case for war is solid.


Ironically, the most compelling argument for war may be peace. What happens if peace prevails? Let's go back a few years to answer this question. The Afghanistan and Iraqi wars as well as Libya's destruction were the work of a coalition of forces within the United States: the Pentagon, the neoconservatives and AIPAC, Israel's self-appointed lobby. Today, the coalition is crumbling at the seams. The Pentagon is having second thoughts about the wars it is fighting and losing. It is harder and harder for generals and admirals to understand why they should be bogged down in the Middle East while the rising threat to the United States' security is in Asia.


Within the Republican Party a similar divide is taking place with Tea Party members wondering why so much of their tax dollars are spent on wars in remote areas. Peace also means Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood won't get their way in Syria, Qatar's pipeline will not be built and AIPAC has lost its grip on Congress. Giving up war is suicidal for the war party. Fighting for it silences dissident voices and strengths the coalition. The case for war is unequivocal.
The recent peace initiatives in Syria and Iran complicated matters a bit. But aren't they precisely the initiatives which must be killed at birth for war to prevail? Who can say the coalition does not have the wherewithal to do just that?


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Former Vice President Citigroup New York (retired) Columbia University -- Business School Princeton University -- Woodrow Wilson School

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