‘Teachable moments’ loom in Syrian conflict

By Christof Lehmann 

  • After more than 18 months of belligerent action against the government de jure of the Syrian Arab Republic, the regime is still maintaining relative stability and security. A peaceful resolution however, becomes increasingly illusive while the potentially catastrophic regional and global consequences of the failure to broker a peaceful resolution seem to be a harbinger of a return to global barbarism, anarchy and unspeakable human suffering. 
    NATO’s victory and teachable moments in Libya.
    In an article, published in Foreign Affairs March/April 2012 edition which was published prior to the 25th summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Chicago, Ivo H Daalder, the US Permanent Representative to NATO, and James G Stavridis, Supreme Allied Commander and Commander of the US European Command, gave a clear indication of what NATO has in mind for Syria. 
    Daalder and Stavridis described NATO’s Operation Unified Protector in Libya as “NATO’s Victory in Libya. The Right Way to Run and Intervention” and as “A Teachable Moment”. [1] 
    What was so “teachable” about Libya, and what is “The Right Way to Run an Intervention”? An analysis of NATO’s post 25th summit doctrine and the consequences for security and stability in the Middle East points to a two-tiered NATO strategy that combines low cost, low intensity, illegitimate warfare with an aggressive nuclear posture. [2] 
    There are in fact numerous teachable moments in the phenomena that is euphemized under the name “The Arab Spring”: 
    the successful political manipulation of Turkey;
    the successful implementation of plans developed by the RAND Corporation, which already in 1996 advised that Turkey should be governed by Abdullah Gul in the office of president and Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the office of prime minister, as a precondition for a successful implementation of a comprehensive solution for the Middle East;
    the successful transformation of the Turkish High Command from a bastion of secularism into a High Command that would cooperate with Muslim Brothers and Al-Qaeda mercenaries in preparation of the division of both Syria and Turkey along ethnic lines;
    the successful manufacturing of a crisis as precondition for the successful abuse of a UN Security Council resolution, as a precondition for the successful implementation of regime change. 
    A UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution is adopted when it has the concurrent vote of all permanent members. However, since resolution #4 (1948) on Spain it has become practice that abstentions are interpreted as a passive or quasi-concurrent vote. This practice implied that the members who propose the resolution are not overstepping the resolutions authorizations to a significant degree. 
    When Russia and China abstained on UNSC resolution #1973 (2011) on Libya it was implicitly understood that Russia and China expected that NATO would adhere to the letter of the resolution and not overstep it in any significant degree. It should be added here, that the fact that the UNSC has adopted a resolution does not necessarily make it legitimate. 
    What Daalder and Stavridis also found “teachable” was that NATO or its allies could disregard the Convention against the Use of Mercenaries and use the al-Qaeda-associated Libyan Islamic Fighting Group as infantry, while abusing resolution 1973 to wage an aerial war against the Libyan military. 
    Special Forces on the ground would function as liaison within a joint command while NATO could enjoy “plausible deniability”. The Libyan government de jure was ousted, the head of state murdered in cold blood, an independent investigation into his death could be prevented, a proxy government could be installed. 
    It is not surprising that Daalder and Stavridis proclaim a NATO victory in Libya. From a NATO perspective it was in deed a victory and a teachable moment. It was also a moment that has taught both Russia and China that NATO will abuse an abstention at the Security Council to implement wars of aggression. 
    The UN Security Council has since been frozen in a deadlock between NATO members on one hand and China and Russia on the other. The deadlock has brought the necessity of structural changes within the United Nations into focus. 
    The United Nations is rapidly loosing its residual credibility and functionality as an instrument for conflict resolution while security and stability in the Middle East are deteriorating. Negotiating a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Syria, for the brewing conflict between NATO, Israel, the Gulf Cooperation Council member states (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates) on one hand, and Iran, Russia, China on the other at the UN seems increasingly implausible, if not impossible. 
