Is the War Behind the Door at the G20 Summit?

What will be the role of the UN Security Council’s mission if the US military strike does not stop the ongoing civil war? What will happen if radical Islamic groups like Al- Qaida fighters get the control of the stockpile of chemical weapons? At this crucial point, Russian President Vladimir Putin takes a historical diplomatic responsibility by hosting G20 leaders in St. Petersburg.

The civil war in Syria has been affecting the world peace in a negative way for more than two years. The images of the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian army galvanized the world into action. The USA and its allies had declared that the use of chemical weapons was their red line and so they started to discuss a military campaign against al-Assad regime in Syria.

There are many factors which have made the problem in Syria even more complicated: The UN has failed to produce a long-lasting solution to the problem so far. The peace talks in Geneva did not produce any positive results. Many countries including Russia and Iran have been engaged in the problem and they have their own separate interests in the region. The Syrian army has started to achieve military success against the Free Syrian army in the fronts lately. On the other hand, Israel bombed Syria three times with the claim that Syria has been helping Hezbollah by providing missiles and other modern weapon systems, which Israel considered as a threat against its security. Several things have also made Turkey, which share a long border with Syria, engaged in the problem: There has been continuing fighting between Kurdish group PYD, a branch of PKK terrorist organization which has been active In Turkey for many years, and Al-Nusra in the region along the border of Turkey. More than 500 000 Syrians have taken refuge in Turkey.

Just at this critical point, President Obama declared that the US should take military action that would be "limited in duration and scope", but would not do so until Congress has a chance to vote on the use of military force. However, he can still authorize the army even if Congress rejected it. He stated that the main purpose is to punish Syria's President Bashar al-Assad for “an assault on human dignity,” to “prevent or deter the use or proliferation of chemical or biological weapons within or from Syria and to protect the United States and its allies against the threat posed by such weapons.” Barack Obama said the US, which has destroyers equipped with cruise missiles in the region, was planning a "limited, narrow response that would not involve troops on the ground or be open-ended”. The countries which support a military intervention in Syria have failed to get a support from the U.N. Security Council. Meanwhile surprising news came from London: the British Parliament rejected any participation in a military attack on Syria.

Kremlin has strongly declared that Russia supports Syrian territorial integrity and preserving its sovereignty. Russia has sharply criticized US politics in Syria. The Russian president said Obama, as a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, should remember the impact any U.S. attack would have on Syrian civilians. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who had opposed to the NATO campaign in Libya, stated that Russia would not be a part of any war in Syria. He emphasized the lack of alternative to a diplomatic solution and that attempts for a military solution will lead only to a further destabilization of the situation in the country and the region. However, Russia has sent missile launcher and intelligence ships to the Eastern Mediterranean. Also Russian missile early warning radar Armavir deployed at the Black Sea had detected ‘’sparrow’’ target and ‘’arrow’’ anti-missiles launched during the US-Israel joint naval exercise.

The NATO Secretary-General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen stated that the NATO alliance was ready to defend Turkey and a possible future attack on Turkey would be considered as an attack to NATO as a whole. He added that NATO would respond in the most severe way in such a situation. NATO had deployed patriot air defense missiles along the Turkish-Syrian border after a Turkish fighter aircraft was hit by Syria. Moscow reacted to the development permissively.

From the international politics perspective, there are some open questions about any military intervention in Syria. What will be the role of the UN Security Council’s mission if the US Allies’ military strike does not stop the ongoing civil war? Can international community eliminate al-Assad if he concludes he no longer has anything to lose and uses his country’s abilities to escalate a more deadly conflict in the whole Middle East? What will happen if radical Islamic groups like El- Qaida fighters get the control of the stockpile of chemical weapons?

At this crucial point, Russian President Vladimir V. Putin will take a historical diplomatic responsibility by hosting G20 leaders in St. Petersburg. It could be expected that the world leaders will take on responsibility and decide on employing diplomatic methods instead of resorting to force in the solution to the problem.

The main agenda will be, as expected, to stop Syrian civil war that has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands people so far. As it is known an early morning chemical attack on August 21 outside Damascus killed more than 1,400 people, including hundreds of children. One third of Syrian people have become refugees in neighboring countries so far. Russia's President Vladimir Putin said it would be "utter nonsense" for the Syrian government to use chemical weapons when it was winning its war with rebels, and urged U.S. President Barack Obama not to attack Syrian forces. The US Secretary of State John Kerry said that the United States now has proof that lethal sarin gas was used in Syria. The NATO Secretary-General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen also insisted that "personally I am convinced, not only that a chemical attack has taken place … but I am also convinced that the Syrian regime is responsible." The Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, rejected the western intelligence as absolutely unconvincing, saying that there was "nothing concrete, no geographical co-ordinates or details … and no proof the test was done by professionals".

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will hold a bilateral meeting at the summit. The two leaders are expected to discuss crisis in the Middle East, especially both in Syria and Egypt. President Putin has commented that joint peace negotiations under the G20’s umbrella could help further discuss the problem and to arrive peaceful solutions before the conditions get even worse in the region. A crucial objective of the G20 summit could be to set up a Syria contact group, like the one which helped stop the civil war in Lebanon and brought peace. There is already an international initiative called the Friends of Syria, but it was founded as a forum to provide support to the Syrian opposition. This new contact group can bring together the countries that are currently supporting opposing sides in the Syrian conflict. Russia must definitely be included in the group, but also other key actors in the region such as Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia should also participate in the group. The contact group could also help bring the opposing sides in the civil war to talks in Geneva.

We believe that everybody needs peace and we are fed up with wars. Therefore, people keep hoping that the G20 summit in St. Petersburg could yield positive results in this respect.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.