An Israeli military commander says Tel Aviv is prepared to carry out an attack on Syria if the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad collapses.
On Wednesday, Israeli Major General Amir Eshel said the Tel Aviv regime might launch a sudden war on Syria should Damascus fall.
“We have to be ready for any scenario, at a few hours’ notice,” Eshel stated.
He also said that the Israeli regime would even prepare for a “protracted” war with a “post-Assad Syria.”
The recent Israeli threat is seen as part of the Western-backed efforts to set up the scene for a military intervention in Syria.
The Tel Aviv regime has already carried out three air strikes on Syria.
On May 5, Syria said the Israeli regime had carried out an airstrike targeting a research center in a suburb of Damascus, following heavy losses inflicted upon al-Qaeda-affiliated groups by the Syrian army. According to Syrian media reports, the strike hit the Jamraya Research Center. The Jamraya facility had been targeted in another Israeli airstrike in January.
The May 5 Israeli aggression was Tel Aviv’s second strike on Syria in three days.
Turmoil has gripped Syria for over two years, and many people, including large numbers of Syrian soldiers and security personnel, have been killed in the foreign-sponsored militancy.
Western powers and their regional allies including the Israeli regime, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are partners in supporting the militant groups in Syria.
Ankara – While all options are said to be still on the table, Barack Obama is clearly backing away from any deeper involvement in Syria now that it is clear that nothing but direct intervention is going to bring down the government in Damascus. In the past few months alone the armed groups have lost thousands of men. Although the conflict will grind on for some time yet, the Syrian military is steadily closing down the insurgency.
The sponsors of this adventure are in complete disarray. Like the Syrian National Council before it, the Syrian National Coalition has imploded. Muadh al Khatib is now a voice from the margins. Ghassan Hittu is the only person in the world who is the prime minister of a committee. These people are a completely lost cause.
In the real world and not the world of delusions there is horror at the video showing a ‘rebel’ commander cutting the heart out of the body of a dead soldier and biting into it. Perhaps it was the lungs or the liver. The media seems to be uncertain but somehow getting the organ right seems to be important. Far from denying this gory act, its perpetrator owned up to it before boasting of how he had sawed the bodies of captured shabiha into pieces.
Cannibalism appears to be a first but otherwise there is not much that the psychopaths inside the armed groups have not done in Syria. Or are people who can do such things not to be called psychopaths? They are the best people, after all, to fight such a vicious conflict. The self-styled Free Syrian Army says it will hunt down the man who cut out the soldier’s heart. Good. It can also hunt down the throat-cutters and the ‘rebels’ who have cut people’s heads off. It can hunt down the men who killed public servants before flinging their bodies from the top of the post office building in Al Bab. It can hunt down their comrades in arms who deliberately target civilians with car bombs. It can hunt down the murderers of the imam and 50 worshipers in the Damascus mosque and it can hunt down all the rapists and kidnappers, including the Chechens who abducted the two bishops still being held in Aleppo while the Christian leaders of western governments look the other way. In its hunting for all the individuals who have tainted its glorious reputation, the FSA won’t have to look far because many come from its own ranks. There is no shortage of evidence. The media is awash with gory mobile phone and video footage of the handiwork of these men because they take pride in their bravery and want the world to see. These are the people Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been arming and funding to take over Syria.
This is the reality behind the false narrative spun by the media for the past two years. It has regurgitated every lie and exaggeration of ‘activists’ and the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, according to which the Syrian ‘regime’ was about to fall any minute and every atrocity was actually the work of the Syrian military. With the exception of a few reports filed recently by Robert Fisk, virtually no one in the media mainstream has reported the fighting from the perspective of the Syrian government and army. Reporters were moved across borders by the armed groups and reported only their version of events. This is like relying on reporters embedded with the US army for an accurate account of what was happening in Iraq. And, again like Iraq, the same propaganda is being repeated about chemical weapons.
Finally, reality has had to take hold. It is not the ‘regime’ or the army which is on the point of collapse but the insurgency. Only direct armed intervention is going to save it and against the successes of the Syrian army and solid Russian support for the Syrian government this is extremely unlikely. Obama is being pushed to ‘do more’ but is showing no inclination to be sucked any deeper into this mess. The others will do nothing without the US taking the lead. Germany is against involvement and Austria has said that supplying arms to the ‘rebels’, which Britain has wanted to do, when the EU embargo ends on May 31 would be a violation of international law.
This week the spotlight has been on Turkey’s Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and his trip to Washington to discuss Syria with Barack Obama. Turkey’s role in the unfolding of the Syrian conflict has been central. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Libya supplied the money and arms but it was Turkey whose territory was opened up to the mobilization of armed men crossing the border to bring down the ‘regime.’ Erdogan has not stepped back an inch from the position he took against Bashar al Assad more than two years ago. The only clear case of a chemical weapons attack has been the chlorine-based compound packed into a warhead and fired at a Syrian army checkpoint at Khan al Assal, killing a number of soldiers and civilians. Erdogan, however, is maintaining that it is the Syrian army that has used chemical weapons and by doing so has crossed Obama’s ‘red line. ’ Asked shortly before he left for Washington whether he would support a no-fly zone he replied: ‘Right from the beginning we would say yes.’
Last week cars packed with more than one ton of C4 and TNT were exploded in the Hatay province border town of Reyhanli. At least 51 people were killed. The destruction was massive. The municipality building and dozens of shops were obliterated. In the aftermath, cars with Syrian number plates were smashed and Syrian refugees attacked by enraged local people. As they milled around the destruction they cursed Erdogan. The atrocity followed a pattern that is familiar to Syrians: one bomb going off and then others exploding after people had gathered around the site of the first one, maximizing the death toll.
Notwithstanding the accusations of the Turkish government that this was the work of a terrorist group collaborating with the Syrian mukhabarat (intelligence), only the armed groups or one of the governments backing them would have a clear reason for setting up this outrage. The Syrian army is rolling up the insurgency, the ‘traitors’ council’ based in Doha has imploded and the Americans and Russians are sitting down to talk. The attack was very clearly designed to pull Turkey directly into the conflict across the border.
The attack on Reyhanli came a week after Israel launched a series of savage air attacks on Syria. This was not a one-off missile strike. Two attacks in three days, lasting for hours and with massive ordinance being dropped around Damascus, suggest that the aim was to provoke a Syrian response, opening the door to a general war in which Iran could be attacked. Israel claimed that the target was a shipment of missiles bound for Hizbullah but while a research station and a military food production plant were hit there was no evidence of any missiles being destroyed. The attacks appear to have been a strategic and political failure. In the aftermath Putin gave Netanyahu a dressing down and punished him either by supplying or threatening to supply Syria with advanced S300 anti-aircraft missiles. It is a measure of Israel’s arrogance that it insisted that it would launch further attacks if necessary and would destroy the Syrian government if it dared to retaliate.
