SyRaq

Do we in the West understand what is transpiring/who is conspiring in Syria/Iraq (SyRaq)?

The ‘Arab Spring’ in Egypt manifests itself as a popular uprising and after several months of protests in Tahrir Square a military dictator – Hosni Mubarak, in power for 30 years is emphatically deposed. In the democratic process that follows the Muslim Brotherhood candidate – Mohamed Morsi, is elected President of Egypt.
The Muslim Brotherhood – a Sunni movement that is supported by the Qatari’s but opposed by the Saudi’s; having a substantial footprint in the political landscape of the region such that if there were democratic elections held in Jordan and Syria they would be the dominant party.
The military junta in Egypt then uses the ‘Deep State’ to create resentment amongst sections of civil society in order to position itself as the credible saviour of the democratic process. President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood government are portrayed as usurping power and as incapable of stemming rising prices and unemployment in the country.
A coup d’état overthrows the democratically elected Islamist government of President Morsi. This is followed by a widespread crackdown on the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood. Having jailed the Muslim Brotherhood leadership and shut down all non-compliant media, Field Marshal Abdul Fattah Al Sisi is elected President of Egypt by a ‘popular’ vote.

The ‘Arab Spring’ in Syria starts with an uprising in Homs and then spreads to the rest of the country. The Al Assad regime forcibly suppresses the uprising with assistance from Iran and the Hezbollah in Lebanon. The opposition Free Syrian Army and the Islamists are supported by the Saudi’s and Qatari’s. Salafi/Sunni fighters have been pouring in from Western nations and neighbouring Arab/Muslim countries to depose the Al Assad regime. Shiite fighters have been coming in primarily from Iraq to fight alongside the Al Assad regime.
I suspect that ISIL (ISI/ISIS) is a creation of Syrian intelligence; Sunni fighters from Syria/Iraq who had been encouraged to take up arms against US/UK forces during the invasion of Iraq. Iran and Syria did not then want the US/UK getting comfortable with their occupation of Iraq once they had deposed Saddam Husein and disbanded the Ba’athists. The Jabhat Al Nusra, an affiliate of Al Qaeda, was allowed into Syria in order to counterbalance ISIL and malign the credibility of the Free Syrian Army. The perception would be that the FSA was infiltrated by extremists and any help extended would undermine our security in the West. There have been several bouts of infighting within the ranks of the opposition and as a result they have fractured, with the Islamists breaking away from the Free Syrian Army.
The war having reached an impasse, Basher Al Assad is re-elected President of Syria by a ‘popular’ vote.

The aftermath of the US/UK invasion of Iraq is a democratic process that has reinforced the deep-seated sectarian divide and a body politic that is dominated by the Shiite majority. The Sunni tribes who have unresolved grievances with the Shiite Al Maliki government in Baghdad are giving succour to the Sunni ISIL forces. There is also some collusion with the Sunni officers given that the Iraqi army – trained and equipped by the US, has just melted away when confronted by the ISIL forces. The Iraqi national army, as a matter of fact, was set up by the Al Maliki government to crumble along sectarian/ethnic lines and to inevitably fail. It is the Iraqi Special Forces and the Shiite militia under the control of Al Maliki that underpin his hold on power in Baghdad.
Is it a coincidence that ISIL has gained a foothold in Iraq at a time when Iran is negotiating with the US/EU on its nuclear issue? The presence of ISIL in the Sunni dominated provinces will only radicalise the local population and may even lead to internal strife between the Islamists, the Ba’athist and the Sunni tribes. In fact, the presence of ISIL and the near certain radicalisation of the local Sunni population puts their Gulf Arab sponsors – Saudi’s and Qatari’s, at odds with the West and creates an alignment of interest for Iran and the West, something that Tehran and the Al Maliki government have been manoeuvring to achieve. The current matrix on the ground also enables the Al Maliki government in Baghdad to put pressure on the US for the immediate delivery of the most sophisticated weapons.

