Anders Fogh Rasmussen

Review–Syria, the Arab Yugoslavia of Middle East

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Written by NICOLA NASSER Friday, 04 November 2011 05:30

Syria.BasharAlAssadSurrounded by the Turkish veteran member of NATO in the north, the Israeli NATO partner and the navy fleets of the member states patrolling the Mediterranean in the west, the alliance’s Jordanian partner in the south, and in the east hosting a NATO mission in Iraq, which is expectedto develop into the 12th Arab partner, and lonely swimming in a sea of the Arab and Israel strategic allies of the United States, the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad stands as the Yugoslavia of the Middle East, that has to join the expansion southward of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as well as the “new world order” engineered by the U.S. unipolar power, kicked out as the odd regional number, or join Iraq and Libyain being bombed down to the medieval ages.Following its latest military success in opening the Libyan gate to Africa, the U.S. – led NATO seems about to recruit its 13th Arab “partner,” thus paving the way for the United States to move its Africom HQ from Germany to the continent after removing the Gaddafi regime, which opposed both this move and the French – led Mediterranean Union (MU), a removal that is in itself, for all realpolitic reasons, a threatening warning to the neighboring Algeria to soften its opposition to both Africa hosting Africom and NATO expanding southward and to drop off whatever reservations it still has to the revival of the MU, which lost its Egyptian co-chair with President Nicolas Sarkozy with the removal of former president Hosni Mubarak from power in Cairo.

The U.S. and NATO are poised now to shift focus from Arab North Africa to the Arab Levant to deal with the last Syrian obstacle to their regional hegemony. The U.S. administration of President Barak Obama seems now determined to make or break with the al-Assad regime, distancing itself from decades long policy of crisis management pursued by predecessor U.S. administrations vis-à-vis Syria, which stands now in the Middle East as former Yugoslavia stood in the wake of the collapse of the former Soviet Union when a series of ethnic and religious wars wrecked it, creating from its wreckage several new states, until the Serbian core of the Yugoslav union was bombed by NATO in 1999 to make Serbia now a hopeful member of the alliance.

However international and regional strategic geopolitical factors are turning Syria into a border red line that might either herald a new era of multipolar world order, which puts an end to the U.S. unipolar order, if the U.S. led alliance fails to change the Syrian regime, or completes a U.S. – NATO total regional hegemony that would preclude such a long awaited outcome, if it succeeds:

  • Internally, the infrastructure of the state is strong, the military, security, diplomatic and political ruling establishment stands coherent, unified and potent, and economically the state is not burdened with foreign debt and is self-sufficient in oil, food and consumer products. Imposing a complete suffocating economic and diplomatic siege on the country seems impossible. What is more important politically is the fact that the pluralistic diversity of the large Syrian religious and sectarian minorities deprives the major and better organized Islamist opposition of the Muslim Brotherhood of the leading role it enjoys in the protests of what has been termed the “Arab Spring” in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen.
  • Contrary to western analyses, which expect the change of regimes by the “Arab Spring” to be a motivating drive for a similar change in Syria, the changes were bad examples for Syrians. The destruction of the infrastructure of the state, especially in Iraq and Libya, and leaving their national decision making to NATO and U.S., at least out gratefulness to their roles in the change, is not viewed by the overwhelming majority of the Syrians, including the mainstream opposition inside the country, as an acceptable and feasible price for change and reform. The Arab Egyptian veteran and internationally prominent journalist, Mohammed Hassanein Heikal, in an interview with the Qatar based Aljazeera satellite TV Arabic channel, cited these bad Iraqi and Libyan examples as alienating the Syrian middle class in major city centers away from supporting the protests demanding change of regime; he even accused Aljazeera of “incitement” against the Syrian regime of al-Assad.
  • This overall internal situation continues to deter outside intervention on the one hand and on the other explains why the opposition has so far failed to launch even one protest of the type that moved out millions of people to the streets as was and is the case in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain and Yemen, especially in major population centers like the capital Damascus, Aleppo, both which are home to about ten million people.
  • Moreover, the resort of a minority of Islamists to arms allegedly to defend the protesters has backfired, alienating the public in general, the minorities in particular, and highlighting their external sources of funds and arming, thus vindicating the regime’s accusation of the existence of an outside “conspiracy,” but more importantly diverting the media spotlight away from the peaceful protests, weakening these protests by driving away more people from joining them out of fear for personal safety as proved by the dwindling numbers of protesters, and dragging the opposition into a field of struggle where the regime is definitely the strongest at least in the absence of external military intervention that is not forthcoming in any foreseeable future, a fact that was confirmed in the Libyan capital Tripoli on October 31 by NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen: “NATO has no intention (to intervene) whatsoever. I can completely rule that out,” Reuters quoted him as saying.
  • Geopolitically, it is true that western powers after WW1 succeeded in cutting historical Syria to its present day size, but Syrian pan-Arab ideology and influence is still up to historic Syria, and is still consistent with what the late Princeton scholar Philip K. Hitti called (quoted by Robert D. Kaplan in Foreign Policy on April 21, 2011) “Greater Syria” — the historical antecedent of the modern republic – “the largest small country on the map, microscopic in size but cosmic in influence,” encompassing in its geography, at the confluence of Europe, Asia, and Africa, “the history of the civilized world in a miniature form”. Kaplan commented: “This is not an exaggeration, and because it is not, the current unrest in Syria is far more important than unrest we have seen anywhere in the Middle East.” The change of the regime in Syria will not bring security and stability to the region; on the contrary, it will open a regional Pandora box. Read the rest of this entry »

Turkey’s cautionary tale

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April 15, 2011 /

By Caroline B. Glick

Today’s Turkey is a cautionary tale for the West. But Western leaders are loath to consider its lessons.

Ever since Turkey’s Islamist Justice and Peace AKP party under Recip Tayip Erdogan won the November 2002 elections, Western officials have upheld the AKP, Erdogan and his colleagues as proof that political Islam is consonant with democratic values. During Erdogan’s June 2005 visit to the White House for instance, then president George W. Bush praised Turkish democracy as “an important example for the people in the broader Middle East.”

Unfortunately, nine years into the AKP’s “democratic” regime it is clear that Erdogan and his colleagues’ embrace of the language and tools of democracy was a mile wide and an inch thick. They used democracy to gain power. Now that they have power, they are systematically destroying freedom in their country.

Turkey ranks 138th in the international media freedom group Reporters Sans Frontiers country index on press freedom. 68 journalists are languishing in Turkish jails for the crime of doing their job. The most recent round-up of reporters occurred in early March. And it is demonstrative of Turkey’s Islamist leaders’ exploitation of democratic freedoms in the service of their tyrannical ends.

As Der Spiegel reported last week, veteran journalists Ahmet Sik from the far left Radikal newspaper and Nedim Sener from the highbrow Milliyet journal were among those rounded up. As radical leftists, both men oppose the AKP’s Islamist politics. But they shared its interest in weakening the Turkish military. Read the rest of this entry »