Thursday, 23 August 2012

A Brief Note on the Syrian Conflict

Language matters. The BBC have constantly called the Syrian insurgents "rebels" instead of insurgents which is, at least a neutral term for those trying to overthrow the Assad regime. However, the insurgents in Iraq-some associated with Al Qaida and Sunni militias-were not termed rebels in fighting against the US backed government there. It is about time this Orwellian doublethink was challenged.
Sunni fundamentalists have tended to be backed by the UK and US where their geopolitical interests are at stake. The policy of using Sunni militias as proxies dates back to the 1980s in Afghanistan and continued in the 1990s to remove regimes opposed to Western interests in Azerbaijan, Bosnia, Kosovo and then Afghanistan ( again in 2001 ) and Libya.
US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton is on record as stating that the USA was giving help with communications equipment and "humanitarian aid" of $25 million, a token gesture that can achieve nothing as it is the ratcheting up of the civil war through backing one side and not a ceasefire that is causing the violence to be increased and not diminished
Backing Sunni fundamentalist militias is simply a means to an end as it is here again in Syria as it was elsewhere. The fact these militias are using terrorism and ethnic cleansing against Syrian Christians seems not to be a consideration. 
True, it is primarily the Saudis who are funding the Sunni insurgents and the West would not go against that as Saudi Arabia is a key ally in the region, as well as a large oil supplier and client for billions of dollars of arms exports from the USA and UK.
By comparison, China and Russia, though primarily concerned with their Great Power interests in the Middle East no less than the West,  at least actually seem concerned with security as opposed to yet another attempt to engineer the outcome of unpredictable violent events.  
The trio of Western states on the Permanent UN Security Council-the USA, France and the UK are led by inept politicians who are incapable of learning from history-unless, of course, they either do not care or lack any wise diplomatic awareness of the stakes involved. 
The reality is that Saudi Arabia is the lynchpin of  the Western Trio's diplomacy in the Middle East: that is, to shore up this state and its interests as a counter to Iranian influence. If the Assad regime falls, the Trio hope that they can cut off the aid given to Hizbollah in Lebanon in alliance with Iran: that will cut off Iranian influence to the West no less than the hemming of it's influence to the East via control over Afganistan will curtail it there. 
With Iran encircled and surrounded, the Trio can then start to work to get rid of the regime in Tehran and, it is assumed, destroy the power of Hizbollah. 
Unfortunately, it could have the opposite effect: it will lead to regime collapse in Syria, ethnic cleansing and sectarian conflict and the unleashing of ethnic and religious struggles across the borders from Lebanon and Iraq. Not least as the government in Baghdad is Shia dominated.
As Mark Almond foresaw in August 2011
“The real danger is that we could see a very large-scale civil war in Syria,” he said. “Because some of the minorities, like the Christians, for instance, fear that if Assad falls, they’ll suffer the fate of the Christians of Iraq. And at the same time, they are seen by some of the opponents of Assad as collaborators with his regime. So there’s been interethnic, inter-communal violence. And it’s a very, very dangerous situation, but it could also explode outwardly, joining in Israel, joining in Turkey and Iran.”

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