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Syria is not Iraq – 10 key differences

Images of Paradise in the mosaics of Damascus' Great Umayyad Mosque [DD]

Images of Paradise in the mosaics of Damascus’ Great Umayyad Mosque [DD]

Young and old arm in arm in Damascus

Young and old arm in arm in Damascus [DD]

Following on from ‘Syria’s Ghost’ (posted 31/08/2013) here are 10 key differences between the case for intervention in Syria as opposed to Iraq:

1. In 2003 Iraq was not in a civil war. It was simply another repressive authoritarian Arab state not much worse than Mubarak’s Egypt and Gaddafi’s Libya.

2. Syria in March 2011 witnessed a peaceful spontaneous uprising against its repressive authoritarian leader Bashar Al-Assad.

3. The Iraqi people were not asking the US-led coalition to intervene.

4. A large section of the Syrian people asked the international community to intervene after the Assad regime countered their peaceful demonstrations with extreme violence, arbitrary arrest and torture.

5. Iraq in 2003 did not present a threat to the international community. There were no Al-Qa’ida operatives or jihadis inside Iraq. They came in later to profit from the chaos we created.

6. Syria presents a serious threat to the security of the international community. The Al-Qa’ida-linked jihadi groups have thrived in the vacuum left by our non-intervention, and are growing. They are starting to dominate the moderate rebel groups like the Free Syrian Army.

7. Iraq was not a proxy war.

8. Syria has become a proxy war: America v Russia, Iran v Saudi Arabia, Hizbullah v Salafis. The interests of the Syrian people have been lost in the proxy war interests.

9. Iraq was not a humanitarian intervention. It was not in danger of collapse in 2003. It was not at war and was stable.

10. Syria would be a humanitarian intervention under the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ doctrine (Bosnia is the model). Syrians are dying of starvation and lack of medical attention as well as regime massacres and chemical weapons attacks. An entire generation is being lost.

For all those reasons, Syria is not Iraq, and for all those reasons, from the moment the regime made clear its intention to wipe out all opposition, I have supported intervention by the international community. Without it, Syria will disintegrate entirely over a period of years, and the fallout will come back to bite us big time.

Saladin's Castle in the mountains above Lattakia [DD]

Crusader Castle of Saone, later Saladin’s Castle in the mountains above Lattakia [DD]

Saladin's Tomb in Old Damascus. Saladin was a Kurd. [DD]

Saladin’s Tomb in Old Damascus. Saladin was a Kurd. [DD]

Looking at it objectively now 10 years on, the American-led invasion did inadvertently help one sector of the Iraqi people – the Kurds. Autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan could almost be seen as a model for the Middle East. Its schools since 2012 are teaching all world religions equally, and Islam is just one of them, no favouritism. It is booming economically thanks to its oil and its trade with Turkey. But all that was an unintended consequence.

Syria’s Kurds could also benefit from the current crisis in Syria, but that is happening anyway, and will continue irrespective of American strikes. More and more of them are pouring out of Syria’s northeast corner into Iraqi Kurdistan, where they are being warmly welcomed. Kurdistan may well turn out to a lasting beneficiary of the chaos inside Syria, along with the Syriac Christian community in eastern Turkey:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-23614968.

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Echoes of Aleppo in Gaziantep

English: Caravanserai in Aleppo

English: Caravanserai in Aleppo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Bawabet al-Yasmeen alley at the Chris...

English: Bawabet al-Yasmeen alley at the Christian quarter of Jdeydeh, Aleppo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gaziantep Castle

Gaziantep Castle (Photo credit: Turkish Travel)

gaziantep_fabric

gaziantep_fabric (Photo credit: unionpearl)

Photographs from Gaziantep

Photographs from Gaziantep (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Photographs from Gaziantep, Turkey.

Photographs from Gaziantep, Turkey. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Eastern Turkey’s ‘Paris of the East’ as it now likes to be known, Gaziantep (just Antep locally), is remarkably close to Aleppo in so many ways, historically, culturally and even in its famed cuisine based on the pistachio. It has at its heart a fortified citadel, its Christian quarter is being gentrified, with boutique hotels and cafes, just as Aleppo’s was a few years ago, but many of Aleppo’s have now been destroyed by the fighting. The Governor of Aleppo in medieval times built many of Antep’s mosques and hans (caravanserais), testimony to the shared trading links and thriving commercial traffic across the centuries.

Here today the links go even deeper. There are many Syrian refugees who are living on the charity of the governor, given soup and allowed to sleep in the mosques. The language problem is an issue for them, as most Turks here do not speak Arabic or English. The commercial links between this part of southeastern Turkey and northern Syria are stronger than ever though, with more trucks crossing the Bab Al-Hawa border than before the war, taking in food and various commodities to Syria, where the factories have to a large extent stopped functioning. Wandering round the souks of Gaziantep with their brimming sacks of spices and nuts, it is only the chatter of the Turkish merchants that force you to remember you are not in Aleppo.

Photographs from Gaziantep

Photographs from Gaziantep (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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