FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Red Lines Drawn with Syrian Blood

by MUSA al-GHARBI

It doesn’t matter whether or not Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons. The US and its allies are likely to carry out an attack on Syria in the very near future; the reasons for this have nothing to do with the recent incident in Ghouta.

In response to the chemical attack in April of this year, two months later the United States declared that the al-Assad regime had crossed its “red line” and began to provide arms to the rebels. They provided enough assistance to complicate the regime’s campaigns in critical areas, but not nearly enough support to allow the rebels to march on Damascus.

According to The Washington Post, this policy was decided weeks before the reports of chemical weapons use had surfaced; in fact, CBS News reported that these efforts were already underway before the chemical attacks occurred—they were merely stepped-up in June. That is, the reports of chemical weapons use in Syria were used as a pretext to justify a deeply unpopular decision the Administration had already committed to.

There were a number of serious problems with the Obama Administration’s case against al-Assad. Having reviewed the evidence of the US and its allies, the UN declared it to be unconvincing and ordered their own investigation into the incident. Subsequently, their chief investigator would claim that the evidence strongly suggested that it was the rebels who carried out the attack.

This should not have been surprising—al-Qaeda has a history of resorting to these tactics, and the means, motive, and demonstrated intent to do so. The attacks were small-scale, using a chemical agent that the organization is known to possess. Moreover, the attack was carried out on an area which was actually under government control at the time, rather than a rebel-held area. 

The evidence was so strong against the White House narrative that the only people to endorse their account were those previously committed to intervention (France, the UK, Israel, the monarchs). And even though many of the Administration’s claims regarding this incident have been proven problematic, at best—in an Orwellian fashion, the White House continues to put forward their narrative without any regard for the facts, and without tempering their claims at all in light of subsequent evidence.

The Administration’s response to the latest incident has been equally disturbing. After demanding a UN investigation, following al-Assad’s surprise decision to facilitate the inquiry (claiming he could prove the attack was carried out by the rebels)—the US and its allies expressed a total disinterest in whatever the investigation may find and indicated that they were not going to wait around for the results. They never intended to: it was their hope that al-Assad would play into their narrative by obstructing the investigation—this would allow the US to assert “he must have something to hide,” and more easily presume guilt in the absence of evidence.  Astonishingly, they have decided to stick to this course despite al-Assad’s compliance.  

The allied powers are already positioning their naval assets in anticipation of surgical strikes (despite the fact that the architect of this plan has since come out against it); the United States is preparing 20,000 soldiers for deployment into the Syrian theater although the Administration does not have Congressional approval  to engage (rendering the White House’s actions legally questionable). The UK has drafted a UNSC resolution blaming al-Assad for the attack and sanctioning violence as a response, declaring their intention to strike even without a UN mandate (i.e. in violation of international law), regardless of the ongoing UN investigation, and in defiance of warnings by the UN special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi (fortunately, the British Labour Party has interfered with this plan, at least temporarily).  

What’s the rush? As they say, timing is everything.

The Obama Administration’s previous decision to arm the rebels came just after the fall of the pivotal city of al-Qusayr, as the Syrian Army was preparing for a major campaign to purge Aleppo of rebel forces. At the time, Saudi Arabia and France argued vehemently that some kind of immediate intervention was needed to interrupt these efforts, which were otherwise likely to be successful—and devastating for the rebellion. This new chemical weapons incident just happened to occur at a moment when the regime is on the verge of a general de facto victory over the insurgency while the world’s attention was focused primarily on the unfolding crisis in Egypt.

It is disquieting that these chemical weapons incidents happen to occur at times when the rebels are in their most desperate need of foreign intervention, which also happen to be the times when it would make the least sense for the regime to resort to these tactics. Apparently, this trend does not worry the Obama Administration, who claims there can be “no doubt” that al-Assad carried out the attack. And even though by its own account of the events, the Syrian Ministry of Information was outraged by strike, which the state did not authorize, the Administration has been labeling the incident as a provocation which demands “punishment.”

All of this suggests rather strongly that policy is informing the Administration’s evaluation of intelligence, rather than having the intelligence guide its policies. We saw the same trends in the lead-up to the war in Iraq, with the White House calling the intelligence on Hussein’s WMD’s a “slam dunk.”

Then, as now, the truth or falsity of these claims is irrelevant.

Even if no chemical weapons had been deployed in the Syrian theater by anyonegiven the dynamics of the conflict, the Administration would be using some other means of justifying intervention. Much like R2P, the “War on Terror,” or spreading “democracy/ human rights,” WMD claims are used almost exclusively to justify interventions against “inconvenient” actors. Western powers are more than happy to cooperate with agents carrying out the very atrocities they are condemning when geopolitically expedient (consider for a moment that Saudi Arabia is one of the primary allies “bringing democracy” to Syria); when there is little to gain from an intervention, they are eager to turn a blind eye to astonishing human suffering. The ideologies are used to justify rather than determine policy.

The arguments derived from these tropes are typically heavily-reliant on sketchy and politicized intelligence, exaggerated claims, empty rhetoric, and at times, outright lies. Syria is a prime example of these trends: the popular discourse of the conflict is the virtual antithesis of what seems to be happening on the ground.

But even in those cases where the accusations are more-or-less true, one cannot lose sight of the fact these intercessors are not acting out of altruism, but are exploiting others’ tragedy and horror in the service of their own geopolitical ends. Often more lives are lost under R2P than stood to be lost without intervention, greater oppression follows Western “liberation,” greater atrocities unfold as a result of Western “punishment” for “crimes against humanity,” more extremists are created as a result of the “War on Terror.” But it is irrelevant whether or not the espoused “moral” end is achieved, as long as the geopolitical aim is successful.

