The downing by NATO member, Turkey, of a Russian aircraft on the Syrian-Turkish border in November 2015 – the first of its kind since 1952 – brought into sharp focus the complex patchwork of contending geopolitical and strategic allegiances against what is ostensibly a unified military response to ISIS. Turkey’s role in supporting the Al-Qaeda affiliate, the Al Nusra Front, starkly emphasises the risk of a military escalation to the crisis and the undermining of the current ceasefire.
Turkey’s seemingly schizophrenic relationship to the United States and NATO underscores the former’s reluctance in allowing the latter to use it’s military bases in the east of the country to attack ISIS. Instead, the Turkish government under president Erdogan have used these bases to target the Kurdish PKK. According to the United Nations, 30,000 terrorists from one hundred countries that have landed in Syria have arrived through Turkey and the CIA are overseeing the supply of arms to some of them. Meanwhile, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are also supporting Jihadi extremists to the tune of billions of dollars in arms and funds which are being funneled through Turkey.
Since both Russia and Iran are geo-strategically aligned to Syria, it’s in the interests of both countries to ensure that a Russian-friendly regime in Syria remains in power to act as a bullwark against undue US influence in the region. Clearly, given the competing interests of the major powers, and the potential risks of a major resource war between them, it’s an obvious truism that there can be no long-term solution to the conflict that involves a massive escalation of violence. Therefore, the only viable solution to the crisis is a negotiated settlement which the current ceasefire is a potential prelude to.
Underlying the tensions described, is the key role played by Turkey which has its own narrow anti-Kurdish agenda in the region. The problems are further compounded in that both the Syrian YPG and the Kurdish KPP have mounted effective ground offensives against ISIS while paradoxically both groups remain on the U.S terrorist list. In addition, Hezzbollah and Iran, backed by Russian air power, have also been effective in countering ISIS. But rather than backing these various factions, UK-US policy is predicated – ostensibly at least – on maintaining support for their two partners on the ground – the Iraqi army (which is weak) and the so-called moderate Syrian opposition to Assad and ISIS (which barely exists).
If the allies led by the US government were serious in their intent to obliterate the existential threat they claim ISIS represents, they would be aligning themselves with the first set of fighters mentioned above instead of their powerless and ineffectual “partners”. So given this anomaly, one has to wonder what the key motivating factor guiding US policy in relation to Syria is. The country sits in a region of the world where the US-UK government’s hypocritically covertly support the oppressive actions of some of the most brutal and authoritarian regimes on earth.
The rational answer is that the principle motivation lies not in eradicating ISIS but rather in toppling one of the more relatively tolerant and secular regimes in the region. Indeed, Assad who, just over a decade ago, was wined and dined in the company of British royalty, is currently on the U.S rogue state list primed for regime change. This is the ‘elephant in the room’ to which journalists and commentators within the liberal corporate media, who focus their critique on Assad, tend to overlook.
The widely accepted narrative is that the catalyst for the “civil war” in Syria is one in which Assad is said to have massacred peaceful demonstrators. This is equated with the events that characterized the Arab Spring in countries like Tunisia and Egypt. Both interpretations amount to a serious misreading of the situation. Following the initial outbreak of violence in Daraa, a small border town with Jordan on March 17-18, 2011, professor Michel Chossudovsky recounted the events:
“The protest movement had all the appearances of a staged event involving covert support to Islamic terrorists by Mossad and/or Western intelligence….Government sources pointed to the role of radical Salafist groups (supported by Israel)…In chorus, the Western media described the events in Daraa as a protest movement against Bashar Al Assad.”
Chossudovsky cited Israeli and Lebanese sources in support of his claims. These sources reported on the killing of seven police officers and at least four demonstrators in addition to the torching of the Baath Party Headquarters and courthouse. Chossudovsky commented:
“These news reports of the events in Daraa confirmed that from the very outset this was not a ‘peaceful protest’ as claimed by the Western media….What was clear… is that many of the demonstrators were not demonstrators but terrorists involved in premeditated acts of killing and arson…The title of the Israeli news report summarized what happened: Syria: Seven Police Killed, Buildings Torched in Protest.”
This account was subsequently confirmed five months later by Israeli intelligence sources who claimed that from the outset Islamist “freedom fighters” were supported, trained and equipped by NATO and Turkey’s high command (DEBKAfile, NATO to give rebels anti-tank weapons, August 14, 2011). Media Lens quoted Jeremy Salt, associate professor in Middle Eastern History and Politics at Bilkent University, Ankara, who added some background:
“Since the Soviet-Afghan war, Western intelligence agencies as well as Israel’s Mossad have consistently used various Islamic terrorist organizations as “intelligence assets”. Both Washington and its indefectible British ally have provided covert support to “Islamic terrorists” in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo and Libya, etc. as a means to triggering ethnic strife, sectarian violence and political instability… The ultimate objective of the Syria protest movement, through media lies and fabrications, is to create divisions within Syrian society as well as justify an eventual “humanitarian intervention”.’
In another article, journalist John Pilger quoted the former French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas who last year revealed that “two years before the Arab spring”, he was told in London that a war on Syria was planned. “I am going to tell you something,” he said in an interview with the French TV channel LPC,“I was in England two years before the violence in Syria on other business. I met top British officials, who confessed to me that they were preparing something in Syria… Britain was organising an invasion of rebels into Syria. They even asked me, although I was no longer Minister for Foreign Affairs, if I would like to participate… This operation goes way back. It was prepared, preconceived and planned.”
The cementing of US hegemony in the region (and beyond), with the backing of its principle European ally, is hardly a secret. In fact, it dates back to at least the the Clinton era when the concept of American supremicism and exceptionalism were coined as the prelude to the setting up by the neoconservative pressure group of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC). This document provided the ideological justification for the bolstering of America’s nuclear first strike capability.
Leading neoconservatives have conceded that the perpetuation of American supremacy, as opposed to defending the country, is what this capability is designed to achieve. Lawrence Kaplan, for example, admitted that missile defence is a tool for global US dominance. The purpose of the PNAC was to provide an overview of US defence strategy from a world-historical perspective within the context of a decade of supposed US neglect.
This perspective led the neoconservatives within the Bush, and later Obama regimes, to conclude the opening, and subsequent extension, of windows of opportunity with which to demonstrate America’s military superiority. In the same vein as the PNAC, the accompanying war manifesto, The National Security Strategy begins with the affirmation,“The United States possesses unprecedented- and unequalled – strength and influence in the world.” It concludes with the warning,“Our forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in the hopes of surpassing, or equalling, the power of the United States.”
A key section warns:
“We are attentive to the possible renewal of old patterns of great power competition. Several potential great powers are now in the midst of internal transition – most importantly Russia, India and China.”
Reaffirming that the war on terror was just the beginning for the United States, George Bush in his State of Union address on 29 January, 2002, named Iran, Iraq and North Korea as “an axis of evil”. Secretary of State, John Bolton, subsequently extended the net to include Libya, Cuba and Syria. The ‘war on terrorism’ also provided the US with an opportunity to establish a string of military bases in Central Asia.
The reality is that regime change in Syria and elsewhere is predicated on the concept of eternal warfare as part of a long-term US strategy of destabilisation and chaos. Specifically, the definitive article, the New American Century, is about shaping the world for the next hundred years according to the interests and values of American capitalism.
In 2001 when George Bush declared the ‘war on terror’, Al-Qaeda was confined to a small tribal area in north west Afghanistan. Now, thanks largely to the attempt at the imposition of American capitalist democracy delivered at the point of gun, so-called Islamist terrorism has spread worldwide.