Obama is now under pressure at home to ‘do more’. In Washington the same people who called for war on Iraq are now calling for widening the conflict in Syria. Senator Bob Menendez, a strong supporter of Israel, like virtually all congressmen and women, has introduced a bill calling on the administration to supply the ‘rebels’ with arms (as if it were not already doing that covertly or through support for arms being supplied by Saudi Arabia and Qatar). Former New York Times editor Bill Keller supported the war on Iraq and also wants the US to arm the ‘rebels’ and ‘defend the civilians being slaughtered in their homes’ in Syria. He is not talking about the civilians who have been slaughtered by the armed groups, of course.
The Washington Post has been forced to admit that the Syrian army is winning this conflict but is still nonplussed at the unfavorable turns of events. ‘What if the US doesn’t intervene in Syria?’ it asks, before providing the answers. Syria will fracture along sectarian lines, with Jabhat al Nusra taking over the north and ‘remnants of the regime’ taking strips of the west. Sectarian warfare will spread to Iraq – as if it has not already as a consequence of US intervention – and Lebanon. Chemical weapons would be up for grabs, ‘probably forcing further interventions by Israel in order to prevent their acquisition by Hizbullah or Al Qaida’. If the US does not intervene to prevent all of this Turkey and Saudi Arabia ‘could conclude that the United States is no longer a reliable ally.’
There are other more likely answers to ‘what will happen’. This is that the Syrian army will eventually drive the surviving ‘rebels’ out of the country and Bashar will come out of this more popular than ever because he saw off the greatest challenge to the Syrian state in its history. Elections will be held in 2014 and he will be elected president with 75 per cent of the vote. This at least is what the CIA is predicting.
Erdogan came to Washington also wanting Obama to ‘do more’, but clearly the US president does not want to do much if anything more. The Turkish media reported that Obama said Assad ‘must’ go but this was not what he said. He chose his words carefully. In his press conference with Erdogan he did not say that said Assad ‘must’ go but that he ‘needs’ to go and ‘needs’ to transfer power to a transitional body. The difference is all-important. Personally, Obama will not want to end his presidency stuck in an unwinnable and unpopular war, one, furthermore, that could quickly shift from regional to global crisis. A recent Pew poll shows that the American people have had enough of wars in the Middle East and the talks between Kerry and Lavrov indicate that this time, having allowed the Geneva agreement of July, 2012, to fall flat, the US is serious about reaching a negotiated end to this crisis even if others aren’t. If there is any danger of the US position being derailed, it will mostly likely arise within the ranks of its friends and allies.
- Jeremy Salt is an associate professor of Middle Eastern history and politics at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey.
“On the latest Israeli aggression on Syria:
Unfortunately, the Israelis talked of their “enemy’s enemy” and “friend’s friend”. Isn’t the Israeli enemy the benchmark? Isn’t this rudimentary? This is part of our Islamic lexicon.
Of course there were objectives behind Israel’s attacks which it sought to realize. I want to define this reality so I can discuss the nature of the [Syrian] response and so that we can understand it.
One of its objectives, especially over the past two years— its objective and that of others— is to remove Syria from the military equation in the struggle with Zionist enemy. First of all, Syria hasn’t made a peace agreement with Israel as other Arab states have. Although there is a hudna (truce), everyone knows—the enemy knows this more than friends do—what Syria offered resistance movements for tens of years now and especially over the past few years, particularly the Palestinian and Lebanese resistance movements. If the day comes when our brothers in the Palestinian resistance will declare on their pulpits what they used to admit in private meetings, they will say that no Arab regime has offered us what the regime of Bashar al-Assad offered us.
The Israeli knows that one of the most important sources of strength for the resistance in Lebanon and Palestine is Syria. This is why they want to remove Syria from the [military] equation and they want to besiege the resistance in Lebanon and Palestine. What this siege means is that any material or moral or military support from whoever supports the resistance must end. The Israelis said they won’t allow the transfer of any weapons which could upset the balance of power with the resistance into Lebanon. Now they are saying they will prevent the resistance’s military capability from growing, meaning we won’t even allow you to increase the weapons you currently have. So they struck Damascus and its environs, in order to tell Syria—and we should read this part carefully so we understand the nature and scope of the Syrian response—that the continuation of support for the resistance and the transfer of capabilities will spell the demise of the regime and a declaration of war on Syria. Therefore, the real objective behind the latest attacks is the subjugation of Syria and breaking the will of its leadership, army and people and to permanently remove it from the resistance equation.
By the way, everything you heard in the media about 200, 300 and 400 [Syrian army] martyrs, is all lies. Unfortunately, we heard on [Arab] cable tv takbeer [cries of Allahu Akbar] and jubilation, because Israeli planes were bombing Syrian facilities or locations or bases. This is very sad. According to the reliable information I have, those killed were 4 or 5 martyrs from the Syrian army who were guarding these places.
So these were their objectives. How should one respond? First of all, one must thwart the aims of the aggression. This is the minimum response for resistance and mumana’a movements, and if possible, to turn the magic on the magician. And this is what the Syrian leadership did. There are some well-meaning people who want Syria to bomb occupied Palestine for reasons related to morale, and some hateful people who want it to bomb occupied Palestine so that war can break out between Israel and Syria and let all hell to break loose.
The first [Syrian] response: You Israelis are saying that the aim behind your aggression was to prevent the resistance’s military capability from growing, so the first response is that if you consider Syria to be a weapons’ conduit for the resistance then know that Syria will continue supplying the resistance with weapons. This is a huge strategic decision. More than this, if you are claiming that the aim behind your aggression was to prevent the resistance’s military capability from growing, then Syria will provide the resistance with game-changing weapons that it did not possess before. This means upsetting the balance of power.
Show me one Arab regime which would dare to openly supply the Palestinian resistance with so much as a rifle, let alone a game-changing rocket. And then we have a leadership which was bombed just two days ago which says I want to give them weapons they don’t even have. This is Syria’s strategic response, and it is much more significant than firing a rocket or launching an attack on occupied Palestine.
The second strategic response, which is no less important or dangerous, is to open the Golan front—opening the door to the popular resistance on the Golan front. In this war you have launched on Syria, the threat has been turned into an opportunity.
Let us set the third response aside for now. To go back to the first response, we the resistance in Lebanon announce that we are ready to receive any sophisticated weaponry even if it is game-changing and we are ready to protect this weaponry and use it to defend our people, country and sanctities.
As for the second response, just as Syria stood by the Lebanese people and supported its popular resistance materially and morally until this resistance was able to liberate South Lebanon, we in the Lebanese resistance declare that we will stand by the popular Syrian resistance and offer it our material and moral support, as well as cooperation and coordination, in order to liberate the Syrian Golan.
[Chuckling] The third response is a huge deal so we won’t discuss it now.
All the latest events and responses and positions taken by the Syrian leadership suggest that it is a leadership with nerves of steel, that it is a very wise leadership which is managing the battle with the Israelis with a strategic mind and not in an emotional or impassioned manner. This is how the resistance and mumana’a axis has foiled all schemes in the region since the 1990s.
Whoever wants to retrieve Jerusalem, whoever wants to achieve Palestinian rights and realize Palestinian aspirations, should know that this won’t be achieved in the Arab league or the UN or the Organization for Islamic Cooperation or anywhere else. The only choice has always been resistance and remains so.