    NATO’s victory in Libya not only brought about regime change, it also devastated the countries infrastructure, divided the country along tribal and ethnic lines, and resulted in a weak and split national government that is unable to maintain internal as well as external stability and security. 
    What is most worrying about Daalder’s and Stavridis interpretations of Libya as a victory and teachable moment is that it implies that the achievement of the destabilization of Syria, Lebanon, Iran, and subsequently Turkey are also likely to be perceived as victories and teachable moments. 
    The cost of further NATO victories in terms of regional and global stability and security, in terms of the economies of Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Turkey and the global economy, the cost in terms of a deterioration of international law and a return to barbarism and anarchy in conflict and conflict resolution, and the cost in terms of human suffering are staggering. 
    Peaceful resolution in Syria and good faith
    The primary precondition for a peaceful resolution to the crisis in Syria is that all parties are negotiating and acting in good faith.
    An immediate withdrawal of all NATO and GCC member states special forces and other military personnel from Syria is a minimum precondition for showing good faith.
    An immediate adherence to the Convention against the Use of Mercenary Forces and other international bodies of law by NATO and GCC member states, Jordan, Lebanon or major political players in Lebanon such as Saad Hariri and Walid Jumblatt, Israel, Libya and any other nation that is currently involved in financing, training, arming or other support of insurgents and the armed opposition.
    An immediate establishment of strict controls of refugee camps in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. Particularly the refugee camps in Turkey are being systematically abused to recruit, train, arm and deploy insurgents into Syria. Strict controls would include that entrance into and exit from the camps is strictly monitored by Turkish police or military personnel, eventually with the participation of military observers from one or several non NATO or GCC member states.
    The close monitoring of all Syrian borders by neighboring countries military forces to stop the illegal flow of weapons, troops and the deployment of military observers from non NATO, GCC member states. 
    The blatant violations of international law in particular by Turkey and Jordan, which not only offer their territory for infiltration by foreign fighters, but also actively take part in organizing the subversion, and all logistical and other support of insurgents must halt immediately. 
    The new joint UN-Arab League envoy Ladhkah Brahmini should be given the full support of all UN member states. His role is, however, not likely to be perceived as that of a neutral or fair broker, as long as the Arab League upholds the dispensation of Syria’s membership. Brahmini will be facing an insurmountable challenge as long as Saudi Arabia and Turkey, which together with Iran and Egypt form the Contact Group, are violating international law and sponsoring the insurgency and subversion. 
    Initiatives by the Arab League to politically, diplomatically, economically and otherwise isolate Syria which are inherently opposed to the Charter of the Arab League and its purported function do not create preconditions for negotiations in good faith.
    Illegitimate initiatives, such as the one to pressure Arabsat and Nilesat to stop broadcasting Syrian Radio and TV satellite signals in order to facilitate absolute image and media control by nations who are taking part in the attempted subversion must cease. 
    A dialog in good faith is not facilitated by one-sided, strongly biased propaganda. The Organization of the Islamic Conference must recall the dispensation of Syria. The abuse of this organization is dangerous and risks to aggravate a religious dimension of the conflict and to further aggravate the abuse of Sunni-Shia conflicts world wide. 
    Organizations such as the “Friends of Syria” group, which is a de facto subversive alliance, must be abandoned as instruments for finding a resolution to the conflict. The Friends of Syria group is a de-facto cartel of nations that meet to organize systematic violations of international law in an attempt to bring about regime change in Syria. 
    Iran last week hosted a conference of 120 nations to work towards a peaceful resolution of the crisis. It is a positive initiative that should be supported, but it is not likely to bring about a peaceful resolution unless Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the UAE will take part in good faith. 
    It is a positive initiative that should be supported, but it risks further aggravating the conflict unless Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are taking part and are willing to play a constructive role, which is unlikely. 
    In the absence of NATO and GCC member states, Jordan’s, Israel’s, Libya’s and others good faith in negotiating a peaceful resolution, the Iranian initiative may in fact be part of the only viable alternative. If it is supported by Russia and China it may have a chance to succeed. 
