Johan Galtung on Syria


Johan Galtung

Johan Galtung, founder of the disciple of peace studies, offers with stunning clarity an explanation of why the Syrian conflict will be so difficult to resolve if the present state of affairs continues, meaning that the rebels, supported by the United States and its Western and Arab allies, go on insisting on their own “solution.” That solution includes getting rid of Bashar al-Assad by all means, a ceasefire, and negotiations between all legitimate parties, from which a compromise (political solution) will emerge.

Acknowledging the complexity of Syria and the wider Middle East, Galtung offers a far more nuanced package of “solutions.” He says, “Let the parties outside and inside Syria talk. Let them state their goals and the Syria they would like to see.” Here is how Galtung identifies various interests:

First, an image of the goals of some outside parties:

  • Israel: wants Syria divided in smaller parts, detached from Iran, status quo for Golan Heights, and a new map for the Middle East;
  • USA: wants what Israel wants and control over oil, gas, pipelines;
  • UK: wants what USA wants;
  • France: co-responsible with the UK for post-Ottoman colonization in the area wants confirmed friendship between France and Syria;
  • Russia: wants a naval base in the Mediterranean, and an “ally”;
  • China: wants what Russia wants;
  • EU: wants both what Israel-USA want and what France wants;
  • Iran: wants Shia power;
  • Iraq: majority Shia, wants what Iran wants;
  • Lebanon: wants to know what it wants;
  • Saudi Arabia: wants Sunni power;
  • Egypt: wants to emerge as the conflict-manager;
  • Qatar: wants the same as Saudi Arabia and Egypt;
  • Gulf States: want what USA-UK want;
  • The Arab League: wants no repetition of Libya, tries human rights;
  • Turkey: wants to assert itself relative to the (Israel-USA) successors to the (France-UK-Italy) successors to the Ottoman Empire, and a buffer zone in Syria;
  • UN: wants to emerge as the conflict manager.

Over this looms a dark cloud. Syria is in the zone between Israel-USA-NATO and Shanghai Cooperation Organization, both expanding.

Then, there are goals of inside parties:

  • Alawis (15%): want to remain in power, “for the best of all”;
  • Shias in general: want the same;
  • Sunnis: want majority rule, their rule, democracy;
  • Jews, Christians, minorities: want security, fearing Sunni rule;
  • Kurds: want high level autonomy, some community with other Kurds.

How can the Syrian crisis then be resolved is explained in his editorial at the website of TRANSCEND, A Network of Peace, Development and Environment, which he founded.



One thought on “Johan Galtung on Syria

  1. Pingback: A waiting game: Syria through the lens of conflict transformation | TransConflict

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