Oh Palestinian and Arab people who reject Israeli hegemony, you will not find anyone to stand by your side except he who has stood by your side for tens of years. Protect those who stood by you, protect the sources of strength in your axis. Any serious effort to find a political solution in Syria which refuses to allow Syria to fall into the hands of the US, Israel and the takfiris is effectively the battle for Palestine, the battle for Quds, the battle for the Aqsa mosque.”
- VIDEO | Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah (Full Speech English Voice-Over) – May 9, 2013 (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
Israel’s reported second air strike on Syria in two days targeted a facility just outside the capital. But there was no escalation toward Israel to justify the attack – and Tel Aviv is only trying to drag the US into the conflict.
That’s the view of journalist and Middle East expert Ali Rizk, who told RT he believes the actions are Israel’s attempt to influence US Middle East policy.
RT: This isn’t just an isolated incident but a series of air offensives above a foreign territory. Why has Israel been so persistent despite the fact that such military action is a clear violation of international law?
Ali Rizk: I think you have to put all the pieces of the puzzle together. Remember that all of the furor and havoc about chemical weapons? Who was the one that made this first announcement…it was Itai Brun, the military intelligence Israeli official who made the announcement about Syria using chemical weapons from the very beginning, after President Obama had said time and again, “that is the red line.”
That didn’t succeed thus far in dragging the US to war against Syria so now I think we had two incidents.
There was a reported Israeli strike on a convoy and now we have indeed an Israeli strike on Jamraya. So I think we have a classical example of what we might call Israel trying to manipulate US policy in the Middle East, trying to drag Obama yet again into another confrontation.
I think that is the case which we have right now, once again. So Israel is going to continue with these practices until it drags the US into conflict.
Why? The reason being that the Syrian army has made military advancements very recently. It seems that Bashar Assad militarily has gained the upper hand so Israel realizes Assad won’t be going unless there’s outside intervention. So Israel is trying to drag the US by saying “If you don’t go in, then we shall wreak havoc. We shall go ahead with our own military escalation.”
RT: We’ve heard from commentators from Israel that the strikes are a balanced reaction. Do you agree?
AR: Balanced reaction to what? It’s in Israel’s interests for this to happen. Has there been any escalation against Israel for Israel to react? Has there been any military action, has Israel been attacked by any side, whether it be Hezbollah or Syria? Has Israel been attacked by any side whatsoever? Israel has not been attacked.
So we hear this talk about game-changing weapons. But that doesn’t give the right or justification for such escalation…I have to emphasize, the clear message if anyone had any doubts I think now it has become clear: Israel wants Bashar Assad to fall. That is Israel’s choice. Netanyahu himself has said time and again: “Syria is the linchpin between Iran and Hezbollah.”
RT: The Assad government, which has been portrayed as warring tyrant by many countries, has now become the victim of a powerful war machine. Could Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Iran weigh in if Syria did go to war with Israel?
AR: That’s the big question. The Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah made it clear and provides an answer to this question. In a speech last Thursday, he said that Syria’s real friends – meaning Hezbollah, Iran, and Russia – won’t allow Syria to fall into the hands of the US, Israel, or Al-Qaeda affiliates…
I think what you have now is that Iran and Hezbollah now have a new significant ally of real significant weight which is Russia, which is continuing to the Middle East scene once again. So I think that if we do have escalation, Iran will intervene, Hezbollah will intervene, and I think also we might speak about a Russian intervention or some kind of a Russia role because Russia clearly has been very much present and there saying “I am here and I have a significant say.”
- Israel Attempts to Provoke Hezbollah (alethonews.wordpress.com)
The Syrian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Wednesday criticizing UN-Arab League special envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi, saying he lacks neutrality.
The statement said Damascus would stop cooperating with Brahimi unless he severs his ties with the Arab League. “Brahimi’s report (on April 19) to the United Nations Security Council was marked by (a tone of) interference in Syria’s internal affairs and a lack of the neutrality required by his mission as international mediator,” the statement said.
Brahimi said at a closed-door session of the Security Council that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad does not have the right to run for president in the upcoming election scheduled for next year.
“Syria has cooperated and will cooperate with Brahimi only as UN envoy, because the Arab League is complicit in the conspiracy against Syria,” the statement read.
“If Brahimi wants his mission to succeed, we expect him to start working to stop the violence and terrorism along with the parties concerned, and to expose the roles played by France, Britain, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which finance and arm Al-Nusra Front’s terrorists,” it added.
Hezbollah has never been shy about declaring its support for the Syrian regime. Since the launch of a Western and Arab campaign against the Resistance in 2005 – which only intensified after the July 2006 war – the party has never been reluctant in repeatedly confirming its close affinity to Damascus.
When the crisis in Syria erupted, Hezbollah sought to distinguish between what it saw as legitimate demands by the Syrian people for reforms that would end one-party rule and attempts by foreign power to seize the opportunity to topple President Bashar al-Assad.
For a year or so after the outbreak of the Syrian crisis, the party did not deem it necessary to intervene in the conflict, until military operations came close to areas of concern to Hezbollah on many levels.
Gradually, its role in Syria grew until the party became responsible for protecting a large number of Lebanese living in Syria – in addition to some Syrians, as well – who are under threat of being expelled from their lands by armed opposition groups backed by foreign powers.
Another area of concern for Hezbollah was the increasing role Israeli intelligence, backed by the West, began to play in the conflict, particularly in targeting people and places of concern to the Resistance.
The party did not stop at simply protecting its supporters in order to prevent their displacement, but took a further step of giving them the wherewithal to defend themselves from any attacks. It did this openly before the eyes of the public and in coordination with the regime, losing several of its fighters in the process.
The days will come when the details of Hezbollah’s role in Syria will be revealed, exaggerating the party’s involvement to such an extent as to suggest that it was the key factor in saving the regime, or to frame its largely defensive military activities as a crusade against the Sunnis of Syria.
Many of Hezbollah’s supporters in Lebanon and the Arab world are certainly not comfortable with its involvement in Syria, prompting party leaders to come up with convincing explanations to justify their actions. But if it is willing to give so much life and blood for the sake of the resistance, losing some of its popularity in defending what it considers to be a key ally in the struggle is not such a terrible sacrifice.
On the other side, those very same parties that threw themselves into the Syrian crisis from day one, supporting the armed opposition, do not let a day pass without attacking Hezbollah for fighting in Syria, while at the same time keeping quiet about the ugliest crimes being committed by the armed groups.
They raise empty slogans about Syria’s national unity despite the fact that 1.5 million Syrians from the country’s various minorities have been displaced at the hands of jihadi groups, who by all accounts have become the dominant current among the opposition forces.
With every denunciation of the Resistance for its role in Syria, the ground is slowly being prepared for war against the party under the banner of solidarity with the Syrian revolutionaries.
This is as Lebanon’s new guardian, Saudi Arabia, is doing its best to impose a government similar to that of Fouad Siniora in 2005, which spared no effort to undermine the Resistance even in the midst of the Israeli assault in 2006 and its aftermath.
