Syria and the War of Arms and Intelligence |
Al Hayat - 09 July, 2012
Author: Walid Choucair
Counting the number of people killed and arbitrarily detained in Syria, or the level of destruction in cities and villages, is no longer the main business of humanitarian organizations and the media, as it was during the first months of the uprising of the Syrian people, when a report about a new number of casualties would be issued every week.
Most likely, the prolonged crisis, which has been on for months and will continue for months, has become a routine matter, because of the lack of an international consensus on a formula for dealing with the situation. It has given rise to a state of unconcern about the number of people who are dying every day – the loss of life has become a given, irrespective of the magnitude of the tragedy.
It is also most likely that the actual number of victims of atrocities committed by the regime will only appear after the end of the crisis, to reveal numbers in the tens of thousands. The public in the Arab world and elsewhere will have become used to the atrocities that appear on television screens, and will react coolly to the figures.
It is no coincidence that the head of the international team of observers in Syrian, the Norwegian General Robert Mood, recently gave his testimony about this matter. He said he felt that there was much being said by the international community in fancy hotels and pleasant meetings, as a comment about last week’s meeting in Geneva, which produced a road map for a political transition by the international working group on Syria (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, the Arab league, and other states). Mood has come to realize that the international community’s inability to halt the violence means that he is waiting for the Great Powers to come to a true agreement; for now, the only available course is crisis management. Despite Mood’s unease about the violence and murder this will cause, in the end he is an employee, and must wait for what the Security Council will decide on the 20th of the month, with regard to the observer mission. It seems that continuing this mission is the minimum that will be approved by the Americans and Russians.
Although the plan for a political transition that was decided upon at the Geneva meeting allows one to conclude that Russia has acknowledged that the elections organized by President Bashar Assad, the new Constitution, and the referendum that adopted it cannot be recognized as being legitimate, the attempt by western countries to “drag” Russia into a discussion of Assad’s future has seen Moscow emphatically deny the statements and leaks to the effect that Russia and the US are discussing Assad’s stepping down. Although the essence of Kofi Annan’s six-point plan for Syria involves a political transition that will lead to Assad’s departure, without announcing this ahead of time, the constant denial by the Russian leadership of abandoning Assad only means that the time for a solution has yet to arrive.
The Great Powers have wanted to “regulate” the conflict between its members over Syria and establish a ceiling for this struggle, so that it falls short of a cold war, without excluding the possibility of a deal to be struck over the country’s future when an agreement on other regional and international issues is reached.
The impact of this limited international agreement goes beyond causing more killing on the ground in Syria. Under the ceiling of a suspended international agreement, because of the lack of a clear mechanism and timetable to achieve what the Geneva plan stipulates, regional and international powers will test their capabilities through the flow of weapons and intelligence activities that have to do with issues related to their struggles elsewhere, and not in Syria.
The defection by a Syrian pilot with his MiG-21 to Jordan was an opportunity for the west to test how far Russia has gone in arming Syria, and the quality of Syria’s air defenses. Meanwhile, the downing of a Turkish Phantom-4 by the Syrians, besides being a response to the defection of the Syrian pilot, was a test of Syria’s Russian-provided air defense system. It was also a Russian message to the Turks, and behind them NATO, about Russia’s insistence on confronting the plan to establish a missile defense shield and involve Turkey in this plan, by setting up missile radars on its territory. Iran’s concern with the presence of its advisors and some key military leaders on Syrian territory, as Tehran is determined to head off any encirclement of Iran via Turkey (a NATO member), is just as important as Russia’s determination to have a back-up plan with regard to the extension of Turkey’s regional influence, as the Syrian regime erodes.
The Great Powers and regional axes are waging a war of weapons and intelligence on Syrian soil and in the surrounding area as part of the competition over the region’s political geography. Thus, it is not strange to see, once again, the method of political assassination emerge once again in Lebanon, with the attempt on the life of MP Butros Harb.