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Posts Tagged ‘Syria

Erdogan’s Turkish Delights

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There is only one president being capable to be at the same time offensive, out of line and arrogant, as well as needed and constantly courted. No, it is not Putin, as he has followers and admirers, but the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

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Nationwide protests against his policies in May 2013, led to police crackdown resulting in 22 deaths and the stalling of EU membership negotiations. Following a split with long-time ally Fethullah Gulen, Erdogan tried to curb judicial power and started purges against Gulen’s sympathisers. His figure is subject of different views: a populist president, an Islamic reactionary trying to end secular power in Turkey, an opportunist and arrogant politician trying to exploit Islamic religion and conservatory policies to cover corruption, a future despot, etc.

In reality Erdogan is all and none of that, surely is a skilled and ruthless politician who exploit the confusion and lack of direction that Turkey, the EU, and the world face in these turbulent years. However, what strikes more is the ability to stay afloat and find renewed interest around his figure despite the continuous diplomatic faux-pas and international outcry. It is undeniable that Turkey under Erdogan acquired a new status and returned to the spotlight as a key player in the international scenario.

Hungarian Empire to annex the Balkans. The French were interested only in keeping the North African colonies and put a foot into Middle East, while the Prussians were becoming the latest power stepping into the colonial scenario, and saw in the Empire an ally to counterbalance Britain. The Italians took away Tripolitania and Cyrenaica (Libya).

WWI, the imperialist war, brought to an end the life of the “sick man”, relegating Turkey to the actual position in the Anatolian Peninsula. With Kemal Ataturk, Turkey became a republic, and started a growth that put the country back into international spotlight after WWII, when the Cold War inevitably saw Turkey being at the centre of the competition between East and West, and not only for its geographical position.

Nevertheless, 20th Century Turkey was different from the Ottoman Empire, it was not a “sick man”, instead becoming a strong military ally of the US, a member of NATO, a powerful republic dominated by an army ready to intervene to stop any sliding towards socialism. The US and the Soviet Union regarded Turkey as their border, and any action in Anatolia was to be counterbalance elsewhere.

Today’s Turkey is something similar to the 20th Century status, but with a striking difference: today can flirt with any power, break with them, harass and humiliating them, and still be considered important and crucial for the geopolitical equilibrium. In few words, Turkey is a country that every power would prefer to avoid dealing with, but have to in order to avoid that someone else will step in. A love-hate relationship where Ankara has only to gain rather to lose, if not partially.

Back to President Erdogan, he has the merit to fully understand this new position acquired by Turkey, and he is milking it with no shame nor politeness. Few years back, what the EU had with Turkey was just a dialogue on access to the Union, on which the EU felt always stronger thanks to two main arguments: the death penalty and Cyprus status. The first was the anti-thesis of the Union Treaty and the second a remnant of the past century to be solved, as it also involved a member. That strong position has now been lost and Erdogan has been the first and most skilled in exploit the new scenario, created by the reckless US policy in Middle East.

The Syrian conflict destabilized the Middle East in the last few years, put Turkey back in the map and among the key players. Erdogan put his tactics at work in wooing and blackmailing every single power. At first, he was a strong US ally, as per tradition, siding for a change of regime in Damascus, threatening military intervention to protect Turkmen, but in reality was looking at the opportunity to wipe out the PKK Kurdish rebellion. In this position, he even followed the Obama’s administration in a strong anti-Russian policy, despite Turkey had strong economic ties with Moscow.

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With the EU, he patiently used the open door policy on migration by letting millions of refugees into Europe through Greece and Bulgaria, and then blackmailing Bruxelles in renegotiating future access and obtaining financial support to face the humanitarian disaster. This first phase, however, was short lived, as Turkey committed a serious mistake: shot down a Russian MiG over the Syria-Turkey border. To the joy of the Americans (saw in it a point of no return in the relation between Ankara and Moscow), and to the embarrassment of Erdogan, Moscow adopted sanctions that hit Turkey very hard, as well as making clear remarks on avoiding future military actions by Ankara.

Nevertheless, when everyone was looking at a Turkey now in a straight and narrow, Erdogan restarted silently his contacts with Putin, started to adopt a low profile in the Syrian crisis, and especially mounted a strong campaign against EU. To this shift contributed the fact the Turkey suddenly found itself dragged into a spiral of violence, between the PKK and IS attacks, benefitting by EU open door policy to which Ankara at first agreed. The time for a new shift was coming, and was accelerated by the July 2016 coup. This military attempt resulted in an opportunity for Erdogan to change once again Turkey’s position on the international scenario. While Erdogan accused the US of supporting the coup by financing the Gulen Movement, considered a terrorist organization led by his former ally Fethullah Gulen, who lives now in Pennsylvania, United States, the EU and US accused Erdogan of staging a coup or using the coup to legitimate repression and extending his power. Whatever the reality, Erdogan used the coup to reset his international ties and officially opening his rapprochement with Putin. Turkey entered in Moscow sponsored peace talks, to which even the Iranian were invited and who never had idyllic relations with Ankara.

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Erdogan’s erratic policies this time led to a war of words with the US over the extradition of Gulen, by irritating Washington for holding military talks over Syria with Putin, and by starting a series of accusations to his old friend in the EU. He accused Germany to use “Nazi practices” and the Netherlands to be a “Nazi remnants”, leading to a serious diplomatic row.

However, regardless of how irritating or arrogant could be, Erdogan continue to be sought by every single power to change alliance, to join again the western friends, while Russia tries to keep on its side as no Syrian solution can be achieved without Turkey’s participation. Between US sponsored intervention or Russian sponsored neutrality, Erdogan is enjoying a wealth of opportunities to obtain the most from all: silence on Cyprus, access to the EU, economic ties with Russia, military support from the US. To obtain this he uses the migrants issue, the US sponsored coup, the Russian relation with Iran, strong words against some European countries where Turkish expats resides.

In this Erdogan achieved what the Ottoman Sultans never did: be a power not for spoliation but for building a new world order where Turkey is at the centre stage. Only gullible and short-sighted politicians could not see that without Turkey any plan to solve the Syrian conflict, whether American or Russian sponsored, will be ineffective. Unfortunately for them, Turkey’s price is high and the presidents and prime ministers of many countries will have to digest more Erdogan’s Turkish Delights, although very different for the famous ones, to achieve their dreams.

Written by Matteo Figus

14/04/2017 at 19:32

IS Strength is Proportional to our Weakness

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The recent Paris attacks have opened a series of questions on security and the real strength of IS. However, one clear fact is in front of our eyes: IS strength is proportional to our weakness.

