Thursday, July 14, 2011

Unfolding the Syrian paradox and the infamous White House Murder INC, in the Levant...

Unfolding the Syrian paradox and the infamous White House Murder INC, in the Levant...

Strange bed-fellows can have differences as the unfolding Great Game in MENA and well beyond....fomenting hundreds of Tribes with Flags in EURASIA, Africa and beyond by Ziocon shenanigans since 1968....

Can Syria properly be understood as an example of a "pure" Arab popular revolution, an uprising of non-violent, liberal protest against tyranny that has been met only by repression? I believe this narrative to be a complete misreading, deliberately contrived to serve quite separate ambitions. The consequences of turning a blind eye to the reality of what is happening in Syria entails huge risk: the potential of sectarian conflict that would not be confined to Syria alone.

One of the problems with unfolding the Syria paradox is that there is indeed a genuine, domestic demand for change. A huge majority of Syrians want reform. They feel the claustrophobia of the state's inert heavy-handedness and of the bureaucracy's haughty indifference toward their daily trials and tribulations. Syrians resent the pervasive corruption, and the arbitrary tentacles of the security authorities intruding into most areas of daily life. But is the widespread demand for reform itself the explanation for the violence in Syria, as many claim?

There is this mass demand for reform. But paradoxically - and contrary to the "awakening" narrative - most Syrians also believe that President Bashar al-Assad shares their conviction for reform. The populations of Damascus, Aleppo, the middle class, the merchant class, and non-Sunni minorities (who amount to one quarter of the population), among others, including the leadership of the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood, fall into this category. They also believe there is no credible "other" that could bring reform.

What then is going on? Why has the conflict become so polarized and bitter, if there is indeed such broad consensus?

I believe the roots of the bitterness lie in Iraq, rather than in Syria, in two distinct ways. Firstly, they extend back into the thinking of the Sunni jihadi trend, as advanced by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, which evolved in Iraq, surfaced violently in Lebanon, and was transposed into Syria with the return of many Syrian Salafist veterans at the "end" of the Iraq conflict.

Secondly, and separately, the bitterness in Syria is also linked to a profound sense of Sunni grievance felt by certain Arab states at Sunni political disempowerment following Prime Minister Nuri al-Malaki's rise to power in Iraq, for which they hold Assad responsible.

In a precursor to present events in Syria, the Lebanese army too in 2007 battled with a group of Sunni militants of diverse nationalities who had all fought in Iraq. The group, Fateh al-Islam, had infiltrated Naher al-Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon from Syria, and had married into Palestinian families living there.

Although the core of foreign fighters was quite small in number, they were well-armed and experienced in urban combat. They attracted a certain amount of local Lebanese support too. That bloody conflict with Lebanon's army endured for more than three months. At the end, Naher al-Bared was in ruins; and 168 of the Lebanese army lay dead.

That event was the culmination of a pattern of movements from Afghanistan and across the region into, and from, Iraq. Most of these radicalized Sunnis coming to fight the United States occupation had gravitated towards groups loosely associated with Zarqawi. Zarqawi's al-Qaeda affiliation is not of particular significance to Syria today, but the Zarqawi "Syria" doctrine that evolved in Iraq, is crucial.

Zarqawi, like other Salafists, rejected the artificial frontiers and national divisions inherited from colonialism. Instead, he insisted on calling the aggregate of Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and Jordan, and parts of Turkey and Iraq by its old name: "Bilad a-Sham". Zarqawi and his followers were virulently anti-Shi'ite - much more so than early al-Qaeda - and asserted that a-Sham was a core Sunni patrimony that had been overtaken by the Shi'ites.

According to this narrative, the Sunni heartland, Syria, had been usurped for the last 40 years by the Shi'ite Assads (Alawites are a sect, an orientation within Shi'ism). The rise of Hezbollah, facilitated in part by Assad, further eroded Lebanon's Sunni character, too. Likewise, they point to Assad's alleged undercutting of former Iraqi prime minister Ayad Allawi as an act which had delivered Iraq to the Shi'ites, namely to Malaki.

