Democracy suffers in NATO-backed Syrian fighting
Today, more than 14 million voters in Syria will have the chance to select among several thousand candidates for 250 parliamentary seats.
Cities across the country are plastered with posters of the candidates, with many adopting an Obama-sque “Change we can believe in” slogan.
However, the armed groups that have been backed by the NATO powers for the past 15 months have rejected the polls, and are showing their hostility by targeting candidates for assassination, usually by the use of explosives.
Since the armed uprising began, several thousand members of the security forces and their family members have been killed by the insurgents, who themselves have lost thousands of their own.
However, those relying on Western media are told that every such death has been caused by the security forces, ignoring the deadly violence that is being unleashed in the country by groups of armed mobs.
We have seen this before, in Libya, where tens of thousands of people have died so far as the result of externally backed civil war. In that country, those willing to kill regime elements were given training, cash and weapons.
Today, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are providing the same assistance to those seeking to use deadly force against the government in Damascus.
Although Syria President Bashar al-Assad has announced a raft of reforms, including new media laws and the right to form political parties, each such announcement has been met by an escalation in violence, which has rendered null the ceasefire brokered by UN envoy Kofi Annan.
Since mid-April, there have been numerous ceasefire violations by the insurgents, with the Alawi, the Muslim sect to which the Assad family belongs, and the Christian community the main target of the insurgents. Syria is the home of the Patriarchate of Antioch, the oldest church in Christendom.
For reasons not clear, the triumvirate of Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have joined hands with the NATO powers to back the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood has been the greatest beneficiary of the Arab Spring.
Today in Syria, one can see women across the country dressed as they please. Were the Brotherhood to take control, this freedom might soon be replaced with the obligation to wear the chador (full veil). Already in Egypt and in Tunisia, the secular ethos of the country is rapidly giving way to Saudi-style conservatism.
While European members of NATO are opposed to Islamic conservatives in their own countries, in the Arab world, they favor such elements over those who are secular. The result is a galloping conservatism across the Arab world.
Clearly, the NATO powers are aware that the more hardline local regimes are, the less chance that they will be able to compete with the US and the EU.
Rather than support the process of democratization in Syria, the NATO powers have joined hands with regional powers to train, arm and provide cash to the armed opposition, thereby fomenting a violent civil war in the country.
The 11 percent of the population that are Alawi and the 9 percent of Syria’s 24 million people that are Christian are terrified that they will become the target of ethnic cleansing. As for the majority Sunni community, more than two-thirds are moderate, with less than a third favoring the conservative Wahabbi-Salafi faith.
We have seen this before, in Afghanistan in the 1980s, where the US backed religious extremists to fight the USSR. The effects of that mistake are still creating harmful ripples across the region.
Today, rather than support secular elements and encourage the transition to democracy, NATO is backing armed groups that create mayhem across the country, groups that overwhelmingly follow an extremist ideology.
Of course, there are exiled Syrians who have congregated in Paris to provide a moderate face to the armed struggle. However, these people control nothing, only those with guns do.
And these days, more and more guns are flowing into Syria, as NATO seeks regime change not through the ballot but through the bomb.
The author is director and professor of the School of Geopolitics at Manipal University in India. He visited Syria last month as part of an Indian delegation.
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