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    Middle East
     Jul 13, 2012


THE ROVING EYE
A Hydra in Damascus 
By Pepe Escobar

Kofi Annan looks increasingly like Austin Powers these days, minus the purple suits; an international man of mystery shuttling between world capitals trying to prevent a vicious war. Dr Evil, of course, is played by Syria's Bashar al-Assad. Swingin', baby!

The United Nations mediator-in-chief is now convinced that both Iran and Iraq support his new political transition plan for Damascus, which is essentially his remixed April 12 former plan, duly bombed by the collection of opportunist exiles known as the Syrian National Council (SNC).

A report here delightfully details the meeting in Damascus earlier

 

this week between Annan and Assad. As in any decent show, the best lines pop up before the credits roll:
Annan - How long do you think this crisis will continue?
Assad - As long as the [...] regime funds it.
Annan - Do you think they are behind all the funding?
Assad - They are behind many things that happen in our region. They believe they will be able to lead the whole Arab world today and in the future.
Annan - But it seems to me that they lack the population needed for such an ambition.
[collective laughter]
Kofi Powers to the rescue?
Not only Annan and Assad, everyone knows that the regime in question is Qatar. And that's why the SNC refused to abide by the ceasefire decided by the previous Annan plan - and will do the same with this one. They know that Qatar - and Saudi Arabia - will keep weaponizing the "rebels", be they defectors, affiliated with the SNC or not, members of different strands of the Not-so-Free Syrian Army, or Salafi-jihadi mercenaries once again gleefully collaborating with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

The SNC has been to Moscow to talk to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. [1] The Russians were not impressed. In the words of the new SNC head, Abdulbaset Sayda, "We demand the departure of all representatives of the current regime, and first of all its leader Assad ... Any attempt at reconciliation with the current regime will lead nowhere."

So once again the SNC is torpedoing Kofi "Powers" Annan and his political transition even before the fact. Not to mention they have managed to totally alienate Moscow, whose chief interest is to be the broker of a Syrian transitional government. Moscow has drafted a resolution to extend a UN mission in Syria for three months, shifting from monitoring a truce nobody respects to working on a political transition.

Annan's so-called six-point plan implies an immediate ceasefire (which won't be respected by the SNC and the FSA); withdrawal of heavy weapons and military forces from villages and cities; access for humanitarian aid and journalists; and the set up of a political transition mechanism.

Once again, this "political transition" itself, based on "mutual consent" - decided in Geneva on June 30 - already departs from extremely shaky ground. For Washington, "mutual consent" means Assad should go. For Moscow, "mutual consent" means the Assad system is part of the negotiation.

Yet the Syrian opposition as embodied by the SNC and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) - duly supported by US Secretary of State Hillary "We came, we saw, he died" Clinton and her "Friends of Syria" gang - keep screaming out loud; damn those negotiations; we want power and we want it now. How democratic is that?

You say you want a revolution
By now, Kofi Powers should have stepped up his game and used some silky intimidating tactics against these people; after all his reputation is on the line. It won't happen.

So no wonder the wishful thinking crowd - everyone from Pentagon, Central Intelligence Agency and State Department types to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan-aligned Turks and exemplary Persian Gulf "democrats" - has been salivating over the possibility of, what else, a coup.

Now that "democraship" is on the ascendancy (see Welcome to 'democraship', Asia Times Online, Jul 4, 2012), the menu is indeed tasty. In Egypt, the Orwellian Supreme Council of the Armed Forces launched a coup immediately before presidential elections. In Yemen, the House of Saud installed its preferred replacement for Abdul Saleh after a sort of white coup.

Considering that NATO and the "Friends of Syria" are totally inept/incapable of mounting such a coup, and considering the elites at the top have not splintered, the only way out would be a Hosni Mubarak-style solution, where the head of the snake is cut off even as the snake grows new, Hydra-style mini-heads.

US intelligence outfits such as the recently hacked-to-death Stratfor fear this could only profit Iran and Russia, both with complex networks inside Syria, and both keen on maintaining the current system, which suits their geopolitical interests.

It's enlightening to keep checking out what the Assad clan is up against internally. An internally led "transition" might lead to more power to some select Sunnis and perhaps a few Christians and Kurds - but this won't have anything to do with the "revolution" the SNC fantasizes about. Structurally, things will remain more of less the same.

Among newly empowered Sunnis in a post-Assad set up, the key candidates are Interior Minister Mohammad Ibrahim al-Shaar; Army Chief of Staff Fahd Jasem al-Farij; the assistant regional secretary of the Baath Party, Muhammad Said Bukhaytan; and Republican Guard commander Manaf Tlas (who has indeed defected and is already in Paris [2]).

So far, though, defections have been mostly irrelevant, but one group of people should be watched closely. If any of them defects, the Assad clan may be in serious trouble. The group includes Jamil Hassan; Abdel-Fatah Qudsiyeh; Ali Mamlouk; and Muhammad Deeb Zaitoon. These are the directors of Syria's four intelligence agencies (yes, this is an ultra-hardcore police state). And then there's Hisham Bakhtiar - the head of the National Security Council and top Assad intelligence adviser.

As it stands, Syria's ruling class still seems monolithic. They won't go down without extreme fighting. And the "alternative" is the Muslim Brotherhood and the SNC - whose "revolutionary", not to say democratic, credentials are pitiful. Masses of civilians caught in the crossfire might even be appeased by a coup. That beats the prospect of being ruled by those dodgy "Friends of Syria" replacing Dr Evil with a "democratic" Mini-me.

Notes:
1. Syrian Opposition Group Calls for Revolution, RIANOVOSTI, July 11, 2012
2. Manaf Tlas Defection Confirmed: His Statement from Paris, Syria Comment, July 6, 2012


Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His most recent book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

He may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com



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