the Blog Papers of Dr. Michael Sakbani; Economics, Finance and Politics

Dr. Michael Sakbani is a professor of economics and Finance at the Geneva campus of Webster-Europe. He is a senior international consultant to the UN system, European Union and Swiss banks. His career began at the State university of NY at Stoney Brook,then the Federal Reserve Bank of New York followed by UNCTAD where he was Director of the divisions of Economic Cooperation, Poverty Alleviation, and UNCTAD`s Special Programs. Published over 100 professional papers.

Monday, September 16, 2013

President Obama and the Putin Game

                         President Obama and the Putin Game
                                    Dr. Michael Sakbani

And finally, Mr. Obama climbed up the rope thrown to him by Vladimir Putin. His complicity with Russia`s strong man was unveiled in Geneva on the 13th of September in the press Conference of the duo Kerry –Lavrov. Obama got out of his red lines and Putin obtained extra time for Assad by shelving America`s strike and bagging Syria`s Chemical weapons so that no fundamentalists can use them against Russia. Behind the scene, Israel scored a victory without paying anything and Syria lost a strategic weapon paid for by the treasure of its long-suffering people.
The victors are Russia, Iran and Israel and the losers are Syria, the US and the Arab allies of the US. Mr. Putin was able to bring the problem back to the Security Council where he can block anything and placed himself at center stage internationally. Mr. Obama returned to his passive stand on Syria losing whatever left of his credibility in the Middle East but avoiding being blamed domestically for an unpopular engagement. The Arab Allies of the US, led by Saudi Arabia, found out that the US is not reliable whenever the interests of Israel are at stake and their loyalty to the US is essentially unilateral. Iran reaped another victory by preventing any change in the fortunes of Mr. Assad on the ground and demarcating limits of doubt of the US determination when it comes to its nuclear program. Iran also secured its bridge to its Lebanese instrument Hizbullah for some time. Mr. Assad has now more time to pursue his destruction and killing in the hope of defeating the revolution and can engage further in his deceptions and lies.
It is astonishing that this accord had nothing to say about the Syrian crisis. The human and civil right catastrophe going on in Syria seems to have been of no interest to the two powers. Nor does the agreement talks anywhere about punishing the culprits. If Assad gives up his arsenal then he goes free; like a criminal who is forgiven if he hands off his pistol. The cynics have proved their point that the US and Russia are only interested in securing these weapons and not stopping the Syrian tragedy.  In so doing, the US protects Israel and Russia its own security.

The lesson for the Syrian opposition and its Arab Allies as well as for Turkey is straight forward: the US has an only rhetorical interest in the Democratic transformation of Syria and is led by its fears of the fundamentalists and not by any positive strategy to choose an opposition party it can support. If the Arab Allies mean what they say about protecting and supporting the Syrian people, they have to help the revolution on their own by aggressive arming of the opposition and should in the process ignore the US and the Europeans. For the Syrian opposition, there is an equally straight forward message: they have to unify their objectives, end their rivalries and reorganize their forces under one unified command. If the Fundamentalists refuse that, they should cast them off and considered them a third party in the conflict.

 Such independence of action is more realistic than following the US, which has no vision or strategy for the future of Syria.
Can these allies do what is proposed here? My answer is a non-qualified yes.
Let us first examine the military capacities. The Saudis have purchased in the last decade more than $200 billion of US military equipment. This is in addition to the equipment purchased by the other Gulf States. The Syrian opposition fighters need anti-aircraft, anti-armor, and anti-small missile equipment. They need also some fire control and fire source monitoring equipment. All of that is available in the stocks of these countries. Both Turkey and Jordan can help in training the FSA fighters on the use of this equipment. The chain of custody risk of transferring such equipment can be easily provided by the unified command of the FSA. The latter can also provide an arrangement of lease and return of this equipment.
There is no need for boots on the ground, as the FSA has the manpower to do the job. Mr. Assad has only used one-third of the Syrian army because of desertion and lack of trust. Therefore, the FSA is not likely to be outnumbered; it is basically outgunned...

The Syrian civil war is a human catastrophe of staggering proportions. There are 150,000 killed, three million refugees, outside the country and five million displaced persons within.  More than 600 thousand are maimed and injured. On top of that, there are pockets of the population where the regime has cut off food supplies, medical help and fuel.. in those areas surrounded by the regime and its allies, the humanitarian conditions are appalling. This calls for a large scale humanitarian help under the UN protection of the population law of 2005. To be able to bring effective control and help, authorities must be established to administer the freed areas and deliver the humanitarian help therein. However, this cannot be done without protected corridors shielded against the aerial and missile attacks of the regime. Establishing such defensive zones does not require destroying Mr. Assad`s forces and command centers. It can be done by stationing counter aerial force bases on the Turkish and Jordanian borders.
Thus, to wind up the Syrian conflict a two-prong strategy is needed: humanitarian help and qualitative military support for the FSA. If everybody agrees that there is only a negotiated solution to the problem, this double prong approach is the only way to reach that goal; it helps the population, stops the killing and changes the conditions on the ground so as to bring the regime to negotiate a peaceful transfer of power. Such a strategy will shorten the mayhem, stop the destruction and put a  limit to the fundamentalists' infiltration. Mr. Assad has no reserve resources, his regime is exhausted. Syria is destroyed, its economy is in tatters and Mr. Assad is isolated and surrounded. It would be extraordinary if he survives for long. The matter is essentially to hasten his departure and assure a safe and democratic successor regime. If these states do adopt an aggressive policy stance, the Syrian crisis will not last a long time.
The last two and a half years have produced a mature outline of how to settle the Syrian imbroglio. This is contained in the Arab-Initiative of 2011, the GA resolution of 2012, in Mr. Annan`s six points and in Mr. Librahimi`s proposals and foremostly in the provisions of Geneva I. Hence a Geneva II conference will not have to search wide for a road map. 
For the region as a whole, the Democratic transformation of the Arab Spring has been stymied by the resistance of the Syrian regime and the failures of the political Islamists in governing well in Egypt and Tunisia. Syria has exposed the great difficulties of transition from Dictatorship to Democracy when the regime cannot reconcile itself to the ballot box, because it has a minority base. Egypt and Tunisia have exposed the lack of preparedness of the Islamists and their unfamiliarity with political pluralism. And these two factors are responsible to a large extent for the chaos and public disorder we witness. solving the Syrian crisis will truly unleash virtual dynamics throughout the region. 
  Geneva 15/9/2013.