With the UN toward Escalation


DAMASCUS/BERLIN (Own report) - Berlin should use the UN observer mission in Syria to urge Russia and China to be more aggressive in opposition to the Assad regime within the UN framework, insist German government advisors. According to a recent publication of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), the UN observers' mission in Syria can be expected to fail. Experience, however, shows that such a failure could pave the way to open intervention. It is strongly recommended that the Federal Republic of Germany also "engage personnel." The German government is in fact preparing to make the decision to deploy German soldiers in Syria, with one officer active already in the country for a UN mission. While Berlin is considering a more aggressive intervention against Damascus, the press reports that Syrian insurgents are in Kosovo receiving instruction in methods of insurgency - apparently in full sight of the German troops stationed there. In addition, two Arab allies of Germany, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, are exacerbating the Syrian civil war by arming the rebels. The same holds true for the former Libyan insurgents , bombed into power last year by NATO - and with whom Berlin is also seeking cooperation.

Placebo Deployment

In its recent analysis, the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) is quite pessimistic about the UN observer mission's chances of, at least, attenuating the escalating civil war in Syria. In principle, observer missions can "eliminate neither the conflict nor its causes," according to this analysis, "most of the time, they reinforce the status quo, thereby postponing the solution of the problem." They could, however, mitigate a conflict, in any case "if they are adequately equipped," if they are "cooperating well with the host country and if their deployment is based on a stable ceasefire agreement." The two latter prerequisites have certainly not been met in Syria. A success of the UN observers can, therefore, not be expected. Quite the contrary, the mission could even become counterproductive. If it does not improve the situation, the "placebo deployment" will stop neither the regime nor the militia, but disappoint the hopes of the population and therefore produce even "harmful side effects."[1]

Escalation Scenario

The UN observer mission could, however, be otherwise used, writes the SWP. The observers could "gather information about the situation and the dynamics of the conflict," which can then be used to build up "pressure for new options in the Security Council." "Actually, this must be the mission's goal," writes the SWP. The mission will not "provoke a change in behavior of the Assad regime - but perhaps in members of the Security Council." A more aggressive intervention within the framework of the United Nations could therefore come within reach. This has been shown by experience. "In recent years, most of the time, whenever observer missions were terminated, it was not because the conflicts were resolved, but because the (security) situation on the ground for continuing the missions became inadequate," according to the analysis. Once "a truce or ceasefire becomes obsolete and observers can no longer accomplish their mandate, the Security Council has the duty of providing other options." In Sierra Leone for example, the 1998 "observer mission" was replaced in 2000 by a "peace enforcing mission,” after the situation escalated into bloodshed.[2] A similar escalation scenario "can be expected in Syria and is partially already taken place."

Engaging Personnel

In case of a UN observer mission in Syria, SWP reminds, Germany must participate not only "with technical and logistical assistance, but by also engaging personnel."[3] So far, Berlin has been participating in the UN mission mostly with financial and logistical means. Currently, however, the cabinet is discussing the deployment of German personnel, according to reports, up to ten soldiers - unarmed - as is usual for observer missions. One German officer, a Lieutenant Colonel, is already on duty in Syria, as part of the UN reconnaissance team that arrived in Damascus in April. The German armed forces delegated him to the UN Department for Peace Keeping Operations. In Syria, he is operating in his Bundeswehr uniform.[4]

Like the KLA

While Berlin is considering a more aggressive intervention within the framework of the UN, the media is reporting that several Syrian insurgents were visiting Kosovo. The Kosovo regime has already confirmed close contact to the Syrian opposition. The US media is citing a Syrian, who fled to the USA in 2005, as saying that he visited Kosovo to "learn" from the KLA's experience.[5] Aided by NATO air strikes, the KLA fought Yugoslav Armed Forces in 1999 - with the known outcome. It is not clear what the Syrian rebels are specifically hoping to learn from their Kosovar counterparts. Priština denies providing military training or weapons. The Syrian, citied by US media, explained that they are particularly interested in finding out how the KLA was able to consolidate the various sectors of the Kosovar protests into a common front against Belgrade. As a matter of fact, the Syrian opposition is divided - including the armed wing, which is disintegrating into numerous, independently operating militia, and has been incapable of undertaking a unified struggle. Independent of concrete themes of the talks, one thing is clear, they were held under the watchful eye of the German Bundeswehr, which still maintains the largest contingent of foreign troops in Kosovo and is best informed of the local situation.


Alongside the EU‘s protectorate Kosovo, the armed Syrian insurgents are still receiving support, especially from two of Germany's close Arab allies - Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Back in March, a high ranking Saudi diplomat officially declared that his country was already sending weapons to Syria. Experts assume that Qatar, as well, has long since been furnishing weapons to the Syrian militias. In addition, a ship carrying a cargo of weapons from Libya was stopped by the Lebanese Navy in late April. The war material on board was explicitly destined for the Syrian opposition. According to these sources, Libyan rebels, who were bombed into power by NATO last year, are now fighting to overthrow other regimes. Berlin seeks close cooperation with the new power in Tripoli. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[6]) This constellation makes it clear that the West's partners in the Arab world are seeking the overthrow of the Assad regime - a project that, without the approval of the western powers, would be hardly thinkable. On the other hand, this shows that, above all, piously Islamic - for the most part, even Islamist - forces are promoting a regime change in Syria - particularly Saudi Arabia and Qatar, under the influence of Wahhabism , the most backward manifestation of the Islamic faith. Whereas some sectors of Berlin's foreign policy establishment are banking evidently on an escalation of the civil war in Syria, other experts are warning that there is no reason to support "alleged 'moderate' Islamists in their struggle for power in Syria." "Whoever works together with Qatar, today, must be aware that it systematically promotes organizations and persons who are non-democrats."[7]

Further information and background to Germany's policy in regards to Syria can be found here: War Threats against Syria, Iran's Achilles Heel, War Scenarios for Syria and War Scenarios for Syria (II).

[1], [2], [3] Elisabeth Schöndorf: Der VN-Einsatz in Syrien; SWP-Aktuell 27, Mai 2012
[4] Schon in Syrien; Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 12.05.2012
[5] Syrian opposition activists ask Kosovo for advice; www.foxnews.com 26.04.2012
[6] see also Action Plan - Libya, Eine Atmosphäre der Straflosigkeit and Europas Wächter
[7] Guido Steinberg: Katars neue Syrien-Politik. Ein wichtiger, jedoch kein einfacher Partner für Deutschland; Internationale Politik Mai/Juni 2012. See also Vom Feind zum Partner