The polemicists of the fringe left and the far right who depict the Baathist regime in Syria as a beleagured victim of Western plotting may have to retool their noise machines. It turns out that the authoritarian government of Bashar joined with France to destroy Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi.
An intelligence official for the Libyan rebels during the uprising last year against Muammar Qaddafi has alleged to the Telegraph that Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad turned over to French intelligence Qaddafi’s satellite telephone number. They were able to use it to pinpoint his location in Sirte, and to arrange for his capture.
Then French president Nicolas Sarkozy had been an early hawk on Syria, proposing humanitarian zones and direct intervention there. Al-Assad extracted a promise from the French government, it is alleged, to back off its interventionist plans in Syria, in return for Qaddafi’s phone number. Sarkozy had entered into the NATO mission in Libya in part as a quest to raise his polling numbers in France, and so he needed a quick victory. Some have also alleged that he wanted to cover up Qaddafi’s illegal contributions to Sarkozy’s political campaign. (Allegations of illegal campaign contributions from African dictators dogged Sarkozy; I don’t know if they have anything to them).
If it is true, the story reflects badly on both Bashar and Sarkozy.
It should be noted that the idea you hear from the fringe left that the Baath in Syria are somehow ‘progressive’ is naive in the extreme. Syria invaded Lebanon in 1976 to esnure that a coalition of Palestinians, Sunnis and Druze did not defeat the Maronite Christians. It then applied ‘divide and rule’ to Lebanon for 20 years.