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The events in Syria and the intervention debate

July 19th, 2012 Comments off

By the Guardian’s inimitable Steve Bell

After today’s amazing events in Damascus — the bombing that decapitated at least three senior regime figures, the fighting inside of Damascus itself, rumors of regime splits, defections and escapes — it is little wonder that the debate over what the international community should do has flared up once again. For the interventionists, it appears to have been an occasion for misplaced snark.

Take this exchange between Shadi Hamid and Jeffrey Goldberg:

.@shadihamid Don’t you understand? Outside intervention would cause the Syria conflict to become violent.

— Jeffrey Goldberg (@Goldberg3000) July 18, 2012

This misses the point — earnestly or not — that the case against intervention in Syria is not about how violent the conflict would get. It is about not getting involved about something that will be inevitable violent and bloody and could be further complicated by intervention. The survey statistics that came out today about how Americans feel about intervention in Syria, for instance, show contradictory data: on the one hand a majority of Americans are for imposing a no-fly zone, but on the other a majority is against carrying out the attacks on Syrian air defense systems that would be a necessary precondition to imposing a no-fly zone. It’s obvious that most respondents do not necessary make that link, but pro-intervention people like to spin it that in fact Americans would back an intervention. But you can just as easily, and in fact more plausibly, spin it the other way around: if they knew that it would involve an attack on Syrian military installations, Americans would not back a no-fly zone. After all, the strong trend in that survey is one of opposition to military intervention in Syria.

Taking things a step further, neocon editorialist Max Boot — who appears to have never heard of a country he didn’t want to invade — makes the case that early reports that the bombing was a suicide bombing (which is contested by the Free Syrian Army, remains unproven, and in any case either way the bombing is still an act of terrorism by any international standard) is another argument for intervention:

So now in Syria there is a great danger that America’s hesitancy to get involved on the rebel side has ceded the momentum to jihadist suicide bombers. They by no means represent the mainstream of Syrian opposition. But they will increasingly gain the upper hand, quite possibly with Saudi and Qatari help, unless the U.S. does more to help the secularists and moderates. And that, in turn, means the Obama administration will have to stop waiting for the blessing of the UN and Moscow before getting more involved. Only greater American-led intervention can end the fighting and stop Syria’s descent into greater barbarism.

Likewise, Michael Weiss, of the neocon British Henry Jackson society, appears to inadvertently make a case against armed intervention:

As for continued diplomacy, British Foreign Secretary William Hague condemned the bombing and U.N. envoy Kofi Annan asked the Security Council to delay a vote on a resolution calling for sanctions against Syria. He might have done so via carrier pigeon to underscore just how behind the times the international response is to this crisis. The United States, Britain, France one side, and Russia and China on the other, are in a pitched war of words over a country that exists only in their collective imagination, where a “political solution” is still thinkable and we’re only one stray comma away from the Chapter VII resolution that will bring lasting peace and stability.

This is either supreme fantasy or deep cynicism underwriting what is in fact a consensus that no one has the desire or will to sort out Syria. Rebels I spoke with recently in Istanbul – they were there to attend a bomb-making seminar – told me that even if Assad were to renounce power, they’d fight on because the institutions of state terror, including the 27 torture dungeons recently anatomized by Human Rights Watch, would inevitably remain in place. No one abroad seems to want to listen to them. Maybe now they will.

So if the rebels will continue their fight to achieve their own aims no matter what is done, perhaps it is best to get out of the way. Weiss is right when he says there is “a consensus that no one has the desire or will to sort out Syria” — that consensus is evident among NATO member states including the US as well as much of the neighborhood (if they are so keen on intervention, why don’t the Qataris or Saudis do it themselves with all the armaments they’ve been buying over the last decade?) No one wants to pay the potential price, not after Iraq.

Finally, David Ignatius mixes apples and oranges on when he argues:

The most urgent question for CIA officers is how potent are al-Qaeda and its affiliates in the Syrian opposition. The answer seems to be that, while al-Qaeda is a factor, other opposition groups are promising the United States that they will root it out — once they have disposed of the Assad regime. That’s somewhat reassuring, similar to the alliance Gen. David Petraeus formed in Iraq with Sunni militias against al-Qaeda.

Not so reassuring: in Iraq al-Qaeda had some support among Sunnis because the invasion changed the sectarian balance and Sunnis could plausibly argue that Shias had sold out the independence of Iraq to the US to get rid of Saddam. In Syria, if al-Qaeda (or more accurately, jihadists who use the al-Qaeda label) is involved in attacks such as today’s, they’ll be heroes to all those are rejoicing about the death of key regime figures. Big difference.

The truth is that commentators rush out their opinions based on their preconceived notions before they know the full facts. What if it turns out that today’s attack was indeed carried out by one of the better-organized, better-funded elements of the opposition that perhaps had an inside reach into the regime (via recent defectors…), and this had nothing to do with al-Qaeda (indeed the regime itself may have invented the Jihadist group that took credit for the attack, for all we know.)

The important thing is that the Syrian opposition appears to have struck a major blow to the regime today, perhaps even a near-fatal one precisely because it is so unexpected. We do not know if they are ready for the blowback that is likely to come, or what else comes next. In the meantime it is petty to belittle the “political solution” that will be needed eventually (when both sides are ready or the rebels have won decisively) because one of an abstract enthusiasm for liberal interventionism that the international community is clearly not interested in.