World powers division over Syria has just highlighted how easy is for groups like IS to increase their force and exploit the void created by our indecisions. IS strength has been unequivocally supported by the fragility of political institutions in Middle East, and especially after the raging war in Syria. It cannot be denied that the so-called Islamic State is a collateral effect of the western disastrous policy of “change of regime” and at the same time a sub-product of the illusory Arab spring. The weakening of secular states, pursued by the US during the Al-Qaida years, although has led to the fall of repressive regimes, created a void thus replaced by the only real organised and opposition force: Islamists groups.

While the Arab spring worked in a way in Tunisia, Egypt is the best example of how the dangerous shift to Islamism was blocked in time by the only possible resource available: a military coup. When Mubarak was ousted, and the Muslim Brotherhood won, everyone just simply knew that it would be matter of time before Egypt would be engulfed in serious troubles. The army, conscious of the danger, used its force to avoid a Libyan scenario thus blocking the contagion from the IS fever. It is true nonetheless, that Egypt is still a terrain fertile for IS infiltration and the recent attack on a Russian airliner simply shows that.

Nevertheless, it is the total failure of western policies in Syria and Iraq, that ultimately led to the growth of IS and its apparently unstoppable force. Following the steps of Libya, Western powers have made a huge miscalculation in thinking to replace easily the Assad regime with a pro-western government. Arms sent to strengthen the illusory rebel army, instead favoured the growth of all Islamist groups and ultimately of IS. In Iraq, the total disregard and animosity towards the Shia government in power, united with their own mistakes in seeking revenge against the Sunnis, soon created the fertile terrain for Sunni resistance and ultimately IS growth.

However, how really strong is the Islamic State? Is terrorism a sign of power or weakness? IS in itself is full of contradictions: fights the West but many fighters are mercenaries from Europe where most of them enjoyed life of freedom; is against idolatry and western consumerism but uses all social media platforms; destroys cultural history, belonging even to their own past, but put forward slogans of brotherhood; it fights against other Muslims, mainly Shia, and does not concern itself with the Palestine problem.

It is quite remarkable for a group claiming to be ready to install a Caliphate to notice that in all their claims Israel and the Palestinian problem has been left out. Even when they slightly consider the issue, their targets are Hamas and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, for who they fight for then?

Terrorism is never a viable political solution, inevitably leads only to two solutions: total annihilation of the group or negotiation. By the choices of targets and its political agenda, it is unlikely that IS can pursue or even is willing to negotiate. Exactly because has been born from western hypocrisy is in itself a hypocritical and cowardly group: attacks minority groups, enslave women, fight a terror war against civilians, is armed and financed by foreign donors (powers). Therefore, the question is, can be destroyed? Yes and easily.

Taking into account that its main base is in Syria and part of Iraq, and it is surrounded by major regional power, we have: Turkey in the North, the Kurds in Turkey and Iraq in the North, Lebanon backed by pro-Syrian groups and Hezbollah to the West, the sea to the West can be blocked (if wanted by any major power like the US), Israel and Egypt in South-West, Jordan in the South, Iraq Shia backed government to the East and obviously Iran that support Assad, Hezbollah and the Iraqi government.

At first looks like an impressive display of power but we need to consider the following issues affecting the real fight against IS:

  1. Turkey could block the borders better and support the Kurds, instead of fighting them for internal reasons;
  2. The western powers keep living the dream of the Free Syrian Army that in reality is just non existent as long as all weapons are used against the only other legitimate ground force to counter IS, which is the regular Syrian Army. Any future agreement on Syria should be postponed after the war. They face a common enemy.
  3. Western powers, namely US, against Russia: the Russian campaign in Syria was denigrated and attacked before the Paris attacks, while now Putin is seen as a messiah in the fight against terror;
  4. Russia is also not always clear on the real targets of its campaign in Syria: internal security, defence of strategic interests or to pin point US forces?
  5. Western powers refusal to acknowledge the importance of other actors in the scene: Iran and its allies.
  6. The hypocrisy and double play of some of the so-called “allies of the West”: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and UAE. Financing for IS comes mainly from “donors” in these countries.
  7. The refugee problem: open door policy or closed borders? EU has not a clear strategy and swing from an excess to the other in the assessment.
  8. Media propaganda and misinformation: once again serious anti-Islam slogans and total disregard for an unbiased assessment of the reality. The theory of the double standards still applies and only has as a result an increase in racism and xenophobic attacks in the western capitals.

Nevertheless, the Paris attacks and the Russian plane bombing are changing everything, as France is now ready to cooperate (at least in words) with Russia; Egypt will have to answer about its security standards as surely cannot allow tourism to disappear following the recent incidents. Calls are growing on US and the UK (the most recalcitrant in changing their views and policies towards Syria) for a coalition to destroy IS, but the risk of leaving main actors such the Kurds, the Iraqi government, and Iran out of the decisions can also expose further the West and Russia in a direct intervention that will play IS propaganda. On the other side, all powers must reconsider their circle of friends in Middle East and realise that a shift of policy towards Iran could benefit these powers in the long term better than the current dependence from questionable partners, Pakistan-US relations are a lesson.

Written by Matteo Figus

18/11/2015 at 14:32

The Isis: An Offensive Not Only Towards Iraq

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The Isis offensive has exposed not only the failure of the Iraqi state but also of the whole Middle Eastern strategy pursued in these years by the US. “I told you so”, this is the resounding and well known sentence that many are now saying referring to the Iraqi situation. It is difficult not to comment or express sympathy for the use of the sentence when for years we have been brainwashed with the fairy tale of the “mission accomplished” or of Iraq becoming a stronger state. However, acute observers did not miss to notice the constant bloodshed of car bombings and suicide attacks targeting Baghdad’s markets or Shia sanctuaries as worrying signs of an incoming sectarian violence.

The hypocrisy is reaching gigantic dimension then if we look at Syria, where for years Assad warned of Al Qaida linked group filling the ranks of the insurgency and branded as mere propaganda from the West. You would have expected at least the decency of an “admission of misunderstanding” (a diplomatic way to admit failure) instead we heard American and British officials saying that they could not prevent or foresee Isis offensive. Is that true? One fact is established: unless Isis is taken into the wider picture that is set by its own goals, and therefore addressing not only Iraq but also Syria, the risk of a civil war spilling across the region, not on nationalist lines bit on sectarian ones, is becoming an alarming possibility.

 

Who is the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant?

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (alternatively translated as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham) (Arabic: الدولة الاسلامية في العراق والشام‎ al-Dawlah al-Islāmīyah fī al-ʻIrāq wa-al-Shām), abbreviated ISIL, ISIS, now officially calling itself simply the Islamic State (Arabic: الدولة الإسلامية‎ al-Dawlah al-Islāmīyah), is an unrecognized state and active jihadist militant group in Iraq and Syria. In its self-proclaimed status as a sovereign state, it claims the territory of Iraq and Syria, which implies future claims over more of the Levant region, including Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Kuwait, a part of southern Turkey and Cyprus.

