Tag: Arab League

POURQUOI LA LIGUE ARABE AVANCE À PAS DE TORTUE, ET PLUS : ISLAM CONTRE ISLAMISME

 

 

 

 

 

La Ligue arabe avance à pas de tortue

David Bensoussan

UQAM, 22 mai 2013

 

Fait peu connu : le Comité politique de la Ligue arabe regroupant sept pays proposa le gel des avoirs juifs en 1947, avant même l’indépendance d’Israël un an plus tard. La Ligue arabe rejeta la partition de la Palestine en deux états votée par l’ONU ; cinq armées arabes envahirent alors le nouvel État et furent défaites. Depuis, la Ligue arabe a appliqué un boycottage total d’Israël, sur les plans diplomatique, économique et culturel. Par la suite, d’autres pays nouvellement indépendants s’y joignirent et la Ligue arabe compte aujourd’hui 22 états.

 

L’adhésion à la Ligue arabe a obligé les nouveaux pays à souscrire à sa politique de boycottage. Ainsi, des pays modérés tels le Maroc et la Tunisie cessèrent toute relation ou contact avec Israël. On appliqua la censure des ouvrages ou des journaux qui présentaient Israël sous un aspect positif et on alla jusqu’à geler les échanges postaux. Or, ce boycottage total n’a fait que retarder un dialogue essentiel pour la compréhension mutuelle.

 

Le refus de normalisation des relations avec Israël a été réaffirmé par la Ligue arabe après la Guerre des Six Jours à Khartoum (non à la paix, non à la reconnaissance, non à la négociation). Le manque de soutien au plan de paix de Camp David II en 2000 fut une des raisons pour lesquelles Arafat décida de cesser les pourparlers et de se lancer dans une seconde intifada. En 2002, la Ligue arabe proposa une normalisation avec Israël en échange d’un retour aux frontières de 1967, la création d’un État palestinien avec Jérusalem-Est comme capitale et un règlement juste et équitable de la question des réfugiés palestiniens. Cette initiative de paix fut lancée en 2002 par l’Arabie saoudite suite aux évènements du 11 septembre 2001 : il était alors important de « redorer le blason » de ce pays d’où la majorité des terroristes furent issus. Ce plan basé sur le principe de la terre contre la paix fut réaffirmé en 2007. Il fut amendé en 2013 pour permettre des échanges de territoires mineurs et mutuellement agréés.

 

En 2002, la Ligue arabe fit appel à de nombreuses institutions internationales pour qu’elles soutiennent son plan de paix : les Nations Unies, les États-Unis, la Fédération russe, les États musulmans, l’Union européenne. Un seul pays ne fut pas appelé : Israël. Pourtant, bien des mesures devaient être prises par Israël en vue d’une solution de deux états. C’est pourquoi ce plan de paix donna à Israël l’impression d’un diktat (take it or leave it!) plutôt que celle d’une proposition de paix sincère.

 

L’enjeu des frontières sécuritaires et celui de la mise en pratique de la solution au problème des réfugiés constituent des obstacles majeurs. En effet, le lendemain de l’annonce du plan de paix de la Ligue arabe en 2002, un amendement vint préciser que la résolution 194 des Nations-Unies de 1948 – donnant aux réfugiés qui désirent retourner et vivre en paix la permission de revenir ou d’opter pour une compensation – devait être amendée par la résolution 14/224B de la Ligue arabe qui exige la reconnaissance du droit de retour des réfugiés palestiniens tout en ignorant la cause des réfugiés juifs des pays arabes.

 

L’année 2002 fut également l’année où fut lancée l’initiative complexe de la « Feuille de route » du Quartet réunissant l’ONU, les États-Unis, l’Union européenne et la Russie. Actuellement, le plan de paix de la Ligue arabe est dans les limbes en raison de la dissension interne des États membres – dissension exacerbée par la guerre civile en Syrie  – et par le manque d’unité au sein des Palestiniens : le Hamas à Gaza d’une part, le Fatah en Cisjordanie de l’autre. Comment prendre ce plan de paix au sérieux lorsqu’on sait que le retrait unilatéral du Liban et de Gaza a cédé la place à des organisations radicales qui ont saisi cette occasion pour bombarder Israël à tout vent ? Comment prendre ce plan au sérieux lorsque l’Égypte elle-même arrive difficilement à contrôler les groupes terroristes au Sinaï, que le Liban vit sous la dictature du Hezbollah et que l’Iran fait compétition à la Turquie pour aiguillonner le Hamas radical ?

 

En arrière-plan, la propagande de haine et d’enseignement de la haine notamment dans de nombreux médias électroniques arabes n’a jamais été aussi forte et a augmenté d’intensité depuis l’avènement du « printemps arabe. » Il est évident que cette haine va chercher ses racines dans des causes plus profondes qui ne se limitent pas à la résolution du conflit israélo-palestinien.

 

Le diplomate israélien Abba Eban avait coutume de dire : « les Arabes ne ratent jamais l’occasion de manquer une occasion. » Après plus de 50 ans d’immobilisme, la Ligue arabe s’est mise à avancer à pas de tortue avec… le retard d’une génération. Pour certains, la proposition de la Ligue arabe de 2002 a constitué une évolution sur le plan psychologique et relègue aux oubliettes la déclaration de Khartoum de 1967. Contrairement à la résolution 242 des Nations-Unies qui fait État de frontières sûres et reconnues dans le cadre d’un règlement du conflit, elle n’est accompagnée d’aucune garantie ou considération de sécurité. Pourtant, un simple coup d’œil sur la carte met en évidence l’importance du facteur de la sécurité dans tout règlement. La réalité est qu’il n’y a pas de solution instantanée à cette situation complexe. Il faut faire preuve d’imagination pour trouver la formule intermédiaire entre « céder des territoires pour obtenir la paix » et « obtenir la paix pour céder des territoires. » Une approche différente qui puisse rétablir la confiance des parties est nécessaire afin de collaborer à une solution graduelle et assurer que les considérations vitales de tout un chacun soient abordées dans l’aménité.

