Thursday, 28 March 2013

Syria: no end in sight

If you think Syria is a ghastly mess now, just wait till the rebels finally topple Bashar al-Assad. If I wanted to be vulgar (hell, why not?), I'd say: "You ain't seen nothing yet."

It's a mistake to assume that the experience of one country will be exactly replicated in another. But it is equally a mistake to ignore what we can see in front of our eyes.

In Iraq, the overthrow of Saddam Hussein (a bloody and brutal tyrant if ever there was one) led to years of vicious sectarian blood-letting. In Libya, the defeat of Muammar Gaddafi (who was every bit as bloody and brutal) has ushered in a chronically unstable form of militia-led anarchy in which no authority really holds sway.

To point this out is not to say that Saddam and Gaddafi should have been allowed to rule for ever. Still less do I believe that Assad is anything other than a worthy equal in the bloody and brutal stakes. It is simply to remind you -- again -- that the defeat of dictators does not often herald the immediate dawning of a bright and peaceful new day.

I visited Iraq under Saddam, and Libya under Gaddafi, and Syria under Assad, and I hated them all. Much more important, so did most of the people who lived there.

It's no longer as fashionable as it once was to quote the Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung if you prefer), but he surely got it right when he wrote that "a revolution is not a tea party." Back in December 2011, I quoted Professor Stephen Walt, of Harvard university: “If the history of revolutions tells us anything, it is that rebuilding new political orders is a protracted, difficult, and unpredictable process.”

So why should the Syrian revolution be any different from the French, Russian, or Iranian revolutions? All took many years before anything resembling stability was restored, and not before many thousands of people had lost their lives.

That's why Western and Arab governments are so deeply worried about the appallingly fractious state of the Syrian anti-Assad opposition. If the different factions can't work together now, there's next to no chance that they'll be able to once they get their hands on the levers of power.

In Iraq, the Sunni minority, who had ruled and prospered under Saddam, suddenly found themselves stripped of power and guns as soon as he was gone. In Syria, however, where the Alawite minority have prospered under Assad, it may well be very different -- because even after he's defeated, his army is likely to be in a far better state than Saddam's was, after the US disbanded it.

In Iraq, Sunni jihadis turned to terrorism. To this day, car bombs and suicide bombers are still killing hundreds of people in an attempt to ensure that Shia hegemony under prime minister Nouri al-Maliki does not have things all its own way. (At least 240 people have been killed this month alone.) 

And in Libya, dozens of militia groups have carved out their little bits of territory (sometimes not so little, in fact) where they and their guns rule, and where the notional government based in Tripoli has little influence.

Perhaps Syria won't turn out to be like either Iraq or Libya. Perhaps -- and this is the really frightening prospect -- it'll turn out to be like Somalia, where the toppling of the dictator Mohammed Siad Barre in 1991 heralded more than 20 years of total anarchy. In Syria's neighbours, Israel, Jordan and, especially, Lebanon, it's the stuff of nightmares.

Which is why there is still such deep reluctance in London, Paris and Washington, at least in public, to go all out and back the Syrian rebels with arms and ammunition. (They're already getting quite a bit of help, of course, much of it, it seems, from Croatia, but at the behest of -- and almost certainly paid for by -- governments in Doha and Riyadh, and, who knows, beneath the radar, from some Western governments as well.) 

Let me be clear: the continuing conflict in Syria has brought immense suffering to millions of its people. It is absolutely right that foreign governments should try to do whatever they can to bring that suffering to an end.

But the tragedy, of which they are only too painfully aware, is that, even when Assad has gone, the suffering is unlikely to end.


Gaye Berry said...

The Free Syrian Army (FSA) is a Frankenstein created by US & NATO. Objective: trigger action from legitimate Syrian police & armed forces to justify military intervention under NATO’s “responsibility to protect”. US, British & Turkish operatives have been supplying the rebels with weapons. Britain’s Ministry of Defense confirms that it “is drawing up secret plans for a NATO-sponsored no-fly zone, but must first get UNSC authorization. Meanwhile, NATO Special Forces from Britain, France, Qatar and Turkey are already on the ground INSIDE Syria in blatant violation of international law.
The “pro-democracy” movement integrated by Islamists and supported by NATO and the “international community” did not emanate from the mainstay of Syrian civil society. The wave of violent protests represents a very small fraction of Syrian public opinion. Syria constitutes the only (remaining) independent secular state in the Arab world.
The role of the US-NATO-Israel military alliance in triggering an armed insurrection is not addressed by the Western media. Moreover, several “progressive voices” have accepted the “NATO consensus”. The role of CIA-MI6 covert intelligence operations in support of armed groups is simply not mentioned. Salafist paramilitary groups involved in terrorist acts, are, according to reports, supported covertly by Israeli intelligence (Mossad). The Muslim Brotherhood has been supported by Turkey, as well as by MI6, Britain’s Secret Service (SIS) since the 1950s
Western media distortions abound. Large “pro-government” rallies are casually presented as “evidence” of a mass anti-government protest movement. The absence of verifiable data, has not prevented the Western media from putting forth authoritative" talking-heads. Destabilization of sovereign states through “regime change” is closely coordinated with military planning. War preparations to attack Syria and Iran have been in “an advanced state of readiness” for several years. US, NATO and Israeli military planners have outlined the contours of a “humanitarian” military campaign, in which Turkey (the second largest military force inside NATO) would play a central role.
We are at dangerous crossroads. Were a US-NATO military operation to be launched against Syria, the broader Middle East Central Asian region extending from North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border with China would be engulfed in the turmoil of an extended regional war.
An attack on Syria would lead to the integration of these separate war theaters, eventually leading towards a broader Middle East-Central Asian war. Road to Tehran goes through Damascus. A US-NATO sponsored war on Iran would involve, as a first step, a destabilization campaign (“regime change”) including covert intelligence operations in support of rebel forces directed against the Syrian government. A war on Syria could evolve towards a US-NATO military campaign directed against Iran, in which Turkey and Israel would be directly involved. It would also contribute to the ongoing destabilization of Lebanon.
It is crucial to spread the word and break the channels of media disinformation.
A critical and unbiased understanding of what is happening in Syria is of crucial importance in reversing the tide of military escalation towards a broader regional war.

quietoaktree said...

