People are asking this question after last week’s news-reports on the launch of Ra’ad Al Shamal – Northern Thunder – the largest military exercise to be coordinated in the region, by Saudi Arabia.This exercise involves ground, air, and naval forces.
Thousands of troops from 20 countries – Arab, Islamic and allied nations including Pakistan – are involved in the exercise. And the natural worry for some is whether this is the beginning of the big war.
But it is evident, I think, that many people are not reading between the words! They are missing out the word ‘exercise’ in the phrase!
This ‘exercise’ will show to some states (in this case, to those like Iran), to regimes (like Syria) and to groups ((like ISIS/Daesh) that the military power of this comity of nations will be a force to reckon with.
As the exercise is taking place at King Khalid Military City, near Hafar Al Batin city in northern Saudi Arabia, it is sending out signals to those concerned, that collective ground offensive on Syria is very much possible, in the near future. And that it could be very powerful.
The six GCC countries (including Bahrain), Jordan, Egypt, Senegal, Sudan, the Maldives, Morocco, Chad, Tunisia, Comoros Islands, Djibouti, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mauritius, and even Pakistan are involved in these military manoeuvres.
There is a special mention of Pakistan because it is a nuclear power. And, also, let us not forget that Egypt has the largest army in the region.
Turkey, which is not in the list, has been saying that a large coalition of forces is the only thing Assad regime can be fought.
Unable to contain or sustain the influx of millions of refugees onto its soil, Turkey wants the issue to be solved at the earliest.
But I believe Turkey has another – more important – interest, that it wishes to protect.
During this crisis, it does not want the Syrian Kurds to gain ground, and establish for themselves a legitimate Kurdish Region. Turkey is now asking for a ground offensive into Syria to defeat ISIS and to dethrone Bashar Al Assad. Lest the situation prove detrimental to its own political strategy.
But, let us look at three facts. One, Russia is now involved in air strikes against ISIS, (on behalf of Bashar Al Assad to keep him in power). And in the process hit some US targets. Two, Iran has been a longstanding supporter of Assad. Three, some other nations which are currently undecided may join Russia and Iran to keep Assad in power.
At a UN Security Council meeting, a Russian draft resolution condemned any plans for foreign military intervention and warned against violations of Syrian sovereignty.
But the draft resolution has been rejected by the US and French ambassadors. And also by Ukraine, Spain and New Zealand.
It is therefore the strange aligning of nations, on opposing sides, that is causing this ominous speculation that a third world war is brewing.
But the two world wars have shown to all nations that wars do not necessarily solve problems, but cause bigger problems. The fact that there are more powerful destructive weapons today, and the fact that wars could cripple economic structures show us that another world war could be disastrous to all concerned.
A negotiating table is what the focus should be on, because ‘war’ is not a 21st century solution.
Instead of fearing a war, all nations must ensure that any war, if it breaks out, must be contained within a small geographical region.
If it is allowed to grow more, it will only show us that we still do not learn from history.