Sergei SHASHKOV – Independent analyst and researcher
The Arab Spring, a term now used to describe a wave of protests in the Arab world, has some common traits: one scenario with all details repeated even in countries with different economic levels, and a common goal – to strengthen Western positions in the region. Organized riots hit only those Arab states where the West has some interests.
Originally, Tunisia was supposed to play a role of a 'fuse' that was quickly 'put out', while all attempts to stage an uprising in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Mauritania, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Djibouti were suppressed with cruelty, and the West, the UN in particular, did not have anything against it.
The moment was not chosen accidentally – that was exactly the time when Libya started to revise the contracts with western oil producing companies and announced its plans to purchase arms from Russia (several arms deals had already been signed by the time). However, by the end of 2010 the US Africa Command (AFRICOM), and the US Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) had been completely formed, and all key posts in the UN were occupied by particular people. Shifts among high-ranking political posts were expected in Yemen and Egypt in 2011. The Ba`ath regime in Syria, which openly supports HAMAS and Hezbollah, had long been a source of concern for the US and its allies. Besides, Syriais the only Mideast country which still does not depend on the West and tries to stick to its own policy.
The plan was to complete the operation by May, 2011, with a one month pause between 'spontaneous mass protests'. The events in Tunisia and Egypt encouraged the authors of the project as things were going on rather smoothly. However, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi`s staunch position and the fact that he was widely supported by the majority of the population served as an example to the Yemeni leader Ali Saleh, who had nearly accepted all terms imposed by the West, and the Syrian President Bashar Assad.
A qualified ophthalmologist (he studied in London), Assad did not even think about making a political career. He had to become Syria`s leader after the tragic death of his brother Basil (who was a favorite presidential candidate in Syria). Like many people in his country, Bashar remembers the time when Moscow was playing a key role in the Middle East and actively supported Syria, and practically was a guarantor of its independence.
The Soviet Union assisted Syria in the construction of more than 80 energy facilities, including a hydro plant in Evfrat, the Al-Baath dam, a heat power station Tishrin, as well as about 2,000 km of railways and some 4,000 km of electric lines. Some 70,000 Syrians received education in the Soviet Union, many of them are now prominent political figures. The Syrian army is equipped with Soviet-made weapons, about 3,000 Soviet military advisors lived in Syria before 1991.
However, Russia, though inherited many commitments from the Soviet Union, and being a permanent member of the Security Council, does not always fulfills them. Although the Friendship and Cooperation Agreement signed between the Soviet Union and Syria in 1980 maintains its legal status, the frequency of trade, military and cultural cooperation between the two countries declined in 1990-2000. Some of the deals were even annulled. This all cannot but weaken Russia`s role in the Arab world.
A major mistake made by the West in Libya and Syria is underestimating the level of social support these countries` leaders enjoy.As I see it, while shaping its foreign policy Russia does not rely on its interests, that is why chances for Moscow to occupy a worthy position in the Arab world are quite low. Libya is already lost for Russia, no matter how things will be unfolding further. And the damage is not just $12 billion, as it was officially announced, but much more than that. As far as Syria is concerned, the West did not even think about the Libyan scenario there and realized that there is no alternative to the existing regime (a pro-democracy speech made on TV by the country`s former vice prime minister, Abdul Halim Khaddam, encouraged Syrians like never before).
One thing is clear: if the Syrian government is forced to step down, this will undermine stability all across the region, which will certainly affect Lebanon, where there is no government for almost six months already. Hezbollah and Syria appear to be the only factors helping to maintain a kind of balance. Neither it will do good Israel, Turkey, Jordan, Iraq. Even Saudi Arabia may later regret what has been done…