Long before the US and Russia stood on the precipice of all out war over the conflict in Syria; before Russia became the only world power backing the security forces of Syrian President, Bashar Al Assad’s regime; even before images of thousands of Syrian refugees taking to boats in the Mediterranean hoping to escape Syria’s dissension into lawlessness dominated the nightly news – long before any of this madness, Syria was a relatively quiet nation with a democratically elected leader.
The seeds of the current conflict were born on the heels of the Arab spring in that time period just after Osama Bin Laden was killed. Since then we have been told that what started as peaceful protests by displeased Syrian citizens has five years later become a brutal civil war. But according to the displaced Syrian themselves, what is actually happening is a foreign invasion disguised behind a false notion of democracy and aided by the fact that most people in the west can’t tell the difference between a Syrian, Lebanese, Saudi, Yemeni or Israeli .
The troubles started on March 15th 2011 and from the beginning of the coverage by the MSM, it was postulated that Bashar Al Assad had launched a brutal campaign of violence against peaceful protesters. Syrian police reports however, state that in the days before the protests began, caches of American and Israeli made satellite phones and weapons were confiscated in Northern Syria. Suggesting that the protests planned had an element of organization and was not going to be peaceful.
On that day, 7 Syrian policemen were killed and government buildings were bombed by the so called peaceful protesters. Slowly, these reports and others came in highlighting Assad’s brutality against his own people. Hindsight has shown us that several of the incidents from that period which, in the west, fomented the idea of Assad as a brutal dictator – turned out instead to be blatant propaganda against him. To date more than 1000 Syrian policeman have lost their lives in the conflict.
On May 11th 2011, BBC world news and an ABC affiliate in Australia both presented a video purporting to show Syrian civilians captured and killed by the Syrian Army. The video goes on to show some of the survivors being beaten.
Two days later, both news services were forced to take down the video when it was revealed that the security forces in the video were not wearing Syrian Army uniforms and their accents were from Northern Lebanon. It was also noted that a car shown in the video had a Lebanese license plate. It was proven that the video was actually from 2008 during the May 7th attacks in Beirut and the security forces shown were actually Hezbollah and Amal and not the forces of Bashar Al Assad.
In another report from 17th September 2011, reporting the funeral of Zainab Al Husni, who was allegedly killed and dismembered by Syrian security forces. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, both reported the incident claiming to have ‘overwhelming evidence’ that the Assad security forces were responsible for her death.
On the 4th of October 2011 however, Zainab Al Husni would go on Syrian Television to proclaim that she was alive, exposing Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch as either complicit in the campaign to demonize Bashar Al Assad or dangerously negligent in fact checking. The Syrian TV broadcast was never shown on western media.
On 13th November, 2001 Al Jazeera reported the Syrian Army was accused of killing ten-year-old, Sari Saoud. In the report it was claimed that the child was murdered by the Syrian army. In the accompanying video, the grieving mother can be seen crying over the dead body of her child.
Yet in another report of the same event, broadcast on Syrian television, the same woman is shown at a later time crying and being consoled by family members – a voice off camera asks,
“Who did this?”
The woman replies that it had been bullets from inside the neighborhood. She also stated,
“If the Syrian army had been here, this would not have happened”
The woman is then challenged by the voice off camera,
‘’But Al- Jazeera reported that the Syrian Army killed your son”
At that point the woman becomes overcome with grief; claiming,
“The army is not even in the neighborhood, the army would have protected my son. They took the Army out of the neighborhood and the armed gangs started killing people the next day’’
In western societies where the nuances of Middle Eastern features and languages is largely unnoticed – reporting an act of terror as coming from one group when it is in fact the act of another is dangerous and immoral. Not just because it is blatant disinformation but someone not familiar with those cultures would have little chance of learning the difference in time to catch the lie.
Instead we have rarely seen an interview with a Syrian where they are asked explicitly who they think is behind the madness. I submit that if the media were to ask them, we in the west might learn that the people of Syria don’t believe that government forces are fighting against their interests. And that the ‘’Syrian rebels’’ referred to by members of the US government are actually foreign mercenaries sanctioned by the United States, funded by Saudi Arabia and Qatar and serving the interests of Israel.
From 2011, Syrian people have fled their homes to avoid the onslaught from these alleged ’Syrian rebels’ While various names of groups have been presented as defenders of the Syrian people. Names like the Al Nusra Front and Free Syrian Army were repeated in the MSM only until it became known that they were in fact taking orders from Saudi Arabia or Qatar. At which point another group is brought forward with the same media fanfare of a Broadway production.
