By Daniel Margrain
Largely unreported in the corporate media is that Bashar-al-Assad’s secular government won the first contested presidential election in Ba’athist Syria’s history on July 16, 2014. The election was regarded by international observers as open, fair and transparent. American Peace Council delegate, Joe Jamison, who was allowed unhindered travel throughout Syria, stated:
“By contrast to the medieval Wahhabist ideology, Syria promotes a socially inclusive and pluralistic form of Islam. We [the USPC] met these people. They are humane and democratically minded…. “The [Syrian] government is popular and recognized as being legitimate by the UN. It contests and wins elections which are monitored. There’s a parliament which contains opposition parties – we met them. There is a significant non-violent opposition which is trying to work constructively for its own social vision.”
“Our delegation came to Syria with political views and assumptions, but we were determined to be sceptics and to follow the facts wherever they led us. I concluded that the motive of the US war is to destroy an independent, Arab, secular state. It’s the last of this kind of state standing.”
Analyst Stephen Gowans outlined that in early 2011, reporters from Time and the New York Times acknowledged that Assad commanded broad popular support and that the Syrian people exhibited little interest in protest.
Time’s Rania Abouzeid, for example, contended:
“Even critics concede that Assad is popular and considered close to the country’s huge youth cohort, both emotionally, ideologically and, of course, chronologically. Unlike the ousted pro-American leaders of Tunisia and Egypt, Assad’s hostile foreign policy toward Israel, strident support for Palestinians and the militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah are in line with popular Syrian sentiment.”
Assad, in other words, has legitimacy. The Time correspondent added that Assad’s “driving himself to the Umayyad Mosque in February to take part in prayers to mark the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, and strolling through the crowded Souq Al-Hamidiyah marketplace with a low security profile” had “helped to endear him, personally, to the public.”
This wouldn’t be possible if Assad was regarded by the Syrian people to be a dictator.
Overthrowing Assad by violent means
The notion that the United States government, its allies and proxies, want to see Syria’s pluralistic state under Assad destroyed, is not a secret. Indeed, the claim by Israel’s defence minister, Avigdor Lieberman, that Assad’s removal is the empires “ultimate goal”, is consistent with the notion that the aim of the U.S government is to stymie the non-violent opposition inside Syria.
Washington has been engaged in this latest phase of its long-standing strategy to depose Assad since early 2012 after it helped scupper Kofi Annan’s six point peace plan. Contrary to Western media propaganda, president Assad’s battle is not with his own people, but against outside mercenary forces and terror organisations who have, as commentator Dan Glazebrook noted, funded the Free Syrian Army and bribed government forces to defect.
Professor Jeffrey Sachs from the University of Columbia said:
“The CIA and Saudi Arabia together in covert operations tried to overthrow Assad….We started a [covert proxy] war (Operation Timber Sycamore) – a major war effort shrouded in secrecy [that was] never debated in Congress and never explained to the American people, signed by president Obama.”
Commentator John Wight added:
“Thousands of non-Syrians… descended on the country from across the Muslim world and beyond like a plague of locusts. [They took] advantage of the destabilization of the region wrought by Washington and its allies….”
The numbers highlighted below support this thesis:
Dr Declan Hayes, who for many years has been living in Syria, offers additional insights:
“If this were a genuine revolution or revolt against a tyrannical regime, the sort of despots one gets in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait or Turkey, one would expect most Syrian moderates to support it. Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, to take one pertinent example, famously had the support of the shopkeepers, hawkers and students of Tehran who ended up sending the Shah, his secret police and their toadies scuttling for American-supplied bolt holes overseas.
Whatever its rights or wrongs, Iran’s Islamic Revolution had widespread support, as do Bahrain’s moderate protesters, who brave the henchmen of Saudi Arabia every time they protest against that truly autocratic regime. Moderate Alawites, Shias or Christians cannot support the Syrian insurgents as all the rebels are agreed that the Alawites and Shias must be exterminated and the Christians driven into exile, if they are not first also exterminated.
