By Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde
Syria is Ripe
The job started by some nations in Libya must be continued in other countries whose despots are ready to kill many thousands of their citizens to save their throne. Syria and Yemen are ripe for such intervention. If the raison d’etre of their involvement in Libya was to save a massacre in Benghazi and other dissident Libyan cities, residents of Homs and San’aa are also just in dire need of such help.
The ink of any peaceful settlement between the Syrian despot, Bashar al-Asad and his people has dried up. Well, the Arab league can try it this coming week. But the two sides do not trust each other anymore. The people do not trust Asad because he has promised reforms dozens of times before without fulfilling any. Asad, on his part, like any despot, despises his people: They are nothing.
Worse of all, both sides are determined to continue on their path. Asad is ready to kill as many as he needs to keep his 48 year old dynasty in power, supported by his Ba’athist party and his ethnic minority – the Alawites. The opposition, coming largely from the majority Sunni masses, has shown sufficient resolve to continue until success comes. Success to them now, unlike at the beginning of the protests when they were only calling for reforms, means dethroning Asad. No less.
The world must call off the bluff of Asad. He said there would be earthquake in the Middle East if the West intervenes in his country. Which earthquake has not the Middle East seen in the five millennia? This will be just another, but certainly not the last. The beauty of this one is that while the past ones have seen the death of thousands of people in the streets of Aleppo, Constantinople, Damascus, Baghdad And Jerusalem, this one will be lamented by just one person: Bashar al-Asad and his regime.
He told the Daily Telegraph “Syria is different in every respect from Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen.” Let us see. If the Hidden Hand that swept Mubarak, Ben Ali and Gaddafi away in the ocean of history would spare him simply because, as he put it, “The history is different, the politics is different.” I do not think Iran and Hezbollah, on him he counts, will spare a bullet to support him.
Let us appreciate that despots do not leave the scene without rhetoric. Detached from the world, they always delude that their countries must remain subject of their manipulation. Here was Pharoah telling his council of Ministers: “My ministers! Don’t I own Egypt and (even) these rivers flow underneath me? Don’t you see?” However, when his time was up, as late Abdulhamid Kish said, God made the rivers to flow above him.
The last Pharaoh, Hosni Mubarak, warned the West that would he fall, Egypt would be taken over by Muslim fundamentalist. That threat did not stop anything. The West that has been supporting him had to submit itself to the powerful voice of the people. Once Washington understood that the Egyptians have conquered fear, the sole ground on which the Mubarak regime was sustained, it knew that his time is up. So it joined the Egyptians to sing the revolutionary phrase: al-Sha’b yurid, isqat al-Nizam.
Gaddafi also threatened that there would be civil war in Libya if NATO intervenes and Al-Qaida will take over. Here too, the West understood that it could not stand on the path of change. Today, Gaddafi is gone. No civil war occurred. The people of Libya did not fight one another. They united against him so much so that he had to rely on mercenaries from sub-saharan Africa. The hired mobs that gathered after the massacres he carried out in Misrata and other cities have vanished, as would also vanish the mob that Asad gathered in Damascus last week. Today, Libya is free from 42 years of Gaddafi’s despotic rule. Libyans are carrying on, without him.
Syria will not be an exception to the rule that freedom comes at a price. For change to take place, blood must be sacrificed to Mother Earth because, as Sayyid Qutb once said, the tree of principle is watered by the blood of its martyrs. Hims and other Syrian cities are not tired of watering that tree. The forces of Asad are killing them daily in their homes and mosques, as his father once did in the early 1980s when he flattened the city after an uprising by the Muslim Brotherhood. But they remain relentless. Now is the time for the world to come to their aid.
That aid, I wish, would come sooner than later from the Arabs themselves. The influence of Dr. Yusuf al-Qardawi must be commended here. Early in the Arab Spring, he gave the important revolutionary fatwa that it is lawful to kill any leader that turns his guns against his people. Never have we heard such a radical ruling before. And Qatar, the country of his asylum, was unapologetically in the forefront of aiding the Libyan revolutionaries. It is not alone though. Many Arab countries also took part.
Syria is closer. Here too the role of Qardawi is clear. He was accused by the regime of instigating the revolt through a sermon he gave one Friday. We hope his influence on the Qatari leadership will help to once again to instigate its participation in any forthcoming coalition. The pagan Ba’athist regime that was founded by Michel Aflaq has not put Arabs “on the way of resurrection.” It has been in power in Syria since 1963. Forty-eight years! Only dictatorship resulted from its dream of “unity, liberty and socialism”. It must go. Now!
The habitual hesitation on the side of the Western governments that democracy in Syria will bring Sunni fundamentalist to power is not sustainable. They fear for neighbouring Israel. They fear for themselves. Democracy guarantees elections, personal liberty and good governance, three things that many western scholars and politicians believe must not be given to Arabs because it one keg of gunpowder that will be bow off the interest of the West and the survival of Israel. Impliedly, such politicians are telling the world that both the West and Israel cannot survive without subjugating Arabs. Is it true then that they need monarchs and despots to ensure the free flow of oil and lackeys to protect the strategic interest of Israel?
The West I think has a rare opportunity to reinvent its role in the region. It has started it in Libya and it must go the whole hog. In any case, it created the mess in the first place. It should help to clear it. Wherever citizens of a country have shown sufficient determination to overthrow a despot, or whenever the despot is willing to massacre his own people, the international community under the UN charter must not hesitate to stop him.
This has been the tradition of History; otherwise, tyranny would rule the world. The fear of fundamentalists which despots are quick to inject into the bloodstream of the West must not anesthetize it from carrying out the fundamental obligation it chose for itself since the beginning of the French Revolution. Freedom to all should really mean freedom to all, regardless of colour, religion or region. If apartheid is dismantled in South Africa, it must also be dismantled in Israel and Palestine. If other nations are free, the Arabs must also be free.
The same thing applies to Ali Abdallah Saleh of Yemen. Until when would Arab leaders and theIinternational Community come to the aid of the Yemenis? Saleh, like Asad and Gaddafi, is relentless in his killings. It is clear that his dictatorship is not sustainable. Yet, because he is an ally in the fight against Al-Qaida, the international community is hesitating to give him the Mubarak or Gaddafi treatments. But either treatment is inevitable because the Yemenis are also relentless in their opposition. The resolve of the West to democracy and freedom is truly on test.
Against all odds, the West must review the nature of its relationship with the Arab world and Islam. Israel and oil must not continue to define the dynamics of that relationship. If the West would support Arabs to regain their most precious commodity – their dignity – by allowing them determine their affairs on an equal footing in domestic and international affairs, they could get both peace for Israel and abundant oil to fuel the engines of their industries.
The other path – that of supporting puppets and tyrants – against the will of their people is no longer sustainable in a world characterized by Facebook and Twitter. The freedom that is enjoyed in the West must be enjoyed the world over, without exception. In the end, even the monarchies of Arabia and the Persian Gulf have to leave the scene. The need for change in West’s strategic thinking is therefore dire and urgent.
The International Community must hurry to the aid of the Syrians. The benefit it will reap from such endeavour is greater than whatever strategic role the Ba’athist regime is presently playing for the West in the region. A no fly zone is urgently needed as the Syrians have started asking for. We want to see those missiles hitting Asad’s tanks whenever they head for a massacre in any Syrian city. Only then would Asad understand that he either negotiates for a peaceful exit or the end is here. But that hour would be too late for him, as it has always been for any despot.
30 October 2011