The group in its original form was composed of and supported by a variety of insurgent groups, including its predecessor organizations, the Mujahideen Shura Council, the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) and Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), the insurgent groups Jaysh al-Fatiheen, Jund al-Sahaba, Katbiyan Ansar Al-Tawhid wal Sunnah and Jeish al-Taiifa al-Mansoura, and a number of Iraqi tribes that profess Sunni Islam.

Isis has witnessed significant growth as an organization owing to the deteriorated security situation in Iraq and Syria, both subjected to the western change of regime strategy. In Iraq Isis flourished due to the Sunni population being sidelined by the Shia government in Baghdad, where political discrimination and even persecution created the fertile support for Sunni insurgents to join the group. In Syria, the civil war created the situation under which ISIS make the most of the inability of the government to control its borders, taking advantage of the influx of armaments from neighboring countries and supporting Sunni in their struggle against the Alawite minority in power. In the ongoing Syrian civil war, Isis has a large presence in the Syrian governorates of Ar-Raqqa, Idlib and Aleppo.

Isis may have up to 6,000 fighters in Iraq and 3,000–5,000 in Syria, including 3,000 foreigners with many arriving from Chechnya and even from France, Britain and elsewhere in Europe.

Isis is known for its harsh interpretation of Islam and brutal violence, which is directed particularly against Shia Muslims. In addition to attacks on government and military targets, have claimed responsibility for attacks that have killed thousands of civilians on both Iraq and Syria. Isis had close links with al-Qaeda until 2014 but, after an eight-month power struggle, al-Qaeda cut all ties with the group, reportedly for its “notorious intractability” and brutality, although the reason is more related to divergent strategic objectives between the group and the main al Qaida linked movement in Syria, Al Nusra Front.

Isis is now widely regarded not as a terrorist organization but as a proper army with ambitions to govern, similar to the Taliban: they have shadow governments in and around Baghdad, they currently run social programs, which includes social services, religious lectures, it also performs civil tasks such as repairing roads and maintaining the electricity supply.

The group is also known for its effective use of propaganda. In November 2006, the group established the al-Furqan Institute for Media Production, which produced CDs, DVDs, posters, pamphlets, and web-related propaganda products. Isis’s main media outlet is the I’tisaam Media Foundation, which was formed in March 2013 and distributes through the Global Islamic Media Front (GIMF). In 2014, ISIS established the Al Hayat Media Center, which targets a Western audience and produces material in English and German, and the Ajnad Media Foundation, which releases jihadist audio chants. Isis’s use of social media has been described as sophisticated and it regularly takes advantage of social media, particularly Twitter.

It is estimated that Isis have assets worth $2 billion, making it the richest jihadist group in the world. About three quarters of this sum is represented by assets seized after the group captured Mosul in June 2014, including likely $429 million looted from Mosul’s central bank as well as a large quantity of gold bullion. Sources of funding are mainly generated from kidnapping, extortion rackets, robbing banks and gold shops. The group is also widely reported as receiving funding from private donors in Gulf States, and both Iran and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki have accused Saudi Arabia and Qatar of funding Isis, although there is reportedly no evidence that this is the case. The group is also believed to be receiving considerable funds from its operations in Eastern Syria, where it has control on oil fields and engages in smuggling out raw materials and archaeological artifacts. ISIS also generates revenues from producing crude oil and selling electric power in northern Syria.

A caliphate was eventually proclaimed on 29 June 2014, with the leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi being named as its caliph, the group was renamed the Islamic State and calling for Muslims to accept obedience.

 

Paradoxes and Contradictions fuel ISIS growth

 

So why is now Isis becoming so important even to create a miraculous rapprochement of Washington with Iran? The reason it may be the obvious partition of oil resources but at a closer look the US policy is more similar to a matryoshka. On the exterior the policy may have been shortsighted and failed in addressing the future state structure when a change of regime is achieved, but it also offer inside a sub-goal that is to create a weak state unable to survive and be dependent of US assistance. This opens therefore to the third sub-goal that is to generate an instable situation in the region under which no one will be enough powerful to overcome or undermine western interests.

For years the US have branded the change of regime policy as an infallible tool to export democracy, but they never considered that once eliminating a strong power the spot could be soon filled by another questionable or even more dangerous figure. Nevertheless, this strategy, even though being blind on future scenarios, suits best for the principle of divide et impera by fuelling internal instability. Iraq with its Shia government, although officially approved by Washington, has also been under scrutiny due to its Iranian links, and this is the reason why Kurds have been allowed to maintain their formidable army of Peshmerga. But exactly as per Shia groups, the Kurds cannot be allowed to exert influence to the point of creating an independent state across the region. So whilst on the news the US branded Iraq a mission accomplished, the constant bloodshed in everyday life simply exposed a failing project waiting to develop a next stage. Isis grew out of these paradoxes and religious violence, but what Washington did not planned or considered is that the internal instability is evolving into sectarian violence and completely underestimates the importance of the Syrian civil war connection.

 

Isis could have never reached the current proportion without also gaining valuable advantages from the Syrian civil war. The other rebel and opposition fighters have been soon outgunned by government’s forces while the western and especially Arab supplies soon ended in Isis or Al Nusra hands thus polarizing the conflict not as political but as religious. Assad’s warnings have always been branded as regime propaganda, but on the ground ISIS gained not only equipment but also basis and oil fields in Syria, has been able to deploy a stronger army to counter not only government forces but also other rebel groups, Al Nusra and even to support Iraqi insurgency.

Whilst stronger concern has been put on Iraq with the Syrian side of the Isis activities continuing to be underestimated, on the other Assad and rebel groups fight against Isis basically alone and you can wonder how it would be possible to destroy effectively the group without targeting its basis in Syria.

Isis offensive in fact opened at the eyes of the whole wide world the paradox and contradictions of the Middle Eastern policy of several countries, all of which have little or nothing to do with the wellbeing of Iraqis.

 

ISIS Effects in the Region

 

Syria

Isis already controls large parts of northern and eastern Syria, including much of Raqqa and Deir al-Zour provinces. Emboldened by the gains made in Iraq, Isis fighters seized a number of strategically important towns along the Syrian side of the border. They also used weapons and equipment seized from the Iraqi army.

Isis’s advance is said to have alarmed the Syrian government, which has allegedly refrained from targeting the jihadist group because of the damage it has caused to more moderate rebel forces. However, over the past weeks, the Syrian air force has for the first time attacked Isis strongholds and also for the first time neighboring Iraq even welcomed action in its own territory.

The main Syrian opposition alliance, the National Coalition, has said it has been warning about the threat posed by Isis for years, and that pro-Western and Islamist rebel groups should have been given the military aid they needed earlier to counter it. They launched an offensive to expel Isis from Syria in January, triggering fighting that has killed thousands. Syria offers the excellent conditions for a jihadist group to raise and shine: security decay, arms influx, fighters joining from other countries, indifference of big powers. Buy Syria is not different from Iraq, you have an alawite minority, Shia linked, that struggle for maintain its power, you have the Kurds and you have the Sunni population that have been subjected to decades of discrimination.

