Tripoli and Idlib: A question of strategies and possibilities

In recent years, I have been repeating a statement made by late Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal in 2010 that the Arab world faces a “strategic vacuum” and that nature refuses such a state of emptiness. Prince Al-Faisal has predicted an increase in foreign interferences in Arab countries. At the time, there were complaints of the Hamas statelet in Gaza which the Iranians and the Assad regime founded, of Egypt’s dispute with Ethiopia over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and Eritrea’s assaults on Yemeni islands.

Since nature is averse to emptiness, many regional, international and terrorist organizations have seized the opportunity of the chaos in the year of 2011, so they increased their interferences, seized countries and deployed their militias in other countries to spread chaos. The international forces have returned under the pretext of fighting terrorism!

All these facts are well known, and can be found in the news and researches. There are countries which have surrendered to Iranian militias, such as Lebanon, and countries like Iraq which are still trying to fight back and restore the state. Nevertheless, the most painful examples of ongoing calamities with no hope in the horizon are Libya and Syria.

Libyan crisis

The terrible thing about what happened in Libya is that international forces which have intervened in the unrest from the very beginning have legislated what they considered a solution that keeps the capital Tripoli under the control of the militias or rather most of western Libya as several “armies” still sit comfortably draining the country’s resources and enjoying the protection of the National Accord system and of its presidential council and government which was invented by international forces. The international powers have hijacked this great “accord” to the point that they wanted to hold elections later this year. However, one or two militias felt that their share of land and money are too small compared to their capabilities and greatness, so they clashed, as usual, among each other, killing civilians and destroying several neighborhoods.

If the situation in Tripoli and western Libya is terrible, it is actually much worse in Syria. For many years, Syria has been divided between international parties (Russia, the United States, France and Britain), regional ones (Iran and Turkey), and Assad’s soldiers and sectarian militias. Since 2015, Russia’s air force has intervened to help Assad, built huge bases and committed horrific massacres.

The Idlib disaster

When the Russians were subjugating the disobedient areas, the regime’s forces and Iran’s militias would come in and take control over the land and forcibly displace people to Idlib, where the number of refugees and displaced people is far greater than the resident population. Now it is Idlib’s turn to be crushed on the pretext that there are al-Qaeda terrorists there.

The Russians, the Iranians and the Turks are meeting in Tehran to finalize the issue of annihilating the city! Meanwhile the Americans and some Europeans are cautioning against a humanitarian crisis. As for the international envoy, he ended up “trying to come up with something new” saying that he and international humanitarian organizations are ready to secure a safe passage for those who want to escape! Who are the people who can escape? Are they the ones who have been displaced from Aleppo, Homs, Daraa, Qalamun and other places! Where will they go? Their only option is to head to the Turkish border and Turkey already has 3.5 million displaced Syrians, so will it agree to receive another million?

No one believes that if Idlib is burned, the war in Syria would end. There are areas in the east of the Euphrates, in the hands of the Kurds and their American guardians. There are Turkish border areas, under Erdogan’s control, and as such the conflict in Syria appears to be never-ending.

Strategic vacuum

Those who invaded Syria cannot be the protectors of its peace and unity, but Arabs have been absent for years, so their only way to exercise any influence is through international powers, that is the Russians and the Americans, and of course not through the Iranians who “discovered” in Syria more than 8,000 Al-Bayt shrines and have to stay to protect them from extremists! Turkey, too, cannot be relied on after Erdogan discovered the bones of the Ottomon royal family in a cemetery in Aleppo. He also discovered that the Kurds were threatening Turkey on its border with Syria!

Things are very different in Libya. Eastern Libya has its elected national parliament and most of the national army. Thanks to the army, the Libyan east is almost free of terrorism, after it wiped out chaos. The solution in Libya is feasible and its pillar is Arab support of the Libyan national army and the parliament. As for the international forces, they are not concerned with the militias, but with the dispute between France and Italy!

The only way to get rid of this “strategic vacuum” is through intervention of Arab decision-making, as they have intervened in Yemen, and by practicing influence in turmoil-hit regions.

Radwan al Sayed is a Lebanese thinker and writer who attained a bachelor degree from the Faculty of Theology at al-Azhar University and a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Tübingen in Germany. He has been a scholar of Islamic studies for decades and is the former editor-in-chief of the quarterly al-Ijtihad magazine. Radwan is also the author of many books and has written for Arab dailies such as al-Ittihad, al-Hayat and ash-Sharq al-Awsat.

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