Originally Published 2013-08-29 13:51:04 Published on Aug 29, 2013
Who used chemical weapons against whom? Is Assad regime guilty? We may never know. What is certain is that one more country in the Middle East will be reduced to an ungovernable territory. Welcome home Al-Qaeda!
Is Syria, the next Libya?
"With the fresh (yet to be proven) charge of use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime, the British and the French governments, the same old drum-beaters that led the attacks on Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, are back on the warpath again. The only constraint, as of now, is that President Obama still needs more proof before letting the missiles go off at Damascus. And once bitten in Benghazi, he is twice shy to go into Damascus. More important, is the question whether a regime change or regime degradation that a 'limited strike' intends to do will ensure safety of the Chemical weapons?

Incidentally, the UN inspectors were tasked only to find out whether chemical weapons were used at all, and not who fired them on whom. So the report of the inspectors would, in no way, confirm the guilt of President Assad, nor would it authorize an attack on his regime. But that's a minor inconvenience, which does not really matter.

But why are the Brits and the French in such a hurry to depose another dictator in the Middle East? Is it their love of democracy? Do they want to push the 'Arab Spring' into other unwilling republics? No, they dare not make such claims in front of the Gulf monarchies. The latter are already celebrating the return of Army rule in Egypt. Saudi Arabia, in particular has poured billions of dollars, complementing the Generals in Cairo for their good work. But then why are other regimes being reduced to the state of civil war as in Iraq and Libya - ungovernable territories that become havens for Al-Qaeda and other terrorists. Is there any game plan, a larger agenda for complete chaos, other than the lust for oil by the 'Seven Sisters'?

At least one country, the Saudi Kingdom seems to be working to a plan, a long term one. Having gotten rid off of Saddam Hussain in Iraq, thanks entirely to the helpful deployment of US military at the service of the Kingdom by the Bush Sr. and Bush Jr. administrations in Washington, the King has been waiting to strike at his other foes in Iran and Syria. In October/November 2011, Saudi Arabia and Qatar shut their Missions in Damascus. By early 2012, car bombs and suicide attacks, that were alien to the protest movement in Syria, began to feature in the anti-Assad campaign. The King appointed Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, the charming diplomat and darling of the Bush family, as Head of Intelligence on 19th July 2012 with a clear mandate to pursue an aggressive foreign policy on Iran and Syria. And a day before that, a massive car-bomb explosion had blasted the National Security Headquarters in Damascus killing almost all the members of the National Security Council of President Assad. That included the Head of the National Security Bureau, the Defence Minister and his brother-in-law General Aseef Shawkat, the deputy Defence Minister. His brother General Maher al-Assad, Head of the Republican guards was reportedly wounded, losing a leg. President Assad, who was supposed to address the NSC on that day, had miraculously skipped the meeting. That was the only failure of a perfectly planned suicide attack. 'The Guardian' of London had pointed fingers at the forces outside, referring to Saudi and Qatari support for the attack. The enraged Iranian government, soon after the incident, planted stories of Prince Bandar bin Sultan's death, perhaps in a bid to pep up the morale of their Syrian brethren.

That attack changed the course of the civil war and made the Assad regime more ruthless and brutal in its reprisals. The opposition too, by then, had morphed into well armed, well trained Salafist Jehadi fighters who had nothing in common with the local people, excepting the fact that they were all Sunnis, but brought from Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Chechnya and our good old neighbor Pakistan. These alien outfits calling themselves 'Jabhatul-Nasra' and 'Ahrar al-Shams' took over most of the fighting with the so-called Free Syrian Army providing them an indigenous cover. The Syrian National Council, an Opposition platform, knitted together and repeatedly re-united by their friendly Western governments and their patron-in Chief, the Qatari Sheik, is yet to recover from its internal divisions and provide an alternative political mechanism, let alone a 'Government in exile' - a much needed ruse to challenge the legitimacy of President Assad.

The cost of waging the war for the rebels was about $140 million per month, in early last year. It surely must have gone up by now. And only two Kingdoms, the Saudi and the Qatari, have the kind of surplus needed for such an extravaganza as to overthrow undesirable regimes. And this had nothing to do with the 'Arab Spring'. And the two Gulf monarchies are not particularly known to be champions of democracy. The other great patron of the rebels - Turkey, which has been rounding up sturdy male refugees and repatriating them as fighters of the Free Syrian Army does not permit much democracy within its own confines, either. Significantly, the three patrons are themselves divided in suppor tof their proxies. While Saudi Arabia supports the more extremist Salafi outfits, both Qatar and Turkey support the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. Now with the overthrow of Muslim Brotherhood in its global Headquarters in Cairo, all the local outfits are bound to feel more vulnerable. More power to Salafi Jehadists!

But why use chemical weapons now, and who would gain by that? A quick look at the course of war in recent times would give some possible leads. The battle for Qusayr, a town on the northern border between Lebanon and Syria, in June this year, was probably the turning point. It was the first time, the Lebanese militia, the Hezbollah openly admitted that it was fighting on the side of the regime forces. In Qusayr, the rebels, ambushed from the east by Assad's forces and from the west by Hezbollah, faced a rout from which they haven't recovered yet. By that time, the regime forces had already managed to cut off the supply route from Jordan and Lebanon to the rebels. The only route available to them is from Turkey, through the Hatay province to Aleppo. Recent reports indicate that a 400- ton load of armaments, including shoulder fired missiles and anti-aircraft guns have reached the rebels through the Turkish border. The rebels who have been fighting an unwinnable war, in the fond hope of their Western allies coming to their rescue with a 'no-fly zone resolution' in the UN and then bomb Damascus back to the stone age, have felt repeatedly let down. Left with no other option to force the West, the rebels have been resorting to the use of chemical weapons, since President Obama had clearly demarcated it as the final 'redline' that would kick in the 'intervention on humanitarian grounds' resulting in regime destruction, not to mention the 'collateral damage'.

An earlier charge of use of chemical weapons by the regime, in mid-March, in eastern Aleppo was quietly buried after it was rubbished by a senior UN official. Now the 'You tube' videos are too powerful to be ignored, even though the 'Doctors without Borders' have reported that only 355 deaths were recorded 'due to neuro-toxic effects', as against the claims of over 1300 deaths by the rebel forces. But who used them against whom? Is Assad regime guilty? We may never know but one more country in the Middle East will be reduced to an ungovernable territory. Welcome home Al-Qaeda!

(The writer is a Visiting Distinguished Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation)

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Anjali Birla

Anjali Birla

Anjali Birla is an Indian Civil Services Officer(Batch 2020) working in the Ministry of Railways and has done her graduation in Political Science from Delhi ...

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