One of the messiest spots in global politics is Syria. No one seems to know what to do, or what not to do, to stop the civil war with all its international and transnational spillover.
There are different fault-lines converging, and addressing just one of them doesn’t do the job. First, relatively peaceful and secular Syria has been turned into a sectarian fighting place. Increasingly, people identify themselves culturally. Second, and related, this is a space where Shia (the Alawites) and Sunni (IS and other militias) groups clash violently.
Third, this trend is exacerbated by the meddling of two competing regional regimes – Saudi Arabia, and Iran. Fourth, all but one of the permanent members of the UN Security Council are militarily involved. Fifth, some neighboring countries (Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey) may soon not be able to absorb the pressure of the fighting next door as well as the millions of refugees that have already arrived, or are on their way to Europe.
One of the core problems is that almost all of the external actors involved (except the Islamic State) are not so sure how decisively they want to be engaged. There is neither decisive intervention, nor clear non-intervention, but, mostly, meddling.
Do you see any option for progress, however small?
A few days ago, Germany (well most of it) celebrated 25 years of unification. In 1990, the former East-German GDR was incorporated into the West-German Bundesrepubik (FRG). A national spring was promised, however a lot of investment a troubles lay ahead.
Externally, German regained its full sovereignty in a period where global flows were superseding sovereignty more and more. But, after a quarter of a century of growing into a new role, it appears Germany is now being viewed differently. In the Eurocrisis, Germany played the roles of the older brother and the villain. In the refugee crisis, it took a lead as well, without really knowing where to go. Since 1990, German troops were deployed abroad for the first time post-WW2. Despite this, it resisted agreeing with military actions against Iraq and Libya. In the 5 + 1 (or 3 + 3) format, Germany was part of the possibly successful Vienna agreement on Iran, and it also inspired the Normandy format, achieving a Minsk agreement (however shaky) on regulating the Russia-Ukraine crisis. Furthermore, it may become part of a new 3+3+3 process on Syria despite not being a permanent member of the UN Security Council. Finally, the country also did not shy away from conflict with the US on issues of data protection.
Still, doubts are lingering. Some are welcoming a greater German role in global politics, yet others are skeptical. Some are calling for Germany to accept more responsibility, while others think there is already too much of it.
What should the proper message to the Germans be in year 25? What do you wish them to do?
By Prof. Dr. Klaus Segbers – Program Director of the Center for Global Politics