Be careful what you wish for: the Friends of Syria are no friends at all

Be careful what you wish for: the Friends of Syria are no friends at all

11 April 2012
Lindsey German
Middle East and North Africa

What the hell, let's have another intervention. That is the message from the liberal press which has learnt nothing from its craven support for past wars.
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By Lindsey German
Stop the War Coalition
11 April 2012

Obama's ally for bringing "democracy" to Syria: the King of Saudi Arabia, one of the world's most tyrannical regimes.

The pressure is growing again for outside intervention in Syria despite – or perhaps because of – Kofi Annan's calls for a ceasefire.

While Western politicians have appeared to draw back from full frontal military assault in recent weeks, their policies are being activated through the back door.

Syria's neighbour, Turkey, is talking of invading Syria in order to create 'safe havens' and 'humanitarian corridors' to protect the Syrian opposition.

They are being egged on by the forces who have drummed up war in Iraq and Libya. Hawkish US senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman yesterday visited Syrian refugee camps in Turkey.

They are joined by a chorus of media commentators who are growing more strident in their demands that the US government and its allies 'do something'. Simon Tisdall in today's Guardian berates Barack Obama and David Cameron for shrugging their shoulders over events in Syria and denounces the 'do-nothing Nato crew'.

If only. Doing nothing would be such an improvement for NATO, which has instead embarked on enlargement and military engagements with unrestrained glee over the past two decades. Its war in Afghanistan – billed as a humanitarian intervention too – has cost tens of thousands of lives and created a refugee problem unmatched anywhere other than Iraq.

Tisdall describes these two wars as a 'quagmire' in Afghanistan and in the case of Iraq a 'fiasco'. That hardly seems adequate for a war in which up to a million died and 4 million were displaced, mainly to Jordan and Syria, and where the occupation deliberately fostered sectarian tensions and divisions, helping to create a worsening nightmare from which Iraqis today are unable to awake.

But what the hell, let's have another intervention. That is the message from the liberal press which has learnt nothing from its craven support for past wars.

Tisdall argues that Obama should have seen the Arab spring as an opportunity rather than having a mixed response to it. He doesn't seem to recognise that Obama and Hillary Clinton's attitudes to uprisings across the Middle East were tempered by the inconvenient fact that they supported most of the dictators in the region for decades.

Even today, the contrasting attitudes to different regimes in the Middle East are breathtaking. Imagine if the Grand Prix was due to take place in Damascus next week, as it is in Bahrain. Sanctions would be imposed, denunciations would be from all quarters. Instead Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone has said that no team has told him it wants to pull out.

The escalation of rhetoric follows last week's conference dubbed 'Friends of Syria' held in Istanbul, where 60 countries pledged to give money to Syria's officially-recognised opposition. It is common knowledge that Saudi money is being used to bankroll covert operations and fighting within Syria, in an attempt to effect regime change there and to seriously weaken its main enemy Iran, in the run up to a planned attack there.

Even Tisdall pulls back from an argument for all out intervention in Syria. Instead he places moral pressure on governments to uphold the 2005 UN doctrine of 'responsibility to protect', increasingly used as it was in Libya to effect western strategic control and regime change.

To achieve this he wants Turkish safe havens and humanitarian corridors. Yet these, backed up by a NATO imposed no fly zone, would not be an alternative to war but the beginning of a war which would almost inevitably spread, leading to far greater casualties.

That was the lesson of Libya, and it was the lesson of Iraq between 1991 and 2003.

Those who bitterly oppose the Assad regime should be careful what they wish for. This intervention will not help them. And the Friends of Syria are no friends at all.