What’s really happening in Syria? Each one of the riots during the called “Arab spring” stated several claims buried and were catalyzed by different methods. But behind the scene, major power of international geopolitical are rearranging pieces on the chessboard of the Middle East.
The main Islamic partner of the United States, Europe, and under the table Israel, is the medieval monarchy of Saudi Arabia, which explains the Western inaction over atrocities committed within its territory and the repression that caused dozens of deaths in its direct intervention against the Shiite uprising in Bahrain.
Given the same scenario, French President Nicholas Sarkozy threatened Syria with military action in same way that the axe of US, UK, France and Italy holds against Libya.
The "humanitarian war" doctrine, presented to the world Clinton during the '90s, is applied to the civil conflict in Libya and probably Syria, but not to the foreign repression in Bahrain or the desperate Palestinian situation.
On January 14 protest began in Syria in a small southern city, Deraa, when young men were arrested for painting slogans against the regime of Bashar al-Assad. This triggered protests in Homs, Hama and Banias.
Then overcame a repression with dozens of deads. UK and France promote a Security Council of the United Nations condemnation could be the first step to an intervention such as they perpetrated against Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, but they found the resistance from Russia, Brazil, India and South Africa.
But why Syria? Because Damascus is the main ally of Iran and virtual guarantor of Lebanese sovereignty against the perpetual threat of an Israeli intervention, as happened in 2006.
In 2009, US financed the installation in London of the main satellite television channel for Syrian opposition to al-Assad regime, Barada TV. The Washington Post journalist Craig Whitlock reported that a Wikileak’s cable reveals that the State Department had been funding since 2006 the Movement for Justice and Development based in UK’s capital with at least six million dollars[i]. Barada TV, in the hands of this group, increased its emissions to convey the protests in Syria.
On Thursday, August 18, President Barack Obama asks for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s resignation[ii]. It wasn’t the only interference in destabilizing the Syrian regime. In early August, the Attorneys Office in Lebanon raised allegations against Wasim Tamim, Tamim and Ahmad Samir Qabri for smuggling weapons from Israel to Banias’ port in Syria for arming the insurgents, according consigned the Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar[iii]. According to prosecutors, the smugglers would be linked to the Future Movement of former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, supported by the United States and Saudi Arabia.
Dmitry Rogozin[iv], the Russian ambassador at NATO claimed that the military alliance plans an intervention to overthrow Bashar al-Assad from Syrian government as part of a larger campaign that would include other stage on Yemen for the ultimate goal: Iran.
Al Qaeda presence in Syria is discussed but there has been talk of a sort of relationship in which Bashar al-Assad would not act against them as they only restrict their operations to Iraq. Although the Syrian regime confession is Alawite, an offshoot of Shia Islam, the al Qaeda elements crossing into Iraq are aimed at Shia communities supported by Tehran that represents the hardest political opposition to U.S. presence.
While al Qaeda elements fights in Libya supported by the United States, France, Italy and UK to overthrow Muammar al-Gaddafi, the successor to Osama Bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri gave his support to Bashar al-Assad’s opponents seeking to overthrow him[v].
It must be said that the doctrine of al Qaeda is based on Wahhabism professed by the Saudi monarchy, faced with Gaddafi as with everything related to Iran.
In November 1970 the Baath Party’s head and Syrian air force, general Hafez al-Assad led a coup d’Etat. Confession Alawite, rooted of Shiite Islam, Hafez was the first non-Sunni leader in Syria seeking a secular state. The Constitution promulgated in 1973 stipulated that the presidency could be exercised by anyone, regardless of their confession. This triggered protests in the city of Hama, a Sunni core where the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood were founded during the '60s.
Tensions worsened in 1976 when Hafez introduced Syria in the Lebanese civil war on the christian Maronite side against leftist Muslims and the Palestinians, and also ordered the arrest of the imam of Hama, Marwan Hadid who recruited students for Muslim Brotherhood. Hadid began a hunger strike and died in June of that year. To avenge Hadid in 1979, a radical group attacked a military academies in Aleppo where majority was Alawites, killing eighty-three of them.
Escalation of violence would be unstoppable. In March 1980, president’s brother Rifaat al-Assad ordered to take by assault a village near Latakia and Aleppo where martial law was imposed and executed over two hundred villagers suspected of being part, collaborating or sympathizing with the Muslim Brotherhood while twenty-five thousand troops entered in Aleppo requisitioned house by house and arresting eight thousand inhabitants. Three months later the response resulted in an attempt to assassinate Hafez who miraculously escaped a grenade attack. The government responded with a new order of Rifaat, this time entering commands in Tadmur prison, killing among five hundred to a thousand of the Muslim Brotherhood followers, whose membership a few weeks later would be punishable by death by a law enacted on 7 July of that year.
