Wednesday, August 28, 2013

No War On Syria

Downing Street, 
5—7pm, Wednesday 28th

 “This revolution erupted against the tyranny of the Assad family but the Sunni rebels proved to be more barbaric than the Assad army could ever be.” Hisham

 “Maybe 10 per cent support the rebels, 10 per cent the government and 80 per cent just want the war to end. “People are saying ‘We don’t care who rules us. We just want to live’.” Anonymous 

“I wish the Free Syrian Army and the government would leave ordinary people out of it and go and fight each other.” Khalid 

The Syrian conflict is a civil war with all the horrors traditionally inflicted in such struggles wherever they are fought, be it Syria today or Russia, Spain, Greece, Lebanon or Iraq in the past. For Obama Cameron or William Hague to pretend that this is a simple battle between a dictatorial government and an oppressed people is to misrepresent or misunderstand what is happening on the ground. To pretend it is not a civil war or to support the rebel side as the  real representatives of the Syrian people flies in the face of the facts. Although weary of war, Syrians do no expect the civil war to end soon.

The recent escalation of tensions in Syria with the alleged use of chemical weapons against the civilian population is a cause of concern for all. There is, of course, one problem.  Both sides claim the other did it. The war in Syria has become a battleground as much for Syrian factions split between Sunni and Shia as between various countries who see an interest in either overthrowing the regime of Assad, or finding a replacement more amenable to the “West”. Obama and Cameron in previous statements have insisted regime change and the removal of Assad had to be part of any peace settlement. Assad has to agree to negotiations for which a pre-condition is capitulation by his side in the conflict. And they dare call such a peace process.  When ceasefires or agreements for rebels to put down their weapons in return for an amnesty are much easier to arrange when all the rebels are Syrians. When there are foreign fighters present, as  an agreement is almost impossible.

There are all the signs that an alliance of US/UK France and Turkey are preparing for a unilateral military strike on Syria after the chemical weapons attack.  The most likely action would see sea-launched cruise missiles target Syrian military installations and possible air attacks from aircraft deployed att he British base in Cyprus, over-flying Turkey air-space. A recent poll  by Reuters/Ipsos , taken August 19-23, found that 25 percent of Americans would support U.S. intervention if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces used chemicals to attack civilians, while 46 percent would oppose it.

 Still, no firm proof has emerged as to who exactly was behind the attacks. Anti-Assad countries accuse the Syrian regime and his allies suggest Syrian rebels could have perpetrated the attack, though neither offer any evidence.  Russia and Iran, with their specific naval and military interests, provide the regime with support.  Qatar and Saudi Arabia have made no secret of their backing of anti-Assad forces even those organisations which are known terrorist ones in total disregard of international law.

Even Obama concedes: “If the U.S. goes in and attacks another country without a U.N. mandate and without clear evidence that can be presented, then there are questions in terms of whether international law supports it.”

To side-step the need for UN Security Council authorisation the US/UK Pact are building a humanitarian legal case for military action against Syria, rooted in the proposition that an "undeniable" chemical attack has broken international codes of war. "The use of these weapons on a mass scale, and the potential risk of proliferation, is a threat to our national interests," said White House spokesman Jay Carney, a position echoed by Britain’s foreign mininster William Hague.

The precedent for action by an international coalition without such a mandate was set by the 1999 Kosovo conflict. Forcible intervention to serve humanitarian objectives is a claim which is only open to powerful States to make against the less powerful. Many states have problems of separatism and terrorism but it depends upon the geo-political agenda and not a humanitarian agenda if foreign intervention takes place.

Nicholas Burns, a George W. Bush-era undersecretary of state, writing in March 2011 about U.S. support for anti-Qaddafi forces in Libya, noted, “This is the first time in American history when we have used our military power to prop up and possibly put in power a group of people we literally do not know.” On this occasion, they know full well that substantial elements of the rebel opposition are Islamic Jihadists. Al-Qaeda has proven that it thrives on U.S. interventions.

It is also worth remembering that recently declassified documents show that in 1988, the U.S. gave key intelligence to Saddam Hussein's Iraqi military, which enabled the gassing with chemical weapons of Iranian troops. The U.S. was reportedly well aware of plans to use the nerve agent. It is estimated that gas inflicted about 5 percent of Iran’s casualties in that war.

Sarin is a colorless and odorless liquid, and it is “volatile”—that is, it quickly turns into a gas. Even in small concentrations, it is very deadly and can kill within minutes. It is absorbed through the skin or lungs and can contaminate clothing for up to 30 minutes. Sarin is considered a “weapon of mass destruction” under UN Resolution 687. While chemical weapons are scary, they are no more indiscriminate in what they kill than HE shells and cluster bombs. Small arms, for instance, inflict 90 percent of civilian casualties.

War will only produce more war.

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