“All of Syria’s Christian leaders support, implicitly at least, the government of the Syrian Arab Republic, not least because, a few token rebels apart, there is no area in rebel-held Syria where they can openly practice their religion or live without perpetual fear.
Nor is there anywhere the moderate rebels control that Christians and other minorities can be safe from kidnapping by these same moderates, who will then sell them on to their more violent partners in crime, in much the same way the moderate rebels sold on the Ma’lulah nuns and the two American journalists who were recently beheaded. There is, in short, no way Syria’s Christians, Shias or Alawites, who do not have a death wish, can support the moderate rebels.”
Independent journalist, Vanessa Beeley, who spoke with civilians on the ground in east Aleppo as it was being liberated from Western-supported jihadist ‘rebels’, emphasized what she described as the universal “sheer jubilation and celebration at their liberation by the Syrian-Arab Army and the Syrian government.”
These kinds of testimonies have been totally absent from the corporate media and contradict the “Assad is a tyrant” narrative.
John Wight made the point that:
“History will not be kind to those who have propagated the lie that something approximating to a democratic revolution has been underway in Syria. On the contrary, the country and its people have suffered the depredations of an Islamic Khmer Rouge, intent on ‘purifying’ a multicultural and multi-religious society of minority communities that are able to trace their existence in this part of the world back over a millennia and more.”
The roots of Syria’s destruction
There is disagreement among academics as to the cause of Syria’s destabilization. However, there is general agreement that on 17 March, 2011, rioting occurred at the Syria-Jordan border town of Daraa involving hundreds of people. The rioting was guided by a largely Islamist agenda. It wasn’t a mass uprising typical of the Arab Spring.
A review of press reports in the weeks immediately preceding and following the riots, offers no indication that Syria was in the grip of a revolutionary struggle – a narrative consistent with the indifference shown to the “Day of Rage” on February 4 and 5, 2011 that preceded it. The ‘protests’ “fizzled,” said Time.
The magazine reported that two jihadist groups which would later play leading roles in the insurgency, Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham, were already in operation on the eve of the riots, while three months earlier, leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood voiced their hope for a civil revolt in Syria.
The Muslim Brothers, who decades earlier declared a blood feud with Syria’s ruling Ba’athist Party and objected violently to the party’s secularism, had been embroiled in a life and death struggle with secular Arab nationalists since the 1960s, and had engaged in street battles with Ba’athist partisans from the late 1940s.
In response to the violent attacks by hundreds of jihadists against police officers and the setting alight of government buildings, president Assad conceded to many of the Islamists demands. This included releasing their comrades from state prisons. The U.S State Department had acknowledged that political Islam was the main opposition in Syria and that jihadists made up the principal section of opposition groups likely to be incarcerated.
Stephen Gowans drew comparisons with the West:
“Clerics demanding that Damascus release all political prisoners was equal in effect to the Islamic State demanding that Washington, Paris, and London release all Islamists detained in US, French and British prisons on terrorism charges.
Crucially, Gowans added:
“This wasn’t a demand for jobs and greater democracy, but a demand for the release from prison of activists inspired by the goal of bringing about an Islamic state in Syria. The call to lift the emergency law, similarly, appeared to have little to do with fostering democracy and more to do with expanding the room for jihadists and their collaborators to organize opposition to the secular state.”
Writing shortly after the events at Daraa, professor Michel Chossudovsky noted that the violence and burning of government buildings by jihadists:
“had all the appearances of a staged event involving, in all likelihood, covert support to Islamic terrorists by Mossad and/or Western intelligence. Government sources point to the role of radical Salafist groups (supported by Israel). Other reports have pointed to the role of Saudi Arabia in financing the protest movement.”
Reports (suppressed in the Western media) indicating that the number of policemen killed at Daraa (seven) was more than the number of demonstrators killed (four), is hardly indicative of the brutal actions of a government intent on oppressing its own people.