From this deep grievance at Sunni dis-empowerment, Zarqawi allies developed a doctrine in which Syria and Lebanon were no longer platforms from which to launch jihad, but the sites for jihad (against the Shi'ites as much as others). The Syrian Salafists eventually were to return home, nursing this grievance. Many of them - Syrians and non-Syrians - settled in the rural villages lying adjacent to Lebanon and Turkey, and similarly to their confreres in Naher al-Barad, they married locally.

It is these elements - as in Lebanon in 2007 - who are the mainspring of armed violence against the Syrian security services. Unlike Egypt or Tunisia, Syria has experienced hundreds of dead and many hundreds of wounded members of the security forces and police. (Daraa is different: the armed element consists of Bedouin who migrate between Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria).

It is difficult to establish numbers, but perhaps 40,000-50,000 Syrians fought in Iraq. With their marriage into local communities, their support base is more extensive than actual numbers that travelled to Iraq. Their objective in Syria is similar to that in Iraq: to establish the conditions for jihad in Syria through exacerbating sectarian animosities - just as Zarqawi did in Iraq through his attacks on the Shi'ites and their shrines. Likewise, they seek a foothold in north-eastern Syria for a Salafist Islamic emirate, which would operate autonomously from the state's authority.

This segment to the opposition is not interested in "reform" or democracy: They state clearly and publicly that if it costs two million lives to overthrow the "Shi'ite" Alawites the sacrifice will have been worth the loss. Drafting of legislation permitting new political parties or expanding press freedom are matters of complete indifference for them. The Zarqawi movement rejects Western politics outright.

These Salafi groups are the first side of the Syrian "box": they do not conform to a single organization, but are generally locally-led and autonomous. Loosely inter-connected through a system of communications, they are well-financed and are externally linked.

The second side to the Syrian box are some exile groups: they too are well-financed by the US government and other foreign sources, and have external connections both in the region and the West. Some 2009 cables from the US Embassy in Damascus reveal how a number of these groups and TV stations linked to them have received tens of millions of dollars for their work from the State Department and US-based foundations, along with training and technical assistance. These exile movements believe they can successfully use the Salafist insurgents for their own ends.

The exiles hoped that a Salafist insurrection against the state - albeit confined initially to the periphery of Syria - would provoke such a backlash from the Syrian government that, in turn, a mass of people would be polarized into hostility to the state, and ultimately Western intervention in Syria would become inevitable - ideally following the Libyan model in Benghazi.

That has not happened, although Western leaders, such as French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, have done much to keep this prospect alive. It is the exiles, often secular and leftist, that are trying to "fix" the Syria narrative for the media. These expatriates have coached the Salafists in "color" revolution techniques in order to portray an unalloyed story of massive and unprovoked repression by a regime refusing reform, whilst the army disintegrates under the pressure of being compelled to kill its countrymen.

Al-Jazeera and al-Arabia have cooperated in advancing this narrative by broadcasting anonymous eyewitness accounts and video footage, without asking questions (see Ibrahim Al-Amine
here, for instance).

Yet the Salafists understand that the exiles are using them to provoke incidents, and then to corroborate a media narrative of repression by the external opposition; this might actually serve Salafist interests, too.

These two components may be relatively small in numbers, but the emotional pull from the heightened voice of Sunni grievance - and its need for redress has a much wider and more significant constituency. It is easily fanned into action, both in Syria and in the region as a whole.

Saudi Arabia and Gulf states explicitly trade on fears of Shi'ite "expansionism" to justify Gulf Cooperation Council repression in Bahrain and intervention in Yemen, and the "voice" of assertive sectarianism is being megaphoned into Syria too.

Sunni clerical voices are touting the Arab "awakening" as the "Sunni revolution" in riposte to the Shi'ite revolution of Iran. In March, al-Jazeera broadcast a sermon by Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi, which raised the banner of the restoration of Sunni ascendency in Syria. Qaradawi, who is based in Qatar, was joined by Saudi cleric Saleh Al-Luhaidan who urged, "Kill a third of Syrians so the other two-thirds may live."

