Truce on Trial

The American policy of regime change through proxies seems to have reached a dead end in Syria where too many stakeholders have created a living hell for millions of hapless Syrians. Maybe it is the worst humanitarian crisis of the era. The temporary cease-fire, brokered by the major powers involved in the Syrian theatre as recently as 12 February, didn’t last long. In truth 17 world powers agreed to a nationwide ‘‘cessation of hostilities’’ across Syria under a deal struck in Munich to end a five-year-old civil war that has already killed 2,60,000 people. Deal or no deal, Syrian peace remains as elusive as it was five years ago. Right now almost half a million people in Syria are in areas under siege, facing starvation death and epidemic. The UN has rushed aid to Syria but the point is whether the army would allow humanitarian aid.

So long as Russia is there Assad is unlikely to step down on American terms. With so many forces contending for power in a post-Assad scenario it is next to impossible to guarantee permanent truce. They can negotiate endlessly to devise a mechanism to share power in an interim arrangement but that can hardly ensure stability, not to speak of smooth democratic transition. Even the new round of negotiations scheduled to be held in Geneva on February 25, looks uncertain, as Russia, in the meantime bombed at least five medical facilities and two schools, killing at least 50 people, including children and injuring several others, as per UN press release. That Russian air-strikes matter a lot to America and its allies, particularly Turkey, is a fact of life. It’s no longer a one-way traffic and they cannot bargain from a position of strength as it was the case before the entry of Russia. So German chancellor Angela Markel is proposing a no-fly zone in Syria, to protect civilians, a suggestion that is being ignored, and quite expectedly, by Russia. For all practical purposes the five-year-old bloody conflict is spiralling out of control turning Syria uninhabitable for generations to come.

Regime change means bombing, bombing by drones and planes to stone age. It happened in Iraq and Afghanistan and it is happening in Syria now. The West’s bombs are instruments of catastrophe. As for the limits of bombing there is really no limit.

Just a few days before the 14th anniversary of the US invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, US planes bombed a hospital run by the internationally renowned organisation Medicines Sans Frontieres, in the country’s north, in the city of Kunduz. American bombers went into action because the army of Washington’s client regime in Afghanistan lost the city to the Taliban and whose initial counter-attacks had failed.

They have changed the regime in Kabul, no doubt, but they have equally compounded the Taliban problem instead of resolving it. Fourteen years and thousands of lives later, the Taliban are still there, and are still able to capture a city, well outside of their traditional zone of influence in the south. The Taliban’s Pakistani patrons were allowed to escape to Pakistan in 2001 while thousands of civilians perished under the NATO bombs. The Taliban dispersed to Pakistan only to return and fight another day. When NATO dislodged Taliban from power they installed their opponents : warlords who were as misogynist and ruthless as the Taliban were. The Afghan army like the Iraqi army created by America in both cases, is efficient at enriching commanders than defending the country’s sovereignty. Afghans have forgotten to live in peace. With geo-political equation getting further complicated in the region, permanent peace is unlikely to return anytime soon.

In Syria it is actually a re-run of Afghan drama with some common actors. Today, the US, Israel, the Saudi Kingdom, Turkey and a few other countries are pouring millions of dollars into groups of fighters (some of the same groups as fought in Afghanistan, including al-Qaida, against the Soviets) trying to change the Assad regime. Many war observers think if regime change succeeds, the winners will be al-Qaida and the Islamic State. Even die-hard optimists don’t believe that Geneva meet will succeed to the satisfaction of all warring parties. But one thing is certain: in a few years Syria will be completely unrecognisable as Syria as the Afghanistan of 1960s and 1970s, is totally unrecognisable today.

Anti-war movement even in the West, looks directionless. Numerous ‘progressive’ voices that might have been expected to take an anti-war stand, actually supported bombing and regime change in Libya in 2011—and continue to support regime change in Syria today. The world now knows how Libya has become totally unrecognisable from the days of Gaddafi.

Regime change has been the goal, but only humanitarian disaster has been the result.

Gone are the days of Vietnam war era revolutionary enthusiasm. Not much is heard about anti-war movement anywhere in the world. What is happening is sporadic, having little force to effect changes in the policy-makers of regime change. Nearer home the communist left doesn’t find any valid reasons to develop peace movement in a sustained way—their anti-imperialist stance is too abstract to motivate masses against the West-sponsored proxy war that is as devastating as the direct war. Twelve years since the invasion of Iraq, 25 since the first US war on Iraq! The net outcome : the entire Middle East is now drifting towards chaos, continually destblising a huge landmass for millions of people. Maybe, America’s notorious ‘rebel’ groups in the Middle East have not yet reached the level of brutality that Hitler and the Nazis did, but the logic of regime change is actually genocide.

Vol. 48, No. 34, Feb 28 - Mar 5, 2016