For Whom the Syrian Bell Tolls


The top geopolitical tragedy in 2012 is bound to remain the top geopolitical tragedy in 2013: the rape of Syria.

Just as once in a while I go back to my favorite Hemingway passages, lately I’ve been going back to some footage I shot years ago of the Aleppo souk – the most extraordinary of all Middle Eastern souks. It’s like being shot in the back; I was as fond of the souk’s architecture as of its people and traders. Weeks ago, most of the souk – the living pulse of Aleppo for centuries – was set on fire and destroyed by the “rebels” of the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA).

In this Syrian tragedy, there is no Hemingway young hero, no Robert Jordan in the International Brigades fighting alongside  Republican guerrillas against the fascists during the Spanish Civil War. In the Syrian civil war, the international brigades are mostly of the mercenary, Salafi-jihadi, beheading and car-bombing type. And the (few) young Americans in place are basically high-tech pawns in a game played by the rapacious NATOGCC club (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and its Arab puppets of the Gulf Cooperation Council).

The tragedy continues. The Syrian state, political and military security apparatus will maintain its mini-blitzkriegs – with no second thoughts for “collateral damage”. On the opposing side, “rebel” commanders will be betting on a new Saudi-Qatari-encouraged Supreme Military Council.

The Salafis and Salafi-jihadis of the al-Nusrah Front – 7th century fanatics, beheading enthusiasts and car-bombing operatives who do the bulk of the fighting – were not invited. After all, the al-Nusrah Front has been branded a “terrorist organization” by Washington. 

Now check the reaction of a Muslim Brotherhood (MB) bigwig, Hama-born deputy comptroller general Mohammed Farouk Tayfour; he said the decision was “too hasty”. And check the reaction of the new Syrian opposition leader, Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, at a “Friends of Syria” meeting in Morocco; the decision must be “reexamined”. Virtually all “rebel” outfits publicly declared their undying love for the hardcore al-Nusrah.

So with the al-Nusrah fanatics probably disguising their Islamically correct beards under a prosaic hoodie, expect plenty more “rebel” advances on Damascus – despite two major beatings (last July and then this month), courtesy of Syrian government counter-offensives. After all, that lavish training by US, British and Jordanian Special Forces has got to yield some results, not to mention the loads of extra lethal weapons provided by those paragons of democracy in the Persian Gulf. By the way, the al-Nusrah Front controls sections of devastated Aleppo.

Sectarian Hatred Rules

Then there’s the Orwellian, brand new National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces – a Washington-Doha co-production. Meet the new boss, same as the old (lousy) boss, which was the Syrian National Council (SNC). It’s just rhetoric; the only thing that matters for the “National Coalition” is to get more lethal weapons. And they love al-Nusrah, even if Washington doesn’t.

Qatar unloaded tons of weapons “like candy” (according to a US arms dealer) in “liberated” Libya. Only after the Benghazi blowback did the Pentagon and the State Department wake up to the fact that weaponizing the Syrian rebels may be, well, the road to more blowback. Translation: Qatar will keep unloading tons of weapons in Syria. The US will keep “leading from behind”.

Expect more horrible sectarian massacres as the one in Aqrab. Here is the most authoritative version of what may have really happened. This proves once again that what the NATOGCC “rebels” are actually winning is the YouTube war. So expect more massive, relentless waves of spin and propaganda – with Western corporate media cheerleading of the Syrian “freedom fighters” putting to shame the 1980s jihad in Afghanistan.

Expect more major distortions of context, as when Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said, “The fighting will become even more intense, and [Syria] will lose tens of thousands and, perhaps, hundreds of thousands of civilians… If such a price for the removal of the president seems acceptable to you, what can we do? We, of course, consider it absolutely unacceptable.”

Ergo, Russia is trying to do everything to prevent this from happening. And if NATOGCC “rebels” carry out their threats to attack the Russian and Ukrainian embassies in Damascus, they had better trim their beards and run for cover from the no-nonsense Spetnatz – Russian Special Forces.

Expect more sectarian hatred, as in Sunni Sheikh and al-Jazeera star Yusuf al-Qaradawi casually issuing a fatwa legitimizing the killing of millions of Syrians, be they military or civilian, as long as they are Alawites or Shi’ites.

Sectarian hatred will rule, with Qatar in the lead, followed by Saudis with large pocketbooks and assorted hardcore Islamists. Agenda; war against Shi’ites, against Alawites, against secularists, even against moderates, not only in Syria but all across the Middle East.

A Patriot vs Iskander face-off

The new Syrian Army strategy boils down to a major pull back from countryside backwaters and bases, concentrating their troops in cities and towns.

