Thursday, February 07, 2013

Syria: what's happening (continued) ?

Some more thoughts, following on from my previous post and some replies from Jeff.
but I've seen reports of scattered incidents & protests going back to January.  (I see that some of them are mentioned on the relevant Wikipedia entry.) 
This is worth reading. Nonetheless, the events of March 6th (2011) could be seen as the spark that led to widespread protests.
 (Actually, in 1991 it seems to have been James Baker, not Schwarzkopf, who warned Saddam--via Tarik Aziz--that there were some lines he had better not cross this time.  But that's a minor wrinkle.)
I'm sure there were words between the Secretary of State and the Iraqi FM, but I was thinking of the very public warning of Schwarzkopf's that if Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons, the response from the US would be "much worse".

Just one other point from Jeff's original post ...
 And speaking of Iraq, it might be worth adding one more comparative reflection. Since the political upheavals of the so-called "Arab Spring" began a few years ago, some people who think that the 2003 Iraq war was a terrible mistake and an unmitigated disaster ... have wondered whether these developments provide additional evidence that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and his regime by external force was simply unnecessary. 
I think it was John McCain who said that maybe Iraq had been a sort of catalyst to some extent for the "Arab Spring". I don't know about that, but on the other hand I remember journalists, for example from the BBC, saying at the height of the Iraqi conflict, when many Iraqis were seeking refuge in Syria, that of course Syrians preferred the "stability" of their own country under Assad to the "chaos" of Iraq (This is the same point that was made in Al Jazeera 's assessment at the end of the 4–16 February paragraph of the Wikipedia article.) Now, ironically some Syrians are becoming refugees in Iraq.

One mistake is to forget that Damascus is not the whole of Syria. (In the same way, in Tunisia and Libya, many in the West focused only on the coastal strip and ignored what was happening inland). The hinterland can be more conservative (religious), but also more revolutionary, since they do not benefit from the largesse that tends to be concentrated on the capital.

Going back to Iraq, we were constantly told that "the Arabs" would be enraged by Western intervention, but once the lid was lifted on Libya, for example, some have said that when they saw the downfall and execution of Saddam Hussein, they thought, "when is our turn coming (to get rid of our tyrant)."


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