Clearly many of the protesters in traditional centers of Sunni irredentism, such as Homs and Hama in Syria, comprise of aggrieved Sunnis seeking the Alawites ouster, and a return to Sunni ascendency. These are not Salafists, but mainstream Syrians for whom the elements of Sunni ascendency, irredentism and reformism have conflated into a sole demand. This is a very frightening prospect for the quarter of the Syrians that form the non-Sunni minorities.

The marginalization of Sunnis in Iraq, Syria and more recently in Lebanon has aggrieved the Saudis and some Gulf states as much as it did the Salafists. The perception that Assad betrayed the Sunni interest in Iraq - although inaccurate - does help account for the vehemence of the Qatari-funded al-Jazeera's pre-prepared information campaign against Assad.

The French magazine Le Nouvel Observateur has reported on one Stockholm media activist who paid an early secret visit to Doha, where al-Jazeera executives offered open access to the pan-Arab channel and coached the person in how to make his videos harder hitting: "Film women and children. Insist that that they use pacifistic slogans."

In contrast, Arabic press reports have been plain about the demands of Assad that Gulf states (the "Arabs of America") and European envoys are insisting on, in return for their support. Ibrahim al-Amine, chief editor of the independent newspaper al-Akhbar, listed reform steps, which consist of disbanding the ruling party, initiating new legislation on political parties and the press, the dismissing certain officials, withdrawing the army from the streets, and beginning direct and intensive negotiations with Israel.

The envoys also suggested that such reforms might provide Assad with the pretext to break his alliance with Hezbollah and Hamas, in addition to severing the resistance aspect of Damascus's relationship with Tehran.....
Making these steps, diplomats have suggested, would facilitate improved relations with Arab states and international capitals and the prospect that oil-rich Arab states would offer Assad a $20 billion aid package, in order to smooth Assad's path away from any economic dependency on Iran and the infamous White House Murder Machinations INC, since 2000.....

All of this underlines to the other dimension to events in Syria: its strategic position as the keystone of the arch spanning from southern Lebanon to Iran. It is this role that those in the US and Europe that concern themselves primarily with Israel's security, have sought to displace. It is not so clear, however, whether Israel is as anxious as some Western officials to see Assad toppled. Israeli officials profess respect for the president. And if Assad were to go, no one knows what may follow in Syria. LOL LOL LOL....The infamous White house Murder INC, will continue its sordid besogne in the Levant with Asef Shawkat anyway....

The US has a record of attempting to intervene in Syria that even predates the US Central Intelligence Agency's and British intelligence's 1953 coup in Iran against prime minister Mohammad Mosaddegh.

Between 1947 and 1949, American government officials intervened in Syria. Their aim was to liberate the Syrian people from a corrupt autocratic elite. What resulted was a disaster and led ultimately to the rise to power of the Assad family. Western powers may no longer remember this history, but as one BBC commentator recently noted, the Syrians surely do.

Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the US effectively has been threatening the Syrian president with continuing ultimata to make peace with Israel - in a closely worked double act with Paris lackeys and stooges of CIA, from Chirac to Jospin, to the scum Sarkozy.... Assad's rejection of that 2003 threat has given rise to a ratcheting sequence of pressures and threats to the Syrian assassin, including action at the United Nations Security Council; the Special Tribunal on Lebanon over the killing of Mr. Elie HOBEIKA and former premier Rafik al-Hariri and Israeli military action to damage Hezbollah and so to shift the balance of power in Lebanon to Assad's disadvantage.

The US also began the liberal funding of Syrian opposition groups since at least 2000; and more recently the training of activists, including Syrian activists, on the means to avoid arrest and on secure communications techniques using unlicensed telephone networks and Internet software....provide by the assassins of CIA/MOSSAD/MI6/BND/GID/DGSE
and the Wahhabi scum of KSA....
It is these techniques, plus the training of activists by Western non-governmental organizations/CIA and other media outlets, that also serve armed, militarized insurrection - as well as peaceful pro-democracy protest movements.

