Don’t Let Syria Become Libya
1 May 2012
Hamid Dabashi is Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University.
All the indications are that the US and its regional allies are gearing up for a Libyan déjà vu in Syria. That is a dangerous and potentially catastrophic turn of events for Syria, and for the region at large, resulting in even more blood than the murderous Syrian regime has shed so far.
The recent Al Jazeera report that the Lebanese navy intercepted "a ship loaded with three containers of weapons destined for Syrian opposition forces" is the most recent indication that the incessantly increasing violence has long since assumed regional and transnational proportions. The ruling regimes in Iran and Saudi Arabia are fighting their proxy wars on the backs of the Syrian people.
To be sure, just like Gaddafi's, the bloody ruling regime in Syria is chiefly responsible for the carnage that has unfolded over the past year - for if they had allowed peaceful demonstrations to result in a peaceful transition to democracy, the US and its regional allies would not have had the opportunity to try to fish from the bloody water that Bashar al-Assad has created, nor would there be any room for the opportunist manipulations such as those proffered by Russia, China or Iran.
A former secretary-general of the United Nations, Kofi Annan is a perfectly credible intermediary, perhaps the only one with such a credential at this point, and it seems that his plan is quite comprehensive. It calls for an immediate end to bloodshed, the delivery of humanitarian aid, a process for opposition demands to be peacefully articulated, the release of political detainees, allowing foreign reporters into the country, and permitting peaceful demonstrations.
But the ruling regime in Syria is abusing the Annan plan to murder more Syrians. Weeks after the Syrian acceptance of the Annan plan, Al Jazeera continues to report a massive and bloody crackdown upon the opposition: "Syrian troops," Al Jazeera reported as of April 24, 2012, "have killed dozens of civilians in the city of Hama, activists have said, as UN military observers toured protest centres near the capital Damascus, and both Brussels and Washington imposed new sanctions." (…)
But it is now all but evident that at least the more belligerent factions within the ruling regime in Syria is trying to abuse the Annan plan to try (in vain) to crush the uprising once and for all. The Assad regime is, of course, criminally ignorant - and that is the case not because the Saudis or the US are trying to abuse the situation to their advantage, but because the Syrian uprising, long in process and integral to the rest of Arab revolutions, will not die and will resurface. (…)
But the Syrian regime is not the only party trying to abuse the Annan mission. US officials are itching for it to fail, as the EU foreign ministers too have imposed a new round of sanctions on Syria, without allowing for the Annan plan to have a chance. (…)
All these otherwise logical and perhaps even necessary gestures can systematically accumulate into a pretext for a US-NATO military strike along the lines of the Libyan model. (…)
Remember the Libyan uprising, when African countries wanted to negotiate a deal with Gaddafi, but the NATO bombing did now allow it to develop - sharing responsibility with Gaddafi's own criminal banality trying to abuse that peace plan to stay in power. The task that now Kofi Annan is facing is that which South African President Jacob Zuma was trying to accomplish in Libya, when he conducted incessant shuttle diplomacy on behalf of the African Union to find a peaceful solution to the conflict. (…)
This time in Syria, let Annan be Annan - a peace envoy, a harbinger of non-violent transition in Syria - and not an excuse for the US-led military intervention. It is not just the criminal ruling regime in Syria that is trying to abuse the Annan plan hoping to crush the opposition. The US and its allies too are trying to abuse Annan as an excuse to wage a military strike. But Annan's plan can work. (…)
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