 

Islam contre islamisme

Daniel Pipes

The Washington Times, 13 mai 2013

Adaptation française: Johan Bourlard

 

Quels sont les motifs à la base des attentats du mois dernier à Boston et du projet d'attentat contre un train canadien de la compagnie Via Rail ?

 

Les gens de gauche et l'establishment offrent diverses réponses imprécises et éculées – telles que « l'extrémisme violent » ou encore la colère envers l'impérialisme occidental – indignes de toute discussion sérieuse. Les conservateurs, au contraire, s'engagent dans un débat interne animé et sérieux : alors que certains pensent que l'élément déclencheur est l'islam comme religion, d'autres avancent que la cause réside dans une variante extrémiste de la religion connue sous le nom d'islam radical ou islamisme.

 

En tant que participant à ce débat, je présente ici mon argumentation qui vise l'islamisme.

 

Le fait de voir le problème dans l'islam en tant que tel (comme c'est le cas d'ex-musulmanes comme Wafa Sultan et Ayan Hirsi Ali) souligne la suite logique observée depuis la vie de Mahomet et le contenu du Coran et du Hadith jusqu'à la pratique actuelle de l'islam. En accord avec le film Fitna de Geert Wilders, ils soulignent l'étonnante continuité entre les versets du Coran et les actions djihadistes. Ils citent les textes de l'islam pour démontrer l'importance capitale de l'idée de supériorité des musulmans, du djihad et de la misogynie et en concluent qu'une forme modérée de l'islam est impossible. Ils soulignent les propos du Premier ministre turc Recep Tayyip Erdoğan raillant l'idée même d'islam modéré. Et posent finalement une question redoutable : « Mahomet était-il musulman ou islamiste ? » Enfin, ils soutiennent qu'en condamnant l'islamisme comme nous le faisons nous cédons face au politiquement correct ou à la lâcheté.

 

À cela, nous répondons : Oui, il existe certains éléments de continuité et les islamistes suivent assurément le Coran et le Hadith de façon littérale. Mais il existe aussi des musulmans modérés qui, il est vrai, n'ont pas la force quasi-hégémonique des islamistes. Par ailleurs, le fait de nier, comme l'a fait Erdoğan, l'existence d'un islam modéré met en évidence un singulier rapprochement entre les points de vues islamiste et anti-islam. Ajoutons que Mahomet était un musulman à part entière et non un islamiste puisque l'islamisme est un concept datant seulement des années 1920. Mais non, nous ne sommes pas des lâches quand nous présentons notre analyse telle qu'elle est. Et voici en quoi elle consiste :

 

L'islam est une religion née il y a quatorze siècles et est aujourd'hui la foi de plus d'un milliard de croyants de toutes tendances allant des soufis quiétistes aux djihadistes violents. Les musulmans ont enregistré des succès militaires, économiques et culturels entre environ 600 et 1200 de l'ère chrétienne. À cette époque, être musulman signifiait appartenir à une équipe qui gagne, un fait qui a largement inspiré aux musulmans l'idée d'associer leur foi à la réussite d'ici-bas. Ces souvenirs glorieux du Moyen Âge ne sont pas que de simples réminiscences : ils demeurent centraux dans la foi des croyants en l'islam et en eux-mêmes en tant que musulmans.

 

Une dissonance majeure apparut vers 1800, lorsque les musulmans commencèrent, sans s'y attendre, à perdre des guerres, des marchés ainsi que le leadership culturel face aux Européens occidentaux. Cette situation perdure actuellement, alors que les musulmans occupent les dernières places de pratiquement tous les classements. Ce changement a provoqué à la fois une grande confusion et une grande colère. Que s'est-il passé, pourquoi Dieu a-t-il apparemment abandonné Ses fidèles ? Cette insoutenable divergence entre les exploits de l'âge pré-moderne et l'échec de l'époque contemporaine a provoqué un traumatisme.

 

À cette crise les musulmans ont réagi de trois façons différentes. Il y a d'abord les laïcs qui veulent voir les musulmans abandonner la charia (la loi islamique) et imiter l'Occident. Il y a ensuite les apologistes qui imitent également l'Occident mais affirment, en faisant cela, qu'ils suivent la charia. Il y a enfin les islamistes qui rejettent l'Occident au profit d'une application intégrale et rétrograde de la charia.

 

Les islamistes détestent l'Occident en raison de son identification à la chrétienté, l'ennemi juré historique, et de son énorme influence sur les musulmans. L'islamisme pousse à rejeter, vaincre et soumettre la civilisation occidentale. Malgré ce désir, les islamistes assimilent les influences occidentales, y compris le concept d'idéologie. En effet, l'islamisme représente la transformation de la foi islamique en idéologie politique. Islamisme désigne précisément une version de l'utopisme radical teintée d'islam, un -isme comme les autres -ismes, comparable au fascisme et au communisme. Singeant ces deux mouvements, l'islamisme, à titre d'exemple, se réfère abondamment aux théories du complot pour interpréter le monde, à l'État pour réaliser ses ambitions et à la force brutale pour atteindre ses objectifs.

 

Soutenu par 10 à 15 pour cent des musulmans, l'islamisme s'appuie sur des cadres dévoués et compétents dont l'impact va bien au delà de leur cercle limité. Il constitue une menace pour la vie civilisée en Iran, en Égypte et pas seulement dans les rues de Boston mais aussi dans les écoles, les parlements et les tribunaux occidentaux.