But if Iraq received outmost attention and even forced US and Britain to reconsider their links with Iran, Syria on the other is still seen as a country to be left alone struggling against the group. This reinforce the idea that behind the concern there is in reality an use of Isis to reach the ultimate goal that is a change of regime and destroy another pillar of the anti US policy in Middle East.

 

Iran

Iran’s Supreme Leader rejected military intervention in Iraq by the US, accusing Washington of trying to manipulate sectarian divisions to retake the country it once occupied. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said he believed Iraqis could end the violence themselves.

The region’s leading Shia power is reported to have sent troops to Iraq to advise its security forces on how to tackle Isis. The commander of the elite Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Gen Qasem Soleimani, has flown to Baghdad to oversee the capital’s defences and the thousands of Iraqi Shia who have responded to calls to take up arms and defend their country, particularly its Shia shrines.

Iran has steadily built up its influence in Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, with whom it fought a bloody eight-year war in the 1980s. Many Iraqi leaders spent years in exile in Iran, and their political parties and militia receive support from Tehran. Iran strengthened its position in Middle East in recent years thanks mostly to the reckless actions of the western coalition, but at the same time Iran understood very soon the danger posed by the policy of divide et impera and the possible degeneration into sectarian violence. This is the reason why if one side Iran welcome the request of intervention to stop Isis on the other does not approve western involvement in a situation created ad hoc by them. Iran is aware that the West, without a powerful Iranian support, will not achieve its goals, reason why Teheran is instead strengthening its forces with Assad.

 

Jordan

Jordan has bolstered its defences along the border with Iraq with tanks and rocket-launchers after Sunni militants seized territory in the west of Anbar province and took control of the Iraqi side of the only land crossing with Jordan at Traybil.

The loss of Traybil is not seen as an immediate security threat to Jordan. However, army units had been put in a state of alert.

Some analysts believe Jordan could be Isis’s next target. However, they note that the government is more stable than Iraq’s, its army more effective, and its jihadist ideologues have denounced Isis’s brutality. In addition Jordan strong links with the Palestinian cause will open another theatre of operations with all the dangers connected to it.

 

Turkey

ISIS has taken over a number of cities and towns near Turkey’s borders with Iraq and Syria, and kidnapped dozens of Turkish citizens.

Although the Turkish government has threatened to retaliate if any of its citizens are harmed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned of the risks of launching air strikes against the Isis-led forces in Iraq because of the risk of serious civilian casualties.

Analysts say the Turkish government is changing its stance on the creation of an independent Kurdish state in north-eastern Iraq, which it has long opposed. Officials now reportedly believe that Iraq will end up becoming a loose federation of three entities – Kurdish, Sunni Arab and Shia Arab – or divided altogether. Nevertheless, Turkey did not officially commented on the Kurds aspiration of creating a wider state encompassing also Turkish and Syrian territories.

Erdogan’s opponents also say his government has helped Isis by allowing Syria-bound jihadists to pass freely through its territory.

 

Saudi Arabia

Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri Maliki openly accused Saudi Arabia, the main Sunni Gulf power, of promoting “crimes that may qualify as genocide” by providing financial and moral support to Isis. The Saudi government rejected what it called a “malicious falsehood”. It stressed that it wished to see the destruction of Isis, and blamed the “exclusionist policies” of Maliki’s Shia-dominated government.

Despite such assertions, Isis is widely believed to receive money from wealthy individuals in Saudi Arabia. Hundreds of Saudis are also believed to have fought in Iraq and Syria over the past decade.

The authorities in Riyadh are increasingly concerned about returning Saudi jihadists switching their attention to the kingdom.

 

Kuwait

The Kuwaiti government has been criticised for having allowed wealthy donors to fund extremist groups. Kuwait’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Khalid al-Sabah has said the recent developments in Iraq are “deeply worrying” but were “expected”.

The Kuwaiti minister responsible for border security, Maj Gen Sheikh Mohammed al-Youssef, assured citizens and residents that the emirate’s northern frontier was safe. He said the state of readiness of the Kuwaiti military did not need to be raised because the situation in the predominantly Shia south of Iraq was “calm”. Wealthy donors based in Kuwait are believed to have given money to ISIS and other extremist Sunni rebel groups in Syria. This has increased the hostility of Iran and Syria towards the Gulf States.

 

Conclusion

The US are now caught in this situation that on one side may be a step further of their policy but in reality it could spill out of control very soon. While the US are trying to get Iran into the dispute, the move could be seen as hardly genuinely believable, as there is a sense that an Iranian involvement into the conflict could in reality exacerbate the sectarian violence rather than solve it. For many analysts Iran intervention is as questionable as Israel’s one. In such polarized situation while Isis is pushing for an all out war against Shia groups, on the other Israel in engaged again in the never ending saga with Hamas in Gaza. A war in the Gaza Strip would inevitably offer even more dangerous reasons to further damage the already fragile situation in the region, out of which Isis could get the biggest benefit.

The US are finding themselves caught in the paradox of their own policy without a future but with sub targets. The problem is that this time an intervention in Iraq could be seen as pro Shia government and will open questions about inaction in Syria; an intervention in Syria at the same time is not even considered, and while Turkey is calling for Kurds independence like Israel, it is difficult not to question why Tel Aviv government is keen to appease independence for Kurds and reject any negotiation on the Occupied Territories. This reinforces the idea that the whole project is to split the area in small states, and that there is a convergence of interests bringing together the US, Turkey and Israel on eventually accepting the partition of Iraq but continuing to destroy the Assad regime.

Syria and Iran are on the other side strengthening their partnership and, although not mentioned, they look with preoccupation at Lebanon as the possible next confrontation ground for ISIS, where the ground for a sectarian violence is fertile and where the two states have an ally in the Hezbollah.

 

The choice between partition versus enabling governments, although questionable they may be, to fight on their own terrorist groups, is the key to resolve Isis crisis, but a wrong move could open even more dangerous perspectives not only for the Middle East but also for US security and the West as a whole.

Written by Matteo Figus

11/07/2014 at 17:08

The US-Russia Syrian Plan: A System Restore

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The recent US-Russia plan on Syria chemical weapons, approved unanimously at the UN Security Council, has been hailed as a step forward in the resolution of this bloody civil war and at the same time as a milestone of international diplomacy. In reality what represent this plan? Is it really a convergence on a humanitarian and security issue? At a closer look the plan represent a “system restore” to the logic of equilibrium of powers and a return to the superpowers balance since the end of the Cold War.Kerry and Lavrov

In restoring this configuration contributed many factors: from military to security reasons, from international diplomacy to national interests, from wrong calculations to crude real politik; however, this could not have happened without the two major powers involvement: US and Russia. If the American duo Obama/Kerry played the card of a military threat and at the same leaving ajar the door for Russian proposals, on the other the duo Putin/Lavrov was the one who forced the system restore.

