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January 29, 2013, Tuesday

Different stances in Mali and Syria

France's decision to carry out a military intervention in Mali after Islamist groups took control of parts of the country while for the past two years the international community has remained indecisive over the Syrian civil war has prompted Turkish columnists to compare the situation in both countries and ask why the international community has turned a blind eye to Syria.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also recently criticized the West for remaining uninvolved in the Syrian crisis, saying: “Why don't they go to Syria? Because there is neither oil nor gold there. There are only people fighting for their freedom.” This is important, but not the only reason, columnists argue.

Sedat Laçiner from Star says what upsets Turkey most about the Mali intervention is that while the West selfishly avoids its responsibilities regarding the Syrian crisis and waits for the perfect time for its interests before intervening, it did not hesitate to take action in Mali. It is inconceivable that Syrian opposition groups are left without support in the face of a criminal regime while the West rushes to save Mali, he says.

However, Milliyet columnist Sami Kohen in his article compares the situations in Syria and Mali and says one can come across striking contrasts between the two cases. The first difference that pops into our head is that there are valuable resources of uranium and gold in Mali to which France does not want to risk losing access. There are no such resources in Syria and so no country dares to get involved in the conflict just to save the lives of Syrians.

And yet, Kohen says, this reason by itself is not enough to explain the French intervention. Firstly, the Mali government was the one requesting UN support for its struggle against separatist groups, whereas the Syrian government has made no such request. On the contrary, the regime in Syria fiercely opposes foreign intervention. Secondly, Russia and China support the UN decision to support the intervention in Mali, whereas in the case of Syria, there is no such consensus among UN members. Thirdly, the military operation in Mali is being carried out against separatist groups. If a military operation is carried out in Syria, on the other hand, it will be against a well-equipped Syrian army. In addition, there is the probability that Syrian regime forces will use chemical weapons. Also, though Syria has no natural resources, it is a country with geostrategic importance in the Middle East, which is why Russia and Iran support the regime in the first place. More reasons can be added to the list, but it is a fact that a country never gets involved in the issues of another country purely out of humanitarian concerns. It is always about interests, the columnist notes.

Previous articles of the columnist