 

Quant à nous, notre question redoutable est la suivante : « Que proposez-vous pour vaincre l'islamisme ? » Ceux qui font de l'islam dans son ensemble leur ennemi ne succombent pas seulement à l'illusion du simplisme et de l'essentialisme mais se privent également d'outils pour le vaincre. Nous qui nous focalisons sur l'islamisme voyons la Seconde Guerre mondiale et la Guerre froide comme des modèles pour réfréner le troisième totalitarisme. Nous pensons que l'islam radical est le problème et que l'islam modéré est la solution. Nous travaillons avec les musulmans anti-islamistes pour vaincre un fléau commun. Et nous triompherons de cette nouvelle variante de la barbarie de sorte qu'une forme moderne de l'islam puisse voir le jour.

 

La Russie de Poutine alimente la guerre en Syrie :

le dilemme du gouvernement Netanyahou

Freddy Eytan

Le CAPE de Jérusalem, 18 mai 2013

 

La dernière rencontre de Benjamin Netanyahou avec Vladimir Poutine n’a pas réussi à dissiper les graves préoccupations israéliennes et il semble que la Russie soit déterminée à poursuivre ses livraisons d’armes sophistiquées à la Syrie et à soutenir, coûte que coûte, le régime de Bachar el-Assad.

 

Depuis la « Guerre Froide », la politique étrangère du Kremlin n’a pas vraiment évolué. L’ex-Union soviétique possède l’art de faire monter les enchères et de raviver la tension dans le monde, mais à ce jour, elle n’a pas disposé de moyens opérationnels pour mettre un terme aux crises régionales ou faire progresser un processus de paix équitable. Rappelons pour mémoire les conflits armés dans notre région : la campagne de Suez en 1956, la guerre des Six Jours en 1967, la guerre du Kippour de 1973, les invasions américaines en Irak, et les célèbres discours belliqueux des chefs du Kremlin brandissant sempiternellement l’arme nucléaire.

 

Les Russes menacent à chaque fois d’intervenir directement mais reculent devant les complications éventuelles d’un conflit armé et se replient toujours face à l’intransigeance de certains présidents américains, tels que J.F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon ou Ronald Reagan.

 

Dans les discussions diplomatiques et même lors des débats universitaires, les soviétologues ne seront jamais unanimes sur les réelles intentions du Politburo. En réalité, à l’intérieur des murailles du Kremlin, Poutine, comme ses prédécesseurs, laisse planer le mystère et demeure une véritable énigme.

 

A l’évidence, la crise syrienne n’est plus un conflit local ! Elle s’est transformée au fil des dernières semaines en une confrontation planétaire qui rappelle la « Guerre Froide » entre les deux superpuissances. L’échec de la Russie de ne pouvoir intervenir dans la chute de Kadhafi en Libye a été cuisant et humiliant pour Poutine. Les opérations de l’OTAN, en particulier celles de la France, ne pourront plus se reproduire avec Assad en Syrie. Ce pays est le dernier bastion des Russes dans notre région et Moscou considère le régime laïc d’Assad comme un allié précieux et un Etat stratégique face à la montée en puissance des Islamistes dans le monde arabe et les tentatives hégémoniques de l’Iran. Toute l’armée syrienne est équipée de matériel soviétique et dans la ville côtière de Tartous, les Russes abritent une importante base navale. Les deux pays sont liés par 6 milliards de dollars de contrats d’armements signés ces dernières années, et la Russie qui a perdu plusieurs contrats au profit des fabuleux accords signés avec les Américains tient à maintenir la livraison de ces nouvelles armes pour des raisons à la fois économiques et géostratégiques. Contrairement à l’avis des Occidentaux et d’Israël, ces armes sont qualifiées par le Kremlin de défensives, destinées à protéger des sites stratégiques en Syrie et à éviter toute intervention étrangère. 

 

Toutes les démarches du gouvernement israélien pour annuler la vente de ces armes dangereuses, notamment des missiles de croisière supersonique ainsi que des missiles antiaériens, ont été hélas vouées à l’échec. Pourtant, nos relations bilatérales avec la Russie sont au beau fixe, et la visite officielle de Poutine en juin 2012 en Israël fut apparemment une grande réussite.

 

Dans la lignée de sa conduite intransigeante, nous constatons que Moscou persiste et signe, alimente ainsi la guerre en Syrie et risque considérablement d’enflammer toute la région.

 

Devant la faiblesse de l’administration Obama et l’impuissance des Occidentaux à intervenir sur le terrain ou instaurer une zone d’interdiction de survol depuis des navires en mer, l’Etat juif est placé devant un grand dilemme, se trouvant dans l’obligation de poursuivre à la fois ses démarches diplomatiques mais surtout devant se défendre par tous les moyens possibles dont dispose Tsahal. Il s’agit effectivement de lignes rouges que les Russes ne devraient pas franchir. Nous devons à tout prix contrer l’utilisation de ces nouvelles armes russes par le régime d’Assad, par le Hezbollah iranien ou toute autre organisation terroriste.

 

Les dangers sont donc existentiels et les derniers raids en territoire syrien prouvent que le gouvernement Netanyahou est déterminé à protéger ses citoyens même au risque d’un affrontement involontaire avec la Russie de Poutine.