This is yet another sign that there are preparations underway for a total war in the region. It could erupt due to a miscalculation by a particular side or as a result of a bloody explosion somewhere. And all we can do in this situation is sit and wait.
Ankara – In the ugly panorama that is the contemporary Middle East a light hardly flickers on the horizon. Iraq has been destroyed as a unitary Arab state and jihadis unleashed in Syria are burning out another room in the Arab house. Lebanon has again been brought to the brink of implosion through the intrigues of outside governments and local proxies incapable of putting the interests of their country ahead of their sectarian and power intrigues. The Palestinians are divided between those who live under the authority of one man who has bound himself to Israel and the US and two others who have bound themselves to Egypt and Qatar. Fitna – the spreading of division and sowing of hatred amongst Muslims – is being fanned across the region by governments brazen enough to call themselves Muslim. Whether in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Iran, Shiism is the enemy. Ceaselessly stirring this pot from the outside are governments that feast on division in the Arab world.
There are those who loathe Bashar so much that they are willing to commit or tolerate any crime in the name of getting rid of him, including the deliberate bombings of civilians, one taking the lives of a leading Sunni Muslim scholar and 48 other worshippers in a Damascus mosque only recently and another killing 100 people, amongst them children waiting for their school bus. A country Gamal abd al Nasir once described as the ‘beating heart of Arabism’ is being destroyed. Its enemies have their hands inside the body and they intend to rip the heart out. The cooperative at work on this venture includes the US, Britain, France, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and the local and foreign-born jihadis who are their tools whether they realize it or not.
That the Syrian system needs changing goes without saying. In Syria possibly no-one understands this better than the much reviled Bashar al Assad. He could go tomorrow but that would solve nothing because the system would stay the same; for those who hate him, someone worse might take his place. Bashar has made serious mistakes, including the adoption of free market policies which have enriched the merchant class while further impoverishing the peasantry, who are now said to be many of the foot soldiers of the armed groups, but Syria is an easier place than it was under his father. The abolition of the Baath as the central pillar of state and society and the multi-party elections held last year were a start to political reforms. The elections were not perfect but if anyone is looking for perfection in the Middle East, they should look somewhere else. These are threads that could have been teased out if the collective calling itself ‘The Friends of the Syrian People’ had any serious interest in the best interests of the Syrian people. A process of national dialogue has begun in Damascus but this has been ignored, too, because these ‘friends’ want nothing less than the destruction of a government which is a strategic ally of Iran and Hezbollah and forms with them the ‘resistance axis’ to US-Israeli hegemony.
The achievements of this axis need to be set against the record of collaboration of those Arab governments who are now bent on destroying it. Iran and Syria have been solid in their support for the Palestinians, hosting resistance movements and working together to provide Hamas with the weapons it needed to defend Gaza. No weapons came from the direction of Saudi Arabia or Qatar. It was Hezbollah, the non-state partner in this alliance, that finally drove Israel from occupied southern Lebanon after nearly two decades of struggle involving not just the bravery of part-time soldiers but the mastery of electronic warfare, enabling Hezbollah to penetrate Israeli communications, including drone surveillance, as was made clear when Hasan Nasrallah produced intercepted film showing that an Israeli drone had been shadowing Rafiq Hariri for three months and was overhead when he was assassinated in February, 2005. When Israel tried to take revenge in 2006 it was humiliated. Hezbollah stood firm, destroyed its supposedly invincible Merkava tanks, disabled one of its warships in a missile attack and prevented its ground forces from advancing north of the Litani river. At the time, it might be remembered, both Egypt and Saudi Arabia vilified Hasan Nasrallah for bringing on this war, as they saw it.
It was Hezbollah which scored another triumph by breaking Israel’s spy network in Lebanon, now in the public eye because of the revelations that an Australian-born Mossad agent, Ben Zygier, had provided it with the names of two of its agents. The official Israeli version of the Zygier affair is that he handed over this information with the ultimate intention of setting up the assassination of Hasan Nasrallah. However, as the case is regarded as one of the most serious threats to national security in Israel’s history, much more might be involved than the collapse of a spy network. It is hard to imagine any agent who was not in fact a double agent doing what Zygier is reported to have done. What other information he might have passed on is a matter of conjecture but Israel’s nervousness about this affair could be a sign that far darker secrets are involved than the exposure of two spies.
Both Iran and Syria have been targeted with economic sanctions because of their disobedience. Iran has been threatened with military attack ever since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and now that the attempt to destroy the government in Damascus through armed proxies has clearly failed, if more than two years of trying qualifies as failure, the US is sending out signals that it is prepared to intervene directly despite the regional and global risks. The collapse of the Syrian National Council last year has now been followed by the disintegration of the Syrian National Coalition, with ‘president’ Mu’adh al Khatib resigning and the chief of its military wing refusing to recognize the authority of new ‘prime minister’ Ghassan al Hitto. Riad al Assad, the displaced former commander of the self-styled Free Syrian Army, has just been carried back across the border into Turkey with only one leg, the other having been blown off by a roadside car bomb. Some sources say it was only a foot but either way he is out of action for a long time to come. As the leading armed groups do not recognize the authority of Mr Assad or the squabbling coalition of which the FSA is supposed to be the military arm, his absence from the scene is not going to make a great deal of difference.
For Muadh al Khatib to be given the Syria seat at the recent summit of the Arab League in Doha is farcical in more than one respect. Al Khatib is no longer even a member of the group Qatar is trying to set up as an alternative government. The group itself is in a state of complete collapse, with al Khatib walking out and other members rejecting the appointment of Hitto, a Syrian-born American who has not visited the country of his birth for decades. That Al Khatib should demand that his ragged, motley crew be given Syria’s seat at the UN goes beyond preposterous. The government of Syria sits in Damascus, not Doha, and Bashar al Assad is still its president, not the former imam of the Umayyad mosque. Compounding this theatre of the absurd, it was the ruler of Qatar who directed that Al Khatib be given the Syrian seat at the Doha summit, underlining the degree to which the Arab League has become no more than an instrument of this gentleman’s drive for regional dominance. That King Abdullah should have stayed away from Doha is a sign of the deepening rivalry between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, especially over how to manage Syria. The determination of the ruler of Qatar to persevere with this chaotic bunch of exiles is the measure of his determination to destroy the government in Damascus.
On the ground the armed groups are taking a beating at the hands of the Syrian army but like an irresponsible trainer sending a punched-out boxer out from his corner for the next round, their outside sponsors are pouring arms into Syria to keep them on their feet. The tactics of these groups include bombings aimed at civilians that in other circumstances their backers would not hesitate to call terrorism but steadfastly refused to call terrorism when Syrians are the victims and their proxies are the perpetrators. Al Khatib’s dissatisfaction with his ramshackle coalition was possibly brought to a head by the assassination in Damascus of Sheikh Muhammad Said Ramadan al Bouti, a former colleague and a man he greatly admired. Al Bouti and close to 50 other worshippers were murdered in the Iman mosque by a suicide bomber. Two days earlier an armed group had loaded CL 17 chlorine – an ingredient normally used in swimming pool cleaner – into the warhead of a small missile and fired it at a Syrian army checkpoint, killing 26 people. Soldiers were among the dead and the army was there to look after the survivors, so the claims of activists that ‘the regime’ was responsible had even less traction than usual. Having warned of direct intervention in Syria should chemical weapons be used, the US had little to say now that such a weapon had been used, not by the Syrian army, but by the ‘rebels’ it has been supporting.
