By Arab News
By Ali Bluwi
Not surprisingly, different countries resort to using scarecrow tactics to keep internal differences at bay. Over the last decade, different players have created Al-Qaeda bogey for various political agendas.
For instance, the United States exploited the issue of this radical organization in the running up to elections, Iran capitalized on the attack on Shiite leadership when Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility, and every now and then the Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki uses Al-Qaeda to press the panic button.
Now, the Syrian regime is trying to use the same scarecrow. Damascus is trying to create an impression that the acceptance of the Arab League’s initiative only encourages terrorism. Some observers say that there is a kind of security coordination between Baghdad and Damascus. A case in point, the recent explosion in Baghdad was used by the Al-Maliki government to drive home a message that there will be chaos in the country without Al-Maliki being in power. The explosion in Damascus was meant to send a similar message.
This tactic is now exposed. In Syria, the regime is also trying to convince the West the need for survival of the regime by using Al-Qaeda and terrorism. The insistence of Damascus that Al-Qaeda is about to interfere in Syria and that the collapse of the regime will create a vacuum for Al-Qaeda to fill, thus threatening the interests of the West.
This strategy of using Al-Qaeda is employed with coordination between Tehran and Baghdad. During his recent visit to Washington, the Iraqi prime minister conveyed a message from Tehran and another one from Damascus to the US administration. Iran said that what was happening in Syria was a matter of internal affairs that Iran would not meddle with. Iran also sent the message that it respected the will of the Syrian people. This was a ploy of course.
The second message came from Syria to impress the Americans that what was happening in Syria was a function of a fundamentalist-Salafist scheme that would have grave consequences on the region as a whole. Explicit in the Syrian message was the readiness of the regime to cooperate with Washington. Tehran also sent its intelligence chief to Riyadh with a message that included similar content to that sent to Washington. Iran sought to assure the Gulf countries that the Iranian navy exercises were not directed at the Gulf countries. Equally important, Iran tried to drive a wedge between Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The Iranian press joined the campaign by attacking Al-Thani regime casting doubts on the Al-Thani family. Interestingly, the Iranians leaked a fabricated video clip on YouTube that focused on “enmity” between Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
It did not take a long time for the Saudis to come up with their unequivocal response. During the Gulf summit, the Emir of Qatar and the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques were seen holding hands in a public display of solidarity. Implicit in this gesture was a clear message that Iran’s attempt to play on purported differences within the Gulf countries was pathetic. In its turn, Qatar was quick to respond to these Iranian futile attempts when the ruler of Qatar opened the biggest Mosque in Qatar. The Mosque was named after Imam Mohammed Bin Abdelwahab.
Amid these developments, one needs to keep an eye of what is taking place in Iraqi Kurdistan. The rivalry between Masoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani was caught in the middle of the new development in the region.
In his recent visit to Washington, Masoud Barzani gave a speech at Brookings Institute and complained about the relentless and continuous Iranian interference in Kurdistan. State Department Spokesman Nick Burns said that neighboring states should stop arming outlawed militia in Iraq. This statement is directed at both Tehran and Damascus. The differences between Talabani and Barzani have a long history.
While Talabani threw his weight behind the Iraqi prime minister in his alliance with both Iran and Syria, Barzani became the card that the Sunni majority in Iraq can rely on. For this reason, the Iraqi Vice President Tariq Al-Hashemi looked to Barzani. In addition, there is an attempt to paint Barzani as nothing but a part of a Turkish-Gulf-American alliance. Undermining Barzani can help in cementing a counter sectarian alliance that includes Iraq and Iran. Politicians in Iraq are in a process of settling accounts. Thus influenced by Iran, Al-Maliki is trying to exclude the Sunnah from the main political arena.
Much of the developments in the Middle East region depend on the evolvement of the Syrian crisis. And yet, the fear is that the Syrian regime is fast approaching two options: A final offensive against the Syrian people or finally escaping to Moscow.
In brief, the ongoing employment of Al-Qaeda scare tactics or the continuous pressing of panic buttons will not change reality: The Syrian people’s will prevail finally which will have major consequences on the regional politics.
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