Monday, May 28, 2012
Brute Force in Syria
By Alan Caruba
One need only compare the statements of diplomats and world leaders against the reality of what is occurring on the ground in Syria. Its dictator, Basher al-Assad, the son of the former dictator, has been killing thousands of Syrians since the insurrection began on May 15, 2011.
Similar to the protests against the Mubarack regime in Egypt, the initial spark was a Facebook campaign to rally protesters in what has since been called the Arab Spring. The Egyptian military did not attack those gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, but the Syrian military, loyal to Assad, has been ruthless in their efforts to keep him in power.
A recent attack on Houla, a group of villages northwest of the Syrian city of Homs, killed ninety people with a deliberate emphasis on killing children in the villages; reportedly 32 were among the dead.
Consider now the response of United Nations officials and spokespersons for nations looking on. The UN’s Kofi Annan called it a “flagrant violation of international law” while the head of the UN mission of military observers in Syria called the killing “indiscriminate and unforgivable.” The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, said, “The government of Syria (must) immediately cease the use of heavy weapons in population centers.”
The uselessness of the United Nations can be found in these statements that substitute words for action.
Britain’s foreign secretary, William Hague, called it an “appalling crime” and Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, said “The United States will work with the international community to intensify our pressure on Assad and his cronies, whose rule by murder and fear must come to an end.”
Middle East observers advise that matters be allowed to run their course, predicting that Arab nations may intervene to remove Assad.
Supported by his minority clan, the Alawites, Hafez al-Assad seized control of Syria in 1970 and held it for three decades until his death 2000. Power was immediately transferred to Bashar. Neither father, nor son, is about to relinquish power, let alone pay any attention to the UN or Western nations.
Assad 2.0 is the quintessential Arab dictator. Until the U.S. intervened in 2003, Saddam Hussein had been the poster boy for brutality killing Iraqi Kurds and anyone else that opposed him.
The U.S. had no problem with Saddam’s eight-year war with Iran because Iran had been the declared enemy of the U.S. since 1979. Invading Kuwait was a serious miscalculation by Saddam for a host of oil-related reasons. A U.S.-led force drove him back across the border in 1991 and, in 2003, returned to depose him.
Assad has some powerful friends, not the least of which is Iran. As former UN Ambassador, John Bolton, pointed out in a recent commentary, “Tehran has long treated Syria as a satellite, part of its regional arc of influence that includes terrorist Hezbollah, now politically and militarily dominant in Lebanon. It is prepared to shed considerable Syrian blood to save Assad.”
Assad has other international friends, China and Russia, who have been backing Iran for a long time, allowing its nuclear program to go forward. Perhaps, in a region where Israel, Pakistan, and India have nuclear weapons, they see it as some kind of balance of power thing.
Ambassador Bolton was sharply critical of President Obama’s reluctance to directly confront Syria, attributing it to the futility and failure of his diplomatic efforts to stop Iran’s nuclear program via UN sanctions.
Obama has no intention of sending U.S. troops to end the Assad regime as Bush43 did to Saddam in Iraq. Realistically, Americans do not want to engage in yet another Middle East war. NATO was used to shield U.S. involvement during the short Libyan uprising that drove Gadhafi from power. Both U.S. and NATO forces have been exiting Afghanistan and Iraq.
All bets are off if Israel decides to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. As recently as Sunday, May 27, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta indirectly confirmed recent remarks by the Ambassador to Israel, saying that the U.S. is “ready from a military perspective’’ to stop Iran from making a nuclear weapon if international pressure fails.
Every forty years or so, Arabs trade one dictator for another. I suspect that Assad like his father will survive despite all the expressions of outrage from the UN and others.
One need only cast an eye on Egypt’s recent election to see how futile it is to expect any real change in the Middle East. The Egyptians will either end up with the Muslim Brotherhood imposing the horrid Sharia law or with Mubarack’s former prime minister, a military ruler.
We have to get passed the notion that elections in the Middle East mean the same thing as in the West. They are a charade. The grip of Islam and the ancient animosities between Muslims dictates their outcome.
Beyond elections is the brute force that Arabs apply to each other because they are not real nations, but rather places where brutal, coercive regimes impose order on violent, hostile tribes and religious communities, Shiite and Sunni, that would otherwise kill one another when not attacking the remnants of Christians who live among them.
Syria’s cities and streets will run red with blood until the insurrection is put down. Nobody, not the UN, not neighboring states, not the West will come to the rescue of its people.
© Alan Caruba, 2012