The media has relished tracking whistleblower Edward Snowden as the U.S. pursues him, so it was tough to notice a major headline last Thursday in The Financial Times: “Iran, Russia and China prop up Assad economy.” The article reported:
Iran, Russia and China are propping up Syria’s war-ravaged economy, with President Bashar al-Assad’s regime doing all its business in rials, roubles and renminbi as it seeks to beat western sanctions, according to the country’s senior economics minister.
United Press International reported a day later that the troika is providing $500 million a month in oil and vast credit lines: “Russia and Iran have publicly acknowledged their support for the regime of President Bashar Assad, but China has been less open.”
This is the type of affair world wars can rise from: a U.S. president that has tried to rally the West, meaning primarily Europe, in opposing Syria’s Assad regime, while the effort unifies three heavy American opponents, including one of America’s chief creditors: China.
Russia and Iran have been opposing U.S. efforts at Middle East invasions for a while. As President George W. Bush was rattling war rockets about invading Iran, President Vladimir Putin had traveled to Tehran for a meeting of the region’s major natural-gas producers. At that meeting, the leaders had agreed that an attack on any one of its members would be considered an attack on all of them.
And knowledgeable leaders don’t just battle opponents by arming their own military. They also come to the aid of allies.
They also show their displeasure by proving recalcitrant in diplomatic situations. When U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Moscow in early May to meet with Russian officials about Syria, Putin kept him waiting three hours before meeting with him and Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Larov. If TV film of the delayed meeting is an indication, Putin didn’t seem to care about talking with Kerry even when at the confab table.
Iran, of course, still has bitter memories about the CIA in the ’50s overthrowing the Iranians’ democratically elected government and replacing it with the U.S. puppet, Mohammad RezƒÅ ShƒÅh Pahlavƒ´, opening up Iranian oil to Western control.
Snowden Cracks Western Alliance
And now whistleblower Snowden may have crumbled the U.S.-European alliance against Syria this past week with another major revelation about American surveillance. As Reuters reported Saturday:
The United States has bugged European Union offices and gained access to EU internal computer networks, according to secret documents cited in a German magazine on Saturday, the latest in a series of exposures of alleged U.S. spy programs.
Der Spiegel quoted from a September 2010 “top secret” U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) document that…outlines how the NSA bugged offices and spied on EU internal computer networks in Washington and at the United Nations, not only listening to conversations and phone calls but also gaining access to documents and emails.
The document explicitly called the EU a “target”.
The EU hasn’t taken it well, including the strongest country in the union, Germany. On Sunday, Reuters stated:
“If the media reports are correct, this brings to memory actions among enemies during the Cold War. It goes beyond any imagination that our friends in the United States view the Europeans as enemies,” German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said.
“If it is true that EU representations in Brussels and Washington were indeed tapped by the American Secret Service, it can hardly be explained with the argument of fighting terrorism,” she said in a statement.
Obama must have found some relief by skedaddling to Africa where he could try and block the EU barbs by showing public concern for the critically ill hero Nelson Mandela. But European ire appears to be just starting.
Kerry clumsily tried to salve the anger by basically saying, gosh, all countries spy on other countries to provide security. But the German justice minister’s complaint indicates that generalities won’t wash, and the American government is going to have to answer with specific reports and remedies.