‘Red lines’ are on the US flag, not Syrian soil

Syrian child in war zone

By Osamah Golpy:

It is as if Syria has changed the colours, if not on ground, then at least in diplomatic games. The red line, unlike for conventional weapons, and as President Obama puts it, is for a weapon that kills, but does not make its victims bleed that red colour of blood. That very same weapon, even if the allegations turn out to be true, will have killed just a tiny portion of the many dead in the long conflict in Syria. Now, why is the international community so worried about chemical attack? With more than one hundred thousand dead, why should we really feel that the blood of a chemical victim is any redder than the rest?

The fact is that chemical attacks, or other forms of massacres, happen almost all the time at a certain stage of conflicts. This happened to the Kurdish population in Iraq. The Saddam regime killed hundreds of thousands of civilians – 182,000 people in just one campaign, the so called Anfal campaign. But this did not heighten international feelings, until the notorious chemical attack on March, 16th 1988 which led to the immediate death of 5000 people, almost all civilians, and the majority women and children, in the town of Halabja.

At that stage, the situation was very much like in Syria today. But it was not enough to cause an intervention; it was a US ally, the Iraq regime, which had crossed ‘the red line’ already in a ‘war zone’ and allegedly against the advances of Iranian troops, the US’s number one enemy in the region. So, the Halabja attack remained in the shadows in US terms up until the mass exodus of millions of Kurds to Iran and Turkey in 1991, coinciding with the popular uprising across Iraq which would have meant the inevitable collapse of the Iraqi Baath regime had the coalition forces not given the green light to Saddam for his ‘search and kill’ mission against Iraqi protesters. The aftermath of the Kuwait invasion and all those killings was only a No-Fly zone imposed only in the northern part of Iraq; forgetting about the rest of Iraq.

One way or another, people on all sides, and not just the old Cold War two sides, are finding similarities between the Syria conflict and the Iraq occupation. The commonly quoted similarity is that the West going to war here will just create one more Iraq, with sectarian violence and an undeclared Third World War on Syria soil. But what the world is not searching for is how Iraq and Syria could be dissimilar, or at least how to prevent Syria from becoming another Iraq.

Imagine if the Western countries had intervened in 1980, at the beginning of Iraq-Iran war, or in 1988 at the end of the war and right after the Halabja chemical attack or, at the latest, in 1991 – wouldn’t it have been different from the 2003 war? The first scenario might have prevented the eight-year Iran-Iraq war; the second, the Kuwait invasion and mass exodus; and the last, the sectarian violence and terrorism.   Now, back to Syria: how about intervention today, or decades later? Would it be different, too? Or does not it matter, so long as red lines do not correspond to any colour on the ground, but rather to that on the US and other nation’s flags?

Photo: Deborah Amos, NPR 

Osamah M. Hama Husen: Local Coordinator, Fida International, E-mail: Osamagolpy@yahoo.com

Facebook: www.fb.com/osamagolpy, Mobile: +9647507882603

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