Image Credit: Ramachandra Babu/©Gulf News

Nobody in his right mind wants war. There is an overwhelming opposition to war nearly everywhere. The mood among the people in the Arab world is that we have had our own share of conflicts and wars. The Middle East and North Africa is highly volatile, full of tensions all year round and is considered the most violent region on the planet. The Middle East is the one place on Earth that is better off without one more military action.

Also, no one in the region wants to see an Arab country targeted militarily in any shape or form and for any reason, let alone for ambiguous reasons. Feelings of Arab solidarity are probably not at their peak and Arab nationalism is at its lowest, but Arab affinity and identity run in the veins of every single Arab. The 350 million Arabs still firmly believe that aggression against one Arab state is in effect an attack on all 22 Arab states.

It should also be taken for granted that no one in the region takes an America-led expedition against any Arab state at face value. Anti-Americanism runs deep among Arabs. People in this region are highly sceptical of America’s moves and motives.

Even President Barack Obama has not made a huge dent in the decades-old mood of anti-Americanism among all segments of Arab societies. American intentions, no matter how genuine, are wrapped in mystery and are usually linked to some kind of conspiracy in the collective Arab mind. Many rightly argue that any American move will first and foremost benefit only Israel.

Additionally, no one wants to see a major military operation conducted in this region or anywhere around the globe without an explicit UN mandate. An internationally-sanctioned military operation will be much more palatable and salable to the public. Even in this chaotic part of the world, legality matters and international legitimacy carries an inherent political and moral value.

‘Great tragedy’

A unilateral attack by the US or Nato will be immediately branded illegal. Unilateralism is not the way to deal with global and regional problems, rogue states, crimes against humanity and genocidal leaders. If there is no international consensus and the world community fails to act decisively, this is not a justification for the de-facto policeman of the world to take matters into its own hands.

These are all matters of principle to be applied equally in all cases across the board. But Syria, which has been referred to by the UN as “the great tragedy of this century”, deserves special consideration.

For a start, the international community has been extremely patient with Bashar Al Assad’s atrocities. He has been testing everyone’s patience and resolve for too long. For the past two-and-a-half years he and his killing machine have been conducting daily massacres. International organisations confirm the deaths of more than 110,000 Syrians so far with no end in sight. The use of chemical weapons is consistent with the inhumane behaviour of the Al Assad regime. From everything we know, Al Assad does not believe in red lines.

Staying in power is the ultimate end goal, even if it means not just using poisonous gas against his own people, but using nuclear weapons as well, if he possessed them. That is how ugly the Al Assad regime can be.

Second, the international community has failed the Syrian people time and again. Syrians are fighting for the noblest cause of democracy — freedom and human dignity. They have already paid a high cost and they are more than determined to continue the fight to the end. The last phase of the struggle is likely to be more violent and the regime will not hesitate to use chemical weapons yet again if the world capitals insist on looking the other way and pathetically pretend it is none of their business. The conventional wisdom of “Syria is not our fight” is utterly sickening.

So if a well-executed military action in Syria is the way to punish Al Assad, so be it. And if a proportional war helps alleviate the Syrian agony so be it. And if no one but America can uphold international principles, so be it. There is so much at stake in Syria. American threats need to be taken seriously and no action in this case can be ruled out as an option.

Saudi Arabia and the other Arab Gulf states have been urging the international community to be more decisive. They will firmly support any American action in Syria and do not mind being part of any “coalition of the willing” to finish Al Assad. The rest of the Arab world is too weak to get involved in any meaningful way. America may not get the loud cheers from the Arab public, but if there are no civilian casualties many will pretend it did not take place and will soon forget all about it. The case for action cannot be any clearer. The message from the Arab Gulf capitals to Washington is ‘at least for once send the right message’.

Dr Abdulkhaleq Abdulla is a professor of Political Science. You can follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Abdulkhaleq_UAE

See also A33 & A34