Posts Tagged ‘al-Assad’

Five Years On & Hope Became Terror

January 13, 2016

christopher_lee180-11

13 January 2016

London

Five years ago this week the Arab Spring began in earnest. On 14 January 2011 President Ben Ali of Tunisia resigned. The social media went into fast thumb tap and click. The Middle East began to throw off its identity and took to the streets demanding change.

The freedom squares were full of protest within days. Egypt. Lebanon. Yemen.Bahrain. Jordan. Libya. Morocco. Iraq. Less than a month from the going of Ben Ali Hosni Mubarak was gone as President of Egypt.  On 6 March the first shots were fired in Syria. A week on and the Saudi sent in troops to rescue the Bahrainian leadership in case the anger spread to Riyadh.

In that same March NATO went into Libya  not to support their recent ally Gaddafi but to join the rebels against him. By the summer Yemen was in full fire and President Ali Abdullah Saleh fled for his life.  Five months later, October 2011 a cringing Mummer Gaddafi was assassinated.

The change was all to see and just as predictable.  Libya spilled its blood in political anger and still bleeds. Egypt elected Mohamed Morsi as president in June 2012 and then the army  overthrew him the following year and returned to virtual military rule and in 2014 elected former general Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. There was worse, to come

Out of this political and zealous carnage on 9 May 2013 ISIS, IS, ISIL ,Daesh – call this Jahadi as you will – was formed, declared a caliphate and the world quickly witness barbarism that could never have been imagined at the start of the Arab Spring. James Foley was Daesh’s first beheading.

By the autumn of 2014 a token coalition of forces but mainly American went after Daesh with a series of airstrikes into Syria.  The war there had been joined with ‘Western’ nations declaring for the rebellion and calling for the downfall of President Assad.

They are still bombing. Assad is still there.  In 2015 Russia joined in the hopeless of it all and said it was bombing ISIS in Syria but was truly bombing (and not very accurately) anti-Assad rebel positions.

Russia had signed up with Iran to defend Assad and equally to defend his constitutional and international right to rule as an elected leader. Iran, a Shia nation saw the fight for Assad (an Alewife and therefore a branch of Shia) as chance of a proxy war against Saudi Arabia and its Sunni royalty.

As to show this conflict could never be held tight in the Middle East, gunmen attacked the offices of Charlie Hebdo the satirical French magazine and then in November of last year other gunmen and bombers killed 130 in Paris.The rest of Europe waits to see who is next.

Where has all this got us? Syria is in ruins beyond its capital. Iraq remains a failed Shia led state with Daesh in its strongholds and moving freely between Iraq and its “capital” Raqqa in Syria. There is hardly a state not spilling over with refugees.

If there is a deep anxiety than this in the region it is in Riyadh.  The ruling royal family, itself born beneath the green flag of Wahhabism and the ruthless of Abdul Aziz ibn Saud, now fears for its own survival. So it should.

There is not a government from Washington to Brussels to the whole of the Middle East that does not fear the collapse of the Saudis.  The manner of its going would be a stage in the Arab Spring totally unthinkable five years ago. The consequences unpredictable and unwanted even among its harshest critics. The ruling family is now unstable in the sense that it is unlikely to be able to defend itself.

Here then the rub of the lamp that whips up the ghoul and not the friendly genie.

If Saudi Arabia starts to go then the United States will have to launch a major defence.  The advanced operation of US military forces are already in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf but not enough to defend the unthinkable. The British are having built (with Saudi money) a new base in the region. London would have to reinforce it if things go the way they so easily could.

Five years ago there was candle lit and iPhone glowing hope in the Middle East especially among the young and the educated longing for new times to come that would give them back their dignity of national identities instead of impossible dictatorships.

Five years ago and Ben Ali went quietly. Five years later no one can go quietly. Before this year is out the US and her allies including the United Kingdom and France could be heading for the biggest firefight since Viet Nam. Hope is done for. Terror has the next move.

 

 

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Just how dangerous is the world today?

October 10, 2015

christopher_lee180-11

12 October 2015

London

The way it sounds on the networks and the OpEd pages the world is close to WWIII. Syria is on the brink of something although few pundits can say what. Afghanistan is about to go under. A second Intifada is revving up. NATO is sending more troops to the old Soviet borders. Oil is creeping back – a sure sign that no one is in control. Gold is up – a sure sign that a global problem is slipping into crisis status.

