I live in North Cyprus which is in the eastern Mediterranean with Turkey to the North, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Iran to the east, and Egypt, Libya and Tunisia to the south and west. So we are in the eye of the storm which is the Syrian conflict because Cyprus has two British sovereign bases, Akrotiri and Dikelia, both of which are in Greek-Cyprus in the south. And British warplanes have been landing in those bases (although the vote in the British Parliament has stymied military action by Prime Minister Cameron et al) while US warships are stooging around in the Mediterranean in ever great numbers.
When we were talking about moving here, some people counselled against saying it’s a dangerous region. Which is true, but you can’t live your life trying to stay in the safe zone all the time. You take your chances and it’s in the lap of the gods what happens. You’ve just got to live your life according to your intuition and what your heart tells you.
So our hearts told us to move to North Cyprus and here we be, right in the middle of the action, so to speak. Admittedly we are not in a state of war and things are pretty peaceable here at present. Nevertheless, because we’re situated in this region, we get perspectives perhaps not seen elsewhere in the world.
I don’t want to deny the Syrian situation is appalling. Anyone who tries to deny that is off their rockers. The scenes of children in fear, dying, people dead, people struggling for their lives are dreadful and, rightly, fill good people with pity, anger and a desire for action.
But there’s no simple answer and I have to say I’m extremely cynical about the sudden rush by the US, British and French administrations to military action supposedly over the use of chemical weapons. For a start, despite all the hyperbole about chemical weapons, the US has its own stock of unpleasant weapons: phosphorous and depleted uranium shells and delayed-action cluster bombs. It’s a bit hypocritical to suddenly embrace horror of chemical weapons when the US has at its disposal – and uses – pretty fearful mass weapons itself.
Let’s be honest, since the conflict erupted in Syria, Western nations have been circling the country trying to work out how best to get an end result which suits Western interests, particularly those of the US, and their strategic interests in this region.
So I nearly choked on my Weetbix a few days ago when I heard a spokesperson for the US administration proclaim that bombing Syria (which will kill civilians without a doubt, adding to the suffering, but if you call the deaths “collateral damage” perhaps people won’t realise you’re talking about innocent, dead people) was not intended to bring about regime change.
Oh, sure, and i just saw a few pink flying pigs wafting past! Of course any intervention on the part of Western nations or Arab allies is intended to bring about regime change. Everyone – the US, France, the UK, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Israel, the Arab League – all want a piece of the action in the very dangerous destabilisation of Syria. And like the illegal war in Iraq, they seem to have absolutely no understanding of the Pandora’s box which they are likely to open. Or if they do, they’re so arrogant, they don’t care.
Moreover, why the rush to aggression? The UN investigating teams have been in Syria to examine the use of chemical weapons and will eventually report back to the UN where evidence and reports can be examined by the Security Council and other member nations.
The US of course is trying to demonise Russia and China for standing in the way of military action against Syria. But it might be pertinent to remember that it’s really a case of Western leaders shooting themselves in the foot. When the Security Council reluctantly endorsed a no-fly zone in Libya a couple of years ago, during the civil war there against Colonel Gaddafi, the US and Britain immediately used that as an opportunity to enforce regime change and get rid of Gaddafi. China and Russia felt betrayed and have not trusted the US and UK administrations ever since. Hence the impasse in the Security Council.
Like I said in the title, Syria – and the rest of the Middle East – is a dog’s breakfast. Firstly, what we’re seeing in the Middle East is the collapse of the artificially imposed nation structures by the former colonial powers many decades ago. Now we’re seeing Shia against Sunni; Iran backing Syria; Alawite against Shia and Sunni; the Lebanese Hezbollah backing Assad; the Saudi Arabian Royal Family backing and funding Syrian rebels to out-manoeuvre Iran and topple the Assad regime; Turkey dumping Syria and supporting the rebels; Saudi Arabia pushing the US to intervene in Syria; Saudi Arabia hating the Muslim Brotherhood and funding opponents of the Brotherhood in Egypt, squads of foreign jihadists and members of Al-Qaeda stomping in to add their two bobs’ worth to the devilish brew of the Syrian war.
