Tuesday, November 04, 2014

the arab-isreali conflict is the crux of all that is going on in the middle-east...,

independent | What on earth has descended upon the Middle East?

Why such an epic explosion of violence? It feels strange to ask these questions of Dr Bouthaina Shaaban, one of President Bashar al-Assad’s close advisers and former translator to his father, Hafez. Her office is spotless, flowers on the table, her female secretary preparing a morning round-up of the world’s press on the Middle East, the coffee hot and sweet. At one point, when she spoke of the destruction in Syria and the mass attacks on the region’s Arab armies, it was difficult to believe that this was Damascus and that a few hundred miles to the east Isis have been cutting the throats of their hostages. Indeed, Shaaban finds it difficult even to define what Isis really is.

Not so with America and the war in Syria. “Right from the beginning of this crisis, I never truly felt that the issue was about President Assad,” she says. “It was about the weakening and destruction of Syria. There has been so much destruction – of hospitals, schools, factories, government institutions, you name it. I think the Americans take their battles against leaders and presidents – but only as a pretext to destroy countries. Saddam was not the real target –it was Iraq. And it’s the same for Libya now – America told everyone it was about Gaddafi. The real issue is about weakening the Arab armies, whoever they are. When the Americans invaded Iraq, what was the first thing they did? They dissolved the Iraqi army.”

Shaaban, of course, reflects Syria’s regime. Thus she calls the war a “crisis” and does not choose to reflect on the regime’s responsibility for this – or the numbers killed by the regime forces as well as by the rebels. What she does have is a very clear analytical brain which can shape an argument into coherence however much you disagree with her. She showed this in her research through Syrian presidential and foreign-ministry archives when she was writing a remarkable book about Hafez al-Assad’s peace negotiations with the Clinton administration, in which the old “Lion of Damascus” turns out to be a lot shrewder than the world thought he was –and his betrayal by America much deeper than we suspected at the time. She talks on about the destruction of the Iraqi army, the losses in the Syrian army, the massive suicide attack against Egyptian troops in Sinai and the killing of Lebanese troops in the Lebanese city of Tripoli. And you have to listen.

“Now all Arab armies are targeted – and the purpose is to change the nature of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The Arab-Israeli conflict is the crux of all that is going on in the Middle East. I am not saying these tactics will work. I am saying ‘they’ are targeting the Arab armies. The Egyptian army is very strong. It is a logical army that is defending its country. And then it received this huge attack in Sinai. It’s my opinion that the target is to eliminate the threat that Arab armies represent for the liberation of Gaza and the West Bank and Golan and to make Israel’s occupation easier and less costly. This is a major dimension of the cause of the ‘Arab Spring’. In fact I call it an ‘Israeli Spring’.”