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The Syrian debacle
Iftekhar A Khan
Wednesday, September 05, 2012
From Print Edition
Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey are engaged in a proxy war at the behest of the United States to destabilise Syria and change the regime in Damascus. Saudi Arabia bankrolls the insurgency, Qatar plays a role similar to the one it played in the overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi in Libya, and Turkey provides bases to the Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighting President Bashar al-Assad. It is incredible how the FSA irregulars inflict heavy casualties on the battle-hardened Syrian army and knock out its tanks and helicopter-gunships.
The United States, Britain and France have thrown their might behind the Syrian rebels by providing them intelligence support and sophisticated weapons. The clandestine operation going on for the last 17 months against Syria is meant to weaken the influence of Iran in the region.
The Iranian leadership refuses to acquiesce to imperial designs in the Middle East, unlike the oil-rich sheikdoms. The pattern of Western intervention in Syria is all too familiar. It is the same old pretext of weapons of mass destruction as it was in Iraq, and the same powers-mainly the US, the UK and France.
The Iraq invasion in March 2003 was fresh in people’s minds when Libya was attacked by Western forces and its leader Muammar Qaddafi lynched. The new candidate for regime change is Syria and its leader Bashar al-Assad. In Libya the opposition was the Transitional National Council (TNC), and in Syria it is the Syrian National Council (SNC). Tony Blair played out the US agenda in Iraq, and David Cameron is faithfully doing the same in Syria.
Britain has already given £5 million in aid to opposition groups in Syria, and its special envoy to the Syrian opposition, John Wilks, has remained in contact with FSA members in Istanbul. Western powers continue to change the regimes of countries which cannot defend themselves and they do it too often and too brazenly.
The recently held summit of the OIC in Mecca has suspended Syria’s membership and backed calls for arming Syrian rebels to launch offensives against Bashar al-Assad’s regime. The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation has accused Assad of acts of repression against his own people. It is strange for the Arab League, which also contains repressive monarchies and dynastic emirates, to declare one of its member-states tyrannical. Who knows the scenario could change for the worse for Muslim countries which are now instigating rebellion in Syria.
For instance, what would happen if the Western media suddenly began to advocate the arrival of democracy in, say, Saudi Arabia, asking it to hold elections? And the CNN and The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, known for influencing US foreign policy, could take up the sensitive issue of emancipation of women in the ultra-conservative Saudi society and insist that the Saudi Arabia granted them the right to vote. Ridding Afghan women of their blue cloak was part of the lofty agenda of the US invasion in Afghanistan, although the cloak stays when the invaders pack up to leave.
It is sad that the Muslim countries allow themselves to be part of campaigns against other Muslim countries because of sectarian prejudices. Iran has always assured Saudi Arabia and the emirates that it has no ill will towards them. Without outside support Qatar can hardly face Iran. In fact, Qatar is so vulnerable on its own that if threatened by Iran it would have to back off. Turkey, which is dreaming of becoming a member of the European Union, should first act as democratically and responsibly as the countries of Europe do.
The writer is a freelance columnist based in Lahore. Email:
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