Archive for September, 2013

Tormenting the Souls of Religious Arabs: ‘Arab Spring’ Degrades into Sectarian Counterrevolution

September 18, 2013

By Nicola Nasser*

The blind sectarian rampage, which has been waging a war on worship mosques, churches and religious shrines have become a modern Arab trade mark phenomenon, since what the western media called from the start the “Arab Spring” overwhelmed the Arab streets.

The sectarian rampage is sweeping away in its rage cultural treasures of archeology and history, hitting hard at the very foundations of the Arab and Islamic identity of the region, but more importantly tormenting the souls of the Arab Muslim and Christian believers who helplessly watch the safe havens of their places of worship being desecrated, looted, bombed, leveled to the ground and turned instead into traps of death and monuments of destruction by the “suicide bombers” who are shouting “God Is Great.”

The only regional precedent for the destruction of worship places on such a scale was the destruction of some one thousand mosques since the creation of the State of Israel in 1948. A research by Israeli professor Ayal Banbanetchi, Rapaport noted that after 1948, only 160 mosques remained in the area. In the following years, this number shrank to 40, meaning that 120 were destroyed. Palestinians in the Gaza Strip documented the names and locations of 47 mosques that were destroyed completely and 107 others partially damaged by Israeli bombing during the “Operation Cast Lead” in 2008.

May be because those crimes went unpunished the western public opinion turns a blind eye to the new Arab phenomenon.

Most likely, the leaders of the Israeli fundamentalist Jewish “Temple Mount and Land of Israel Faithful Movement” are watching closely and wondering whether the current destruction of mosques by the Muslims themselves would be enough justification to carry out the movement’s public threats to build the “third temple” on the debris of Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site, in Jerusalem.

It is noteworthy that this destructive phenomenon was an integral part of the “Arab Spring,” which so far has ousted two presidents in Egypt and three others in Tunisia, Yemen and Libya, but successfully contained in the Moroccan and Jordanian monarchies.

However containment has been so far unsuccessful in the Kingdom of Bahrain, where the ongoing anti-government mass protests still rage uncontainable to the extent that the tiny island kingdom was forced to invite a Saudi Arabian contingent of the GCC’s “Peninsula Shield Force” to move in for help. Nonetheless, opposition sources and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights reported “documented” attacks by “the ruling regime” on 37 Shiite mosques, destroying 27 of them, some one thousand years old.

Islamist Copy of Christian Inquisition

The “Arab Spring” was optimistically named after a season in nature during which life is reborn and was supposed to promise a renewal of the stagnant political, social and economic life in the Arab world, but unfortunately it turned instead into a sectarian season of killing, death and destruction by counterrevolution forces nurtured financially, logistically, militarily and politically by the most conservative among the Arab ruling regimes in the Arabian Peninsula and their U.S. – led western sponsors and backers.

The sectarian cleansing in Iraq and Syria committed by the exclusionist sectarian zealots has become an Islamist modern copy of the European Christian inquisition in the Middle Ages, with the difference that the old European one was more systematic and organized by the Vatican institution and its allied states while it is perpetrated by uncontrolled sporadic and shadowy gangs of terror in the modern Arab case.

The fact that this horrible phenomenon came into life only with the U.S. – led invasion then occupation of Iraq in 2003 and exacerbated with the on – record U.S. campaign for a “regime change” in Syria could only be interpreted as an outcome of a premeditated policy to divide and rule in the Arab world.

On last August 24, the Maronite patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rai’e told the Vatican Radio: “There is a plan to destroy the Arab world for political and economic interests and boost inter-confessional conflict between Sunnis and Shiites,” adding, “We are seeing the total destruction of what Christians managed to build in 1,400 years” in terms of peaceful cohabitation and coexistence with Muslims.

