It is obvious that the priorities of the Syrian rebels are different from those of the U.S. president and the British prime minister.
The Syrian issue is the main concern of the people who have suffered more than 100,000 deaths and the displacement of more than seven million citizens, inside and outside Syria.
However, if we look beyond the naiveté of believing that human rights are the only factor that moves major international politics, we find that the results of this week’s U.S.-British summit are no longer surprising.
In light of the events of the past two years, the U.S. administration’s adoption of Moscow’s interpretation of the Geneva Agreement represents a betrayal of the Syrian people which is, in many ways, parallel to Obama’s betrayal of the Palestinian peopleEyad Abu Shakra
It no longer requires a genius to work out that President Obama has given in to the Russian interpretation of the Geneva Agreement on Syria. It has become clear that Washington has accepted the reality of Bashar al-Assad remaining at the helm in Syria until the end of his presidential term next year, exactly as Russia and Iran wanted.
No one will believe Obama’s promises—or those of his British ally—whose rhetoric fooled many in the last few months: promises such as “a Syria without Assad” with no deadline, and without stating that Assad’s departure is a necessary prelude for any political resolution.
This sweet talk is merely a cover for the failures of a foreign policy that either lacks understanding or is comprehensively conspiring against a vital region whose people’s interests Washington sees no wrong in ignoring.
The question, in my view, has gone past worrying about the possibility of Syria falling under the control of fundamentalists, jihadists and takfirists. Allowing jihadists and takfirists into Syria was actually part of the regime’s secret backup plan. Once the regime guaranteed Russian and Chinese vetoes and direct strategic Iranian support, it gained the time it needed to survive the revolution.
The entry of these groups into Syria was calculated, taking into account the Syrian regime’s past in Lebanon and Iraq. The infiltration of these groups into Syria was largely taking place with the regime’s blessing and help, in order to create the fear needed to clean its slate and frighten the international community of the consequences of abandoning the regime.
Let’s leave the Syrian crisis alone for now and look instead at what is taking place outside Syria’s borders.
Illusory red lines
About 18 months ago, the rhetoric from senior Turkish leaders was threatening and stern, saying things like, ‘We will not stand idly by and watch the genocide in Syria.’
Assad has crossed a number of illusory red lines, from the bombardment of Akçakale, a Turkish town on the Syrian border, to the targeting of Syrian refugee camps on the border or the downing of a Turkish fighter jet in international airspace and the two bomb explosions in Reyhanlı. Following all this, the rhetoric of Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has changed completely, stressing defensively that Turkey “will not be drawn into a deliberate Syrian trap.”
A few months ago in Lebanon, Hezbollah was keeping its role in fighting alongside the regime and against the Syrian people quiet. It was keen to keep the government of Najib Mikati as a flimsy cover for this role. Suddenly, however, Hezbollah—or Iran, the authority across the borders—decided it no longer needed such cover.
Meanwhile, the tension is escalating in Lebanon, where Hezbollah, using its supporters in parliament and the street, has opened a fierce political annulment battle. It warns prime minister-designate Tammam Salam of woe and destruction if he dares form a government from anyone other than politicians, because it sees that as marginalizing its camp.
At the same time, Hezbollah is ignoring the reservations of the Sunni leadership—including Najib Mikati—and the Druze leadership about discussing the Orthodox Election Law. It is further using its media to incite against its enemies and the enemies of the Syrian regime and to ridicule them.
The situation is no different in Jordan, which a few years ago was the first to openly warn against the Iranian-sponsored “Shi’ite Crescent,” and which is now trying to contain a humanitarian, political and security crisis that the Assad regime has often tried to export onto its territory.
This dark picture presented by the situations in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, added to by the complex situation in Iraq, must have, at least, been explained to Washington by its ambassadors’ reports; a fact that removes the possibility of lack of information. To that end, too, there are experts and research centers in Washington—not to mention various international agencies’ reports—in addition to the allies who are interested in the situation in the Middle East, even if they have no borders with it.
Earlier this week, Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi said his country was against the division of Syria. This was also discussed by President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron. The fact that both the two Western leaders and Iran refuse to accept, however, is that division has always been the last resort of minorities when they lose, as opposed to their thirst for hegemony when they are in control. The majority has no interest in division.
According to all this, the situation seems to be that a political decision has been taken to turn a blind eye to the suffering of the Syrian people, to let the regime play its negotiation cards as it pleases, and to delegate Moscow and Tehran to take care of the region’s affairs.
And Israel is not out of the picture. The Israeli prime minister’s visits to Beijing and Moscow must be taken seriously, even if the stated reason for the Moscow visit was discussing the problematic delivery of the S-300 missiles.
In light of the events of the past two years, the U.S. administration’s adoption of Moscow’s interpretation of the Geneva Agreement represents a betrayal of the Syrian people which is, in many ways, parallel to Obama’s betrayal of the Palestinian people after the promises he made on his first presidential visit to the Middle East.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on May 16, 2013.
Eyad Abu Shakra (also written as Ayad Abou-Chakra) began his media career in 1973 with An-Nahar newspaper in Lebanon. He joined Asharq al-Awsat newspaper in the UK in 1979, occupying several positions including: Senior Editor, Managing Editor, and Head of Research Unit, as well as being a regular columnist. He has several published works, including books, chapters in edited books, and specialized articles, in addition to frequent regular TV and radio appearances.