A Libyan scenario for Syria after all? The Netherlands is on board!

Now that the negotiations in Geneva have failed to come off the ground on the day they were supposed to begin, the question arises why the Netherlands has decided to join the bombing campaign in Syria. To recapitulate, this is in violation of international law, because Syria is still a sovereign state with a government, whether we like it or not; and it has a seat in the United Nations. As long as the UN has not adopted a resolution sanctioning military intervention, and there is no request of the government for military support, penetrating Syrian airspace is aggression on the part of the Netherlands. Even if this is about attacking targets in the area controlled by ‘IS’.

And that is where the problem lies. The West and the most important regional powers supporting the uprising against the Assad regime, are not fighting against IS at all. Their rare air attacks have hardly any effect. Now that the government forces and the Kurds in the north of Syria, with support from the Russian air force, Hezbollah and Iran, are making progress against the uprising, the concern in the anti-Assad camp is therefore growing.

There have been voices reassuring us that the Netherlands are only bombing because we occupy the EU presidency this half year. And of course, issues of prestige will no doubt play a role. But the heart of the matter is that our government from the start has supported the rebellion against Assad, beginning with the deployment of Patriot batteries in Turkey to support a possible intervention. In early 2013 that was called, ‘protecting our NATO ally Turkey’. Of course a most noble cause, for just imagine that the Turkish armed forces, one million strong, would have to face the (at the time_ exhausted one hundred thousand of Assad all on their own!

From the beginning the Turks, like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have supported the most radical elements in the uprising against Assad, and this year, to make the reelection of Erdogan possible, they have launched a new war against the Kurds. For whilst there is a lively trade with the Kurds in the north of Iraq, the Syrian Kurds, which are more closely connected with the Turkish PKK, are the target of the Turkish campaign.

However, as a consequence of the support provided by the superior Russian air force, the Turkish-Syrian border is slowly but surely being closed by the Kurds in the north and the Syrian army. Assad’s troops and their allies also are closing the ring around the country’s second city, Aleppo, as they advance to the north. Through the openings that are still accessible, tens of thousands of refugees flee to the Turkish border, because the Russians have a bad reputation when it comes to civilian casualties as a result of their attacks. Afghanistan and Chechnya are the sad evidence of that fact. War is no solution, not even when the Russians wage it.

Yet the heart of the matter is that as a result of the Russian air attacks the uprising against the Assad regime is about to collapse militarily. The West as a result finds itself on the horns of a dilemma. Either it gives up the support to the uprising now that it has come to be entirely controlled by the jihadists of IS and al-Nusra, and it allows a peace accord to be concluded under which Assad retains power; or it sets in motion a Libyan scenario after all, in which NATO countries provide air support and in this case, NATO member state Turkey and Saudi Arabia supply the ground troops to bring down Assad after all.

In the current circumstances, this second option is a frighteningly dangerous scenario, because the Russians in the meantime have put in place the means to eliminate any uninvited air force over Syria by their air force or their formidable anti aircraft missiles. Perhaps that is why Angela Merkel has unexpectedly called for a No-Fly zone over Syria. For the greater the number of different air forces in Syrian airspace, the greater the chance that an accident happens, certainly once the Turks and the Saudis actually start an invasion.

It boggles the mind how the Dutch government can decide to tie the country militarily to this second option—for that is what effectively had been decided. Under normal circumstances, as Joe Lauria argues at ConsortiumNews.com, a sign from the United States would suffice to keep Turkey and Saudi Arabia from engaging in risky adventures. ‘But Ankara and Riyadh are being led by reckless men whose continued existence in power might well depend on stopping a Syrian government victory – helped by Russia, Iran and the Kurds – and a humiliating defeat of the Turkish-Saudi-backed Syrian rebels, who include some radical jihadist groups.’

The Netherlands however has allowed itself to be taken hostage by those adventurers from the moment we deployed the Patriots (jointly with Germany) to the disastrous decision to begin bombing in Syria.

Kees van der Pijl

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