Thursday 24 January 2013

U.S., after Russia, is part of the problem in Syria

The Assads entertaining the Kerrys at dinner in a Damascus restaurant (File photo from

Abdelwahhab Badrakhan, who holds a Master’s degree in Information Science from the Sorbonne, writes regularly for four regional newspapers and has a daily political analysis program on Radio Monte Carlo Doualiya (International). He wrote this think piece in Arabic for today’s al-Hayat
Russia’s position on Syria became hopeless months ago. Instead of evolving, its position became increasingly intransigent.
All the talk about Moscow being “unconcerned” about Bashar al-Assad’s fate was a smokescreen.
It was meant to conceal the reality that Moscow joins Iran in considering Assad a “red line.” Russia and Iran work hand in glove in arming the regime and mapping out its survival, pending a solution tailored to fit it.
To see the United States join the Russian-Iranian duet is no longer far-fetched.
Why? Because the Syria crisis now has a byname in Washington: “Jabhat al-Nusra” or the “War on Terror,” instead of “The people want an end to oppression and aspire to freedom.”
The massacre of hostages and hostage-takers in Algeria, the mixture of Afghanization and Somalization with a tint of al-Qaeda in northern Mali, and al-Qaeda’s role in the killing of the U.S. ambassador and two other American diplomats in Benghazi will certainly spur America’s belief that “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.”
When John Kerry, the new U.S. secretary of state and old “friend” of the Syrian regime, meets his Russian opposite number Sergei Lavrov next month, the new Obama Administration’s foreign policy wouldn’t have jelled yet. But the new policy will be drawing nearer – not further from – Russia’s objectives. It will want to activate the Syria “understandings.”
You can forget Washington’s earlier blabber about “a transitional government with full powers” and the need for Assad to step down.
The two big powers will support whoever can stifle terror. They will stand shoulder to shoulder against any side impeding this priority.
Obviously, they will want to rely on the regime, which is far from being gullible. The regime will request U.S. guarantees for its survival.
The regime is aware, but has yet to acknowledge, that the Americans have already dried up the sources of financial and military assistance to the opposition, including the non-extremist side. But the regime would also request the resumption of ties with Washington and a visit by old friend “Kerry,” who would have by then forgotten his earlier counsel to Assad to step down.
Meantime, the regime is trying hard to prove its mettle by committing at least a daily massacre, and by targeting children, young men and a whole generation…
That’s what you call the “Game of Nations” and the amorality of power politics in its ugliest form.
Once American and Russian pragmatism converge and play ball with the brutal Assad regime, Syria can expect a muddier and more tempestuous chapter.
The “game of nations’ leaves no room for peoples’ rights and “aspirations.” The Palestinian people can attest to such historic injustice.
At best, the Syrian opposition will be cornered and told the balance of power leaves it no more than what the two great powers determined.
The Syrian people demanded the protection of civilians. They demanded a no-fly zone. They demanded qualitative weapons to redress the balance of forces. They demanded relief aid. They demanded that children not be left to die from cold or disease.
They got nothing from the international community. Whoever spoke of a “conspiracy” with the regime against the people was not far from the truth.
Of course, America’s turnaround was not, and will not, be by electric shock. Nor will it be an easy matter, free of hurdles.
Despite differences in their assessments, neither Washington nor Moscow are certain the regime can still be rehabilitated – albeit for the specific, camouflaged and seemingly-worthy task of “precluding the collapse of the state and the army.”
But the “game of nations” hardly ever yields peaceable balances…
As the Americans and Russians play up today the symptoms of Somalization in Syria, they are fully aware the regime created them.  In addition, Barack Obama’s “non-intervention doctrine” effectively produced the same fallouts in Syria as those of the “intervention doctrine” of George W. Bush in Iraq.
Russia, which justifies its intervention in Syria with a lesson in international law, gives a bad example of what the international community’s role should be. Indeed, the two powers would say anything to absolve them of any responsibility for creating the situation they now bemoan. They make it sound as though the Syrian people revolted, sacrificed and suffered simply to stack up al-Qaeda and other terrorists on their soil.
By encapsulating the crisis as a proliferation of extremism, and by mulling a plausible excuse for its about-face, the United States is prioritizing the side effects of the illness instead of treating its causes. It even seems prepared to overlook the violence, the bloodshed and the destruction meted out by the regime -- to the point of pondering reliance on the regime “to restore order.”
Why and how Washington’s U-turn?
The factors are threefold:
1. From the onset, Washington’s priority in addressing the Syria crisis was to protect Israel’s interests, which meant “reforming the regime” rather than “regime change.”
2. The obduracy of Russia, which exploited Syria’s plight to recover its “Great Power” status, thereby forcing the Obama administration to reluctantly choose between outright confrontation and a trade-off.
3. The Syrian opposition’s struggle to set up one or more viable alternatives to the regime, chiefly because of the [two Assads’] 42-year bulldozing of politics altogether…
The Americans have long been heard inviting the Russians to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. Here is America becoming part of the problem too.
Should the anticipated policy change come true, America, like Russia, would become responsible for the Syrians’ killing and the butchery of their revolution.