Media reports on Syria conveyed the idea of a civil war between the Assad regime and the so-called "rebels," recent events are finally disclosing the true nature of what are affecting a regional world war. For if regional are the protagonists of this cynical and bloody war, global are the conflicting interests converging on a most strategic area. The Syrian conflict involves the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.
Supporting the "rebels" are France, Great Britain and, more prudently, the U.S. On the opposite side are Russia and, in a more discreet fashion, China. On the regional level we have Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia leading the anti-Assad front, while Iran and Hezbollah stand with Damascus. Then there is Israel; eager to wipe out its archenemies once and for all, without of course thinking of the repercussions that fighting alongside Muslim fundamentalists will sooner or later have.
It cannot be called world war simply because neither the big fives nor any other Middle Eastern country are officially taking part to the conflict. Yet their involvement is anything but passive. Gulf dictatorships, guided by the medieval Saudi monarchy, are supplying weapons to hand-chopping Jihadis (the same ones that western democracies were fighting in Mali a while ago...). Russia is generously helping the Assad regime to remain in place, for, needless to say, strictly strategic reasons while Iran and Hezbollah are said to be supporting the Syrian army both militarily and logistically.
Money and weapons flow in to keep the fighting going in a country already in ruins and on the edge of starvation; the desolate and cruel battlefield of geopolitical disputes. 70,000 casualties (UN sources) and hundreds of thousands refugees sacrificed on the altar of armed diplomacy, the black hole of the Arab Springs where utopias went to die.
Syria is no longer a state, let alone the secular Arab Republic it once was. It is a violent net of fratricide, ethno-religious factions where enemies and allies are a matter of daily vagaries. A country where Muslim fundamentalists were caught on camera celebrating the recent Israeli air strikes (one of the most efficient "rebel forces" fighting against Assad is the Gabhat al-Nusra brigade, considered by Washington an al-Qaida gang). Syria is a country where peace will probably not return for quite a long time.
World powers (China, Russia and USA) are contending their global influence, pathetic former empires (France and Great Britain) are trying to revive their past "splendours" while Israel fights for its hegemonic survival in the region. Gulf States jumped on the occasion to monopolize Middle Eastern Islamism and defy their Shiite enemies. Last but not least are the neo-Ottoman ambitions of Turkey and its Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, once a brotherly ally of Assad now opportunistically siding with the oil monarchies.
The peaceful protests that inaugurated this ongoing massacre are just a faint memory, immediately hijacked for the above listed purposes. If at the very beginning the aim of the armed "rebels" was to overthrow the Syrian State, whatever will be left after and if the Assad regime falls will be a heap of rubbles where armed militias of every color will refuse to bury their weapons. The social texture and peaceful coexistence of different ethno-religious tribes of Syria will be hard to regain, if ever. Here we have a new Libya waiting in line, possibly even worse, more irremediably fractured. Nobody seems to care, for until there is enough fuel to keep the war burning on indefinitely... let it burn.
The self-interested diversity characterizing the Syrian conflict makes it very hard to even imagine a possible solution to the carnage; the latter in fact remains nothing but a collateral effect in this sad banquet of geopolitical interests. No party is willing to build new institutional architectures since the very basis of this conflict is based on mutual discredit. Each contender accuses its enemy of wanting to eliminate it. Mors tua vita mea ("your death, my life). Negotiating attitudes and hope are gone after two years of bloody war. And even if it will take years, if not decades to elaborate so much loss, injustice and mourning, to go on "waiting" is madness.
The recent Israeli air strikes are a further blow to any hope of "peaceful" resolution and a potential call to arms for the Obama administration that has so far refused to send troops to Syria. The irresponsibility, let alone its disregard of international law, by Israel cannot be stressed enough in a moment when Moscow and Washington are maybe reaching for an agreement that Beijing will certainly not oppose. Any possible future resolution will bear the same stench of hypocrisy and blood that has characterized the Syrian conflict so far but it will at least contain, instead of fuelling a potential world, Middle Eastern war.
This article has previously appeared on China.org.cn