By Adamu Adamu
In the game of geopolitical make-believe, there is often no way to go off the horse of hubris but down, but, in this case, there is superpower camaraderie to help cushion a fall; and US President Barack Obama must thank Russian President Vladimir Putin for providing such an easy way out—rescuing him from the consequences of his own lie.
After Obama’s ‘red-line’ speech warning Syria, it was only a matter of time before someone in the opposition, in a bid to bring the Americans in, tried to give the impression that these weapons had been used; and that might have been exactly what happened.
Sure enough, it turned out that the information and ‘evidence’ for the use of chemical weapons were supplied by Israel, one of the two beneficiaries of an American strike, the others being the Syrian rebels who had just been evicted from Qusayr, Homs, the suburbs of Damascus and Dera’a, and were now on the verge of losing the war.
An indication of Israel’s desperation could be seen in a Russian defence report released September 8, which showed that, in a bid to ignite the war on Syria, September 3, an Israeli Dolphin-class submarine in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea fired two ballistic cruise missiles at Syria on September 3, hoping that this would be blamed on the Americans; but the missiles were intercepted and destroyed by the US Navy.
But, as Bashar al-Assad said, it would be illogical for him use chemical weapons in the circumstance. How could he, after he had just let in weapons inspectors into the country, launch a chemical attack in a location less than 15 minutes’ walk from the hotel the weapons inspectors were staying, and, in addition, open fire on their convoy as they rushed to the scene to find out? Also it didn’t make sense that his troops used chemical weapons in the city where he himself lived and where they themselves and their families would be affected. Wouldn’t it have been more sensible if they sprayed the chemicals over rebel lines?
In fact the rebels in Ghouta had themselves admitted to AP reporter Yahya Ababneh, a Jordanian freelancer and journalism grad student–who “spoke directly with the rebels, their family members, victims of the chemical weapons attacks and local residents, that certain rebels of the Jabhat al-Nusrah, the al-Qaida-linked rebel faction that was caught possessing sarin nerve gas in Turkey, according to Turkish press reports, had received chemical weapons via the Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan; and that they were responsible for the incident which western powers blamed on Al-Asad’s forces,” revealing that the casualties were actually the result of an accident.
It is war with Syria today because over an allegation; but it was embrace for Saddam when he used chemical weapons against Iran and his own Kurdish people, killing 25,000 in 1988, an act in which, according to recently declassified CIA documents, the US was directly complicit. Saddam then had his American masters; today Assad stands alone and the groups arrayed against him are many and varied. The most well-known are the cadre of the Free Syrian Army, which is linked to the Istanbul-based Syrian National Council that the American have been. The others are the more militant Islamic groups—the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, comprising of Iraqi insurgents and suicide-bombers; cadres of the Pakistani Taliban; and the Jabhat al-Nusrah, whose leader, Abu Muhammad al-Jawlani, publicly performed the bay’ah of allegiance to al-Qa’ida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri; and the 13-member Syrian Islamic Front, led by Harakat Ahrar al-Sham al-Islamiyyah, the largest unit within it.
Unlike the secular groups, the Front hopes to create an Islamic caliphate in Syria and is opposed to any external intervention in the country by any Western state; and its leader has threatened attacks on any foreign military force entering Syria, supportive of or opposed to President Bashar al-Assad. At the June 13 Cairo conference on Syria, Front leader Hassan Aboud Abu Abdullah al-Hamawi called for Jihad, saying, “Any invading force that sets foot on Syrian territory under any pretext, whether to support the regime or to allegedly stop aggression, will be treated as an occupying force.”
With a scenario like this, between ineffectual secularists unable to properly organise a resistance and fire-spitting anti-Western Jihadists, there is little for America to choose. Whoever can’t tolerate the mild Ikhwanis of Egypt will almost certainly find the wild man-eating neo-Jihadists of the Levant particularly indigestible. And Muslim observers will never stop to marvel at the intrepidity of these so-called foreign fighters who are ever ready to enter every theatre of battle and kill other Muslim combatants in the name of jihad but would never contemplate going to Israel, where a condition for jihad had existed for the past 65 years.
