Monday, March 11, 2013

Syria: obstacles to action

Kerry will no doubt do his best to avoid leaving the Syrian opposition completely abandoned, but this is likely to be ineffective while President Obama is so completely opposed to any decisive action.

In Europe, Germany seems to be the main obstacle (German foreign policy remains a bit of an enigma: in 2011, they unprecedently broke European unaminity, standing out against France, Britain and Italy over intervention in Libya; recently, France has been disappointed that Germany was the only European country that declined to offer any assistance in Mali).

Robert Fisk,  on al Jazeera, 5 Mar, says he had it from a Syrian Arab source that David Cameron raised the issue of arming the Syrian opposition with Obama. He was told: I didn't get re-elected to intervene in Syria, don't bring this up again. Fisk notes that Israel has condemned the Syrian regime only once and therefore really wants al-Assad to remain in power, while Qatar & Saudi Arabia, who are arming the opposition, are hardly democracies. He says that the West may be preparing a Yalta-like betrayal, with the installation of an Assad-lite regime.

Aside from Fisk weakening his credibility in my view by saying that the US lost the war in Iraq and is losing in Afghanistan, this assumes that the only alternatives are the islamists and a "secular" (Assad-lite) dictatorship. In  any case, what means does the West have to bring about such an outcome in Syria, apart from encouraging Saudi Arabia & Qatar to provide weapons to the favoured parties? How can we be sure that these countries would not prefer the jihadists to prevail?

Juan Cole, though, suggests there are differences between the two countries:
  a new plan to arm moderates via Jordan in Syria’s southern district of Deraa may, behind the scenes, have American backing or at least the US isn’t vetoing it. (The Saudis are said to be buying the weapons and cooperating with Jordan in this effort because they are afraid of Jabhat al-Nusra and angry at Qatar winking at its growing prominence in the ranks of the northern rebels)
The Syrian Civil War comes to Iraq, as 8 Iraqi and 48 Syrian Troops are Killed on Iraqi Soil
Update: in a previous post I spoke about the shameful silence of the Left. Of course, it has not been completely silent. Nikolas Kozloff had this useful analysis some time ago - Syria and the moral decline of the American Left
 Far from decrying the government in Damascus, the left has either remained silent or alternatively chosen to dodge, evade and obfuscate what is really happening in Syria.

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