A War to Avoid
Editorial: March 2012
Hardnews Bureau Delhi
It is more than a year now that the Arab Spring swept North Africa and West Asia. Growing discontent against undemocratic regimes – long mired in corruption and cronyism – made the oppressed throw caution (and dread of the security forces) to the wind. Their cry for change from Cairo's Tahrir Square resonated all over the Arab world. One regime after another seemed to wilt under people's power. Internet and social media worked as a force-multiplier, reaching the protestors' messages to those who would have otherwise remained unhinged from the movement.
For the romantics, it was a moment to savour! People were taking on the might of oppressive rulers who had long been in power. Tunisia and Egypt fell in rapid succession. The US and Europe read the wind, and instead of throwing a lifeline to their allies, went on to play a role in bringing about this change. Soon the protests spread to Syria, Bahrain, Iraq, Libya and some other African countries.
Whether this contagion spread to Saudi Arabia or Qatar as well, we do not know. Al-Jazeera, the voice of this revolution, never reported on this. Despite intense opposition in Bahrain, the regime managed to hang on, with the help of Saudi Arabia and Qatar. When the mostly Shia protestors were brutally crushed by the police, the US and the UK kept quiet. One heard none of their routine pontifications on humanitarian issues.
In Bahrain it became clear that regimes cannot fall without external support. So Muammar Gaddafi of Libya had to be tweezed out after bombing his capital, Tripoli, and making him run like a fugitive in his own country. Badly demonized in the media, when he was finally killed, there was no one to shed tears for him.
Libya provided a new template for regime change in the Arab world, where the West worked with some wealthy Arab regimes. In this enterprise, friendly media located in the Gulf countries served as stormtroopers, helping to delegitimize the targetted regimes. Yemen's regime was spared by the NATO forces as it was at the frontline of the US's fight against Al-Qaeda. However, it is in Syria that another Libya is being attempted.
Indeed, Syria is quite different. A melting point of different religions and sects, it has a professional army, which has proved its prowess in Lebanon. Its strength, unfortunately, turns out to be its weakness in the diabolical game that seeks to reorder the Arab world in the vision of Qatar and the West. The aim: to prevent the formation of a fiction called the 'Shia crescent', comprising Iran-Syria-Hezbollah, so that their Sunni influence is not threatened. In this deadly game, Israel, which does not want a nuclear weapon capable Iran in its neighbourhood, is on the same side as Qatar and Saudi Arabia; it wants to ensure that when the bombs come raining on Iran's nuclear facilities, neither Syria nor Hezbollah can retaliate.
The Syrian government may not stand up to the multilateral pressure unless it cleans up its act quickly, and implements the new Constitution that removes many hated provisions. Assad's regime is resented by many, but that does not give any other country the right to meddle in its affairs, even if there is a humanitarian reason – that, after all, is basic to the Westphalian idea of national sovereignty.
Russia and China may have vetoed the Security Council resolution on Syria, but the threat of a NATO attack on Syria still looms large. At the 'Friends of Syria' conference in Tunis, the US and other countries promised to provide arms to rebels taking on the government forces in the city of Homs. Such a move will aggravate the crisis and make it more difficult to stabilize a region that has been in eternal ferment.