— The Erimtan Angle —

The United Nations General Assembly has given overwhelming approval to an Arab League plan calling on Syrian President Bashar al Assad to step aside. A non binding resolution received 137 votes in favour, with 12 against and 17 abstentions. Following the vote, US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said the Syrian leader had “never been more isolated.” However, Syria’s senior UN representative told diplomats there were “deep concerns about the real intentions of countries who have sponsored the draft”.

Meanwhile, Assad himself claims that he is battling terrorist receiving external aid and support. Arguably, Libyan fighters are now a active in Syria too, while rumours abound that Syrian “rebels” are being trained on Turkish soil, and Saudi-backed Jihadi fighters have joined the fray as well, in addition to Qattari-backed armed men. The Assad regime seems to be at pains to present the current fighting as a kind of sectarian-based civil war, suggesting that outside forces opposed to the Baath regime in Damascus are fanning the flames of Sunni dissatisfaction. Ever since the days of Bush, Jr. the U.S. has been vocal in its condemnation of Bashar al Assad, even though Damascus has moved closer to being accepted since the Iraq debacle. Now, the Obama administration is once again following the lead of Bush and Cheney. On 29 January 2002, Bush first listed North Korea, Iran, and Iraq as the core of the “Axis of Evil”, and subsequently then-Undersecretary of State John Bolton gave a speech entitled “Beyond the Axis of Evil” on 6 May 2002, which significantly broadened the scope by including Libya, Syria, and Cuba. Since then, Iraq and Libya have succumbed to direct and indirect external pressure, and the question now seems to be whether Syria will follow suit. The ever-critical broadcaster RT reports that the equally ever-critical ‘former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds told Turkey’s [d]aily Milliyet newspaper that Syrian rebels had been trained by US and NATO forces in the South of Turkey. She said the US had been involved in smuggling weapons across the Turkish border from the Incirlik military base. Qatar and Saudi Arabia have also reportedly offered financial support to the Syrian opposition with a view to helping them replenish their dwindling weapons supply. If the US is able to supply the Syrian opposition with arms through it Arab allies, it hardly seems necessary for the US to pressure for any official military support, much less a peaceful resolution to the conflict if their ultimate aim is to oust Assad. Middle East expert Randa Slim from the New America Foundation think-tank says that of the many groups in Syria, Western powers mainly support Syrian National Council despite the organization’s general lack of control over events in the country’.[1]  At the same time, Russia and China’s reluctance to allow a Libya-style intervention should not surprise us. As I indicated quite some time ago, the Arab Awakening in general and Syria in particular are nothing but battlegrounds for proxy wars in the New Cold War between the West and the New East.[2]

Against this backdrop, NATO’s Secretary General visits Ankara: ‘Anders Fogh Rasmussen arrived in Ankara on Thursday [, 16 February] for a visit to mark the 60th anniversary of Turkey’s membership in NATO. During his visit, Rasmussen will meet President Abdullah Gül and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu. He will also attend a joint meeting of the parliamentary Defense and Foreign Policy Committees and the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (NATO PA) Turkish group. Rasmussen will also be a keynote speaker at a panel jointly organized by Turkey and NATO on Friday. Before coming to Turkey, Rasmussen said during a visit to Athens that the Cyprus problem negatively affects NATO and EU relations, Greek media reported. He stated he hopes that a solution to the Cyprus issue will be finally arrived at before July 1, the date Greek Cyprus assumes the EU presidency. Rasmussen lamented that NATO-EU cooperation could not reach its full potential due to the Cyprus problem’, as related by the Turkish English-language daily Today’s Zaman.[3]  In spite of these official declarations, it stands to reason that other matters, such as Syria and Iran, will also be on the agenda. And projected or hoped-for parallels with Libya could very well be discussed as well. Particularly as 17 February marks the one year anniversary of the Libyan Revolution, as elaborated by the BBC’s Gabriel Gatehouse: “It was [in Benghazi] one year ago that protests turned into a revolt that eventually toppled one of the most entrenched dictatorships of the last half-century”.[4]  But, in spite of the fact that the Gadhafi is dead and gone, Libya now appears on the brink of another civil war, as many have predicted in the past.[5]  Gatehouse explains that “[t]his is a country where the power rests – to a large extent – not with the interim government or the National Transitional Council (NTC), but with a patchwork of armed militias . . . The government wants to persuade fighters to hand in their weapons and join the national army. Some of these men said they had done so, but had not been paid”.[6]  Will tribal rivalries over oil revenues in combination with the abuses that are currently being perpetrated pave the way towards a new armed conflict???  Will Libya become an African Afghanistan???  Gatehouse insightfully warns us that “there is a danger that unless the militias disarm, [the] gains [of the revolution] could quite quickly give way to renewed violence and oppression”.[7]  Now, will Libya’s unfinished revolution move to Syria???  A couple of months ago, Sibel Edmonds appeared on RT to warn the world that the Syrian Revolution has been in the making since May 2011.

(15 December 2011)

 


[1] “US double standards: Indirectly arming Syrian rebels?” RT (16 Feb 2012). http://rt.com/news/syria-us-arms-conflict-479/.

[2] Cfr. C. Erimtan, “The Arab Awakening and the never-ending Cold War” Hürriyet Daily News (22 June 2011). http://t.co/mdyly4E.

[3] “Rasmussen visits Ankara to mark 60th year of Turkey’s NATO membership” Today’s Zaman (16 Feb 2012). http://www.todayszaman.com/news-271664-rasmussen-visits-ankara-to-mark-60th-year-of–turkeys-nato-membership.html.

[4] Gabriel Gatehouse, “Libya anniversary: Dangers lurk amid celebrations” BBC News (17 Feb 2012). http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-17071195.

[5] “Whither Libya: Multi-Stage Civil War, Guerrilla Warfare and Chaos???” A Pseudo-Ottoman Blog (01 September 2011). https://sitanbul.wordpress.com/2011/09/01/whither-libya-multi-stage-civil-war-guerrilla-warfare-and-chaos/.

[6] Gabriel Gatehouse, “Libya anniversary: Dangers lurk amid celebrations”.

[7] Gabriel Gatehouse, “Libya anniversary: Dangers lurk amid celebrations”.

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