Is it in the best interests of the US to prolong the bloodshed in Syria? Why has the US recently appeared to link the Syrian crisis with the Iranian issue? Over the past months, the US position has been nothing but stagnant. The American administration’s actions toward the bloody crackdown are limited to attenuated demands directed towards Bashar Al-Assad to halt the violence and step down. Has Russia succeeded in diluting the US position?
During the joint news conference held by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal and US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton following the first ministerial meeting of US-GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) forum held in Riyadh on [March 31, 2012], I tried to understand the US position on the Syrian revolution. However, I failed to comprehend the vague expressions and diplomatic language of Mrs. Clinton, who seemed to circumvent the “bloody” reality of Syria.
Clinton evaded reporters’ questions about her country's position toward arming the opposition. It seemed as if the US administration was picking its way through a minefield, refusing to disclose a future work plan or exert pressure on a bloody regime that is killing its people before the eyes of the entire world. During the conference, the US Secretary of State answered all questions regarding the US position on the risks of Iran’s nuclear program, stressing that Iran is meddling in the affairs of its neighbors and undermining regional and international security. It seemed that Clinton was trying to convey a message that the Iranian issue is the primary US concern, and that the Syrian crisis and the necessary steps to take to halt the bloodshed of innocent people is secondary.
The Gulf States explained to Washington that the fastest solution to end the suffering of the Syrian people and to protect civilians against the brutality of the Assad regime is to arm and support the opposition. However, the American response remained elusive, “turning a deaf ear and a blind eye” to the suffering of the Syrians and placing the Iranian issue high on its list of priorities.
It was expected that Washington would seek to change Russia’s diplomatic position on Syria. However, the Riyadh Conference proved that the US was the one that shifted its stance in this regard. Washington’s position on the Syrian crisis remains ambiguous and vague, and does not seem to be in the Syrian opposition’s best interests.
During the Riyadh Conference, the GCC countries expected to gain clear US support to save the Syrian people from the bloody grip of the Shabiha’s [thugs]. Instead, a joint security committee was formed to build a missile defense system for the protection of the region -- a clear message to Iran that is supposed to prevent it from meddling in the affairs of the Gulf countries and Yemen, among others. On the other hand, no plan was announced to help the Syrian people or to take actions against the atrocities committed against them. The Syrian issue was referred to the Friends of Syria conference in Istanbul.
Some believe that Washington has a plan which it does not want to disclose so that the Russians will not immediately object to it. However, it seems that the US is looking out for its interests alone. During the Riyadh Conference, Washington linked the Iranian and Syrian issues together, giving priority to the Iranian one, by establishing a commission to build a ballistic missile defense system in the Gulf.
Clinton’s statements are further indication that the Iranian issue is high on the US list of priorities. “The commitment of the United States to the people and the nations of the Gulf is rock-solid and unwavering,” said the US secretary. She also warned that “the window of opportunity for a peaceful resolution will not remain open forever.”
There is no doubt that the Arab peoples are sick and tired of hearing daily descriptions of the Syrian people’s tragedy. They long to see Assad’s regime fall and the revolution triumph. However, the Syrian rebels do not count on the Arab or international position to make a difference. They are pinning their hopes on the GCC countries, which have expressed a clear position since the beginning. However, the Gulf’s vocal support to Syrian opposition has been constantly checked by international resolutions, which have been fair to the executioner only. Time does not come in the interest of the Syrian people. Thus, it is imperative for the opposition factions to overcome their differences so that they influence the region.
The truth of the matter is the American position on the Syrian revolution is weak and limited to empty words and promises. As long as indications suggest that Washington refuses to arm the opposition until all its factions are united, the GCC states should urge the Arab and Islamic countries interested in taking historic positions to embark on a new diplomatic path to overcome the slow US measures and Russia’s support for Assad’s regime. Thus, the GCC countries must match words and deeds, as they did when they expelled Syrian ambassadors and closed embassies. Since the beginning of the bloody crackdown, the Gulf’s coherent rhetoric has shaken the Syrian presidential palace. It paved the way for the establishment of the Friends of Syria conference in Istanbul as well as the recognition of the Syrian National Council as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.