This interpretation is vindicated, for example, by the fact that both the sectarian ruling antagonists, who were brought to power in Iraq by the invading U.S. army, and the al-Qaida –linked protagonists, whose presence in Iraq coincided with the U.S. occupation of the country and who are waging a sectarian war of terror to remove them from power, were both U.S. – made warriors, the first as the “democratic opposition” to the national “dictatorship” of late Saddam Hussein and the second as the “freedom fighters” against the military occupation of Afghanistan by the former Soviet Union “empire of evil,” according to the U.S. propaganda terminology.

In Iraq, the AFP on last May 20 reported that a “war on mosques” still “rages.” Seven years earlier the bombing of the dome of the Shiite Al Askari Mosque in Samarra, or the Golden Mosque, was followed by attacks on more than 200 Sunni mosques within two days according to the UN mission in the country. This is indeed a sectarian civil war, but its seeds were sown during the U.S. “Operation Phantom Fury” in 2004 on what Iraqis call “the city of mosques” of Fallujah, where scores of mosques were destroyed completely or damaged by the Americans.

Singling out Plight of Christians Misleading

Misleadingly or otherwise, the mainstream western media is singling out the plight of Arab Christians in this blind rampage, although their plight is incomparable to that of their Muslim compatriots neither in numbers and magnitude of the phenomenon nor in the resulting human, social, political, cultural and material losses.

Writing in the Gulf News on this September 11, Dr. Joseph A. Kechichian said “it was impossible to separate the fate of Arab Christians from their Muslim brethren, a term used here in the sense of fellow citizens not necessarily brotherhood. Indeed, when Iraqi, Egyptian and now Syrian churches were/are destroyed, it is necessary to also note that Sunni and Shiite mosques were and are shelled on a regular basis.”

In Iraq for example more than sixty churches were attacked since the U.S. invasion in 2003, but more than four hundred Muslim mosques were targeted. An estimate of two thirds of Iraq’s 1.5 million Christians have been forced to flee the country, but four million Iraqi Muslims became refugees abroad and a few millions more were internally displaced as the result of mass sectarian cleansing campaigns. Patriarch al-Rai’e accused the international community of “total silence” over Iraq.

However, proportionally Arab Christians are now a threatened species. Writing in Foreign Affairs on this September 13, Reza Aslan expected “no significant Christian presence in the Middle East in another generation or two” because “What we are witnessing is nothing less than a regional religious cleansing that will soon prove to be a historic disaster for Christians and Muslims alike.”

On this September 16 in the town of Mezda south of Tripoli, the tomb and minaret of Sheikh Ahmad al-Sunni mosque were bombed, a cemetery was dug up. In the capital, Tripoli, itself explosives were detonated by remote control late last March inside the Muslim Sufi ancient shrine of Sidi Mohammed al-Andalosi. These “incidents” were the latest sectarian rampage. Last year, The New York Times reported on August 25 the bulldozing of a mosque containing Sufi Muslim graves “in broad daylight” in the “center” of the Libyan capital. A mosque library was set on fire a day earlier. Scores of similar assaults since the “revolution” toppled the Muammar Gaddafi regime late in 2011, including one against the tomb of 15th-century Muslim scholar Abdel Salam al-Asmar, led UNESCO to urge an “end to attacks on Libyan Sufi mosques.” UNESCO’s Director General Irina Bokova warned the attacks “must be halted if Libyan society is to complete its transition to democracy.”

In January this year, the “revolutionary” government of Tunisia announced an “emergency” plan to protect the Sufi mausoleums from similar sectarian vandalism, including against two of the best known Sufi shrines of Saida Manoubia and Sidi Abdel Aziz. UNESCO’s appeal to “Tunisian authorities to take urgent measures to protect the heritage sites, which represent the country’s cultural and historical wealth” did not stop the sectarian rampage. In February this year The Union of Sufi Brotherhoods in Tunisia reported at least thirty-four shrines were attacked since the revolution forced former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali into exile in Saudi Arabia in 2011; the number is higher according to other reports and the attacks continue.