The bleeding caused by the government had its mirror in a series of killings of officials and relatives of Hafez al-Assad, who decided to show his strength, ordered to take Hama city, capital of Islamist opposition, in April 1981. Syrian army entered without resistance and perpetrated a massive slaughter of men of all ages, with at least a hundred casualties, although several witnesses talks over several hundred.
The Muslim Brotherhood began to carry out bombings across Syria, the most spectacular held in Damascus on November 29, 1981 when a car bomb kills two hundred and five hundred injured.
Muslim Brotherhood's assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat woke the worst fears on Syrian regime that retook Hama city in February 1982 after a week of resistance: among ten thousand and twenty thousand people suspected any connection or sympathy with the Muslim Brotherhood were massacred at will.
Historian Eugene Rogan[vi] in his great book "The Arabs” says that because of the setbacks in Egypt and Syria, the Muslim Brotherhood were forced to move their projects to other Islamic countries, first to Lebanon, where Israel and the U.S. had interests in the civil war, and Afghanistan, occupied by the Soviet Union in 1979. The conflict began to move into the global sphere.
During Lebanese civil war a significant number of countries were directly and indirectly involved headed by some Europeans, United States, Syria, Iran and Israel and tangentially Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Libya, all sending financial and military support to factions involved. Hafez al-Assad sent a peace force under the Arab League to ensure the safety of the christian Maronite minority, but in fact he was trying to prevent that any faction gain a decisive power on the others, which explains the constant change of alliances, apparently contradictory, and finally supporting the Lebanese Shiites, the largest and poorest community perpetually marginalized of the country’s politics decisions.
The keystone of Syrian and Lebanon’s Shiite alliance came back to 1976 when Imam Musa al-Sadr joined Shiite communities in the Movement of the Disinherited, where after the civil war began the militia Amal was born, breaking his alliance with the leftist muslims of Kamal Yumblatt, leader of National Movement. The Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979 inspired the Lebanese Shiites who started to receive unprecedented support from Tehran. And Iran found a place to export its revolution and extend their influence as other Shiite regions as southern Iraq, Bahrain and eastern Saudi Arabia.
Although Iraq was an ally of the Soviet Union, when Saddam invaded Iran in September 1980 in a conflagration that would last eight years in 1982 Baghdad began to receive support in arms, funding from the United States, turning Tehran’s hostility deeper with Washington, a conflict would spread on Lebanon.
Even when Syria is a secular state and Iran an Islamic republic, the pragmatism forged an alliance against common threats that headed by the United States, Israel and Iraq. With a different foreign of the rest of the Arabs states, Syria supported Iran during the war against Iraq, and in exchange Iran provided financial and military support to Damascus.
The Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon in 1982 would definitely shape the triangle between Syria, Iran and Lebanese Shiite as keystone.
On June 3, 1982 a suspicious operation happened involving the United States, Iraq and Israel on one side and Syria with Iran on the other. That day, occurred a failing attempt to assassinate Shlomo Argov, Israeli ambassador in London by Abu Nidal’s Palestinian group, financed by Saddam Hussein during the second year of war against Iran. In just 72 hours Israel launched "Operation Peace for Galilee" and invaded Lebanon executing a plan that was evidently prepared in advance, with the excuse to expel the PLO. The best known event was massacres of Sabra and Shatila refugees’ camp.
Probably never be known if this was a coordinated intelligence plan, but had it all the ingredients. Abu Nidal was faced with the PLO leaded by Yasser Arafat, and acted by Saddam Hussein, who received financial and military support of the United States. The intent to assassinate the Israeli ambassador in London triggered the Israeli invasion of Lebanon on June 6 to expel the PLO (which had been accomplishing a ceasefire with Israel for a year) and try to force a withdrawal of the Syrian troops, at that time, Iran's only ally.
Israel had just signed an agreement with Egypt and with the invasion of Lebanon, Prime Minister Menachem Begin and his Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, also try rising the power to Bashir Gemayel, leader of right-wing Christian Maronite Falangist party, financed with a hundred million dollars and provided with weapons and military training in Israeli soil to their militias. The Israeli tour in Lebanon left 18,000 casualties and 50,000 injured almost all civilians.
After the assassination of Bashir by a Christian Maronite militant of the Syrian Nationalist Social Party, opposed to collaboration with Israel, ended with his brother Amin Gemayel elected for president by the Lebanese parliament. Although he was closer to Syria, the U.S. and Israel forced him to shameful peace agreement on May 17th, 1983 signed with half country occupied by the Israeli army. Lebanon, ravaged by the military power of the first, had to accept the inclusion in the National Army of a Christian militia trained and financed by Israel.