The US has also been active in funding directly or indirectly human-rights centers that have been so active in providing the unverified casualty figures and eyewitness accounts to the media activists. Some such as the Damascus Center for Human Rights states its partnership with the US National Endowment for Democracy and others receive funding from, for example, the Democracy Council and the International Republican Institute...all linked to the crooked CIA scum....

The Syrian government's decision to ban foreign journalists has of course contributed to giving external activist sources of information the free hand by which to dominate the media narrative on Syria.

The missing side of the Syrian Pandora's box, which has been omitted until now, is that of the Syrian army and its response to the protests. The largely Russian-trained army has no experience fighting in a complicated urban setting in which there are genuine protesters together with a small number of armed insurgents who do possess urban warfare and ambush experience from Iraq, and are intent on provoking confrontation with the security forces.

The Syrian army lacks experience in counter-insurgency; it was groomed in the Warsaw Pact school of grand maneuvers and heavy brigades, in which the word "nuance" forms no part of the vocabulary. Tanks and armored brigades are wholly unsuited for crowd control operations, especially in narrow, congested areas. It's no surprise that such military movements killed unarmed protesters that were caught in the middle, inflaming tensions with genuine reformists and disconcerting the public.

Initially, army esteem was affected by the criticism. Though the stories of army mass desertion are disinformation, there was some erosion of military self-confidence at lower levels of command. And public confidence in the military wobbled, too, as casualties mounted. But it was a "wobble" that ended with the dramatic conflict around Jisr al-Shagour in mid-June, near the Turkish border.

Just as the Lebanese nation rallied behind its army in the conflict of Naher al-Bared which was completely fomented by the CIA/MOSSAD and the WAhhabi killers of the Crypto-Zionist Saudis,Turkey and GID...., so too the Syrians rallied behind their army in the face of the Salafist attack firstly on the police, and subsequently on the army and on state institutions in Jisr. And, as the details of the Jisr al-Shagour conflict unrolled before the public, sentiment turned bitter towards the insurrectionists, possibly decisively.

The images from Jisr, as well as other videos circulating of lynchings and attacks on the security forces will have shocked many Syrians, who will have perceived in them the same cruel "blood lust" that accompanied the images of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's hanging in 2006.

The Jisr events may prove to have been a pivotal moment. Army self-confidence and honor is on the rise, and the public majority now see in a way that was less evident earlier that Syria faces a serious threat unrelated to any reform agenda. Sentiment has tipped away from thinking in terms of immediate reform.

Public opinion is polarized and embittered towards the Salafists and their Ziocon Wahhabi killer/allies. Leftist, secular opposition circles are distancing themselves from the Salafist violence - the inherent contradiction of the divergent aspirations of the "exiles" and the Salafists, from the Syrian majority consensus, is now starkly manifest. This, essentially, is the last side to the paradoxical Syrian "box".

In this atmosphere, dramatic reform might well be viewed by the president's supporters as signaling weakness, even appeasement to those responsible for killing so many police and army officers at Jisr. Not surprisingly, Assad chose to use last week's speech to speak to his constituency: to state the difficulties and threats facing Syria, but also to lay out the road map towards an exit from danger and towards substantive reform.

Western comment overwhelmingly has described the speech as "disappointing" or "short on specifics", but this misses the point. Whereas earlier, a dramatic reform shock, such as advocated by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu might, at a certain point, have had a transformatory "shock" effect; it is doubtful that it would achieve that now.

On the contrary, any hint of concessions having being wrested from the government by the type of violence seen at Jisr would likely anger Assad's own constituency; and yet improbably would never transcend the categorical rejection of the militant opposition seeking to exacerbate tensions to the point of making the West determined to intervene.