BASHAR’S LOST BEQUEST: NEITHER ARAB LEAGUE, NOR IRAN, NOR RUSSIANS, CAN SAVE SYRIA

THE ARAB LEAGUE’S FAILED SYRIA MISSION
Kate Seelye

National Interest, January 24, 2012

The Arab League observer mission to Syria—sent under an agreement with the Syrian government to withdraw forces from the cities, release all political prisoners and allow monitors and journalists free movement throughout the country—has utterly failed.…

After the initial one-month mandate for the mission expired, Arab foreign ministers met in Cairo [last] Sunday to discuss next steps. Surprisingly, the league—known in the past for its knee-jerk defense of Arab unity at the cost of its people’s rights—proposed a plan under which President Bashar al-Assad would transfer power to a deputy and start negotiations with opponents within two weeks. The proposal was predictably rejected outright by the Assad regime as “interference in its internal affairs.”

Unfortunately, the league also agreed…to extend the mandate for another month and beef up the number of monitors sent to the country. But in the first month of the mission, opposition figures reported that more than seven hundred people were killed at the hands of the government in continuing clashes throughout the country. Given its failure to halt the government crackdown, the league should have rejected any extension of the observer mission and vowed to bring the Syrian crisis before the United Nations Security Council.…

It seems increasingly clear that Assad allowed the monitoring mission merely as a means to buy time until he could figure out a way to crush the resistance. The mission has been woefully understaffed and overtly controlled by the Syrian regime since its inception on December 19, and the number of observers never climbed above 165, nowhere near the many hundreds needed to cover all the restive spots in the country. Moreover, the Syrian government did not allow international journalists to accompany the teams and dispatched security escorts to “monitor the monitors.” Given the credible reports of opposition figures being killed, beaten or detained while the league’s observers have been in country (including two Kuwaiti monitors who were attacked near Latakia), it is evident that the mission failed.…

It is now incumbent upon the Arab League to officially terminate the mission and refer the matter to the United Nations Security Council.… Any draft resolution introduced by the Arab League in the Security Council must, of course, attract the support of China and, most crucially, Russia. Moscow’s tacit or outright backing is key to creating an effective, united international front against Damascus. Without it, Syria is likelier to descend into full-blown civil war.…

It is past time for Russia, one of Syria’s closest allies and the main obstacle to even tougher measures imposed on the Assad government, to see the writing on the wall and join the international effort to isolate and punish the regime.… A hard-hitting UN Security Council resolution calling for further sanctions and an arms embargo is the next obvious step.…

BASHAR’S RUSSIAN PALS
Editorial

Wall Street Journal, January 25, 2012

Bashar Assad is feeling lonely, though not yet lonely enough. First the Turks, Americans and Europeans de-friended him. Now formerly fraternal leaders at the Arab League want him deposed. The Syrian strongman’s forces have killed more than 5,400 people in 10 months and turned a peaceful protest movement into a virtual civil war. But he still has a few friends in low places.

The Iranians aren’t giving up on him, and in Moscow Vladimir Putin won’t abandon the son of the Soviet Union’s favorite Arab tyrant, Hafez Assad. Far from it. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov last week rejected any talk of new U.N. sanctions or arms embargo on Syria. He even defended Moscow’s right to arm Mr. Assad as he kills more civilians.

The business daily Kommersant reported [this week] that Russia has signed a $550 million contract to sell Syria 36 combat jets. Two weeks ago, the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov called at the Syrian port of Tartus and, according to reports, dropped off a few tons of ammunitions.

The Russians have a stronger stomach for the Syrian’s brutality than does the Arab League. A month ago, the group sent an observer mission to Syria to monitor the regime’s non-implementation of a plan to withdraw security forces from cities and residential areas. During their stay in Syria, the rate of killing rose. The Saudis, who won’t win any Amnesty International contests, pulled out of the mission.… Qatar has…called for Arab forces to deploy and “stop the killing,” in the words of its emir.…

The Kremlin’s support makes it harder to ease Mr. Assad out peacefully in Damascus. But perhaps Mr. Putin’s loyalty can be explained by the fact that he faces his own growing opposition. His ruling party cheated in December’s parliamentary elections and he has announced plans to stay in power for as long as another 12 years, after he runs for president again in March.…

SYRIA: THE LOST BEQUEST OF HAFEZ ASSAD
Fouad Ajami

Daily Beast, January 23, 2012

Bashar, son of Hafez Assad, has a son by the name of Hafez. But as the defiance and bloodletting in Syria would seem to suggest, Bashar needn’t worry about training his son for future rulership. The house that Hafez Assad built, some four decades ago, is not destined to last.

Dynasties are, of course, made, not born.… The great North African historian Ibn Khaldun (1332–1406), perhaps the world’s first sociologist, left behind some firm notions about dynasties: they rise, they beget kingdoms, then they decay, like all “created things.” Ibn Khaldun was rather specific: glory and prestige are gained and lost within four successive generations. The “builder of a family’s glory knows what it cost him to do the work, and he keeps the qualities that created his glory and made it last.” The son who inherits his mantle had contact with his father and will have learned some lessons from him. “However, he is inferior to him in this respect, inasmuch as a person who learns things through study is inferior to a person who knows them from practical application.” The third generation imitates the ancestors. The fourth loses it all, as its members begin to think that this glory is their due.…

Arabs are firm believers in nasab, inherited merit passed on from father to son, a nobility of the blood. No wonder that Hafez Assad was ambivalent about his beginnings. In 1980, before a gathering of learned notables, the ruler, then a decade in power, recounted the adversity of his childhood. He recalled that at one point in his boyhood he had to quit school temporarily because his father couldn’t scrape together the modest tuition. “But we are not commoners. On the contrary, my father was a half aga.” The title “aga,” a modest one in Ottoman parlance, signified a chief, a man of some standing or means. On another occasion, in the same year, speaking to a peasant syndicate, Hafez Assad would tell them he was in truth one of them. “I am first and last a peasant and the son of a peasant. To lie amid the spikes of grain on the threshing floor is, in my eyes, worth all the palaces in this world.”

