On 21 August, hundreds – perhaps over a thousand – people were killed in a chemical weapon attack in Ghouta, Damascus, prompting the U.S., UK, Israel and France to raise the specter of military strikes against Bashir al Assad’s forces which, they say, carried out the attack. Of course the latest episode is merely one more horrific event in the civil war conflict that has increasingly taken on genocidal characteristics. The UN now confirms a death toll over 100,000 people, the vast majority of whom have been killed by Assad’s troops, but also a lot by different insurgence groups. The UN has also confirmed that the chemical used in Damascus last month was the nerve gas sarin. An estimated 4.5 million people have been displaced from their homes and more than 2 million people have fled to neighboring countries. But let us step back a little while and look what’s at stake and what’s really behind the internationalization of this conflict.
The dispute and “agreement” over Syria
The main evidence cited by the U.S. linking the attacks to Syria are intercepted phone calls among other intelligence, which most of it was provided by Israel. “Last Wednesday, in the hours after a horrific chemical attack east of Damascus,” reported Foreign Policy, “an official at the Syrian Ministry of Defense exchanged panicked phone calls with a leader of a chemical weapons unit, demanding answers for a nerve agent strike that killed more than 1,000 people.”
This account is hardly decisive proof of Assad’s culpability in the attack – what one can reasonably determine here is that Syrian defense officials do not seem to have issued specific orders for such a strike, and were attempting to investigate whether their own chemical weapons unit was indeed responsible.
On the attack itself, experts are unanimous that the shocking footage of civilians, including children, suffering the effects of the chemical attack, is real – but remain divided on whether it involved military-grade chemical weapons associated with Assad’s arsenal, or old Soviet era weapons taken from storage by the rebels.
A chemical weapons agreement was worked out September the 14th in Geneva between the U.S. and Russia. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said his country “spoke clearly” about rejecting the use of force when the chemical weapons agreement was worked out between Washington and Moscow. The plan calls for an inventory of Syria’s chemical weapons within a week, with all components of the program out of the country or destroyed by mid-2014. Russia have also insisted that a U.N. Security Council resolution governing Syria’s handling of its chemical weapons not allow the use of force, but said that could change if Damascus reneges on the deal to give up its stockpile.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said a resolution on the U.S.-Russia deal must be enforceable, saying that the “most effective” way is under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter. That deals with threats to international peace and security and has provisions for enforcement by military or non-military means, such as sanctions. While in principle all Security Council resolutions are legally binding, Ban said: “in reality, we need clear guidelines under Chapter 7.”
The interests of the West – Imperial pretensions from Syria to Iran
The interest from western colonial and post-colonial powers and the U.S. in the Middle East have been a long bloody history of interference and bullying. It’s well known the U.S. military support to Sadam Husein in the 1980’s Iraqi-Iranian war. They even gave him chemical weapons. But when he invaded Kuwait in 1991 he quickly became the enemy, of course because of oil control, and in 2003 the Bush administration invaded Iraq on false allegations of weapons of mass destruction, the rest is a bloody case of history. U.S. agitation against Syria began long before today’s atrocities at least seven years ago in the context of wider operations targeting Iranian influence across the Middle East.
In 2006, writes Nafeez Ahmed (author and investigative journalist) on http://www.nafeezahmed.com, a little-known State Department committee – the Iran-Syria Policy and Operations Group – was meeting weekly to “coordinate actions such as curtailing Iran’s access to credit and banking institutions, organizing the sale of military equipment to Iran’s neighbors and supporting forces that oppose the two regimes.” U.S. officials said “the dissolution of the group was simply a bureaucratic reorganization” because of a “widespread public perception that it was designed to enact regime change.” A similar type of group prepared a new Middle East order in the 1990’s.
Despite the dissolution of the group, covert action continued. In May 2007, a presidential finding revealed that Bush had authorized “nonlethal” CIA operations against Iran. Anti-Syria operations were also in full swing around this time as part of this covert programme, according to Seymour Hersh, reporting for the New Yorker. A range of U.S. government and intelligence sources told him that the Bush administration had “cooperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations” intended to weaken the Shi’ite Hezbollah in Lebanon. “The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria,” wrote Hersh, “a byproduct” of which is “the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups” hostile to the United States and “sympathetic to al-Qaeda.” He noted that “the Saudi government, with Washington’s approval, would provide funds and logistical aid to weaken the government of President Bashir Assad, of Syria,” with a view to pressure him to be “more conciliatory and open to negotiations” with Israel. One faction receiving covert U.S. “political and financial support” through the Saudis was the exiled Syrian Muslim Brotherhood.
A year later, in 2008, Alexander Cockburn (was an Irish American political journalist and writer, died in 2012, at 71 )revealed that a new finding authorized covert action undermining Iran “across a huge geographical are – from Lebanon to Afghanistan”, and would include support for a wide range of terrorist and military groups such as Mujahedin-e-Khalq and Jundullah in Balochistan, including al-Qaeda linked groups.
So what is this unfolding strategy to undermine Syria, Iran and so on, all about, asks Nafeez Ahmed? According to retired NATO Secretary General Wesley Clark, a memo from the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense just a few weeks after 9/11 revealed plans to “attack and destroy the governments in 7 countries in five years.” A Pentagon officer familiar with the memo told him, “we’re going to start with Iraq, and then we’re going to move to Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran.” In a subsequent interview, Clark argues that this strategy is fundamentally about control of the region’s vast oil and gas resources.
A good example is that EU and the U.S. are easing an oil embargo to allow oil imports from rebel-controlled oil fields directly benefits al-Nusra fighters who control those former government fields. This rebel group the United States has designated a terrorist organization because of its ties to al-Qaeda.
No wonder Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan, in a failed attempt to bribe Russia to switch sides, told President Vladimir Putin that “whatever regime comes after” Assad, it will be “completely” in Saudi Arabia’s hands and will “not sign any agreement allowing any Gulf country to transport its gas across Syria to Europe and compete with Russian gas exports”, according to diplomatic sources. When Putin refused, the Prince vowed military action. It would seem that contradictory Saudi and Qatari oil interests are pulling the strings of U.S. policy in Syria, if not the wider region. It is this – the problem of establishing a pliable opposition which the U.S. and its oil allies feel confident will play ball, pipeline-style, in a post-Assad Syria – that will determine the nature of any prospective intervention. As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, said (See more on http://www.nafeezahmed.com/2013/08/special-report-syria-intervention-plans.html)
This article is an elixir of the big play on Syria. No one knows where the imperialist wind will blow, but at least one thing is almost for sure, that the post-war events in the region will be on a heavy track towards self-determination and peace.
One more thing: To be anti-war doesn’t mean one’s pro-Assad as much western propaganda pretends. And many people in the U.S. don’t really trust their Noble “Peace” Prize winning President to do the right thing (think about all the civilians we have killed with our drones, says many north-Americans). Just because he isn’t G.W, Bush doesn’t make his war anymore “humane” or righteous. So many feel for the Syrian people and that’s why they think the last thing they need is an ill-conceived airstrike causing them more hardship. We don’t end wars with more wars… and from the look of the polls maybe the north-American public has figured this out.
The West is still fighting the last military adventure, the idea that we should engage in a third war is unappetizing to say the least. The 21st Century is only 13 years old and people are tired of the political elites, security and media elites are dragging us into a perpetual war. I also think that most people reject the idea that War is Peace and that the only way for the West to help Syrians is to kill the Syrians we no longer like. Let’s do something about it – go protesting – you name it!