In Egypt, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had called the recent attacks on mosques and churches “unacceptable.” As recently as August 14, supporters of the first elected Egyptian president and the Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammad Morsi, who was removed from power on July 3rd, occupied Delga, a remote town of 120,000 people in Minya province in central Egypt, in a wave of retaliation attacks on dozens of police stations, manpowered mostly by Muslim Egyptians, and at least 42 Christian churches, of which 37 were burnt and looted.

British The Guardian on September 16 reported: “According to Christians in Delga, huge mobs carrying machetes and firearms then attacked dozens of Coptic properties, including the 1,600-year-old monastery of the Virgin Mary and St Abraam,” torched three of the five churches in the town, looting everything, killing some Coptic compatriots, forcing scores of Christian families to escape the town, and those who remained were forced to pay “protection money.” After more than two months, authorities recaptured the town last week ending their ordeal.

Delga’s story was not the latest nor the longest, ugliest or largest of the blind sectarian atrocities; to look for these, observers will find plenty of ongoing daily manifestations of these atrocities in Iraq and Syria where they are still raging at large, and where the control of authorities could be the guess of anybody for the unforeseeable future, threatening to spill over to the neighboring Arab countries of Lebanon and Jordan as well as to the non-Arab and NATO member Turkey.

The Cradle of Diversity and Coexistence

The political degradation of the “Arab Spring” into a sectarian counterrevolution is best illustrated in Syria. The former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in a recent UPI report described the current conflict in the country as a “Sunni confessional revolution” against a ruling regime supported by other religious minorities. Kissinger was not accurate. The majority of the Sunni Muslims in the major cities of Damascus and Aleppo, which together are the home of half the population, are against the sectarian “revolution” led by al-Qaida and the Muslim Brotherhood, which are not considered representatives of mainstream Islam or Muslims.

On last August 30 UNESCO warned that a rich cultural heritage was being devastated by the conflict now in its third year, from Aleppo’s Umayyad Mosque to the Crac des Chevaliers castle dating from the 13th century Crusades.

The BBC on last April 23 quoted the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch of the church of Antioch, Gregorios III Laham, as saying recently that more than 1,000 Christians had been killed, “entire villages… cleared of their Christian inhabitants”, and more than 40 churches and Christian centres damaged or destroyed. He reported that 450,000 of Syria’s two million Christians have been displaced.

However the magnitude of the plight of the Arab Syrian Christians should be seen within the context of the wider disaster that befell the Muslim majority as a whole. More than one hundred thousand Syrians are reported killed so far, hundreds of “Sunni” mosques targeted, one third of the more than 23 million Syrians, overwhelmingly Muslims of all sects, are now either refugees abroad or internally displaced. It’s a national disaster and not only a Christian one.

The Catholic Pope Francis declared September 7 a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria worldwide and his declaration was received positively among other Christian churches as well as among the mainstream Arab Muslim public opinion.

Two days ahead of “the day,” Islamist sectarian counterrevolutionaries of Al Qaida-linked rebels, especially Jabhat Al Nusra and the more extremist Ahrar Al Sham, targeted what Wadie el-Khazen, chairman of the Maronite General Council, described as “the most important Christian stronghold in Syria and the Middle East,” namely the Syrian town of Maloula, which “retained its Aramaic heritage since Christ spoke Aramaic” and holds many of the oldest monasteries and churches, including Mar Thecla that predates the Council of Nicea in 325 AD. Shouting “God is Great,” they declared they “won the city of the Crusaders,” which became a “ghost town” within hours.

It was a clear retaliation message to Pope Francis for not blessing their ongoing sectarian counterrevolution.

Longer before the Americans of the “new world” started to pose as the apostles who lecture and preach them, Syria has been the oldest cradle of religious and ethnic diversity and coexistence. Therefore the sectarian counterrevolution is now fighting in Syria its bloodiest battle, the result of which will make or break its rising tide for a long time to come.

* Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Birzeit, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. nassernicola@ymail.com

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The Shortest Path to Peace in Syria

September 12, 2013

By Nicola Nasser*

Because “defensive alliances which have fixed and limited objectives are often more durable,” the “Syria-Iran alliance has survived” more than three decades of unwavering and insistent US – led military, economic, diplomatic and media campaign to dismantle it, but it is still enduring “because it has been primarily defensive in nature” and “aimed largely at neutralizing … Israeli capabilities and preventing American encroachment in the Middle East.”

This was the conclusion of the professor of International Relations at Webster University Geneva, Switzerland, Jubin M. Goodarzi, in his 2006 book, “Syria and Iran: Diplomatic Alliance and Power Politics in the Middle East.”

Professor Goodarzi’s conclusion is worth highlighting amid the thick smoke screen of “chemical weapons,” “civil war,” “responsibility to protect” and the “dictatorship – democracy” rhetoric of the US – Israeli propaganda, which is now misleading the world public opinion away from the core fact that the current Syrian conflict is the inevitable outcome of the 45 – year old Israeli occupation of the Syrian Arab Golan Heights in 1967.

Israel, protected by what President Barak Obama repeatedly describe as the “unshakable” support of the United States, is still maintaining its military occupation of the Golan as a “bargaining chip” to enforce upon Syria, irrespective of the regime and who is ruling in Damascus, the fait accompli which was created forcefully by the creation of the State of Israel in Palestine in 1948.

The US support to dictating the resulting fait accompli to Syria manifested itself first by empowering Israel by US arms and tax payer money to gain the “bargaining chip” of the Golan Heights, then by protecting the ongoing Israeli occupation of this Syrian territory.

The “bargaining chips” of the Sinai peninsula and the West Bank of River Jordan proved successful by dictating the Israeli terms on the signing of the “peace” treaties with Egypt in 1979, with Jordan in 1994 and the Oslo peace agreements with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1993, but failed so far to produce similar results with Syria and Lebanon, which remain in a “state of war” with Israel, mainly because Damascus still insists on making peace according to international law and the UN resolutions.

Damascus “did” engage the peace making process. The assumption to power of late al-Assad senior in 1971 was hailed by the US and its regional allies because he first of all recognized the UN Security Council resolutions No. 242 and 338, the basis of the US – sponsored so – called Arab – Israeli “peace process;” he fell out with his “comrades” in the ruling Baath party specifically because of this recognition.

Instead of building on al-Assad senior’s constructive approach, Washington made every effort to pressure him to accept the “Israeli” terms of peace: US sanctions were imposed on Syria and the country was condemned as a state sponsor of terror because of hosting the political offices of anti – Israeli occupation Palestinian and Lebanese resistance movements.

Only months after its invasion of Iraq, the US concluded it was very well positioned — and Syria very well cornered between US occupation in the east, the Israeli occupation in the west, the Jordanian, Palestinian and Egyptian peace accords with Israel in the south and the Turkish NATO member in the north – – to pressure Syria into submission.

On December 12, 2003 the Congress passed into law the “Syria Accountability Act,” the main purpose of which was to disarm Syria and deprive it of all its defensive means and “resistance” allies, long before the eruption of the ongoing current conflict in Syria.

The act demanded the withdrawal of the Syrian forces from Lebanon, ignoring the fact they were there upon the official request and blessings of Lebanon and the US themselves and the Arab League to secure Lebanon and help it recover after the civil war.

Their withdrawal has become indispensable only after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, in the hope the invasion will dictate a peace treaty to Lebanon, which would have left Syria a peace pariah among the Arab immediate “neighbors” of Israel. No surprise then the Syria – Iran alliance was formalized in March that year with a series of bilateral agreements. The US invasion of Iraq in 2003 only accelerated their strategic cooperation.

More importantly, the act banned Syria’s engagement “in the research, development, acquisition, production, transfer or deployment” of “weapons of mass destruction,” “biological, chemical or nuclear weapons” and “medium and long range surface – to – surface ballistic missiles,” of course without any reference to Israel’s acquisition of the same and more.