Russian Rebuilding: A Putin’s Legacy

Since Putin made his appearance in the international scenario in 1999, Russian role has changed dramatically, from the anarchy and passive stance of the Yeltsin years to the aggressive and old soviet rhetoric of recent ones. The Balkans Wars, which culminated with the bombing of Yugoslavia following the Kosovo War, were the last time Russia accepted passively a western influence and action with disregard for Russian interests. Russia was at the time a country rebuilding itself, militarily and economically, relegated in the international scenario to a role of an old and prestigious power but without any real and serious challenge to put forward. Putin reconstructed Russian forces slowly and today is again a powerful military machine, a strong economic state and has a substantial influence in international politics. If the war on terror, that culminated with US invasion in Afghanistan and Iraq, was condemned in part by Putin, on the other offer to him the possibility to liquidate on the same basis the Chechen rebellion, and to keep the US “busy” in other areas. The turning point, when the passive Russia start to show the teeth, has been the 2008 Georgian War, following an ill pondered and miscalculated action by Georgian President Saakashvili that led to the Russian blitzkrieg. That was the first time, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, that Russian military forces were actively engaged in a major military operation.

The signal to the West was clear, however not really understood or undermined by many. Since then Putin’s action has been clearly designed in regaining Russian control of its vital space and avoid western influence: USAID operations in Russia have been closed and today is one of the major financer for different countries, plans for the missile shield in Eastern Europe forgotten. Nevertheless, if Libya was seen as a “mistake” or wrong calculation by Russia in abstaining at the UNSC, in reality Putin/Medvedev did not have, as everybody else, any interest in helping a discredited leader such Gaddafi. This position somewhat mislead the West in thinking that Russia will once again push over on the issue of Syria, that once challenged with western threat of military intervention, Russian voice although critic will never be followed by a real action. Today is well clear that this is not the case.

Putin/Lavrov: Challenge the US by Isolating Other Powers

Syria is not a formal Russian ally, but on the same time is a key area of interest due to; past links during the cold war, when Assad’s father Hafiz, the Lion of Damascus, was clearly armed and supported by the Kremlin; has a naval base in Tartus; with Iran, offer to Russia a strong influence in an area otherwise of strong American support.

It must be noted that Russia, as well as the US and the West, only use the humanitarian issue as a façade and in reality it is national interest and international power balance that seeks. The duo Putin/Lavrov know very well that losing Syria will exclude them from the East Mediterranean, will enhance US superiority and weaken other friendly states such Iran. But on the top of Putin’s agenda there was, and still remains, a point: restore the bilateral and direct control with the US, a return to the superpower balance of the past.

Putin/Lavrov’s actions followed some key events:

  1. Supported the UN and the necessity to block a rushed military intervention; they denounce openly US, UK and France for their action in violation of international law and in seeking to side-line once again the UN;
  2. Challenged US claims of Damascus responsibility in the chemical attack, asking for proof which to today are still waited; to ignore rebels responsibilities in similar attacks; to turn blind eyes on Al-Nusra actions in Kurdistan, where the Al-Qaida linked group has been accused of ethnic cleansing;
  3. UK and France have ben totally ignored and relegated by Putin/Lavrov, as they seek direct dialogue with the US only;
  4. A strong claim, maybe a bluff or not, to support militarily Syria in the event of a US attack;
  5. Obama’s strategy, that is more complex than thought, may have helped the Russians with their plan.

The above created the space for Vladimir Putin and Sergei Lavrov as a skilled duo, a ruthless and hardliner the first with a diplomatic and mild character the second, in searching to regain the balance. They skilfully played the event of the G20 in Saint Petersburg to highlight the divisions within the organisation and at the same time to seek direct dialogue with the US by side-lining completely UK and France.

These two European powers, however, are not the only ones left at the window as the Chinese role is also seen differently. If China has been seen as Russian orientated in the UNSC, this was more for internal logic and non-internal interference policy rather than an ally posture. China, as Russia, judges as dangerous the American influence and especially in the Pacific knows that the challenge will soon arise. For China keeping the US at bay is of fundamental importance and, whilst undermining their efforts in other areas of the world, at the same time they are not interested in challenging them in a stronger way. Whether this is a political calculation or a sign that China is not yet a superpower, a fact remain: Putin, when looking to re-establish a sort of Yalta configuration, also look not only to weaken UK and France but also the Chinese, as to maintain a preferential relation with the US seen as the main contender.

At this point we must ask, what about the US? Is Obama really defeated, some even said humiliated? Has the US policy been defeated by the duo Putin/Lavrov? In reality as said there is more than that.

Obama/Kerry Played a Dangerous but Ingenious Strategy

The duo Obama/Kerry, while on one side genuinely condemned the chemical attack actively promoting a strong response, were at the same time well aware of the dangers of a military intervention. Without UN backing, with public opinion still opposed to any other military adventure, NATO allies unsure or still loyal to a UN intervention and especially by the strong Russian reaction they were forced to change their strategy. The Americans, acting as any other Democratic administration, took their time, tried at first to seek a strong alliance that suddenly crumbled in front of the reality of a war with many obscure scenarios rather than secure victory. They had to resist the hawks in the US military establishment pushing for war and the usual arrogance of UK/France acting as they were still leaving in colonial time. In this we may spot not a weakness, but a sapient strategy that the duo Obama/Kerry has played: on one side the put clearly the military strike on the table, on the other rush the Russian to take a position. In other words, by resisting internal pressure for military intervention, they sought to make Russian position untenable in the long term, and pushing them to come out with a solution or show their absence of strategy. This was a risky game as leaving the hot issue in Russian hands could have well ended with their inability to offer a way out, then leaving at the same time the US without any other cards to play other than a military intervention. So, a question arises, were Putin and Lavrov the only masterminds behind this system restore or there was also a convergent US action?

Conclusion

The vote at the UNSC, with all members is favour of the plan, hailed as a triumph of diplomacy signalled most likely the starting point were the two powers will cooperate, openly or secretly, to restore a mutual control to guarantee stability in some areas of the world. Nevertheless, we need to remember that if this is a system restore to a Cold War configuration, the interests on the table still remain the same: political and national pride, security and influence. The problem with this vision is that countries and people will be once again seen by Washington and the Kremlin as checkers in a chessboard, and where often the outcome of their actions will not result in welfare for the population. At the same time it is undeniable that this could avoid major military confrontations, keep down tones and avoid “adventures”, and although small skirmishes and contained conflicts will still happen, this will be part of a strategy to weaken and challenge the adversary. If the above policy is under way, then the spectacular and, for many, unexpected Iranian availability to discuss with the US its nuclear programme could be the result of a strategy expected in Washington and Moscow.

