Daily archives: March 25, 2011

All Eyes on the Middle East

For weeks now, every Friday has been full of thrill and expectation, as we have waited to see what will transpire after Friday prayers. Plainly the Islamic religion is capable of being a motor for postive social change. First expectation centred on Tunisia, then on Egypt. Today among many key points, Syria and Yemen are particularly interesting.

In Yemen, the Americans are back in the position they were in over Egypt as it became plain that Mubarak could not survive, when they tried to foist in the arch Zionist Omar Suleyman. In Yemen they are still hoping to find a successor for Salih endorsed by the USA and propelled to power by the military, who will permit free operation by US forces in Yemen. It does not seem that anything will ever convince Obama that freedom and democracy in the Middle East would address most of the root causes of terrorism.

Syria is interesting, because while Assad is every bit as murderous as his father, he gives an example of what a younger and more media savvy generation of Middle Eastern dictators might look like. Instead of threatening to murder all opposition, he apologises for each and every massacre his troops carry out and sends flowers to their relatives. His wife does excellent PR in a Princess Diana style, pretending all kinds of concern for the poor. Assad spouts the language of reform with glib facility, meaning absolutely none of it. If is easy to see that Saif Gadaffi, charmer of Western politicians and institutions who craved the money stolen from his people, would have adoped that model if the Arab Spring had not emerged.

While the USA is not fond of Assad, stylistically he is a good example of the kind of media friendly dictator the CIA sees as the ideal medium term outcome of the Arab Spring.

It is peculiar that the Western media, and now international law, view Gadaffi’s assets as ill-gotten because he stole them after seizing power, whereas the money looted from his pople by the King of Bahrain, or the vast Saudi oil wealth treated as private property by the al-Saud, is viewed as highly respectable and desirable. At least Gadaffi seized it for himself. The ancestors of monarchs did precisely what Gadaffi has done, and then their descendants simply wallowed in the inheritance. There is no moral difference between Gadaffi’s sons and Saudi princes. I should like to see the back of the lot of them.

As predicted, the military action in Libya is going horribly wrong. The bombs and missiles are consolidating an undeserved nationalist support for Gadaffi and motivating more people to actually fight for him. The rebels are on the wrong end of ground battles and there is precious little evidence what majority opinion in Libya actually now wants. The western bombing forces are more and more involved in ground attack on pro-Gadaffi forces, and not only armour.

Whether taking a side in the civil war can be justified in terms of UNSCR 1973 as “protecting civilians” seems to me a very dubous prospect indeed. It is certainly unwise, but the legality of current actions is arguable as it may not yet be definitely established that taking sides is what we are doing.

However, it cannot be argued that taking out the command and control structure of the entire Libyan army, not just that related to air defence, is necessary to civilian protection and a no fly zone. And the pattern of ground attack in support not of civilians but of armed rebel forces is becoming plainly established.

If this goes on for more than another couple of days, it seems to me it will be beyond doubt that the action has gone outwith the aims of UNSCR 1973, are disproportionate, and the UK will be engaged in illegal war.

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