Hezbollah, Syria and Iran’s record of resistance has to be compared with the long Saudi and Qatari record of collaboration with the US and Israel. Having deserted Damascus in its hour of need, what does Khalid Mishaal think he is going to get from the ruler of Qatar besides money and somewhere to stay? What is Ismail Haniyeh expecting from Muhammad Morsi, who began his presidency by blocking off the tunnels into Gaza and confirmed where he intends to take Egypt with his letter calling Shimon Peres ‘my dear friend’? Is it forgotten already, apart from his record in violence and destruction going back to 1948, that it was Peres who authorized the attack on southern Lebanon in 1996 which took the lives of more than 100 people sheltering inside the UN compound in Qana? If the friend of my enemy is my enemy, where does that leave Haniyeh, Misha’al and Abbas?
The beneficiaries of intervention in Iraq, Libya and Syria are outside and regional governments who have combined forces to reshape the Middle East in their own interests. As Ibrahim al Amin has remarked (‘Partitioning Syria at the Doha summit’, Al Akhbar English, March 25, 2013), they are fighting a global war against Syria in the name of bringing the people freedom and justice. In truth, western governments only intervene in their own interests and the people always end up being sliced and diced on the chopping board of their grand designs. There has been no exception to this rule. Civilization, liberation, freedom, democracy, the rights of the people and the responsibility to protect are the unctuous phrases that have rolled off the lips of western prime ministers, foreign ministers and presidents for two centuries. This is the rhetorical buildup to a self-assigned ‘duty’ to intervene: the only real difference between intervention in the 19th century and intervention in the 21st lies in the vastly increased killing power of western governments and the development of weapons that would have been regarded as science fiction until only recently.
As they always get away with it, there is no reason for them to stop. Iraq was a terrible crime but while the UN Security Council or the International Criminal Court points the finger at Robert Mugabe, Umar al Bashir or Saif al Islam al Gaddafi it never points the finger at western politicians whose crimes are infinitely greater. Slobodan Milosevic was a rare exception but even his crimes do not measure up to what George Bush and Tony Blair authorized in Iraq in and after 2003 – not to speak of the horrors that Bush senior, Clinton and Blair authorized through the decade of sanctions which followed the attack of 1991. Because they are protected by a world system which is highly selective about who it punishes, the politicians who follow them feel free to repeat the experience. They know that whoever suffers, whoever is bombed, whoever has to look at the faces of dead parents, children, aunts, grandfathers and neighbors being dug out of the rubble of bombed cities and towns, it is not going to be them. William Hague is perfectly comfortable in his desire to give more weapons to the ‘rebels’ because he knows that the calamitous consequences of decisions he takes are never going to bounce back on his own doorstep.
It is obvious but needs to be said anyway that the first priority of people across the Middle East should be solidarity rising above ethnic and religious divisions. No problem can be solved without it and certainly not the core issue of Palestine. In his recent Edward Said memorial lecture, Noam Chomsky drew attention to what is going on while the world’s attention is diverted by the ‘Arab spring.’ In 1967 the Jordan Valley had a Palestinian population of 300, 000. The policy of ‘purification’ pursued by the Israeli government has now reduced that population to 60,000. On a smaller scale the same policy has had the same results in Hebron and elsewhere in the occupied territories. There is nothing accidental or incidental about this. Netanyahu is no more than faithful to the racist policies set in motion by Theodor Herzl and David Ben-Gurion. Continuing without letup for 65 years these policies are neither forgettable nor forgivable.
It is not surprising that Israel’s strongest supporters always have been similar colonial settler states. There are no exact parallels but the Zionist settlers in Palestine and the American colonists both turned on the mother state while setting out to crush the native people. Thomas Paine had much to say about the American ‘war of independence’ that is relevant to Palestine. First of all, it was an ‘independence war’ being fought on land long since inhabited by another people. The colonists wanted to be independent of the mother country, which planted them in this foreign soil in the expectation that they would maintain it as part of the king’s domains. A loyal colony was what the British also sought in Palestine but the American settlers and later the Zionists had other ideas. The war between Britain and the American colonists was brutal, generating deep hatreds on both sides, just as the Zionist war against the British did in Palestine.
Paine was writing of settler feelings towards the savagery of the mother country but the words equally apply to the people who were the victims of double colonialism in North America or, nearly two centuries later, in Palestine:
‘Men of passive tempers look somewhat lightly over the offences of Great Britain and still hoping for the best are still apt to call out come, come, we shall be friends against for all this. But examine the passions and feelings of mankind; bring the doctrine of reconciliation to the touchstone of nature and then tell me whether you can hereafter love, honor and faithfully serve the power that hath carried fire and sword into your land. If you cannot do all these then you are only deceiving yourself, and by your delay bringing ruin upon posterity. Your future connections with Britain, whom you can neither love nor honor, will be forced and unnatural and being formed only on the plan of present convenience, will in a little time fall into a relapse more wretched than the first. But if you say you can still pass the violations over, then I ask hath your house been burnt? Hath your property been destroyed before your face? Are your wife and children destitute of a bed to lie on or bread to live on? Have you lost a parent or child by their hands and yourself the ruined and wretched survivor? If you have not, then you are not a judge of those who have. But if you have and can still shake hands with the murderers, then are you unworthy the name of husband, father, friend or lover; and whatever may be your rank or title in life you have the heart of a coward and the spirit of a sycophant.’
Paine was a democrat within the limitations of his time. He was writing for the settlers and had no thought of admitting the indigenous people of North America to representation in the colonies. Except for the passage of almost 250 years Paine might be a Zionist today, but the two and a half centuries make all the difference. Israel was an anomaly from the beginning, a colonial state arising at the tail end of colonialism. It would be no more possible to imagine Thomas Paine supporting an America in which native and Afro-Americans did not have the vote now than it would be to imagine him supporting a situation where a people not only did not have the right to vote but had been denied the right to live on the land where they or their forebears had been born.
In today’s world Paine could not support an Israel built on blatantly racist and discriminatory lines. Everything he says in the passage quoted above applies to Israel. The wounds it has inflicted have gone deep and far from making any attempt to heal them Israel has endlessly inflicted new wounds. The state of Israel – to be differentiated from those pockets of its citizens who oppose its brutal mindset – is not interested in any kind of genuine settlement with the Palestinians. It is not interested in them as a people. It is not interested in their stories of suffering. It is not interested in its own guilt because it is blind to its own guilt. It has no humility and would scoff at the idea of penance for crimes it refuses to admit it has committed, like the worst recidivist offender hauled before a court. It is interested in the Palestinians only as a problem to be solved and the solution is for them somehow to disappear or to be made to disappear. Hence the ‘purification’ in the Jordan Valley and the daylight oppression of the Palestinians in Hebron and the racist demographic war being waged in East Jerusalem. These are crimes against humanity.
