On August 21, doubts about the alleged use of chemical weapons continued to escalate the Syrian crisis. Before the United Nations Mission to Investigate Allegations of the Use of Chemical Weapons in Syria started their investigations and fact-finding activities on August 26, the United States had already started a high-profile media blitz that strikes against Syria were imminent. The New York Times reported on August 24 that the US would bypass the United Nations to directly launch airstrikes against Syria. US officials were considering the Kosovo war at the end of the 1990s as a precedent to attack Syria without authorization from the United Nations. All of a sudden, US comments and actions became the biggest factor bearing a decisive impact on the Syrian crisis, and the whole world cast their eyes on the United States.
Some analysts pointed out that the Obama administration had apparently made adequate military preparations for imminent use of force against Syria, but they still could not ascertain if the Syrian rebels had fully prepared to take over the government. Once this was ascertained, a Syrian war would be out of question. However, this author believes that the United States should exercise caution in any military action against Syria.
First of all, any military action against Syria can not be justified, morally or legally, before the release of investigation reports by the UN fact-finding team, and any evidence from the US or any other side can not be enough to convince or be accepted by the international community, because the Iraq war is still a telling example. Second, the United States claimed it will launch limited strikes against Syria and will not consider the change of regime as its goal. If this is the case, the Syrian government will resolutely resist for its survival and dignity, and this will lead to a further deterioration in the Syrian situation, and subsequently trigger off an even worse humanitarian disaster in that country.
According to data released by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Syrian refugees have exceeded 1.9 million, with the number of child refugees exceeding 1 million. Inside Syria, another 2 million children have been displaced, becoming destitute and homeless. These are not simply figures, they show the suffering of the Syrian people because of the forced displacement and even the loss of loved ones. Who could possibly bear the responsibility for further escalating the Syrian humanitarian crisis? Third, if the United States, in cooperation with its allies, launches a full-scale military attack on Syria and topples the regime of Bashar al-Assad, it will have to face difficult options in the “post- Bashar al-Assad” in Syria, because there are an unknown number of extremists among the Syrian opposition, and the United States will not be willing to shoulder such a heavy burden. Even worse, a war will open a “Pandora’s box” in the region, and the consequences will be unpredictable. As far as US internal affairs are concerned, President Barack Obama will have to cooperate closely with Congress on a series of issues, including the debt limit, the fiscal budget for 2014 and the appointment of a new Federal Reserve chairman. Are the Americans ready or willing to bear heavier debts for military intervention in Syria?
The role of the United Nations should not be ignored in solving the Syrian issue. As the most universal, representative and authoritative inter-governmental international institution, the United Nations plays an important role in the Syrian issue. At present, the United Nations member countries have differences on the Syrian issue, and this means it has become more urgent to consult and to seek common ground by shelving differences; more urgent to abide by the United Nations Chapter and the code of conduct for international relations; and not advisable to attempt to tackle this issue by bypassing the United Nations. Otherwise, all parties to the Syrian crisis will go further astray from the only correct road of political solution, and it will deteriorate the tensions and turmoil in the region.
China is highly concerned about the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria, and has clearly expressed its stance of opposing the use of chemical weapons by any party in Syria, and supporting the UN Secretariat in carrying out an independent, objective, impartial and professional investigation into the alleged use of chemical weapons in accordance with relevant UN resolutions to find out the facts as soon as possible. At the same time, China also warned that military actions could cause bigger or destructive consequences. A political solution is the only practical road for solving the Syrian issue. The most urgent task now is to hold, as early as possible, the second Geneva Conference on Syria. Therefore, all parties should exercise caution in dealing with the chemical weapons issue in Syria so as to avoid any disturbance to the political process. The international community should consolidate their consensus and common grounds, and join hands in promoting the process of a political solution to the Syrian issue.
The Syrian issue is extremely complicated, and it is also complicated by various regional conflicts and disputes. Although it is not easy to seek a political solution to the Syrian crisis, efforts should be made for such a solution. The political process to lead Syria to peace will continue. In today’s world, if all big powers have the courage to shelve or eliminate their differences and join hands to engage in effective intervention within the framework of the United Nations, it will not only help the Syrian people to get rid of their suffering and prevent long-term turmoil in the regional situation, but it could also help find a new way for preventing similar military conflicts in the future, and enlarge the room for cooperation among the big powers in this new era.
Wu Sike is a Chinese special envoy to the Middle East