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Sunday, 24 June 2012

Causa Kosovo for Syria? Why military action is inevitable

While the atrocities in Syria go on, and the incident with the shot down Turkish fighter jet causes more international confusion about its scale to the whole crisis, the international community shows itself unable to take effective measures against the Assad regime. Since all diplomatic efforts have shown no effect whatsoever, a military solution seems inevitable for conflict resolution. But again, neither the UN, nor NATO is able to implement a common strategy here.

But if you look into past military operations, you will notice that not all of them required a UN mandate for military action. The most precedent case here was the Kosovo intervention back in 1999.

After the Conference of Rambouillet has failed to force Serbia to resign from their violence against the ethnically Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and the Kosovar people in early 1999, and to pull out their forces, and the UN failed to implement a strong resolution, the NATO agreed to act in the view of the humanitarian disaster occurring in Kosovo, and took out several military targets in Kosovo and Serbia. The NATO bombings lasted from March 1999 until June 1999 and covered bombings on military targets in Serbia and Serbian military facilities in Kosovo, as well as on communication and logistic centres in Belgrade.

Although widely criticized, NATO succeeded to force Serbia to pull out of Kosovo and into a consensus with the international community in order to establish a more or less stable status of Kosovo through the UN Resolution 1244. This strategy opened the gates for a peaceful consolidation of the region under international guidance and supervision, which again lead to Serbia’s own political reform process and its internal consolidation for post-Milosevic Serbia.

The reasons why no one seems to come up with the idea of this solution for Syria are, however, manifold:
First, the international resistance against a military intervention without UN mandate is enormous, and is linked with a severe credibility loss for every single actor involved in such a “non-approved” military operation.
Secondly, Syria is neither Serbia nor Kosovo, and the rules from the 1999 Kosovo War and its aftermath will not apply to Syria in any way. Following the rules learned so far from the Arab Spring, it is far more likely that Syria will follow an equal path just as other countries have chosen, turning into the turmoil of political instability, the rise of an Islamic movement (as just recently in Egypt), or even prolonged civil unrest.
But most importantly, the true reason why neither the UN nor NATO is considering a military intervention – aside from the absence of consensus among its members – is the shear fear of failing again, as it happened in Libya or in a wider view in Afghanistan. Specifically NATO is facing a credibility problem since neither ISAF in Afghanistan, nor the operation in Libya in 2011 actually significantly contributed to sustainable stability. Also, since the US finds itself right at the beginning of an exhausting Presidential election process and the EU is stuck in its own economic and monetary crisis, none of the NATO is really willing to be committed to another military adventure, specifically not when Russia is “covering” the Assad regime with weapon supplies.

On the other hand, since the humanitarian crisis in Syria is deteriorating, Assad shows neither mercy nor even respect to international protests, and every single diplomatic effort has utterly failed, it is a matter of simple logic that the international community has to take military action to force Assad either to resign, or to make at least a number of concessions to the Syrian opposition and the rebel groups.

On Tuesday, the NATO Council will have a meeting on the consequences of the Turkish fighter jet incident, and discuss further steps. One thing is clear already: there will be no action according to Article 5 of the NATO treaty, since Turkey was not attacked on its own territory, just by the shear fact that one of its jet has been shot down. However, the longer the crisis drags on, the louder the demands for action will shout.

It’s up to NATO either to demonstrate determination in efficient conflict resolution and peace enforcement, or to bed stuck in its own internal discord. Time is running out, and the humanitarian crisis in Syria is going from bad to worse. A second “Kosovo case” would be a logical solution here, it’s only a matter of courage and collective determination.

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