Hidden History of Syria Regime Collapse Strategy Begins to Emerge

Loyal readers of CounterPunch knew the skinny as it happened, three years ago and the Western media is now playin’ catch up.

From the Guardian:

Russia proposed more than three years ago that Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, could step down as part of a peace deal, according to a senior negotiator involved in back-channel discussions at the time.

Former Finnish president and Nobel peace prize laureate Martti Ahtisaari said western powers failed to seize on the proposal. Since it was made, in 2012, tens of thousands of people have been killed and millions uprooted, causing the world’s gravest refugee crisis since the second world war.

But he said that the US, Britain and France were so convinced that the Syrian dictator was about to fall, they ignored the proposal.

As the Guardian ruefully points out, most of the quarter-million fatalities and millions of refugees were generated after early 2012.  The total death toll in early 2012 was…less than 10,000.

Also consider this an instance of neoliberal ass-covering, as if the Western allies were just waiting for Assad “to fall.”

I guess now the “foreign backed insurrection worked so well in Libya and only Russian and Iranian support is standing in the way of an identical democratic nirvana in Syria” alternative history has exploded, it’s time for Plan C a.k.a. “the toothpaste is going BACK IN THE TUBE, people” (Plan A the optimistic “indigenous democracy movement will take down Assad while we cheer from the sidelines and provide just a teensy bit of arms & support” stance of 2011, Plan B being 2012 to date “the jihadis will lick Assad with a big assist from us you betcha.”)

Nope, the full story of Syria in 2012 includes multiple sins of commission, not just omission, chief among them promoting a strategy of foreign-backed insurrection that tossed most of Syria and its people into a meatgrinder for three years…without bringing down Assad.

The facts that the domestic insurrection had failed in late 2011 (with the crushing of resistance in Homs) and that the EOA (Enemies of Assad i.e. the GCC, Turkey, the US, and its EU pilotfish) had switched to a strategy of externally supported regime collapse was clear to objective observers as it happened.As evidence, I reference two pieces of mine.  The first one, from one from November 2011, The Syrian Revolution Hijacked, mordantly concludes:

The democratic revolution ship has sailed.  What’s going on today is a foreign-supported insurrection.

The Syrian revolutionaries were too weak to get the nation they wanted.

They’ll have to make do with whatever state that Turkey, the Gulf powers, and the western democracies decide to give them.

It also includes a sinister cameo from Victoria Nuland, a guest appearance Islamist muscle imported via Turkey, and a startling prescient prediction by M. Badhrakumar concerning a possible Turkish incursion into northern Syria.

The second piece, July 17, 2012: the Day America Exited the 9/11 Era…By Entering an Alliance with Al Qaeda, uses recent tittle tattle to update a piece I wrote in 2012 a week after a botched decapitation strike/regime collapse operation pushed by the United States.

To placate the TL;DR crowd, here’s the main takeaway from that piece:

July 17, 2012, the day the US, Europe, Turkey, and the GCC optimistically thought they could wrap up the Syria crisis in a few weeks with a well-timed campaign of terror and insurrection starting in Damascus.

Recently, a Beirut based newspaper, As-Safir, published a report on the July 2012 bombing (not aerial bombing, a C4 boobytrap) that wiped out Bashar al-Assad’s “security cell” a.k.a. his national security team during their daily strategy session in Damascus.

As translated by an outfit called Mideastwire, As-Safir claims the bombing was a decapitation strike as part of an elaborately choreographed scheme by the U.S. to collapse the Syrian government and military and smooth the way for a drive on Damascus by the Free Syrian Army and the elevation of defecting general Manaf Tlass (who possessed limited capacities beyond a firm jaw well suited to Churchillian cigar-clenching but was adored by the French, perhaps because his socialite sister had allegedly been the mistress of a French foreign minister) to the presidency.

I am inclined to believe As-Safir, apparently a lefty, Syria-friendly outfit with a large circulation, because shortly after the bombing I drew the same conclusion, immortalized in my July 28, 2012 piece for Asia Times Online:

[A] funny thing happened last week. The Assad regime didn’t collapse, despite an orchestrated, nation-wide assault (coordinated, we can assume, by the crack strategists of the international anti-Assad coalition): a decapitating terrorist bombing in the national security directorate, near-simultaneous armed uprisings in the main regime strongholds of Damascus and Aleppo, and the seizure of many of Syria’s official border crossings with Iraq and Turkey.

This piece also features a rather farcical cameo by Juan Cole.

As the anti-Assad front cracks, I think we’ll see more of these sorts of reports leaking out, albeit framed as classic passive voiced “Assad didn’t collapse” instead of “a massive West-supported regime-collapse effort failed completely to dislodge Assad while destroying Syria so now it’s time to cut our losses, ignore responsibility,and MOVE ON.”

Ironically, of course, these reports will be leaking out in outlets like the Guardian, whose fact-and-logic-challenged cheerleading for the collapse strategy will probably remain unexamined.

My personal feeling is that most of the EOA including President Obama have grown tired of the game and would like to wind it down.  Even the GCC, hemorrhaging from self-inflicted oil war and Yemen invasion wounds, may be willing to give the anti-Assad jihad a rest.  Among governments, Turkey looks like the last “Assad must go” outlier in the official coalition, as part of its apocalyptic high-stakes anti-Kurd policy in northern Syria.

But then there’s Israel.  I suspect hardliners in Israel, the US natsec establishment are still holding out for a military solution not just because they HATE ASSAD but because stringing out the Syria crisis offers the most effective way to drive wedges between the West and Russia and, more importantly Iran.

The hardliner/Likud Middle East policy is based on maintaining the Iran vs. civilization existential threat dichotomy, which is threatened by President Obama’s efforts at rapprochement via the nuclear deal…and the wholesale stampede of European powers eager to shed the sanctions incubus and do more business with Iran, which is (ironically, if you want to put it that way) the only reasonably stable, war-free oil power in the Middle East.

The best way to keep Iran on the other side of the fence from the West, in other words, is to sidetrack any talk of peace/transition negotiations, sustain the assault on Assad, and elicit ever more overt and off-putting support from Russia and Iran (which see the possibility of closing the books on the Syria adventure and are determined to keep Assad hanging on).

At the very least, a second win for Iran (in Syria) is forestalled.  At best, during an escalating crisis, Iran gets painted as an enemy of all that’s good and decent and the wheels are pulled off the nuclear deal buggy—by instituting new US sanctions against Iran, perhaps, which is apparently seen as a dealbreaker.

Enough predicting.  Time will tell, I guess.

Peter Lee is creator of the Patreon Peter Lee’s China Threat Report.