By carefully setting out of some very deliberate steps and processes ahead, Assad has correctly read the mood of the majority in Syria. Time will be the judge, but Assad seems set to emerge from a complicated parallel series of challenges directed towards him from movements and states which reflect a range of grievances, special interests, and motivations. The roots of all these are very far removed from issues of legislative and political reform in Syria.

It would hardly be surprising were Assad to see the aggregate of such measures against him effectively to constitute the mounting of a soft coup. He may query the extent of US President Barack Obama's knowledge of what has been occurring in Syria. It seems unlikely that US officials were wholly ignorant or unaware of the matrix of threats converging to threaten Assad's stability.

And if so, it will not be for the first time that Syrian officials have noted a "left" hand-"right" hand dysfunctionality in the Obama style of foreign policy, whereby contradictory policy approaches are pursued simultaneously by different US officials on purpose because the Syria policy has always been run by CIA since 1963....and Foggy Bottom is wholly immaterial as far as Syria/Lebanon policy is concerned....

If, as seems likely, Assad does emerge from all the challenges, the tenor of his recent response to Arab and European envoys suggests that reform will be pursued, in part, to protect Syria's resistance ethos from such challenges in the future.

In 2007, Assad noted wryly, in an unscripted addition to his speech, that he had not had the time to pursue effective reform: "We did not even have time to discuss any idea related to the party law among others. At a certain stage, the economy was a priority, but we did not have time to tackle the economic situation. We have been engaged in a decisive battle [on the external front]; and we had to win. There was no other option ..."

Now "reform" is the existential external front. But if the intent of all this was intended to shift the strategic balance in the Middle East, it has not worked. It is unlikely that Assad will emerge more pliable to Western challenges - any more than he has in the past, because he holds a load full of dirty baggage from CIA/MOSSAD shenanigans in the Levant, together with the Infamous White House Murder INC, since January 24th 2002....

The realities in Syria as a result of covert and overt interference by US, Israel, BND, France ,UK and oil estates in the Gulf .

F. William Engdahl describes US interventions as "creative destruction." The template for such covert regime change has been developed by the Pentagon, US intelligence agencies and various think-tanks such as RAND Corporation over decades. Engdahl goes back to the beginning with the May 1968 destabilization of the De Gaulle presidency in France. But it has been started in the Arab world from the February uprising in Tunisia this year but after the US franchised street revolutions leading to regime changes and installation of US friendly regimes in Eastern Europe and even in central Asia , where it did not succeed much .

Engdahl observes that “it is a strategy born of a certain desperation and one not without significant risk for the Pentagon and for the long-term Wall Street agenda. What the outcome will be for the peoples of the region and for the world is as yet unclear.” Indians , even diplomats and civil servants ,find such articles and my views anti-American .I only tell the truth and my predictions happen to come true .

I was posted in Jordan (1989-92) and made many visits to Syria and earlier ,visits to Iraq and Iran with 8 years (1969-73 and 1992-92 ) as a diplomat and two years as a journalist in Turkey ,the consequences of US policies make me shudder .Look at Iraq Saudis the bagmen cannot comprehend what they are doing facing an existential threat .Turkey is going Islamic and lecturing Assad of Syria and recognizing Islamist rebels in Benghazi , while its own Kurds remain in semi revolt .

If Washington succeeds in Syria , the region would as destabilized and embroiled in terror and destruction as south west Asia is .In this Mumbai 13 July 2011 is but a spark from the AfPak creative destruction .After all who financed and trained all these Jihadis and terrorists in AF-Pak since 1980s and copycats.

Ironically , Israel which US is supposed to protect and strengthen is uneasy. Six years ago Lebanese Hezbollah had beaten the hell out of the super IDF commandos Imagine surrounded by Salafists and Zarqawis and their kinds , that too Iraq and Af-Pak battle hardened around and in Gaza ,Palestine and Jordan also....
- International tutelage and the making of liberal states, By Krishnan Srinivasan

The attitude of Western states, led by the United States of America, to recent events in Syria is eerily reminiscent of the build-up to the second Iraq War of 2003 and the US-led invasion of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. The media frenzy about deaths, demonstrations and refugees, and the remarkable ‘discovery’ of a Syrian nuclear facility dating back to 2007, call to mind the then US secretary of state Colin Powell’s power-point presentation about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction at the United Nations security council that turned out subsequently to be a pack of lies. The present state secretary, Hillary Clinton, now weighs in against Syria with accusations and threats, and Iran, the West’s major bogey-man, is pictured as playing a role in sustaining the despised Damascus government.

Taken by surprise with the various popular movements in the Arab world this year, Washington hopes that a transition to democracy will bring certain countries into the Western orbit. This accounts for the regime change-directed no-fly zone in Libya, which has stalled for the moment, the robust propaganda against Syria, and the transparently hypocritical silence about Yemen and Bahrain, where similar demonstrations against the pro-West regimes have been suppressed with the utmost brutality. Basing their anti-Syrian invective on social networking sites, some of which now have been unveiled as perpetrated by Americans nowhere near Syria, President Bashar Assad’s promises to liberalize his polity have been brushed aside by the US and European Union as inadequate and non-specific.

The Syrian demonstrations began in the periphery of that country over two months after the Arab Spring started in Tunisia. It is well-established that arms have been inducted into Syria from Jordan and Lebanon, obviously not for the official security forces but for insurgents. Also well documented is that the US finances Syrian dissidents abroad, including circles linked to the Muslim Brotherhood like the London-based so-called Movement for Justice and Development, which are not aspiring to democracy but for an Islamist caliphate. All this begs the fact that the Assad regime, despite its many failings, is not unpopular and is regarded by many, if not most, Syrians as being the nation’s best hope to lead a reform programme. Assad himself has freed the internet, repealed the emergency, announced amnesties, liberated detainees and promised dialogue. But on the debit side, Assad is too cautious and surrounded by sycophants, and the Syrians have managed their public relations very badly. Assad’s initial hard-line approach was most ill-advised, and he has a reputation of non-performing on previous promises to open the political system. It was also a huge mistake not to keep Turkey closely onside. Turkey, being a moderate, secular Muslim nation, is aware of the Islamist threat, and with the Kurdish problem across both borders, Ankara was in the best position to help with good counsel. To counter the videos circulated by demonstrators, why are there no videos taken by pro-Assad people of armed attacks on Syrian security and property? Assad needs to come clean about the Islamist threat to Syria; he can no longer run with the extremist hares and hunt with the secular hounds, and speaking vaguely about “saboteurs” will not enthuse his supporters. The Assad regime may still survive, but eminent historians of revolutions all concur that an authoritarian regime is most vulnerable when it makes the first compromises. Louis XVI and Tsar Nicholas II found, at the cost of their dynasties and their lives, that their drip-by-drip concessions only emboldened the revolutionaries. As Thomas Jefferson pointedly said, “A chief magistrate, once in power, rarely leaves it willingly.”

But there is a larger issue to be discussed about the West’s attitude to the Arab uprisings. Western-led intervention in various countries during the early post-Cold War era was ostensibly for peace-building, but in essence equated to the construction of a liberal state. By 1995, the tragic happenings in Rwanda and former Yugoslavia had led to a change in the Western attitude to peacekeeping. The British prime minister, Tony Blair, and the US president, Bill Clinton, were convinced by, and underwrote, openly interventionist policies, while Western media, its aid industry and its NGOs joined zestfully in similar activism. Interventions took place in Kosovo, Eastern Slavonia, East Timor, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Afghanistan and Iraq, where there was substantial international civilian and military presence, a foreign proconsul-type person with important responsibilities, and governance tasks performed by foreigners with only a peripheral role for local officials. Such intervention was ostensibly multilateral, with UN consent — sometimes nunc pro tunc — yet invariably under Western leadership with transformative goals as its motivation. Washington regarded these as projects of political and economic transformation that would result in market economy and a democratic political system, but fundamentally, these exercises were in the nature of establishing protectorates in the style seen between the two world wars of the 20th century. In other words, this overarching peace agenda as a political construct became the language of tutelage, and culminated in the nebulous UN ‘Responsibility to Protect’ doctrine of 2005, in which state sovereignty’s primacy, a basic principle of the UN charter, was left open to question. This was exactly the sentiment behind the making of the new protectorates, barely a generation after the end of classical colonialism.

