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

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism: Transcending the Master’s Tools
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Mike Whitney
McMaster Takes Charge: Trump Relinquishes Control of Foreign Policy 
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Decline of US and UK Power
Louisa Willcox
The Endangered Species Act: a Critical Safety Net Now Threatened by Congress and Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Norman Pollack
Drumbeat of Fascism: Find, Arrest, Deport
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
David Morgan
Trump and the Left: a Case of Mass Hysteria?
Pete Dolack
The Bait and Switch of Public-Private Partnerships
Mike Miller
What Kind of Movement Moment Are We In? 
Elliot Sperber
Why Resistance is Insufficient
Brian Cloughley
What are You Going to Do About Afghanistan, President Trump?
Binoy Kampmark
Warring in the Oncology Ward
Yves Engler
Remembering the Coup in Ghana
Jeremy Brecher
“Climate Kids” v. Trump: Trial of the Century Pits Trump Climate Denialism Against Right to a Climate System Capable of Sustaining Human Life”
Jonathan Taylor
Hate Trump? You Should Have Voted for Ron Paul
Franklin Lamb
Another Small Step for Syrian Refugee Children in Beirut’s “Aleppo Park”
Ron Jacobs
The Realist: Irreverence Was Their Only Sacred Cow
Andre Vltchek
Lock up England in Jail or an Insane Asylum!
Rev. William Alberts
Grandiose Marketing of Spirituality
Paul DeRienzo
Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Eric Sommer
Organize Workers Immigrant Defense Committees!
Steve Cooper
A Progressive Agenda
David Swanson
100 Years of Using War to Try to End All War
Andrew Stewart
The 4CHAN Presidency: A Media Critique of the Alt-Right
Edward Leer
Tripping USA: The Chair
Randy Shields
Tom Regan: The Life of the Animal Rights Party
Nyla Ali Khan
One Certain Effect of Instability in Kashmir is the Erosion of Freedom of Expression and Regional Integration
Rob Hager
The Only Fake News That Probably Threw the Election to Trump was not Russian 
Mike Garrity
Why Should We Pay Billionaires to Destroy Our Public Lands? 
Mark Dickman
The Prophet: Deutscher’s Trotsky
Christopher Brauchli
The Politics of the Toilet Police
Ezra Kronfeld
Joe Manchin: a Senate Republicrat to Dispute and Challenge
Clancy Sigal
The Nazis Called It a “Rafle”
Louis Proyect
Socialism Betrayed? Inside the Ukrainian Holodomor
Charles R. Larson
Review: Timothy B. Tyson’s “The Blood of Emmett Till”
David Yearsley
Founding Father of American Song
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail