By Ayaz Amir
September 27, 2016
They claim to be leaders of that mystical concept with no basis in reality, the Ummah. Far from displaying the wisdom that should come with this pretended role, they have stoked the fires of conflict across an arc stretching from Libya to Yemen, with the Syrian civil war the starkest testimony of the fecklessness and narrow vision guiding the wayward destinies of the world of Islam.
The Americans and their European allies, especially France, have had a hand in worsening the Syrian crisis but the role of Arab countries – the richest of them – in worsening the plight and prolonging the agony of the Syrian people is second to none.
These throwbacks to a mediaeval past can’t look after their own security. They would be helpless without America’s protective umbrella. But they had oil and from oil came arrogance and from that came folly and disastrous strategic choices.
What led Saudi Arabia and Qatar to interfere in Syria? Is any Arab or Muslim country in a position to read lectures on morality and correct behaviour to any other Muslim country? If Assad was guilty of brutal behaviour in his country how many Muslim countries can claim to be beacons of tolerance and democracy?
Each Muslim country, from one end of the Islamic Crescent to the other, has its own mess and problems to deal with. Muslims are second-class citizens of a world in which the leading and dominating roles are in the hands of other players. Our destinies are not in our own hands. Decisions about us are taken by others.
The Americans want to mount an invasion of Afghanistan and they go ahead. And the Muslim world is helpless and silent. And Pakistan, thinking it is left with no choice, becomes an active collaborator in that enterprise without having the courage or sense to say that it should be given time to think over the decision.
The Americans decide, for no rhyme or reason, to attack Iraq and the great world of Islam is again reduced to utter silence. The West goes about destroying Libya and Arab countries become accomplices in that act of destruction. And then the West turns its attention to Syria and the Arab countries far from learning any lessons from this new brand of imperialism eagerly become participants in that destruction too.
We thought Recep Tayyip Erdogan was a wise leader. We thought of him as a role model. Then he too lost his sense of balance. After Morsi’s ouster he started interfering in Egypt. What right had he to do that? As if that was not enough he also started interfering in Syria.
The Islamic countries, neighbours of Syria, should have opposed Western intervention. But here they were creating a royal mess of their own – Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar ranging themselves with the United States and France against Assad. The Americans wanted regime change for their own reasons and let’s not go into those. Saudi Arabia and Qatar were looking at Syria through a sectarian prism. Their ostensible aim was Assad’s ouster. Their real aim was to inflict defeat and humiliation on Iran which was the main force behind Assad and Hezbollah, Assad’s other ally.
Thus were drawn the lines of this 21st century replay of a schism which goes back to the early days of Islam – a Sunni alliance ranged against a Shia combination, with the West on the side of the Sunni alliance, Americans the new Sunnis and Russians the new Shias. And it would have gone badly for Assad and his Iranian backers if Russia had not weighed into the scales.
Vladimir Putin had it not in his power to stop the invasion of Iraq. He was guilty of a grave miscalculation in Libya, not vetoing the Security Council resolution which paved the way for the NATO bombing of Libya. That’s when he learned his lesson, Libya the tough university where became his re-education camp.
The Russians had had enough. So when it came to Syria they drew a line in the sand and said thus far and no more. Even the annexation of Crimea arose not from the snows of Moscow but the desert wastes of Libya. And Putin decided to throw all it took to prevent Assad’s collapse. We thus can see the outcome – of all the victims of the Arab Spring Assad remains the sole survivor…the Iranians, Hezbollah and the Russians fighting on his side.
And the Americans are furious but they have been unable to bend the Syrian civil war the way they wanted. Crimea and Assad mark the limits of American power. Putin has called their bluff and the Obama administration cannot forgive Putin for this reverse. But they are helpless, which adds to American frustration.
Syria has been turned into a proxy battlefield, outside powers playing out their regional ambitions at the expense of the Syrian people. Hundreds of thousands have died, entire cities have been flattened – Aleppo the latest in this catalogue of horror – and millions displaced from their homes.
Europe’s migrant crisis is a direct outcome of the Syrian civil war. Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, had nothing to do with Syria but the humanitarian stand she took on the refugee crisis is affecting her the most. The masters of the Syrian mischief – the Americans and the French, with Britain never far behind when it comes to American-style geo-political disasters – are getting off unscathed, although come to think of it, Brexit too is tied in many ways to the oceanic tides of migrants hitting Europe’s shores.
Look at the world of Islam – there’s not a leader to speak out boldly on the Syrian crisis, not one who can tell the satraps and despots so keen to interfere in matters which belong not to them that they are making utter fools of themselves, and spilling the blood of the Syrian people at the altar of their misguided and small ambitions.
These interfering despots should look to their own problems. Falling oil revenues have hit their balance sheets and adventures such as the Yemen intervention are a further drain on their resources. New strains are evident in what was once a rock-solid Saudi-American relationship. Indeed, the Arab status quo has been shattered, the Americans unwitting agents of change, unleashing dynamics whose lethal consequences they could not foresee.
The first Afghan ‘jihad’ against the Soviets laid the groundwork for the rise of Al-Qaeda. The Iraq invasion gave a further spurt to Islamic radicalism and turned Iraq, a Sunni-dominated republic, into a Shia-dominated country. Isis or Daesh has arisen from the embers of Iraq and the civil war in Syria.
What can end the Syrian conflict? What can put an end to the misery of the Syrian people? Nothing less than a Soviet-American understanding. How is this possible? Not under Obama, and in any event he is about to walk off into the shadows. Not under Hillary Clinton, who can only be expected to continue with America’s present disastrous course in that embattled country.
Only Trump can work this trick…a joint approach by Trump and Putin. That’s the only way to resolve the Syrian crisis. And this is not as far-fetched as many may think. Who gave Trump any chance to win the Republican nomination? He’s come a long way and may yet explode more conventional certainties. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.