M D Nalapat
Friday, March 08, 2013 - From the first weeks of the NATO-GCC campaign in 2011 to overthrow Muammar Kaddafy,this columnist warned that success would lead to an intensification of terror threats in Europe,principally France. While Mali has shown the correctness of this forecast, it needs to be remembered that the more potent threat will come from within France,from the activation of sleeper cells within that country. The NATO-facilitated victory of Wahabbi-Salafist groups in Libya has energized ideological cousins across North Africa,almost all of whom regard France as their primary European target.
Now that Libya has - in effect - become a congeries of principalities, each controlled by armed gangs, cash and other forms of assistance have begun flowing from that country to cells across the region, preparing for the activation of sleeper cells within France itself at a suitable point in time. Just as errors in US policy towards Afghanistan led to 9/11, so too will Nicholas Sarkozy’s folly in North Africa lead to a similar result in France. During the conflict with Kaddafy’s forces,it was surreal to watch US,French and other MATO Special Forces train and assist the Wahabbi-Salafist fighters on the ground in their offensives. During none of these operations does there seem to have been the most cursory realization that these regional elements are implacably opposed to the West and to any sort of civilisation that they see as having been influenced by Europe and its cultural offshoots
While Tony Blair distinguished himself for being a poodle of the US,the present Prime Minister of the UK,David Cameron,seems to have less lofty ambitions,being satisfied to trot along besides France in the Libyan operation. Those who assumed NATO’s military planners to be rational were convinced that events in Benghazi - which took away the life of a US diplomat by the same elements whom he had earlier helped to weaponize - would reduce the chances of a fresh misadventure,this time in Syria. Unfortunately,UK Foreign Secretary William Hague is making it explicit that commonsense or learning from past errors is not a desired virtue in the Cameron team. Hague would like weapons to be given by NATO to the armed fighters active in Syria,the “Good Boys”, so that they can take on the “Bad Boys” ie the Assad regime.
While both Ankara as well as Doha seek regime change in Damascus,much of that can be explained by the desire of both capitals to ensure the replacement of a (Shia) Alwaite dynasty with rulers who are Wahabbi. It has been claimed that President Recip Erdogan has taken Turkey back to the Ottoman period.While he has cetainly turned his back on Kemalist social doctrine,the Turkey being fashioned by Erdogan has little in common with the relaxed ethos of the Ottoman period. Instead,what is being created is a Wahabbi Lite state,which brings Turkey closer to Saudi Arabia and Qatar in the philosophy and theology which it follows. It is this adherence to Wahabbism,albeit in a camouflaged way,that has impelled Erdogan to risk the stability of his country in a effort to oust the Assad family from power in Damascus,and to ensure that they meet the same fate as Kaddafy did.
The “Syrian Government in Exile” represents only its paymasters in Qatar,Saudi Arabia and other GCC capitals. Those manning its imaginary branches have zero inluence within the fighters taking on regime elements in Syria. Indeed,these fighters have contempt for the exiles and others raising cash in their name. It takes a remarkably obtuse individual to fail to recognize that all - repeat all - the fighting in Syria is now being carried out by groups indistinguishable from those that attacked the US consulate in Benghazi some months back, and that to separate them into “moderate” and “extremist” factions is to indulge in fantasy. The weapons that William Hague is so insistent be supplied to the “freedom fighters” in Syria will get turned against NATO targets as soon as the Assad regime falls,if it does. The reality is that the entirety of the minority communities in Syria ( Druze,Christian and Shia) back the Assad regime against the Salafist-Wahabbi groups targetting the regime, as do the bulk of the country’s Sunni population,few of whom are eager to see Libya repeated in Libya. Had NATO not pulled out all except clandestine operators from Syria,this fact would have been evident to the alliance.
The problem with relying on clandestine channels is that these usually have an agenda,and send only that information up the chain which supports their cause,distorting and concealing inconvenient facts. The excessive reliance by NATO on clandestine channels (including the secret services of regional allies) has helped to create a skewed picture of the ground reality in Libya,thereby giving an opportunity for Friends of the GCC such as William Hague to promote the cause of this West Asian alliance in the guise of boosting British interests. In actuality,a “liberated” Syria will be for the UK what “free” Libya is for France,a security threat. Should the Assad regime fall - and this is unlikely,unless NATO boosts its support to Libyan levels - it is the UK that will be in the sights of the fighters active there,many of whom indeed are citizens of that monarchy,albeit of South Asian origin.
The kidnapping of nearly two dozen UN peacekeepers in the Golan Heights by Hague’s allies has given a chance to the Foreign Secretary to show his mettle. Now that he has emerged as a champion of the very groups that have carried out this kidnapping,t is incumbent on the part of Hague to go at once to the Golan and negotiate the safe release of the peacekeepers. Of course,he may end up the way that US diplomat in Benghazi did,who so faithfully implemented the Susan Rice-Hillary Clinton NGO model of regime change in Libya. However,despite such a risk,if William Hague truly believes the nonsense that he is spouting,it is time that he packed up and left for the Golan Heights.