Syrian Revolution: Everyone’s Ball Game

By Sarah Eleazar

The world is wary of the likes of John McCain and his trigger happy reactions to anything and everything that flits its wings. We watched and waited apprehensively for a year till Syria, one of the last chess pieces on the board, to become the new Libya; for the west to sanctimoniously step in with/without UN mandate as champions of democracy and its ideals. The great elephant in the room being of course UN’s inability to enforce anything without the blessing of the Big Five in the Security Council, donning imperialism with a whole new garb. So while any hopes of a UN sponsored intervention were dashed at the Security Council on 4th February following the double veto by China and Russia on invoking Article 6 for ‘pacific settlements of disputes’ several questions now surface in the face of protracted civil war and escalating violence, covert operations and furtive intervention coming to the fore; and a not-so subtle attempt to shift geopolitical dynamics from one tutelary to the other.

The Obama Administration has vehemently denied any involvement or intentions of pushing for an offensive NATO strike or supplying arms to the Syrian National Council or the small factions that exist within the opposition. The death toll in Syria has crossed the seven thousand mark since last year, the past week marking one of the bloodiest so far. The civil war however is contained within three of Syrias largest cities: Derra, Homs and Damascus, with Damascus still being a government strong hold and posts a sizeable support for Bashar Al Assad. America is in a flurry trying to come up with a viable policy regards to Syria, an overt armed intervention seems off the table and economic sanctions haven’t had much of an impact as yet either.

Sibel Edmonds and Philip Giraldi in separate whistle blowing incidents revealed the operative NATO base at Iskenderun on the Turkey-Syrian border, being used to train volunteers from the Libyan Transitional National Council, the militant subset of the Syrian National Council: Free Syrian Army, and supply weapons handed down from the Libyan incursion. According to Giraldi:

‘French and British special forces trainers are on the ground, assisting the Syrian rebels while the CIA [Central Intelligence Agency] and US Spec Ops are providing communications equipment and intelligence to assist the rebel cause, enabling the fighters to avoid concentrations of Syrian soldiers.’ Edmonds writes about US forces that vacated Iraq only to be deployed in Jordan and Turkish borders where they are training troops for a possible onslaught from the North of Syria as early as May last year.

Covert support and intervention however is always limited in scope and size; sufficient to keep the flames from dying out but incapable of doing much damage. The fact that the Monitoring Group sent by the Arab League to engender a peaceful conciliation between Bashar Al Assad and the Syrian National Council, ended up negotiating between factions within the dissenting groups says a lot about the unity of the opposition movement in itself. This is nothing but detrimental bloodletting for Syria and secretly equipping the opposition with arms at this point will only ensure instability and violence in the country for a long time.

Declaring Syria a no-fly zone like Libya would do more damage than good. Military options in this case would only serve to spike the mounting death toll and aggravate UN’s image in the region. With two global encampments pitched on the Syrian issue, both with essentially different narratives regarding the what, whys and hows of the Syrian Revolution, the onus is on the dissenting groups within Syria to make their narratives heard. Where Tehrir Square was a cause for pride for the Egyptian Revolt because of the opposition’s pacific stratagem; the converse is true for Libya and Syria would best not go down the Libyan road.

Defending Russia’s veto at the UN Putin criticized the west’s ham fisted foreign policy.

“We of course condemn all violence regardless of its source, but one cannot act like a bull in a china shop,” Mr Putin said. “Help them, advise them – limit, for instance, their ability to use weapons – but do not interfere under any circumstances.”

And that is exactly what Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov did last week on his visit to Syria to try and persuade Bashar Al Assad to move for constitutional reform all the while Homs was being battered for the fifth day in a row. These proposed constitutional reforms were subsequently rejected by the Syrian National Council straight away.

Libya did not try to beat around the bush and ordered Syrian diplomats to vacate the embassy in Tripoli and handed the charge over to the Syrian National Council last week. Libyan head of Foreign Affairs Ashour Bin Khayal went further to state that Libya cannot stop rebel fighters from crossing into Syria to fight against Assad, who sent troops to bolster Gaddafi’s army till the very end. However no official troops will be sent as “Libya now is not going to be a source of trouble,” he said. “It’s going to be a peaceful country.”

All the Gulf Nations recalled their ambassadors from Syria while France, Italy and Spain recalled theirs so as to coincide with Lavrov’s meeting with Assad. United States and UK have recalled their diplomats as well. EU sanctions on Syrian oil and frozen assets and travel bans on regime officials have deprived the government of an important source of hard currency and contributed to widespread fuel shortages.

It seems likely that post UN efforts to sanction diplomatic level talks will give way to more global economic sanctions on Syria and diplomatic pressure and alienation. While this should serve to bend Assad’s back, he still won’t be as hard hit as the 24 million people of Syria will. Diktats of realpolitik suggest that Syria needs to shape up and stop being the stage where Russia and the US battle it out for influence and clout. Syria is a zero sum game for the two blocs at the moment and preservation of status quo in an attempt to stymie the revolution seems to be the key intent. This conflation of regime change with wavering objectives wrapped in humanitarian concerns has stopped fooling even the most gullible anymore. Diplomacy at the highest levels may thus be the only way out of this quagmire- a brainchild of imperialist powers.


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