    The second-best solution to an all-inclusive solution that embraces the armed political opposition and the nations that are supporting it would be the establishment of a multilateral group that protects Syria from the consequences of a continued aggression. Such an alternative solution could include the following initiatives: countering the consequences of attempts to diplomatically, politically, economically and otherwise isolate the government de jure of Syria by reinforcing diplomatic and political relations; trade agreements that help alleviate the devastating consequences of sanctions; and diversifying the one-sided international discourse about Syria. 
    Even though political parties in Syria are legitimate, and even though one opposition party is holding a ministerial post in the unity government, there is a lack of party infrastructure that makes opposition parties equal competitors to the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party. Selective support of the one or the other political party at building a party infrastructure can be problematic and invites unwarranted foreign interference. 
    A model for developing a democratic culture and multi-party infrastructure projects could facilitate a pluralistic political process that could help to remedy the consequences of decades of government under emergency laws. 
    When organizing those projects, it must be taken into consideration that Syria, because of its de-facto state of war with Israel, has had heightened security needs that have not decreased since the onset of the attempted subversion. A long-term strategy of delegating political influence and responsibilities to multiple political parties is the best strategy to discourage attempts to use violence and to strengthen national coherence. 
    In the event that the UN fails as an instrument to safeguard the national sovereignty and security of Syria while the subversive alliance continues the illegitimate support of armed insurgents, it must be considered to add a military dimension to finding a peaceful resolution of the conflict. 
    The government de jure of the Syrian Arab Republic has the right to sign treaties with friendly, non-hostile nations and deploy foreign military troops on Syrian territory. Failure by Turkey and Jordan to ensure that insurgents are not using their territories as bases of operation for transgressions in Syria could be countered by the deployment of international troops along the borders to help repel insurgents. 
    Further failure of Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, as well as NATO member states to halt the illegitimate support could warrant diplomatic and other sanctions. 
    Sadly, in the light of sustained aggression, the most viable way to secure peace and stability is to aid Syria by establishing diplomatic, political, economical and military credibility against a foreign aggression. 
    In closing this article, I would like to reiterate that war crimes will be committed as long as they can be committed with utter impunity. The current state of affairs, where NATO and allied nations instrumentalize the International Criminal Court (ICC) and special tribunals for political show trials and victor’s justice, with an ICC that in and of itself has no legitimacy in international law on one hand, and a Kuala Lumpur war crimes tribunal that has no other than moral authority, it is unlikely that the international regression into barbarism can be halted. 
    Those nations that wish to facilitate a peaceful resolution of the crisis in Syria and who want to prevent future aggressions would be well advised to establish international jurisdiction for the most serious crimes to limit war criminals’ ability to act with impunity. 
    1. Daalder Ivo H, Stavridis James G. (2012) “NATO’s Victory in Libya. The Right Way to Run an Intervention”. Foreign Affairs March/April 2012 pp 2-7
    2. Lehmann Christof (2012) “NATO`s 25th Summit in Chicago in Preparation of Global Full Spectrum Dominance, Interventionism, Possible Preparations for A Regional War Directed against Russia and China, and Developments in Global Security.” nsnbc, May 20, 2012. 
    Dr Christof Lehmann, born 1958 in West Germany, was Advisor for Research in Psycho-traumatology to Yasser Arafat and survivors of the Sabra Shatila massacre in 1982, secured a doctoral degree in clinical psychology in 1986. He was adviser to Joshua Nkomo on the impact of torture and psychological trauma on conflict solution and reconciliation in Zimbabweดs politics in 1986-1990, and advised Nelson Mandela on social politics, public mental health and the effect of psychological trauma on peace and reconciliation in 1994-1997. Dr Lehmann is a practicing clinical psychologist and runs an independent blog at:http://nsnbc.wordpress.com 

    (Copyright Christof Lehmann 2012)

  • http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/NI06Ak01.html
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