The latest edition to this is the ‘’White Helmuts’’ a group of volunteers purporting to be helping the Syrian people by running humanitarian operations in areas that are either empty of Syrians or are under ISIS control. This group has been known for just under three weeks but has achieved status enough to warrant a Netflix documentary on their efforts and a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. They claim to be unarmed and impartial but closes observers are wary of reports that the group has strong ties to al-Qaeda and the Al Nusra Front. Other’s doubt their sense of timing.
A 6 panel delegation from the US Peace Council (USPC) recently returned to the US from a fact finding mission to Syria. The members spent 6 days meeting with Syrian Government Officials including, President Assad, Union Leaders, Government Opposition Members as well as Civil & Business Leaders, NGO’s, Charities and Universities. At a press conference held at the United Nations on September 9th 2016 – Madelyn Hoffman, delegation member and Executive Director of New Jersey Peace Action stated that,
“This is not a civil war. It is not President Assad against his own people. It is President Assad and the Syrian people, all together, in unity, against outside forces, outside mercenary forces, terror organizations, the names change every day or every other day, to try to protect their identity, and maybe keep the connection between the country that funded it and that group, kind of a little bit more nebulous, but there are groups, mercenary forces, supported by Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United States, and underneath it, Israel, the state of Israel.’’
It has been estimated that Saudi Arabia has funded the insurgency to the tune of 500,000 million dollars a year and that Israel provides operational support to groups fighting the Assad regime. Henry Lowendorf, Member of the Executive Board of the US Peace Council and Head of the Syria Delegation also added,
‘’That while the United States would like to divide the Syrians up, by religion or within a religion — by the different beliefs within that religion. There wasn’t a Syrian we talked to who would accept that’’
Madelyn Hoffman further stated that she believed the policy of regime change as defined by the UN is illegal and that the US has no right to force its Middle East policy on to the Syrian people. She went on to comment,
‘’When the US wanted Saddam to go, he fell like that. When we wanted Libya’s dictator to go, he fell like that. But when the US decided it was time for Assad to go, he did not fall”
A reason toppling Assad’s government is proving difficult for the foreign entities invested in doing so could be because Syria’s population of 23 million, consisting largely of Muslim, Christians and Kurds – during better times enjoyed free top-level healthcare and free education all the way to university under his regime. This was despite crippling US sanctions against the once self-sufficient nation. Sanctions described by an internal assessment by the UN published on 29th September 2016 as, exceptionally harsh “regarding provision of humanitarian aid.”
So what then is at play here? Israel’s deteriorating relationship with Iran may be the key. Syria is an ally of Iran and a fractured Syria poses less threat to Israel, in the event and likelihood of a future invasion of Iran by Israel or the US. As such, the motivation for the United States to be so interested in the downfall of Syria makes little sense to the passive observer unless you consider this strategy within the greater context of what has been called ‘’The Oded Yinon Plan”
In February 1982, an article published in the journal Kivounim by former Israeli Foreign Ministry official Oded Yinon – called for the securing of Israel as the single regional power in the Middle East by a balkanization of the Arab nations surrounding it. Namely: Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Libya and Iran. The strategy insisted that Israel re-configure its geo-political environment by breaking up the Arab states around it into smaller and weaker states and creating an area of Israeli territory stretching from the Nile in Egypt to the Euphrates in Iraq. The areas of this map that covers Iraq and parts of Syria are currently ISIS held territory. The article also stated that Iraq should fall first.
The existence of this plan might have normally have fallen into the realm of geopolitical conspiracy theory except that it sets out a plan that has been eerily congruent to events that have already happened in the middle east since the early 1990’s. Confirming what many in the US and EU have believed since the first gulf war; that US Foreign policy in the middle east isn’t to secure the US but to secure Israel. It is important to note that while many Americans support the US’s commitment to Israel’s security, many also believe that Israel’s illegal occupation of the West Bank, and its actions toward the people of Gaza, is the singular greatest barrier preventing a lasting security from taking hold in its borders.
But the realities can not be denied. Iraq is now a divided nation of Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites and poses no sustainable threat to Israel. The most recent invasion of Lebanon by Israel was in 2006. Libya, once a haven of terrorism, has fallen into a disarray since its 2011 invasion led by the US. It is beginning to look like Syria is next. The one difference being that Iraq and Libya were Arab nations led by actual dictators whose people wanted to see go. According to a Le Figaro poll released on October 15th 2015, four years into the Syrian conflict, over 70% of Syrians want Bashar Al Assad to remain in power.