Egypt’s signing of its “peace” treaty with Israel in 1979 deprived Syria of its regional strategic Arab partner in the 1973 war and the collapse of the former Soviet Union deprived it of its international one a decade later, leaving the country off balance.

To strike a defensive alternative “strategic balance” with Israel has become the overriding strategic goal of Syria. No Arab substitute has been available. The revolution in Iran in the same year came as a God – sent breakthrough. The Syria – Iran alliance was cemented ever since. Dismantling this alliance has become the overriding US – Israeli strategic priority as well.

Until Syria finds an Arab strategic defense alternative to Iran or until the United States decides to mediate unbiased peace making between Syria and Israel, the bilateral Syrian – Iranian alliance will endure, unless Washington decides to repeat in Syria its failed invasion of Iraq, which all indications render a mission impossible.

To end the Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights and other Arab Israeli – occupied lands is the shortest US – Israeli path to dismantling the Syria – Iran alliance and to peace in Syria and the region.

That only would ensure that Syria will shift its outward focus strategically from looking for strategic balance with Israel to liberate its occupied land to the development of its society internally.

Ending decades of confusing the “national interest” of the United States as one and the same thing as that of Israel will for sure lay a solid ground not only for a Syrian but as well for an Arab – US constructive and just relationship built on mutual respect and common interests within the framework of international law and the UN charter.

This is the only and shortest path to peace in Syria and the Middle East, the time saving recipe and the less expensive in human as well as in economic resources. Herein the US can secure its regional “vital” interests “peacefully” without dragging its people and the region from one war to another incessantly.

Peace and injustice cannot coexist.

* Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Birzeit, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. nassernicola@ymail.com

Jordan Invites US Targets for Syrian Retaliation

September 4, 2013

By Nicola Nasser*

Located at the crossroads of several regional crises, including the Palestinian – Israeli and Iraqi conflicts, Jordan has been in the eye of the Syrian storm for more than thirty months, and managed to navigate safely so far, but the reportedly imminent US strike is pressuring the country between the rock and the hard place of the antagonists of the war on Syria.

Heavily burdened by the pressure of its strategic allies and financers in the US and the GCC Arab states, who have been leading an unwavering bloody campaign for a “regime change” in Damascus, Jordan could not but yield to their demands for logistical facilities in the country, consequently shooting its self-proclaimed neutrality in the legs.

Thus, grudgingly or otherwise, Jordan has in practice invited potential US targets for Syrian retaliation on its territory if and when the Syrian government perceives that those facilities are used in any US-led strike, now expected.

Anthony Cordesman, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, on August 29, interviewed by abcnews online, said that “Jordanian targets” could be targeted by Syria or by a Syrian allied “third party,” a possible development that could embroil the US in defense.

Should such a scenario develop, Jordan will evolve unwillingly into a war zone, to regret yielding to the prerogatives of its strategic alliance with the United States regardless of who emerges winner or loser in the war.

US Targets Invited

When the Eager Lion 2013 exercise ended in June this year, Jordan, inviting a US target for Syrian retaliation, asked the US military to leave behind some equipment, including some F-16s and a Patriot missile defense system.

Then, Jordan’s Prime Minister, Abdullah al-Nsour, indicated a second US target when he told reporters that some 900 U.S. military personnel were in the country, of whom 200 are experts training Jordanians to handle a chemical attack and 700 manning the Patriot system and reportedly 45 F-16 fighter jets.

On last August 14, Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that Jordan asked the United States to provide manned US surveillance aircraft to help keep an eye on its border with Syria; thus a third US target for Syrian retaliation was invited.

The USA embassy would be a fourth target should any planned US strike target Syrian non-military presidential or governmental headquarters.

However the Centcom’s Forward Command in Jordan, officially called Centcom Forward-Jordan (CFJ), remains the oldest and the most important US target for Syrian retaliation.

