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Democracy

Powerless foreign policy

by Vera Dicke

In brief

“We are all Assad’s Syria”: Slogan on t-shirts at a protest against sanctions by Turkey and the Arab league

“We are all Assad’s Syria”: Slogan on t-shirts at a protest against sanctions by Turkey and the Arab league

Western nations have little influence over regime change in Syria. An analy­sis published by the Institute for Development and Peace (INEF) of the University of Duisburg-Essen suggests that domestic forces will decide the country’s future.

While, on the one hand, western politicians are calling for Assad to resign, they are apprehensive about destabilising the region as a result of a change of regime. Faced with these conflicting interests and Assad’s hard-line stance, diplomatic measures and sanctions do not give rise to great hope. The Syrian regime is already at the point that concessions to international calls for reform would be tantamount to its downfall.

As Jochen Hippler’s analysis shows, political and military interventions in the Middle East rarely succeeded in the past, and they should therefore be thought through better from a strategic point of view. Democratic forces can, for example, be promoted from abroad, but they cannnot be created. Sanctions may weaken regimes, but are also likely to discredit western countries. Hippler says western development agencies can achieve little, because they must cooperate with local governments. Moreover, they are not strong enough in the Middle East. Peaceful and democratic development is not the typical result when military pressure enforces regime change, as was done in Afghanistan, Iraq or Libya, for example.

The INEF study concludes that western politicians should conduct an honest, public and rational debate on foreign policy and security. He warns that democracy, human rights and development often tend to serve only as pretexts for other interests. These interests may include alliance obligations, desires for stability or resource interests. Obviously, credibility suffers from inconsistant foreign policy.

Vera Dicke