FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Conflict in Syria

by NASEER ARURI

On March 21, 2012, the fifteen-member UN Security Council voted unanimously, for the first time, to push the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, towards a diplomatic settlement, by ordering it to comply with the Six Point plan presented by Kofi Anan, the former UN Secretary-General. Assad, in fact, accepted the plan on March 27.

This diplomatic process was inscribed into a “Presidential Statement,” not a Council resolution. The difference between the two is that the former requires unanimous support from the Council, and it is also non-binding. The Statement threatened Syria with certain unspecified “further steps,” that do not necessarily include military action under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, but that include tougher diplomatic and economic measures backed by Russia and China, which would harm and embarrass the Assad regime. Additionally, that would include sanctions against Syria’s First Lady, Asma, thus preventing her from traveling in the 27 nations that constitute the European Union.

The Presidential Statement expressed its “gravest concern at the deteriorating situation in Syria, which has resulted in a serious human rights crisis and a deplorable humanitarian situation.” The Statement, however, made concessions to Bashar al-Assad by not including “threats, ultimatums, and “unilateral demands.” It, moreover, appeased Assad by including a Russian proposal that condemned the mid-March bombing attacks on Syrian government installations in Damascus and Aleppo, describing them as acts of terrorism, rather than “resistance,” which the Syrian opposition claims.

This action by the UN Security Council, which was not vetoed this time by Russia and China, was meant to extract from Syria an agreement to endorse the Kofi Anan plan, which begins with a cease-fire, and culminates in a peace process demanding that all parties unite behind it, else those consequences, costs, penalties would be activated. Undoubtedly, the new attitude by Russia and China must have steered the Assad regime towards embracing the Anan Plan.

Such a plan, which has scrupulously avoided severe action against Syria, yet carefully avoided recriminations, seems to strike a balance between the intransigence of Bashar regime, heretofore backed by Russia and China, on the one hand, and the positions of the United States, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and even Israel, on the other.

This type of conflict resolution is cumbersome and complex, combining the local with the regional, and the latter with the international. Although Libya has many attributes similar to those of the Syrian situation, the former is essentially a tribal society. Libya is no Syria. Libya has neither the middle class, nor the sophistication of Syrian society. Syria, on the other hand, is a modern state which plays a leading role in the Middle East and is considered a center of Arab nationalism. It has developed a network of crucial regional alliances including the Soviet Union and later Russia, China, Iran and Hezbollah.  Libya’s dictator for more than four decades, the late Moammar Qaddafi,  saw himself as a protégé of the Egyptian Leader, Gamal Abd al Nasser.

Not only is the Syrian conflict complex, but also regional and global, as well. Syria is the center of a cold war, not unlike that which prevailed during the second half of the past century. The Syrian faction consists of Iran, Hezbollah, some Lebanese elements, Russia, and China. Its opposite number includes The US, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Israel, and Jordan. Of course, these coalitions are not mutually exclusive nor are they permanent “alliances.” Shifting alignments, at the present, reflect shifting interests, and in fact, can be viewed as an attempt to settle ongoing competition for hegemony, domination, and super-ordination, if not re-colonization. Most probably, the latter applies to Libya, Syria, Bahrein, Yemen, and Iraq. The former US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, expressed her optimism when she made her famous statement about an emerging new Middle East, i.e. a subservient region defined by a US, Saudi, Israeli hegemony in which Syria will cease to be the address for Arab nationalism and anti-colonialism.

Thus, the ongoing crises in Syria,  designed to marginalize the Assad regime, under the pretext of human rights, would represent an attempt to settle previous accounts: Syria’s close ally, Hezbollah would not be allowed to get away with an apparent military victory over Israel in 2006; Syria would not go unpunished for its alleged role in the assassination of Lebanon’s former prime minister, the late  Rafiq Hariri; nor will Syria’s “coalition” remain exempt from the consequences that usually come with the counter revolutionary restraint presumably inherent in Rice’s “new Middle East” formula,  particularly in the aftermath of the seemingly successful revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia. These revolutions cannot run loose in a Middle East that is steadily becoming an American lake.

