Thursday, 1 March 2012

The New Cold War has Already Started – in Syria

by Robert Fisk                                       Independent/UK                                        February 26, 2012

If Iran obtains nuclear weapons capability, "I think other nations across the Middle East will want to develop nuclear weapons". Thus thundered our beloved Foreign Secretary, William Hague, in one of the silliest pronouncements he has ever made. Flaw number one, of course, is Hague's failure to point out that there already is another Middle East "nation" that has, in fact, several hundred nuclear weapons along with the missiles to fire them. It's called Israel. But blow me down, Hague didn't mention the fact. Didn't he know? Of course, he did. What he was trying to say, you see, was that if Iran persisted in producing a nuclear weapon, Arab states – Muslim states – would want to acquire one. And that would never do. The idea, of course, that Iran might be pursuing nuclear weapons because Israel already possesses them, did not occur to him.
Now as a nation that sells billions of pounds worth of military hardware to Gulf Arab nations – on the basis that they can then defend themselves from Iran's non-existent plans to invade them – Britain is really not in a position to warn anyone of arms proliferation in the region. I've been to the Gulf arms fairs where the Brits show alarming films of an "enemy" nation threatening the Arabs – Iran, of course – and the need for these Arab chappies to buy even more kit from British Aerospace and the rest of our merchants of death.
Then comes the historical killer in Hague's peroration. He warns of "the most serious round of nuclear proliferation since nuclear weapons were invented" which could produce "the threat of a new Cold War in the Middle East" that would be "a disaster in world affairs". Does he really have to mess up history so badly? Surely the most serious round of nuclear proliferation occurred when India and Pakistan acquired the bomb, the latter a nation which is awash with al-Qa'ida chaps, home-grown Talibans and dodgy intelligence men.
Still, it was good to be reassured that "we are not favoring the idea of anybody attacking Iran at the moment". Maybe later, then. Or maybe after President Assad eventually falls, thus depriving Iran of its only – and valuable – ally in the Middle East. Which is, I suspect, what a lot of the roaring and raging against Assad is all about. Get rid of Assad and you cut out part of Iran's heart – though whether that will induce the crackpot Ahmadinejad to turn his nuclear plants into baby-milk factories is another matter. For here's the rub. The mighty voices calling for Assad's departure grow louder every time they refuse to involve themselves militarily in the overthrow of the same man. Why doesn't he just go off to retirement in Turkey and stop embarrassing us all by bludgeoning his country with shells and sniper fire, killings thousands – journalists among them – while we rage on innocently from the stalls?
Hague waffles on and on about Syria, too, while presumably not "favoring the idea of anybody attacking Syria at the moment".  He was rightly denouncing the killing of Marie Colvin this week, but hundreds of other innocent human beings have been cruelly killed in Syria without so much as a whisper from Hague. And some of these were killed by the opposition to Assad; the murder of Alawites by Sunnis is becoming gruesomely familiar, just as the slaughter of civilians by Syrian government shellfire has become a template for this terrible war.
No, we are not going to involve ourselves in Syria, thank you very much. Because the new Cold War in the region which Hague was blathering on about has already started over Syria, not Iran. The Russians are lined up against us there, supporting Assad and denouncing us. Nor will a "new" Syria necessarily be the pro-Western democracy that Hague and others would like to see.  The Syrians will not forget the way in which the Brits and the Americans silently approved of the terrible massacre of 10,000 Syrian Sunni Muslims at Hama in 1982. Today marks the 30th anniversary of that onslaught, staged by the Brigades of Bashar al-Assad's Uncle Rifaat.
But, like Hague, Rifaat also has a doppelgänger. Far from being the killer of Hama – a term he disputes – he is now a friendly and retired gentleman, living in style and protection quite close to Hague's desk. Indeed, if Hague  turns left outside the Foreign Office and nips through Horseguards Parade, he can drop by and meet the man himself in – where else would he live? – Mayfair. Now that would be a disaster in world affairs, wouldn't it?© 


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