Tag Archive for Syria

Iraq in flames again

 

consequences

Iraq in flames – again

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This week, Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq was quickly overrun by Islamist rebels. A few weeks before, Falujah was captured and is still in rebel hands.

Today it is reported that the same rebels have captured the town of Tikrit and a major oil installation and that up to 500 000 people are fleeing the captured areas.

The Iraqi army has proved totally ineffective, abandoning their posts after only putting up a token resistance to their attackers. Reports of officers being the first to run, leaving their men to their own devices.

This is one part of a larger movement to establish a separate state across the North of Iraq and Syria. A state controlled by brutal Sunni Islamists aligned with Al-Qaeda.

A former US ambassador to Iraq today suggested that now is the time to support “moderate” Syrian opposition with weapons so that they can defeat both President Assad and the Al-Qaeda linked Islamic State of Iraq and The Levant.

This could be a huge mistake for two reasons.

The Syrian opposition is in disarray, it has lost ground to government forces and is split into various factions ranging from pro West to those linked to Al-Qaeda.

There is more than a fair chance that any weapons supplied to “moderate” forces would soon find their way into Islamic militant’s hands.

Secondly and perhaps more importantly, there is no single strongman in the opposition camp to hold the ravaged country together should the campaign to oust Assad be successful.

Notwithstanding relative stability in Morocco and Tunisia, the failure of democracy to flourish in the countries affected by the turmoil of the “Arab Spring” indicates yet again that Western style democracy is not the best form of government for the countries in the region.

Under Mubarak, Egypt was more stable than it has been since he was overthrown. He was imprisoned because under his command some protesters were shot, but the new president is celebrated for squashing all opposition, while responsible for the deaths of greater numbers of protesters. Hundreds more have been sentenced to death.

Since the end of Gaddafi’s rule, Libya is fast becoming a failed state controlled by various militia. A threat to Europe because its lawlessness is providing a conduit for illegal migrants from across North Africa and beyond.

Before the civil war in Syria, there was relative peace and stability. Now there is chaos with millions of refugees creating huge problems for neighbouring states and hundreds of thousands of casualties.

If we turn a blind eye to the mass gassing of Kurds and a protracted war with Iran, Iraq under Saddam Hussein was fairly stable.

All those dictators were, by our standards, awful dictators, nasty and ruthless. But they kept control. What we consider “human rights” were denied to most citizens, but most of them stayed alive, had a roof over their heads and food to eat.

Thousands of American, British and other nations’ lives and billions of taxpayers dollars, pounds and euros have been lost in Iraq and Afghanistan trying to prop up systems that were doomed to fail.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that most of the countries now in turmoil need strong dictators, not ineffectual and unenforceable democracy, as unpalatable as that may be to sensitive liberals in the West.

Many of the borders in the region were lines on a map drawn by the colonial powers early in the last century. It seems that Al Qaeda determined to replace them with the originals.

The West does not need an unholy alliance between a strong Syria under Assad and a radical Iran with nuclear capability. It needs that and a new state controlled by Al Qaeda even less.

It’s time to put our Western arrogance aside and accept that peace and stability in the region will only come when strong, effective and probably ruthless, leaders fight their way to the top.

With hindsight, the West should certainly have propped up Mubarak and there is now a case for suggesting many lives would have been saved in Libya, Iraq and Syria if we had left the despots in place and not weakened by sanctions.

peter-wright

 

 

graphic courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Obama or Putin – Who is the Syrian Chess Master?

Check, please.

 

Alex Eylar via Compfight

My comments in my previous post about Syria were uncannily accurate, within hours of hitting the publish button, the British Parliament voted against any UK involvement in military action against Syria.

I do not for a moment believe my post influenced a single vote, nor do I claim any special powers of foresight. My crystal ball is no better than any one else’s.

It seemed to me that most of the world, including a substantial majority of Americans were against any direct involvement. Only three major players wanting to send in the planes and missiles, the USA and French administrations and the Syrian opposition including those elements sympathetic to our enemies in Afghanistan.

I am certainly not a pacifist, having served in the military defending my country against terrorism, I have no wish to repeat the experience myself or see younger generations exposed to similar dangers. War, declared or otherwise is bad, but sometimes necessary to defend our or our allies sovereignty and freedom.

As I stated in my previous post, this is not one of those situations. More evidence to support non-involvement came in BBC coverage this week of the pleas from Christians in Maaloula, Syria for the West not to support the opposition. The jihadist fringe of which is attacking them and destroying their churches. It appears the Christians are volunteering to support the Syrian government forces defending them.

Which brings us to the events of the past week and the question of which President is the better chess player, Obama or Putin? Russians have long been masters at formulating strategic chess moves, both on the chess board and on the world stage.

Did Putin have the idea of putting Syria’s chemical weapons under UN control up his sleeve at the G20 meeting in St. Petersburg, but wait for the American President to make a few more moves?

Did he then wait a few more days until it became more likely that the vote in congress would go against the use of force? Set him up for checkmate?

Was Putin’s proposal and the timing of it, a major face-saving exercise for President Obama? If so will there be a cost attached and what will it cost? When and how must it be paid?

My money is on the Russians coming out ahead in this game of high stakes chess.