The Saudis, by the way, are deeply involved in pushing the US to intervene in Syria. Prince Bandar, of the Saudi Royal Family, used to be ambassador to the United States. His voice was one of the loudest urging the United States to invade Iraq in 2003. In the 1980s, he became mired in the Iran-Contra scandal in Nicaragua. For months, according to a report in a British newspaper, as the now director general of the Saudi Intelligence Agency, he has been applying pressure on the White House and Congress over Syria and is believed to have been working with the CIA in training Syrian rebels in Jordan close to the Syrian border. He is also accused of providing chemical weapons to an Al Qaeda terrorist group which may have been used in the recent chemical weapons attack.
This is the same Saudi Arabia which embraces the deeply conservative Wahhabism sect of Muslims, where women are treated like crap, where beheadings are common, lashings are also common, and where a filthy rich Royal family uses religion as a tool of oppression. And you might also recall that leading lights from Saudi Arabia were flown home from the US to Saudi Arabaia after the 9/11 Twin Towers tragedy without being questioned in any shape or form.
As you can see, it’s a seething cauldron of conflicting interests and who’s doing what to others or funding whom or backing whom is anybody’s guess because it’s such a complex situation and it changes from day to day.
Quite apart from what’s going on between Middle East nations, forces and factions, when Western military nations want to go to war, they suddenly find their compassion basket overflowing as they parade pictures of human suffering in places like Syria. However, we know a few Pakistani people here and they are contemptuous of the crocodile tears shed by President Obama and other senior members of the US administration.
“One militant might get killed when a village is bombed by a drone”, they say. “And in order to do so, the men, women and children of that village get wiped out. Only you don’t see their photos because it’s not in US interests.” These aren’t militant people, by the way, but individuals who are deeply angry at the hypocrisy of seeing innocent deaths in their own country ignored, while the Syrian bodies are laid out because it suits Western governments in fuelling their war plans.
In Afghanistan, civilian villagers are regularly killed by drone strikes and, while it’s for the most part nicely swept under the carpet or simply denied, resentment of foreign occupation forces (which is how US and other military forces are viewed) is growing rapidly. This was compounded in the past week when a US soldier convicted of killing 16 Afghan civilians received a life sentence, another soldier who killed 13 fellow soldiers was sentenced to death. I’m not in favour of the death sentence, but to Afghanis, it’s a perceived leniency for killing Afghanis in relation to the response to US deaths.
What have been airbrushed from sight are reports that the Assad regime is moving to a more favourable position vis-a-vis the rebels, and so now there is a rush to intervene to tip the balance in support of the rebels. And if we are going to talk about rebels, what exactly do we mean by that term?
When it comes to nations like Syria or Iran, with stragetic resources like oil and strategic positions vis-a-vis eastern Europe and onwards to China, anyone who bobs up and calls themselves a “rebel”, is welcomed with open arms by US, British and other European leaders. But what about rebels who want to take a nation backwards? In Syria, for example, there is conflict between those who want a modern, secular society and those who want a traditional, religious society, who want the “old ways” to prevail. Running around among the “rebels” are now fighters from other countries who have decided they too want to wage jihad against the Assad regime yet who have no real connection with Syria.
So who’s to say who’s right? What’s the official “rebel” cause to back? Who knows? Only the people of that country.
Yes, it does seem hard to sit back and take no military action against Syria. But it isn’t hard when you consider the propaganda floating around, the use of smoke and mirrors to peddle inflammatory stories, and the likely end result that taking military action against Syria is likely to open a Pandora’s box in the Middle East of conflict the like of which would make the Iraq war look like a walk in the park.
Former US President Jimmy Carter had the right idea when he proposed a peace conference and action through the United Nations which meets with the approval of all members of the Security Council. It might not be the rush to military action that Western nations want (and won’t that be disappointing for the big armaments manufacturers who make a motza through warfare), but long-term negotiations for the good of the majority of Syrian people far the rush to military action which is only for the strategic interests of the US, its allies and all those in the Middle East with an agenda for their own purposes rather than those of the Syrian people.