He had pined to leave that poverty; he had come down from his mountain village to the port town of Latakia, on the Mediterranean, to get a secondary-school education; he had made it to the military academy, and the uniform had given him all that was now his. But he was then in the midst of a vicious sectarian war against the Muslim Brotherhood, with their power in the souks and the mosques of Hama and Aleppo and Damascus. For the Sunni artisans in the warrens of these old cities, the presidency of a peasant—and an Alawite peasant at that, hailing from an esoteric mountain sect beyond the pale of Islam—was a violation of the natural order of things. Syria took pride in its place in Islam.… In the telling, the Prophet Muhammad favored this realm. He had seen Damascus from the hills above it, and the fabled Ghouta, the gardens and orchards that once circled this city. The prophet, bewitched by his view of Damascus, it is proudly recounted by the Damascenes, had refused to enter the city; it was paradise, he said, and he feared he would be denied paradise in the afterlife were he to enter it in his lifetime.

The Ottomans had conquered the territories of Bilad al-Sham (Greater Syria would be the closest rendering of this geography) in the early years of the 16th century—lands that stretched from the borders of Anatolia to Egypt, from the Iraqi desert to the Mediterranean. They divided it into three provinces: Beirut, Aleppo, and Damascus. Imperial power ebbed and flowed, and the cities were ruled by notables—political and religious elites, landholders who lived in urban surroundings and dominated the lives of the peasants and sharecroppers. Feudalism was the word that described that order. The countryside was neglected—and despised.… The thought of a peasant from the mountains ruling Damascus, the gathering point of the pilgrimage to the Holy Cities, would have been heresy at the time.

France would acquire a mandate over the territories of Syria (and Lebanon) in the aftermath of the Great War. The French ruled a turbulent, unhappy country for a quarter century. Urban/Sunni Syria never really took to the French…but for all its brevity, this French interlude helped shape post-independence Syria and indirectly gave rise to the rule of Hafez Assad. France recruited heavily among the minorities—the Druze, the Alawis, the Ismailis—for its colonial levies, the Troupes Spéciales du Levant. The Sunni townsmen disdained and avoided military service, thought it the work of lessers. For the Alawis in their secluded, impoverished mountains, the Jabal Ansariya, in the northwest, military service was salvation. Born in 1930, Hafez Assad took that route out of poverty.… He would graduate from the military academy in 1955—a decade after independence and a time of intense turbulence in Syrian politics.

The country’s first coup d’état had come in 1949, a mere three years after independence, and the conspiracies would not cease in the years to come. The old order was coming apart; those feudal families of ease and pedigree and property had squabbled among themselves, and had given parliamentary politics a bad name. Ideology was battering the world of the notables. Communists, believers in Greater Syrian nationalism, Muslim Brotherhood adherents, peasant jacqueries, had made certain that the old order would be overwhelmed.

One political party outdid the others: the Baath. It had been conceived in the interwar years in Paris’s Latin Quarter by two talented young men from Damascus: the Greek Orthodox Michel Aflaq and Salah al-Din al-Bitar, a Sunni Muslim. They had come back to their country loaded with readings and ambition. They became schoolteachers, and the fuse they lit up, the young students they drew into the net, would determine the political course of Syria—and of neighboring Iraq, for that matter. This was the party that widened the horizons of Hafez Assad, gave him the political language and the ideology that carried him to the summit of political power. (It didn’t work out so well for the two founders. Aflaq was expelled from his own party in 1966; Bitar was struck down in Paris by the security forces of the Syrian regime in 1980.)

In this republic of conspirators and coup makers, Hafez Assad was to emerge as the supreme practitioner of the art. There were three Baathist coups—in 1963, 1966, and 1970. He was a minor player in the first, a partner in the second, and the victor in the third against his own erstwhile allies.…

Violence was at the ready in Hafez Assad’s republic. But he was not a sadist (that trait characterized his younger brother and chief enforcer, Rifaat). His violence was selective and methodical. There was always his cunning—a trait that came from his minoritarian background. There was stealth and steel in him. Interlocutors were often left guessing as to his intentions and commitments. Henry Kissinger, who parried with (and studied) the most accomplished in statecraft, negotiated with Assad in the aftermath of the October War of 1973. He came back with high praise for the man’s intellect and tenacity.…

Syrians who feared his tyranny credited Hafez Assad with giving the country stability and a place among the nations. In the highest of praise, they said he had changed Syria from a plaything in the region to a player. He could never surmount the blame that the Golan Heights were lost to Israel in the Six-Day War on his watch, when he was defense minister. Unable to recover the Golan, he did the next best thing: he all but came into possession of Lebanon, practically erasing the border between the two countries.…

His name would forever be sullied by a barbarism in Hama, an intensely religious town in the central plains, with an Alawite hinterland. Hama was the stronghold of the Muslim Brotherhood. It had had earlier troubles with the secular Baathists, and opposed their agrarian “reforms” and the powers the Baath gave to hitherto quiescent peasants. In February 1982, those earlier skirmishes between Hama and the security forces would be overwhelmed by a cruelty the country had not seen before. A good deal of the Old City was reduced to rubble; thousands were killed. The grim work was done by the ruler’s brother, Rifaat, who took the Stalinist purges as a model to emulate. No one is sure how many perished in Hama—the low estimates are 10,000, and there are claims that the numbers could be four times these estimates.…

