Arab politics, europolitics and geopolitics: Syria can’t be divorced from any of them.
Now that Egypt’s Mubarak is clinically dead anyway (saving everyone the embarassment of Islamists debating the nastiest way to kill him), the Arab Spring is in full swing. This is especially true in Syria, where the mad person Assad refuses to budge, and Barack Obama just broadcast from the G20 to say he cannot “foresee any solution to the Syrian crisis that includes Assad staying in power”. Sadly for the Black Dude, China and Russia can, and they could probably keep supplying arms to Assad for some time to come.
I have only a tiny resource these days in North Africa (as in, one person) but that person told me last night that another State is also supplying Assad with various forms of assistance: Israel.
Nobody should be remotely surprised by this. The end of Mubarak regime made the Egypt-Gaza border more unsafe, and has seen the importation of huge weaponry supplies by Islamist/Hamas elements there. Were Assad’s Baathist regime to fall, Syria’s willingness to control its border with Israel would be reversed, and become a haven for yet further insurgency. This is life-or-death stuff for Israel, and so it needs two policies at once – one public, one geopolitical and secret.
Just eight days ago, after a year of saying nothing, Israel came out publicly against the continued massacre in Syria, and called for the removal from office of President Bashar Assad. In some ways, Assad’s destruction would suit Tel Aviv, surrounded as it is by malign forces who can’t agree among themselves. Indeed, some top decision-makers in Israel have been arguing for months that bringing down the Syrian regime would weaken the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah alliance.
So publicly, Deputy prime minister Saul Mofaz told Israeli armed forces radio last week that a “crime against humanity, a genocide is being conducted in Syria today”, and later Benjamin Netanyahu called for concerted global action to end the slaughter.
But it takes two sides to slaughter this many people, and so Israel must hedge its bets with a complementary policy out of the limelight.
“Assad would’ve gone by now had it not been for the Israelis and others giving covert assistance to Bashar Assad,” my source reports. “The aim all along for Russia and China has been to create a no-winner situation in Syria….and whether they’d admit this or not, the Netanyahu regime would be delighted with that as a result.”
The Obama Administration seems not to understand the first thing about Arab complexities. It was months before Secretary Clinton grasped that ‘Arab Spring’ was the greatest misnomer in history (certainly months after The Slog predicted the mayhem to come) and several months further on again before anyone in the White House grasped that Arab unity beneath an umbrella of Islamism wouldn’t be such a great idea for anyone with a genuine passion for democracy.
US policy in the region ought to be simple: pile in with aid for genuinely democratic elements, while getting the CIA to work overtime with Mossad (and in Egypt, the military) to make life tough to impossible for Islamist nutters; and weaken Iran’s alliances by ‘neutralising’ those allies. I don’t mean by that killing them, I mean getting them into a properly-run UN watchdog conglomerate where no one faction can win. Such an approach would produce the best result in Syria. In the end of course, it would all fall apart -as everything involving Arabs and the UN always does – but by that time, the US and Israel may well have secured a far stronger position for themselves.
This is why one cannot divorce what’s going on in the ClubMed eurozone – and Greece in particular – from what’s going on in the Arab Spring that has turned so predictably ugly. Israel spotted this years ago, and has several joint projects with Greece and Cyprus on the stocks for mutual exchanges on energy – including oil pipelines between those three countries, and an agreement to work togther on raw material exploitation on the Med/Aegean seabeds…with a few private codicils about telling Turkey’s Recep Erdogan to butt out.
This is an additional reason why the US has always wanted Greece to be amputated from the eurozone – and why Berlin blocked it. Access to the energy potential of South East Europe – and an ideal base for anti-Islamist weaponry – has meant a genuine commonality of view between the Pentagon, State, and Wall Street on the issue….as is almost always the case anyway, but especially so here.
The complexity of middle eastern policy is matched only by the duplicity and many-layered scrum that typifies the last days of the eurozone. Greece will not, as I’ve opined before, leave the eurozone before Germany does: the zone itself may beat both of them to the punch by simply imploding. But once that zone has finally flopped, watch the US (if it too hasn’t gone bankrupt as a result of eurocollapse) piling into the Greek situation with everything its resources can muster.