Archive for March, 2012

March 12, 2012

The Truth of Syria – Is Everyone Lying?

What you know about the bloody conflicts in Syria depends largely on your location. Accounts vary drastically; the truth depends on the messenger. A few reporters brave the dangerous circumstances to piece together grainy You Tube videos and unsubstantiated witness accounts. Then impart whatever narrative their home nation subscribes to. Some governments control the press more than others and reporters arrive with biases shaped by personal experiences.

Nations aligned with Syria including Iran, Russia and China paint a vastly different picture than Western and Arab nations.  Recent headlines from Press TV, Iran’s state-owned media outlet include Syrian President Assad remains powerful with major support and Syrian president: Nation determined to crush terrorists accompanied by a photo of a relaxed Assad and his wife casually speaking with reporters. Death and destruction thanks to NATO and USA is the caption on a photo associated with the Pravda story U.S. / NATO forces have invaded Syria.

Westerners and many in Arab nations understand the situation as something else altogether. The Arab League has dispatched observers to monitor the situation, is united in its condemnation of human rights violations by Assad and has called for the dicatotor to step down.  An Al Arabiya article refers to Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad as “thugs” who “engage in theft and vandalism.” Al Jazeera often uses the word “regime” following Assad’s name, a word almost always interpreted as meaning “brutal dictatorship.”  The Gulf Times plead “arm the resistance groups.” Editorials in Arab publications refer to the opposition as protesters, activists and revolutionaries not terrorists.

The western media portrays Syria as simply the latest domino to fall in the Arab uprisings. Courageous revolutionaries, men women and children, are being tortured and slaughtered daily by their own government.  In addition, Iran and Russia support the brutal dictatorship, typical of these two countries that have a history of oppressing their own people. In time Syrians will establish a democracy, send the terrorist group Hezbollah back to Iran and align with the liberty loving west according the media outlets in the these nations.

Iranian and Russian media would less-than-respectively disagree with the west’s assessments. Syria’s allies report Assad as a strong, virtuous leader attempting to purge his country of “outlaws, saboteurs and armed terrorist groups” who are being orchestrated by the U.S. and its allies including Saudi Arabia.  The fall of Assad would weaken Israel’s northern nemesis Syria therefore strengthens U.S. imperialist dominance in the region, a situation western ally Saudi welcomes.

This scenario is not only plausible but obvious to people of a region who have witnessed American boots on the ground and bombs in the air for more than a decade. Hundreds of thousands of innocents have died. Dozens of U.S. military bases dot Muslim holy lands. Additionally, the U.S. has a history of supporting oppressive autocracies throughout the world without a thought to humanitarian concerns.  America has often acted as an imperialist nation so, as Syrian allies contend, why wouldn’t it take advantage of the crisis to gain additional dominance in the area?

The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. The revolutionaries/terrorists are diverse in composition and impossible to characterize with one generic term represented by two major but far from all-inclusive umbrella organizations. The Free Syrian Army, composed of Syrian army defectors, joined the Syrian National Council (SNC) to form the opposition’s most powerful resistance force. The authority of the SNC is not to be confused with the Libyan Transitional Council which was the people’s sole representative and enjoyed international support unlike the SNC.

The other major opposition group is the National Coordinating Body. Assembling the various factions in one united front is likely impossible. It’s not just the Sunni majority versus minority Shi’a, the dominant population in Assad’s security organization. The secularists, Islamists, Alawis, Druze, Christians and al-Qaeda, among others, are to be accounted for.  In addition, large numbers of perpetually disaffected, dissatisfied Kurds could join the fray at any time.

Hezbollah is another major force in Syria. This Shi’a group is funded by Iran, a predominantly Shi’a Muslim nation. Syria will be a Sunni country if Assad is overthrown which will end Iran’s influence in the country and shrink its geopolitical scope. Tehran is also worried that Assad’s demise would reinvigorate the anti-government sentiment in its own country. Iran has the most to lose therefore the preeminent motive for shaping the Syrian storyline in its favor.

Russia has contributed to and reaped dividends from its economic ties with Syria including arms sales, developing oil and gas fields, infrastructure, power generation, sea ports and agriculture concerns. Russia doesn’t want to lose this important partner and worse, allow the U.S. to gain it.

Syria’s stockpile of anti-aircraft missile and chemical weapons are troublesome to the U.S. but Syria isn’t an especially oil rich nation. A chivalrous humanitarian mission is the only sellable rationale to launch an attack.  The U.S. wants Iran and Russia’s fears to come true but unlike Libya military intervention war is not feasible because Russia and China are standing firmly in the doorway this time rather than off to the side simply grumbling disapprovingly.

Arab foreign ministers met with Russian representatives last Saturday. They agreed to jointly call to end the fighting in Syria “whatever its source,” an anemic first step toward a resolution. According to the UN at least 7,500 people have died since protests began a year ago. The number of people tortured is open to speculation.  Whatever you think you know about Syria and whatever news source you trust, one thing all of them can agree on is Syrians are dying and wondering why the world only watches.

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March 3, 2012

Iran 2012 isn’t Iraq 1981

This isn’t 1981 or Iraq. A one-time strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities won’t produce the same results and Israel would be well advised to understand the distinction.

“I don’t bluff,” is the latest volley of ever-heightening rhetoric involving Iran’s nuclear power and/or weapons program.  President Obama, his tough talk pointed toward Tehran follows strong suspicions, if not confirmation that Iran is enriching uranium to the level required for mass destruction in addition to developing missiles to deliver warheads. The recent missile tests were a tip-off.  An overreaction at this critical juncture by the western allies (Israel) in this situation may very well lead to an outcome far worse than if Iran were to become the tenth nation to possess “the bomb.” The dangers of “mad mullahs” possessing a thermonuclear device along with the means to deliver it to enemy lands (Israel) have everyone on edge, maybe Iranians most of all.

