EDITORIAL: Syrian strike about saving credibility
At last week’s G-20 meeting in St Petersburg, Russia, the crisis in Syria unfortunately overshadowed what should have been an economic meeting to address the pressing financial crisis facing most of the world’s economies.
The Group of 20 powers said last Friday that the world economy was improving but it was too early to declare an end to the crisis, with emerging markets facing increasing volatility. It was, as usual, an expensive waste of time with no real policy initiatives emerging to improve the global economy.
The prospect that the Federal Reserve may rein in its expansive monetary policies as early as this month has plunged into turmoil some emerging economies that had enjoyed rapid growth helped by a flood of cheap dollars.
It is safe to say that United States President Barack Obama failed to garner enthusiastic support from his G-20 colleagues to launch a military strike against Syria. Even now, he cannot be sure he will get majority support in Congress.
Regionally, Caribbean Community countries gave a soggy token of caution against a Syrian strike, but given its stony silence on major issues affecting the region, its latest effort is, at best, diffident, if not incongruous.
The scenario has already been played out with a recent joint United States-Israeli missile test in the Mediterranean. However, it was first announced by Russia and it epitomizes exactly how the tragedy of the Syrian civil war has now become a power play between the Cold War enemies.
As expected, the United States denied the move had anything to do with the situation in Syria, or, explicitly, the fact that it is considering military action in response to an alleged chemical attack carried out by the Syrian government last month.
Russia responded by sending a reconnaissance ship to the Mediterranean, obviously to shadow the growing United States armada in the region. This cannot be seen as an unrelated event that was planned long in advance. No one is that naive.
The United States and Israel are, quite literally, testing the waters, and gauging Russian reactions ahead of a possible limited cruise missile strike on Damascus. These military games are more about these decades-old animosities, the never-ending arms race, oil, Israel and regional alliances.
Yet, it is the people of the Middle East who, once again, are mere pawns in this power play and are the ones who will feel the consequences. The region has been on the verge of war for weeks and these are tense times for Syria’s neighbours.
With the economic markets remaining volatile, the news of missile testing by the Americans and Israelis is not good for the region’s blood pressure. The price of oil is likely to be affected as a consequence, thereby exacerbating the fragile economic prospects for global economies.
There are now over two million Syrian refugees, on top of the five million internally displaced, and over 110 000 dead. Any attack cannot be about protecting lives or seeking stability for Syria. It is about saving whatever shred of credibility the United States has left.