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Jürgen Todenhöfer: Negotiate, Don´t Incite!

Negotiate, Don't Incite!

by Jürgen Todenhöfer on Tuesday, 11 September 2012 at 09:36 ·

The Syrian War is difficult to understand from the outside, because it constantly changes its face. There were four phases so far.


The first lasted from March 2011 to the end of April 2011. It is the time of peaceful demonstrations. Encouraged by the Arab Spring not only the Sunni members of the neglected lower class demand freedom, democracy and social justice. Each of their claims is absolutely legitimate, including the call for the resignation of the President; oppositions in the West do make similar demands. However, stone throwing remains problematic, as do attacks on police stations. But even that does happen in Western democracies, as well. A well-trained police force knows how to deal with these situations. The Syrian security forces did not. When in early March angry fathers protested against the detention of their children the secret service fires at them, causing many deaths; the Syrian President bears the political responsibility for it. He raises the status of the dead to martyrs – this entitles their families to extensive governmental measures of support. He meets the parents and tries to calm the conflict. But there are forces that do not want to calm down the conflict. Suddenly at the end of April weapons and money become available in abundance. The main sponsor is -as was the case in Libya- little Qatar, whose Emir views the Arabic Revolution as an opportunity to sharpen his profile. He would like take the place of Saudi Arabia, the U.S.'s most important ally in the region.


During phase two, from May to August 2011, armed fighters appear on the scene. Amongst them snipers who intriguingly shoot at demonstrators as well as on security forces. They heat up the situation dramatically. That these provocateurs exist, is widely undisputed, however there is a debate about who they are working for. Are they serving domestic or foreign intelligence services or the rebels, who knows? Inside the country everyone has his own theory. Demonstrating gets dangerous, but the rallies grow in size. The regime also organizes marches with up to a million people participating, members from the Sunni middle and upper classes, Alawites and Christians. They too are calling for democracy, but with Assad. Major battles occur sporadically. The rebels possess only light weapons and are clearly outgunned by the State's security forces.


During the third phase from August to the end of 2011, the armed rebels present themselves as a force of protection for peaceful protestors. But in reality they never really acted accordingly. Wherever they turn up at the side of the protesters they deliberately seek the confrontation with the State's security forces. These strike back hard; rebels, civilians, soldiers and policemen die. Simultaneously, extremist rebels increasingly target Alawite civilians, whom they consider – cross-the-board – as representatives of the regime. Alawites are taking revenge on Sunnis; the fightings turn sectarian.


During the fourth phase from early 2012 until today, the armed rebels assume a life of their own and become progressively radical; too many friends and relatives have been killed. More and more weapons flow into the country. As of March heavy weaponry from Qatar and Saudi Arabia start to arrive in the country. The United States, whose Central Command for the Middle East is based in Qatar, offers flanking protection; nothing takes place without their approval. On the outside they stay in the background, this war is being fought by remote control.

Heavy fighting engaging national security forces, who have also become more radical, takes place. The demonstrators of the initial days, who were calling for democracy, are being marginalized . The peaceful protests of a portion of the Syrian people has turned into a merciless civil war between supporters of the government and supporters of the armed opposition. Residential areas, where rebels are hiding, are being bombarded without mercy by government forces; they do kill civilians in the process. The rebels increasingly execute “enemy” civilians; some cooperate closely with terrorist groups of Al- Qaida. Both sides have lost all sense of proportion. There are no decent wars.

The slogan 'Assad kill his own people' does not match the reality of the of two-way murder taking place. Both sides kill their very “own” people. One third of the dead are likely to be members of the security forces, another third rebels, the final third civilians. Most probably government and rebels do kill an equal number of civilians, as in most civil wars. The specific tragedy of this fratricidal war is that both sides are nothing more than puppets in a much bigger cynical game of power. The main task of the Muslims of the Middle East seems to be to kill each other; just as in the days of Lawrence of Arabia. Divide et impera, divide and rule!


This game for power is carried out on four levels.

 On the first level, the U.S., Qatar and Saudi Arabia attempt to overthrow the Iranian ally Assad, in order to weaken Teheran's influence in the Middle East. In their view, Iran has become to powerful due to Bush's misguided war in Iraq.

 On the second level extremist Sunni and Al-Qaeda fighters from around the world are fighting against the “heretical” Shiites and Alawites.

 On the third level the United States try to displace Russia from the Middle East, in continuation of the East-West conflict, and Moscow is defending itself.

 And eventually, on the fourth level the government and the opposition wrestle with each other for power in Syria, at the cost of huge and bloody sacrifices. The fighters do not realize that in the end, once again, they will have to recognize someone else's supremacy; and they will be betrayed, once again.

 The U.S. government tries to cover up this diabolic, intricately knotted war of proxy through disinformation in the very style of the Iraq war. She tells the tale of the democratic uprising of a people, which America must support. But the U.S. does not give a damn about democracy – not anywhere in the Arab world. The U.S. does not intend to subject their oil supply to the unpredictable outcome of democratic elections in the Middle East. This strategy of chaos has not been thought through, just as is in the case of Afghanistan and Iraq. It will be devastating for the entire Middle East; and it will hit back on us like a boomerang.

 As a hegemonic power in the Middle East, only the United States could disentangle the Syrian knot. Through direct negotiations with all stakeholders. They should not really be irritated that Assad has blood on his hands. Obama also has blood on his hands; it is the blood of thousands of Afghans and Pakistanis. And the blood of many Syrians, as well. Instead of fueling the Syrian tragedy Barack Obama should moderate; this would be the first real act of peace by this Nobel Prize for Peace laureate.


By Jürgen Todenhöfer 


Published in German in the "Süddeutsche Zeitung" on September 3, 2012



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