Written by Matteo Figus

01/10/2013 at 10:43

Assessing Interventionism in Syria

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The conflict in Syria, with its human costs and destruction, is still far from being over and, although contained to a civil war, many ask when this will turn in an international conflict. Sitting in a region where religious and ethnic lines cut across several states, this civil war could generate a dangerous conflict capable of involving anyone who has links or roots to the conflict inside Syria.

To this moment the conflict managed to contain itself within the borders of the Syrian Arab Republic; however, are not the mindless and irresponsible actions of both parts in the conflict, but the international community that create alarms of a possible enlargement of this conflict.

Phase 1: The Libyan and Iraqi Recipes

The first point that strike into the minds of the western powers leaders is the desire to stop a civil war, causing thousands of victims, by international intervention. The failing points of this strategy are:

  1. By intervention the US, UK and France intend their war
  2. No UN legitimisation due to Russia/China veto
  3. Moved by post-Assad desires of influence in the area rather than Syrians wellbeing
  4. Blind appeasement of the opposition.

To this aim the so called democratic powers used at first the same strategy tested with success in Libya, by granting the opposition the etiquette of Samaritans against the wolves of the regime. This calculation was soon fallacious due to:

  1. The fragmented opposition forces
  2. Emerging proof that the most active rebels are in fact ex Assad forces deserters, al Qaida linked and other islamist groups. Although Assad at first denounced this, along with Russia, derision in what was branded as propaganda was the response in western medias.
  3. Egypt revolution ended with a Muslim Brotherhood government
  4. Tunisia  is in the hand of Islamic parties
  5. In Libya militias still run free and even the US ambassador was killed in Benghazi in an embarrassing security failure
  6.  Afghanistan stability is like the search for El Dorado
  7.  Iraq has practically daily attacks and bombs.

This block, after launching some threats such as intervention without UN legitimization, then moved to the next strategy: the Iraqi recipe/WMD scare. A continue accusation and revelations that Assad forces used chemical weapons, the  threats of war if this were employed, an attempt to show to the world that Syria was the new mortal danger, entered our TV screens taking the clocks back to 2003.

Nevertheless, even the chemical connection failed: the UN took distance this time from any attempt of manipulation and reasserted its independence; it appears clear that either part in conflict likely used chemical weapons.

This strategy of interventionism started to collapse as details of massacres, human rights violations, used of WMD, and terrorist groups destroyed the romantic image of the rebels.

The complete disinterest of the western powers in proposing a real solution, rather than bring war into a civil war contest, has also being demonstrated by:

  1. Undermining any UN attempt of mediation, like the Kofi Annan plan for cease fire
  2. Undermining any Russian diplomatic efforts by stubbornly refusing to pressure opposition forces. Although it must be said in their defence that they simply cannot do that as it has  become clear that the islamist and pro al-Qaida groups are hijacking the revolution
  3. Are preoccupied more to destroy Assad rather than think of the consequences for the area

This series of incapacity to run the conflict to their side made space to the plan B: proxy war/third party attacks.

Phase 2: Third Party Interventionism

If the humanitarian hypocrisy moved the powers to a war in Libya, this time we are going back to the old sphere of influence and power strategy, with the use of “puppets” for a proxy war that resemble more of a cold war era.

How to bring down Assad by using the military power of a country that is not easily accused of imperialism? The first name to come to their mind was Turkey. It all started with using the pretext of Syrian shelling along the border as an excuse to legitimise Turkey in a disproportionate response and threats of military intervention that seemed coming nearer day by day. All was going well until two big mistakes were committed: not taking into account Turkey’s internal politics and a hazardous move by Ankara. Turkey was pressured by US to act strongly, and PM Erdogan came under fire by its own citizen for supporting someone else desire for war and revenge. Turkey is also fighting internal insurgency by Kurds, so how to legitimise intervention for democracy when even internally they are not able to solve their own issues? To this we must add: risk of Kurds taking advantage in case of conflict to raise their actions against Ankara’s government; Turkey possible EU membership would be undermined as how appealing is to share a border with  Syria and Lebanon, with a country in turmoil for Kurdish independence and whilst Cyprus status is still unresolved?

The second mistake, and a huge one, was when Turkey’s fighter jets blocked a Russian plane accused of transporting weapons for the Syrian army. This led to a diplomatic row with Moscow and angered President Putin to the point that Russia made it clear to be ready to defend its planes. How serious Russia was, no one can say, but we must remember that only one head of state was so silly to test Putin nerves: Georgian President Saakashvili in 2008, and we all know how it ended.

After going “cold Turkey”, the western powers relied on an even more dangerous card: Israel. Israel bomber twice Syrian targets in the past weeks, accusing Damascus to transport missiles towards Hezbollah bases in Lebanon. Whether true or not, Israel crossed a line that could have serious consequences if repeated:

  1. Transform the Syrian civil war in a Israeli-western backed aggression against an Arab country
  2. Split the pro rebel faction as the Arab League will have to find a very good reason to legitimise its position in staying in the same side  with the Israelis
  3. Could bring into war other countries such Egypt and Iran
  4. All the Al Qaida linked terrorist groups, islamist factions, Hezbollah and Hamas will have a reason to enter the conflict.

Although Israel could have legitimate reasons on a war in Syria, like the one that is strengthening pro-Iranian Hezbollah and other hostile groups, taking out Assad by direct intervention could turn the civil war into an Arab war. Western powers, ignorant of history and basic diplomatic calculations, are failing to see the danger; during the Gulf War of 1991, Saddam Hussein tried desperately to bring Israel into war by launching missile scuds against Tel Aviv. The then US president George Bush Senior,  had to pull every string available to calm the hawks in the Israeli army; he knew that a strike by Israel would have took away any legitimation for intervention at the eyes of the precious Arab allies and created a mass of mujahidin ready  to fight against the Americans.

This time, unfortunately for us, the arrogance of these current leaders is far more dangerous than the actual act from Israel and the risk of miscalculations is increasing day by day. This strong desire of the western powers, and especially US and Israel, to solve quickly the question is not dictated by benevolence towards Syrians but rather by national interests in the post Assad era. Their aim is especially to weaken Iran and its proxies.  To many analysts Syria is the first step in a wider scenario intended to weaken Iran in preparation for a possible military confrontation. This is also seen as a test of Teheran’s political, diplomatic and military strengths. The problem with this calculation is that, bringing Israel into the arena will also generate tensions with Russia and China and how Egypt will move?

Conclusion: Echoes of Cold War and Sphere of Influence

The Syrian conflict is therefore starting to resemble more to a cold war scenario where powers are fighting to decide who will get hold of the area, but without taking into account that a false move will bring into war Lebanon, Turkey and the Kurds, Hezbollah, Palestinian armed groups, Hamas, Iran and so on.

