Over the edge in Syria?

by on October 11, 2016 in International affairs

The Western line on Syria is that Russia is committing ‘war-crimes’ in its bombing campaign in Eastern Aleppo. And that Russia is ‘prolonging’ the civil war in Syria. This narrative line is coordinated between the capitals (Washington, London, Paris).

Even by the usual Western standards of narrative building this is so detached from the facts on the ground as to be quite surprising. The ‘facts on the ground’ don’t require conspiracy theory or even recourse to the ‘propaganda bull-horn’ of RT (though RT’s fact checking is of a high standard). The facts on the ground are well-known and acknowledged in individual reports in Western media as the attentive reader can note in the links at the foot of this article. Here are a few salient points:

1. From the start of the Syrian civil war the West has been saying that “Assad must go”. This has obviously emboldened the opposition – currently represented loosely by the Saudi backed ‘High Negotiating Committee’ – to refuse to negotiate on this point. Since Assad, understandably, doesn’t want to go this has created a situation of political stalemate. This, more than anything, has prolonged the civil war.

2. The UK has been sending ‘non-lethal’ military aid to assorted ‘Syrian rebels’. The UK is involved in military intelligence operations run out of Jordan designed to undermine the government of Syria. [1]

3. The US has two separate programmes to arm ‘moderate rebels’. One is a covert operation supplying arms and training to rebels in the South of Syria. This is  connected to the intelligence operation run out of Jordan. The other was a failed programme to arm ‘moderate rebels’ in the North of Syria. This failed because they couldn’t find any ‘moderate’ rebels. [2]

4. It is very right-wing Islamist groups not ‘moderate rebels’ who are taking the fight to Assad. [3]

5. The West may sponsor ‘moderate rebels’ but the West’s allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar are much less fussy. They have been sending arms to right-wing Islamist groups. Some of these groups on occasion collaborate with Al-Qaeda. Even the West’s ‘moderate rebels’ cannot be separated from Al-Qaeda – as the US State Department admits. [4]

It follows from the above that the West (the UK, France and Britain) are engaged in a political, military and diplomatic campaign to unseat the government of Syria. While being careful to try to avoid directly aiding Al-Qaeda it is clear that through their alliances the West is indeed aligned with the objectives of Al-Qaeda in Syria. By a) continuing to insist that ‘Assad must go’ and b) continuing to send in weapons and support to groups fighting Assad the West continues to pour fuel onto the conflict. In basic terms; if there are two sides in a fight it could be said of either that by continuing to fight they are ‘prolonging the conflict’. When the West accuses Russia of ‘prolonging the conflict’ this is only ‘true’ if we reveal the sub-text; a military victory for the Islamist groups against Assad. Which is worse? A unified Syrian state led, at least for a time, by Assad or a military victory by Al-Qaeda and affiliated right-wing Islamist groups? A stable path to a political settlement in Syria is more likely to be possible if there is a functioning state of some kind. We have seen what happens when the state is destroyed – witness Iraq and Libya. In both cases the result has been incessant fighting between various factions and ongoing chaos and enormous human suffering. The most striking aspect of Western policy on Syria is quite how petulant and short-sighted it is. It seems that now all they care about is ‘winning’ or, at least, not ‘losing’ to Russia. With childish brinkmanship of this kind, by leaders of powerful armed states, the world is indeed in a dangerous place.

The level of the West’s accusations against Russia (‘war crimes’, ‘prolonging the civil war’) are probably in proportion to their uneasy conscience about being in the same boat as Al-Qaeda.

Notes

1. UK sends military assistance to ‘moderate rebels’

Independent 2013 – Britain sends ‘non-lethal’ battlefield military support to ‘moderate rebels’

Stop the War campaign group in 2014: MI6 working with CIA on its weapons supply programmes based on journalist Seymour Hersh’s reporting

 

2. US is arming ‘moderate rebels’  to overthrow Assad

New York Times 2012: CIA facilitating weapons transfer to Syrian rebels

New York Times 2016; Timber Sycamore – CIA programme to arm ‘moderate rebels’ to topple Assad

Guardian 2015: US could only find 5 moderate rebels in the north of Syria. CIA programme in South continues

 

3. It is right-wing Islamist groups who are leading the fight against Assad

IB Times 2015: Al-Qaeda now one of the most popular ‘rebel’ groups in Syria

Guardian 2013: growing strength of Islamist groups in Syria

 

4. The West’s Gulf Allies are supporting right-wing Islamist groups who co-operate with Al-Qaeda. ‘Moderate rebels’ are intemingled with these groups 

IB Times 2015: Ahrar al-Sham co-operates with Al-Qaeda and the FSA

WikiPedia: various media references linking Ahrar al-Sham to Qatar, Turkey and Saudi Arabia

Stanford University: Saudi Arabia funds Ahrar al-Sham. Ahrar al-Sham cooperates with Al-Qaeda

New York Times 2012: most arms shipped by Saudi Arabia and Qatar go to ‘hardline Islamists’

New Obs 2016: US State Department admits it cannot separate ‘moderates’ from Al-Qaeda.

 

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