By Arab News
By Eyad Abu Shakra*
Although Syria’s tragedy is too painful to be associated with humor, the suffering that both Moscow and Washington are inflicting on the Syrian people reminds us of a kind of a ‘black comedy’ joke.
It goes like this: A barber was very keen on his son inheriting his ‘salon’, but the young man wasn’t remotely interested in such a career. One day the barber decided to force his son to join him, and asked him to tend to a customer by copying what he was doing to another. However, whilst the barber was engaged with his own customer he heard a loud scream from the poor gentleman that his son was tending to. Asking about what had happened, the poor guy said that he had been cut. The barber responded by slapping his son. However, the son lent back and the customer received the full force of the “punishing” slap before the father apologized and then ordered his son to carry on. This time he also told him to be careful.
But a few seconds later there was another scream and another misplaced painful slap landed on the cheek of the son’s victim.
This went on several times until the son severed the self-restrained customer’s ear, to which the latter responded pleadingly: “Please, please, my son, throw it away before your father sees it!”
This is exactly what is befalling Aleppo under barbaric Russian air raids while Washington criticizes and threatens to “walk away from further cooperation with Moscow” on the Syrian issue. As Syrians are being murdered and the Russians bomb their homes and cover Bashar Al-Assad genocide, John Kerry simply “sulks” and walks away!
It is such an ugly and surreal picture that not only proves the moral bankruptcy of international politics, but also points to the fact that the Arab world is facing a catastrophe, and the so-called “war against terrorism” is being conducted in a preposterous manner that intentionally ignores the root causes of the problem.
The “agreed” silence surrounding the systematic destruction of what remains of Aleppo, and evicting more than half of its population, as a first step to handing it back to Assad under Russo-American sponsorship, has also forced Turkey to keep quiet, and is complementing the preparation to “liberate” Mosul against the background of a very dangerous Iraqi scene.
Thus, concentrating efforts exclusively on ISIS and Al Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front while disregarding the overall regional military, political, ethnic as well as religious and sectarian complexities, will only lead to temporary ‘solutions’. These serve an American administration that has gained a great expertise in leaving to its successors all the consequences of its failures and short-term interests, as well as a dictatorial Russian leadership that cares little about human rights, civil society, democracy and global interaction.
The other day President Barack Obama apologized to Assad for the unintended bombing of his troops in Deir Ez-Zor (Eastern Syria), and welcomed the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi, fully expressing his support for the latter’s plans for the “liberation” of Mosul.
In fact, before and after this meeting Washington has consistently backed the current Iraqi government whose policies — as it is common knowledge — are drawn in Tehran; not forgetting, that Al-Abadi himself candidly admitted that Qasem Soleimani, the head of ‘Al-Quds Brigade’ of Iran’s IRGC and the commander of its operations in Syria, is actually an ‘adviser’ to his government. Furthermore, all those aware of the Iraqi internal situation, led by human rights organizations, have linked the sectarian crimes of the ‘Popular Mobilization Forces’ (Al-Hashd Al-Sha’bi) with the IRGC, but still the Al-Abadi government behaves as if it doesn’t know.
Last but not least, President Obama and his team have always cited “the failed US intervention in Iraq” as an excuse for their negative approach to Syria; acknowledging that this intervention caused the collapse and disintegration of the Iraqi state and made it an easy prey to Iran. However, after signing the JCPOA (the Nuclear Deal) with Iran, the relationship with Tehran became the ‘constant’ — indeed, the cornerstone of Obama’s Middle East policy. This led to Washington turning a blind eye to the intervention of Iran’s militias in the Syrian war, and its hegemony in both Iraq and Lebanon. In a sense, George W. Bush’s derided “failed intervention” in Iraq has become the basis of Obama’s regional policy!
Given the above, it is now important to ask about the most likely outcome of the US presidential elections in the first week of November. Will Obama’s successor follow in his footsteps, regardless of party affiliation, as the change caused by JCPOA is huge, and the ‘rehabilitation’ of Iran as an ally has gone a long way; noting the breakthroughs achieved by Tehran’s ‘friends’ in Congress, the media, think tanks, and financial circles and networks?
Those monitoring Hillary Clinton’s campaign noticed some time ago that the Democratic candidate has already picked her foreign policy advisers. Among the names expected to be listened to on the Middle East, the Muslim world, and ‘Terrorism’ are Jake Sullivan, Philip Gordon, Laura Rosenberger, in addition to ‘veteran’ old hands like Leon Panetta and Madeleine Albright. On the other hand, many do not expect Clinton to just ‘copy’ Obama’s policy, but rather balance the interest-based pragmatist perspective of Bill Clinton’s days and the ideological, retreat — if not outright apology — imbued, perspective of Barack Obama. The presence of people like Sullivan and Gordon, however, is not a good sign.
Sullivan was with William Burns (ex-deputy sec of state) and Puneet Talwar (Iranian Affairs in the State Dept.), a member of the ‘triumvirate’ that conducted the Muscat secret negotiations with Iran. As for Gordon, he has been one of the ‘mainstays’ of Obama’s disastrous Middle East policy, especially Syria; and both Sullivan and Gordon, along with their colleague Ben Rhodes, are very close to Iran’s active lobby group ‘NAIC’ (National American Iranian Council).
In the opposite camp, the team assembled by the Republican candidate Donald Trump, includes a bunch of ultra conservatives, who although are opposed to Tehran, are also anti-Muslim in general. Among the leading names here are George Papadopoulos and Walid Phares, a US-Lebanese academic. Both men are interested in the Middle East and are highly critical of Obama’s policy of ‘retreat’ from the region. Last year, Papadopoulos advised Israel to “co-operate with Russia for its security” as well as Syria and Lebanon. As for Phares, Muslim American groups have often accused him of stirring up ‘Islamophobia’. So, in light of this, the Arabs find themselves before a sad and ‘well-known’ Democratic option and a worrying and ‘unknown’ Republican option. In a way, our position is similar to that of the Syrians – namely the people of Aleppo – with the ‘Barber of Washington’ who hurts even when he wants to help!
*Eyad Abu Shakra is the managing editor of Asharq Al-Awsat.