February 20, 2013
The Paris Academy of Geopolitics, in the framework of its analyses of today’s world’s larger geopolitical questions, organized a symposium for Wednesday 20th February 2013, on “Syria: challenge to world diplomacy” at the National Assembly.
This symposium elected to engage the aspects and implications of the serious polymorphous crisis that turmoils in Syria, and that is captivating international diplomacy’s attention.
This event was assisted by professors, well-known researchers, experts and specialists on the Middle East, also media representatives and thirty-two members of the diplomatic corps, including their Excellencies the Ambassadors of Bolivia, Croatia, Malta, Mauritius, Sudan, Afghanistan’s UNESCO Ambassador and permanent delegate, ministry advisors and Deputy Ambassadors of Armenia, Cameroun, Croatia, Kazakhistan, the Ivory Coast, the 1st and 2nd Secretaries, Advisors, Section and Mission Chiefs, and Chargés d’affaires of the Embassies of Austria, Canada, China, Spain, Estonia, Guatemala, Hungary, Indonesia, Jordan, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Morocco, Norway, Makistan, Poland, Portugal, Roumania, Russia, Thailand and the Tcheck Republic.
Mr. Ali RASTBEEN, President of the Paris Academy of Geopolitics inaugurated the symposium, by reminding of the neocolonialist origins of the Syrian crisis, as well as the new influences: regional Arab revolts, Russian and Chinese interference, American and French antagonism against Syrian disapproval of them and their protégé Israel, and finally but not least: Lebanese fears. Most important, though, Mr. RASTBEEN identifies the generalized aspiration for democracy, human rights, political pluralism, free elections, liberty of the press and of thought, belief and religion, from Tunisia to Bahrain, and from Egypt to Yemen. Finally, the Academy President deplores the arming and militarization of the disparate parties, as well as the plotting and intrigue around the recent discovery of oil and gas reserves in the area. And the question remains: can diplomacy succeed where an entire nation-state has failed? To date 90 000 have perished, and over a million are injured and/or displaced. The Academy President then invited the Academy Vice-President to intervene.
Syria – What geopolitical scenarios?
The Chancellor calculates that at its outset, the Syrian conflict corresponds to the « human groups law » logic which is exercised in this case because the creation of a post-colonization State doesn’t automatically implicate political organization conform to each of the human groups composing said State.
A second element at the source of the conflict become continually violent since 2011, clings to the paradigm change in the Middle East and to the tensions issuing from this paradigm change. Which just means that the Syrian conflict is incontestably registering itself into the Middle-East geopolitics upon which also act powers exterior to the region.
The taking into stock of all the national, regional and international parameters of the conflict is therefore necessary for appreciating the geopolitical scenarios of the Syrian conflict’s evolution.
The third Orator, General (2S) Henri PARIS, President of the political reflexion club DEMOCRATIES, former Secretary General of National Defence and Advisor to three Ministers, spoke on “Syria in the Chinese Spiel”. In the civil war that is tearing Syria apart, China displays conformity with the Russian position. For that, is brought to bear one of the precepts of Deng Xiaoping, the father of the four modernisations and of China’s fantastic rise in power: in the matter of international relations, avoid highlighting one’s profile. The Chinese, further and otherwise related to Russia by multiple treaties, reject all interference. And in fact allied with Iran, China sees meddling in Syria’s affairs as an indirect attack against Iran. Immutably, in this region of the world, China is on Russia’s side.
The fourth speaker was Natalia NAROTCHNITSKAÏA, President of the Paris Institute for Democracy and cooperation, President of Moscow’s Historical Perspective Foundation and Ex-Member of the Douma Parliament. She intervened under the title “Russia on the Current Syrian Conflict” and chose to stress that the dramatic Syrian situation is driving into the abyss a region in which Europe and notably France has considerable interest. The massacre of civilian populations, perpetrated by the opposition, has since quite a while outnumbered the Syrian State’s repressions. At this time only a minority of the anti-Assad fighters are Syrian. The majority of the Syrian population does not support this civil war. The Middle Classes know that the Islamists are ready to deprive the country of its acquired education and liberties. An overwhelming of the Arab World’s political layout, with its tens of millions of inhabitants, is portraying itself. Throughout the region, the ethnic and confessional balance, risks floundering. Exasperating tensions between Islam and Christianity fragilize Europe first of all, and whose Moslem population nurtures growing ambitions.