I can´t imagine NATO will go into this with closed eyes. Angela has already told the UK and France to go play their own ´war games´without the EU -- and it has mainly NATO members.

Turkey has already enough on its hands with the PKK -- not yet peace with Ocalan and the Cyprus oil and gas problems.

With Turkey and Israel ´kissing and making up´-- Greece will become more isolated-- both the EU and NATO are fed up with it.

-- Turkey has a large military -- but no signs as yet of ´official´ war mongering --unlike the UK and France.

A situation being damned if you do --and damned if you don´t -- is to the majority, not very attractive.

quietoaktree said...

Being still mentally occupied with the previous topic on `Free Press and Journalistic Ethics´-- and simultaneously following the EU and the South Cyprus international debate on the BBC (and others) website -- the problems of Journalistic Ethics, Journalistic ignorance and Journalistic misleading and misinformation -- is being perpetrated on a continuing massive scale by the profession.

In some ex-communist countries it was forbidden to ´collect´the local communist newspaper --for reasons other than ´recycling´.

Having followed the BBC for over 50 years on especially the Cyprus problem -from Grivas, EOKA, Samson and Turkey onwards to the present day, my dismay at either the ignorant and/or deliberate misinformation of some BBC journalists (when un-nescessary) --increases daily.

Perhaps Mr.Lustig can offer a few words on how BBC journalists (and the BBC system) operates ?

The BBC journalist presently in Cyprus --does his best to condemn the EU and Germany while Greek flags are continually waving in South Cyprus in the background and towns are filled with ´Grivas etc. named streets. Even on HYS. the Greek and Greek Cypriot are spared any contradiction of their own history -- for (not only) British consumption.

My accusation of the UK being an ´Island of the Uninformed´ --is demonstrated by ´omissions´by ethical journalists --or by ignorant ones --or both ?

This may be a ´war situation´in the region --stretching beyond Syria --perhaps ´all is fair in love and war´-- and the UK war propaganda machine is being geared up.

But UK ignorant and un-ethical journalists will soon demand protection -- to do their honest work in the war zone --some (in the profession) helped to create.

quietoaktree said...

Not exactly ´off topic´

From Lustig BBC blog.

´8. At 21:58 19th May 2012, quietoaktree wrote:`

"Two days ago WHYS had a discussion with Greeks in a London Greek restaurant --if I had waited with bated breath to hear of any worthwhile Greek objectivity on how to solve the problems of tax evasion, corruption and the black Greek economy -- I would be writing this posthumously.

-- I would add the lack of BBC objectivity to that contribution --

-- It is still misinformation --If the BBC journalist was told ´only to collect Greek views´--

--Or perhaps everyone in the Dept. who knew the problem well -- was already ´pushing up daises´?

Mr.Lustig your comment on such an event is very appreciated.

quietoaktree said...

Syria -- the Cyprus and Russia Connection

" It would be perverse if regulations enacted in response to this scandal ended up stifling the kind of hard-hitting investigative journalism that brought it to light in the first place."
In Tom Stoppard's play Night and Day, a character says: "I'm with you on the free press. It's the newspapers I can't stand." Perhaps you feel the same way. Trouble is, it's a package deal." --- IS IT ?

When many journalists have " sold their souls" to either media owners and Nationalism to keep their jobs, to feed their families or for an OBE-- there is the certainty of journalism becoming the the 3rd oldest profession -- with the first, still the most honest.

Both Milosovic (Serbia and Iran had / have 100´s it not 1000´s of companies registered in Cyprus (Spiegel ?) - many were/are used to assist various embargo breaking behavior --set By USA,EU, UK and others.

That Greece supported the Milosovic Regime is well known. It is also well known that the previous Cyprus( communist) President was/is extremely sympathetic to Russian politics in the region -- He was rewarded with a 2.5 Billion loan --when Cyprus was refused funds by others.

The infiltration of both the Cyprus financial and business sectors by Russian money --has become a ´Trojan Horse´--with obvious support from Greece and Greek Cyprus --especially supported by many of their journalists. With many UK journalists unable to look past WWll in any ´analysis´used to feed their families and inform the British public --that there may be more to the saga than ´meets the eye´

The recent Russian statement -
"He (Mr. Shuvalov) said the Russian government would still look at cases where there were serious losses, involving companies in which the Russian state is a shareholder". -- is only a ´statement´-- but enlightening.

As has been noticed (Spiegel)-

"What is remarkable -- as the political forensics of the original March 16 bailout deal have become clear -- is that the Germans and others gave Nicosia great leeway to set additional terms of that initial bailout plan. The Cypriot government then broke precedent to include small deposits in the "bail-in" scheme, only to have parliament reject the move. The government's second major decision -- to protect Russian depositors at the expense of its own citizenry .."

-- So that Cyprus could still be used for ´embargo breaking´-- and support Assad and other regimes Russia desires --or only as a thank you-- for the 2.5 Billion loan ?

The (in Syria) seriously wounded German TV reporter is presently now in ´stable´ condition.

quietoaktree said...

#4 Continued.

"As has been noticed (Spiegel)"

It has recently been reported (Spiegel)

132 companies withdrew funds from Cyprus banks BEFORE Cyprus negotiations began.

--The plot thickens !