Monday, April 21, 2014

The Syria Dilemma

Ahmad Hashemi

Former Iranian Foreign Ministry employee who served as interpreter.

Inspired by the democratic movements all across the Greater Middle East region, known as “Arab Spring”, the Syrians, though cautiously at the beginning, took to the streets demanding for further political and social reforms and greater freedoms. Started on March 2011, the Syrian uprising was a first major sign of a popular resentment against authoritarian Ba’ath party rule since the bloody clampdown on a revolt back in 1982 in Hama.

With the escalation of the civil casualties and turning into a human tragedy of the uprising, few countries and organizations including Russia, Iran and its proxy Hezbollah, could afford to remain indifferent in what was happening inside Syria. Even Tehran’s mercenaries such as Hamas sided with the Syrian opposition. Having nothing to lose itself, Iran consumed the credit of its ally Hezbollah — gained after retreating of Israeli forces from southern Lebanon and strengthened by 33-day war with Israel in 2006 — and severely damaged the reputation and popularity of the so-called resistance front. Tehran put Assad as well as his comrades from Alawite sect at great risk because after the inevitable demise of the Baath party dictatorship, this minority would suffer the most and force to leave the post-Assad Syria or at least to move and take shelter at Alawite stronghold of coastal mountainous areas stretched across the Mediterranean sea with major provincial towns of Lattakia and Tartus to avoid majority Sunni retaliation.

As a politician  who inherited power from his father, Bashar was smart enough to understand the consequences of the critical situation he was facing, in order to act properly, and if there was no Iran’s temptation, influence, persuasion as well as its all-out support, the regime in Damascus would most possibly have compromised a mutually agreeable solution with the opposition to bring about more liberties and to expedite reforms to stifle the public anger instead of defying and insisting on further bloodshed.

Iran seems not willing to allow Assad to even think of a possibility of any concession, whatsoever. Therefore, if no quick and effective step is taken by the world community, the worst is still ahead and the regime in Tehran, through providing both chemical weapons and its death technologies to Syrian regime, will try to keep the leader of the protégé state in power. Iran has the capability and motivation to deliver its lethal materials to the embattled ally to use it as the last resort. Iran also is very skillful and experienced when it comes to buying time for Syrian regime whereas Tehran is escaping major international punishments and a strong response with regard to its proliferation activities by misusing the so-called diplomacy and negotiation table and knows very well how to buy time in order to delay any would-be concession, so to realize its nuclear ambitions.

Although there are serious observations with regard to effectiveness of any military solution for bringing to an end of a brutal dictatorship and replacing it with a democracy, but in the case of Baath-controlled Syria, a military intervention for humanitarian purposes is increasingly becoming a necessity. Similar to what was experienced in the case of Libya, today; Syrian people need to see a firm support by the international community, i.e. a concrete step, a buffer zone implemented by NATO or a no-fly-zone carried out by US air forces over Free Syrian Army-controlled areas. The world needs to stop watching massacre and to step in to act before it is too late, in order to prevent materialization of the worst case scenario, actors of which will be Russia (diplomatic support) and Iran (military and logistic support via sending chemical and biological weapons and IRGC Qods forces to the battlefield in Syria). Otherwise, we will witness another Halabja this time in major Sunni-dominated towns of Syria.

According to my personal and confidential information gained by 4 years of involvement and working as Iranian Foreign Ministry’s interpreter including attending various OPCW’s inspection-related activities, Iran has every reason and the know-how to mass produce the WMD’s for both domestic purposes as well as providing them for its allies and when needed, Iran will never hesitate to supply Assad regime with Chemical and biological as well as other types of weapons of mass destruction. Assad has put everything at stake by placing all his eggs on the basket of the Iran’s IRGC-Qods force in the hope that when the worst case happened, it will save and grant him a safe haven in Tehran.

Syria of tomorrow  

Within framework of a probably secular, democratic and federal structure of future Syria, the Alawites would need to accept a reality of a Sunni-dominated political system with retreating to their traditional stronghold across eastern Mediterranean coastal areas within a federal formula granting autonomy to non-Arab ethnic Kurds to the northeast and of course, the Alawite minority homeland to the west. The time has come for the international community, led by the UN, NATO, USA and the European Union to engage and intervene on humanitarian grounds.

Bashar has the same brutality and willingness of Kaddafi of Libya to fulfill what his fellow despot failed to, plus a firm and unwavering support by Tehran and Moscow, together with a considerable amount of chemical and other unconventional weapons is enough for him to commit carnage. What else he may need? He is no less dangerous and savage than Kaddafi and if Kaddafi couldn’t commit his mission to massacre it was merely because of timely international engagement that foiled his evil plans to kill more. It is believed that Syria has already acquired enough chemical weapons from Iran and North Korea and, if needed, Tehran can hand over the latest of its weaponries including its missiles technology and more WMD’s through different routes including but not limited to, Iraq of Nuri Al-Maliki, Eritrean Red Sea port, Sudan, terrorist groups like Salafi radicals active in north Africa particularly in post-Kaddafi Libya, Hamas and Hezbollah and by utilizing methods such as shipment under flag of other companies.

The fall of current regime in Syria will greatly pave the way for democratization of Levant region and severely weaken the position of Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad and to some degree Hamas as the mercenaries and front entities of the Islamic Republic. This will in turn, expose mullah thugocracy more vulnerable to internal thirst for regime change and external pressures. What matters the most at this conjuncture, is putting an end to inaction and offering a crushing response by the world community, which remains to be seen.

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