As the Obama Administration has made abundantly clear, the impending Western strikes in Syria will not be aimed at deposing al-Assad. The goal is not to resolve, but to perpetuate the conflict. It is unacceptable to Western policymakers that al-Assad emerge victorious in the conflict, as he stands poised to do in the near-to-medium term. However, a rebel victory is not a plausible option at the moment either—even if the US agreed to a Libya-style intervention (insofar as “victory” is understood as liberal or West-compliant factions of the rebels being able to effectively seize, wield, and maintain power and legitimacy in the aftermath of al-Assad being deposed). So because the “right” people are not able to win, the goal is to prevent anyone from prevailing.

The strategy will allow Hezbollah, the Syrian Army, and al-Qaeda to tear one-another down, too consumed by the conflict with one-another to pose a meaningful threat to the West, its allies, or its interests. Simultaneously, the “allied” forces will attempt to build up the capacity of the “good guys” until they are capable of rendering a more acceptable military solution viable. Finally, laboring under the delusion that “equalizing force” will somehow bolster rather than prevent a negotiated settlement, they will also continue their inconsistent and half-hearted pursuit of a diplomatic resolution—even as they continue to undermine these efforts by insisting that the President step down as a precondition to talks.  One way or another, the war will not be permitted to end unless and until the US achieves its goal.

Of course, this strategy is incalculably devastating to the people of Lebanon, Syria and the greater region—but that is of little concern.  Just as geopolitical interests trump “intelligence,” they trump morality as well.

Musa al-Gharbi is a research fellow with the Southwest Initiative for the Study of Middle East Conflicts (SISMEC); he has a MA in philosophy from the University of Arizona. You can follow him on Twitter @Musa_alGharbi.

More articles by:

Musa al-Gharbi is a cognitive sociologist affiliated with the Southwest Initiative for the Study of Middle East Conflicts (SISMEC), where this article was originally published; readers can connect to al-Gharbi’s other work and social media via his website: www.fiatsophia.org

Weekend Edition
November 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Thank an Anti-War Veteran
Andrew Levine
What’s Wrong With Bible Thumpers Nowadays?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The CIA’s House of Horrors: the Abominable Dr. Gottlieb
Wendy Wolfson – Ken Levy
Why We Need to Take Animal Cruelty Much More Seriously
Mike Whitney
Brennan and Clapper: Elder Statesmen or Serial Fabricators?
David Rosen
Of Sex Abusers and Sex Offenders
Ryan LaMothe
A Christian Nation?
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Finger on the Button: Why No President Should Have the Authority to Launch Nuclear Weapons
W. T. Whitney
A Bizarre US Pretext for Military Intrusion in South America
Deepak Tripathi
Sex, Lies and Incompetence: Britain’s Ruling Establishment in Crisis 
Howard Lisnoff
Who You’re Likely to Meet (and Not Meet) on a College Campus Today
Roy Morrison
Trump’s Excellent Asian Adventure
John W. Whitehead
Financial Tyranny
Ted Rall
How Society Makes Victimhood a No-Win Proposition
Jim Goodman
Stop Pretending the Estate Tax has Anything to do With Family Farmers
Thomas Klikauer
The Populism of Germany’s New Nazis
Murray Dobbin
Is Trudeau Ready for a Middle East war?
Jeiddy Martínez Armas
Firearm Democracy
Jill Richardson
Washington’s War on Poor Grad Students
Ralph Nader
The Rule of Power Over the Rule of Law
Justin O'Hagan
Capitalism Equals Peace?
Matthew Stevenson
Into Africa: From the Red Sea to Nairobi
Geoff Dutton
The Company We Sadly Keep
Evan Jones
The Censorship of Jacques Sapir, French Dissident
Linn Washington Jr.
Meek Moment Triggers Demands for Justice Reform
Gerry Brown
TPP, Indo Pacific, QUAD: What’s Next to Contain China’s Rise?
Robert Fisk
The Exile of Saad Hariri
Romana Rubeo - Ramzy Baroud
Anti-BDS Laws and Pro-Israeli Parliament: Zionist Hasbara is Winning in Italy
Robert J. Burrowes
Why are Police in the USA so Terrified?
Chuck Collins
Stop Talking About ‘Winners and Losers’ From Corporate Tax Cuts
Ron Jacobs
Private Property Does Not Equal Freedom
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Mass Shootings, Male Toxicity and their Roots in Agriculture
Binoy Kampmark
The Fordist Academic
Frank Scott
Weapons of Mass Distraction Get More Destructive
Missy Comley Beattie
Big Dick Diplomacy
Michael Doliner
Democracy, Real Life Acting and the Movies
Dan Bacher
Jerry Brown tells indigenous protesters in Bonn, ‘Let’s put you in the ground’
Winslow Myers
The Madness of Deterrence
Cesar Chelala
A Kiss is Not a Kiss: Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children
Jimmy Centeno
Garcia Meets Guayasamin: A De-Colonial Experience
Stephen Martin
When Boot Becomes Bot: Surplus Population and The Human Face.
Martin Billheimer
Homer’s Iliad, la primera nota roja
Louis Proyect
Once There Were Strong Men
Charles R. Larson
Review: Mike McCormack’s Solar Bones
David Yearsley
Academics Take Flight
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail