October 11, 2016 – Fort Russ News –
– Figarovox, Caroline Galactéros,* translated by Tom Winter –
Discovering, a bit late, that war kills, war is ugly, unfair and ruthless, and especially that one might some day, in the court of history, call Paris to account for its inaction – unless it be for its actual deeds and political choices – France has taken the lead.
Accusing the Syrian regime and Russia at the UN of war crimes in Aleppo, France filed in haste a draft resolution at the UN Security Council calling for an end to the fighting and bombing east of the city (which it pretends to believe is populated by innocent civilians staying there of their own accord and that Russia and the regime are striking out of sheer cruelty), and for the delivery of humanitarian aid and the resumption of the process negotiation.
What can one say about this initiative, apparently inspired by a virtuous indignation at the real drama of the Aleppo-East population, at a time when US-Russian tensions are dangerously rising, leading to fears of open military adventures on the ground — that some in Washington and in NATO have openly been calling for? Is it a new burst of blind irenicism and “magical thinking,” a deadly 2016 Version of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” involving a home intrusion in some storybook house? Or a clever but dangerous posturing that has a purpose, claiming to resolve the situation, but playing utilities in favor of Washington to harden the positions of the two camps now openly competing over the bled-out body of the Syrian nation?
It’s difficult to untangle the denial of reality, the alignment with what is presented as “the camp of the Good,” and our national interests, poorly evaluated though they be.
This diplomatic cinema obviously ends in a Russian veto, expected by Paris, London, and Washington, who want to divert international outrage towards Moscow, failing to show the consistency of their political and military objectives with their alleged desire for peace. But taking role of the pure and innocent is not enough and no longer fools anyone. The evidence fills the screen: “The West” is not leading the war against Sunni Islamism even residually: it nourishes, advises, and trains DAECH whose spectacularly barbarous modes of action serve as an an opportune scarecrow to catalyse Western condemnation, allowing by contrast to call the avalanche of Sunni jihadists of Wahhabi persuasion or the Muslim Brotherhood “respectable,” though they are not fighting the Islamic state any more than we are, but are attacking the Syrian regime.
And America, like France with a crazy indulgence in this ultraviolent magma, seeks interlocutors that may be inducted as “legitimate” and capable of replacing a stubborn autocrat who has the bad taste to resist the West’s version of the march of history and the wave of democracy supposedly aiming to inundate the politically backward Middle East with its benefits.
Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, cruel tyrants no doubt, could not withstand and believed they could still remonstrate with their Western opponents (long their allies) when their fate was actually sealed long ago. Bashar al-Assad, though, has failed to fall. But to our dismay, Moscow has seen in this new western war of destabilization by proxy, an unexpected opportunity to secure its military bases, to challenge the America that despised it too openly, to regain a central influence in the region, and to deal at the the source with the terrorism that threatens its territory and its margins of Central Asia and the Caucasus. Saw the opportunity and seized it.
In this explosive Great Game of reconfiguration of the world equlibrium and especially the new cardinal duel, of Washington with Beijing in particular, France, I fear, erred totally in everything and is demonstrating to the whole world but especially to the enemy – who takes note of our diplomatic and political incoherence, that it admirably practices the great strategic straddle … albeit at the expense of our citizens.
How indeed can we justify our struggle in Mali against the Sunni jihadists, our support in Iraq of Shiites against Sunnis, and in Syria our support for the most extremist Sunni factions against Bashar Assad … while claiming to benefit from the opening Iranian market … and selling arms to the Saudis and Sunni Qataris who happen to be the financiers of the worldwide jihadism whose hatred and terrorist violence we are now seeing on our soil? This is not just a very shortsighted opportunism, but in fact a strategic gaping hiatus and the manifestation of a complete misunderstanding of reality.
Such contradictions can be explained by our stubbornness about putting an end to the current Syrian regime — which no one imagined could resist so long the crossfire of America and its Sunni allies. The US insistence – adopted by Paris – on a cessation of aerial bombardments on Aleppo-East “for humanitarian reasons” would have actually let the Islamists of the city (no less than Al Nosra and the like) restore their military health by using civilians as human shields, continue their shelling of the western part of the city, and prevent Damascus and Moscow decisively tilting the balance of military force for the Syrian state as part of a final negotiation.
Who was it that frustrated the ceasefire signed on September 9 in Geneva? Terrorist groups who do not want it (and have probably bombed the convoy of the Red Crescent at the gates of Aleppo), and the United States that bombed the Syrian forces in Deir el Zor and opened the way to the forces of the Islamic State. Another agreement for dupes.
Short term versus long term, individual versus group, political coldness versus (selective) media empathy: one refuses to see, in our soft democracies, that the real strategic action, to be effective, can not take into account except numbers, masses, sets, movements, processes, while all the media attention and the politicians’ crisis management want to pretend that the individual is central, and focus on the suffering and the plight of individuals, while actually those have always been and probably for a long time yet to come all be sacrificed to the overall and brutal confrontation between states. The terrifying images of the war everyday mask the reality of an unscrupulous confrontation, including the unfortunate Syrians who are no longer in play, but are mere hostages.
The issue unthought of in French discourse remains this: If Assad “executioner of its own people” as the official line has it, were finally militarily and politically put aside, who or what would be the replacement? To whom, useful or not, is Syria to be turned over, once DAECH will have been gradually “exfiltrated” to other macabre “play areas,” in Libya for example? What alternative is there for the survival of the communities, including the Christian ones, that are still present in the country because secular state structures are still in place? What people do we want to put in power? The pseudo “moderates” that clutter the hallways of the trompe l’oeil negotiations in Geneva? The al Nosra Front under its new nickname – Fateh al Sham – that the Americans continue to support despite Russian entreaties and who exploded the cease-fire? Or maybe some splinter groups now armed with US TOW missiles just waiting for a “go” to try to knock a plane or a Russian helicopter (“mistakenly” of course)? Or the representatives of the Syrian Democratic Forces, or those of the “Army of the Conquest” which is opportunely reborn from its ashes … or a mix of all rebels – savvy Democracy apprentices keen on freedom who will finally liberate the Syrian people from the bloody dictator who crushed them under his rule for too long?
Does anyone seriously believe we can for one minute control these new “bosses” of the country that are funded by the Gulf states – that we obligingly keep tacit – and whose political and religious agenda is the polar opposite of our minims of “democratic” requirements? Do not we understand that they will put the country under the scalpel, will end up in the blood of all minorities, will put the Sunni populations under their terrifying control, and that all elections will be a farce and will only ratify a common religious domination without appeal? … “Anne, sister Anne did you see anything coming? I only see the grass, which looks green, and earth which makes a dust “… How naive! What ignorance, and finally, what indifference!
The interview on October 5 by our Foreign Minister on the eve of his departure for Moscow with Yves Calvi on LCI is in this respect a piece of inspiring bravura, which withdraws from reality and paints a surreal landscape of the conflict and what should be understood and expected there.
A Selection … and exegesis.
“The war is useless. It only reinforces the jihadists “- Jean-Marc Ayrault
Does this mean that we must give them free rein, give them the keys to the country and perhaps pray that they won’t massacre the minority who are still there, and will establish democracy? Should we not act in the hope that they will stop? !!! Who are we kidding? Goodbye Goldilocks. We are in the Never-never-land …
The Russians, who say they are satisfied with the effectiveness of their strikes against the terrorists in east Aleppo are “cynical” … – Jean-Marc Ayrault
Who is cynical here? The one that distorts the reality of the conflict so as not admit (with others) the maneuver of destabilizing a state by terrorist groups linked to al Qaida (DAECH matrix) under cover of aspiring towards democracy? Or those looking to reduce jihadist influence and strengthen secular state structures with or without Bashar?
