Originally Published 2005-03-09 09:13:14 Published on Mar 09, 2005
After having made a Lebanon out of Iraq, the US, duly assisted by France and other West European powers, has embarked on a policy, which is likely to make an Iraq out of the Lebanon.
Making Iraq out of Lebanon
After having made a Lebanon out of Iraq, the US, duly assisted by France and other West European powers, has embarked on a policy, which is likely to make an Iraq out of the Lebanon.

The ultimate outcome of the ill-advised psychological warfare (PSYWAR), which it has mounted against Syria by exploiting the recent assassination of Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese Prime Minister, is likely to be the revival and the exacerbation of the inter-religious, inter-sectarian and inter-ethnic tensions, which kept the Lebanon bleeding for over 15 years and brought into vogue suicide terrorism by jihadi elements and the culture of the martyrdom through the car bomb.

Its ill-advised demonisation of the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq and its Baath Party, the cynical exploitation of its PSYWAR resources for this purpose and the sowing and fuelling of suspicions between the Sunnis and the Shias and between the Sunni Arabs and the Sunni Kurds paved the way for the Lebanonisation of Iraq and for the ascendancy of mullas and tribal sheikhs of various persuasions in the only model of a modern secular state in the West Asian region known till March, 2003.

The US-led coalition and the international community as a whole are now paying a heavy price for this. Iraq has become the scene of suicide terrorism and devastating car bomb explosions almost every day. Falluja, which has reportedly almost been reduced to a rubble by the US Marines and Air Force, will go down in history as the Dresden of the USA's so-called war against terrorism.

The world recently observed the 60th anniversary of two nights of relentless bombing of the German town of Dresden by the British and American Air Forces, which reduced the city to a rubble and killed over 30,000 innocent civilians.

The world at least has a record of the sufferings of the German people on whom a cruel punishment was inflicted for the misdeeds of their Nazi rulers. The US and its PSYWAR apparatus have seen to it that there is and there would be no similar record of the sufferings of the people of Falluja and other areas of Iraq, who have been subjected to brutal punishment for what the US regards as the misdeeds of the Iraqi resistance-fighters and foreign terrorists.

There is a clear day-by-day documentation of the number of American casualties and of the victims of terrorism. There is no documentation of the number of Iraqi casualties as a result of the USA's counter-terrorism and counter-resistance operations in Iraq. Iraqi fatalities of innocent civilians are not considered worthy of being documented and mourned. The figures mentioned by various sources vary between a minimum of 30,000 and 100,000. The bleeding shows no signs of stopping and the terrorism and resistance show no signs of relenting.

None the wiser for their experiences in Iraq, the US and its PSYWAR apparatus have embarked on a demonisation of Syria in the eyes of the Lebanese in order to bring about the withdrawal of the Syrian troops from the Lebanon and an end of the Syrian influence.

The US has reasons to be concerned over Syria. While it has had no links with Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda, it had provided sanctuary in the 1980s and the early 1990s to terrorists of various hues--different Palestinian groups including the Popular Front For the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) of George Habash, the group led by Carlos, the Japanese and West German Red Army factions and different Kurdish groups. Many of the terrorist strikes in West Europe and elsewhere carried out in the 1980s and the early 1990s were planned and orchestrated from Syrian territory with the knowledge, if not the complicity, of the Syrian intelligence. The US was totally justified in declaring Syria a State-sponsor of international terrorism.

Despite these past misdeeds, there was reason to believe that the Syrian regime had rid itself of the company of non-Palestinian terrorist elements and was taking action to ensure that its territory was not used by anti-US elements for their operations in Iraq. It is true that a number of Syrians have been participating in suicide missions in Iraq, that there is considerable anti-US feeling in the general populace in Syria and that many foreign terrorists from different countries are managing to make their way to Iraq through Syrian territory. However, there is no definitive evidence to indicate that there has been collusion of the Syrian authorities in all this.

One can understand stepped-up American pressure on Damascus to put a stop to this and to share intelligence with the US-led coalition. But, exploiting the anger in sections of the Lebanese population over the assassination of Hariri in order to turn this anger against Syria and bring about the withdrawal of the Syrian forces from the Lebanon is unwise at this critical juncture, when the post-9/11 anti-US anger across the Islamic world shows no signs of subsiding.

While the objective of wanting to bring about the withdrawal of the Syrian troops through diplomatic pressure is understandable, the way the US has been going about it by exploiting the assassination of Hariri is likely to prove counter-productive. There is no evidence so far to link the Syrian intelligence with the assassination. Logic dictates against any Syrian involvement. Damascus is not so stupid as to undertake an operation of this kind at a time when the US has been mounting pressure against it on the question of foreign terrorists allegedly using Syrian territory.

It is noteworthy that despite the association of leading Western police officers with the investigation, no progress has been made. All the Western human and technical resources have not been able to determine definitively whether the assassination was carried out by a suicide bomber or through a remote-control mechanism.

It seems as if the US, France and others do not want the investigation to make progress because if it points the needle of suspicion away from Damascus, they might lose the raison d'etre for the PSYWAR mounted against Syria with the assistance of a compliant electronic media. According to reliable accounts, the anger against Syria is confined to a small section of the population, many of them from the Westernised upper classes (hence the sarcastic title the Gucci Revolution). Through electronic manipulation of the visuals it has been projected as if large masses of the local population have revolted against the Syrians.

To quote from a despatch of Kim Ghattas of the British Broadcasting Corporation:" Some people here are jokingly calling the phenomenon "the Gucci revolution" - not because they are dismissive of the demonstrations, but because so many of those waving the Lebanese flag on the street are really very unlikely protestors. There are girls in tight skirts and high heels, carrying expensive leather bags, as well as men in business suits or trendy tennis shoes. And in one unforgettable scene an elderly lady, her hair all done up, was demonstrating alongside her Sri Lankan domestic helper, telling her to wave the flag and teaching her the Arabic words of the slogans. "

The anti-Syrian protest in Beirut has been only partly spontaneous. Any trained intelligence analyst could see, it is partly orchestrated. Whether one likes it or not, there is considerable sympathy for Syria and Iran in the Muslim community of the Lebanon. The way the US and other Western countries are trying to exploit the assassination of Hariri is likely to drive once again a wedge between the Islamist and the pro-Western elements leading to a recrudescence of the suicide terrorism and the car bomb culture, of which the Lebanese society has been ridding itself in recent years,

Osama bin Laden, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and their terrorist minions would have reasons to be gratified by the US PSYWAR campaign against Syria on the issue of the assassination of Hariri. It will drive many local Muslims into their embrace, if it has not already done so.

The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Distinguished Fellow and Convenor, the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), Chennai Chapter. E-Mail: [email protected].

Courtesy: South Asia Analysis Group, New Delhi, Paper no. 1282, March 7, 2005.

* Views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Observer Research Foundation.
The views expressed above belong to the author(s). ORF research and analyses now available on Telegram! Click here to access our curated content — blogs, longforms and interviews.