Syria stalemate continues
THE quick dismissal by the international community and Syrian opposition groups of the recent offer by President Bashar Assad for a political settlement in the country underlines the fact that there is no end in sight to the conflict which is raging on for more than two years.
The outright rejection also shuts the door on any political arrangement for the post-Assad era. The absence of a clear road map for transition will also have regional political implications given the pivotal role of Syria in the region.
The violence in the country has already started to spill over into neighboring countries: Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and to some extent Turkey.
But more significantly these developments are taking place in a region which is already undergoing a change. The Middle East is witnessing a radical change not seen in decades as it hopes to set a new Arab order replacing the one that has been functioning since the end of World War II and following the independence of many of the countries from the colonial rule.
Moreover, the change is not restricted only to the Middle East, it is taking place all over the world affecting countries, policies, leaderships and people everywhere. It coincides with increasing globalization that has ushered in a new era with the deep impact of the communication revolution.
In such circumstances, when the old institutions and policies are still in place, new replacements are taking shape. Since the old system is yet to be replaced completely by a new one, it creates a level of uncertainty with regard to the future developments in the region or the world.
Earlier this month, the Foreign Policy magazine published an article titled “Eve of Disaster,” in which the author Charles Emmerson compared what is happening now with what happened hundred years ago. In the article, he argues that in 1913 the world was on the cusp of ushering in a new world order with various powers assuming their roles on international stage, but it later turned out they were in fact preparing for the World War I that broke out the following year and it started for a trivial, indirect reason that took place in Sarajevo.
The analogies between now and 100 years ago were hard to miss, the author claims. China is an emerging power as was the case with Germany in 1913. The United States is taking the role of Great Britain, though with more resources, global responsibilities worldwide and more importantly with its currency — the US dollar — being the world reserve currency, which enables it to continue printing notes despite its mammoth national debt. China owns part of that debt and that ownership helps in feeding the perception of a declining power and emerging one.
But more significant are new facts taking shape, where there are more than 190 countries grouped under the United Nations and 52 of those are African ones. While a hundred years ago, there was one European out of every people living on the planet, the ratio changed to one out of 10 currently.
Equally as globalization and technology in addition to prevailing democracy as a form of government are dominating the scene now, they were also dominant a century ago. Geographical discoveries had come to a halt, allowing for countries and people to trot all over the globe exchanging trade and ideas. That was helped by the invention of radio, use of cars and more significant the commercial and strategic use of oil when Britain decided in 1911 to use oil instead of coal fired warships.
Despite that there was a sense of relaxation and the feeling that people were living in their best of times. It just took an assassination attempt in Sarajevo to ignite the accumulated grievances, greed that sent the whole world order at the time into disarray, which culminated into the World War I.
And that is the significance of what is going on in Syria now if we restrict our concerns to the region, or what could happen in the South China Sea, looking across the world board. Any miscalculation may lead to undesired consequences and turn the simmering troubled zones into open conflict.
However, no one is sure that the existing world order is capable of averting an explosion of massive scale, but out of pure survival instinct it may be able to check.