Monitor Mideast







Protests in Syria Bad Omen for the West

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As the current crisis in Egypt continues, and the United States scrambles in its damage control efforts, one sign in particular points to the recent unrest in Arab countries being far more than simply an angry reaction to authoritarianism. That sign is that — even with the Tunisian revolts spreading to neighboring Egypt as well as to Jordan, Yemen, and other Arab countries — the people of Syria have not revolted against their leader, Bashar al-Assad. Recent efforts to organize a protest in Damascus failed.

Bashar was appointed president of Syria by his predecessor (and father) Hafiz al-Assad. Barring the collapse of his regime, he will likely be president for life and appoint a successor. There is no more “freedom of speech” in Syria than in Mubarak’s Egypt or Ben Ali’s Tunisia. If the current string of uprisings are truly reflective of Arabs’ democratic aspirations (which American officials and media outlets are suggesting), then wouldn’t it be natural for the flames of democratic revolt to spread to Syria? One would certainly think so.
Something is missing from this narrative. The people want more than simple “free speech.” These recent revolts reveal something else about the sentiments of Muslims in the world today.
This Gallup poll may offer some insight that other sources have curiously ignored. According to the poll, an astounding 88 percent of Egyptians want Islamic law to be a source of legislation in their country.

Far from reflecting an upsurge in democratic aspirations, these poll results seem to validate the idea which Iranian leader Seyyed Ali Khamenei alluded to in his recent speech: that the revolts are the manifestation of an “Islamic awakening.”
Perhaps, then, the reason for the failure of the planned Syria protest owes to Assad’s reconciling of his secular government with his staunchly religious population? Assad’s father became a pariah in the Arab world for aligning his country with Iran in the Iran-Iraq War, and Syria has further made itself an outcast among Arab countries by supporting Hezbollah in Lebanon. Secular Syria — though remaining secular — has managed to Islamify itself enough to appease the people. This calculated move has resulted in Assad becoming arguably the most popular head of state in the Arab world.
This is a bad omen for policymakers in the US, whose efforts to pick up the pieces of the Egyptian crisis are ever more likely looking like they will be in vain.

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Libya’s Nightmare

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By all accounts, foreign powers have already commenced a military campaign in Libya, one which mirrors much the setup previously charted in Iraq. Mummar Ghadafi has for his part been relentless with harsh words and has continually issued and re-issued warning that many more Libyans would face death if an escalation of foreign intervention takes place. Given that Libya is already in the grips of a dire humanitarian catastrophe, the consequences are bound to be grave. Regardless of whatever postulations are conjured with regards to foreign intervention, it would unquestionably result in more deaths and disarray in Libya. The on-going civil war in such a case would undoubtedly be further kindled to a higher level and more so especially since Mummar Ghadafi has made certain of his ardent desire to maintain his throne. Therefore, and as previously stated by him, he shall quite literally be willing to fight till the last man. As such, a more sustained foreign intervention would only further exasperate the present crisis.

 

For its part, foreign intervention is not only already present but continually evolving.  Most notably, the British, French and the Americans have already sent their supposed humanitarian aid to the besieged city of Bengazi, but alongside they have also landed military advisors and Special Forces. Indeed, the operations have already begun.  It is essential to note the employment of what is otherwise a repetition of the Iraq scenario in the form of identical reasons and stories. For instance, we already hear of such words as sanctions, no-fly zones and the usage of false reports to justify the implementation of those no-fly zones with the mention of perpetrated aerial strikes on civilians. Thus far, the only substantive study on the actual occurrence of such strikes has been made by the Russian military, who have denied their existence. Furthermore, there is already the talk about chemical weapons in Libya from the United States and Britian, even though it was in 2003 that both concluded that Ghadafi was someone who had given up his weapons of mass destruction. This is but another ‘boogey-man’ this is being molded for their foreign policy imperatives in regard to Libya.

 

The question arises as to where all of this is headed. Whilst in power, Ghadafi has indeed been ruthless and his imposed system has been equally corrupt. Distaste for him is indeed far and wide. Nonetheless, given the sheer weight of his comparative military strength, he would succeed in open conflict against his opponents within Libya. More so, the newly emerged and self-acclaimed opposition officials in Bengazi have asked for armed intervention by the British, the French and the United States in acknowledgement that they cannot independently dethrone Colonel Ghadafi. It is imperative to note that these officials, who were all previously of Ghadafi’s order, are characteristically dissimilar from the principal Libyan protest movement for they wish to shun foreign intervention but their professed leaders do not.

 

Ghaddafi and his cohorts are already negotiating with the tribes and cities in Libya for a more passive settlement. It is quiet ironic that the United States previously called on the protestors in Egypt to negotiate with the Mubarak regime but in Libya the same doctrines are absent.  For that matter, they are absent in Yemen, Oman or Bahrain. Aside the political or geo-strategic imperatives, another key motive for the difference is reasoned by the oil interests. Appropriating Libya’s resources is a prime interest. The economic status and value of Libya can be ascertained by the avalanche of foreign workers and refugees exiting the country. One must recall the fact that Libya wished to purchase British Petroleum (BP). Hence, not only do they have much capital but extensive oil reserves to complement. The intended strategies are already in motion. The US senate recently passed a resolution for a no-fly zone.  The Italian government has relented from its Friendship Treaty with Libya, thereby allowing the usage of Italian military facilities by the Americans and NATO.  An estimated 2,000 or more Libyans have already and with all respects this is going to worsen.

 

There is a present intention on the part of the the United States and her allies to make the civil war further escalate. This has been oft-repeated and was employed in Iraq following the Persian Gulf War. The United States informed the Iraqis of their support and endorsed them to rebel and fight against Saddam Hussein. Though the rebellion included the Iraqi Shi’a, military officials and the Kurds in the hope for the enactment of a democratic system, the United States didn’t intervene thereby allowing for their merciless slaughter, all in order to use it as a pretext for war. Irrespective of means, the intention lies in escalating the Libyan situation and providing further fuel for its incitement. The rights and expectations of the Libyan and in a larger respect, the Arab people, cannot be denied or the need for them to be liberated from tyrannical rule but fact remains, their warranted grievances are being carefully manipulated to further enflame Libya.

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