Bashar Al Assad wont strike back

Israeli air forces’ bombing on Wednesday of an arms depot on the outskirts of the Syrian capital Damascus was quite characteristic of the regimes’ security strategy. Israel will not stop at anything to protect itself from any threat either perceived or real. If that means illegal violation of another country’s air space then be it.

Basically Israel can strike a state whenever it wants on the pretext of national security. Timing of such strikes is what concerns Israel not its legality. Last week was the perfect time to bomb Syria for one simple reason, there was very remote possibility of a counter attack from Damascus.

 Baathist regime’s inability to fight two fronts at this time is understandable. Civil war rages in almost all the important cities. Bashar Al Assad’s main ruling credibility is due to support from the armed forces who are too busy trying to protect the regime’s authority. Baathists will loose their ability to govern the state if the army fails to end the civil war in its favor. On top of that some senior generals from the army defected and joined the Free Syrian Army (rebels). Their defection is more than an embarrassment for Bashar. It’s a severe blow to Syrian solders’ morale.

The civil war is raging on to pull down the Bathist regime on one hand. On the Other hand soldiers fear divisions and revolts within their ranks due to top level defections. The country and the army is split between pro and anti Assad groups which makes Syria unstable and vulnerable to a collapse in the center. Bashar Al Assad has rightly chosen to concentrate on tackling the rebellion first before anything else. Syria’s inability to retaliate may have been correctly calculated but does Israel have the right to attack Syria?

Analysts argue Tel Aviv government is continuing semi-clandestine war to restrict the flow of sophisticated weapons from Syria to anti-Israeli terrorist group Hezbollah, which has large control of Lebanon. Israeli intelligence has been warning of action against Syria if it found any evidence of shipment of chemical weapons to Lebanon.

Hezbollah is the most immediate and serious threat to Israel suggests security analysts. Compared to another anti Israeli group Hamas, Hezbollah is a more skilled and better equipped. In the 34-day war in southern Lebanon in 2006, Hezbollah claimed to have fought the Israeli army to a standstill and has received much adulation in the Middle East as a result.

Hassan Nasrallah, chief of Hezbollah, is regarded as a modern day Arab hero championing the cause of freedom and resistance against Israeli occupation. Hezbollah’s organizing and fighting capabilities surprised the world in 2006 for which Israel wants to take every step to stop its weapons build up.

There are reports that Hezbollah has even acquired Scud D surface-to-surface missiles with a range of 700 kilometres and capable of carrying a one-ton warhead. Two of these missiles originating in North Korea and supplied with the help of Iran and Syria are reported to have been sent to Hezbollah in 2010 and another eight in 2011.

Until the outbreak of the long-running uprising in Syria Hezbollah let Syrian President Bashar Assad store many of the group’s most sophisticated weapons. But since the start of the Syrian uprising Hezbollah has been moving its stockpiles of weapons to Lebanon.

Among the weapons reported destroyed in Wednesday’s attack on the Damascus weapons depot, which the Syrian government described as a “scientific research facility, were Hezbollah’s stockpile of SA-17 anti-aircraft weapons.

These Russian-made mobile weapons are reputed to be among the most sophisticated anti-aircraft weapons. If Hezbollah had taken delivery of the missiles, it would have ended the impunity of Israeli reconnaissance flights over Lebanon.

Since the end of the 2006 war in southern Lebanon, Israel has been constantly on the alert for weapons destined for Hezbollah and swift to act when shipments have been detected. In 2009, Israel carried out two attacks in Sudan, one on a truck convoy and one on a ship in Port Sudan, believed to be carrying weapons from Iran for Hamas and Hezbollah. Also in 2009 three ships suspected of carrying Iranian arms destined for Hezbollah in defiance of the UN embargo were detained at sea.

One, the Russian registered container ship Monchegorsk, was seized by the U.S. navy and found to be carrying a large cargo of artillery shells and other ammunition. The ship was held in Cyprus where it later blew up, killing 12 people. In October last year, the Israeli air force bombed a munitions factory in the Sudanese capital Khartoum which was allegedly making weapons for Hezbollah and Hamas.

In November 2011, a massive Hezbollah arms cache near Siddiqin close to Lebanon’s southern port city of Tyre exploded. There is speculation it was attacked by an Israeli missile-equipped drone aircraft. In October last year, there were a series of blasts at a Hezbollah weapons storage depot in Lebanon’s eastern Bekaa valley. And, in mid-December, a Hezbollah arms store blew up in the southern Lebanese town of Tairharfa close to the border with Israel.

Bashar Al Assad will not be in any position to open another front against Israel. He is too weak to do that now just as he was before the civil war started. No Arab country in the region is capable of fighting Israel for a very simple reason. Arab countries’ military might is no match for Israel’s supremacy. Billions of dollars spending on weapons were intended to defend and protect dictators from being overthrown by mass peoples’ revolution and secondly, to enrich the fortunes of the dictators, their families and the military top brasses.

