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War criminals by default

By Alan Hart

My last thought for 2013 is that for their failure to cooperate and coordinate to make the United Nations work to stop the slaughter and destruction in Syria, the leaders of the five permanent and controlling members of the Security Council – the US, Britain, France, Russia and China – are war criminals by default.

And I agree with an end-of-the-year review comment by Basma Atassi for Al-Jazeera. As more videos emerged of atrocities, “the international community’s inaction continued to give Syrians the message that their human worth is insignificant. The perpetrators (on all sides) have a free ride to kill and the victims have no place to go for justice.”

Civilization vs jungle law

There are only two ways to run this world of ours.

One is in accordance with the rule of law and respect for the human and political rights of all people. In this way of managing Planet Earth, the governments of all nations, without exceptions (so including those of Israel and the US), would be called and held to account by the Security Council and punished as necessary and appropriate when they demonstrated contempt for the rule of law and their various treaty obligations and other commitments.

The other way is in accordance with jungle law. For some years it has been my view that our leaders are taking us back to the jungle. What has been allowed to happen in Syria has only reinforced my fear on this account.

From the moment in April 2011 when the Syrian army was deployed to quell the uprising and fired on demonstrators across the country, it ought to have been obvious (I’m sure it was) to the governments of the major powers that the minority Alawite standard bearers, President Bashar al-Assad and his top military and other security people, would kill and kill and kill to stay in power and, if necessary, would die fighting rather than let go the levers of their power.

Missed opportunity

In my analysis. the real tragedy is that something could have been done at a very early stage to stop the killing and destruction. What was needed was for President Obama to have a private conversation with President Putin along something like the following lines;

It’s not in any of our interests that this conflict be allowed to escalate and spread. What’s your price for using your influence to require Assad to step down and make way for elections? I understand, of course, that you’ll only be able to use your influence to this effect if there is a firm and absolute guarantee that after elections the wellbeing and security of the minority Alawite population will be assured. There must be no recriminations and revenge for decades of police state rule by the Baath Party of Assad father and son. I give you my word that the United States, through the Security Council, will play its necessary role in making good this guarantee… And one more thing, Vladimir. I also give you my word that the US will not seek to make use of regime change in Syria as a means of trying to have Russia kicked out of Tartus, the only Mediterranean naval base for your Black Sea Fleet.

If Obama had been wise enough to take such an initiative, I think it much more likely than not that he would have got a positive response from Putin.

It’s worth noting that after the G20 Summit in Mexico in October 2012, British Prime Minister David Cameron claimed that during the meeting President Putin had shifted his position and wanted Bashar Assad out of power. Cameron said:

There remain differences over sequencing and the shape of how the transition takes place, but it is welcome that President Putin has been explicit that he does not want Assad remaining in charge in Syria. What we need next is agreement on a transitional leadership which can move Syria to a democratic future that protects the rights of all its communities.”

Probably Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was partly right when he said that Cameron’s statement about Putin’s position was “not corresponding to reality”.

But Putin did say: “It is important after regime change, if it happens, and it must happen only by constitutional means, that peace comes to the country and bloodshed stops.”

The reality as it seemed to me at the time, and which Cameron put his own spin on, was that Putin had indicated that he could live with regime change in Syria if it happened by constitutional means. And that’s why I think it was much more likely than not that Obama would have got a positive response from Putin at a very early point in the conflict if he had had the wisdom to make his case along the lines I suggested above.

Zionists and jihadists

A question arising is why didn’t Obama take such an initiative to protect the best interests of all concerned? My guess is that it was more than a lack of wisdom and global leadership on his part. For far too long he was listening to those (Zionism’s verbal hit men in particular) who were telling him that regime change in Syria, assisted as required by American military force and therefore on American-and-Israeli terms, was a necessary step on the road to regime change in Iran.

Today I think it can be said without fear of contradiction that Putin is as alarmed as his Western counterparts by the prospect of jihadists of various kinds establishing a safe haven and engine room in Syria. I also think Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was correct when he recently indicated, by obvious implication, that behind closed doors American and Western European leaders are beginning to understand that they may now need Assad and his ruthless war machine if the forces of violent Islamic fundamentalism are to be prevented from having a permanent base in Syria from which to create regional and even global havoc.

The next test of what if anything is left of Obama’s credibility as a leader who can bring positive influence to bear on events in Syria is fast approaching. With a Geneva meeting to chart the way to ending the conflict scheduled for 22 January, he has to decide whether or not Iran should be a party to the talks. Russia and Lakhdar Brahimi, the very experienced UN special envoy to Syria and chief mediator, insist that Iran must be represented to improve the prospects of the Geneva talks being something less than a complete failure. I agree.

The Zionist lobby and its stooges in Congress, plus Israel’s Arab state allies-of-convenience in the Gulf, led by Saudi Arabia, are opposed to Iran’s participation in the Geneva talks.

Will Obama have the will and the courage to defy them?

ENDS

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