If we substitute Israel and the Oslo process for the reconciliation proffered by the British monarch the result is the same: the policy, wrote Thomas Paine, is there ‘in order that he may accomplish by craft and subtlety in the long run what he cannot do by force and violence in the short one’. His conclusion that ‘reconciliation and ruin are nearly related’ sums up the consequences for the Palestinians of the Venus fly trap known as the ‘peace process.’ Violence works but ‘peace’ has a deadly potency of its own: whatever the means employed, the Zionist aim of reducing the Palestinians to dust that will eventually be whirled away by history has not changed in 100 years.
By themselves, however bravely they have resisted, the Palestinians have never had the power to fend off the forces arrayed against them. This has been true from the time Britain implanted the Zionist project in Palestine until the present day. Britain and the US were not just any countries but the two most powerful states of their time and with their support both Zionist success and Palestinian failure were assured. Never have the Palestinians been able to draw on anything like such sources of strength despite the immense potential in their own backyard. Israel’s dominance as a regional power is still sustained by the US while being continually replenished by Arab weakness: Arab weakness is built on chronic Arab disunity, now being promoted in sectarian form by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. As long as there is no way out of this trap the Palestinians will remain stuck in their trap.
Sectarianism is a powerful weapon but would be useless if people were not susceptible to it. A people divided are doomed to be dominated. George Antonius prefaced The Arab Awakening with a quote from Ibrahim Yaziji: ‘Arise Arabs and awake!’ That was in 1938. An Arab awakening did follow and while it would be tempting to say the Arab world has gone back to sleep, in reality what is happening is far worse than sleep. A fire is raging and it is hard to see how and when it will be put out.
- Jeremy Salt is an associate professor of Middle Eastern history and politics at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey.
Though President Obama last year rejected a proposal from the State Department, Pentagon, and CIA to directly arm Syrian rebel fighters, his administration is once again edging closer to directly intervening in the Syrian war.
As the Washington Post reported Tuesday, “The Obama administration is moving toward a major policy shift on Syria that could provide the rebels with equipment such as body armor, armored vehicles and possible military training and could send humanitarian assistance directly to Syria’s opposition political coalition.”
White House spokesperson Jay Carney confirmed the Post‘s reporting Wednesday, stating that the U.S. is “constantly reviewing the nature of the assistance we provide to both the Syrian people, in form of humanitarian assistance, and to the Syrian opposition in the form of non-lethal assistance.”
The exact nature of the additional U.S. assistance is expected to be announced Thursday at a meeting of the “Friends of Syria” in Rome. The U.S. has previously sent communications equipment and night-vision goggles to rebels fighting in Syria.
John Kerry the Interventionist
The – perhaps – unlikely driver of the reported shift in U.S. policy on Syria has been none other than new Secretary of State John Kerry. The very man many continue to insist on mislabeling a dove.
Speaking as early as February 13, Secretary of State Kerry proclaimed that there were “additional things that can be done” to force Syrian President Bashar al-Assad aside. And on Monday, Kerry again went on to reiterate that the West was “determined to change the calculation on the ground for President Assad.”
“We are examining and developing ways to accelerate the political transition that the Syrian people want and deserve,” Kerry commented further.
Although a policy change for the Obama administration, advocating for a more direct role for the U.S. in Syria has long been Kerry’s position. As Kerry commented in May of 2012: “The concept of a safe zone is a reality and worth the discussion. The concept of working with the Turks and the Jordanians, if everybody is on the same page, there could be some [military] training [of the opposition forces]. If we can enhance the unity of the opposition, we could consider lethal aid and those kinds of things.”
In the same interview Kerry went on to voice support – under the right conditions – for “U.S.- or NATO-led airstrikes on the Syrian military.”
This should come as no surprise given Kerry’s previous support for U.S. bombing campaigns in Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. Some dove! Of course, the American foreign policy establishment as a whole has steadily veered toward a greater affinity for missile and bomb diplomacy.
“Once war was considered the business of soldiers, international relations the concern of diplomats,” C. Wright Mills wrote of the U.S. over 50 years ago in The Power Elite. “But now that war has become seemingly total and seemingly permanent… Peace is no longer serious; only war is serious.”
If nothing else, then, Kerry has proven himself once again to be a rather “serious” man.
Intervention by Proxy
While Kerry helps edge Washington closer to direct military intervention into Syria, U.S. proxies continue to ramp up their campaign to topple the Syrian regime.
As the New York Times reported Monday, Saudi Arabia has recently begun to funnel heavy weapons purchased from Croatia to Syrian rebel groups via Jordan. The Saudi shipments, the paper goes on to note, “have been a factor in the rebels’ small tactical gains this winter against the army and militias loyal to Mr. Assad.”
The U.S. role in the Saudi arms flow, the Times reports, “is not clear.” Yet, it is hard to fathom that such shipments were not sanctioned by Washington, given the close military ties the U.S. maintains between those involved. After all, Saudi Arabia remains one of the largest purchasers of U.S. arms. The Pentagon, meanwhile, maintains “a robust military-to-military relationship with Croatia,” providing the Croatian military with “training, equipment, equipment loans, and education in U.S. military schools.” And U.S. military aid to Jordan tops $300 million a year.
Moreover, the U.S. has had upwards of 150 military planners stationed along the Jordanian border with Syria since last summer, where the Croatian arms are reported to have passed into rebel hands. It has long been reported that the CIA is overseeing the arms shipments to Syrian rebels from within Turkey.
The U.S. is thus already well entangled in the Syrian war – albeit if by the use of proxy forces.
The push to further enhance the degree of U.S. intervention – from guiding regional proxies to direct military support – comes as the rebel drive to oust Assad appears to be reaching its limits. In fact, Mouaz Mustafa, the political director of the U.S.-based Syrian American Task Forced, recently argued that, “Assad cannot be deposed without the consent of the U.S.”
This realization has even left some in the West to admit that Assad still retains a sizable base of domestic support. As former U.S. diplomat Karen AbuZayd commented in a recent interview with CBC Radio, “there’s quite a number of the population, maybe as many as half, if not more, who stand behind him [Assad].”
Thus, we see the exiled Syrian opposition – long opposed to dialogue – now hinting at a new willingness to engage in negotiations with the Syrian regime. Yet, the U.S. continues to insist that any political dialogue must be preempted by regime change.
As State Department spokesperson Patrick Ventrell commented on Wednesday, “the [political] process has to include Assad leaving, but it’s really up to the Syrian people.” Another example of the limits of America’s democratic ideals, as we see that the choice for the Syrian people begins and ends with supporting Washington’s agenda.
Of course, as long as a sizable segment of Syrians stand behind Assad – or at least refrain from supporting the armed rebels – demanding that Assad leaves only portends a protracted military struggle. As Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was left to comment Monday, “It seems extremists, who bet on a military solution to Syria’s problems and block initiatives to start dialogue, have for now come to dominate in the ranks of the Syrian opposition.” And the ranks of Washington, it appears as well.
Yet, even as Washington and its European allies antagonize Russia by preparing to heighten their intervention into Syria, they still desperately seek the legitimacy of a United Nations Security Council resolution endorsing a military intervention. And for this they need Moscow.