[Assad] took his people out of the political world. He offered them what he saw as a reasonable bargain: they could have safety and be left alone so long as they led apolitical lives. He once gave away the crux of his worldview to a Baath Party functionary. People have “primarily economic demands,” Assad said—they aspire to a plot of land, a car, a house. Those demands could be satisfied “in one way or another.” But there was a small minority, 200 individuals at most, who seriously engaged in politics and would oppose him no matter what. “It is for them that the Mezzeh prison [outside Damascus] was originally intended.…”

Hafez Assad was visited by personal tragedy in 1994: the death in a car accident of his oldest son, Bassel. He had been grooming him for succession. He never recovered from the grief. In the years left to him, he settled on his son Bashar, the eye doctor, as his successor.… [Hafez] died in 2000, and his hapless son, 34 years of age, was anointed as his successor. Syrians hoped for the best, thought that perhaps this gangly youth, with a stint in London behind him, would grant them the freedoms his father had denied them. There was a Damascus Spring in the offing, it was said. The new ruler permitted the importation of Western cigarettes; jazz clubs and art galleries made their appearance. Bashar offered his people an olive branch: he married well, a London-born upper-bourgeois young woman from a Sunni family of Homs, Asma al-Akhras. The young couple presented themselves well. But the Damascus Spring was snuffed out. The civic forums were shut down, dissidents were rounded up and dispatched to prisons. The young inheritor was his father’s son.

A year ago, when the political hurricane known as the Arab Spring hit the region, Bashar al-Assad proclaimed his country’s immunity to the troubles.… Then a group of boys in mid-March, in the forlorn southern town of Daraa, went out and scribbled anti-regime graffiti on the walls. They were picked up and tortured. It was as though the custodians of this dictatorship knew that their order hung by a thread. The system rested on fear, and that barrier was crossed. He put his medical training to use. He described the protesters as germs. Four decades of a drab tyranny had not robbed the Syrians of their humor. The Syrian germs require a new doctor, one banner proclaimed. Bashar had squandered his father’s bequest.

(Fouad Ajami is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University
and co-chair of
Hoover’s Working Group on Islamism and the International Order.)

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER
Moshe Arens

Haaretz, January 24, 2012

For a change, here is good news from Beirut.… “I am deeply concerned about the military capacity of Hezbollah and the lack of progress in disarmament,” [UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon] told a news conference in Beirut after meeting Lebanese leaders. “All these arms outside of the authorized state authority, it’s not acceptable,” he declared. It’s about time somebody made things clear to the Lebanese.

The response of Hezbollah’s leader Hasan Nassrallah could have been predicted. “We are pleased by your concern,” he said, addressing the UN secretary general. “We want you, the U.S. and Israel to be concerned.… Hezbollah will not relinquish its weapons.” Nassrallah should know that we are all really concerned, and what’s more we intend to do something about it.

The weapons in question are tens of thousands of ballistic missiles in addition to all sorts of additional modern weaponry that have been supplied to Hezbollah over the years by Iran and shipped to Lebanon via Syria, and are not under the authority of the Lebanese government. They are deployed all over Lebanon and [are] aimed at Israel. The range of the ballistic missiles in the Hezbollah inventory is sufficient to cover all of Israel and rain destruction on Israel’s civilian population. They are terror weapons in the hands of a terrorist organization.… They will be launched against Israel whenever Nassrallah so decides, or the order is given in Tehran. They are a protective shield for Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Like the deployment of Soviet missiles in Cuba in 1962 that brought about the Cuban missile crisis and the removal of these missiles, the Hezbollah missiles will have to be removed. When the time comes for Israel to neutralize this missile threat—and that time will come sooner or later if the missiles are not dismantled—there is bound to result wholesale destruction all over Lebanon. Hezbollah’s missiles are a suicidal invitation to the destruction of Lebanon.…

Of course, it is preferable that the removal of the Hezbollah missiles in Lebanon be accomplished by diplomatic action rather than by military measures. The Lebanese government should be encouraged to insist on demonstrating its sovereign rights in all of Lebanon and order Hezbollah to remove the missiles. Any assistance that it would require should be provided. The international community should make it clear that the deployment of these missiles…constitutes a danger to peace in the region.

For too long has there been a conspiracy of silence about the deployment of these missiles.… The issue should be taken up at the UN Security Council, and the necessary diplomatic action should be taken by the U.S. and the countries of Europe and Asia.… Ban Ki-moon has finally sounded the alarm. Better late than never.

SYRIA: WAITING FOR GODOT—AND OBAMA: PHONY ARAB “MONITORS,” SHAMEFUL U.S. INACTION

On Wednesday, Syrian President Bashar Assad appeared in public for the first time since the uprising against his rule began 10 months ago. Addressing a rally in Umayyad Square in Damascus, he pledged to triumph over “terrorism,” the clearest indication to date that he does not intend to surrender power or relax his government’s brutal crackdown on anti-regime protests.

 

Assad’s appearance immediately followed his first public address since June, in which he blamed foreign conspiracies, the international media and terrorists for the revolt against his rule and the approximately 6,000 deaths estimated to have occurred since March. “Victory is near, provided we stand against the conspiracy,” Assad told an audience of students at Damascus University. “The priority today is the return of security, which cannot be achieved unless terrorism is hit with an iron fist,” he said.

 

Coupled with the Arab League’s failing observer mission to Syria—a reality which led Anwar Malek, a monitor, to recently quit in disgust after witnessing “scenes of horror”—the country is edging closer to civil war. According to US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice, “an estimated 400 additional people have been killed” since Arab monitors began their work in Syria, “a rate much higher than was the case before their deployment.”

 

As the death toll rises, however, a fragmented “international community” continues to dither. It seems the Syrian people are destined to fend for themselves.

