Does Bill Clinton remember Lord Owen from the Bosnia history lessons? Some people learn, some do not … Hillary and Bill Clinton belong to the latter.
The lesson of history for dealing with Syria in 2013 is to avoid a repeat of 1919. At the Paris conference dominated by the United States, Britain and France, Lloyd George was heard to say: “Mesopotamia … yes … oil … irrigation … we must have Mesopotamia [which was destined to be in Iraq]. Palestine … yes. The Holy Land … Zionism … we must have Palestine. Syria … hm; what is there in Syria? Let the French have that.” Henceforth Damascus was under the French, and the Emir Faisal I, King of Greater Syria, was double-crossed, and with him, Lawrence of Arabia..
(ME Monitor) – Recently, in an attempt to find a political solution to the country, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called the Geneva Conference, though the details of who will attend and on what conditions are the subject of on-going discussions.
Shortly before Kerry took the initiative (?) to hold talks in Switzerland, Lord Owen published an article in The Guardian calling for a regional conference, owned by the region. Despite the fact that Geneva II does not really focus specifically on the Middle Eastern countries, it is important that everybody tries hard to make it work. “That’s the only game in town,” he tells me. “That’s the one we’ve got to try and make succeed and help in every possible way.” We can do this, explains Owen, by creating a dialogue and a structure for gradually building compromises.
“The problem in the midst of a civil war is to find out who’s actually used them. There seems very little doubt that sarin gas has been used… people talk about red lines and crossing them, well who has an interest in dragging people across red lines? You have to look at that.”
Owen goes on to explain that the condemnation of the use of chemical weapons must be “absolute”. For many years in relation to the Iran-Iraq war, “the west’s position was outrageous”. Britain [and the US] knew such weapons were being used by Saddam Hussein against the Iranians and didn’t say a thing.
“That was one of the worst episodes of international duplicity and Britain was responsible for it as well. I was absolutely appalled during that war and it also sets a very unfortunate precedent. You keep a war going really just by topping up either side. The way to burn out wars is to bring them to a negotiated settlement. It’s not fuelling it, it’s not trying to keep the level of armaments up so that neither side wins which was basically the cynical exercise which was conducted during the Iran-Iraq war and which had huge consequences. We’re still living with them.”
The conflict in Syria stopped being just about Syria a long time ago, considering the country has long had a border dispute with Israel. Recently, Hezbollah and Lebanon have been drawn into the fighting and President Obama has delivered F-16 aircraft to Jordan. “These issues are very complex,” says Owen, “as each hinges on the other, each builds on the other and you’ve got to have dialogue.”