Many also questioned Israel’s motives when it became known that Israel provided medical treatment to injured fighters from the Al-Nusra Front – a branch off of al-Qaeda and one of the groups currently battling Syrian government forces along Israel’s northern border with Syria.
The disclosure of this support seemed a contradiction to Israel’s legitimate security concerns regarding terrorism or support for terrorism. It is often espoused by Israeli officials that some of the policies against Palestinians are aimed at ensuring that terrorist elements do not take hold in its Palestinian population. The second intifada of the 90’s saw a horrific campaign of public bus bombings kill hundreds of innocent Israeli citizens. The recent waves of lone-wolf type terror attacks against civilians and Israeli soldiers have left many Israelis worried that a third intifada may be under way. So why then help known terrorists who may one day turn their guns on you?
When asked about this, former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy, told Al Jazeera’s Mehdi Hasan that,
‘’It’s always useful to deal with your enemies in a humane way”
Halevy went on to say that he would not support the same treatment of wounded Hezbollah fighters because Israel had been targeted by Hezbollah, but not specifically targeted by al-Qaeda or its branch off The Al-Nusra front. This is in spite of the Times of Israel reporting on July 21st of 2016, elements of al-Qaeda had called for lone-wolf terror attacks against Americans and Israelis at the Rio summer Olympics.
Israel is also an ally of the US and benefits from an estimated 10 billion dollars annually in various types of US aid. Israel and Syria have a history of animosity that goes back to the six day war when five Arab nations (including Syria) attacked Israel in 1967. The Golan Heights, captured by Israel during that war is another point of current contention with Syria. But in 2010 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held secret meetings with the regime of Bashar Al-Assad to resolve the decades old issue of returning the Golan Heights to Syria. The meetings were cut short by the Arab spring which had then spread into parts of Syria. Fighting for control of the Golan Heights broke out again in late summer of 2016.
To suggest Syria would one day randomly attack Israel knowing that to do so would incur the wrath of the American military is a stretch of the imagination. The only way Syria would attack Israel is if Israel attacked Iran. Iran is the strongest nation in the ME and poses a credible threat to Israel. Israel has stated that it cannot accept a nuclear powered Iran in the region and to combat this, would consider a pre-emptive strike on its nuclear facilities.
If this were to happen, Syrian missiles could have overloaded Israel’s iron dome defense shield and land in Israeli cities. Israel cannot live with this specter. To Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, a nuclear powered Iran poses an existential threat to Israel. Other nations, including Russia, would disagree on the severity.
On March 15th 2015, in an unprecedented move, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu broke protocol by bypassing President Obama to deliver an address directly to the US congress warning the US of nuclear powered Iran.
This move angered many who felt it was yet another example of American foreign policy being dictated by the needs of Israel over the needs of America. At the address Netanyahu received 26 standing ovations. Many pundits were quick to point out that the American Israel Public Action Committee (AIPAC) actively donates to the congressional campaigns of many members of congress and is the second largest PAC in American politics.
The geo-political chess game currently happening around Syria continues on with the US laying the ground-work for a future Invasion of Iran. Some in Israel welcome this as they view Iran to be a key sponsor to the terrorism that has plagued its borders since its independence in 1948, yet not all Israelis hold such hawkish views on the Iran issue and by extension, the current conflict in Syria. A growing number of people from the Israeli security establishment, Including former Shin Bet head, Yuval Diskin have voiced criticism of Benjamin Netanyahu’s and his Likud Party’s ultra-hawkish stance on Iran.
“I have observed them from up close … They are not people who I, on a personal level, trust to lead Israel to an event on that scale and carry it off … They tell the public that if Israel acts, Iran won’t have a nuclear bomb. This is misleading. Actually, many experts say that an Israeli attack would accelerate the Iranian nuclear race.”
Diskin said at a press conference in 2012.
Loyalists to Israel’s current ruling party have often labeled those who call the Likud Party’s activities into question as someone who wishes to see the destruction of Israel. They will claim that such people believe Israel shouldn’t exist. I find this to be categorically untrue. Instead, I submit that no rational student of geopolitics can deny the need for the world to have a Jewish homeland. With the humble caveat that all nations should find security through dialogue, understanding and mutual respect, rather than exclusively through the weakness of its neighbors. Israel has a right to exist, and so does Syria.