Cajoling Russia to Pave the Road to Tehran
Writing in Foreign Policy, Christopher Chivvis of the RAND Corporation and Edward Joseph, a senior fellow at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, argue that the threat of Western military intervention is what is needed to bring Russia around to supporting the “regime change” line.
“Changing the Russian position means changing Moscow’s calculus on Syria,” Chivvis and Joseph write. “And that means presenting the Kremlin with an alternative that it finds more unpalatable than the status quo: a NATO-backed, Turkey-led military coalition invited by the Arab League to intervene in the Syria conflict.”
And here we have the bankruptcy and hubris of the American foreign policy elite. It’s all rather transparent: capitulate to our demands, or face the brunt of military force. Only war is serious.
Of course, Chivvis and Joseph go on to tout the “blow to Iran and a boon to the United States and its regional partners and allies” a toppled Assad would present. “Israel would be a primary beneficiary, with its antagonist, Hezbollah, having been dealt a serious setback,” they continue.
How all this is supposed to entice Moscow is not exactly clear. What is good for American is good for the world, it appears. Indicative, perhaps, of what Chalmers Johnson once wrote to be the self-aggrandizement of imperial rot.
And so with the typical delusions of grandeur, the U.S. edges closer to direct military intervention into Syria – closer, too, to unleashing a dangerous regional conflagration. In fact, the Iran war drums are already beating louder; for regime change in Damascus only paves the road to Tehran.
Ben Schreiner can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jordanian King Abdullah II’s recent visit to Moscow crowned a series of steps that Amman has been taking over the past few months, signalling a shift away from its traditional allies like Washington and Israel.
Until recently, Jordan was in the warm embrace of oil-rich Gulf Arab countries that, prepared to admit the Hashemite kingdom into their Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), would then shower it with billions in aid.
This is while Amman offered the services of its security and intelligence forces, coordinating closely with both Washington and Tel Aviv in a variety of areas, not least of which the unfolding crisis in Syria.
According to informed sources, last July 2012, Amman hosted a gathering of security officials from the US, Qatar, and Israel, who recommended setting up training camps for Syrian opposition fighters near the Jordanian city of Irbid.
US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta admitted as much when he acknowledged in October 2012 that dozens of American soldiers were deployed along the Jordanian-Syrian border, explaining that “these units are tasked with establishing a base in Jordan and to assist the Syrian refugees and Jordanian armed forces to confront the dangers stemming from Syria’s chemical weapons.”
In the last few months Amman has begun to reassess its alliances in light of the Syrian crisis, perhaps embarking on a process of strategic realignment, moving closer to Iraq and Russia, at the expense of its traditional allies.
The prospective threat posed by the powerful Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood and the more radical Islamist currents prompted the army and intelligence to convince the palace not to go along with Washington’s plan.
Amman even went so far as to completely close its border with Syria, preventing fighters and weapons from crossing it.
This came at a high cost for Jordan, as Saudi Arabia and Qatar – who were mobilizing all the forces they could muster against the Bashar al-Assad regime – to halt their support for the kingdom, causing a serious economic crisis in the country.
Iraq quickly moved in to try to fill the void and revive its once close ties with Jordan. An official visit to Amman by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki at the end of 2012 led to the signing of several lucrative deals that would see cheap Iraqi oil once again flowing to Jordan.
As for Jordan’s relationship with Iran, “that’s a tough one for us,” says a high-level Jordanian security official, pointing out that the realignment underway may go far, “but it has its limits, for there are lines that cannot be crossed, and Iran lies outside these boundaries.”
In light of all this, King Abdullah II’s visit to Moscow on Tuesday, February 19 cannot in any way be seen simply as a routine call.
For its part, Jordan is seeking a counterbalance to US influence, for fear that Washington is preparing to force Amman into accepting a confederation with the Palestinians as a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Russia, on the other hand, sees this as an opportunity to bring Amman into its orbit, particularly on the Syrian question, where Moscow is in the process of pushing for a settlement.
Jordan’s diplomatic support in the Arab arena and the valuable intelligence it can provide on the Syrian opposition make it a critical resource for the Russians.
Excerpts of an interview with the Syrian President featured in a new documentary on the conflict by the filmmaker Hubert Seipel.
The interview was conducted in English but later overdubbed in German for broadcast on the network ARD. This clip is from the documentary in which Mr. Assad’s remarks can be heard in the original English.
The filmmaker said that he wanted to speak directly to Mr. Assad because “misinformation and psychological warfare make up a large part of the Syrian civil war.” He said that he was frustrated by watching Syria’s war unfold in YouTube clips selectively edited by the two sides. So, he said, “my intention was just to let Mr Assad speak about his point of view, so that our viewers can make their own judgment.”
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says the ongoing conflict in his country is not between the state and opposition but between the nation and its enemies.
In a key speech on the situation in the country, Assad said on Sunday that his government will always extend its hand for dialogue with the opposition and political parties.
The Syrian president, however, said that the government “will not have dialogue with a puppet made by the West.”
“Government will call for a comprehensive national dialogue” in the near future, he said.
“Syria wants peace and reconciliation,” he said, adding that “Armed groups must halt terrorist acts.”
The president added that the constitution will be subjected to referendum and that general amnesty will be announced.
Assad warned that there is an “agenda to partition Syria” but stated that “the nation is for all and we all must protect it.”
“Any initiative must be based on Syrian vision,” Assad said, adding “we are to go ahead with own political process.”
The president went on to say that the Geneva initiative on the transition in Syria was ambigiuous. He also said that “Any talk of revolution in Syria is just bubbles of soap.”
The Syrian president lauded people in the villages that tried to block the enterance of militants from Turkey, adding that “the nation is for those who protect it.”
Syria has been experiencing unrest since mid-March 2011. Many people, including large numbers of security personnel, have been killed in the violence.
The Syrian government says the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country, and there are reports that a very large number of the militants fighting the Syrian government are foreign nationals.
Several international human rights organizations have accused the foreign-sponsored militants of committing war crimes.
The recent hostilities between the Gaza Strip and Israel have to be viewed in context of a broader geopolitical chessboard. The events in Gaza are tied to Syria and the US’s regional maneuvers against Iran and its regional alliance system.
Syria has been compromised as a conduit for weapons to Gaza, because of its domestic instability. Israel has capitalized on this politically and militarily. Benjamin Netanyahu has not only tried to secure his own election victory in the Knesset through an attack on Gaza, but has used the US-sponsored instability in Syria as an opportunity to try and target the arms stockpiles of the Palestinians.
Netanyahu calculated that Gaza will not be able to rearm itself while Syria and its allies are distracted. The bombing of the Yarmouk arms factory in Sudan, which Israel says was owned by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, was probably part of this plan and a prelude to Israel’s attack on Gaza.
In this chess game, sit the so-called “Moderates”— a misleading label jointly utilized by Messrs George W. Bush Jr. and Tony Blair to whitewash their regional cabal of tyrants and backward regimes — alongside the Obama Administration and NATO. These so-called Moderates include the desert dictators of the feudal Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Jordan, Mahmoud Abbas, and Turkey. In 2011, the ranks of the Moderates were augmented by the NATO-installed government of Libya and the GCC/NATO-supported anti-government militias that were unleashed in Syria.
