As I mentioned at the outset, the attack on Syria, should it happen, will be the umpteenth US-led military action against a Muslim country since the collapse of the Soviet Union. I mention the Soviet Union repeatedly because unprecedented military might in the possession of a nation in decline is a dangerous new global reality. New Delhi’s silence in such situations may be commended by those who place a value on cunning and craft. But cunning and craft towards what end? I like to imagine neither Jawaharlal Nehru nor Atal Behari Vajpayee would have remained silent if there any risk to Damascus, the world’s oldest, continuous habitation and the great civilization of which it is the capital.
If there is one group the Saudis fear and suspect more than Iran and Shiaism, it is the Muslim Brotherhood. Iran is an outside power. Brothers are available even within Saudi society and they despise monarchies just as the Prophet of Islam despised monarchies. So, the coffers of the House of Saud have been opened for Gen. Abdel Fattah el Sisi to break the back of the Brothers in Egypt. Al Jazeera, which became a mouthpiece for the Brothers during the year that Morsi was in power, is in the process of packing up its bags in Egypt.
The key to a Riyadh-Tehran rapprochement is Bahrain. A 37 Km causeway links Saudi Arabia’s oil bearing, Shia dominated Eastern province to this small Kingdom, which is also home to the US Fifth Fleet. Neither the Saudis nor the Americans will abandon their key interests. This much is clear. Likewise, it is inhuman that the staunchly Sunni regime in Bahrain, should treat 80 percent of the population, all Shias, as the “opposition”. This majority population has faced state repression for demanding their human rights since the Arab Spring first stirred.
Between American and Saudi diplomatic choreography the “hidden” is often more important than the “apparent”. American effigies being burnt in Cairo by anti-Morsi crowds shows the American hand is still in the hand of the Brothers. But Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel talking to coup leader Gen. Abdul Fatah al-Sissi on the phone, points to exactly the opposite. Heads I win, tails you lose. Don’t forget, Americans have lived with Egypt’s army for 50 years. That’s the important equation. So don’t worry, Americans and the Saudis are in bed under the same sheet.
After 70,000 Syrians have paid with their lives in the foreign induced conflict in Syria, why has the American perspective changed? Even so, it was nice to see Secretary of State, John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, embrace each other two weeks back in Moscow.
When the US, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan got into a scrum to launch a programme of manufacturing triple distilled mujahideen Islam in Afghanistan to fight the Soviets the seeds were sown for a conflict within Islam as well.
The negative media focus on Syria in recent months has erased from minds the continuing reality: the country is among the few remaining parts of the Arab world where elegant, gracious living is still possible.
The shaken monarchies and the remaining dictatorships have rallied around the US and Europe to protect themselves.
Why this focus on Damascus now? Have they found oil on a scale comparable with Iraq?