Russia and China, who vetoed any resolution and back a different solution rather than intervention, are also moved by political gains and strategic calculation. China is more preoccupied about economic investments, and to keep hold of insurgency in Xinjiang rather than generating a dangerous example for intervention in internal affairs. Also, this will fulfil the task in “keeping busy” the American forces elsewhere, distracting them from the China Sea.

Russia on its side, counter any American move for the simply reasons of influence and strategic necessity, as losing ties in Syria and eventually Iran will be a major blow for Moscow. This will leave unsecured two crucial areas, potentially dangerous also for the proliferation of terrorist and islamic insurgences that could spill in the rebellious Caucasus region.

Based on the above is clear that until we will have nationalistic and strategic reasons leading the proposals by these powers, the result will be only war and more destruction rather than stability. Until now the Syrian conflict maintained its internal character, but for how long it will depend on the acts of these leaders, on whose shoulders will fall all the responsibility for their actions and consequences, or to  paraphrase a celeb quotation from Fidel Castro, “History will judge… them”.

 

Written by Matteo Figus

15/05/2013 at 23:22

Posted in Analysis, Middle-East

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Syria and the Lebanese Connection

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Few months ago, we analysed the Syrian crisis ending with a question, will Syria follow the Libyan or Egypt style in its transition to “democracy”?

After all this time, the answer is now clear: neither of them. Because Syria, unfortunately, is set to follow a different path made of bloodshed, hate, sectarian violence and all out war: The Lebanon Style.

The country is near to a breaking point, after which no one can predict the extent of the consequences, not only for Syria but also for the whole region.

In my previous analysis, I stated that “the Syrian situation is going to get worse before it will get any better” and I wished to be wrong.

During this time, we have assisted to the big powers accusing each other of the responsibility in the increasing violence, but all of them are just confirming a point: pursue their own strategic interests, not the Syrian people’s one.

At this point, we analyse the last development and current position of all the players and possible scenarios to solve the crisis and avert another Lebanon example.

 

Assad regime: like a beast in the corner

Assad and the regime are fighting for survival, to maintain a position of privilege. The regime is isolated and cornered in a position where the only exit, should the situation not improve, is death.

The regime, however, is not fighting a peaceful manifestation; this is now out of question and refer to Arab spring is obsolete and false. The Assad regime is fighting a rebellion and a revolution against composite forces: defectors from Syrian army, Islamist groups related to Al Qaida, splinters factions of Islamist groups, other ethnic and religious groups, and terrorists.

We cannot say that some of the horrific attacks that hit Damascus were only propaganda, as the targets, mainly security forces, style and power of execution are clearly pointing in the direction of the army defectors, whilst the attacks on population are also linked to terrorist groups. Following the above, the regime if fighting with an all out war, where there is no difference between civilians and rebels of every kind. Like a cornered beast, the regime is capable of brutality and will sell its skin at the highest price.

Assad is still in a powerful position both on a military and political side. Militarily can still count on major weaponry and the most trustful division in security forces. However, the army is stretched in a large territory and, as the trusted forces are made only of Alawites, the number is not enough to control all the country.

Reason why they are resorting to arm militias such as the Shabiha, likely responsible for the massacre of Hula and other areas. This will inevitably increase the tensions within the communities and bringing near the feared sectarian war that destroy Lebanon in the ‘70-80’s.

Politically Assad can still count on the support of two big powers, Russia and China, with a veto in UNSC, plus Iran in the region. This is locking the crisis at international level, but not giving a way out to avoid the civil war as the big powers are fighting to demonstrate who will get the hand in that strategic region and not how to save the population.

 

The opposition: a source of fear rather than stability

The opposition to Assad is now an armed struggle made of various groups and with different aims that we can say they are not all looking for a democratic outcome. The main antagonist, both on military level and political, is the Free Syrian Army that can count on training, knowledge and weaponry. However, they are also mostly divided by sectarian lines and most of them fight not against Assad but against the Alawites, including civilians.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar are the main army suppliers to rebels and the reason behind that is all but democracy, as they are far away from being considered progressive countries.

Other groups are mainly islamists that are fighting Assad secular regime to follow a more inline Muslim society. Behind these groups, you have also some fundamentalists related to Al Qaida and other splinters terrorist organisations that are fighting against everyone they consider non-Muslim or not following religious lifestyle.

The population is trapped between all these forces, unable to voice their feeling as most of them fear the Assad regime as well the country turning to a sort of new Taliban state. The time for peaceful demonstration is over, and civilians are targets for all belligerents, both using them as shields and something to sacrifice for their desires.

As per the Shabiha, also are appearing armed groups made spontaneously only to protect communities from other rival sects.

 

Foreign powers role

The Syrian crisis inevitable attracted major powers, that while trying to brainwash us that they are acting for the interest of humankind, in reality are just pursuing political interests and are responsible for the current situation, as well for what could happen next if a solution is not found.

Unites States, France, UK and EU pushed the Arab spring too far, pursuing national interest without thinking of the consequences. Libya and Egypt are just the example of two countries  where on one you have still no central government able to guarantee security and organise free elections, and on the other they had to resort in calling an ex regime figure to avoid Muslim brotherhood winning election. In both cases the result if far from what those powers were expecting.

In the case of Syria, for the appetite of seeing Assad leave, they are just ignoring the basic principles of geopolitics and diplomacy, playing Risk in an area that could easily spread an all out war for the whole Middle East. These countries pushed what was at first a peaceful manifestation of the Arab spring in an open rebellion promising funding and supply of arms to favour a change of regime. They soon woke up finding out that the UNSC has also two other members with a veto!

In all this time, they never gave the Annan’s UN plan a chance, just waiting the demise, failing to denounce that the peace plan was also broken by opposition forces and continuing a one side position in all this crisis.

On the rebel side, we have also Saudi Arabia and Qatar, who are supplying arms, and the Arab League. We have already gave judgement of the League and their hypocrisy in dealing with the Arab spring and here we can only say that their support is move by fear of a revolution spreading rather than democratic desire.

Russia and China are clearly hostile of any intervention for the following reasons:

Syria is a long-standing Russia’s ally, with political, military, and economic ties;

Both have interest in keeping the area safe;

Prevent intervention from Iran and Israel;

Avoid intervention from western powers in the area, as a new war will bring instability in the central Asia and Caucasus area, destabilizing Moscow’s control; as well Xingjian in Western China.

Both pursue a policy of non-interference in the internal affairs.

Russia and China will put a veto at the UNSC for any military intervention and this has to be seen as a gesture based on ‘real politic’ against false humanitarianism and adventurous actions.

