Saturday 4 March 2017

UNSC should not help ISIS in Syria (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat

Few will deny the link between the accelerated drive by North Korea to acquire nuclear weapons and the technology to carry them across oceans and the fate of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya and Saddam Hussein in Iraq. In both cases, the stocks of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) accumulated over decades was surrendered to countries in NATO, on the promise of subsequent immunity that was in years cruelly and comprehensively broken. When the hangman’s noose got slipped around the neck of Saddam Hussein, he must have wondered whether he had been wise in destroying the Iraqi military WMD stocks during the 1990s, as promised to the US and the former colonial master of Baghdad, the UK, for if such weapons had been present and in appreciable quantities, it is difficult to believe that President George W. Bush would have ordered the entry into Iraq of several hundred thousand US troops, with supply chains stretching for more than a hundred miles in some instances. Given that the invasion took place in the certainty that there was little or no WMD available with Saddam Hussein, the well-advertised efforts to find WMD in Iraq after its occupation by the US was little more than a charade. In the case of Libya, the clock started ticking towards the eventual doom of Colonel Gaddafi once the Libyan dictator accepted the advice of his son Seif and gave over his WMD stockpiles to the very powers that joined forces in 2011 to destroy his regime and subsequently end his life in the most grisly manner conceivable. And now there is the example of Syria, where Bashar Assad gave over his stocks of chemical weapons at the request of his Russian allies, only to now be accused of using them in operations against ISIS. There has indeed been the deployment of WMD in the form of chemical weapons in Syria, but evidence indicates that this has been by either ISIS or the “moderate fighters” armed and funded by the GCC and NATO to battle the Assad regime. Rather than investigate the assistance given by Turkey and others to ISIS and other terror groups such as Jabhat al Nusra or Ahrar e Shams, the US, Britain and France are concentrating their firepower against Assad in an effort to fulfil their promise to Qatar, Saudi Arabia and other allies that the major partners of NATO would ensure a transition from the Assad regime to another that would be dominated by proxies of the regional powers and of the US, Britain and France. There must be a Syrian Iyad Allawi somewhere in New York or Paris, or perhaps Beirut, awaiting the signal to come and head a “Transitional Authority” in Damascus.
Those who have direct knowledge of the situation in Syria are aware that, for example, the Christian population of that tortured country is safe only in the regions still controlled by Bashar Assad. That most of the “moderate freedom fighters” so celebrated by the BBC, by CNN, by Al Jazeera and of course the New York Times are usually ISIS or Al Nusra fighters temporarily taking on a new identity so as to replenish their stores of weapons and cash, or to send their families to safety across to Turkey or Jordan. That internet images would reveal several of such “moderate fighters” engaged in the somewhat immoderate task of beheading of individuals because they are from the Christian faith or belong to the same Alawite community as the Assads.
Had the latest resolution brought forward in the UNSC by Britain and France (and backed by the US, despite Donald Trump having had a more nuanced view of the conflict before the election) been adopted, the effect would have been to assist ISIS by slowing down the Syrian army’s operations against them. Care should be taken to prevent ISIS fighters from surviving to fight another day by morphing into “moderate fighters” that immediately come under the protection of Turkey, a NATO member. The experience of Afghanistan has shown the folly of dancing a tango with extremists (in that country, the Taliban) in the hope that these will have a change of heart and abandon their toxic ideology. Instead, with every NATO-directed effort to coddle the Taliban, that militia has gained more territory and become a greater threat to the future of Afghanistan. NATO needs to concentrate on ISIS rather than fight on multiple fronts, and hopefully President Trump will ensure just such a focus rather than permit himself into being railroaded into adopting the same disastrous policies as were favoured by Hillary Clinton. 

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