How long will the lake remain to serve the interests of colonial powers in an age of de-colonization will depend on the dwindling economies of the Anglo-Saxon world, which may face difficulties in trying to sustain a neo-colonialist order in the Middle East. It may also depend on the continuing readiness of NATO to support counter-revolutionary forces ala Libya, the enduring ability of America’s surrogates, such as Saudi Arabia, Israel, Qatar .etc to escape the revolutionary tide in the Arab world and the rising expectations of a new public whose willingness to sacrifice for a democratic polity has proven to be boundless. A western lake and an Arab spring simply cannot co-exist.

NASEER ARURI is Chancellor Professor (Emeritus) of Political Science at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. His latest book (with the late Samih Farsoun) is Palestine and the Palestinians: A Social and Political History.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

August 25, 2016
Mike Whitney
The Broken Chessboard: Brzezinski Gives Up on Empire
Paul Cox – Stan Cox
The Louisiana Catastrophe Proves the Need for Universal, Single-Payer Disaster Insurance
John W. Whitehead
Another Brick in the Wall: Children of the American Police State
Lewis Evans
Genocide in Plain Sight: Shooting Bushmen From Helicopters in Botswana
Daniel Kovalik
Colombia: Peace in the Shadow of the Death Squads
Sam Husseini
How the Washington Post Sells the Politics of Fear
Ramzy Baroud
Punishing the Messenger: Israel’s War on NGOs Takes a Worrying Turn
Norman Pollack
Troglodyte Vs. Goebbelean Fascism: The 2016 Presidential Race
Simon Wood
Where are the Child Victims of the West?
Roseangela Hartford
The Hidden Homeless Population
Mark Weisbrot
Obama’s Campaign for TPP Could Drag Down the Democrats
Rick Sterling
Clintonites Prepare for War on Syria
Yves Engler
The Anti-Semitism Smear Against Canadian Greens
August 24, 2016
John Pilger
Provoking Nuclear War by Media
Jonathan Cook
The Birth of Agro-Resistance in Palestine
Eric Draitser
Ajamu Baraka, “Uncle Tom,” and the Pathology of White Liberal Racism
Jack Rasmus
Greek Debt and the New Financial Imperialism
Robert Fisk
The Sultan’s Hit List Grows, as Turkey Prepares to Enter Syria
Abubakar N. Kasim
What Did the Olympics Really Do for Humanity?
Renee Parsons
Obamacare Supporters Oppose ColoradoCare
Alycee Lane
The Trump Campaign: a White Revolt Against ‘Neoliberal Multiculturalism’
Edward Hunt
Maintaining U.S. Dominance in the Pacific
George Wuerthner
The Big Fish Kill on the Yellowstone
Jesse Jackson
Democrats Shouldn’t Get a Blank Check From Black Voters
Kent Paterson
Saving Southern New Mexico from the Next Big Flood
Arnold August
RIP Jean-Guy Allard: A Model for Progressive Journalists Working in the Capitalist System
August 23, 2016
Diana Johnstone
Hillary and the Glass Ceilings Illusion
Bill Quigley
Race and Class Gap Widening: Katrina Pain Index 2016 by the Numbers
Ted Rall
Trump vs. Clinton: It’s All About the Debates
Eoin Higgins
Will Progressive Democrats Ever Support a Third Party Candidate?
Kenneth J. Saltman
Wall Street’s Latest Public Sector Rip-Off: Five Myths About Pay for Success
Binoy Kampmark
Labouring Hours: Sweden’s Six-Hour Working Day
John Feffer
The Globalization of Trump
Gwendolyn Mink – Felicia Kornbluh
Time to End “Welfare as We Know It”
Medea Benjamin
Congress Must Take Action to Block Weapon Sales to Saudi Arabia
Halyna Mokrushyna
Political Writer, Daughter of Ukrainian Dissident, Detained and Charged in Ukraine
Manuel E. Yepe
Tourism and Religion Go Hand-in-Hand in the Caribbean
ED ADELMAN
Belted by Trump
Thomas Knapp
War: The Islamic State and Western Politicians Against the Rest of Us
Nauman Sadiq
Shifting Alliances: Turkey, Russia and the Kurds
Rivera Sun
Active Peace: Restoring Relationships While Making Change
August 22, 2016
Eric Draitser
Hillary Clinton: The Anti-Woman ‘Feminist’
Robert Hunziker
Arctic Death Rattle
Norman Solomon
Clinton’s Transition Team: a Corporate Presidency Foretold
Ralph Nader
Hillary’s Hubris: Only Tell the Rich for $5000 a Minute!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail