Friday 25 September 2015

Putin seeks to cap Syria meltdown (Pakistan Observer)

Geopolitical notes from India

M D Nalapat

Friday, September 25, 2015 - IN 1938, when UK Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and his French counterpart Eduard Daladier forced Czechoslovakia to surrender its border defences to Adolf Hitler, the man believed that this act of betrayal would guarantee “peace in our time”. He even had a signed statement from Hitler to that effect, which he waved to delirious crowds in London on his return by air, the first time he had used that mode of transport. The takeover of first the Sudeten territories of Czechoslovakia and later the entire country strengthened the German military sufficiently to launch an attack on Poland a year later, the action which triggered the 1939-45 war which devastated Europe and established the US as the leader of the post-1945 international order. 

The USSR, exhausted by the death ( of 25 million) and destruction of the war,was too enervated to catch up with its former wartime ally,and the effort to do so in the field of defense slowly poisoned the Stalinist command economy. Unfortunately for Moscow, the country had no Deng Xiaoping,an economic reformer with the capability of melding communist doctrine with capitalist economics, with the result that the rising cost of maintaining a military which could counter the US and its European allies led to the effective collapse of the economy by the 1980s. From that time onwards, assisted by the bureaucratic regime led by Leonid Brezhnev, the fall of the USSR became inevitable. However,it must be remembered that Baldwin and Chamberlain saw the Communist Party under Josef Stalin as much the worse threat to civilisation than Hitler and the Nazis, which is why they refused to ally with Moscow against Berlin, despite repeated efforts by Soviet foreign minister Maxim Litvinov to form a front of the UK, France and the USSR against Germany. 

Finally, in the (correct) belief that London and Paris were uninterested in any deal with him, but only looked forward to a battle between him and Hitler from which they could walk away with the spoils, that Stalin allowed Vyacheslav Molotov, the new foreign minister (now that Litvinov had failed to persuade the democracies to join hands with Moscow), to sign an agreement with his German counterpart Joachim von Ribbentrop in August 1939, which gave Hitler the leeway he was looking for to wage war against Poland. To watch the gyrations of US Secretary of State John Kerry is to relive the 1930s as he seeks to make Vladimir Putin follow same course which Hillary Clinton adopted for Syria, and which has led during the past couple of years to takeover of a third of that country by Daesh (ISIS). Should Putin follow Kerry’s advice and cease Moscow’s assistance to Bashar Assad, the terror group would within a year gain control of more than three-fourths of Syria, including its capital, Damascus.

The problem with US policymaking is that often the roster of “experts” relied upon for this purpose remains largely constant over long stretches of time, despite what are in some cases decades of consistent misjudgement. Earlier, Hillary Clinton, who is more European than American in her mindset,led along with Sarkozy the wolf pack against Muammar Kaddafy, not even restraining herself from publicly gloating over his gruesome death. She clearly wishes the same fate for Assad, and this desire is shared widely within the State Department, hence it is not a surprise if John Kerry objects to any form of support for the Assad regime. CNN, BBC and Al Jazeera,the three main channels reflecting NATO’s viewpoint,repeated claim that the deaths which occured in Syria since 2011 are almost entirely the responsibility of Bashar Assad, when in fact, his armed forces account for less than a fifth of the several hundred thousand who have been killed in Syria as a consequence of the war since 2011. 

About a third of the deaths have been the consequence of Daesh while the rest are due to so-called “moderate” opposition fighters, most of whom are simply looking to make a fortune through the conflict. Despite evidence in their possession of the reality that almost all such “moderate” fighters either sit out the struggle after being given help, or else join Daesh and similar outfits, this policy is being continued, and is the basis for John Kerry’s efforts at getting Vladimir Putin to resile from his commitment to enhance military support for Assad, who incidentally is backed by the Christian minority which Clinton, Cameron and Hollande claim to feel for Of course, despite the posting of images on social media showing fighters using weapons supplied by the US and its allies (including regional powers) beheading Christians in profusion, support for such “moderates” has not abated. 

It would be a simple matter to identify the sources of the weapons and funds in the hands of Daesh (and which are far more modern than the ramshackle weapons of the Iraqi military, which CNN,Al Jazeera and BBC wrongly claim is the source of Daesh weaponry). 

However,perhaps because such a trace would lead to some of their proxies, such a reckoning has not taken place, with the result that several financiers of Daesh and similar outfits continue in their generosity to an organisation which resembles the Nazi Party in the savagery of its behaviour towards the innocent. It is unlikely that Moscow will listen to the chatter from those who have through their actions been responsible for the creation of Daesh. The intervention of Russia in an emphatic manner will result in President Assad getting back control of two-thirds of Syria in place of the 40% he now holds. 

The remaining third, which is located on the border with Turkey or Jordan, will continue in the hands of the extremists until these countries abandon their de facto support to such groups Although the house-trained media in those capitals will never point this out,the fact is that the only way the flood of refugees into Europe will abate is when the Putin strategy of placing a cap on the meltdown of Syria begins to take effect. Just as the medicine forced down the throat of the Czechs by Daladier and Chamberlain in 1938 led to catastrophe, so would the course of action now being recommended to Moscow by Secretary of State John Kerry with his usual volubility. Were the Assad regime to collapse, the tide of refugees into Europe would multiply threefold. However, try telling that to the Amanpours!

—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India. 

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