Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Syria: 'Regime Change' Revised by the Western Powers to Renewed Diplomacy.

A sensible assessment by a diplomat who knows what the stakes are in Syria has been produced by Jeremy Greenstock. Given Greenstock's role in the Iraq War, it's inevitable that anything he has to say on the potential for Syria developing sectarian bloodshed on the scale of Iraq is bound to be shot down with sarcasm.

Yet his analysis and calls for more diplomacy  dovetails with what I have been stating in the Guardian for the past two months. Hillary Clinton's "diplomacy" of demanding "Assad Must Go", a demand parroted by William Hague,  inflamed the situation. Realism and diplomacy does not equate to cynical realpolitik as 'humanitarian interventionists' found in regards to Iraq

That's not to say that there is anything remotely humanitarian in supporting insurgents who have been proved to commit atrocities from torture, summary executions, advocacy of the use of sarin gas, terror bomb explosions in Damascus and even cannibalism.  Apart from the fact Asssad isn't actually "going", this  led Cameron to reverse his strategy and fly to Moscow to try diplomacy with Russia.
Outside intervention offers no kind of a solution. The past 12 years have shown too many instances of unintended consequences, particularly when the intervener becomes the enemy. Even the delivery of more lethal weaponry to the opposition resolves nothing, because it could end up with the wrong people, and because it allows scope and pretext for the regime's supporters – notably Iran and Russia – to balance it on the other side. Iraq and Afghanistan have hammered home the lesson that without a workable political plan the use of force is a recipe for deep and prolonged trouble.
The problem does lie in the anachronistic set up of having a UN Security Council dominated by the victors of the Second World War plus China. But, given this situation is not likely to change, diplomatic engagement with Russia and China ( and Iran ) is the only way of minimising bloodshed.

The missing perspective here is that Democratic hawks who supported Iraq such as Hillary Clinton foolishly blustered that if Russia and China defended it's interests in Syria, "there would be consequences to pay" . Making rash statements without a coherent plan to effect change is stupid diplomacy.

Obama is far more sensible in resisting the pressure of the Democratic hawks and the insane John McCain who wants the FSA to be fully armed. But the great tension remains with the USA's refusal to put pressure on the Gulf states to stop arming the FSA.

The reason is the unholy nexus or oil supplies, the lucrative arms trade with Saudi Arabia and sunni minority states that rule over angry disenfranchised Shia populations. British diplomacy has proved a disaster and the "Assad Must Go" nonsense reflects antipathy towards Iran.

Iran needs to be engaged with diplomatically and not subjected to continued threats. "Regime change" in Syria is meant to further the domino effect predicted by messianic neoconservatives when they invaded Iraq unilaterally to install a secular democracy that would acts as an example to Syria too.

The only example now is that Syria could descend into the cockpit of sectarian violence seen in Iraq for a decade. The price of gaining a modicum of "stability" was for the US to turn a blind eye to the ethnic cleansing carried out by Shia militias.

The absurdity of supporting Sunni insurgents in Syria has led to the potential for an escalation of inter communal and sectarian violence. Only by hard diplomacy between the Great Powers ( such as Britain pretends to be ) is going to have any effect at all on dampening down the civil war.

The reasons for this lie in Syria's turbulent history, lessons that mediocre politicians playing at being 'statesmen' ( such as Tony Blair pretended to be ).

Syria was created as an artificial 'nation state out of the remnants of the collapsing Ottoman Empire. The difference between it and the post WW I states in Europe ( and not this did not cause enough frontiers of violence) is that these lands had no political culture.

Syria consisted of Ottoman millets, of creed communities from Druze, to Allawites to Syrian Orthodox Christians so the Sykes-Picot Accords of 1916 had to deal with a land with no tradition of secular law, territorial jurisdiction or division of powers.

Hence politics since the constitutional monarchies failed after World War Two led to secular dictatorships on the totalitarian Western model being grafted on to the tradition of the domination of these lands by one clan or tribal network.

It was only in Lebanon, a maritime power with a Christian political culture that developed a successful Arab constitutional democracy, a territorial claim and a European sense of jurisdiction. That was a product of Lebanon's evolution into a nation state in the mid nineteenth century

This is precisely why diplomacy by the Great Powers has to be attempted. It would be a tragedy if by openly or covertly arming Sunni insurgents in Syria that Iran stepped up its supply of weapons to the minority Allawite Shia regime of Assad.

Inevitably, this would mean more weapons being put into the hands of Hizbollah, a militant Shia organisation that acts as a state within a state in Lebanon and, if not dealt with pragmatically along with Iran, could destroy Lebanon, the last safe state for Arab Christians.

The omission from Greenstock's analysis of the UK's depressing dependency upon Saudi oil, as well as it's immoral arms trade with this despotism and Saudi investment in London, means that the UK will not stand up to a land far more repressive than Iran.

For all Iran's limitations, Iran needs to be engaged via Russia which can exert some influence over it in the way the USA, with its messianic rhetoric of universalist 'regime change' cannot without threatening Tehran with the overthrow of the government.

Unlike Saudi Arabia, Iran is actually a semi-constitutional 'theodemocracy' as Malise Ruthven terms it in A Fury for God. From 1905 it was developing a constitution and it was only after the Second World War that it's democratic development was curtailed.

The reason was that the CIA in 1953 engineered a coup to remove the democratically elected Mossadeq government because it threatened to nationalise Western oil concerns in a rather hasty and clumsy manner which was met by an extreme response.

Yet even under the Ayatollah Khomeini after 1979, the basis system of constitutionalism remained and most Iranians hostile to the regime in power since then are as equally hostile as 'Persians' to any attempt to encircle and destroy the regime from outside.

All roads to peace lead through Tehran and in trying to get actual 'regime change' in Iran's leading opponent in the struggle for hegemony and influence in the Middle East-Saudi Arabia-which absurdly is funding the very jihadists killing and murdering in Syria.

The reason that the UK and USA is wary of engaging with Iran is less to do with any supposed nuclear weapons programme but because it has an active strategy and has since 1979 of 'regime change' in Iran. That's why Assad, as an ally "must go".

In a world of relatively diminishing supplies of oil compared to the demand for fossil fuels in India and China, Iran as the third largest producer of gas is a target for the US before any deal can be reached between it and its neighbours to the east.

The policy of overthrowing Assad by supporting sunni insurgents is apiece with the strategy of blocking off the IP pipeline by staying the course in Afghanistan by forestalling Iranian gas exports and securing the construction of the TAPI pipeline.

What Greenstock will never admit is how tied up with energy geopolitics the struggle over Syria, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan is. The UK needs to stave off threats of terrorism and withdraw from overdependence upon oil and shoddy realpolitik in the Middle East.

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