Springtime In The Arab World?


Oh, how I want to believe that the real Arab Spring has come. But as the season turns I get a whiff of man-made climate change in the Middle East: fragrant floral to flagrant death.

It began so promisingly, catching both Israeli intelligence and the US administration off guard in Tunisia and Egypt.

There were those exquisite moments on the eve of the uprising when Israel’s Directorate of Military Intelligence, Aman, and spy agency Mossad held to their assessments, that "the regime in Egypt is stable," and that "Mubarak faces no immediate threat".

To compound the problem they both then failed to understand and interpret the revolution after it erupted. A few days after the protests began, Aman director Major General Aviv Kochavi stressed that "there are currently no doubts about the stability of the regime in Egypt".

Now the counter-revolutionaries have scrambled and re-grouped to guide the Arab street along a more acceptable course. Old foes are brought down and old friends are offered a helping hand. Libya is a case in point. The West has been trying to oust Muammar Gaddafi for 40 years — so why not fertilise the people’s revolution as spring turns to bountiful summer?

Less than a month ago, chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno Ocampo, sought an arrest warrant for the Libyan leader on the charge of "crimes against humanity".

It was convenient timing. The day before Tripoli had made yet another offer of a truce, calling for an end to bombing and for peace negotiations with the rebels. NATO’s swiftly targeted response was the ICC indictment — which absolved it of any need to negotiate with an indicted war criminal.

We are NATO and we control this narrative. If we bomb an evil dictator it’s mostly because he is an indicted war criminal who is killing his own people. It seems completely alright to kill somebody else’s people. Should we expect the ICC to indict the pilots who bombed and killed Gaddafi’s three baby grandsons? What about the 11 Muslim Imams blown up in Brega on yet another peace mission? Why did Senor Ocampo’s flinty gaze not turn to them?

Instead everybody turns away. We know now what we want from this episode of people power. It isn’t Gaddafi — but it might be his oil. Al Jazeera Television, which is no friend of Gaddafi, has shown images of armed white men fighting alongside the rebels and Europe has sent attack helicopters. Why doesn’t NATO just invade and be done with the sham of a no fly zone?

You may remember NATO only secured the no fly zone after timely intervention by the Arab League which gave this whole so-called humanitarian scheme its imprimatur.

Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council did a deal with NATO. We will get the Arab League to call for a no fly zone as cover in exchange for a NATO blind eye turned to Saudi and Bahraini lethal excess in the tiny Gulf state. Will the International Criminal Court dare say anything about Bahrain killing its own civilians, its own people?

Saudi Arabia has been playing a skilful game to roll back revolutions in other places too. It initially intervened in its southern neighbour, Yemen, and bolstered strongman President Ali Abdullah Saleh, but against the power of the people it was to no avail. Ali Abdullah Saleh is now in a Saudi hospital after recovering from shrapnel wounds and his royal Saudi handlers want this newly minted liability out because he can’t keep the peace in the poverty stricken home of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

There were persistent rumours that Saudi-funded agent provocateurs were on the ground in Syria. I must say every time I heard florid talk about the grotesque torture death of Syrian boy, 13-year-old Hamza Ali al-Khateeb I felt it had a touch of the Hill and Knowltons. The multinational public relations company was hired by Kuwait in the early 1990s to develop a campaign to depict the Iraqi invaders of the oil rich Gulf state as baby killers, throwing newborn infants out of their humidicribs. It was only proved to be a giant con after Operation Desert Storm had been won in 1991 and Saddam Hussein’s forces were thrown out of Kuwait and slaughtered as they retreated to Iraq.

It may well be that Syria’s sclerotic Baathist regime is wholly to blame for the bloodshed so it was no surprise when Australian Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd, called on the UN Security Council to refer Syrian President Bashar al Assad to the International Criminal Court.

No, Saudi Arabia isn’t the problem here; it’s those reliable demons Syria and Iran who are fostering unrest everywhere from Lebanon to Yemen. That’s how the story goes. Saudi is concerned about its Shiite minority and Bahrain has been brutal in its crackdown on its own Shiite majority and of course Iran is behind the unrest and building a nuclear weapon to boot.

Well, no, Iran isn’t building a bomb according to the latest United State’s National Intelligence Estimate (NIE).

In 2007 the NIE on the Iranian nuclear weapons program was published. The 16 intelligence agencies which settled on its final conclusions voted unanimously to say there was no evidence Iran had done any weaponisation since 2003.

Investigative reporter, Seymour Hersh, has spoken to insiders who have seen and worked on the NIE that was published in February this year. Guess what? "They have attested that [the study]doesn’t take us any further. There’s no further evidence of any weaponisation."

You won’t hear much about the US government’s own benign assessment of Iran in much the same way as little will be made of the turkey shoot that was the Golan Heights on the weekend. The strategic Golan Heights, which lie between Syria and Israel, overlook the Galilee in northern Israel. On the Israeli side is the beautiful Druze village, Majdal Shams, renowned for its apples. Across the barbed wire in Syria is the Shouting
Hill where people come to call out to their relatives estranged since the Six Day War in 1967.

Last week Palestinian refugees and former Syrian landowners of the Golan protested at the border with Israel against its occupation of the Golan. The awakening Arab Spring on the Golan was such a threat that Israeli border guards gave some warnings and then opened up, killing a couple of dozen peaceful protesters. You can be damned sure that the International Criminal Court can’t and won’t investigate either this or the cold blooded killing of at least a dozen unarmed demonstrators a few weeks earlier on the Lebanese, Syrian and Gazan borders as they marked the anniversary of "The Catastrophe", the day Israel was formed in 1948.


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Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.