“The policy of France is clear … We have a strategy, a vision. ” – Jean-Marc Ayrault
Ah! Which policy? For five years we have had a foreign policy of self-contradiction, reduced to two components: humanitarian action and economic diplomacy. We sell weapons at any cost to Sunni countries, helping them to make war on Damascus and to seize power there … the while we bring blankets to the victims of our economic-military activism: the Syrians.
Despite the excellence of our armed forces, the presence of the Charles de Gaulle in the zone and the supporting air missions, Paris is diplomatically and strategically nowhere in Syria, and long since. Through dogmatism, moralism, and our immoderate bias for the Sunni powers in the region, we stepped into a credulous alignment with US policy that has increasingly turned against us since the summer of 2013, when Barack Obama had to give up on directly striking Damascus on the pretext of use of chemical weapons that has never been confirmed.
A snub all the more hard to bear as our former foreign minister saw fit, in August 2012 to say “Bashar al-Assad does not deserve to be on earth” and, in December 2012, “Al Nosra is doing a good job.” The French state has also been sued – unsuccessfully so far -for these ministerial statements because they have in fact encouraged Islamist proselytizing and terrorism by presenting the departure for Syria to French apprentice jihadists apprentices as a useful political work, with the results that we have seen right here at home. No offense to Mr. Ayrault, France is neither heard nor seen nor expected in the Syrian file. France is reduced to acting as go-between between Washington and Moscow when they can no longer speak and must pretend once again to seek a compromise and ask Moscow to ease off on an involvement that is too effective for our taste.
“If the choice is between Bashar and DAECH, there is no choice. ” – Jean-Marc Ayrault
But this is in fact the case, like it or not. We are fighting the Islamic state for the gallery, without conviction or political determination, from aloft, with strikes that, without presence on the ground, remain symbolic. In Moscow, on the contrary, there are no “moderate Islamists”; combatting terrorism comes down to fighting the EI and also its local countless avatars, at any cost, including the price of significant civilian casualties. And it is Russia which today, in the air and on the ground, with Iran and the Syrian regime, “makes war,” fights against the Islamic terrorism that threatens the entire West, nocrotizes our old satiated and peaceful societies, and takes us for a target. They “do the job.” A horrible job. For now, we must choose between supporting the Syrian state – that the Assad regime incarnates – or DAECH and Co.
The summit at the end of the ministerial intervention will be reached when we learn that “the future Syria will be unitary, have stable state structures, being protective of all its minorities, establish strong institutions to control its army and Services … “(sic)! We drop our hands in shock. There he has described … Syria before the war! This terrifying carnage would therefore have been just a stab in the water?
But worse was to come. This morning we crossed a new threshold in ridicule and political suicide. When it is of the utmost urgency to finally talk with an open heart, to tell the truth, to abandon the poses and anathemas, to stop mistaking the enemy, to make a common front – as the Rusians have been proposing for years – against the Islamism that is determined on our ruin and mocks our staggering naivety and our weakness, the President of the French Republic openly wonders in the morning, in an entertainment show before the animator Yann Barthes on TMC, about the opportunity to receive Vladimir Putin in Paris on October 19 !!!!
“Maybe yes, maybe no, well …”
Moscow’s response to this insult did not take long in coming: the Russian President will not come. We are at the bottom of the bottom of the bottom of political impotence and we let it flow, seized by rapture of the deep, and thinking we’re afloat.
Height of view and depth of field, genuine concern for human suffering: realpolitik is the solution, not the problem. The ongoing confusion between the Syrian state and the Syrian regime nourishes the war. It is the State that needs help to survive the Islamist offensive rather than encouraging terrorist movements to destroy it. The fate of Bashar al-Assad is both central and accessory. If the Syrian state would fall under the control of DAECH or that of Al Nosra and its avatars, then it will be the massacre of communities, and chaos.
Who will then be accountable for letting it happen?
*The author has a doctorate in political science, is a (reserve) colonel, and teaches at the French War College.