One of the articles forced Syria's withdrawal as a prerequisite for the Israeli withdrawal. Syria was not consulted on this point that would leave Lebanon under Israel’s tutelage changing the whole balance of power. Resumed a civil war in which they were Shiite militias with Syria, Iran and the Soviet Union behind, and Israel with the United States supporting the Falangist and others militias with their military power and presence.
Of the Israeli invasion resulted in the appearance of training camps in the Bekaa Valley, in organized by Iran's Revolutionary Guard members to train Shiite resistance movement Hezbollah. Paradoxically, the Shi’a population of southern Lebanon was refractory to PLO presence because their operations against Israel since 1969 had caused several retaliations. Deputy-General Secretary of Hezbollah Naim Qassem said that "due to feeling of hostility that some residents of southern Lebanon had developed towards the Palestinians, the Israeli invaders were welcomed, amid shouts of joy and handfuls of rice."[vii] The Israeli occupation of Lebanon putted Yasser Arafat and the PLO on exile, but now Hezbollah was the resistance organization that unlike the Palestinians, they were defending their own soil receiving the support of major portions of Lebanese people.
Israel's presence on Lebanon until May 2000 exacerbated the feelings against Tel Aviv. But Syria's departure would be a bit more complicated.
In June 2000, few weeks after the Israeli withdrawal of Lebanon, Hafez al-Assad died in Damascus and was succeeded by his son Bashar, the only candidate promoted by the Baath party. Bashar made an unprecedented twist. After constant changes of allegiance of his father Hafez, Bashar always will support Shiite militias and consolidated Syrian alliance with Iran.
Syrian stays for another five years in Lebanon, but the withdrawal would be forced by the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The Lebanese opposition accused Damascus of being behind the attack, backed by an intense U.S. diplomatic offensive over Syria.
Saudi Arabia’s shadow flied over Lebanese political life supporting factions opposite of Shi’a resistance movement, in collaboration with the Mossad as in the case of Shiite cleric Sayyed Mohammad Ali al-Husaini, captured in April 2009 accused of working for Israeli intelligence and financed by the Saudi monarchy[viii].
The terrorist attack on Rafik Hariri occurred during his lower point in his relations with Syria, but he always maintained close ties with Damascus and Hezbollah anyway. Arabia and the United States became the main support of the shaky leadership of Saad Hariri.
Israel received the benefits and Tel Aviv saw the 14,000 Syrian troops withdrew from Lebanon after Damascus and Beirut signed a commitment to defense and intelligence cooperation is still in effect since 1991.
The Syrian withdrawal left Lebanon in great weakness. On July 12, 2006 two Israeli soldiers were captured by Hezbollah in the border of Aita al-Chabba village, used to demand the release of Arab prisoners from Israeli jails. But Tel Aviv said the militia had crossed the northern border, but Israeli government consider that it wasn’t a terrorist act but an aggression of other sovereign state, so Prime Minister Ehud Olmert launched "Operation Just Reward" with an attack on Lebanon by land, air and sea, destroying Lebanese infrastructure reconstructed after years of civil war.
The destabilization of Syria prepares the scene for similar action that overthrew the Muammar al-Gaddafi’s regime in Libya, with repeated threats from France, Britain and the United States against the government of Bashar al-Assad.
At the same time, Israel threatened a military confrontation with Syria if the UN approves the creation of a Palestinian state, fearing that the refugees will cross the border from Syria to take the Golan Heights, part of Syrian territory seized by Israel[ix].
Other future conflictive issue in the volatile Israel-Lebanon relation will be on the gas field founded at the sea on the non-defined borders that Tel Aviv claimed because it would alleviate their dependence on supplies from Egypt.
Covert operations were ready to commit two simultaneous coups in Libya and Syria, but the first one was aborted by Gadaffi detaining his Air Defense Colonel Adballah Gehani, who had met with French officials and businessmen in Benghazi on November 18, 2010, in a plan carried out by the DGSE (French secret services) and with the assistance of Mesmari Nouri, Gadaffi’s former chief of protocol who defected to France on October 6, 2010.
When coup d’Etat plan on Libya were exposed, Western intelligence agencies involved (Italy, France, Britain and the U.S.) shows the uprising in Benghazi as part of the “Arab Spring”.
In Syria Western intelligence failed contacting army officers capable to start a coup against Bashar al-Assad and launched riots in Sunni enclaves, precisely in the same cities were the Muslim Brothers faced Hafez al-Assad in the ‘70s.