The West finds itself in a bind – in Egypt they recognise the election of Field Marshal Abdul Fattah Al Sisi but in Syria they refuse to recognise the election of President Basher Al Assad. In Iraq they support the government of Al Maliki who by stealth have been sending Shia militia fighters and weaponry across the border to support the Al Assad regime. The West, however, opposes the Islamists in Iraq but indirectly supports them in Syria through the Free Syrian Army because they are supposedly fighting the Al Assad regime.
Should the US/UK carry out targeted strikes against ISIL, it would alienate large sections of the Sunni Muslim population in the Middle East and in the West. The West would then find itself embroiled in a sectarian war of its own making and a target for extremists at home and abroad.

Advertisements

A chapter in Middle East politics

There is now a ceasefire of sorts in place between Hamas and Israel but what has actually been achieved by either antagonist. Israel has destroyed approx 1500 sites in Gaza but the residents of Sderot or Ashkelon contend Hamas will resume its rocket fire in a few months. The residents are sceptical because Operation Cast Lead in 2008/09 was supposed to have destroyed the ‘terror infrastructure’. Hamas has fired as many rockets into Israel, only this time they’ve managed to reach Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Israel’s Iron Dome missile shield intercepted 90% of the projectiles that could’ve landed on built-up areas; it may just be that Iran was probing the defence system for weakness. Hamas has claimed victory having survived the ‘precision bombing’ onslaught and has emerged politically stronger in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

The Arab Spring has brought the Muslim Brotherhood to power in Egypt; President Morsi attended the NAM meeting in Tehran where he called for reforms in Syria. In the Arab League conference held in Cairo, Morsi upped the ante when he called for a change of government – he then tempered this by stating that Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey and Egypt would meet to find a solution to the crisis in Syria. During the recent conflict between Hamas and Israel, President Morsi put Hamas under pressure to accept a truce in order to prevent the calamity that would result from an escalation of the violence. His statesmanship has elevated the Muslim Brotherhood to a position of a credible alternative to unelected regimes in neighbouring Arab states i.e. Syria and Jordan.

Khaled Meshaal may have abandoned his long time base in Damascus but was all praise for Iran during a press conference in Cairo held after the ceasefire between Hamas and Israel. Other pro-Syrian factions like the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP-GC) remain in Syria and who only recently met with Iran’s influential parliament speaker Ali Larijani. Khaled Meshaal’s move to Egypt – now under a democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood government, perhaps presages a reconciliation process between Hamas and Fatah which may lead to elections in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. In the interim, President Morsi may even succeed in getting Hamas to recognise the State of Israel along some approximation of the 1967 borders.

Israel enjoys good relations with King Abdullah II of Jordan but recent fuel price hikes have resulted in nationwide protests calling for change in the Kingdom. Budgetary constraints and the changing political landscape may force the King to reform on the lines of King Mohamed VI of Morocco. Islamist parties including the Muslim Brotherhood could dominate the newly elected parliament; the momentum for change could very easily undermine the monarchy. A resolution of the Syrian civil war is going to be far more problematic given the sectarian and ethnic divide of the country. A stalemate in the civil war will prolong Iran’s stranglehold on the Syrian political scene; a resolution of it could bring to the fore another Islamist and/or Muslim Brotherhood government.

Israel is an extremely stable country and has the military prowess that is the envy of its many bungling neighbours. However, the demographics of the Arab population and the changing political reality create facts on the ground that speak of another truth. When Israel recognizes as a matter of conscience that its security interests lie in affording dignity to the Palestinians in the occupied territories, will true peace in the Middle East come to fruition. Israel could then partner with the Palestinians who are predominantly secular, to protect their joint interests in the region. Palestinians in Jordan constitute more than half the population and are supportive of the current monarch King Abdullah II; his wife Queen Rania was born in Kuwait to Palestinian parents. A garnering of the secular forces in Jordan would drive a wedge in the Islamist/Muslim Brotherhood ambition to dominate the political arena in the region.