In mid-August, Gen. Martin Dempsey was in Amman to inaugurate the CFJ, which is manned by 273 US officers, with a closed section, which “houses CIA personnel who control the work of US agents going in and out of Syria,” and also a communications center, where “atop the underground facility is a large surface structure accommodating the American military and civilian offices dealing with Syrian issues from Jordan,” according to the Israeli http://www.debka.com on August 17, 2013, which confirmed a report two days earlier by The New York Times according to which “American correspondents were allowed to visit the site under ground rules that its location not be disclosed.”

However, on October 18 last year the Egyptian Al-Ahram Weekly reported that the location chosen to host the CFJ was “a Jordanian military base built in an abandoned quarry north of the Jordanian capital Amman, just 35 miles from the Syrian border,” which extends 300 miles along Jordan’s northern flank, and some 120 miles from the Syrian capital Damascus.

Al-Ahram explained that “the origins of the previously secret US deployment in Jordan” dated back to May the same year, “when the Pentagon sent American troops, including Special Forces units, to the country to participate in joint military exercises dubbed Operation Eager Lion. Some 100 military personnel stayed behind and were then joined by dozens more. The task force, according to the New York Times, is commanded by a ‘senior American officer’.”

Speaking to the media at the close of a two-day NATO defense ministers meeting at the time in Brussels, former US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta confirmed the existence of a “US task force that has been sent to Jordan this week after it was first reported in The New York Times,” Al-Ahram added. “The force would be tasked with ensuring the security of the chemical and biological weapons in Syria,” Panetta was quoted as saying. Al-Ahram’s report added: “the outpost near Amman could play a broader role should American policy change” and Washington decide to launch an intervention in Syria.

Denial in Doubt

The denial of the initial reports about the existence of the CFJ as “not true” by a spokesman from the country’s armed forces, quoted by the state-run news agency Petra, sheds doubt on a statement by Jordan’s PM al-Nsour, quoted by the London –based pan-Arab daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi on Monday, that his country knows nothing about the timing, track and targets of a US military strike in Syria, which the US President is now seeking an “authorization” from the Congress to launch.

Al-Nsour’s “lack of knowledge” sounds odd in view of the long established multi-faceted strategic ties between Jordan and the United States, which makes it the obligation of Washington to inform Amman in advance of at least the “timing” of the imminent US strike and makes it an obligation of the Jordanian government to ask for it, at least to be on equal footing with the other Israeli strategic “partner” of the US; it is public knowledge now that the US is committed to inform Israel in advance of any imminent US strike on Syria.

In comparison, at least logistically, if not militarily, especially as far as the Syrian conflict is concerned, Jordan is much more important to the US than Israel to deserve a US warning in advance of any imminent strike.

Moreover, Jordan is in the immediate danger of being flooded with more Syrian refugees who for sure will be an integral part of the humanitarian crisis that the US strike will inevitably exacerbate in Syria.

Unless Jordan is denying its “lknowledge” to avert being accused by Syria of complicity with the US, al-Nsour’s “lack of knowledge” sounds more odd not only because his country hosts the CFJ.

Hosting and participating in the meetings of the US – led so – called “Friends of Syria,” as well as the military meetings of eleven chiefs of staff of “The Friends of Syria Core Group,” in addition to hosting the annual Eager Lion exercises, let alone the bilateral strategic ties between Jordan and the US and the anti-Syria members of the GCC, have all combined to posture the country as being an active member of what the Syrian government rename as the “Enemies of Syria,” who are party in the conflict and not part of its solution.

Moment of Truth Approaching

The Eager Lion exercises, from the start, focused on training to intervene and secure the purported Syrian chemical weapons if and when developments dictate such an intervention, which the imminent US strike is now turning into a matter of time.