Indeed, behind the banner of human rights, there hide today geopolitical designs that remind of the portent of another age. Everything is unfurling as if, as in the case of Mussolini, no one wants to revive the Mare Nostrum doctrine. North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, Iraq, Iran, the Cis-Caucasian Region … all constitute the world’s hydrocarbon ellipsis where are to be found the planet’s richest petroleum reserves, and therefore vigorous competition not to say rivalry, between the powers that be. But its consequence is the scuttling of international law founded on sovereignty, thereby leading to dismembering of the location concerned – in this case: Syria.And there is still no winner in sight.
Our symposium’s fifth contribution was by Mr. Jacques CHEMINADE, Founder of the political party Solidarity & Progress, and twice French Presidential candidate. Mr. CHEMINADE’s introduction corresponds to the title of his intervention: “The Empire of the City and of Wall Street are promoting chaos in Syria”! He further accuses France of practising a policy of interference into Syria, by formally recognizing the Syrian National Coalition and by recommending a regime change – all this is an extremely dangerous innovation as far as international law is concerned, started in Libya under cover of the high ideal “responsibility to protect”.
“It is entirely contradictory to our tradition, to recognize States and not regimes, the reason for which President Charles de Gaulle had recognized the Chinese State directed by Mao Tse Toung, although the latter was a dictator of the worst kind.” claims Mr. CHEMINADE, adding further in the French perspective: “Today, Russia, in the person of her Foreign Affairs Minister Serge Lavrov, is paradoxically the country upholding the doctrine that we ourselves used to defend. Whereas we ourselves had rallied to British Financial Empire policy with its subscribers such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia who are furnishing weaponry and djihadists. Has this destructive double-play by Tony Blair now become our role model? Although we used to claim we were helping really democratic fighters in Syria, in fact we support – and more than anyone else and at least verbally – the same ones we are warring against in Mali.”
The only solution is national dialogue with weapons secured in the clothes locker, and with a mutual development perspective capable of rallying all the implicated actors who work at measuring chaos. As have said Lavrov and the Russian Army Chief of Staff General Nikolai Makharov, any other perspective risks provoking general uprising in the region and throughout the world.
The next contribution was by Colonel Alain CORVEZ, former advisor to the Commanding General of the United Nations force in South Lebanon and international strategy advisor. He testified on the current military situation in Syria, and affirmed first of all that the agreement between Russia and the United States to find a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis permits the different parties implicated, to envisage a negotiated issue. According to this speaker, if the armed groups struggling against the Syrian regime – certain experts have apparently identified 29 different nationalities – remain very active, the Damas regime still has the situation under its control, in contradiction with information diffused by the media that are hostile to it, and indeed is apparently eliminating slowly but surely this armed opposition, by letting it seize key objectives, thereby concentrating itself in zones where the regular army is prepared to destroy it. He adds that Damas has supposedly renewed ties with certain Western services to which it wants to furnish important information on their nationals implicated in the armed combats. Specialists estimate the number of armed rebels at between 250.000 and 350.000 of which a third are foreign mercenaries, reports Mr. Corvez who thinks that in many cases the inhuman exactions committed leaves one with the idea that these djihadists are acting under the influence of narcotics.
The regime is therefore reinforced: a number of formerly hostile Syrians are rallying to the hoped-for national order and peace, and are ready to participate in a work of national reconciliation.
The destruction of residential buildings, factories, crops, infrastructures and water ducts are enormous and create a serious sanitary situation that shall require much money and effort to rehabilitate. Mr. Corvez underlines also that numerous NGOs are present to succour the thousands of refugees fleeing the combat zones, in sanitary and food areas. The United Nations for its part has provided 520 million dollars through the government.
Mr AJLANI points out that, historically, the French State has been a key actor in the Near East region, indeed France and Great Britain had composed and recomposed modern Middle East’s geography and demography. Today, the French State is a forefront mobiliser in this region, and more particularly across the Syrian Crisis (“France”, as General de Gaulle used to say, “can only be in front!”).
France always had excellent relations in every sphere with the Assad regimes – father and son alike, but could not, despite repeated advice and recommendations, get the Syrian State to recognize democratic development (release of political prisoners, creation of political parties, human rights,…). Indeed the Syrian authorities have never managed to emit even a favorable echo towards these developments.
Today, Syrian power is confronted with a popular revolution motivated by the establishment of democracy and by respect for human rights. France, being a democratic country having longstanding links with Syria, could but support … the revolution! France is present there in several vital fields: medical, national media, social welfare, sheltering of exiled Syrian opposition, and so forth.
France was behind the composition of the Syrian National Council and of the National Alliance. But did French diplomacy commit any calculation mistakes by underestimating the Syrian Armed Forces’ strike capacity? The French State or its Diplomatic Missions committed a serious miscalculation by overestimating the Syrian Opposition’s terrain resistance capacity with a view to ousting Assad’s regime. So the Syrian opposition is today in more difficulty than ever before: what role can France play now to help unite its ranks and facilitate an eventual transition period?
