A British Foreign Secretary has to be a particular kind of politician. He has to be a master of double-speak and have a PhD in deception. He has to be able to argue, with passion that Britain must support those in hardship and promote democracy, yet wine and dine dictators and despots. He has to be the heir of Lord Palmerston [“Great Britain has no friends, only interests"], Arthur Balfour [the man who sold Palestine], and Lord Curzon [the man who brought low the Ottoman State].
William Hague’s handling of the revolution in Syria suggests he is peculiarly suited to this role – for it is absolutely clear that the fifteen months of excuses for Assad and stalling tactics, as well as the current talk about all options on the table, including intervention, are all in order to secure a future Syria that is compliant to Western interest; obstruct the obvious hunger the people have for Islam.
I truly hope Hague’s fate will be that of another of his predecessors, Anthony Eden, who was later (as Prime Minister) destroyed by the Suez Crisis. But for now, we have to put up with his scheming on behalf of the British state.
For those who don’t understand diplomatic speak, his 1700 word statement to the House of Commons on Syria on Monday of 11th June 2012 can be summed up in the following sentence:
After fifteen months of actively doing nothing, the West may need to intervene, because it fears the people’s revolt will defeat the regime; and that would not be in Britain’s interests.
The late acceptance for the need for external intervention – after fifteen months of bloodshed, approximately 15 000 people killed by the regime, half a million displaced, rape, torture and the cold-blooded murder of children – marks a definitive shift by both Britain and the United States from their initial stance that Syria is not the same as Libya; that intervention is not possible; that it may do more harm than good.
Hague’s words echo those of the Chairman of the US Joint Chief of Army Staff, General Martin Dempsey, who said on 28.5.2012: “the Pentagon is ready for the option of military intervention to end the violence in Syria”.
So what has brought about this repositioning? What has led to this gradual shift from endorsing Assad as a reformer; giving him umpteen chances to change his position; calling for Assad to go, but a reformed regime to remain; supporting the Annan plan; and now finally revealing that military intervention is indeed an option in Syria. But NOT to bring about regime change; but to supposedly ‘end the violence’ or ‘prevent civil war’.
The key word here is ‘supposedly’.
The talk of intervention has nothing to do with ending violence. Britain and America have no principled objection to civil war and violence. They have invaded two countries sparking 10-12 years of unimaginable violence and chaos. Terror came to Pakistan and Iraq where there was none beforehand. Iraq did not know sectarianism before US-led occupation. Pakistan did not make war on its own population before the NATO invasion of Afghanistan spread the war eastwards.
Only one week ago, Mr. Hague, the British Prime Minister David Cameron, as well as the Queen herself, wined and dined the Sri Lankan Prime Minister, Mahinda Rajapaksa, against the backdrop of massive protests from Tamils in the UK. Rajapaksa – a loyal ally of Britain – ended a fragile ceasefire in Sri Lanka’s own civil war and the pursued a scorched earth policy against is arch enemies the LTTE, exterminating everything in his path, including an estimated 20 000 civilians, and presiding over of a regime that tortures and brutalizes its opponents.
No, Mr Hague and his US counterparts have no worries about dealing with mass murderers and civil war (let’s not forget America’s efforts in central America to fuel civil wars for their own ends).
Hague also said, in his statement of 11th June 2012 to Parliament, that “freedom is not only the legitimate right of all the peoples of the region, it is the foundation of lasting peace, stability and prosperity.”
However, this does not appear to apply to the people of Bahrain, whose uprising has been crushed by another loyal ally of Britain, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, Bahrain’s ruler, who was also invited to dine with the Queen during her jubilee celebrations.
The Kofi Annan plans, endorsed by the West, have allowed the regime time and space to commit arguably its worst atrocities since the start of the uprising. The UN observers have been impotent; the Arab league observer at times complicit with the regime. The idea was to allow time for the various fractured opposition figures – most of whom utterly lack credibility – to be manufactured into a government in waiting, that would be compliant with western interests; which would replace Assad, who was seen to be unsustainable in the long run.
Annan’s latest initiative is to push through a Yemen style arrangement – where the ruler and his immediate coterie are removed, but remnants of the regime remain in power, so maintaining the status quo as far the West is concerned. This is what Hague describes as the goal of ‘a peaceful transition in Syria’. But a transition to what? This is the question they cannot answer, and why all options are on the table.
Events have moved faster than the diplomatic initiatives can keep pace with.
Hague and his allies have seen the revolution spread to Damascus and Aleppo, have started a familiar series of justifications for intervention. Hillary Clinton, who had previously argued against arming the opposition because of Al Qaeeda elements [a thing unheard of in Syria till then], now mentions Al Qaeeda again as a possible justification for intervention; whilst Hague recalls the Balkans.
This last analogy is most accurate. For what most Muslims recall about the Balkans, is that just as the Muslims were about to organize and arm themselves to resist the attacks of the Serbs – the UN intervened and imposed an arms embargo, tying their hands, and eventually allowing massacres such as Srebrenica to occur. The embargo was implemented in such a way that secured a military advantage to the Serbs, allowed the Croats to smuggle weapons through its coast, yet handcuffed the Bosnian Muslims. Britain, France, Russia and President Clinton himself all opposed the pleas to lift the embargo – overseen by the UN, the then head of UN peace keeping, Kofi Annan.
For this reason, and many others, Annan – who is seen as a largely benign, slightly ineffective, diplomat in the West – is viewed with deep suspicion in the Muslim world.
Hague and Clinton are well aware that the brave people of Syria – who have sacrificed their lives and their children’s lives in order to rid themselves of a brutal dictatorial regime – if left to their own devices would pursue a type of government that would jeopardize Western interests.
This is what they have learned from Egypt & Tunisia, where they struggle [so far successfully] to maintain a grip on events. The NATO intervention in Libya has not panned out as smoothly as they thought originally. Media reports describe how the technocratic interim administration – favoured by the West and currently negotiating contracts with western companies – is utterly out of step with the population calling for Islam and the liberation of Palestine.
This would be an unacceptable scenario in Syria for Britain and America in Syria – whose importance is not economic, like Libya – but vitally strategic.
This would be the reason for Western intervention. When Assad falls, as surely he will, they do not care about the Alawis or Christians or Druze. They care about maintaining the grip on Syria they have held on to – and passed between French, British and American influence – since 1918.
That’s the game Hague & Clinton are playing. And that’s why no self respecting person should support their plans – even though I would urge every to support this brave and blessed revolution.
Dr. Abdul Wahid is a regular contributor to New Civilisation. He is currently the Chairman of the UK-Executive Committee of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Britain. He has been published in The Times Higher Educational Supplement and on the websites of Foreign Affairs, Open Democracy and Prospect magazine. He can be followed on Twitter @abdulwahidht or emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org