On the other side of the chessboard defiantly sits the Resistance Bloc composed of Iran, Syria, Hezbollah (and Hezbollah’s partners in Lebanon, like Amal and the Free Patriotic Movement), the so-called Palestinian Rejectionists, and increasingly Iraq. The Muslim Brotherhood, which has emerged as a new regional force, is being increasingly prodded into the Moderate camp by the US and the GCC in an attempt to ultimately play the sectarian card against the Resistance Bloc.
Stark contrasts between Gaza and Syria
Israel’s attack on Gaza was a litmus test. All those voices continuously pushing for America’s McJihad against the Syrian government in the name of freedom vanished from their podiums or suddenly went silent when Israel attacked Gaza. Al Jazeera’s tele-preacher Yusuf Al-Qaradawi and Saudi Arabia’s dictator-selected Grand Mufti Abdul Aziz went silent. Adnan Al-Arour — the Saudi-based exiled kooky Syrian cleric who, as one of the spiritual heads of the Syrian anti-government forces, has threatened to punish anyone that says that Al-Qaeda is among their ranks — even berated Hamas and the Palestinians for fighting Israel.
The fighting in Gaza really placed them in a fix. Here we see the contradictions in their “Arab Spring.” We now see who really pays lip service to Palestinian liberation and who does not. Moreover, the foreign supporters of the Syrian National Coalition, a rehash of the Syrian National Council, are ironically all supporters of Israel.
This is why mentioning the support that Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah have provided for Gaza has become a taboo among the supporters of the anti-government forces in Syria. All they can say is that any acknowledgment of the support that Tehran, Damascus, and Hezbollah have provided to Gaza is an attempt to sanitize “Bashar Al-Assad and his supporters.”
Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah helped the Palestinians in Gaza
The Iranian Fijr-5 symbolically ingrains Tehran’s support for Palestine. Despite the fact that Israel and Gaza are by far not equal, it was predominately Iranian arms and technology that changed the balance of power. Tehran has been the main ally and supporter of the Palestinian resistance. The US, Israel, Hezbollah, Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Iran itself have all acknowledged this in different ways.
The Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which is unapologetically pro-Iranian, has openly stated that everything Gaza used in the fight against Israel, from its bullets to missiles, has been generously provided by Tehran. It was even reported during the fighting that Hezbollah, using a special unit dedicated to arming the Palestinians, resupplied the Gaza Strip with some of its own long-range missiles.
This has all taken place while the cads in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey have instead armed the Syrian anti-government militias. Egypt and Jordan continue to be major partners in preventing Iranian arms from reaching the Palestinians.
Palestinian fighters have also been trained in Lebanon, Syria, and Iran. Ironically, the anti-government forces in Syria are also targeting members of the Palestinian Liberation Army in Syria.
The support that the Resistance Bloc has given the Palestinians puts those actors, like Turkey and Qatar, opposed to the Syrian government in a real predicament. These so-called Sunni states were embarrassed; not only did they fail to help a predominately Sunni population, but their insincerity was exposed. This is why there is an active effort to deny the support that Iran and its allies have provided for Gaza.
A boy looks up as he walks in the rubble of a destroyed shop in Beit Lahia, in the northern Gaza Strip, on November 26, 2012 (AFP Photo / Mahmud Hams)
A boy looks up as he walks in the rubble of a destroyed shop in Beit Lahia, in the northern Gaza Strip, on November 26, 2012 (AFP Photo / Mahmud Hams)
De-linking Hamas from Resistance Bloc to start a Muslim Civil War
As a back story to all this, the Israeli attack on Gaza and the Moderate’s wooing of Hamas is more than just about neutralizing Gaza. Hamas leaders are being tempted to choose between the Moderate and Resistance camps and increasingly between governing or active resistance to the Israeli occupation. Through this, some form of accommodation to the US and Israel is being sought from Hamas. The aims are to de-link the Palestinians, particularly Hamas, from the Resistance Bloc in order to portray Iran and its allies as a Shiite alliance bent on dominating the Sunnis.
If you are foolish enough to fall prey to it, welcome to the unfolding “American fitna” (schism) that aims to ignite a regional Muslim civil war between the Shiites and Sunnis. The Obama administration is trying to construct and line up a Sunni axis against the region’s Shiite Muslims.
It is a classic strategy of divide and conquer that envisions America and Israel dominating the region as the Muslims are incapacitated by their bloodletting. The Shia are systematically being vilified courtesy of the new media war: Iran, Hezbollah, Bashar Al-Assad (an Alawi who is increasingly labeled a Shiite for the benefit of this project), and Nouri Maliki’s administration in Iraq are being portrayed as the new oppressors of the Sunnis. In their place Turkey, with its virtually stillborn neo-Ottomanism foreign policy, and Egypt under the Muslim Brotherhood are being presented as the champions of the Sunnis. Never mind that Egypt’s Mohamed Morsi has continued the blockade of Gaza for Israel or that Turkey’s Erdogan lost his voice for a while when Israel began bombing Gaza.
The US is trying to use Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood to control Hamas, because it was Cairo that established a ceasefire between Israel and Gaza. While Iran offers military technology, logistical support, and finance the Egyptians are being presented as Gaza’s ticket to establishing some form of normality and the GCC as alternative funding. This is why Qatar’s Emir Al-Thani visited Gaza to tempt Hamas with his declining supply of petro-dollars.
Shiite and Sunni divisions are political constructs
Inside Hamas there are internal differences over this. While Damascus, Tehran, and Hezbollah desired some form of public acknowledgment about their vital assistance to Hamas and the Palestinians, Hamas officials were careful about their statements. When Khaled Meshaal thanked Egypt, Qatar, and Tunisia during an important press conference, he narrowly mentioned Iran.
Meshaal’s politicking was not lost on Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, who responded hours later by rhetorically asking who supplied and painstakingly transferred the Fajr-5 missiles into Gaza? Nasrallah asked people to look past Gaza’s fair-weather friends, like the Qataris and Saudis who think they can buy their ways into the grace of the Palestinians, but to look at Gaza’s tested friends who allowed Gaza to stand on its own two feet. Then the Lebanese leader reaffirmed the ongoing support of the Resistance Bloc for the Palestinian people.
Despite its politburo’s position on Syria, Hamas is still a part of the Resistance Bloc. There is a new format now. If Greece and Turkey were at odds with one another as two NATO allies, then Hamas can have its differences with Syria and still be allied with the Resistance Bloc against Israel.
The divide in the Middle East is not a sectarian one between Shiites and Sunnis, but fundamentally political. The alliance of the predominately Sunni Muslim Palestinian resistance movements and the Free Patriotic Movement, Lebanon’s largest Christian political party, with predominately Shiite Muslim Iran and Hezbollah should defuse such a perception that the US and its allies are trying to cultivate.
- A Different War in Gaza, and the war ahead (alethonews.wordpress.com)