Monday, September 10, 2012

Syrie: A strange, eerie parallel to Afghanistan 
MK Bhadrakumar 

With biting sarcasm, Putin suggested at one point that Washington might as well “unlock Guantanamo, arm all of its inmates and bring them to Syria to do the fighting.” Curiously, Putin drew a comparison between Syria and the Afghan ‘Jihad’ of the 1980s. He said: 
“You know, whenever someone aspires to attain a much-desired end, any means will do. As a rule, they will try and do that by hook or by crook — and hardly ever think of the consequences that will follow. That was the case during the Afghan war after the Soviet Union in 1979 sent its troops to Afghanistan. At that time, our current partners supported a rebel movement there and basically gave rise to Al-Qaeda, a US project that later targeted its creator. Today some people want to use militants from al-Qaeda or some other organizations with equally radical views to accomplish their goals in Syria. This policy is dangerous and very short-sighted.”  
In a column today in WaPo, titled “Syria’s eerie parallel to 1980s Afghanistan”, he expresses profound misgivings about the US policy and draws comparison with the Afghan tragedy. Interestingly, it appears within three days of the hush-hush visit by the CIA boss David Petraeus to Turkey. Six months back, Petraeus visited Turkey and it led to the stationing of the CIA operatives on Turkish soil to mastermind covert operations inside Syria. 
I had written a month ago in Deccan Herald that there is a “strange parallel” between Syria and Afghanistan. The thought-process was picked up a few weeks later by Atul Aneja of The Hindu newspaper. Now I find the “strange parallel” has occured to the Washington Post columnist David Ignatius. That is very interesting because Ignatius is a terribly well-informed Washington commentator. 
If Ignatius has any clue about the US policy on Syria, the Barack Obama administration is having gnawing doubts about the current tactics of the Syrian operations. What is of greater interest, however, is the question mark Ignatius puts on the wisdom of continued US backing for the Sunni-Shi’ite “dynamic of the war.” He writes: 
“Rage against Shi’ites and their Iranian patrons has been a useful prop for the US and israel in mobilizing Sunni opposition against Assad, who as an Alawite is seen as part of the Shiite crescent. But this is a poisonous and potentially ruinous sectarian battle, the kind that nearly destroyed Iraq and lebanon and is now plunging Syria into the Inferno. The Saudis want to fight Shiites, yes, and further from home than in Bahrain, or in Qatif in the kingdom’s eastern province. The US should not endorse the sectarian element of this conflict.” 
Of course, Ignatius can be sometimes very misleading. The Russian assessment is that it is not the US that is following the Saudis over Syria, but vice versa. This is what a respected Russian expert on the Middle East wrote this week: 
“As it seems from Moscow, Saudi Arabia is a key player in a US game aimed at creation of a united Sunni front against Iran (an old idea that Washington first tried to put into practice in 1980s). If the Bashar al-Assad government falls, it will mean that Tehran loses its last Middle East ally.”
Now, is Ignatius deflecting — unwittingly, perhaps — attention away from the real purpose of Petraeus’ mission to Turkey? Time will tell. By the way, from Turkey, Petraeus proceeded to israel. 

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