Can France accept President Assad’s presence during the transition period, and if so in what capacity? There are several questions to be answered, in order to correct any miscalculation – before it is too late.
According to decades of documented history, Syria is presented by the West as a big trouble-maker aggravating the turbulence of the liberation and protest movements in the Middle East. Today the West seeks, even by intermediary, to dominate this country that resists them and their projects to divide up and exploit the region, under pretext of “of defending human rights and democracy”.
Complicating further this basic equation, is, first of all, that Syria has always aspired to be a secular State in a fundamentally Moslem Arab world that is prey to rampant political Islamism which in turn seems to threaten the world. In this perspective, one understands more clearly the Saudi Kingdom’s, the Qatari Emirate’s and others’ engagements into the commotions in Syria. Second, petroleum and gas has been discovered there: the West, Russia, certain Arab countries and China confront each other in Syria, to prevent anyone else from taking charge there.
Another complication is that Syria has still not signed any peace arrangement with Israel, neither have neighbours Lebanon and Palestine: Syria refuses any “third-rate discount” peace, and so continues to support the Palestinians and the Hezbollahi who defy Israel and the USA.
Moreover, through the Shiite crescent of which Syria is part, as axis of resistance against Gulf countries allied to Americano-Zionist countries, Syria remains a thorn in the side of the West, notably by allying with Russia, China and Iran for bringing about … another world war, if diplomacy cannot assume with conviction and consequence the international crisis that is strongly taking root in Syria.
Our ninth speaker, Annie LAURENT, is collaborator of several secular and religious periodicals and radio broadcasts, and specialist on Middle-East minorities. She intervened under the title “The Syrian minorities confronted by a polymorphous crisis”, and started by pointing out that the misfortunate events in Syria are wrongly labeled « Syrian crisis », in fact they are but echoes of regional and international troubles. However, in order to comprehend Syria’s precise part in all this, one must start by recognizing the main indigenous forces (ethnic, religious,…): the Alawites, the Druzes, the Christians, the Kurds, in a majoritarily Sunni context, since 1946 (Syria’s independence). Annie LAURENTE observes that even if there exists the background of considerably tormented relations between Sunnites and Alawites, and despite the French Mandate contribution, in fact the current Syrian crisis as the destiny of its minorities is largely played from outside the country, whence cometh the destabilizing and stabilizing means and motivations influencing diplomacy. So what is the position today? The orator incites us to consider this and other questions seizing the Syrian minorities today.
Doctor Elie HADDAD, President of the Gathering for France-Lebanon (GFL), spoke next on “Lebanese-Syrian relations confronted by diplomacy”. Doctor HADDAD observes keenly that over the past decades, relations between Lebanon and Syria have known highs and lows. The Free Patriotic Current presided by the General has always been at the forefront of these relations. Let’s remind that Syria had never accepted Lebanon’s independence along the Sykes-Picot divisions.
Thereafter Syria had played a major role in what has been named “the Lebanese civil war” started in 1975 and “officially ended” on 13th October 1990, when the Syrian army invaded Lebanon’s last “free bastion” directed by General Aoun and still refusing Syrian “protection”.
Syria left Lebanon in 2005 and, since, the General has effectively turned the page with its large neighbour that surrounds 70% of Lebanese territory, whereas all his former local collaborators have changed sides.
What with recent turbulence in the Arab world and known by some as “Arab Spring”, and with the risks of the Middle East bursting apart, and in consequence the threats existing against Syrian stability, therefore the relations between the two countries are prey to diplomacy already unstable in and of itself.
Our symposium’s last intervention was by Mr. Alain BENAJAM, President of Voltaire-France Network. Mr. BENAJAM, who was to speak on the “Crisis in Syria: foreign interference and its international implications”, in fact exposed that the two main aspects of his intended contribution had already been very well treated by the preceding speakers. He had wanted to detail that today, the main military activity led by the armed opposition to the political regime and to the Syrian State, is that of groups of mercenaries called “djihadists” and coming from various countries. These groups are recruited, financed, armed and advised by a collection of States, that is to say: the United States of America, France, Israel, Germany, Turkey, Qatar, South Arabia, and perhaps others, and they are all involved in organizing armed intrusion contrary to international law.
Another collection of States is opposed to this armed military intrusion, seeing therein a threat for their own security and relations: these States are essentially represented by Russia, China, Iran and Venezuela.
So all told, this international conflict situation is assuming dimensions reminiscent of a full global war.