Strike on Syria and the "International Coalition"

Bismillah al-Rahman al-Raheem

Answer to a Question

Question: How could we explain the fragmentation of the international coalition to strike Syria as Britain withdrew followed by Germany and then Italy, in addition to the stances of Russia and China who are averse to an attack on Syria in the first place?


1 – Despite America’s talk about the presence of an international coalition to strike Syria, the reality of the “international coalition” is non-existent in the proper sense of the word. America does not seem to be in the slightest working towards generating a “coalition” akin to the one she generated when she invaded Iraq or Afghanistan. The US Secretary of State, John Kerry, was clear in his statement yesterday when he said that the potential military operation against the Syrian regime would be limited in its scope and no forces on the ground would take part; he said it would not be like the intervention in Iraq or Afghanistan. Kerry added that Washington was relying on her allies, namely France, the Arab League, Australia and Turkey.

2 – The military operation that America intends to execute would be confined to specific airstrikes and not a ground invasion of Syrian territory; this does not require the mobilising of an international coalition of ground forces. Any ground operation could be no more than unannounced incursions by a limited number of commandos led by America and backed by neighbouring countries such as Turkey and Jordan. Obama was explicit in determining the nature of the strike when he said that he was looking for a limited operation rather than an open war. Washington is not thinking about a military move with ground forces but a limited concise operation confined to tackling the apprehensions related to chemical weapons.  

3 – Based on the aforementioned, it would be futile to talk about Britain, Germany and Italy withdrawing from the international coalition because it does not exist and America never sought to effectively generate it. The propagating of the coalition in the media, and even politically, is designed to provide a cover for America’s non-referral to the Security Council and the United Nations prior to executing the military operation, whereby the impression would be given that an international coalition to “protect humanity” against chemical weapons exists and that it would punish the transgressors. It is also designed to demonstrate that Obama has carried out his threat when he said that the use of such weapons was a red line over which he could not keep silent.

4 – The US administration’s statements that came after the British House of Commons voted against partaking in the military operation prove that America is not exasperated. The White House National Security Council spokeswoman, Caitlin Hayden, said: “We have seen the result of the Parliament vote in the UK tonight. The U.S. will continue to consult with the U.K. government – one of our closest allies and friends.” The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, for his part attempted to lay the blame on the leader of the opposition Labour Party, Ed Miliband, and accused him of undermining the British interests and the relationship with America. His anger was reflected by some Whitehall officials; one was quoted as saying: “We can’t believe Miliband has been willing to compromise the national interest at stake in order to get himself out of a hole.” David Cameron also said he was sorry that the House of Commons refused to back a military operation in Syria; he then added: "I think the American public, the American people and President Obama will understand."

5 – It seems that the most important factors that influenced the defeat of the government in the House of Commons by a majority of 13 votes were the spectre of the Iraq war and the ambiguity of the military operation’s aims, in addition to the cuts in the UK’s defence budget and the tremendous pressures exerted on Cameron from within his own party due to his decision to form a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats. Some Conservative MPs have hinted that if they win the next general election in 2015 and Cameron decides to form another coalition government, they may encourage the London Mayor, Boris Johnson, or the MP of African origins, Adam Afriyie, to mount a leadership challenge.

6 – As for Germany, her reluctance to partake in the military operation was due to the stance of one of Angela Merkel’s rivals, namely Peer Steinbrück, who said: “I want to make it quite clear for myself and for the SPD (Social Democrats) that we believe a military intervention would be wrong because we cannot see how it would help the people in Syria." This was one of the main reasons that induced Angela Merkel to announce Germany’s abstention from partaking in the American military operation, especially as the country is preparing for the general elections which are to be held on 22 September, with Angela Merkel favourite to win a third term. Angela Merkel fears that if she openly backed the American strike, she might reduce her chances of winning the forthcoming elections since opinion polls revealed the voter’s deep aversion to any military strike, especially if Germany were to take part. This should come as no surprise as Germany distanced herself from NATO’s military intervention in Libya two years ago.

7 – As for Italy, the coalition government consists of right-wing conservative, centre-right and centre-left parties, and with the aversion of the opposition Five Star Movement, the second-largest political party to any military action, even if it were backed by a Security Council resolution, makes it difficult for the Italian government to partake with America in any military action against Syria. Nevertheless, the communiqué issued by the Chigi Palace, the official residence of the Prime Minister, mentioned Italy’s willingness to maintain her liaison with the American administration and stressed that “the relationship with the American ally, even in this Syrian issue, would continue to be marked with full cooperation and friendship.” The Italian deputy foreign minister, Marta Dassu, denied any involvement of the armed Syrian opposition in the use of chemical weapons and believed that “responsibility for this lied with Bashar Assad.”