But is the world really in such a social and security meltdown? Could it just be that the globe is coping with little local difficulties and not much more? A quick round-up from East to West is in everyone’s interests.

North Korea beloved leader Kim Jong-un said a couple of days ago that his country is easily ready to defend itself if the United States starts trouble. His corps de ballet militaire performed exquisitely in Pyongyang’s main square, jets flew above in tight formation, tanks and full missile carriers rumbled below and Mr Kim made his first public speech in three years. Then they went home. Not even a missile test worth the bang.

China is building artificial islands in South China Sea and America and Japan says they should not and so China has carried on building knowing that no one is going to war over this.

In Sri Lanka the civil war moral tragedy is a matter for the UN but no one is fighting.

To the north, Pakistan and India still disagree over Kashmir, but apart from a few practise shots, no one is going to war over that blunder as once they did.

In Afghanistan, the security mess will get worse, Taliban (Afghanistan) and Taliban (Pakistan) will make inroads, the Americans will deploy troops for longer than expected, but there is nothing going on that suggests a return to the events of the opening decade and a half of this century.

In Africa, there is no way that Libya is on the road to peaceful government but nor is the carnage of just a couple of years back being repeated.

Further south the Boko Haram threat is broadened but not any greater.  The gunmen are on the streets of Guinea but the elections will go ahead as planned.

The UN has 19,000 troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 12500 in South Sudan, 12,000 in the Central African Republic and 10,000 in Mali.  Something’s working there in spite of minor conflicts, skirmishes, coups and corruption as a matter of course.

In Europe, there is Ukraine.  Potentially but mostly theoretically, there is a chance of an East West confrontation but not really. Why?  Because in spite of posturing and statements from NATO, the Alliance will not go to the mattresses over Ukraine and Russia bets on this.  There’s nothing doing in the rest of Europe other than a few separatist groups.

Of course there is Syria etc.  Is it so bad in historical warfare terms? Just about. Two years from the original protest in Damascus in March 2011, the deaths had reached 100,000.  That was a landmark figure that continued to multiply and does not look like stopping. Daesh or whatever we are to call the butcher terrorists is all about asymmetric warfare.  It is not state on state and thus, and this is hard to say, not so bad as might have been.

So this very crude audit of world warfare says there is plenty of politics, plenty of $m ordnance being used but not so many killed.

In truth 95% of the world is not at war. Most people have never heard a shot fired in anger. We might think on that as part of the reason that there are no boots on the ground anywhere that matters.

How Did UK-US Intelligence Get It Wrong About Syrian Rebellion

October 2, 2015

 christopher_lee180-11

5 October 2015

London

This week an inquiry begins inside the British Parliament to establish the government’s policy and Syria.  Given the events of the past seven days it is quite possible that no one knows the answer – including Prime Minister Cameron. He will.  But not yet.

Note Well: the inquiry wishes to know what IS the policy rather than what WAS the policy.

Nevertheless, the introduction to the inquiry must first establish the following: why did Britain back the anti-Assad rebellion? Why did Prime Minister Cameron agree so easily to support the rebels that wanted President Assad out?

The inquiry may well provide a question beyond its terms of reference and one that few would have expected to ask a year ago.  It is this:Will Syria turn out to have been Cameron’s dirty dossier war?

The House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee of all-Party lawmakers starts its inquiry on 8 October. Before the Committee of Members of Parliament will be military and academical witnesses as well as Intelligence evidence.  The base line to the inquiry is simple:

Was the original decision to support anti-Assad rebels taken too quickly and based on poor or even corrupted analysis of Intelligence Assessments?

The original protest against Assad was not heading for civil war – it became war because UK/US promises to back the rebellion

Does the British government now think that the United Kingdom and the USA UK should have left the Syrian protest to come to its own conclusion?

Given the above and the intervention of Russia’s President Putin what today is British policy on Syria?

This is a major evidence taking exercise by the Select Committee under its new chairman, the Conservative MP and former Minister Crispin Blunt.  Blunt has one of the more analytical minds in the Commons.  His Committee is balanced and its members well informed. It will have to be.

Some witnesses will by their established positions declare whatever the circumstances Assad has to go  – just as Tony Blair declared the Gulf War was justified to depose Saddam Hussein – therefore the UK role  against Assad’s forces has been the correct one.

