Touria Prayag's Blog

Putin, the statesman? 10 September 2013

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on March 22, 2014

Par Touria Prayag

“I WANT TO GO ON RECORD AS SAYING THAT THIS IS THE STUPIDEST, MOST IRRESPONSIBLE ACTION A DIPLOMATIC MISSION LIKE OURS COULD GET ITSELF INVOLVED IN, AND THAT WE’VE STARTED A SERIES OF THESE THINGS THAT WILL NEVER END”

None of the three men – Obama, Assad and Putin – who spent the whole week flexing their muscles as the world held its breath really wanted a military intervention in Syria. But they each thought they had something to get out of it. Barack Obama – like François Hollande and David Cameron whose initial zeal was put to an end by their own people – may have seen the intervention as an opportunity to acquire new stature on the global stage which would in turn help him at home. Bashar al-Assad would have been led to the role he had been longing to assume – that of a victim of the west – which would have earned him enormous regional support and Vladimir Putin would have been happy to strengthen his ties with Assad and supply the weapons he needs to fi ght the Americans.

That Barack Obama – on second thoughts – managed to hear the voice of reason is good news for the world. American military boots in Damascus would have sucked the region into a bloody conflict the rest of the world neither needs nor can afford. And there is no reason to suggest that the operation would have done anything to attenuate the deaths and inhumane suffering going on there right now. Quite the opposite, in fact.

The voice of reason – ironically – came from Vladimir Putin. And – who would have believed it – he is the one who came out of this whole episode smelling of roses. Both François Hollande and David Cameron were denied the support of their people and Barack Obama just about managed to avoid being discredited.

Vladimir Putin, on the other hand, emerged as a real statesman who kept stressing that “there is no alternative to a peaceful solution to the crisis in Syria” and – though nothing concrete has been achieved yet – seems to have turned what the Americans thought of as unthinkable into something realistically achievable. The US secretary of state, John Kerry, expressed his pessimism that the only condition which could stop the American military intervention was for [Bashar al-Assad] to turn over “every bit of his [chemical] weapons to the international community within the next week,” sarcastically adding that Assad “isn’t about to”. No sooner had he said that than Vladimir Putin’s government announced negotiations were on to achieve just that and there was every reason to hope that they would come to a positive denouement. The rest is history.

And history does repeat itself. In many ways. The debate raging on now is eerily similar to the one which surrounded the disaster created in the Middle East region through a series of American-backed coups in Syria in 1947/1949 to depose President Shukri al-Quwatli in 1949, then again in 1963 to instal the Ba’athist Party in power in Syria. It can perhaps be summed up by a young political officer, a CIA agent named Deane Hinton, who had said: “I want to go on record as saying that this is the stupidest, most irresponsible action a diplomatic mission like ours could get itself involved in, and that we’ve started a series of these things that will never end.” The “Dark Ages” that Deane Hinton had warned that the American CIA had opened the door to in Syria back then were, regretfully, about to start again. Except that they would have been darker. Deane Hinton was – unfortunately – right, is still right and he would have been right again. Thank God the

Dark Ages were avoided in the nick of time. It is not sure how the Syria narrative will evolve but the world cannot afford the possible implications of a military intervention. Thank you, Deane!

weekly@lasentinelle.mu

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