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Let’s be clear, we have been interfering in Syrian politics since before the Assad regime ended the US ‘Political Action Teams’ instigated cycle of coups. Remember when Macmillian and Eisenhower plotted to assassinate Syrian leaders and arm the Islamists in 1957? George Bush only intensified this fervour in his redirection of foreign policy, one that saw a destabilized Syria as an avenue to an undermined Iran. It was about pipelines then and it’s about pipelines now.
London and Washington have not been too innovative about how they go about regime change. 70 planeloads of weapons heads over from March 2012 to April 2013, compliments of Qatar, plus a Gulf style allowance for the ‘opposition’; British troops join the US to train, arm and give intelligence to ‘moderate rebels’; Turkey, Jordan and Saudi join the chorus of ‘he’s gone too far’. Tired tried and tested tactics that read like a big screen political thriller.
As soon as Syria told the world that its drought, of the 1 in 115 year kind, is set to cause ‘social destruction that will lead to political instability’, we got to work on how to utilize this, as US army reports from 2008 demonstrate. Let’s take a moment to acknowledge the inherent sickness of that aim. In 2011, the year of the uprising, Assad took a big gamble and his opposition is still set to make a big gain.
Qatar, keen to enter the European gas market via its North Pars gas field, approached Syria to establish a pipeline, Assad declined. Instead, Syria signed a memorandum of understanding with Iran to start building the Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline from Iran’s South Pars gas field. This might have something to do with the billions of dollars in arms and funding that Qatar flooded into the uprising.
GCC, the Gulf wing of NATO, not long after crushing the Bahraini revolution, set its sights on the downfall of Assad. NATO training facilities were established along the Turkish Syrian border and the Petro-Monarchs ensured a constant flow of foreign money and weapons from Jordan and Lebanon.
Iran was about to lose its left hand, and the all-feared Shia Crescent was set to implode, but then, to nobodies surprise, it turned out our rebels were not so moderate after all, western involvement went underground. Our good pal Saudi Arabia put the infamous Prince Bandar to work, financier of Bin Laden and close friend of Dubya Bush, he set his sights on rapid regime change. After pleading to Russia to realign, and failing, Bandar did what he does best, he facilitated the Islamists, and they moved.
Al-Qaeda affiliated Jubhat-al Nusra surfaced as a major recipient of all those weapons; Al-Qaeda in Iraq rebranded as the Islamic State of Iraq and began their ambition to add an S to their name. The irresponsible tactics of NATO in USA and Libya created a double blowback, disenfranchised Sunni ‘Sons of Iraq’ joined ISI left, right and centre, and hordes of Jihadists and arms from lawless Libya entered Syria. ISI quickly became ISIS, which quickly became IS, which meant the revolution became the civil war.
Syrian refugees in Turkey. Photo: Joshua Virasami.
Renowned Middle East analyst Seymour Hersh wrote last year how following allegations of chemical weapons attacks, a ‘monster attack’ was planned by the USA, intended to shock and awe Syria. Advisors called it off at minutes to midnight; Hersh suggests it is because the US knew that countries that were pushing it to intervene might have orchestrated the chemical attacks. The B52 bombers unloaded their 2000-pound artillery and the tomahawk missiles went back to sleep, but we never stopped intervening.
In this age, where cyber attacks are considered acts of war, let us make no qualms in recognizing that the USA, Britain, France and the rest of it’s Gulf allies, in their attempts to undermine the regime, have repeatedly breached Syria’s sovereignty. We have intervened in the Syrian uprising from the offset, the same way we did in Libya, and the same way we did in Bahrain. We have held no regard for the ambitions of freedom died for by ordinary Syrians, instead we have crushed them.
Oil and gas have blinded our reason. 1 million Iraqi’s died from our invasion, 200,000 Syrians have perished in the civil war, largely because, as Cheney stated, the black stuff is the prize in the Middle East. Whoever has political control over which way the gas flows continues to hold the hegemonic cards, since Iran sits on a vast amount of blue gold, it has long been in our sights. The ‘industrial’ in the military-industrial complex is the only winner from war. The oil companies who draw up PSE contracts, the arms companies who finalise death deals.
Just like the colonial French, we have made it our business to stress ethnic disputes, to play on the Sunni-Shia cold war, to resurrect old grievances and effectively, to play with human lives as you would board pieces. Rarely does there exist independent factors in a war, from the mundane to the glaringly obvious it is all interrelated, and in mundane to glaringly obvious ways we have contributed to the destabilisation of the Syrian state.
Our collective shrug will no longer suffice. Calling upon our leaders will no longer suffice. We must take to the streets, stay in the streets and take a leaf from the Ploughshares and Catholic Workers resisters who, combined with the million person marches, brought the establishment to its knees.
Joshua Virasami is a musician, photographer and journalist, who just returned from a trip to the Syrian border.