While there was ample evidence of the deployment of Western military power, the West, led by the US, lacked any grand strategy to make sense of the changed international situation — a lack of the “vision thing” propagated by Bush the Elder. The philosophical basis of intervention was robust humanitarianism and the underplaying of state sovereignty, and the first Iraq war led to false assumptions that US-led and UN-brokered collective security arrangements were able to regulate global strife. This conclusion was naïve and short-lived, and was swiftly eroded with the resurgence of nationalist, ethnic and religious identities, terrorist networks, refugee flows and secessionist claims. President Clinton sought to introduce the concept of “democratic enlargement”, open economies and liberal states, but this policy too went nowhere, and globalization was a process that did not in itself provide any kind of road map for liberal societies.

Now that more than a decade has passed since the neo-protectorates came into being, some stocktaking is possible. None of the new protectorates could have been established without the projection of US power or underwriting, but the US had no overall vision for management of the world order, and Moscow has turned the tables on the Responsibility to Protect doctrine by prising South Ossetia and Abkhazia from Georgia. By 2011, there is Western fatigue with such engagements and a downgrading of reformist agendas in favor of an exclusively security-related focus. The West found protectorate experiments costly and long-term and lacking in full legitimacy: even partial successes like the mini-states of Kosovo and East Timor are not exemplary, and Iraq and Afghanistan are in no way closer to being modern and cohesive liberal democracies. The new protectorates will turn out to be transient moments in the history of these societies and also of Western hegemony, belonging to the category of quixotic dreams of human improvement, with only heuristic value for understanding the period in which they came briefly into public prominence.

Acceptance in practice by the international community of such post-Cold War attempts at nation-building has not meant acceptance in theory. There is no normative consensus, and states such as China and Russia oppose the new interventionism, as does India, which is presently in the UN security council. This opposition is more pronounced as Western influence is declining, and Barack Obama himself has lately pronounced that US nation-building must start at home. The primacy of state sovereignty is re-emerging and the permissiveness of the 1990s towards the US’s democratization mission is ebbing. The zeitgeist that peace-loving democracy and market economy would come into place naturally, which was always a naive and ahistorical concept, has come to an end. The liberal state is not a finished product that can be delivered wholesale to Delhi, Baghdad or Kabul, let alone to Tripoli or Damascus.

Iran draws the line with Turkey on Syria....
By Kaveh L Afrasiabi

In a sign of growing Iranian misgiving about Turkey's role in Middle Eastern affairs, Tehran has decided to throw its weight behind the embattled Syrian regime, even if that translates into a setback in relations between Tehran and Ankara.

Iran's move is bound to represent a new thorn in ties, with multiple potential side-effects, since it comes at a delicate time when Turkey is pressuring Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his government to adopt meaningful reforms and to give legitimacy to the Syrian opposition, which has repeatedly held meetings in Turkey.

Over the weekend, Tehran hosted Syrian Oil Minister Sufian Alaw for the signing of a major trilateral Iran-Iraq-Syria gas deal worth

billions of dollars, while showering the Assad regime with unconditional praise as the "vanguard of resistance" that was subjected to psychological warfare and Western-Zionist conspiracy.

Articulating Iran's steadfast support for its key Arab ally, Iranian first Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi used his meeting with Alaw to expel the slightest doubt about Iran's stance on Syria, by stating that "Iran and Syria are two inseparable countries and allies, and Iran will stand by its friend and Muslim [neighboring] country, Syria, under all circumstances".

In sharp contrast to Turkey's support for the Syrian opposition, Rahimi dismissed the current unrest in Syria as "guided by arrogant powers and the meddling of enemies".