Assad’s mass support
Clearly, the outbreak of violence in Daraa, undertaken by less than a thousand jihadists in support of their imprisoned comrades, was not representative of the will of the mass of the Syrian people. Indeed, the subsequent pro-government rally in the capital twelve days after the Western fomented violence in Daraa which can be viewed here, is indicative of widespread support for Assad. The rally far exceeded in number the hundreds of protesters who turned out in the Syria-Jordan border town to burn buildings and cars and clash with police.
Despite this, the rally was portrayed in the Western corporate media as an anti-government demonstration. The Guardian, for instance, reported the rally as a “military crackdown against civilians”. This kind of misinformation prompted Russia and China to veto a European-backed UN security council resolution threatening sanctions against the Syrian regime “if it did not immediately halt its military crackdown against civilians”.
That the major forces driving the insurgency in the country were Islamist factions backed by the U.S, Britain, Saudi Arabia, France, Israel and others, was quietly dropped. In 2012, a Pentagon document obtained by Judicial Watch confirmed that jihadist terrorist groups that include ISIS – who burned down churches and massacred the world’s oldest Christian communities – were the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria.
Break-up of Syria
The rationale that lay behind the insurgency, is the break-up of Syria and the control of what is believed to be potentially vast untapped oil and gas resources in the country. Against this backdrop are the competing agendas of the various belligerent gas-exporting foreign factions, that according to Orstein and Romer, have interests in one of the two gas pipeline projects that seek to cross Syrian territory to deliver either Qatari or Iranian gas to Europe.
As Orenstein explained:
“In 2009, Qatar proposed to build a pipeline to send its gas northwest via Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Syria to Turkey… However, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad refused to sign the plan; Russia, which did not want to see its position in European gas markets undermined, put him under intense pressure not to.
Russia’s Gazprom sells 80 per cent of its gas to Europe. So in 2010, Russia put its weight behind an alternative Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline that would pump Iranian gas from the same field out via Syrian ports such as Latakia and under the Mediterranean. The project would allow Moscow to control gas imports to Europe from Iran, the Caspian Sea region, and Central Asia.”
Up to this point, US policy toward Assad had been ambivalent – the intention being that “jaw-jaw” rather than “war-war” would more likely pry him away from Iran, thus opening up the Syrian economy to US investors, and aligning the Assad government with US-Israeli regional designs. But the signing in July, 2011, of a $10 billion Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline deal put an end to the U.S ‘softly-softly’ approach.
Boost to profits
The prospect of a lengthy war against Syria provides a boost to the profits of the arms and weapons companies. Major U.S defense contractors Raytheon, Oshkosh, and Lockheed Martin assured investors that they stand to gain from the escalating conflicts in the Middle East. Lockheed Martin Executive Vice President Bruce Tanner said his company will see “indirect benefits” from the war in Syria.
Author, journalist and film-maker, Charles Glass, contended that in order to secure the hydrocarbon potential of Syria’s offshore resources with the aim of reducing European dependence on Russian gas and boosting the potential for energy independence, U.S tax payers’ money had been “used to fund terrorist groups from the very beginning.”
Corroborated by Wikileak cables, Glass continued:
“For the outside powers, it’s never been about human rights and democracy inside Syria. That’s not the issue. The issue has always been about Assad’s relationship with Iran.”
War is not meant to be won, it is meant to be continuous
The openly stated positions of the imperial powers in resource-rich parts of the world completely refutes the notion that the actions of these powers are benign. It is clear that continuous war that boosts the profits of arms companies is preferred to a genuine and lasting peace.
Western powers and their regional middle east allies view the suffering of innocent people at the hands of Islamist fundamentalists and other proxies, who they arm and fund, as a price worth paying in order that their geopolitical and economic regime change goals are maintained.
The right of Syria’s minority communities to be able to continue to live under a non-sectarian umbrella, protected under international law, and to ensure their civil liberties are upheld and protected, is not a priority for the imperial powers.
Many of my articles can be seen in Renegade Inc.
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