Israel for its part has calculated and timed its move with remarkable foresight. Knowing not only Syria but also Hezbollah would not be able to strike back. Bashar Al Assad currently sits like a shooting target ready to be humiliated by Israel, US and her regional allies.

Author is Director, Financial Excellence Limited.

Bangla Spring at Shahbagh Square. Is this the wind of change?

Shahbag Square! It has caught the imagination of Bangla youth in a way not seen since the end of Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Dhaka may be close to ushering in a localized Arab Spring in what is now romantically referred to as Bangla Spring.

Whereas Arab Spring was sharply targeted at the tyrant of Cairo Bangla Spring will hint at a much wider landscape. Is Shahbag Square’s unity a symbolic picture of general frustration at social justice and the lack of an equitable socio-political economic system? Why is the post ‘71 generation so eager to revisit bloody scenes from the past, is it for restoring justice to the victims or to see the eviction of a political party?

Wael Ghonim, also known as El Shaheed on facebook, organized and directed the historic events in Cairo using latest mobile technology and old fashioned word of mouth which delivered the message of Arab revolution to the pharaoh’s doorsteps. Egyptians from all walks of life, mostly from the younger generation, updated their status with real time happenings with such frightening accuracy Mubarak’s iron arms were forced to pull the plug on Egypt’s social media networks to save his scalp.

It is the history of our human race that the forces of Goodness should triumph over evil. Second reason for Tahrir Square’s success was the movement’s ability to bring common people on a uniform platform. Egypt was suffering in the abysmal class warfare imposed by successive authoritarian regimes. At Tahrir Square they all came together through the natural bonds that held them together. They all professed to believe in one thing and that evolved rapidly into a common cause which united them against a common enemy. There were no ambiguities in the revolution.

Mubarak’s reconciliation met with one spontaneous response – no compromise. That was an answer for which he had not prepared himself. All his life he had been the one to dictate and now he was being told to get out by ordinary men on the street. Movement at Tahrir won because their cause was the right cause and for that right cause common people rallied behind the movement and remained firm until victory.

In Nuremberg a German judge Ernst Janning was accused because although he was a man of law he did not stand up against the tyranny of fascism committed by a fascist government. Justice Janning had failed to act righteously which would have been a symbolic cause for his nation. He was imprisoned for life.

One protestor at Shahbagh shouted “the government must take responsibility for their hanging”. Can the executive interfere in judicial matters based on peoples’ desirel?

Another protestor loudly explained “the cause is justice”. Social justice is not where we wanted it to be. Our struggle to break from Pakistan sprang from our deep desire to reinstate social justice. Policies of racism and discrimination stood in the way of a just socio-economic order for the state.

People should not remain in bondage to anyone and this deep spiritual feeling of freedom is natural in human beings. In ’71 it ignited in Bangla people a strong desire to break free from those chains. Military reaction was an act of barbarism without any just consideration for human life, liberty, property or honor. Why would anyone support or sympathize with such terror?

Groups which promoted religion as the basis for unity between two nations should have known better about the religion they claimed to profess. The religion of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) does NOT sanction murder, genocide, torture, or anything other than what is allowed in legal military warfare between states. Let alone killing innocent people this religion forbids felling trees, burning crops and attacking other religions’ temples and monasteries, in war and peace.

Authoritarian rulers reserved the fundamental principles of equality and justice for the elites while reducing others to “lower class” status. This was a clear violation of the faith which they were proudly defending. In reality the strongmen were doing nothing other than defending the agenda of imperialism and feudalism in their own strange way covered by the blanket of religious dogma.

The junta’s co-religionist loyalists also failed to understand their religion. The Holy Quran says, “O ye who believe! stand out firmly for Allah, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to piety: and fear Allah. For Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do”. TMQ 5:8.

Faith leaders should have been the first to condemn the atrocities of the junta calling on their faithful followers to stand up for the right cause at the cost of supreme sacrifice if necessary.

The cause at Shahbagh must rise above one single individual. People from all walks of life are talking about it. Some talk with fear and some with a lot of hope for the future. Common people are disillusioned by politicians’ lofty promises given before elections only to be forgotten the day after.

Social equality as told to the author by an ordinary car driver is like a solar eclipse. Before elections day candidates go out like salesmen begging for votes in what is largely a popularity contest. After being elected a politician becomes too “honorable” to be approached by ordinary people. His cars, flags and body guards are signature “class upgrades”. Social equality, liberty, rights and privileges of ordinary men get washed aside to make room for dogmas, sycophancies, greed and corruption.

People in general were happy to see the convergence of ordinary folks at Shahbagh. Mostly because common people are fed up with same old familiar faces in politics, they want to see a new generation take the torch from the old guard. In the new generation there is immense hope to turn things around. They can carry the banners of truth, justice, liberty and equality with dazzling courage and brutal honesty, which people so desperately search for in leaders. This is a beautiful country of ours and it deserves so much better from all of us. A friend asked, “is this the wind of change?”, the reply is “only if you want it to be”.