Veteran Arab journalist Abdel Bari Atwan says Arab countries can learn a lot from North Korea and its insistence on maintaining nuclear weapons as a means to defend itself from Western aggression.
As an Arab and Muslim, I felt both insulted and pained when reading commentaries in the Israeli press warning the US against recklessly attacking North Korea.
Pundits argued that the DPRK was not some two-bit Arab country like Syria which could be bombed at any time with impunity, but a serious adversary that possesses serious means of retaliation, involving nuclear warheads and long-range missiles.
We Arabs have been turned into international punch bags and objects of experimentation. Our lands, along with the blood and lives of our citizens, have become fair game for all comers. Our territory and resources are targeted by an ever-growing number of countries, while we are torn apart by sectarianism and our media have been reduced to instruments of incitement against fellow Arabs and Muslims under various excuses and pretexts.
The smart plan typically begins with the launching of well-coordinated and orchestrated propaganda campaigns focused on alleged Arab weapons of mass destruction and the world’s vital need to get them eliminated. Any attempt at refusal can then provide legal and moral basis for sanctions and other punitive measures, up to and including military aggression, physical devastation and enforced regime-change.
It is no coincidence that all the Arab countries that have been subjected to US-led aggression in recent years had earlier yielded to American-authored UN demands to be disarmed of “weapons of mass destruction,” especially chemical munitions, and abandon any thought of acquiring a nuclear deterrent.
But this compliance did not ensure their safety. They were subsequently attacked or invaded or both. Once the US was reassured that they did not possess powerful weapons with which to defend themselves and inflict serous casualties on any invading forces, the aggression and bombing would begin.
Iraq, Libya and Syria provide clear examples. All gave up their chemical arsenals and cooperated with international arms inspectors — either voluntarily, under threat of military action, after being subjected to devastating airstrikes, or under the pressure of a suffocating and inhuman embargo.
The administration of George Bush Jr. knew full well that Saddam Hussein had cooperated fully with the international arms inspection teams sent to Iraq and come clean about all his nuclear and chemical programmes, material and equipment.
He withstood all the provocations of the inspectors — most of whom were spies — including their searches of his palaces and bedrooms. Once Washington was assured that Iraq had been rid of any nuclear or chemical capacity, the invasion was ordered without delay.
Col. Muammar al-Gaddafi fell victim to a great deception contrived by the wily former British prime minister Tony Blair, who persuaded him to surrender his chemical arms stocks and nuclear material voluntarily, in exchange for a guarantee of personal immunity and the reintegration of himself and his regime into the international community.
Once Gaddafi gave up the weapons, a revolution against him was concocted, and a Security Council resolution issued to protect the revolutionaries from imminent massacres. The carefully scripted conspiracy ended with the toppling of the regime and the transformation of Libya into a failed state mired in bloody anarchy, ruled by warring militias and now standing on the brink of final partition.
Syria faced the same scenario and still does, though it was delivered in uneasy instalments. Military action was threatened and aircraft carriers were mobilised to force it to surrender its chemical weapons stocks under the agreement reached in 2013. Then, two weeks ago, its Shueirat military base was subjected to a barrage of American cruise missiles following an outpouring of international outrage over unproven allegations that it used chemical weapons in Khan Sheykhoun near Idlib.
Yet the cynical killing of over 100 Syrian civilian supporters of the regime, half of them children, while leaving the villages of Foua and Kafraya under a UN-sponsored agreement, caused no such indignation. It was met with silence in the West and in the Arab world, especially from those Arab states that co-brokered the evacuation agreement and that continue to bankroll the perpetrators of this massacre.
North Korea’s leaders will doubtless have taken note of these inglorious Arab experiences and their disastrous consequences, and learned lessons from them.
That is why they have not taken the American bait and halted their nuclear and ballistic missile tests. They know full well that they need a deterrent, and their serious threat to retaliate with full force to any American attack may provide them with protection.
Of equal importance is that they have reliable allies in China and Russia who do not stab their friends in the back, unlike the supposed friends of Iraq, Syria and Libya in the Arab world and especially in some Gulf states.
The US, meanwhile, hits out at Arabs (and Afghans) to send messages to others. Both the Shueyrat missile strike and the “mother of all bombs” attack in Afghanistan were directed at North Korea and Iran.
It is a sorry state of affairs, a by-product of the way that leadership of the Arab world has passed into the hands of the oil-rich peripheral states that consider the US to be a trustworthy ally. They may have cause to reconsider before too long, when that ally reduces them to bankruptcy, as it surely will.