The fact the crisis is dangerous for the area is demonstrated by the silence of the main player in Middle East, Israel. Israel since the start of the Arab spring is locked in a mute anger and fear, seeing the fall of secular regimes that, although questionable, ensured border security and stability in the area. After the collapse of Mubarak, Egypt is dangerously shifting to an Islamic society with anti-Israel sentiments, whilst the fall of Assad will generate a void in power that will leave terrorist groups gain the most.  Syria has been, in the good and bad, a major key player is resolving Lebanon crisis and ensuring stability after the peace process. The collapse of Syria, with sectarian violence, will inevitable spread to Lebanon with also Hezbollah ready to take action in case of western attack to Iran, whilst Hamas in Gaza will renew its requests for independence. Israel is well aware that in the current situation is at stake its own stability, not only for the area, and that silence is making clear that any change in the status quo that ignore the reality on the ground is not welcomed in Tel Aviv.

 

What options are now on the table?

The UN mission has failed due to both sides not complying with the agreement of the six points plan and due to external interference of Russia and US above all. However, UN role cannot be ruled out and must be pursued in a more constructive way. An intervention backed by UNSC can only happen if NATO stays out of the picture, and instead a peacekeeping force will be employed with all major power supporting it and with neural countries on the field. Russia and China opposition can be only avoided by taking out any reason of suspicious that this will not be a change of regime and a one-side intervention. On the other Russia and China must acknowledge the importance in cooperating with UN in pressuring Assad in a more effective way as to force him to collaborate.

As per Gaza and Palestine, Western powers cannot ignore Annan proposal for a table of negotiations that includes Iran participation in the talks. Iran is a major power in the area, and isolation of Teheran will only strengthen the perception that western powers are preparing a next stage against Iran.

All parties must also start to include in talks Lebanon and Israel and listen to their concerns. The Arab League in all this appears just as the ancient regime waiting to be the next, reason why they appease whatever other powers say, but their contribution to the crisis, apart arms sales, has been futile and one-sided.

After the recent suspension of the UN mission, Syria is now hanging to a thread; below is raging the war, not a revolution, not an Arab spring, not a manifestation, not a peaceful transition. Below is the fire and the doom of the sectarian violence that will destroy everything inside Syria and that will spread to neighbouring Lebanon. Foreign intervention, if one-sided, will fall into the trap, costing more lives and igniting other conflicts in the area.

Assad must leave power, but under a negotiation where Syrian people must have final say and being advised on the dangers they are facing if they let their destiny in the hands of external powers.

 

 

Written by Matteo Figus

17/06/2012 at 16:43

Posted in Analysis, Middle-East, News

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Syria at a crossroad: Libya or Egypt style?

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The Syrian situation is going to get worse before it will get any better, and the risk is to see again the involvement of foreign powers in the country. Assad is attached to power as Gaddafi, as well any other sultan, president or king in the area.
No one can deny the brutality of the Assad’s regime and the persistent violation of human rights in Syria (which is not new). However, once again, is up to the Syrian people to get rid of Assad and fulfil their destiny.
When this Arab uprising started, everyone was comparing it to what happened in Eastern Europe after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, but unlike that appeared soon that this is not a real revolution but just a series of demonstration and the involvement of western powers is taking away the action from the people.
In Syria, like in Libya, people have simply had enough of dictatorial powers and are trying to change their future, but they also need to be aware of the danger from seeking help from those powers that appeased the status quo in Middle East and, only now, for propaganda and interest beyond the humanitarian feeling are trying to put their hands in the area.
Unlike Libya, Syria is a very dangerous place to stage an international intervention and could be the start of an all out war in the area. Syria has been always a key player in the 60 years long dispute that involve Lebanon, Israel, Palestinian Territories, Gaza, Jordan, Iran, plus Turkey, the Kurds, Hamas and Hezbollah.
Assad took power from his father, The Leon of Damascus, a ruthless man able to influence Lebanon politics for long time, survive any attempt from Israel to destroy his leadership and at the time supported by the Soviet Union. Assad’s father built the Syria of today ruled by the Baath party and based on a secular state the guaranteed a free zone from Islamism or terrorist groups. This has been always a key point in the foreign powers accepting, reluctantly, his rule, and they had to rely on Syrian involvement to guarantee the resolution of Lebanon conflict and the transition to democracy.
The fact that Syria is important to the stability of the area has been demonstrated in the last and shameful attempt from Israel to attack Southern Lebanon. The defeat from Hezbollah, the intervention of Syria and Iran in playing down the Hezbollah aspiration for a further war, but also the military support they received was a clear demonstration that any change in the area cannot be achieved without Syria interpellation.
By contrary, if you want to change Syria, you will need to take into account all the other actors in the area and if you stage a war the consequences will be far beyond the Damascus change of regime. The recent rise in tones from the western powers (but saying no military intervention is on the table) is at the moment welcomed as long is will be limited to pressure Assad, sanction his regime, limit his arm purchases, isolating him internationally. However, must avoid any direct military intervention or fly zone, and whilst supporting the uprising trying to prevent an enlargement of the conflict from Iranian and Israeli interference.
Russia is clearly hostile of any intervention for the following reasons:
1. Is a long standing ally, with political, military and economic ties;
2. Has interest in keeping the area safe;
3. Prevent intervention from Iran and Israel;
4. Avoid intervention from western powers in the area, as a new war will bring instability in the central Asia and Caucasus area, destabilizing Moscow’s control;
5. Pursue always a policy of non interference in the internal affairs.
Russia will put a clear veto at the UN for any military intervention and this has to be seen as a gesture based on ‘real politic’ against false humanitarianism and adventurous actions.
The recent idea sponsored by western powers of a Turkish involvement is the clear demonstration of how distant they are from reality, and how the situation could slip easily from their hands. Turkey has clearly no intention to intervene outside its borders: could se Turkey in direct war against Syria, instigate Islamist groups is the country, offer to the PKK Kurdish insurgence a momentum.
The offer of a possible passport to join the EU is like a ransom against Turkish aspiration for a place in Bruxelles, which is now long overdue.
Of all the actors in the area, the main concerns relates to Israel, Hamas, Lebanon, Hezbollah and Iran. These groups of powers and movements need to be put aside and kept on the distance from any intervention in the Syrian matters, and could be achieved only if the Syrian people will shape their destiny.
The Arab uprising, as a real revolution, has been successful in Tunisia and Egypt, where non external involvement has been staged, and both have been somehow bloodless revolution. The case of Syria, like Libya, will require people to shift their strategy from demonstration to real uprising and revolution, meaning the will be a high price to be paid for their freedom. As History witnessed, no revolution ever achieved a complete freedom and independence when foreign powers were involved.
Syria’s destiny is in the hand of its people and in Assad’s mind: the first need to take up arms the second to decide its fate, whether to follow the Gaddafi example for martyrdom or be realistic stepping down for his benefit but mainly for his country and Syrian people.

Written by Matteo Figus

21/08/2011 at 13:39

Posted in News

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