Syria

A lot of the media coverage of the current situation in Syria is complete drivel which is often just regurgitating the crap spouted by politicians.

This is not a full analysis of what is going on in Syria but there are a few points I would like to make. Personally I ignore what is said by most ‘journalists’ on the subject but find that Robert Fisk1 and Patrick Cockburn2, although I do not necessarily agree with all that they say, do at least know where Syria is on a map.

First of all I wish to point out that I believe that the Assad regime is quite brutal and I would be happy if it was overthrown by an popular uprising of the Syrian people. Although there were such elements initially they have been overtaken by something very different – externally paid, funded and armed groups seeking to take power3,4 and impose their own dictatorship.

The USA 2006 Cable

For a long time Syria has been cast as part of the ‘axis of evil’ and part of the US plan for widespread regime change. As early as 2006 the US had plans to destabilise the Assad regime5. This included getting the regime to ‘overreact’ to exaggerated threats. As is the Ukraine the US could argue that they had plans and that what eventually happened was in line with those plans could just be coincidence.

Any Dog Can Turn When Threatened

It is easy for our leaders to criticise people such as Assad but would their morals be any different if the very existence of their regime was threatened. Let us say, hypothetically, that a leader in the UK was democratically elected and wanted to do things such as stop the privatisation of the NHS, get rid of our weapons of mass destruction etc and was therefore a threat to the national security6 Say this leads to a military coup7. If people took to the streets would they be shot – yes. Would they use drone strikes to take out the ‘domestic extremists’ – yes.

Moderates

It has been known, from at least 2012 that most of the weapons sent to Syria have ended up under ISIS control8. and the ‘moderate’ Free Syrian Army regularly work with ISIS9. The US has trained some moderates – four or five of them!10

So despite knowing for over three years that the arms and support the ‘moderates’ are receiving is going to ISIS it continued.

What is the political platform of these ‘moderates’ – a free open democracy, rights for women, gays and lesbians? Exactly who are we supporting? Are they the same sort of corrupt warlords that the USA/UK supported in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya? After defeating the enemy (ISIS or Assad) will the various heavily armed warlords just start fighting each other as they have done in Afghanistan and Libya?

Russian Involvement

Russia has been involved in Syria long before the current crisis. Just because Russia supports Assad does not necessarily mean that they like him or that they will continue to support him11 – in the same way that the UK/USA supported Saddam and Gaddafi. Russia is doing it to further their own regional interests.

A lot of the media and politicians express shock and surprise at the Russian involvement but Putin has been arguing for a united front (including Assad) against ISIS for a long time. At the beginning of September 2015 he suggested that Assad was willing to power share and that the international community should act together against ISIS11. This was reiterated at the UN at the end of September. Without a positive response from the USA there was little reason to wait before taking action.

It would be wrong to think that Russia is acting alone. Russia, Iran, Iraq and Syria have agreed to establish a joint information centre in Baghdad to coordinate their operations12. Putin has also been holding talks with the Israelis13. Parts of the Free Syrian Army and the Kurds have also welcomed Russia’s involvement14,15.

Russia has been involved Iraq for quite a while. Initially Iraq was going to get USA F-16 aircraft. However, mainly due to the ISIS offensive and the risk to US contractors that would maintain the aircraft, the US has prohibited transfer of the planes to Iraq and instead sent them to Tucson, AZ, where the Iraqi pilots are being trained16. Russia was less cautious and supplied the Iraq air-force with Su-25s17.

Understandably not everyone is happy with Saudi Clerics calling for Jihad against Assad, Russia and Iran in Syria18.

Religious and Ethnic Divides

An important part of the conflict is the religious and ethnic divides in the area. Having said this I do not believe in ‘The Clash of Civilizations’ (a well written book but very flawed book19) or that different religious/ethnic groups cannot live together. The simple and obvious fact is that for most of the time they do, however, these differences can be used to divide and conquer. This was one of the possible tactics the USA suggested to weaken Assad in the leaked cable I referenced earlier5.

I also think that Islam cannot be blamed for ISIS any more than Christianity can be blamed for Hitler.

Syria is mainly (over 70%) Sunni but Assad is an Alawite (a sect of Shia). Not all the Sunnis are Arabs with a sizeable minority being Kurds. North West Iraq which is another ISIS held area is also mainly Sunni.

The funding and arming of ISIS has been through various outside interests including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey20,21,22. Turkey has even been caught transferring weapons to ISIS23.

Turkey has also been using the conflict to attack the Kurds24,25 who are a major force in countering ISIS. Although not totally on this topic I think the following video is worth watching26

Bombing Will Not Bring Peace

The US/UK bombing of ISIS is having very little affect28 and although the Russian bombing may have more affect since it is backed up by ground forces it is unlikely that it will succeed in quelling the unrest in Sunni areas – even if  these areas are taken back militarily it could lead to a long guerilla war.

Although I do not like ISIS it may not be practically possible to destroy it without massive loss of life to those that we claim to be ‘saving’. It is also important to realise that when roads and other infrastructure is bombed this does not just affect ISIS but the whole of the population in the area.

Senior Taliban in USA to discuss oil pipeline in 1997

Senior Taliban in USA to discuss oil pipeline in 199729

There may be those who say that we ‘cannot sit back’ and allow ISIS to continue. However, the USA/UK has only sat back and in some cases actively supported states with similar human rights records.


