Why I predict a flaming June for the Arab world

Abdel Bari Atwan is the editor of al Quds al Arabi

Veteran Arab journalist Abdel Bari Atwan predicts a major escalation in Syria this summer…

Sources close to Arab and Gulf decision-makers suggest that serious – maybe even critical – developments in Syria, are likely in June.

While there are no specific details as yet, several indicators give credibility to the chatter.

First of all, British army scientists have found evidence of chemical weapons used during the two-year Syrian conflict. The Ministry of Defence says that soil samples taken near Damascus have proven the use of chemical weapons, although nobody has directly implicated either the regime or the opposition.

Then, CNN has revealed that the US administration will revive plans to intervene militarily in Syria, in response to pressure from both Democrats and Republicans in Congress.

Further, Military training and exercises for Free Syrian Army (FSA) forces in Jordan and Turkey by US and British special forces, under the supervision of the CIA, will end in mid-May.

Next, the moratorium on the European Union’s decision to impose an arms embargo on the Syrian opposition will end early on in June, paving the way for free and independent action from both Britain and France. They could well provide the opposition with modern arms and equipment, including heavy armour and anti-aircraft missiles.

And finally, the aggravated dispute between Syrian authorities and the UN about international investigations into chemical weapons continues.

Chemical weapons

British Defence Ministry leaks about soil samples taken from Damascus must come as part of some bigger plan.

It is reminiscent of another incident when British intelligence officials sent British-Iranian journalist Farzat Bazoft to Baghdad to take soil samples near chemical plants. A British laboratory supposedly found traces of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) close by.

This helped justify the US-British invasion of Iraq.

Six months ago, US President Barack Obama issued a stern warning to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, claiming that any use of chemical weapons would precipitate an international response.

It’s no coincidence that the G8 summit in London last week repeated the same statement.

What we are about to witness is a repeat of events used to justify economic sanctions on Iraq – and then invasion – after a chemical weapons attacked killed 5,000 civilians in the Kurdish town of Halabja. The West blamed Iraq for the tragedy.

Iran

The question remains: Is future military action, which could mean no-fly zones or arming the opposition, designed to lure Iran into the conflict; or will it come in the form of a joint US, Israeli and Arab war on Iran and Syria at the same time?

Israeli reports warn that Iran could become a nuclear state before the end of the year. This means that US and Israel have just a few months to halt a dangerous and strategic shift in the region.

What changes things in this case – and could turn everything upside down – is that when Saddam Hussein’s regime faced blockade and war, he was alone and without allies.Under Gorbachev, Russia was bankrupt and China was preoccupied with its own economic development.

Today, the Assad regime has the support of Russia, Iran, Hezbollah in Lebanon and the BRICS countries (Brazil, China, India and South Africa).

June is one of our hottest months. It’s ironic that it begins 40 days before the holy month of Ramadan this year.

I wouldn’t be surprised, and can’t rule it out, if this June becomes one of the most incendiary months in the history of the Arabs.

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