Saturday 8 February 2014

Syria blowback: Regional Hezbollahs (Pakistan Observer)

MD Nalapat. Friday, February 07, 2014 - Less than two months into the BBC-CNN-Al Jazeera-promoted “Arab Spring” that followed the Bouazizi self-immolation during the final days of 2010,this columnist predicted that the upsurge would soon morph into a Wahabbi winter. This was either ignored or derided by the Usual Experts, who were similarly dismissive when the prediction was made (including in these columns) that the removal of Muammar Kaddafy in the manner accomplished by NATO would make Libya a cesspit for the breeding of Al Qaeda. 

When the focus of NATO switched from Tripoli to Damascus in furtherance of that alliance’s tacit War on the Shia,a forecast was made that after seeing the disintegration of everyday life in Libya, most Syrians would back Bashar Al-Assad and his team, despite that regime’s incompetence in running the Syrian economy, and that assistance to the Doha-Ankara-Riyadh project of replacing the secular Assad with a Wahabbi leader would create a new playground for Al Qaeda. It takes enormous chutzpah for a Secretary of State to make statements such as “the presence of Assad is what is attracting extremist fighters” when it has been the cash, weapons and training provided to what from the start were clearly Al Qaeda elements by Qatar, Turkey, France and other powers that have energized this old enemy of the civilised world.

After having failed to unseat Bashar Al-Assad through the sending into combat of tens of thousands of extremists drawn from more than sixty countries, including the US, Germany, the UK, India, Pakistan, Russia and France, NATO is pinning its hope on Moscow. That capital has since the time when Mikhail Gorbachev became General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union sought to get certified as a “Good European”. Such a certification has been elusive, for the simple reason that it will come about only after Moscow accepts in full the agenda set out for it by NATO. Even Gorbachev and Yeltsin could not succeed in subordinating Russian interests to NATO commands to a degree more than 70%, which is why they were unable to earn the only tag they prized, being accepted as “Good Europeans” by the European Union. The level of Moscow’s acquiescence to NATO’s geopolitical imperatives was only about 40%, but by ensuring that Bashar Al-Assad surrender his chemical weapons, that level has reached 50%. Should Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who is clearly in the Gorbachev-Yeltsin mould, persuade President Vladimir Putin to pressure Damascus further into accepting an “interim govt” sans Assad, that proportion would rise to a level close to the 70% level accomplished under Gorbachev and Yeltsin.

This columnist is an admirer of the countries within the NATO bloc, although that may not be immediately obvious from some of his writings. He regards as essential for both sides a close alliance between India and the key countries of North America and Europe, except that such a partnership will need to be on terms that are far more equitable than what is presently on offer. Societally, several members of the NATO bloc have progressed far beyond their counterparts in other continents in ensuring a better and a more independent life to their citizens. Indeed, in the UK, it has been more than a thousand years since the Magna Carta enshrined the rights of the people against the autocratic will of the monarch. The independence of spirit and ability to take personal initiatives by UK citizens, as distinct from more regimented societies such as Spain, ensured that it was the British rather than the Spanish empire that straddled the globe, and that it was British ingenuity that powered several of the inventions which made the Industrial Revolution possible. Sadly, the common sense of the British people got replaced by Teuton exclusivity when it came to the running of the empire,so that India for example was deliberately impoverished so as to prevent it from competing with England in manufactures and services, when the contrary policy - of assisting enterprise on the subcontinent - would have vastly expanded the market for British goods.

Similarly, had India been given the status of Canada or Australia after World War I, the UK may still have been at the core of the global order, rather than on the periphery as it is now NATO’s War on the Shia is misconceived and destructive to its own security interests. Its obsession with facilitating the private agendas of a few rulers in West Asia is leading it towards policies that could destabilize the entire region.Syria is a case in point. Because of the torrent of weapons and cash that has flowed from Ankara, Doha and Riyadh to “freedom fighters” active in the killing fields of Syria, the insurgency in Iraq has gor energized, and today poses a severe threat to the stability of a country that has suffered torture ever since Saddam Hussein seized power four decades ago. Libya has become a training ground for extremists with an eye on Europe, as has Syria.

However, the graver threat is the pressure created by the sectarian agenda of NATO (which is reminiscent of Ariel Sharon’s folly in Lebanon in the 1980s). Should the alliance and is regional allies continue with their backing for a Libya-style solution in Syria, what is likely is that clones of Hezbollah will sprout in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain and Turkey. In each of these countries, elements of the local population are so angered by the extremist mobilisation supported by their own governments that several are on the verge of becoming militants themselves. Should networks ensure that weapons, cash and training flow to them the way such assistance has to Wahabbi fighters in Syria, in less than a year, full-blown insurgency will erupt in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Jordan and Bahrain. This will be very bad news for the entire globe, including South Asia, which has sent more than ten million of its citizens to the region to work in offices and factories.

Isaac Newton warned that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. In their schoolboyish zeal to enforce a 21st century version of Sykes-Picot, John Kerry and his friends and allies are at risk of unleashing mayhem in the region, in the form of the sprouting of clones of Hezbollah in countries that have thus far escaped the pain that is being witnessed by citizens in Lebanon.

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