Promoting Democracy through Dictators’ Funds

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Cyrus Faizee
Expert on Middle East & US Affairs

Undoubtedly, the bulk of the Syrian protesters are seeking democracy as well as political and economic reforms. President Bashar Assad has accepted their demands and has promised to meet them in due time free from pressure. The US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described Assad as “man of reforms” when the Syrian unrest was still young. Also, there is no doubt that many Syrian people have been harmed in the course of the country’s turmoil and it would be unfair to disregard calls for reforms. The main cause of all differences and conflicts between the Syrian government, the opposition, and foreign forces involved in the current crisis can be summarized in one word: democracy.

Since uprisings in the Arab world started, the United States has been trying to ride the tide under the aegis of “promoting democracy” which it is using to good effect for mobilizing power resources and guiding them in the direction of Washington’s interests. The current US strategy in the Middle East is based on “not standing in the face of people” and “avoiding use of force and violence.” Washington has thus opted for a “soft” policy in the Middle East. The US strategy has also other pillars which are reminiscent of “Nixon – Kissinger” strategy in which Iran’s Shah provided military force and the Saudi king was responsible for financial support. The financial role of the Saudi kingdom is now much more prominent than that time. Providing heavy funds to Salafi and Wahhabi insurgents in line with Washington’s agreement with Riyadh is just an example to the point.

Clinton recently announced in Indonesia that the Syrian opposition will resort to military power. Everybody knows that the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood has been in exile since 1982. Therefore, the question is from what source such huge amount of weapons and funds come from? Burhan Ghalioun, who heads the Syrian opposition, has announced that 90 percent of needed funds come from Syrian businesspeople, but who will believe that? The Libyan insurgents were armed with sophisticated weapons that enabled them to overcome the Libyan army which had been armed through oil revenues for over three decades. They, for instance, had drones as well as huge financial resources to organize insurgents. It is now clear that Saudi Arabia accounted for the lion’s share of those funds.

The situation is the same in Syria and Saudi Arabia is and will be the main financier behind the current developments in that country. The main goal of Saudi Arabia is to push extremist elements away from Riyadh by preoccupying them with other issues outside Saudi Arabia. Riyadh also means to bolster ties to the United States, as guarantor of the monarchy’s survival, and to undermine such regional rivals as the Islamic Republic of Iran. If Syria falls to the opposition, Saudi Arabia would have achieved the last goal. The problem, however, is that Saudi Arabia does not seek democracy. Riyadh wants a new government in Syria with a democratic façade, but no actual democratic content as this will be meet the interests of Riyadh and Washington.

Political and economic problems are evident in Syria and a great number of its people have been asking for reforms. The Syrian state officials, for their turn, have accepted people’s demand and have promised to implement reforms. The Syrian opposition neither enjoys suitable organization and necessary institutions, nor its people are politically mature enough. As a result, reforms are the most pressing need of the country under present circumstances. Democracy, especially as defined by Saudi Arabia and other Arab states, is different from simple reforms. This is why the Syrian game is not over democracy, but represents religious and strategic rivalries. Even if we accepted that domestic and foreign protests and opposition is aimed at establishing democracy in the country, we still cannot close our eyes to this funny contradiction that exists: “establishing democracy through funds provided by dictators.”

More By Cyrus Faizee:

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