The Muslim Brothers played key roles in the Tunisia, Egypt and Syria uprising. In the mid '40s MI6 (British intelligence) supported the brotherhood, that wouldbegin to be financed by the CIA in the '50s, as revealed by former agent William Baer, to overthrow Nasser, who had close ties with the Soviet Union. The Brotherhood supported the fall of Mubarak, and also the continuity of the regime under a military junta.
Samir Amin categorically says that "the great hope of the United States is the Muslim Brotherhood."[x] He did so in relation to the Egyptian revolt, but is transferable to the brotherhood’s network.
Wasn’t coincidence that the revolt in Syria began in the region of Deraa may receive supplies from the Golan and Jordan. Syrian protests occur primarily in border towns and not in Damascus, a big difference to demonstrations in Tahrir Square in Cairo, or in the Manama’s Pearl Sqare.
There is a big in Syrian situation with Gadaffi. Bashar al-Assad was practicing ophthalmology in London when he was called to take power after his father’s death to avoid a war among the generals of the Baath Party, and Bashar build a huge popular support. But the State Department and the corporate mainstream media use the same manipulation manners used during the coup against Hugo Chavez in Venezuela in 2002. It’s the same media silencing the brutality and corruption, dictatorships and monarchies in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Morocco, Jordan, Iraq, Afghanistan and permanent violations of human rights on Palestinians by Israel.
The propaganda campaign against Syria, who accepted a multiparty system, aims damage the regime's image in the world to justify the freezing of Syrian bank assets to cause an economic collapse that generates popular discontent.
In both Libyan and Syrian operations proliferated twitter and blog accounts of alleged citizens in perfect English writing to communicate to others Arabic-speaking fellows. The most prominent case was the "Amina’s blog" describing the terrible sufferings of a lesbian living in Syria and moved to Internet users around the world and jumping to international news networks. Surveys showed that the blog was made by a 40 years old propagandist in the United States, and Syrian opposition activist.
Throughout this game one of the strongest players is the main ally of the United States and Israel: the reigning monarchy in Saudi Arabia, the Al Saud. The Wahhabian regime has in the Islamic Republic of Iran for their main antagonist in both political, religious, economic and military fields, and works in alliance with Tel Aviv and Washington to face all the resistance movements that could threats their own hegemony.
A fundamental aspect of the Saudi alliance with Washington is the power of the monarchy inside OPEC. The only political opposition and economic importance of Arabia in the select club of oil producers are Iran and Venezuela, both opponents of Washington.
The Saudi lethal against these countries is to increase oil production unilaterally collapsing oil prices worldwide, benefiting mainly the U.S. and the European Union and direct impact on GDP Venezuela and Iran, as it did in June 2011 raising the production to ten million barrels a day.
Historical enemy of the Saudi monarchy was precisely Muammar Gaddafi, in a troubled relationship in which the Arabs have accused the Libyan leader to plan an attack Prince Abdallah bin Abdelaziz[xi], who led the break in diplomats relations on December 2004.
Turkey is the other player gaining a major role in the region, active NATO member participating in operations in Libya. In a internal process that includes Islamist parties in democratic life, Turkey began to play a central role to neutralize the influence of Iran in Islamic countries Turkmen, Caucasian and over Syria strongly supporting the opposition to Bashar al-Assad.
Going through the background, a new action over southern Lebanon by Israel, with the destabilization and possible invasion of Syria, or a forced regime change to reorient its foreign policy guided by NATO as it was implemented in Libya will leave Iran without regional allies and surrounded by U.S. Fifth Fleet patrolling the Persian Gulf and stationed in Bahrain, and the military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Speak for themselves the words emanating from the United States as Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman that years ago proposed military action against Iran[xii]. Or those of Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense of the United States stating on March 25, 2011 that there were three regimes in the Middle East should be condemned: Libya, Syria and Iran. One was overthrown, the second wobble.
[i] “U.S. secretly backed Syrian opposition groups, cables released by Wikileaks show”, The Washington Post, Apr 18,2011
[ii] “Obama calls for Syrian president to step down”, The New York Times, Aug 18, 2011
[iii] Al Akhbar, Aug 14,2011
[iv] Nato plans campaing in Syria, tightens noose around Iran, RiaNovosti, Moscú, Aug 5,2011
[v] CNN, 28/07/2011.
[vi] Rogan, Eugene, Los árabes, Crítica, Barcelona, 2010, p.638
[vii] Qassem, Naim, Hizbullah: the story from within, Saqi, London, 2005, p.88
[viii] Haaretz, 01/06/2011
[ix] La República, México DF, 11/08/2011
[x] Samir Amin: “Washington apuesta a los Hermanos Musulmanes”, Sur, Buenos Aires, 05/06/2011
[xi] EFE, 22/12/2004
[xii] CBS, Face the Nation, Feb 11, 2009