Behind Iran's new Syria move is a calculated gamble that contrary to some Western perceptions, the Assad regime is not completely isolated and still enjoys a considerable mass following. This is reflected in huge pro-government rallies consistently ignored by the Western media, and that with sufficient internal and regional support, Damascus could survive and ride out the current storm.

Assad has been unable to crush the uprising despite a crackdown against ant-government protests in which activists say more than 1,600 people have been killed since mid-March.

A clue to the "new Iranian thinking" on the crisis in Syria and its regional implications emerged in a recent issue of Sobhe Sadegh, the weekly publication of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), written by Reza Garmabehry, that in unmistakable language warned that if Iran had to choose between Turkey and Syria, it would choose Syria. Titled "Iran's serious position vis-a-vis the events in Syria", the article implicitly criticized Turkey for serving Western and Zionist interests by siding with the opposition and thus weakening the regime in Syria.

Simultaneously, the IRGC has demonstrated Iran's hard power by conducting a successful counter-insurgency military campaign resulting in its incursion inside Iraqi territory in hot pursuit of a Kurdish armed group known as PJAK (Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan). This is a fresh reminder to Turkey of Iran's stability role with respect to the Kurdish problem besetting Ankara, in light of Iran's considerable clout in Iraq.

This coincides with a new Iranian naval strategy that focuses on "out of area" missions for the navy in "open waters" and with access to foreign ports such as in Syria (see
Iran on new voyage of discovery Asia Times Online, February 24, 2011).

According to some Tehran analysts, Iran hopes that Turkey will adjust its Syria policy and rethink its stinging criticisms of the Assad regime.

If this does not happen and the policy contrasts between Iran and Turkey over Syria grow sharper, then we may witness a cooling period between Tehran and Ankara. Turkey is seeking a leading role in the deadlocked Middle East peace process, in light of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's planned visit of besieged Gaza, Ankara's hosting a Palestinian summit and reports of Turkey's intention to play a leading role in the upcoming United Nations debates on Palestinian statehood in September.

Much as Iran and Turkey may cooperate at the UN level on the Palestinian issue, given that Turkey-Israel strategic relations have remained essentially untouched by various negative developments, such as the murder of nine Turkish citizens on a Gaza-bound ship by Israeli commandos, Tehran continues to view with suspicion some of Turkey's regional moves that may come at Iran's expense.

Erdogan's three conditions for normalizing relations with Israel - an apology, compensation to the victims and the lifting of the Gaza siege - are considered rather lenient by Tehran, which would like to see the conditions widened to encompass the return of Arab lands, including the Golan Heights.

Assuming the Syria crisis lingers - which would mean more Syrian refugees in Turkey - the pressure on Ankara will likely increase and thus force Ankara to look to Iran for influencing Damascus. After all, contagion from Syria, as compared to Iran's distance from Syria, represents a minus for Turkey at the moment that adds to its vulnerability.

Playing hardball with Ankara, Tehran's new determination to stand behind Damascus no matter what in effect confronts Ankara with tough choices: ie, either continue with the current position tilted in favor of the Syrian opposition, and thus earn a substantial setback in relations with Iran, or emulate Iran and refrain from the hard push for reform inside Syria, and thus avoid a broadening of the arc of crisis engulfing Turkey's regional context.

According to Bahram Amirahmadian, a Tehran analyst who says Ankara has been exploiting "weak Iranian diplomacy", a more robust Iranian diplomacy is called for to avoid lagging behind Turkey in Middle East affairs. Apparently, the above-mentioned IRGC initiative is intended to address this issue, through a combination of soft and hard power that includes the carrot of economic (energy) incentives in league with Baghdad.

Thus, it is not simply Iran but rather the triumvirate of Iran-Iraq-Syria that Turkey, a North Atlantic Treaty Organization member, has to reckon with.

Kaveh L Afrasiabi, PhD, is the author of After Khomeini: New Directions in Iran's Foreign Policy