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The Phantom Menace

Stoking the Syrian Inferno

by BEN SCHREINER

The bloody U.S.-led proxy war in Syria, laying unimaginable waste to its cities and people, escalates daily.  For Washington, “all options” are now clearly in play in the quest for “regime change” in Damascus.

Capitalizing on the resignation of joint Arab League-United Nations special envoy Kofi Annan on Thursday, Washington and its imperial cheerleaders in the U.S. mainstream media immediately began to lay the ground for a greater degree of foreign military intervention into the Syrian crisis.

The Washington propaganda line swallowed whole by the U.S. media and spit back out for public consumption?  Diplomacy is dead solely due to the intransigence of Russia and China, leaving increased Western support for the freedom-loving rebels of the Free Syrian Army as the only means to save Syria.

Assuming its favored role as “respectable” huckster of U.S. imperialism, the hawkish Washington Post editorial board was typical of the U.S. media reaction to Annan’s departure.

“Now that diplomacy has utterly failed to stop him [Assad],” the Post wrote, “it is time for the Obama administration to consider measures that stand a real chance of accelerating his downfall — beginning with greater material support for the opposition.”

Such calls for greater U.S. involvement into the Syrian crisis come just as it is confirmed (yet again) that the U.S. has long since interjected itself into the conflict.  As Reuters reported, President Obama signed a secret order earlier this year—this is, when the U.S. was publicly playing lip service to the Annan peace plan—which permits the “C.I.A. and other U.S. agencies to provide support that could help the rebels oust Assad.”

And according to Reuters reporting, the C.I.A. is actively coordinating with a secret command center operated by Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar along the Turkey-Syria border established to better organize the military campaign against the Syrian state.

“This ‘nerve center’ is in Adana,” Reuters notes, “a city in southern Turkey about 60 miles from the Syrian border, which is also home to Incirlik, a U.S. air base where U.S. military and intelligence agencies maintain a substantial presence.”

All such heightened U.S. support for the “Free” Syrian Army coincides with mounting evidence of rebel atrocities and an increasing al-Qaeda infiltration into the ranks of the armed opposition.  Nonetheless, the U.S. facilitated arms spigot continues to pump increasingly lethal weapons to oppositional forces.

As NBC News reported this past week, the militarized Syrian opposition has now received its first batch of surface-to-air missiles via Washington’s N.A.T.O. ally Turkey.  The blowback possibilities astound.

As one might expect, though, determining exactly who the C.I.A. is overseeing deliveries of surface-to-air missiles to, has been sidestepped by a U.S. press deeply infatuated by the ruggedly heroic image of the rebels it so eagerly nurtures.  Just how allying with al-Qaeda fits into the ongoing U.S. “war on terror” is thus utterly ignored.  Depending on the day then, al-Qaeda is either presented to the U.S. public as a menace to all who cherish freedom, or a necessary instrument in the “liberation” of Syria.  Orwell would no doubt feel at home is such a world.

In lieu of serious inquiry and honest reporting, the U.S. establishment media instead busies itself with baseless repetitions of the tired mantra that Assad’s days are numbered—the “liberation” of Aleppo and Damascus imminent.  As the New York Times reported this weekend, such folly is also ripe within the very nexus of empire.  As the paper revels, the Pentagon and U.S. State Department, “mindful of American mistakes following the invasion of Iraq in 2003,” are in the midst of hurriedly planning for a post-Assad Syria.  (No doubt, Washington planners will use their inevitable “mistakes” in Syria when planning the post-Khamenei Iran.)

Such dreams of Assad’s imminent fall, however, belie reality.

In a rare report by a Western journalist actually on the ground in Damascus, Austin Tice reported for McClatchy that government forces retain a firm grip on the city.

“Finding myself in the capital,” Tice writes, “made me re-evaluate the rebels’ prospects for a victory soon. The city is huge, just huge, and seizing it will be an enormous undertaking.”

Instead of an impending triumph for Syrian “freedom” to come at the hands of U.S. military might, in reality Syria appears set for a protracted, foreign-infused bloodletting.  One would be wise, then, to heed the warning of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov issued all the way back in April.

“It is clear as day that even if the opposition is armed to the teeth,” Lavrov remarked, “it will not defeat the Syrian army, and there will simply be slaughter and mutual destruction for long, long years.”

The destruction of the Syrian state and the slaughter of its people, however, do not represent the grisly “collateral damage” of U.S. imperial ambitions, but rather a principal aim.  After all, a fragmented and war-ravaged Syria presents nothing less than a strategic victory of sorts for Washington in its larger preoccupation with weakening Syria’s regional ally, the Islamic Republic of Iran.  And any opportunity to target Iran, no matter the costs in human life and misery for the Syrian people, is to be taken.

As former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy coolly argued in a New York Times op-ed earlier this year: “The current standoff in Syria presents a rare chance to rid the world of the Iranian menace to international security and well-being.”

And so with the dream of ultimately purging the “Iranian menace,” Washington wildly stokes the Syrian inferno.

Ben Schreiner is a freelance writer based in Oregon.  He may be reached at bnschreiner@gmail.com or via his website.