Syrian Revolt Speeds Up Gaddafi’s “Defeat”

Can’t forget Syria
Yahya R. Haidar
Libya is important. And referring to a column by Foreign Policy yesterday entitled “Was Libya Worth It?”, the answer is that it almost certainly was (especially to awakening colonial powers such as France and Italy), knowing the sea of black gold that Libya floats on.
Libya is important, but not as much as Syria. There is financial gain in the former, and while the list of reasons for military intervention in Libya runs long, no strategic analyst can seriously advance a claim that Gaddafi was becoming the Stalin of North Africa. Indeed, there may be some geopolitical strategy involved in the NATO’s bombardment of Libya, but geopolitics is the very essence of the Syrian situation. With Syria the parameters of the conflict run long: Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, Golan Heights, instability in Iraq, Iran’s influence on Iraqi politics, Turkey’s expanding economy and stiffening political will, the Kurdish issue, and so on.

Syria is getting out of control — and to policy makers in the mighty Western nations, it means Assad is losing his tight grip on power. Assad is a favorite to the Israelis, and the tanks rolling into the Syrian cities were once upon a time supposed to liberate the occupied Golan Heights, and the rest of Palestine, as the regime’s propaganda invariably asserted.

But, Syria will be a more costly endeavor, and will undoubtedly be a long-lasting Iraq-like scenario, given the multiple foreign and local factors at play there. Syria has, like Iraq and Afghanistan, a complicated geography. The Sykes-Picot Accord, which drew the lines of the current Middle East post World War I were controversial ever since, and they were meant to be. To lump together vastly differing ethnic, religious and linguistic groups overnight meant a type of what the late Edward Said called ‘imaginative geography’ must be in place.
And like every image we imagine, or hope to construct in the hope of creating a dream-like reality, it will surely fade and wear-out as muddy, earthy reality kicks in. No better time than now has that geographic concept-dream faded in the Arab World, giving way to a vacuum of un-ideological protests, but one which can easily be the beginning of new ethnic and religious groupings. In this milieu, Iraq comes quickly to mind, and, given the readiness with which NATO interfered in Libya, Syria is naturally next foreign-knocked domino.
Military analysts on Libya, even little informed generalists, knew well in advance that there was something odd about the prolonged conflict — reaching a stalemate and no advance seemed in sight for a few months. But, now, before we knew it, it is all over! Coincidentally, Syria seems more in a ‘stalemate’ than ever. The difference is that such ‘apparent’ balance which a stalemate brings about is this time under the control of the Assads of Damascus, and not the big chaps in NATO headquarters.

The mighty honorable Ban Ki-Moon has just spoken tough (for the first time) that ‘time is up’ for the Syrian president. Gaddafi is ‘defeated’ and Mr. Moon quickly joins the troupe in beating the drumbeats of war.

Yahya R. Haidar is a freelance journalist and researcher in religious studies.

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