Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Democracy Now
PATRICK SEALE: Well, as we all know, the opposition is deeply divided. The strongest, best funded, best organized element in it are the Muslim Brothers. Now, they have a longstanding grievance against the Assad regime, father and son, going back over 30 years—indeed, ever since the Ba’ath Party came to power in Syria in 1963—Ba’ath Party, which is a secular movement. And from that moment on, some elements of the Muslim Brothers went underground, started taking arms, and mounted a terrorist campaign against the Syrian regime in the late six—in the late ’70s, culminating in the seizure of Hama, which the state then retook with great loss of life. Now, after that, the Muslim Brothers were banned. Membership was punishable by death. So they have a great deal to want revenge for from this regime.

Now, in addition to the Muslim Brothers, which are the many, many strands of them in Syria and outside Syria, there are also large numbers now of armed Islamic extremists, jihadis, so-called Arab fighters coming in from neighboring countries but also from countries further afield, from Afghanistan, from Pakistan, from Tunisia. Now, these people, a lot of them coming from Iraq, where they’ve been carrying out suicide operations, which they’re replicating now in Syria—gross acts of terror. Now, this is the problem. The number two man in al-Qaeda, Abu Yahya al-Libi, whom the Americans claim to have killed the other day, has just issued a video accusing Bashar al-Assad. So, does the United States want to be on the side of al-Qaeda?

...Now, some Arab states—Saudi Arabia and Qatar—also seem to see the crisis in sectarian terms. They think that Iran, a Shia power, could challenge Sunni primacy in the region. But you saw—your program began, at around—a few minutes ago, with the massacres in Iraq of Shia civilians. Now, who do you think triggered that sectarian conflict? It was the United States, with its invasion of Iraq in 2002, which led to the collapse of the state to a sectarian civil war in which hundreds of thousands of people were killed and millions displaced. Do they want the same thing to happen in Syria? Hasn’t Syria suffered enough? Shouldn’t the West and Russia join in imposing a ceasefire on both sides, instead of fueling the flames? The United States is said to be coordinating the flow of money, intelligence and weapons to the rebels, and then complaining that Russia is doing the same for the regime.

...This the trouble. I mean, there’s so much foreign intervention, with each of the external actors pursuing its own strategic goals. Now, the opposition, the rebels, know, I believe, that they cannot hope to defeat the Syrian army on the ground. Their whole strategy has been to try and trigger a Western military intervention. Now that’s been slow in coming. Now, to trigger such an intervention, they have either perpetrated massacres themselves — and I stick with the report from the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung [below]— or they try and provoke the regime into massacres. Now, what that German newspaper said was that rebels attacked some checkpoints manned by the army, and in the firefight that followed, which lasted about 90 minutes, the massacre took place. And they contacted many sources on the ground, which Mrs. Jouejati dismisses, and says—and said—they reported that the killing was done by anti-Assad Sunni militants. Now, I’m not saying one thing or the other; I’m saying that this should be investigated.

Now, Mrs. Jouejati is, I think, mistaken in not seeing the wider context of this Syrian—tragic Syrian struggle. And the only way to resolve it is not by force of arms. The only way to resolve it is by diplomacy. That is why it is a great mistake to sabotage Kofi Annan’s mission, as I’m afraid the United States is doing. It pays lip service to his peace mission while conniving in the arming of the opposition. The West and the Russians should combine in imposing a ceasefire on both sides and bringing both sides to the table. That is the only way to save what is left of Syria.