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"Neither the Arab League nor Western governments care about the Syrian people…"

December 30th, 2011 Comments off
“… It called – nay pleaded – for Arab League intervention while ruling out Western intervention (under the title of UN or “international community” and various other code words that are used to disguise – in theory – the US/Israeli role). The SNC then changed its tune again and started calling for a no-fly zone (as if the war on Iraq and on Libya did not start with “no-fly zone” rhetoric). The council then accepted international intervention but only “to protect civilians.” The folks of the Syrian National Council assumed that we forgot the NATO bombing campaign in Libya (which included the deployment of ground troops and special forces) was undertaken under the UN pretext of “protecting civilians.” So NATO killed Libyan civilians (as the New York Times revealed in an extensive report) in order to protect Libyan civilians. Such are the rules of the US-dominated UN.

Sheikh Adnan al-Arur (the fanatical cleric based in Saudi Arabia who holds sway among at least some of the protesters and whose name is often chanted in some protests went further. He threatened this week to cut off the tongues of any member of the SNC who does not call for international intervention in Syria. No one from the SNC protested the words of Arur. The alliance between Ikhwan and their liberal lackeys is too delicate to bother with reactions to the likes of Arur.
But the goal of calling for international intervention is now clear: on the very first day of the Arab League Monitor’s mission, the SNC declared its failure to undertake its mission. Western media (which now are reduced to publishing the pronouncements and claims of the pro-Saudi Syrian Monitor for Human Rights) quickly echoed the opinion of the council.
The criticisms of the SNC are correct but come very late in the game. They should have been raised earlier and those criticisms apply to (potential) Western intervention in Syria. Neither the Arab League nor Western governments care about the Syrian people. The notion that the league of Arab tyrants are in a position to monitor human rights violations in a sister country is ridiculous. To make the exercise of the Arab League mission more absurd, Qatar selected an intelligence commander from the tyrannical regime of Omar al-Bashir of Sudan to head the Arab League monitoring mission. …  Qatar is implementing a plan on behalf of the US/Israel, but the public has not been informed of the exact features of the plan….. Clearly, Saudi/Turkish/US/Qatari/Jordanian/Israeli/Hariri intervention in Syrian affairs is only increasing the suffering of the Syrian people but the primary responsibility of the suffering should be blamed on the Syrian regime, which is obligated to protect its population…. 
The mission of the Arab League is not serious. It has so far failed to stop the killing and will not stop the killing. It is merely a phase to camouflage another more dangerous phase that Western governments and their clients in the region have in store for Syria.”



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Davutoglu: ‘Ankara will impose no-fly zone over Gaza!’

November 3rd, 2011 Comments off
Categories: Arab Blogs Tags: , , , ,

Who "owns" Libya?

August 24th, 2011 Comments off

A very interesting blog post on Libya by the Economist’s Bagehot:

Speaking from outside Britain, a senior official told me that—after the fall of the Qaddafi regime—NATO air patrols and a no-fly zone would certainly have to remain in place as a deterrent to fighting between different factions or tribes, and to fulfil NATO’s mandate from the United Nations to protect civilians. How long might that last? Well, he said, the current plan is for elections within 240 days, so perhaps until then at least: “We need an open-ended, low-intensity no-fly zone.”



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No-fly zone

July 22nd, 2011 Comments off
Don’t you like the UN-authorized no-fly zone over Libya?  It basically banned any flights over Libya, except NATO bombers.

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Arab League to ask UN to impose no-fly zone over Gaza

April 11th, 2011 Comments off

The Arab League (AL) has said it will ask the UN to consider imposing a no-fly zone over the Gaza Strip to protect the civilians from Israeli air strikes, Xinhua reported.
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".. If the Americans don’t want to help us, if the West doesn’t want to help us, to hell with them.."

April 9th, 2011 Comments off
DARNA, Libya (Reuters) – “… The presence of Hasady and other Islamists among the rebels raises difficult questions for the United States and other Western powers, who want Gaddafi’s overthrow but worry al Qaeda may establish a stronghold on the Mediterranean coast… Sitting in a mosque compound in Darna, an eastern Libyan town seen as sympathetic to Islamists, Hasady, 45, said he never had ties to al Qaeda. “The West is hesitating because of their fears of al Qaeda in Libya. They must believe Gaddafi,” said Hasady, 45…. His story has changed several times in interviews, suggesting it will be difficult for Western countries to tell friend from foe as the Libyan conflict drags on and they try to formulate a strategy to stabilise the country…
Hasady said previously that he fought the Americans in Afghanistan. Now he says he only engaged in “self-defence” against U.S.-backed Afghans who fought the Taliban. He demanded more muscular Western intervention in Libya. “A no-fly zone is not enough. How can we defeat Gaddafi without heavy weapons from the West? All we have is some AK-47 rifles and a few rockets.”



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Air strike ‘kills Libyan rebels’

April 2nd, 2011 Comments off

At least 10 Libyan rebels are reported killed after a plane enforcing the no-fly zone fired on their convoy on Friday night.
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Categories: Arab News Tags: , , , ,

Qatar Recognizes the Libyan Rebels

March 28th, 2011 Comments off

Qatar, so far the only Arab country patrolling the Libyan no-fly zone, has become the first Arab country to recognize the Libyan rebel council as the sole representative of the Libyan people. Qatar will also assist in marketing oil from eastern Libya.

Qatar has always pursued a maverick and distinct foreign policy in the Arab world, and this is in keeping with that.


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Nato to control Libya no-fly zone

March 25th, 2011 Comments off

Nato says it will take command of the no-fly zone over Libya, and may assume broader control of the international military operation in the coming days.
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