By Morak Babajide-Alabi
We all know the feeling when we have the assurance of help of a big brother in times of need or troubles. The confidence of knowing that someone is somewhere ready to take on your fight can be very tempting to want to put oneself in crazy situations. I am sure every reader of this article can relate to the peace of mind you have when there is assurance that someone has your back covered. As individuals, this assurance can and do make us make avoidable mistakes.
We cannot deny the fact that the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad sound and look like a confident leader. However, it will be a wrong assumption if we put the confidence, arrogance and perhaps the suppression of the rights of his people down to his tall or lanky posture. He is a handsome, well-groomed leader, but these are not the reasons why he thinks he can take on the world and win.
Al-Assad is confident because he has a big brother who always fights his corner and making sure the “West” does not ride roughshod him or his country as they would have wished to. The big brother – Russia, led by the hardcore and no-nonsense President Vladimir Putin. This big brother has stood by him in all his fights with the western powers. Unlike the other Arab countries that fell easily to the conspiracy of the West, Syria has managed, through the help of Russia, at least, to temporarily ward off any clear-cut conquest.
After the Arab Spring revolution a few years ago, and the Western powers were in the quest for more “territories”, the spotlight fell on Syria. The “book of remembrance” was opened for Al-Assad and in it were the historical atrocities committed by him and past generations. He was properly scrutinised and according to “western standards” found wanting. To be honest, Al-Assad deserved a permanent seat in the “naughty corner” for what he had done to his people all the years, of which they could not speak out against. Buoyed by the support from the West, a faction of the population found their confidence and started a “revolt”.
The uprising, prompted, galvanised and sponsored by the West has claimed many lives without achieving the aim – to depose Al-Assad. It has, however, done irreparable damage to the once peaceful country. As a result, Syria is balkanised among various groups, from religious fanatics to ethnic militias, all fighting to get a strong foothold in their chosen areas. In this melee, the so-called “Islamic State” (IS) sneaked in to claim a territory.
The “West” can be much unforgiving when they have their eyes set on a “prize”. Al Assad is the prize in contention now and there seems to be no respite for him. The Western powers know “when” and “how” to fight, including engaging psychological tactics to achieve victory. They know when to kick below the belt for maximum impact.
Now the vultures are circling over Al-Assad, waiting for the right moment to swoop. His overconfidence, as a result of the backing of big brother Russia, could be equated with arrogance. He did not realise the fact that there are times and seasons for everything. The “West” only needed a slip to pounce on him. It is said that who the gods want to destroy they first make mad. The gods got into Al-Assad’s head last week and prompted him to “gas” his people in Douma, just outside Damascus, with a chemical weapon. It was an opportunity the “West” had been waiting for to go in.
The big brother – Russia rose to Syria’s defence, by accusing the “West” of assuming the role of a “global policeman” and also being the “investigators, prosecutors and executioners.” Against reasoning, Russia decried the news of Syria’s chemical weapon as “fake”. Interestingly, a few days after the initial response, still playing big brother, accused the United Kingdom of “masterminding” the chemical attack in Douma. An allegation the British government has described as ridiculous.
Right now Big Brother Russia has a lot of “personal” issues to worry about. Russia’s antics of throwing the spanner in the wheel of global progress has now attained a new low in international diplomacy. The country is battling to clear its name on the attempted murder of double agent Sergei Skripal and daughter Yulia on the streets of Salisbury. Although the accusation against the state on the use of a chemical agent to poison the two seems to be falling apart, the reverberating effect on the country’s image has been gargantuan.
Putin, elected for a record six-year as President a few weeks ago, has more on his mind than victory celebrations. He has his back against the world as a number of countries, led by Great Britain expelled his diplomats as fallout from the Skripals’ poisoning. On Syria, the US President Donald Trump in his blunt manner warned – “get ready Russia because they will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart,’” in reaction to a Russian diplomat’s threat to the US, after the Syria gas attack on Douma.
If the various expulsions and condemnations are not clear signs to the Russians that they are doing something wrong, then they surely need a total “overhaul” of their senses. Seriously, if Putin and his men (women) have any atom of shame, they should have offered themselves as sacrifices to their gods for being foolish to thread the path of isolation in this day and age.
Who is going to save Syria? Who will stand up for Al-Assad? The “West” realises Big Brother’s influence is weakened, as they have managed to distract it. Therefore there is no better time to go for Al-Assad’s jugular than now. The country is on fire, as Trump ordered air attack on Al-Assad’s “chemical weapon bases”. He said: “I ordered the United States armed forces to launch precision strikes on targets associated with the chemical weapon capabilities of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad,” in an address at the White House. He continued: “The nations of Britain, France, and the United States of America have marshalled their righteous power against barbarism and brutality.”
Britain and France confirmed their participation in the commencement of the air strikes on Syria yesterday. UK Prime Minister Theresa May summoned her cabinet on Thursday to decide on what to do with Syria. No decision was made public, but as it turned out, she probably got a go-ahead to join in the bombardment. She justified her action by saying there was “no practicable alternative to the use of force”, but emphasised it was not all about regime change.
Big Brother Russia condemned the attack, warning that it was an “act of aggression” that will exacerbate humanitarian catastrophe in Syria.” It has warned of consequences, as another big brother, Iran, added its voice of condemnation to the strikes.
Is Syria on course to becoming another failed nation like Libya? Will the west, as usual, go in, “break” it down, and leave it on its knees? Will this be an unending circle in diplomacy? Are these allies thinking of the humanitarian catastrophes (refugees, homelessness etc), as warned by Russia? For the US and allies, there is the reason to act on the side of caution.
As written for my Diaspora Matters column, 15th April 2018, Sunday Vanguard.