 

AMERICA AND THE SOLITUDE OF THE SYRIANS
Fouad Ajami

Wall Street Journal, January 6, 2012

Nearly a year into Syria’s agony, the Arab League [in late December] dispatched a small group of monitors headed by a man of the Sudanese security services with a brutal record in the killing fields of Darfur. Gen. Mohammed al-Dabi, a trusted aide of Sudan’s notorious ruler, Omar al-Bashir, didn’t see anything “frightening” in the embattled city of Homs, nor did he see the snipers on the rooftops in the southern town of Deraa.

A banner in Homs, held up by a group of women protesters, saw into the heart of the matter: “All doors are closed, except yours, Oh God.” Indeed, the solitude of the Syrians, their noble defiance of the most entrenched dictatorship in the Arab world, has played out against the background of a sterile international diplomacy.

Libya had led us all astray. Rescue started for the Libyans weeks into their ordeal. Not so for the Syrians. Don’t look for Bashar al-Assad forewarning the subjects of his kingdom—a veritable North Korea on the Mediterranean—that his forces are on the way to hunt them down and slaughter them like rats, as did Moammar Gadhafi.

There is ice in this ruler’s veins. His people are struck down, thousands of them are kidnapped, killed and even tortured in state hospitals if they turn up for care. Children are brutalized for scribbling graffiti on the walls. And still the man sits down for an interview last month with celebrity journalist Barbara Walters to say these killer forces on the loose are not his.…

But the truth is that the House of Assad and the intelligence barons around them are owners of a tormented country. Hafez al-Assad, Bashar’s father, was a wicked genius. He rose from poverty and destitution through the ranks of the Syrian army to absolute power. He took a tumultuous country apart, reduced it to submission, died a natural death in 2000, and bequeathed his son a kingdom in all but name.

Thirty years ago, Assad the father rode out a ferocious rebellion by the Muslim Brotherhood, devastated the city of Hama in Syrian’s central plains, and came to rule a frightened population that accepted the bargain he offered—political servitude in return for a drab, cruel stability. Now the son retraces the father’s arc: Overwhelm the rebellion in Homs, recreate the kingdom of fear, and the world will forgive and make its way back to Damascus.

A legend has taken hold regarding the strategic importance of Syria—bordered by Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq—and the Assad regime has made the best of it. Last October, the Syrian ruler, with a mix of cunning and bluster, played off this theme: “Syria is the hub now in this region. It is the fault line, and if you play with the ground you will cause an earthquake. Do you want to see another Afghanistan, or tens of Afghanistans? Any problem in Syria will burn the whole region.”

There is no denying the effectiveness of this argument. The two big autocracies in the world—Russia and China—have given this regime cover and sustenance at the United Nations. A toothless resolution brought to the Security Council last October was turned back, courtesy of these two authoritarian states, and with the aid and acquiescence of Brazil, India and South Africa. (So much for the moral sway of the “emerging” powers.)

For its part, the Arab world treated the Syrian despotism rather gingerly. For months, the Arab League ducked for cover and averted its gaze from the barbarisms. Shamed by the spectacle of the shabiha (the vigilantes of the regime) desecrating mosques, beating and killing worshippers, the Arab League finally suspended Syria’s membership.

An Arab League “Peace Plan” was signed on Dec. 19, but still the slaughter continued. The Damascus dictatorship offered the Arab League the concession of allowing a team of monitors into the country. Bravely, the Syrians came out in large numbers to greet them and demonstrate the depth of their opposition to the regime. Some 250,000 people reportedly greeted them in the northern city of Idlib; 70,000 defied the regime in Douma, on the outskirts of Damascus. Nevertheless, the killings went on.

The Western democracies have been hoping for deliverance. There is talk in Paris of “humanitarian corridors” to supply the embattled Syrian cities with food and water and fuel. There has been a muted discussion of the imposition of a no-fly zone that would embolden and protect the defectors who compose the Free Syrian Army.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been a true cynic throughout. An erstwhile ally and patron of Assad, he finally broke with the Syrian ruler last fall, saying “You can remain in power with tanks and cannons only up to a certain point.” But the help Ankara can give is always a day away. The Syrian exiles and defectors need Turkey, and its sanctuary, but they have despaired of the false promises given by Mr. Erdogan.

The U.S. response has been similarly shameful. From the outset of the Syrian rebellion, the Obama administration has shown remarkable timidity. After all, the Assad dictatorship was a regime that President Obama had set out to “engage” (the theocracy in Tehran being the other). The American response to the struggle for Syria was glacial. To be sure, we had a remarkable and courageous envoy to Damascus, Ambassador Robert Ford. He had braved regime bullies, made his way to funerals and restive cities.…

But at the highest levels of the administration—the president, the secretary of state—the animating drive toward Syria is one of paralyzing caution.… With no faith in freedom’s possibilities and power, U.S. diplomacy has operated on the unstated assumption that the regime is likely to ride out the storm.…

Syrian rulers and protesters alike ought to be able to read the wind: An American president ceding strategic ground in the Greater Middle East is no threat to the Damascus regime. With an eye on his bid for re-election, President Obama will boast that he brought the Iraq war to an end, as he promised he would. That applause line precludes taking on Syrian burdens. In Obamaland, foreign policy is full of false choices: either boots on the ground or utter abdication. Libya showed the defect of that choice, yet this remains the worldview of the current steward of American power.

Hafez al-Assad bequeathed power to his son, Bashar. Now Bashar, in turn, has a son named Hafez. From this bondage, the Syrian people are determined to release themselves. As of now, they are on their own.