8 – The abstention of Britain, Germany and Italy from partaking openly with America in the war effort does not necessarily mean that they do not support a military strike under the guise of punishing Bashar Assad for using chemical weapons. The leaders of these states confirmed that the Syrian regime should bear the consequences of using chemical weapons. Their statements, stipulating that they back a political solution in Syria by expressing their willingness to attend the Geneva II Conference, confirm that they are proceeding according to the American vision in achieving the political objective of the military operation against Syria, namely forcing the regime and the opposition to come to the negotiating table to conclude the political solution that America has embraced for the struggle in Syria through the entrenching of each party in its geographic areas, which America has devised in agreement with Russia.

9 – As for Russia and China, they can only object verbally to an American strike against Syria without seriously standing up to it on the international stage save for exercising the right to veto. It is worth mentioning that Russia mentioned that she would not intervene militarily to protect Syria if she were attacked by America. The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, told a press conference in reply to a question about what would Russia do if the West attacked the infrastructure of the Syrian army: “We have no intention to engage in a war with anyone.” This is because Russia knows very well that America’s intention of the military strike is to generate the conditions for negotiations between the Syrian regime and the opposition at the Geneva II conference.

It should be made clear that Russia’s presence in the Middle East is purely for her military and economic interests, especially oil; and Syria does not constitute a red line for the Russian vital interests like Georgia does, where Russia settled the struggle within a few days, managing to split South Ossetia and Abkhazia and declare their independence in record time. And by doing so then, Russia sent a clear and robust message to America and the West that she would not hesitate to engage in a war when it comes to her direct vital interests. The Kremlin deals with America, on the Syrian issue in particular and the Middle East in general, according to a principle of “exerting pressure and concluding deals”. Perhaps the visit of the Saudi intelligence chief, Bandar Bin Sultan, to Russia in early August 2013 and his meeting with Vladimir Putin for four hours, explains how America succeeded in softening the Russian stance vis-à-vis the Syrian crisis.

Reuters reported on 7 August 2013 that Saudi Arabia had offered Moscow an arms deal worth $15 billion and pledged that Gulf gas would not challenge Russia's position as a main gas supplier to Europe. This was one of the components of the Russo-American deal, whereby Moscow would relinquish her backing of Bashar Assad in return for guarantees allowing her to continue her gas exports to Europe. This means that the Qatari project to build a natural gas pipeline to Europe, as an alternative to Russian gas via Syrian and Turkish territories, would have to be dropped. Furthermore, Lionid Fedun, the Vice-president of the second largest Russian oil company, Lukoil, stated the company intended to start producing natural gas in Saudi Arabia next year. He said: “We made a discovery of 400 billion cubic meters... the first gas-producing project in Saudi Arabia.”

Finally, France’s decision to partake in the military operation against Syria alongside the US and the reluctance of the rest of the European states to condemn her, in addition to their insistence in holding the regime of Bashar Assad responsible for using chemical weapons and to the participation of the countries of the region in this operation, all this suffices America to convince the rest of the world that there exists an international coalition that stands for “moral and humanitarian” reasons to defend the Syrian people against genocide. The French stance is important to America on the international, European and regional stage due to the cultural and colonial French background in Syria and Lebanon. Hence, when Francois Hollande was asked whether France would move without Britain, he replied: “Yes. Each country is sovereign to participate or not in an operation. That is valid for Britain as it is for France.” He added: “There are few countries that have the capacity to inflict a sanction by the appropriate means. France is one of them. We are ready. We will decide our position in close liaison with our allies.”

Hence, the lands of the Muslims remain violable to the Kufr states that are destroying their faculties, pillaging their resources and killing their children mercilessly with no-one to reprimand or account them. The deception that the Kufr states and their tools practise in the Muslims’ lands has led some Muslims to even consent to killing each other, destroy their lands with their own hands and the hands of their enemies, and even to persistently urge their enemies to kill and destroy their armies and their capabilities, as was the case in Iraq and Libya and as is expected with the Syrian army which is the army of the Ummah just like the Iraqi and Libyan armies. Other armies may follow suit, Allah forbid; thus America and the Kafir West would tighten their grip on the Muslims’ lands after they deal a blow to the culture of the Ummah and her aspiration to implement the Shari’ah of her Lord. Consequently, the Kuffar would continue to destroy the armies of her lands and her children who are capable and eager to fight them; they would continue to plunder the riches of the Muslims’ lands and prevent the Muslims from getting rid of the criminal grip of America who occupies their lands and conspires against Islam and the Muslims whom she deems as the biggest threat to her unilateral leadership and supremacy over the world this century.

Would the Muslims improve their reasoning, think in a deep and enlightened manner, and perceive that the main plane of the battle is between Kufr and Islam? Would they perceive that they are being used as tools by the Kuffar through which the kuffar execute a major portion of their plans to fight Islam and the unity of the Muslims’ lands, to weaken and humiliate them and extinguish any hope they may have to regain their appropriate position among the nations of the world?

24 Shawwal 1434h

31 August 2013