Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Syria: The “Libyan Plan” reused?

There are definite similarities between the events which occurred in the Libyan revolution and those occurring in the Syrian revolution. To me the events are striking enough to believe the aggressive players are reusing the successful Libyan plan on Syria. Below are some of the main similarities.

Step 1: Protests and violence
15 Feb 2011 Protests against Gaddafi began in earnest and quickly turned violent.

15 Mar 2011 Protests against the Syrian Ba’ath Party began earnest and quickly turned violent.

From both countries came reports of government forces opening fire on protesters  which only served to escalate the protests and violence. Rumours and claims of state-sponsored massacres followed, some with more evidence than others, and some with very little evidence at all (e.g. claims that Gaddafi ordered rape to be used as a weapon of war). True or not, these stories ensured international support for the protesters.

Step 2: Government criminalised and sanctioned.
26 Feb 2011 The UN Security Council froze the assets of Gaddafi and his inner circle, and referred the Libyan matter to the International Criminal Court for investigation.

23 Mar 2011 EU froze assets of Assad and his officials.

May 2011 US and EU tightened sanctions on Syria.

November 2011 The Arab League sanctioned Syria.

Moves to criminalise the governments attempted to isolate them and portray them as pariahs. Sanctions prevented the governments from sourcing aid from outside, including military aid, as well as hindered trade. These steps were designed to place pressure on the nations’ economies, and cause problems paying the armed forces.

Step 3: Exile government formed and legitimised
27 Feb 2011 A National Transitional Council (NTC)was formed in Libya to act as the political face of the revolution. A week later the NTC issued a statement in which it declared itself to be the sole representative of Libya.

10 Mar 2011 France became the first country to recognise the NTC as Libya's only legitimate government.

16 Sep 2011 The NTC was recognised by the UN as the legal representative of Libya.

23 Aug 2011 The Syrian National Council (SNC) was formed as the political face of the revolution.

19 Oct 2011 Libya was the first country to recognise the council as Syria’s legitimate government. France followed on 21 Nov recognising it as the legitimate group with which they would work with. The other countries who recognised the SNC followed the French style of recognition, not going as far as Libya. This official recognition was not as strong as in Libya’s case mainly due to Russia and China not providing their approval at the UN, ensuring the UN could not recognise the council as the Syrian government (though both countries have informal relations with the council).

Unlike its Libyan counterpart, the Syrian council was largely made up of exiled opposition members, many which had not resided in Syria for many years. It is therefore questionable just how representative of the people it really was.

Step 4: Failed cease fires
19 Mar 2011 The Gaddafi government announced a ceasefire, but failed to uphold it, though it accused the rebels of violating the ceasefire when they continued to fight as well.

13 Apr 2012 Two days into a cease-fire and several violations were reported.

29 Oct 2012 Syrian ceasefire collapses as car bombs are detonated in Damascus

Throughout the Libyan conflict, rebels rejected government offers of a ceasefire and efforts by the African Union to end the fighting because the plans set forth did not include the removal of Gaddafi.

In Syria the cease-fires were organised through the UN as a way to start negotiations. Both sides blamed the other for breaking them, though at least some groups of the Free Syria Army (FSA) refused to recognise the cease-fire on at least one occasion. Failed cease-fires provide interventionists with the excuse that peaceful efforts have been exhausted and the only way forward is militarily.

Step 5: Oops Syria, back to Step 3
11 Nov 2012 The National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (NCSROF) was founded.

12 Nov 2012 The NCSROF was recognised by the Arab League as the main interlocutor and by the Gulf Cooperation Council as the legitimate representatives of the Syrian people.

A slight hiccup in the plan? With infighting following a lack of tangible success, and with increasing militant Islamist participation in the FSA, the SNC was sidelined and replaced by the NCSROF, which was dressed up as a more inclusive leadership group – more acceptable to the West, at least in appearance. 

Step 7: No-fly zones
19 Mar 2011 Military operations began in Libya, with Western forces implementing a no-fly zone as well as a naval blockade. This included firing cruise missiles and undertaking air strikes.

23 Mar 2011 NATO took control of the arms embargo of Libya (making it easier to supply rebels with weapons?). The following day it took control of the no-fly zone, while command of targeting ground units remained with coalition forces and the actual fighting largely with the rebels.

What next for Syria?
Now that the SNC and undesirable Islamist fighters have been side-lined in favour of the NCSROF (at least in appearance), aggressive state actors can begin manoeuvring without seeming like they are working in tandem with the very people they purport to be fighting around the world – Al Qaeda and its related groups.

If the Libyan steps are followed, the next step should be UN recognition of NCSROF as legitimate. This is less likely to occur while Russia and China are still opposed to military action against Syria, and may be the main problem Western countries are facing in trying to intervene (they are currently still clinging to some veneer of legitimacy in adhering to international laws). To break this impasse keep watch for another state “massacre,” either real or created, with the goal to put political pressure on Russia and China to drop Assad.

Without UN approval, an easy way to begin military intervention is to stage a Syrian attack on Turkey and have Turkey ask for NATO support.

Either way, it seems David Cameron is already on board for military action, wanting to send British troops to establish safe-zones after visiting refugee camps in Syria (though the UK army is apparently not so keen). The Syrian opposition says it has been promised Western military support in return for forming a united front, so already steps have been taken with intervention in mind.

Military action will firstly implement safe-zones for refugees (and rebels to recuperate) and no-fly zones - which is a nice way to say air and missile strikes taking out Syrian defences. This will pave the way for Syrian rebels to do the ground work while other states carry out non-aggressive actions like guarding borders, protecting refugees, and of course, advising.

Given the above similarities, the question is whether there is a deliberate plan being followed for Syria or are the similarities just the natural evolution of events which would unfold every time in similar situations?

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