 

peter-wright

 

 

p.s. You might enjoy this post on my other blog about the media bias to reporting trivial and negative news

Cruising the road to Damascus – at any cost.

Royal  Navy Submarine HMS Astute Fires a Tomahawk Cruise Missile (TLAM) During Testing Near the USA UK Ministry of Defence via Compfight

The leaders of the USA, UK and France seem determined to take “surgical” action in Syria, probably by using precisely targeted cruise missiles.

Why?

In the almost 3 years of the Syrian civil war, over 100 000 people have been killed, large areas of the country reduced to rubble, neighbouring countries burdened with huge waves of refugees. Bombings in Lebanon and Iraq may be a direct result of the conflict. The involvement of Hezbollah and Iran in support of the Syrian government is both worrying and a further complication.

But with all that, the Western powers have been reluctant to get involved in what is still a civil war, an internal problem.

Until this week when 350 people were killed in a chemical warfare bombardment blamed on the Syrian government.

As yet, no convincing evidence that government forces were responsible or conclusions on the exact chemical used have been produced.

Russia and China are predictably vetoing any UN resolutions to use force against the Syrian Government, supporting their argument by allegations that it may have been the Syrian opposition attempting to force an “own goal” on the government.

Any escalation in the conflict increases the threat to our two most important allies in the region, Israel and Turkey,  but a chemical attack in Damascus in itself, does not dramatically increase that threat.

As awful and inexcusable the use of chemical weapons may be, and as much as we might regret the loss of hundreds more lives last week, the threat to the West or world peace has not been increased by these events.

Why then do we want to get involved? Have we not learned the lessons from Iraq? When the justification for the invasion was later found to be false. Or Afghanistan, when having quickly defeated the enemy, we attempted the impossible task of installing democracy in an undemocratic part of the world, lengthened our involvement by years at huge cost. That cost measured in hundreds of our soldier’s lives and billions of dollars and pounds of taxpayers hard-earned cash.

Have we forgotten Egypt where by abandoning an ally, and tacitly supporting a revolution, we ended up with a ruler far more dangerous, another coup and now a country in turmoil with a wrecked economy.

Why then are our leaders so determined to get involved in Syria after a comparatively small increase in casualties?

Is it really because the use of chemical weapons is unacceptable? Large scale killing of civilians is surely unacceptable with any type of weapons.

Is there a bigger threat to Israel, Turkey and perhaps Jordan that we are not being told about?

Is Iran about to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike?

Do President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron just want to irritate the Russians and Chinese?

Or is it once again an example of Western arrogance and hypocrisy, trying to impose our standards on people who march to the beat of a very different drummer?

Before this incident, it looked as if the Assad government was gaining control over larger areas of Syria, perhaps turning the tide and winning the war.  It could be argued that the quickest way to reduce the horrendous casualty rate, stop the destruction of infrastructure and reverse the flood of refugees would be to let the government win the war by what ever means it has at its disposal.

After all we justified dropping atomic bombs on Japan as the best way to end WW11 despite the huge loss of life.

I am not an apologist for Assad, I would be happy to see him removed from power and made to pay for his sins, however deciding on who should rule Syria is a matter for the Syrians not us.

We should beware of assisting in his removal and his replacement by a more anti-Western ruler. We don’t need to risk the lives of our troops in another un-winnable war when that war, disastrous as it may be for Syrians, poses little threat to our own security.

What are your thoughts?

 

peter-wright

The wheel turns in Egypt

Crossed Out Dan H via Compfight

Headline yesterday “Mubarak to be released from prison”.

Isn’t that amazing, it’s taken two years for the wheel to come almost full circle. Given Mubarak’s poor health and advanced age, he is unlikely to make any sort of political comeback.

When I wrote about the Egypt and the law of unintended consequences on 10 July, the death toll in the unrest was around 50, now 6 weeks later it is over 1000.

My comment that the country would be better off and far fewer Egyptians dead if we had supported Mubarak instead of abandoning him is more relevant than ever.

There was a reason why Mubarak tried to prevent the Muslim Brotherhood taking power. The consequences of his overthrow are being measured by the body counts in the streets of Cairo and Alexandria.

Other commentators estimate that only around 10% of the world’s population live under true democratic governments. I cannot confirm or dispute that estimate, but I am convinced that it is a minority, with the vast majority living under autocratic systems of varying degrees of oppression.

When the Arab spring has finally withered in the summer heat, we may well find that a long winter of discontent is the prelude to a return to the traditional systems of military or civilian dictatorships, monarchies or new variations of old regimes.

Also yesterday, large numbers of casualties in Damascus, Syria. Symptoms indicate poisoning, probably by some form of chemical warfare. Accusations of responsibility by both sides in the conflict.

Is this the Obama administration’s red-line? I somehow doubt it, I cannot believe the American people want to get dragged into another unwinnable Middle Eastern conflict.

If it escalates to pose a direct threat to Israel or Turkey, there might be some justification for action. While it remains a civil war, any Western involvement increases the danger of installing a more dangerous ruling party than the current one.

As sad as it is to see the death toll climbing in both conflicts, perhaps the West needs to curb its temptation to interfere and let the dramas play out as they have done for thousands of years.

It’s an interesting world.

 

peter-wright