When the Israelis made the mistake of launching their 2006 war against Hizbullah thinking that it would be a walkover rather than the defeat that it turned out to be for them; it was said then that the goal of the United States, prosecuted on its behalf by Israel, was to strangle the axis of Hizbullah, Hamas, Syria and Iran, which the Bush administration believed was resisting American plans and actively pooling resources to change the strategic playing field in the Middle East.
At the time the Americans gave Israel the go-ahead to wipe out Hizbullah, the US was the unchallenged mistress of all she surveyed: she controlled Iraq, had put a puppet in power in Afghanistan, had other yes-sir puppets in Egypt, Jordan and all the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council—Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain; and the only country it didn’t, and couldn’t, control was Iran, perhaps the only truly independent country in the world. The current Syria debacle is the result of America’s attempt to encircle and crush the Iran-led Islamic resistance that will never allow the US to establish its hegemony over the Muslim World—again.
Bringing sectarianism into it, as those ignorant of geopolitical realities have been doing, will only help those who want to help the Americans. This axis cannot be called Shiite by any stretch of the imagination; or, do these hapless Arab regimes and kingdoms and their henchmen think Sunnism means inability to stand like men, forever prostrating at the feet of imperialism and Zionism as they have been doing? Without this axis, they would have long ago concluded their so-called peace treaty with Israel, a fact that would have been an indelible shame on Muslims from Morocco to Indonesia.
But while the reason for the fighters who troop to Syria to fight what they imagine a Jihad may have sectarian undertones, the governments funding them know the truth. If Bashar al-Assad is Alawite and so anathema, didn’t they know that his father was also a Nusayri? Why then did they finance his invasion of Lebanon to break the power of the Muslim alliance on behalf of the Christian Maronite gentry in 1976? And why did the Saudis force the Riyadh Arab Summit of that year to bless the invasion and rename the Syrian occupation of Lebanon as the Arab Deterrent Force? Or are they fighting—or, rather, paying for some people to fight—Bashar because he has relations with Iran? When they had their cosy relations with the Shah, Iran was as Shiite as it is today. If so, then why were they giving the senior Assad 100,000 barrels of free oil throughout the 1980’s when he was at the height of the relations he built with the Islamic Republic?
Or, is it because he is brutal? But which Arab leader was not brutal when his hold on power was threatened? Was it the Hashemite King Hussein of Jordan who killed 30,000 Palestinians during the Black September of 1970? Or was it President Hafez al-Assad of Syria, the father of Bashar, who killed 38,000 members of the Syrian Ikhwan in 1982? Or was it Mu’ammar Gaddafi with his Green Book toll in which all the ulama who disagreed with the contents of the book disappeared without trace? Or was it Saddam Hussein with his toll of a million—Kurds, Arab of the Marshes and Iranians? Or was it Hosni Mubarak with his fresh Arab Spring victims for which he is currently standing trial? Or is it because the current Saudi king himself is half-Syrian?
Surely, Syria’s Bashar al-Asad today is no more brutal than members of the Saudi National Guard were in Manama in march 2011; or King Khalid was to Juhayman and his group, some of whom were boiled and electrocuted, others shot and killed and the rest of whom were decapitated in 1980. So, what else is new?
But when drowning Obama ever so eagerly grabbed that Putin face-saving straw on Syria, his mind was far from Arab brutality. What weighed heavily on his mind were the words of Halaf al-Maftah, Syria’s deputy information minister, who said, in the event of attack on Syria, “Israel would face…a coalition of Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria,” and Hizbullah and probably Hamas; and the words of General Amir Hajizadeh, who is in charge of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard’s missile systems, that, in the event of attack, “nothing is predictable…[and]…whether the Zionist regime attacks with or without US knowledge, then we will definitely attack US bases in Bahrain, Qatar and Afghanistan…and it will turn into World War III.”
And suddenly diplomacy began to appear attractive to Obama.
By Adamu Adamu