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The ‘fantasy’ regarding Syria

May 07,2014 - Last updated at May 07,2014

From 1949 until January 1979, the US recognised Taiwan as the legitimate government of China because the politicians in Washington could not bring themselves to accept that their right-wing Chinese nationalist friends had lost the war with the communists led by Mao Zedong.

Taiwan’s area is just over 36,000 square kilometres as compared to the People’s Republic, which has an area of more than 9.5 million square kilometres.

Taiwan’s population in 1979, 17.8 million, was a fraction of that of the People’s Republic, which was almost a billion, according to official statistics.

These facts reveal that US policy on China was for 30 years based on fantasy and totally unrealistic: the US refused to recognise the fourth largest country in the world with the largest population simply because Washington could not accept its communist government.

These days, Washington is again suffering from what can be called the “China non-recognition syndrome” with regard to Syria.

In March, the US ordered the Syrian embassy in Washington to close and sent its diplomatic staff packing.  Last week, the US accorded the offices of the expatriate opposition National Council mission status, giving the council, regarded as the representative of the Syrian people, a diplomatic boost, although the council has absolutely no support on the ground in Syria.

Indeed, it can be said that the weaker the coalition grows the greater the US tries to prop it up with hollow gestures to maintain the fantasy that the coalition is a viable option.

The US also decided to provide an additional $27 million in “non-lethal” aid to “moderate” armed groups, raising the total to $287 million, knowing full well that there are no significant “moderates” left on Syrian battlefields where “immoderate” radical fundamentalists are the main opponents of the government.

Again, the weaker and more marginalised the “moderates” — who were always local groups of fighters rather than a force to be reckoned with — the greater the US political commitment to them, without providing them with arms needed to take on seriously the Syrian army.

The US knows full well that the triumph of jihadist groups would destabilise the entire region. This could also be the case if northern Syria remains in the hands of radicals if and when Damascus reasserts its rule over the rest of the country.

Turkey is also afflicted by fantasies over Syria and is paying the price.

Ankara has to find the wherewithal to host hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees, as well as mobilise police and military personnel to prevent blowback from jihadists who have been allowed to use Turkish territory as their gateway and launchpad into Syria.

Turkey is now erecting a fence along its frontier with Syria so it can exert some control over cross-border movements of arms, fighters and refugees.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan remains committed to the fight against Syrian President Bashar Assad, whatever the cost to Turkey itself and in spite of the fact that the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood will never succeed Assad to rule over a united Syria.

Instead, it seems that the north could be divided among jihadist warlords who would establish rival “emirates” in Idlib, Aleppo, Raqqa and Deir Al Zor — at least for a time.

This will encourage jihadists in Iraq to follow suit, breeding instability next door in Anbar, Salahuddin and Nineveh provinces.

Erdogan had hoped that the brotherhood, beholden to him, would become the leading power in Syria and he would exert a major influence over Syria and Egypt, which was, all too briefly, ruled by the brotherhood.

More fantasies “gone west”, as they say.

The fantasy gripping the entire international community holds that it is possible to wage war in Syria without consequences for its people.

There are now at least three million Syrians living as refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq, and another six million displaced within Syria.

However, the countries providing the bombs, guns and bullets to fuel the conflict as well as political and financial backing for the opposition coalition have not donated enough money for the war victims.

Only 25 per cent of the funds required by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees’ 2014 response plan has been delivered, leaving host countries burdened with caring for the refugees, while Syrian internally displaced receive even less aid than the refugees.

Finally, UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi, frustrated over his inability to halt the conflict in Syria, is, reportedly, set to step down.

Consequently, the powers that be led by the US have been discussing likely successors in fantastic terms.

Three names being mentioned are non-Arabic speaking Westerners. The fourth is Kamel Morjane, a former Tunisian foreign and defence minister who served under the deposed regime of Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali — a “safe” appointment from the Western point of view. 

Westerners currently under consideration are Briton Michael Williams, a former UN envoy in Lebanon, Kevin Rudd, a former Australian prime minister, and Javier Solana, a former NATO secretary general.

It looks like the powers in charge are looking for jobs for some of their unemployed “boys”, however unsuited for the task they would assume.

(Former British prime minister Tony Blair remains the Quartet’s envoy to the Palestinian-Israeli “peace process” although he has accomplished nothing since he took up the post six years ago).

These names reveal that the powers seeking to topple Assad no matter what have no intention of seriously promoting a peace process that could work in Syria.

Brahimi had adopted as serious the fantasy of Geneva I, the framework of a deal proposed in 2012, which was, according to a source in the know, “never” a real option.

These powers based the plan on the fantasy that Assad was ready to step down under the paramilitary pressures exerted by diverse and fragmented rebel groups that did not have the ability to topple him.

Brahimi did his best to create from this out-of-date plan a meaningful peace process, but failed because he was trying to broker a deal between Damascus and the fantasy coalition representing the powers that be which do not want an end to the war.

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