 

1 Robert Fisk (http://www.independent.co.uk/author/robert-fisk)

2 Patrick Cockburn (http://www.independent.co.uk/author/patrick-cockburn)

3 Syria despatch: rebel fighters fear the growing influence of their ‘Bin Laden’ faction, Daily Telegraph, 13 Oct 2012 (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/9606691/Syria-despatch-rebel-fighters-fear-the-growing-influence-of-their-Bin-Laden-faction.html)

4 Arms Airlift to Syria Rebels Expands, With Aid From C.I.A. New York Times, MARCH 24, 2013 (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/25/world/middleeast/arms-airlift-to-syrian-rebels-expands-with-cia-aid.html?pagewanted=all)

5 Influencing The SARG In The End Of 2006, Wikileaks (https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/06DAMASCUS5399_a.html)

6 David Cameron claims Jeremy Corbyn is a ‘threat to national security’, Independent, 13 September 2015 (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/david-cameron-claims-jeremy-corbyn-is-a-threat-to-national-security-10498651.html)

7 ‘We won’t stand for it’: Army top brass warn there will be a MUTINY if Jeremy Corbyn becomes Prime Minister, Daily Mail (I don’t often reference this rag but in this case it seamed appropriate), 20 September 2015 (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3241904/We-won-t-stand-Army-brass-warn-MUTINY-Jeremy-Corbyn-Prime-Minister.html)

8 Rebel Arms Flow Is Said to Benefit Jihadists in Syria, New York Times, OCT. 14, 2012 (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/15/world/middleeast/jihadists-receiving-most-arms-sent-to-syrian-rebels.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0)

9 Rebel leader supported by the West admits he fights alongside Al-Qaeda, Russia Today, 3 Apr, 2014 (https://www.rt.com/news/rebel-syria-leader-alqaeda-097/)

10 US has trained only ‘four or five’ Syrian fighters against Isis, top general testifies, The Guardian, 16 September 2015 (http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/sep/16/us-military-syrian-isis-fighters)

11 Russia says Syria’s Assad ready to share power, Reuters, 4 September 2015 (http://uk.reuters.com/article/2015/09/04/uk-russia-forum-putin-extremism-idUKKCN0R408Y20150904)

12 Russia, Iran, Iraq & Syria setting up ‘joint information center’ to coordinate anti-ISIS operations, Russia Today, 26 September 2015 (https://www.rt.com/news/316592-russia-syria-islamic-state/)

13 Russia and Israel cosy up over Syria, The Economist, 30 September 2015 (http://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21669563-though-opposite-sides-syrian-conflict-binyamin-netanyahu-and-vladimir-putin-agree)

14 Free Syrian Army Command Asks Russia for Help Against ISIL, Sputnik News, 5 October 2015 (http://sputniknews.com/middleeast/20151005/1028038570/syria-fsa-command-asks-russia-for-help.html)

15 Kurds Want Russia’s Help in Fight Against ISIL, Nusra Front, Sputnik News 1 October 2015 (http://sputniknews.com/military/20151001/1027821354/Kurds-Want-Russian-Help-in-Fight-Against-ISIL-NusraFront.html#ixzz3o5TkENcg)

16 U.S. Delays Delivery of F-16 Fighter Planes to Iraq, The Wall Street Journal, 11 November 2014 (http://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-to-send-fighter-plans-set-for-iraq-to-arizona-1415646012)

17 How Putin outmaneuvered the US in resupplying the Iraqi military, Yahoo News, 9 July 2014 (http://news.yahoo.com/how-the-u-s–is-letting-russia-beat-them-to-the-punch-on-military-aid-to-iraq-203343350.html#)

18 Saudi Clerics Call For Jihad Against Assad, Russia and Iran in Syria, Newsweek, 6 October 2015 (http://europe.newsweek.com/saudi-clerics-call-jihad-against-assad-russia-iran-syria-334184)

19 The Clash of Civilizations: And the Remaking of World Order, The Clash of Civilizations: And the Remaking of World Order, Samuel P Huntington, 2002

20 Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country, The Independent 13 July 2015 (http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/iraq-crisis-how-saudi-arabia-helped-isis-take-over-the-north-of-the-country-9602312.html)

21 War with Isis: If Saudis aren’t fuelling the militant inferno, who is?, The Independent, 4 February 2015 (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/war-with-isis-if-the-saudis-arent-fuelling-the-militant-inferno-who-is-10024324.html)

22 Turkey and Saudi Arabia alarm the West by backing Islamist extremists the Americans had bombed in Syria, The Independent, 12 May 2015 (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/syria-crisis-turkey-and-saudi-arabia-shock-western-countries-by-supporting-anti-assad-jihadists-10242747.html)

23 Exclusive: Turkish intelligence helped ship arms to Syrian Islamist rebel areas, Reuters, 21 May 2015 (http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/05/21/us-mideast-crisis-turkey-arms-idUSKBN0O61L220150521)

24 Kurdish civilians under fire as Turkey bombs PKK in Iraq, Reuters, 20 August 2015 (http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/08/20/us-mideast-crisis-iraq-kurds-idUSKCN0QP1N320150820)

25 Turkish Troops Enter Iraq in Pursuit of Kurdish Rebels, New York Times, 8 September 2015 (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/09/world/europe/turkey-pkk-bombing-police.html?_r=0)

26 BBC Our World – Rojava  : Syria’s Secret Revolution (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKhjJfH0ra4)

27 Iraq Syria Background, Peter Lux (http://www.plux.co.uk/iraq-syria-background/)

28 Despite bombing, Islamic State is no weaker than a year ago, Associated Press, 31 July 2015 (http://bigstory.ap.org/urn:publicid:ap.org:990c86ba77604586a8a9e1bf5396cec1)

29 Taleban in Texas for talks on gas pipeline, BBC, 4 December 1997 (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/west_asia/37021.stm)

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