Last June 18 the AP reported that the Eager Lion Drills “are focused on ground operations, involving commandos from Jordan … practicing offensive operations.” Although the Jordanian embassy spokeswoman in Washington D.C., Dana Zureikat Daoud, told The Center for Public Integrity earlier this year that those drills are “not mission-oriented,” reported recent involvement of Jordanian commandos in Libya and elsewhere in the region gives credence to the reports on their possible involvement anew in Syria.

US Secretary of State, John Kerry, during his testimony at the Congress on Tuesday, while confirming that the administration of President Barak Obama “has zero intention of putting troops on the ground,” he in practice retained the option of sending US “boots” to Syria.

“I don’t want to take off the table an option that might or might not be available to the president of the United States” in a scenario where “Syria imploded” and stockpiles of chemical weapons needed to be secured from extremists, he said.

It is public knowledge now that what Obama said will be a strike “limited in time and scope” aims at “degrading” Syrian chemical “capabilities;” the purported Syrian chemical weapons which are now very well secured will be far less secured after the strike and will demand immediate intervention to secure them.

So the moment of truth is around the corner for an intervention either from or with the participation of Jordan, where training in preparation for this moment has been going on by leaps and bounds for the past two years, expectedly inviting reciprocal Syrian preparations for retaliation.

A Syrian possible military clash with Jordan or with Jordanian – hosted US – led intervention units was only a postponed development and will most likely be accelerated by the US planned strike, which is expected to embroil Jordan militarily in the Syrian conflict, willingly or unwillingly.

Counterbalancing with Syrians

To counterbalance with the Syrians, who so far seem flexible enough or under too much pressure to open a diplomatic or non – diplomatic dispute with their southern Arab neighbor, Jordan kept the diplomatic and security channels of communication open with Damascus and went on record to offset its “enemy” posture, but only verbally, to make Jordan a place where words and deeds collide.

As recently as August 29, Jordan’s King Abdullah II after a meeting with Pope Francis, according to an official Vatican statement, reaffirmed that dialogue is the “only option” to end the conflict in Syria.

More than twenty two months ago, in comments in the Oval Office alongside President Obama, King Abdullah II was the first Arab leader to urge Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step aside. “I believe, if I were in his shoes, I would step down,” he told BBC World News in an exclusive interview.

So far, Jordan declined to go public and on record in a clear-cut opposition to the imminent US strike; not excluding the military option, Information Minister Mohammad Momani said that “Jordan believes diplomatic efforts must be exhausted before Washington opts for military action,” but PM Al-Nsour said there will be “no strategic” benefit in insisting on striking Syria and he as well his Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh reiterated that the territory of the kingdom “will not be a launchpad for any military operation against Syria.”

Jordan’s noninterference in internal Syrian affairs is the officially declared policy, but the reported training in the country of Syrian opposition fighters, the recent visit to the country by the President of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), Ahmad al-Jarba, the latter’s visit to southern Syria across the Jordanian borders and the reports about opening a SNC representative office in Amman after al-Jarba’s meeting with Nasser Judeh, and the reported infiltration of arms and “Jihadists” from Jordan into Syria are all indications that compromise Jordan’s officially declared policy of noninterference.

In April this year, Syrian President al-Assad said that Amman “is facilitating the passage of thousands of fighters into our country;” it was his first public warning to Jordan. His state TV told the Jordanians they were “playing with fire.” The Syrian newspaper Al-Thawra, also said in a front-page editorial that the Jordanian government “could not claim neutrality” anymore.

Al-Assad added that he had sent envoys to the kingdom during the preceding two months to remind Amman of the two countries’ shared goal of fighting the “terrorists.” “The fire does not stop at our border and everyone knows that Jordan is exposed to what Syria is exposed to.”

In November 2005, al-Qaeda mounted a series of devastating bomb attacks at three luxury hotels in the Jordanian capital, killing some 60 people. The attacks were said to be in retaliation for Jordan hosting training centers for the new Iraqi army and police, and for becoming a de facto logistical transit base in support of the US occupation of Iraq in 2003.

* Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Birzeit, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. nassernicola@ymail.com