The economic sanctions applied by the U.S. and Europe have crippled the Iranian economy and more are threatened. So far the standoff of the prideful leaders has only hurt the citizens of these nations. Iran’s cost of living has skyrocketed, the value of its currency plummeted. Due to the volatility of the situation, oil speculators have pushed the price of gasoline up which is causing a domino effect on already fragile western economies. None of these hardships are being felt by those playing this global chess match.

"I don't bluff" - a 'don't test me' message to Iran and 'don't get antsy' message to Israel.

Israel feels justifiably threatened by the prospect of a nuclear capable Iran and by the noise level of its rattling saber apparently believes it can repeat the 1981 bombing run on Iraq’s nuclear facilities or 2007’s attack on a Syrian reactor, neither of which were heard from again, nice and neat. The U.N. and U.S. publically condemned Israel’s air raid on Iraq while not so privately celebrating the action. This time Israel doesn’t have a hit and run option.  Among other issues, the U.S. made GBU-28 bunker-buster bomb in Israel’s arsenal cannot penetrate anything and everything such as the 75 yards of stone encasing the centrifuges of the Fordow facility near Qom located about an hour’s drive south of Tehran. The Jerusalem Post quoted U.S. officials as saying Fordow is a “zone of immunity,” a rather eloquent way of admitting it’s safe from attack.

Iran is currently holding talks with UN inspectors and North Korea announced it is suspending its nuclear ambitions. Maybe economic sanctions do work.

Worst case scenario is the tenth country obtains “the bomb” while the west and its allies (Israel) do nothing.  Iran is an ancient society, its people cultured and intelligent, more than enough so to realize using this weapon on another nation would be suicide. They also realize Saudi Arabia would be compelled to follow suit as deterrence. Iran would be no more powerful in real terms and many more nuclear missiles would point its direction.

According to British foreign secretary William Hague a military raid would have “enormous downsides” in an apparent bid for understatement of the year. Sometimes the best course of action is to take no action at all outside employing diplomatic and economic tools. The decision making process in any circumstance involves weighing actions against consequences. In this case aggressive, military actions would certainly cause grave consequences, the scope of which can only be imagined.  No action may be the best course of action. “I don’t bluff” was a strong message sent to Israel more so than Iran. Obama’s telling Israel not to act unilaterally. This isn’t 1981 or Iraq. A one-time strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities won’t produce the same results and Israel would be well advised to understand the distinction.

March 3, 2012

Rule of the People

by guest author Zyre Mehdi

American democracy is working in the opposite direction, at least as far as its foreign policy is concerned.

It’s considered a very obvious fact that the Western nations are the flag bearers of democracy. They were the first to invent it, implement it and spread it to rest of the world. As everyone knows, democracy is the rule of people instead of a monarch, dictator or regime. In simple terms, in a perfect democracy the people would be the government. The policies of the government would be outlined according to the opinion of the people and not of only a ruling elite and if it’s not so, it wouldn’t be a “Demo-cracy” at all.

Usually it is considered a taboo to critically
analyze the western democracy,
but apparently there is no real harm.

If the Western countries have got a prefect democracy, the policies of their governments would reflect the opinion of the masses. But some serious questions arise from this hypothesis. For example if we analyze the American democracy that is supposed to be the most successful and perfect democracy of the world, was it the people’s will to nuke Hiroshima and Nagasaki? If someone says yes then it won’t be fair. A whole nation can never be so cruel to eliminate well populated cities off the globe. So, if it wasn’t the will of the people, whose will was it? The most apparent answer is the American government. That means the American government did something, and that was not just something, it was a huge crime against humanity, which was against the will of the Americans. Why is then the American system of government known as ‘Democratic’? If the actions of the American government are not regulated by the opinion and will of the American nation then what type of democracy is this?

Some would argue that it was a historic mistake by the American government

Yes, it could be, after all governments are run by human beings and not by angels. But how many times can a mistake be repeated? Maybe two times, or three or maybe four, and keeping in view the gravity of the mistake, it’s not supposed to be repeated even once. But what happened in the past decade? USA invaded three countries (Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya), is still invading one country (Pakistan) and apparently its planning to invade two more (Syria and Iran). All these invasions resulted in the death of thousands of human beings and fetched no significant results. Doesn’t the belief that American government follows the perfect democratic principles makes the Americans look like a Viking Nation?

As a matter of fact the Americans aren’t as blood thirsty as their government. But if they’re not, how the American government justifies its crimes against humanity in front of its people? American system is a perfectly democratic one; it’s neither a monarchy nor a fascist state. So, certainly the voice of the people counts, but that again leads to the ‘Viking Nation’ impression.

So, what’s the problem with American democracy?

Of course an American knows the best about the problems of his/her system of government, but the victims of the American aggression can also realize some of the problems that the Americans themselves might not be able to spot. America is a completely democratic state, but that is limited only to the system. In actual the policies are made by a small number of people in power and then they just mold the public opinion according to their policies.

A real democratic system is supposed to work the other way round, which means the opinion of the people should have been the guideline for policy making. So the actual problem is that the American democracy is working in the opposite direction, at least as far as its foreign policy is concerned. A peaceful nation is forced to condone the violent acts of its government, by feeding them with false information and using the filter of biased media to shape their perception.

America is just an example, this is happening in most of the Western countries that are involved in long and futile wars. All this warmongering can stop if someday the Western nations realize how their democracy has been hijacked by a bunch of influential people who are continuously committing crimes against humanity and are building a wall of hatred between the Western and Muslim world.

Zyre is a civil engineering student at the National University of Sciences and Technology in Islamabad, Pakistan
Visit his blog “Free Thoughts”
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