Monday, September 5, 2011

Between Russia And Syria

By Mohammad El Ashab 

Russia is no longer the Soviet Union, and today’s world is quite different from the era of the Cold War. Nevertheless, the fog has not lifted yet and some Arab countries are still caught in some ideological worldviews that are in denial with respect to the events that took place in the past two decades, starting with the collapse of the Red Empire, all the way to the economic and financial crisis that has necessitated the reconsideration of the present world order.

Russia’s name often figures when it comes to internal developments in certain Arab countries. Whenever these countries are faced with crises or uprisings, they look in the direction of Moscow, in the hope that the latter would shield them from Security Council resolutions, especially those involving the protection of civilians and their loss of legitimacy. It is as if the alliance with Moscow allows for committing crimes against humanity. And one can almost fail to understand the reasons why the interests of these countries converge with those of Russia, only in such situations, when this wound could be avoided by simply refraining from certain practices and violations that are soon denounced by the international community.
Even if Moscow’s stature allows Russia to raise its voice high in the Security Council, to veto, express its reservation, or otherwise approve a resolution, this should not act as a pretext for the countries that are violating treaties and norms, under a Russian cloak and behind a now declawed Russian bear.

This dilemma is reminiscent of the naïve statements of Col. Muammar Gaddafi, when he wanted to defend the logic of mass murder. He gave as examples the incidents that took place at the Soviet parliament, at the Tiananmen Square in China, and another incident that occurred in a U.S. county. He found nothing to adduce except for some arbitrary examples, which he had failed to realize had brought a lot of backlash upon their perpetrators. But the sure thing is that the Russians are not interested in revisiting a book that they have long since cast aside, the same way they had lived through the breakdown of the concept of ideological war, and replaced that with a rapprochement with the West, save for some rare instances in the recent past.
The Arab countries that used to be close to Soviet policies should have reconsidered their positions and stances, following the collapse of the eastern bloc. In truth, the late President Saddam Hussein was perhaps the first one to miss this rule. Before the start of the second Gulf war and following his invasion of Kuwait, he thought that he could rely on Soviet defiance, all the while ignoring the fact that the withdrawal of the Kremlin’s forces from Afghanistan was the beginning of the end, and that a country such as Iraq could not possibly achieve in the Middle East, what Moscow had failed to accomplish within the bygone era of the Grand Areas. In this vein, Tarek Aziz, the man who is currently asking that his death sentence be expedited, was the first to flaunt the idea that Mr. President should not be disturbed, when he refused to receive then-U.S. Secretary of State James Baker’s communiqué. The picture seems so terrifying, when not disturbing the ruler by conveying facts on the grounds, translates into exposing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis to killing, harm and displacement.

One repercussion of that Iraqi experience is that the delusion of having the Soviets fight wars on behalf of their so-called Arab allies has died out. But those who are not convinced by the Iraqi case have also missed the reiteration of the situation with Col. Gaddafi. Further, the same scenario will most probably be repeated in the Syrian crisis, although the similarity between Souria and Roussia [Arabic for Syria and Russia] is nothing but the result of an alphabetic accident.
So the same assumptions are being rehashed, assumptions that will lead to the same old results and consequences. At the pinnacle of its power, the Soviet Union offered nothing to its allies but Kalashnikovs and the dream of graduating from the Patrice Lumumba University. And the Soviet Union found no shame in establishing diplomatic ties with Israel and sending its Jews in great numbers over there. How can the heirs of the Red ideology – as they have replaced the statue of Lenin with jeans and pop music – possibly care for anything other than Russian interests, which have often strived on the promises of the capitalist West?

This time, the Arab revolutions did not take place under the effect of external calamities. No outside solutions or methods, such as external alliances, for containing these disasters can be sought after. Even those who are criticizing the practice of meddling in other countries’ domestic affairs are actually contradicting their own ideas, because they are placing their bets on some kind of a Russian intervention, in the form of a role that is the equivalent of that of the devil’s advocate. But the odd thing is that the experiences of the Russians did not reach the extent of making them even more royalist than the king, so to speak. Moscow realizes that jumping over some considerations and barriers is forbidden or at least futile, except for achieving some kind of gains.
The delusion of a Russian salvation is thus lost amidst the larger international equations. But, more dangerously, some sides are replacing it with another delusion, namely of inventing lies and believing them, lies that purport that the current events are not the outcome of the popular revolutions, but rather that of roving groups of outlaws. But in truth, any laws that cause such groups to emerge everywhere will inevitably do away with rulers that have no consideration for historical logic or justice.

This commentary was published in al-Hayat on 04/09/2011

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