Saturday 31 August 2013

NATO succumbs to Sharon Syndrome (PO)

M D Nalapat
Friday, August 30, 2013 - Ariel Sharon is regarded in Israel as a hero, much as Jawaharlal Nehru is in India, despite his chaining the economy in bureaucratic coils and retaining the apparatus of colonial rule in its entirety. As for Sharon, the reality is that the “hero” of Israel was responsible for some of the worst security threats that his country faces, the worst being the way in which he placed the Israel Defense Forces on the side of the Maronite Christian leadership of Lebanon in 1981-83 in their armed battle against the Shia population. Led by the thuggish Gemayel brothers, Maronite gangs killed thousands of innocent Shia civilians in encounters across Lebanon. The way in which the US leadership led by Ronald Reagan - who made no pretense of understanding the Muslim world and showed this ignorance in his policies - converted the Shia population of Lebanon from friends to critics of the US. However, it was Israel that became the only country on the globe to face Shia (as distinct from Wahabi) terror groups.

Since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 by George W Bush (who has made the same miscalculations as Reagan about a community that comprises more than 1.5 billion), the entire membership of NATO has through its policies placed themselves at risk of following the Sharon Syndrome and thereby becoming targets of Shia terror groups. The anticipated attack on Syria by the US, France and the UK will tip the balance sufficiently to make this unpleasant fate a reality, the effects of which will begin to get fully manifested only after a time lag, so that Obama, Cameron and Hollande can pretend that they were not responsible.

Ironically, the toppling of Saddam Hussein in 2003 could have been the moment when the US and its NATO partners made allies of the Shia. After all, Iraq under Saddam was a country where the Shia majority were treated much the same way as they still are in Bahrain, as a secondary people. Had the US quickly devolved power to Iraqi hands rather than see to re-create the British Empire in the form of Viceroys such as Paul Bremer, much of the pain which Iraq is now suffering could have been avoided. However, Washington seems unable to shed the colonial legacy it has acquired from some of its European partners, and this was evidenced not only in the manner in which the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan was handled but in the way in which the Libya attack took place and the manner in which the Egyptian military has been bullied by the Obama administration to soften its domestic policies in ways that would reduce Egypt to chaos. If a semblance of order is returning to Egypt these days, it is because military in country has refused to listen to NATO do-gooders who have descended on Cairo in hordes in their self-appointed role of Saviours of Humanity (via armaments of NATO).

It was clear by 2007 that the Iraqi people would rise against the occupation of their country were such an alien administration to continue in power for much longer. The consequence was the transfer of formal power to Iraqi hands, although there is still considerable interference by NATO in the inner workings of the government of Iraq, although not on the scale which confronts the Government of Afghanistan. Since Nuri Al-Maliki took office, there has been relentless pressure on him to ensure that the Shia majority get powers far below what their weight in the population entitled them to. A similar concern has not been shown towards Shia minorities in other countries in the region, nor indeed to the Shia majority in Bahrain. Such discrimination has led to the perception that the entire Shia community in the region is being subjected to collective punishment because of the defiance shown by Shia-majority Iran towards NATO. This despite the fact that few Shia regard Iran as their most admired country.

The attack by NATO on Syria, once it takes place, will lock in the already strong perception that NATO and its members are anti-Shia and that the alliance looks the other way whenever Shia get targeted. The very groups that NATO helped in Libya and are on the side of Syria are behind the attacks on Shia in Iraq and elsewhere. The weapons and cash given to Wahabi groups in Libya and Syria are getting diverted to countries across the region, so that Wahabi extremists conduct a violent war against both the Shia as well as the Sunni population, which as a whole is free of the intolerance and extremism of the Wahabis. Samantha Power, Susan Rice, John McCain and others who are responsible for pushing a reluctant Barack Obama towards armed intervention in Syria are entering the Sharon Syndrome. They are creating conditions whereby the Shia population worldwide will see NATO as their enemies, and where the extremists within that group will take up violence against NATO, the way they have since the 1980s against Israel.

The members of NATO will pay a huge price for the miscalculation of Rice, Power and Mc Cain, but it is unlikely that they will face any opprobrium as a result. Samantha Power can take heart from the fact that the Chief Patron of the Taliban, Robin Raphel, prances around a Washington ignorant of her 1992-97 role in Afghanistan. The same way, Samantha Power, who believes in saving civilian lives by launching air strikes that will kill thousands, can expect to continue to land one high-power job after another, years after she has got NATO to join Israel as direct targets of Shia terror groups.

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