Abdulateef Al-Mulhim | Arab News
January 26, 2011 was the first day of the Syrian uprising. The protests started as a continuation of what became known as the Arab Spring. During the Arab Spring, we saw violent and drastic changes in the Arab world — in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and finally Syria.
The Syrian uprising is the longest and so far the bloodiest. All Syrians who are participating in the protests against Bashar Assad asked the question of where are the Americans and their mighty war machine? What makes Libya different from Syria?
The Syrians’ questions are countered by an American question. Why are the Syrians asking for the American intervention in the first place? Hasn’t Syria been anti-America for many decades, and America is the “mother of imperialism”? Wasn’t it the Syrians who said, it is America who is the enemy of all Arab people. And wasn’t it the Syrians who wanted the people of the Gulf states to boycott America and American goods? However, the question still remains, why America didn’t interfere in Syria, as it did in Libya?
Syria is different from Libya. When the Libyan uprising began, the line in the Libyan sands was clear. It was east Libya against west Libya. It was a war between Benghazi and Tripoli. Yes, they were both parts of Libya, but they were more than 1,200 kilometers apart. They were different and Muammar Qaddafi didn’t treat them equally. Things in Libya are far from over. The 40 years of Qaddafi’s rule and the non-homogenized Libyans make it impossible for Libya to get back on course. America had an easy set up scenario for Libya regardless of the outcome. Libya and America had historical relations only 40 years ago. It was the American oil companies that managed the Libyan oil industry till the 1970s. Libya is a major oil producer and active member of OPEC and OAPEC. While Syria never had good relations with America and Syria had been a Soviet, and later on a Russian ally. Syria also is an ally to countries which are known to be anti-American, such as Iran and North Korea. So, there are no interests (oil) for America in Syria, except for its proximity to occupied Palestine (Israel).
The longer America waits to intervene, the more Syrian blood will be spilled. However, The US is waiting for the right moment for various reasons. One of them is the Syrian opposition. The opposition parties are not united and there is no known figure which America can trust and is capable to rule a very complicated country such as Syria. Syria has been a police state for a long time and it will take a very long time for the Syrians to adopt new forms of political and social life. The second reason why America is not intervening at this time is, because there is an election coming soon. And President Barack Obama is very careful with what his administration is doing before an election. Also, we shouldn’t forget that the Syrian president is more popular among his people than Muammar Qaddafi. But in my humble opinion, I think the US will interfere eventually. The Syrian government is betting on Russian and Chinese support, but the American influence is far greater than that of the Russians and Chinese. We saw pro-Syrian government demonstrations a short time ago and these demonstrations were a thank you note for the Russian’s stand beside the Syrian government. But we know that Russia only knows how to talk and when it is time to be on a collision course with the Americans, the Russians would back down. It happened in Kosovo when the closest Russian ally, the Serbs, were attacked by American planes. The Russian ships didn’t even have enough fuel to cruise at high speed, let alone fire a missile at a Ticonderoga class US Navy ship. We saw the Russians, Soviets at the time, watch Syrian planes being shot down by the Israelis during the Bekaa Valley conflict in the early 1980s and saw no helping hand from Moscow, but many words for the Syrians. Talk is cheap.
The most difficult question facing politicians and analysts is what would happen next in Syria after the fall of Bashar Assad? The country could sink into a civil war. Syria is a very complicated mixture of different ethnic backgrounds. There are Sunni Muslims, Alawites, Shiites and Kurds, and there are Christians and Azoreans. The Syrian situation is a bloody lesson to human kind. It shows the ugly side of dictatorship. And at the end, it will be the US who is blamed if things in Syria turn for the worst. The Syrians would say, it is the Americans who came in late. But, I am sure if the Americans came in early to aid the Syrians, the Americans would be accused of being trigger happy, and would have been accused of the intention to destroy an Arab country, so that it can’t attack Israel. Well, I think America will always be damned if they do and damned if they don’t. And to this day, there are many people in the Arab world who still think it is an American conspiracy that aims to topple Arab governments, but perhaps they forget the real culprits: poverty, prejudice, injustice and corruption.
— Abdulateef Al-Mulhim is a Commodore (Retired), Royal Saudi Navy. He is a frequent contributor to the SUSRISblog. He can be contacted at: email@example.com
Reprinted with permission of the author. Originally published in Arab News.
Also by Abdulateef Al-Mulhim:
- Arab Spring and the Hidden Apartheid – SUSRISblog – Feb 21, 2012
- KFUPM, from Jabal Al Dhahran to Pasadena’s JPL – SUSRISblog – Feb 17, 2012
- The Expatriate Who Forgot His Home Address – SUSRISblog – Jan 24, 2012
- Atlanta and the US-Saudi Business Forum – Abdulateef Al-Mulhim – SUSRISblog – Dec 6, 2011
- America Fired Itself From a Job – Abdulateef Al-Mulhim – SUSRISblog – Nov 17, 2011
- September 11 and the Longest Ten Years – Abdulateef Al-Mulhim – SUSRISblog – Sep 10, 2011
- Airline Diplomacy – Abdulateef Al-Mulhim – SUSRISblog – Jul 17, 2011
- President Ahmadinejad: Iran Doesn’t Need Enemies – Abdulateef Al-Mulhim – SUSRISblog – Jun 8, 2011
- Expats and Loytalty – Abdulateef Al-Mulhim – SUSRISblog – May 29, 2011
- Improving Saudi Tourism Prospects – Abdulateef Al-Mulhim – SUSRISblog – April 14, 2011
- What if Arabs had recognized Israel in 1948? – Adulateef Al-Mulhim – SUSRISblog – April 5, 2011
- Reflections on the Foundations of US-Saudi Relations – Abdulateef Al-Mulhim – SUSRISblog – Jan 22, 2011
- Is there a larger role for Saudi Aramco? – Abdulateef Al-Mulhim – SUSRISblog – Jan 12, 2011