A Syrian boy who was injured when a shell, released by regime forces, hit his house, waits to be treated at a hospital in Syria’s northern city of Aleppo. AFP
Four major recent developments connected with the crisis in Syria indicate that an escalation of the conflict leading to regime change is just a matter of time. First, Turkey got Patriot missiles – an anti-missile shield – installed on its border with Syria. Some 400 US and Dutch soldiers are already on the Turkish border, probably, preparing the ground for the arrival of more NATO troops ahead of a ground invasion.
As Turkey was getting the Patriots, the United States unleashed its time-tested ‘chemical formula’ for regime change. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Syria not to use chemical weapons. Then similar warnings followed from President Barack Obama and Defence Secretary Leon Panetta. Couched in their warnings is an attempt to stress that Syria has chemical weapons that pose a threat not only to the Syrian people but also to Syria’s neighbours. The claims that Syria has chemical weapons lack proof. Often they are attributed to unidentified military intelligence sources. As though Iraq was not enough to prove their lies, they now want a Syria. They probably fit into Goebbels’s description of the wartime British leadership. Goebbels said they “follow the principle that when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous.”
The war party looks ridiculous, no doubt. With worries about reelection out of the question, the Obama administration has no qualms about taking the American people for a mighty big ride once again using the same trick – the chemical weapons. It appears the impudence to tell the ‘Big Lie’ – just like the George W. Bush administration did -- has been institutionalised in the foreign policymaking process of advanced democracies. Bush and his neocon hawks misled the American people by insisting that Iraq was a terrorist state and posed a danger to the world’s security with its weapons of mass destruction. They backed up their lies with more lies such as Collin Powell’s PowerPoint presentation to the UN Security Council, British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s dossier which claimed that Iraq’s WMDs could be assembled within 45 minutes to hit Europe and the canard that Saddam Hussein had tried to buy uranium from Niger.
The claim that Syria has chemical weapons is being made again and again by several people in the war party with one objective – to justify an invasion or get NATO involved in the Syrian war under the guise of the highly controversial and profoundly politicised principle of ‘Responsibility to Protect’.
If Syria indeed had chemical weapons, Israel would by now have destroyed all those places where such weapons were being made or had been stockpiled. Didn’t Israel in September 2007 bomb and destroy a clandestine nuclear facility that Syria was building? If Syria had these WMDs, Israel would surely have, at least together with the US, stirred a diplomatic hornet’s nest aimed at bringing about sanctions on the Assad regime. But the fact that neither an attack nor a diplomatic row took place until the Syrian rebellion erupted last year in the wake of the Arab Spring only proves that the claims that Syria possesses chemical weapons are largely weapons of mass deception which Israel, the US and their allies have resorted to with the aim of toppling the Assad regime.
It is interesting to note that the first allegation about Syria’s chemical weapons did not surface until May this year. A Jerusalem datelined AFP report quoted an Israeli military officer as saying on May 15 this year that the ongoing bloodshed in Syria had also raised Israel’s fears that Syria’s stockpile of sophisticated weapons could fall into the hands of militants, including Lebanon’s Shiite militia Hezbollah, which fought a war with Israel in 2006. According to this AFP report, Major General Yair Golan, head of the Israeli military’s northern command, expressed concern that Syria’s stockpile of strategic weapons, including “the world’s largest stockpile of chemical weapons,” could end up in Hezbollah’s hands.
The Israelis are great masters of deception. Even Adolf Hitler in his Mein Kampf under the topic ‘Big Lie’ acknowledges German Jews’ skills in deception.
When the United States and its allies insist that Syria has chemical weapons, Syria can do little except to prepare for a NATO attack. A decade ago, Saddam Hussein said Iraq did not possess WMDs. Even a former UN Weapons Inspector, Scott Ritter, said as loud as possible that Iraq had destroyed all its WMDs in terms of the UN resolution. But the US was adamant and it was only years after it invaded Iraq that Washington admitted that Iraq had no WMDs and attributed all its claims about such dangerous weapons to intelligence failure. So we heard this week Syrian officials telling the media that their country had no chemical weapons. Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Miqdad said: “Syria stresses again, for the 10th, the 100th time, that if we had such [chemical] weapons, they would not be used against our people. We would not commit suicide.”
Besides the Patriot missiles for Turkey and the claims about chemical weapons, two more significant developments made this week perhaps one of the defining moments in the Syrian timeline. President Barack Obama’s announcement on Tuesday recognising the Syrian Opposition Coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people and the branding of a key Syrian rebel group fighting the Assad regime as a terrorist organisation indicate two objectives. On the one hand, it points to the determination by the West and its allies, especially Qatar, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, to finish the fight to the end. On the other, Washington was so cautious that it did not want the post-Assad Syria to be ruled by militias sympathetic to al-Qaeda.
“We’ve made a decision that the Syrian Opposition Coalition is now inclusive enough, is reflective and representative enough of the Syrian population that we consider them the legitimate representative of the Syrian people in opposition to the Assad regime,” Obama said.
Democracy teaches that the legitimate representative of a people could emerge only through a process of free and fair elections. One never knows, even Bashar al-Assad could win such an election.
Instead, the so-called Syrian Opposition Coalition was undemocratically made in Qatar under the direction of the United States with inputs from other Western capitals. Meeting in Doha in November, the divided Syrian exile groups under US and Qatari pressure picked Moez Ahmed al-Khatib as their leader. Obama’s recognition would not have come without an assurance that the so-called opposition leadership would act as puppets of Washington and Doha.According to a truthout.org op-ed article written by Noureddine Merdaci, described as ‘the dean of Algerian journalists,’ (http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/13251-the-doha-protocol-for-syria-the-veritable-road-map-in-13-points-drawn-up-by-syrian-traitors-in-the-service-of-imperialists-and-the-gulf-monarchies), the Syrian Opposition Coalition has agreed to their sponsors’ demands that they will reduce the strength of the Syrian Army and not take any military action against Israel. Instead, the new regime will hold peace talks with Israel to decide on the fate of the Golan Heights.
The new regime will also hold talks with Turkey and solve the territorial dispute in favour of Ankara. It will also cancel deals with Russia and China in the fields of subsurface drilling and armaments. It will also terminate relations with Iran, Russia, China, Hezbollah and Palestinian resistance movements. It will allow Qatari gas pipeline passage through Syrian territory to Turkey and then on to Europe. It will also let a Turkish water pipeline pass through Syria to Israel.
So the ultimate aim of the West and its allies in the region is to set up a client state in Syria just like they have done in Libya. But it won’t be that easy in Syria. Even if the West succeeds in installing its puppets in Damascus, the rebels who are fighting the real war will continue to fight till they set up their Islamic regime. Already the rebels were seething with anger over Washington’s declaration of the foremost rebel group, Jabhat al-Nusra, as a terrorist organisation. More than 100 rebel groups – most of them with Islamic credentials -- have signed a petition expressing solidarity with al-Nusra. They promoted the slogan “No to American intervention, for we are all Jabhat al-Nusra.”
The Syrian army is no match for the superior firepower of the US and the NATO. As Friends of Syria meet in Morocco to boost the opposition and the rebellion, some reports say the Russians have withdrawn their fleet from the Tartus naval base in Syria while Russia’s deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov, indicated yesterday the fall of Assad was imminent. Yet what’s on the road to Damascus is anybody’s guess. But one thing is certain: the journey won’t be pleasant. Neither will be the situation after they reach the destination.