Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Cornered by his Syria Rhetoric and Opposed by
his Intelligence Agencies
By Uri Avnery
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, September 2, 2013
POOR OBAMA. I pity him.
Right at the start of his meeting
with history, he made The Speech in Cairo. A great speech. An uplifting
speech. An edifying speech.
He talked to the educated youth of the
Egyptian capital. He spoke about the virtues of democracy, the bright future
awaiting a liberal, moderate Muslim world.
Hosni Mubarak was not
invited. The hint was that he was an obstacle to the bright new world.
Perhaps the hint was taken. Perhaps the speech sowed the seed of the Arab
Probably Obama was not aware of the possibility
that democracy, virtuous democracy, would lead to Islamist rule. He tried to
reach out tentatively, tenderly, to the Muslim Brothers after they won the
election. But probably at the same time, the CIA was already plotting the
So now we are exactly where we were the day
before The Speech: ruthless military dictatorship.
NOW WE have a similar problem in Syria.
The Arab Spring begat a
civil war. More than a hundred thousand people have been killed already, and
the number grows with every passing day.
The world stood by,
looking on passively. For Jews, it was a reminder of the holocaust, when,
according to the lesson every boy and girl learns at school here, “the world
looked on and kept silent.”
Until a few days ago. Something has
happened. A red line has been crossed. Poison gas has been used. Civilized
mankind demands action. From whom? From the President of the United States,
SOME TIME ago Obama made a speech,
another one of Those Speeches, in which he drew a red line: no arms of mass
destruction, no poison gas.
Now it seems that this red line has been
crossed. Poison gas has been employed.
Who would do such a terrible
thing? That bloody tyrant, of course. Bashar al-Assad. Who else?
American public opinion, indeed public opinion throughout the West, demands
action. Obama has spoken, so Obama must act. Otherwise he would confirm the
image he has in many places. The image of a wimp, a weakling, a coward, a
talker who is not a doer.
This would hurt his ability to achieve
anything even in matters far removed from Damascus – the economy, health
care, the climate.
The man has indeed talked himself into a corner.
The need to act has become paramount. A politician’s nightmare.
HOWEVER, SEVERAL questions raise their heads.
of all, who says that Assad released the gas?
Pure logic seems to
advise against this conclusion. When it happened, a group of UN experts, no
nincompoops they, were about to investigate the suspicions of chemical
warfare on the ground. Why would a dictator in his right mind provide them
with proof of his malfeasance? Even if he thought that the evidence could be
eradicated in time, he could not be sure. Sophisticated equipment could
Secondly, what could chemical weapons achieve that ordinary
weapons could not? What strategic or even tactical advantage do they offer,
that could not be provided by other means?
The argument to disprove
this logic is that Assad is not logical, not normal, just a crazy despot
living in a world of his own. But is he? Until now, his behavior has shown
him to be tyrannical, cruel, devoid of scuples. But not mad. Rather
calculating, cold. And he is surrounded by a group of politicians and
generals who have everything to lose, and who seem a singularly cold-blooded
Also, lately the regime seems to be winning. Why take a risk?
Yet Obama must decide to attack them on what seems to be very
inconclusive evidence. The same Obama who saw through the mendacious
evidence produced by George Bush Jr. to justify the attack on Iraq, an
attack which Obama, to his great credit, objected to right from the
beginning. Now he is on the other side.
poison gas? What’s so special, so red-lining about it?
If I am
going to be killed, I don’t really care whether it is by bombs, shells,
machine guns or gas.
True, there is something sinister about gas.
The human mind recoils from something that poisons the air we breathe.
Breathing is the most elementary human necessity.
But poison gas is
no weapon of mass destruction. It kills like any other weapon. One cannot
equate it to the atomic bombs used by America ion Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Also, it is not a decisive weapon. It did not change the course of
World War I, when it was extensively used. Even the Nazis did not see any
use for it in World War II – and not only because Adolf Hitler was gassed
(and temporarily blinded) by poison gas in World War I.
having drawn the line in the Syrian sand for poison gas, Obama could not
BUT THE main reason for Obama’s long
hesitation is of quite a different order: He is compelled to act against the
real interests of the United States.
may be a terrible son-of-a-bitch, but he serves
the US, nevertheless.
For many years
the Assad family has supported the status quo in
the region. Israel’s Syrian border is the quietest border Israel has
ever had, in spite of the fact that Israel has annexed territory that
indisputably belongs to Syria. True, Assad used Hizbullah to provoke Israel
from time to time, but that was not a real threat.
Assad belongs to a minority sect. Unlike Mubarak, he has behind him a strong
and well-organized political party, with an authentic ideology. The
nationalist pan-Arabist Ba’ath (“resurrection”) party was founded by the
Christian Michel Aflaq and his colleagues mainly as a bulwark against the
"Islamist ideology" (actually, it was established as a reaction to the 1948
Nakba - Editor).
Like the fall of Mubarak, the fall of Assad would
most likely lead to an Islamist regime, more radical than the Egyptian
Muslim Brotherhood. The Syrian sister-party of the brothers was always more
radical and more violent than the Egyptian mother-movement.
Moreover, it is in the nature of a civil war that the most extreme elements
take over, because their fighters are more determined and more
self-sacrificing. No amount of foreign aid will prop up the moderate,
secular section of the Syrian rebels strongly enough to enable them to take
over after Assad. If the Syrian state remains intact, it will be a radical
Islamist state. Especially if there are free, democratic elections, as there
were in Egypt.
As seen from Washington DC, this would be a disaster.
So we have here the curious picture of Obama
driven by his own rhetoric to attack Assad, while all his own intelligence
agencies work overtime to prevent a victory of the rebels.
As somebody recently wrote: It is in the American
interest that the civil war go on forever, without any side winning. To
which practically all Israeli political and military leaders would say:
So, from the US strategic
viewpoint, any attack on Assad must be minimal, a mere pinprick that would
not endanger the Syrian regime.
As has been noted, love and
politics create strange bedfellows. At the moment, a very strange assortment
of powers are interested in the survival of the Assad regime: The US,
Russia, Iran, Hizbullah and Israel. Yet Obama is being pushed to attack him.
TRYING TO understand the mindset of the CIA, I
would say that from their point of view, the Egyptian solution is also the
best for Syria: Topple the dictator and put another dictator in his place.
Military dictatorship for everybody in the Arab region.
Not the solution Barack Obama would have liked to be identified with in the
Poor, poor Obama.