THE ARAB LEAGUE’S PHONY MISSION
Editorial

Globe and Mail, January 2, 2012

The events in Syria have claimed the Arab League as another casualty of Syria’s bloody crackdown. Continuing violence by security forces is showcasing the League’s impotence and irrelevance and dashed any hope that League observers might help stem the bloodshed. According to Syrian activists, the reverse is true—protesters have faced a growing assault since the observers arrived.

Their mission appears to have been designed for failure. With [some 150] monitors on the ground…the number of atrocities is too many and their locations too vast for observers to even scratch the surface. The observers are completely dependent on the Syrian government for transport and security and are unable to speak to victims without tipping off authorities, who have reportedly hidden hundreds of detainees in off-limits military sites. Without unrestricted access to hot spots, the results of any observer mission will lack credibility.

The choice of a Sudanese general to head the Arab League mission underlines why the League’s member states, many with atrocious human-rights records, are incapable of monitoring one of their own. Lieutenant-General Mohamed Mustafa al-Dabi has held key security positions in the regime of President Omar al-Bashir, who is himself wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of committing genocide in Darfur—charges the Arab League has denounced. Appointing the former chief of a military intelligence branch accused of atrocities to head a mission monitoring a peace initiative would be amusing if more than 5,000 Syrians, mostly civilians, had not already died in a vicious nine-month government crackdown and many more lives continue to be at stake.

The League’s lackadaisical approach to monitoring reflects the organization’s ambivalence. Comprised of despots who share much in common with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, not least their disdain for the human rights of their respective citizens, Arab League members were reluctant, just until two months ago, to pressure their old friend, Mr. al-Assad, to stop the massacres. Until now, the Arab League has merely lent legitimacy to an illegitimate process and helped prolong the abuses that the Syrian government continues to orchestrate unchecked. If it wishes to salvage what remains of its reputation, the Arab League should replace Lt.-Gen. al-Dabi, assign more observers and stop Mr. al-Assad from manipulating its mission.

WHAT’S OBAMA’S PLAN B AFTER ARAB LEAGUE MONITORS?
Tony Badran

Now Lebanon, December 29, 2011

The Arab League’s observer mission in Syria is coming under criticism a mere couple of days after its initial deployment, as the regime of Bashar al-Assad continues to gun down its opponents, seemingly unfettered. Already, France has cast doubts on the effectiveness of the mission while the US has wavered between a cautious wait-and-see attitude and an unspecific threat to consider “other means to protect Syrian civilians.”

The lack of a credible, clearly articulated Plan B has been a critical problem in the Obama administration’s Syria policy. So far, Washington has viewed the Arab League’s initiative as a possible vehicle for a peaceful transition that would require no direct foreign intervention or further US involvement.

An anonymous Arab League official explained this line of thinking, which is shared by some Arab governments. “The League wants regime change but at the lowest possible cost,” the official, who is skeptical about the monitor mission, said. He then laid out the scenario envisioned by those who supported the League’s initiative: “If the regime implements the removal of tanks and troops from the streets, 10 million Syrians will take to the streets and occupy all main squares, making the regime’s collapse a matter of time.”

This was the Obama administration’s hope as well. But as that Arab official proceeded to note, “Assad will never allow this, and the Arab League will be accused by more Syrians of complicity.” And that is precisely where we find ourselves today.…

Consequently, one could deduce precisely why the Russians advised Assad to sign the League’s initiative. In the weeks of haggling that preceded the signature, a group of states in the Arab League led by Saudi Arabia and Qatar were pushing to refer the Syrian case to the UN Security Council. But, according to some Arab officials, other League members remained wary of foreign intervention, and the observer mission was “their best compromise.”

There is, therefore, a divide within the Arab League that the Russians and Assad may have sensed they could exploit to prevent the emergence of a consensus calling for further, international action against the regime. If the Gulf Arab states were seeking referral to the Security Council, another camp, led by Egypt, was more invested in the success of the monitor mission, believing it could lead to more popular protests that may force Assad’s departure.… While it may be slightly premature to speculate about how this process will unfold, it is safe to say that the administration’s desire for the Arab League to take the lead on Syria simply won’t pan out as initially hoped.

Which brings us to the heart of the matter: what is the Obama administration’s plan after the likely failure of the Arab League initiative?

[It was recently] reported that top officials in the administration are “quietly preparing options for how to assist the Syrian opposition,” including “preparing for another major diplomatic initiative,” whose details remain unclear.… However, none of these plans involve intervention in any form, which raises questions about their effectiveness.

In fact, one administration official even said bluntly that Washington was “intentionally setting the bar too high [for intervention]…which is to do nothing.” One critic of the administration’s policy recently called this approach “masterful inaction.” In the Arab divide between those (Gulf) states seeking international intervention and those wary of it, the Obama administration continues to fall on the side of the latter. Even as it realizes that “the status quo is unsustainable”, the administration believes that “the risks of moving too fast [are] higher than the risks of moving too slow.”

We are, therefore, in a waiting period. The commentator Jamal Khashoggi may have said it best: “We are all buying time, not only the Syrian regime [but also] the Arab League, the Turks, the Arabs in general.… They’re avoiding the inevitable, which is direct involvement in Syria.” He, of course, is not alone in this assessment. Earlier this month, [US] Congressman Steve Chabot told the administration’s point man on Syria, Frederic Hof, essentially the same thing: “ultimately [physical force] is probably going to be necessary.”

In the end, there is one constant, recurring theme. While the Obama administration entertains hopes that regional states would take the lead, in reality, these governments are waiting for the US to assume its traditional leadership role. Whether it’s Turkey or the Arab League, everyone, one way or another, is throwing the issue back at Washington. The notion that the US can remain above the fray in Syria and still shape an outcome in line with its interests was never a realistic option.

(Tony Badran is a research fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.)