Therefore the Committee must first and foremost discover the original grounds for becoming sponsors of the rebellion and if they were based on sound Intelligence analysis or were they simply teaming up with US policy.

That sorted, the Committee can be in a more reasonable position to judge the UK’s present policy towards Syria.

The present picture suggests something like this:

The UK supported the Syrian rebels without a sound analysis of what was really going on in the protests four and a half years ago and where the rebellion would lead.

The level of a threat by IS was not then a factor, but today it is.

Assad with Russian and more significantly Iranian help is still there even though he has lost much of his territory.

Russia now dominates Western thinking as to what happens next.

So the obvious statement to the Committee is that all that went before was simply that – stuff that went before and now is now.

But we are where we are because of miscalulation and shabby scholarship of Intelligence analysis and broadly speaking the people who made misjudgements and systems that supported them are still advising the same political leaders.

So we should recognise that the attempt to define British Syrian policy is about the same as the countryman’s advice to the bewildered traveller: “To get where you want to go I wouldn’t start from here.”

And there we have the problem. When the Syrian conflict began there was no Putin input that we worried about. Today there is exactly that. In short, Britain has to declare its Syria policy by accepting that it is not certain what it can achieve. Moreover just one military miscalculation could explode that policy.

The Committee’s task is a solemn one therefore. It is not about political point scoring.  It is not about handing out blame.  It is to tell us if our leadership is capable of making the judgements that will cope with what has become an international crises of considerable proportions.

The Prime Minister says the first duty of Government is the security of the nation. The first hope of the nation is that it has government that can deliver on that promise.

The recent record says that may be a false hope.

Christopher Lee

January 16, 2013

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Children Raped In Syrian War – Terrible, But What Did Anyone Expect?

As the French in Mali would say: C’est la guerre

16 January 2013

This week, aid agencies report that women, girls and boys are being raped often in front of their families in the Syrian civil war. Just what do they expect? Have they not heard of nasty wars?  This is a nasty war.

In this sort of war, women and girls get raped.  Children get killed.  Please, will someone explain why should the Syrian conflict be any different?

More than 600,000 Syrians have got out of Syria.  According to the US-based International Rescue Committee refugees claim that for many, rape was the reason they escaped.  At least they escaped.  More than 60,000 did not.  They were, according to UN figures, killed.

In the meantime the UK Foreign Ministry under its hapless William Hague is urging other countries to get more involved. Clearly Mr Hague is being told what to say buy some fool who either knows nothing or is afraid to buck the Morocco conference decision by 100 other countries to take the side of the rebels.

They all talked about transition from Bashar al-Assad to the really nice rebels. No one at the meeting , nor since has had the guts to announce publicly that this war is fought on one side by a mixed bag of single minded killers and on the other side the legitimate government of Syria.

The international community may not like Assad and his henchmen – although there are numerous pictures of foreign diplomats and visitors fawning over the fragrant Mrs Assad – but let one of them explain what their government would do if armed rebels started shooting their way to a take-over.

They would defend their positions, just as the British defended their position in Northern Ireland in the 1970s when the IRA tried to bomb them out.

So, while the world sheds tears for rape victims, and starving and freezing children in sub-zero tents and of those left behind, maybe those same governments and common people who say it is an atrocity that must be resolved, should agree that instead of giving the rebels even more guns, they should have been starved of weapons.

Wimpish western democracies that talked of negotiation being the only way to change, could have better stuck to their beliefs. They could have said the rebels are a mixed, blood-thirsty bag who kill each other as well as Assad forces and if they get to power in Damascus they will do so on an even greater scale.

Again, when Human Rights Watch complain that Assad’s army is using cluster bombs, well, why shouldn’t he?  Who sold him the cluster bombs? If they’re so bad, why doesn’t the US government – that great liberal democracy – sign the international treaty banning them?

And here’s a further irony: Syria’s deputy foreign minister told the BBC that President Bashar al-Assad intended to play a role in any potential transition government and would stand for re-election in 2014.

“The president, and many other candidates who may run, will go to the people, put [forward] their programmes, and be elected by the people. The ballot box will be where the future of the leadership of Syria will be decided,” Faisal Mekdad added.

Maybe that’s just a con.  Most likely it is.  But does a single rebel leader talk of any form of voting? No way. In the meanwhile, the raping goes on. That’s just what happens in war and so-called thoughtful and helpful western democracies are keeping it going.