Syria: A Poker Game

Posted on September 29, 2013 by


The UN has adopted a resolution to securely dispose of Syria’s chemical weapons after Russia and the US reached an apparent agreement. This has been hailed as a victory for international diplomacy. It isn’t. It is merely just another move in the poker game that is Syria, or rather, the Middle East.

At first glance it does appear that the initiative presented by Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s Foreign Minister, for the international community to supervise the disposal of Syria’s chemical weapons stores is just that. However, it is also a deeper counterstroke against America. This becomes clearer once we consider the various sides of the conflict.

On ground level the rebels, made up of various groups of which only some work together, are fighting the forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad (this is obviously a very simplified perspective but serves to illustrate the point). On the global stage Assad’s allies are Iran, crippled by international sanctions, and Russia. America and much of the west support the rebels.

It is clear from the aggressive line America is taking that it wants to intervene militarily. This can be seen in its constant threats, as well as its history of involvement in the region. A stable, pro-western Middle East, is America’s ideal status quo- just look at their friendship with Saudi Arabia. Russia, on the other hand is doing everything it can to prevent the US from direct action. So when America adopted chemical weapons use as its latest basis for intervention, Russia called its bluff.

Amid the ensuing diplomacy America has looked entirely committed to the plan to dispose of Syria’s chemical weapons, and it would be foolish to argue that it isn’t. America wants the humanitarian crisis in Syria to end, it just disagrees with Russia on how to do it. Don’t be surprised when, in a few weeks or months, another factor arises that demands military involvement.

It would be too far to say that the Cold War never ended, but neither side has forgotten the rules of the game.

CC image courtesy of DFID, Flickr.