Expect the overall strategy of the NATOGCC club to remain more or less the same; bog down the Syrian Army in as many areas as possible; demoralize them; and keep oiling the terrain for a possible North Atlantic Treaty Organization intervention (the chemical weapons hype and the relentless carping over a “humanitarian catastrophe” are part of the extensive psy ops package).

The Syrian Army may have the heavy weapons; but when confronting a tsunami of mercenaries and Salafi-jihadists fully trained and weaponized by the NATOGCC club, the whole thing may take years, Lebanon civil war-style. That leads us to the next “best” option – which is in fact a spin-off; the death of the Syrian state by a thousand, make it a million, cuts.

What’s certain is that the “coalition of the willing” against Syria will have no trouble unraveling once the endgame is reached. Washington bets on a post-Assad regime run by the MB. No wonder King Playstation in Jordan is freaking out; he knows the MB will also take over Jordan and expel him to permanently shop at Harrods.

Those paragons of democracy – the medieval petro-monarchies in the Persian Gulf – are also freaking out; they fear the popular appeal of the MB like the plague. Syrian Kurdistan – now definitely on its way to total autonomy and eventually freedom – already keeps Ankara freaking out. Not to mention the future prospect of a tsunami of unemployed Salafi-jihadis merrily ensconced in the Syria-Turkish border and ready to run amok.

And then there’s the complex Turkey-Iran relationship. Tehran has already warned Ankara in no uncertain terms about the just-to-be-deployed NATO missile defense system.

That’s got to be the newspeak masterpiece of late 2012. Pentagon spokesman George Little has been adamant that “the United States has been supporting Turkey in its efforts to defend itself… [against Syria].”

Thus the deployment of 400 US troops to Turkey to run two Patriot missile batteries, to “defend” Turkey from “potential threats emanating from Syria”.

Translation; this has nothing to do with Turkey, it’s all about the Russian military in Syria. Moscow has given Damascus not only very effective, hypersonic Iskander surface-to-surface missiles (virtually immune to missile defense systems) but the ground-to-air, multiple target defense system Pechora 2M, a nightmare to the Pentagon if ever a no-fly zone is imposed over Syria.

Welcome to the Patriot vs Iskander face-off. And right in the line of fire, we find Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan – an outsized egomaniac harboring a deep inferiority complex in relation to the Europeans – left in the cold under NATO’s master plan.

Turkey’s Achilles heel (apart from the Kurds) is its self-promoted role of being a crossroads of energy between East and West. The problem is Turkey depends on energy supplies from both Iran and Russia; unwisely, it is antagonizing both, at the same time, with its muddled Syrian policy.

All I hear is doom and gloom.

How to solve this tragedy? No one seems to be listening to Syrian Vice President Farouk Al-Sharaa. In this interview with Lebanon’s Al-Akhbar, he stresses “the threat of the current campaign to destroy Syria, its history, civilization, and people… With every passing day, the solution gets further away, militarily and politically. We must be in the position of defending Syria’s existence.”

He does not have “a clear answer to what the solution may be”. But he has a road map:

Any settlement, whether starting with talks or agreements between Arab, regional, or foreign capitals, cannot exist without a solid Syrian foundation. The solution has to be Syrian, but through a historic settlement, which would include the main regional countries, and the members of UN Security Council. This settlement must include stopping all shapes of violence, and the creation of a national unity government with wide powers. This should be accompanied by the resolution of sensitive dossiers related to the lives of people and their legitimate demands.

This is not what the NATOGCC compound wants – even as the US, Britain, France, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are all engaged in their own divergent agendas. What the NATOGCC war has already accomplished is one objective – very similar, by the way, to Iraq in 2003; it has completely torn the fragile Syrian social fabric to shreds.

That is disaster capitalism in action, phase I; the terrain is already prepared for a profitable “reconstruction” of Syria once a pliable, pro-Western turbo-capitalism government is installed.

Yet in parallel, blowback also works its mysterious ways; millions of Syrians who initially supported the idea of a pro-democracy movement – from the business classes in Damascus to traders in Aleppo – now have swelled the government support base as a counterpunch against the gruesome ethnic-religious cleansing promoted by the “rebels” of the al-Nusrah kind.

Yet with NATOGCC on one side and Iran-Russia on the other side, ordinary Syrians caught in the crossfire have nowhere to go. NATOGCC will stop at nothing to carve – in blood – any dubious entity ranging from a pro-US emirate to a pro-US “democracy” run by the MB. It’s not hard to see for whom the bell tolls in Syria; it tolls not for thee, as in John Donne, but for doom, gloom, death and destruction.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His most recent book is Obama Does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009). He may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com

This column originally appeared on Asia Times.


Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).  His latest book is Empire of ChaosHe may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com.

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