FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The US Has Given Up on the Overthrow of Assad

Photo by thierry ehrmann | CC BY 2.0

It will be called the great betrayal. And it was a long time coming. But the grim message from Washington to the anti-Assad fighters of southern Syria – that they could expect no help from the West in their further struggle against Assad’s regime or the Russians – will one day figure in the history books. It’s a turning point in the Syria war, a shameful betrayal if you happen to belong to the wreckage of the “Free Syrian Army” and its acolytes around the city of Deraa, and a further victory for the Assad regime in its ambition to retake all of rebel Syria.

Already Russian missiles and Syrian bombs are embracing the countryside south and east of Deraa and outside Quneitra and Sweida after the opposition fighters refused a negotiated peace last week. Refugees are again fleeing the towns. But the words of the American message to the fighters, seen by Reuters and so far not denied by the US, are both bleak and hopeless: “You should not base your decisions on the assumption or expectation of a military intervention by us … We in the United States government understand the difficult conditions you are facing and still advise the Russians and the Syrian regime not to undertake a military measure that violates the [de-escalation] zone.”

When Washington “understands the difficult conditions” its militia allies are facing and says it “advises” the Russians and Syrians not to violate a ceasefire – which was Moscow’s idea in the first place – you know that the Americans are pulling the carpet from beneath another set of allies.

But the US also realises that its millions of dollars worth of training and weapons have been passed on to al-Nusra – aka al-Qaeda of 9/11 infamy – and that the Nusra front holds villages and positions within the area outside Deraa nominally held by those well-known “moderates” of the FSA (whose mythical strength, you may remember, was once put at 70,000 by one David Cameron).

Neither the Hezbollah nor the comparatively fewer Iranian Revolutionary Guards appear to be involved in the battle for southern Syria; and be assured that the Americans and the Russians – and thus the Syrian government – have agreed that this should be a Russo-Syrian offensive. Both Vladimir Putin and whoever thinks they speak for Donald Trump will have assured the Israelis that this will be an internal battle and will not endanger the Israeli-occupied Syrian Golan Heights. The so-called Military Operations Centre in Amman – its acronym “MOC” almost sums up its ambitions – is supposed to arm and finance the group of militias still fighting in north of the Jordanian border. But no more, it seems.

The Israelis have hitherto attacked Syrian and Iranian targets in Syria – but never the cult-Islamist Isis executioners nor Nusra/al-Qaeda. US policy, despairing of ever “collapsing” Assad, now appears to have given up on the armed opposition to the Damascus government, presumably advising Israel that a return to the status quo on Golan which existed before the Syrian war – where Israeli and Syrian forces were separated by a UN buffer zone – is preferable to risking a shootout with Iran or, indeed, with the Syrian army.

The MOC, according to a former opposition fighter in Damascus, chose to control all rebel activities – in theory, the “FSA” – and specifically refused help four years ago when fighters in the capital sought mortars and artillery to assault the presidential palace. The MOC officers – a British major and a Saudi officer, according to the source – offered only a resupply of small arms. But this was only a warning of things to come. The Kurds have since learned what this means in the north of Syria.

They, of course, have twice supped from the vile chalice of betrayal. Kissinger served it up to them when he made peace between Saddam Hussein and the Shah of Iran in 1975, cutting off a $16m (£12m) CIA operation to help the Kurds assault the Iraqi dictator. Then the Americans watched Saddam destroy the Kurds in 1991 after telling them to rise up against the Baghdad regime following the liberation of Kuwait.

Syria fears that the Israelis will now create their own “buffer zone” below Golan, similar in style, weaponry and ruthlessness to Israel’s former occupation zone in southern Lebanon. This lasted for 22 years, but fell to pieces when Israel’s local Lebanese militia, the South Lebanon Army – as inefficient, untrustworthy and occasionally as fictitious as the “Free Syrian Army” – retreated along with the Israelis in 2000.

Across the map of Syria, however, it is the West’s power which now appears to be in retreat. If it is prepared to turn its back on its erstwhile allies in southern Syria and in the north, then Russia is the winner (as well as Assad) and all the eggshell militias which remain – in Idlib, along the Turkish border and certainly in the south, are doomed. The instruction from the US to its allies outside Deraa – “surrender” might sum it up best – may be presented as a small victory: Washington can claim to have kept Iran away from Israel. But it will also mean that America and Nato have given up on the overthrow of the Assad family.

More articles by:

Robert Fisk writes for the Independent, where this column originally appeared. 

September 24, 2018
Jonathan Cook
Hiding in Plain Sight: Why We Cannot See the System Destroying Us
Gary Leupp
All the Good News (Ignored by the Trump-Obsessed Media)
Robert Fisk
I Don’t See How a Palestinian State Can Ever Happen
Barry Brown
Pot as Political Speech
Lara Merling
Puerto Rico’s Colonial Legacy and Its Continuing Economic Troubles
Patrick Cockburn
Iraq’s Prime Ministers Come and Go, But the Stalemate Remains
William Blum
The New Iraq WMD: Russian Interference in US Elections
Julian Vigo
The UK’s Snoopers’ Charter Has Been Dealt a Serious Blow
Joseph Matten
Why Did Global Economic Performance Deteriorate in the 1970s?
Zhivko Illeieff
The Millennial Label: Distinguishing Facts from Fiction
Thomas Hon Wing Polin – Gerry Brown
Xinjiang : The New Great Game
Binoy Kampmark
Casting Kavanaugh: The Trump Supreme Court Drama
Max Wilbert
Blue Angels: the Naked Face of Empire
Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Brad Evans
What Does It Mean to Celebrate International Peace Day?
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will Their Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
Louis Proyect
Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9”: Entertaining Film, Crappy Politics
Ramzy Baroud
Why Israel Demolishes: Khan Al-Ahmar as Representation of Greater Genocide
Ben Dangl
The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Revolutionary Theories and Anticapitalist Dreams of Subcommandante Marcos
Ron Jacobs
Faith, Madness, or Death
Bill Glahn
Crime Comes Knocking
Terry Heaton
Pat Robertson’s Hurricane “Miracle”
Dave Lindorff
In Montgomery County PA, It’s Often a Jury of White People
Louis Yako
From Citizens to Customers: the Corporate Customer Service Culture in America 
William Boardman
The Shame of Dianne Feinstein, the Courage of Christine Blasey Ford 
Ernie Niemi
Logging and Climate Change: Oregon is Appalachia and Timber is Our Coal
Jessicah Pierre
Nike Says “Believe in Something,” But Can It Sacrifice Something, Too?
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
Weaponized Dreams? The Curious Case of Robert Moss
Olivia Alperstein
An Environmental 9/11: the EPA’s Gutting of Methane Regulations
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail