Friday 20 April 2012

Let UN not spy for NATO (PO)

By M D Nalapat

Syria and Iran are the only two major countries in the Gulf region that are serious in their opposition to the State of Israel. While every country in the region speaks of the world’s only Jewish state in uncomplimentary terms, the reality is that none of them actively back armed resistance to Tel Aviv the way Tehran and Damascus do. Of course, individual citizens in the GCC countries still continue to send funds to those engaged in violent resistance to Israel, but this is not the same as the complete backing that Syria and Iran provide to Hamas, Hezbollah and other organisations squaring off against Israel on the battlefield. Not surprisingly, Tehran and Damascus are prime NATO targets for regime change. 

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, who almost always adopts the same course of action as that favoured by NATO, would like a larger and larger number of “UN monitors” in various locations in Syria “to ensure that the Annan ceasefire is followed”. Mr Ban is an honourable man, who apparently is genuine in his belief that the only way the world can be made a safer place is if NATO were obeyed to the letter. Hence he is probably unaware of the significant military component in this “observer” mission The UN Secretary-General did not have first-hand experience of the Iraq invasion. Had he this extra knowledge, he would have immediately been aware that the numerous “observer” and “inspector” teams that ranged over that country the way Mr Ban is calling for them to do in Syria were almost entirely comprised of personnel from within the NATO alliance. These individuals identified possible vulnerabilities of Iraqi air and other defenses that could be exploited in a future invasion. They mapped out locations that needed to be bombed in such a campaign. Altogether, about the only useful intelligence available to NATO when it launched the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq came from the meticulous intelligence collection done by UN teams that had a legal responsibility to act in a neutral manner. There is growing evidence that the Iran model ( of using UN cover to collect the intelligence needed for a future military strike) is being adopted in Syria, and that the effort of NATO will be to see that huge numbers of “peace monitors” and “ceasefire observers” will be sent to Syria, sourced mostly from those countries that favour regime change in Damascus.

The UN Secretary-General is, by all accounts, an outstanding human being with a passion to change the world. He needs to go beyond the advice he gets from NATO so that the UN does not become a participant in the occupation of a country, the way it has become in the case of Iraq and Afghanistan. There is no excuse for taking over a country to the exclusion of its own people, and both in Afghanistan and Iraq, it is the occupation that has created much of the problems that are raging in both countries today. Alarming reports are surfacing that elements in certain nearby countries are encouraging violence in Iraq so as to weaken the Nuri Al-Maliki government. These elements are fanatically opposed to Shia Islam, and seek a return to the past, when the Shia were treated as tenth-class citizens in their own country. But for this new accretion of support, Iraq would be peaceful today, now that NATO troops have taken a back seat, the way they ought to in Afghanistan as well.

In that country, NATO has been extremely parsimonious in arming and equipping Afghan forces, even though it is these forces that they routinely send out in dangerous missions, and as advance parties. Had a tenth of the money spent in maintaining the highly expensive NATO troop deployment in Afghanistan been used for civilian purposes and for equipping local forces, by now Afghanistan would have returned to what it was in the 1960s,before superpower involvement destroyed the country. Of course, NATO claims that the alliance is spending billions of dollars on civilian purposes in Afghanistan. However, the fact is that almost all this money has gotten spent on nationals and companies of NATO itself, rather than reaching the ordinary Afghan.

As a consequence, the alliance has become an object of hatred in the country, a fact unknown to watchers of BBC,CNN and other NATO media, which seem to only interview those who are admirers of the alliance. Had there been an independent media covering the Iraq or Afghanistan wars, the situation in either country may not have reached the levels it did. In the case of Iraq, such media would have held to account those who perverted the UN system in order to convert the organisation into an intelligence-gathering machinery for a military alliance that has not bothered to hide its aim of using force to ensure continued geopolitical dominance. Regimes that are loyal to it get protected, no matter what human rights violations they commit, while hostile regimes get targetted for removal. After Afghanistan and Iraq (where it needs to be mentioned that both the Taliban as well as the Saddam regime needed to get replaced), the next country in the Arab world where regime change was carried out was Libya. Now that Muammar Kaddafy has been executed,the next in line is Bashar Assad.

Like Iran, Syria has been open in its belief that the State of Israel ought not to exist. Those applying for a visa to Syria are asked if they have ever visited “Occupied Palestine”. This columnist thought that the phrase referred to the West Bank and the Gaza strip. It was only later that he realized that it referred to Israel itself. The use of the term “Occupied Palestine” to refer to a member of the UN which has been a state since 1948 is akin to calling Australia “Occupied Aboriginalia” or the US “Occupied American Indiana”. In common with Australia and the US, Israel is a country which has been settled by people mostly from Europe. The other countries in the Gulf region tacitly or otherwise accept Israel as a fact of life, and therefore face no call for regime change from NATO. However, so long as Syria continues to regard Israel as a country that needs to be eliminated, the regime will continue to be a target for replacement. It is not coincidental that both Saddam Hussein as well as Muammar Kaddafy were as viscerally hostile to Israel as is Bashar Assad and Mahmoud Ahmedinijad. Hence the fusion of the “Iraq” and “Syria” models towards Syria. The UN system is being used to send in those who can make an intelligence assessment of the country’s defenses, as well as map out possible targets for future bombing attacks. At the same time, cash and weapons are being provided to hardcore groups so that the country may be plunged into civil war.

However, the people of Syria are proving more difficult that certain tribes in Libya to motivate into armed opposition towards the Assad regime. The reason is Libya. The people of Syria can see for themselves the torture that a country “liberated” by Nicholas Sarkozy and David Cameron - to cheers from Hillary Clinton - is undergoing. In today’s Libya, jobs are scarce, as is water and electricity. There is near-zero law and order, and there is an exodus of talent away from the country. NATO had hoped that the Sunnis of Syria would come out in their thousands to take up arms against Bashar Assad. That this has not happened is because no Syrian, whether Sunni or Shia,wants to see her or his country go the way of Libya.Today,China and Russia are admired in Damascus for the backing that they have given against those seeking to create a Libyan model. In contrast, NATO is feared and hated.

Hopefully, UN Secretary-General Ban will understand the game being played by NATO, and support the wise counsel of his predecessor Kofi Annan, who understands that the civil war that is being fomented in Syria can spread its flames to the entire region. Outside powers need to keep off Syria, while Damascus itself needs to come to terms with geopolitical reality in the shape of Israel, rather than believe - together with Ayatollah Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmedinijad - that the Jewish state ( home to a religion whose adherents have been the most prolific intellectually on the planet) can ever get eliminated.

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