Saturday, September 1, 2012

Why no one cares about Syria safe zone

For most part of the uprising, the entire world has stared at Turkey’s mouth to see if Ankara spells out a possible buffer zone inside Syria that would be a safe haven for the armed opposition. Today, Turkey demands it but no one cares.

I’m not particularly surprised to see such a situation develop because states rarely act when the issue in question is humanitarian. Insistently clamoring for a “liberated territory” in Syria was largely driven by a success in Libya where eastern city of Benghazi, the heart of the Libyan revolution, played a key role in organization of the armed revolution that ousted late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi a year ago. Absence of such a territory in Syria made it hard for the armed opposition to receive arms from outside and also establish an effective transitional government that would facilitate the diplomatic overtures abroad and coordinate armed groups inside the war-torn country.

Turkey, finally, demanded before the United Nations Security Council on Thursday to establish a safe zone inside Syria as it was inundated with growing number of Syrian refugees fleeing from the violence in Syria. Security Council, Secretary’s office and even the U.S. were reluctant to go down the path of calling for safe zones along with Turkey. “I was wrong with my expectations,” Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told the Security Council in a disappointment.

But why are the major powers too reluctant to establish a buffer zone when there is growing legitimacy in this end and historic opportunity to aid the rebels? The answer is simple: Possible buffer zone in Syria is humanitarian and not about the revolution anymore.

The U.S. claims that the crisis has a humanitarian dimension but it is largely a political crisis because the deaths and violence are caused by the Syrian regime. European nations and the U.S. pledged little financial aid for the fleeing refugees. Washington also seems very unwilling to nod to the Turkish-French initative to establish a buffer zone inside Syria – the last thing Obama administration wants to deal with months before key presidential elections.

Journalists, activists and some states claim that the Syrian opposition control large swathes of areas on the Turkish border, creating a de facto buffer zone, which also leaves outside help in this regard largely unnecessary. Any military intervention by NATO or by the coalition of the willing to establish the buffer zone inside Syria will do little to aid the rebels in advancing their cause and instead will create additional strains with Russia, China and prompt unexpected retaliation by the Syrian government. A realist would not be surprised to see such a situation where states don’t act if the matter is solely humanitarian.

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