Looking back: Six years of American hell-raising in Syria
Robert Bridge is an American writer and journalist. He is the author of 'Midnight in the American Empire,' How Corporations and Their Political Servants are Destroying the American Dream. @Robert_Bridge
Six long years ago, Syria was caught up in the 'Arab Spring,' a Middle East maelstrom that tossed this diverse nation of 17 million people into the grip of a malevolent contagion that continues unabated today.
Originally thought to be a healthy, grassroots act of expression against the government of President Bashar Assad, the Syrian crisis has morphed into yet another Made in America regime-change operation, the likes of which have already decimated a number of hapless countries, including Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.
Indeed, the Syrian people avoid the term 'civil war;' instead, the fight is against the proxy, mercenary forces of foreign governments whose primary interest is carving up the Syrian Arab Republic for strategic and financial gain.
The question now being asked after years of bloodshed is: ‘How did we get here and where will events eventually lead us?’ Robert F. Kennedy Jr. explained the motivation behind the Syrian conflict in an article entitled, Syria: Another Pipeline War. According to Kennedy, the war against Bashar Assad “did not begin with the peaceful civil protests of the Arab Spring in 2011. Instead, it began in 2000 when Qatar proposed to construct a $10 billion, 1,500 km pipeline through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, and Turkey."
"The proposed pipeline would have linked Qatar directly to European energy markets via distribution terminals in Turkey which would pocket rich transit fees,” Kennedy reported. “The Qatar/Turkey pipeline would have given the Sunni Kingdoms of the Persian Gulf decisive domination of world natural gas markets and strengthen Qatar, America's closest ally in the Arab world.”
You can bet if there is a resource-rich nation anywhere in the world that is suddenly overwhelmed by internal issues, old Uncle Sam will be quickly on the scene with his monkey wrench, whether its wanted or not.
America to the rescue
Washington wasted no time picking sides in the domestic brawl, giving the ‘moderate’ opposition a massive shot of adrenaline, and, consequently, aggravating the Syrian conflict much in the same way it aggravated the Ukrainian (Is it just a happy coincidence that the US ambassador of regime change, Senator John McCain, appeared in both Syria and Kiev during their respective episodes of civil strife?).
In August 2011, President Obama, weighing in on the Syrian crisis, made the following statement: “The future of Syria must be determined by its people, but President Bashar al-Assad is standing in their way. For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside.”
Is it just me, or does that sound like an imperial command given by Caesar to a provincial governor on the outskirts of empire?
In any case, one year later, after the thinly veiled threat failed to persuade Bashar Assad, Obama gave the Syrian opposition forces what amounted to an open invitation to use chemical weapons by declaring that their use would constitute a “red line.”
"We have communicated in no uncertain terms with every player in the region that that's a red line for us and that there would be enormous consequences if we start seeing movement on the chemical weapons front or the use of chemical weapons," Obama warned.
On August 21, 2013, the painfully predictable happened: two opposition-controlled districts in the suburbs of Damascus were hit by rockets containing the chemical agent sarin. The death toll was reported to be 281 people, although other estimates placed it as high as 1,700.
Although it would have been absolutely self-defeating for Assad to have resorted to chemical weapons in a conflict he was winning, the Obama administration clung stubbornly to its casus belli and moved to a war footing.
By late August 2013, US fighter jets were fueled up and ready to strike. But then something strange happened on the road to war. UK Prime Minister David Cameron failed to secure authorization in the House of Commons to join in the hunt. This unexpected setback took the wind out of Obama's sails and suddenly the Nobel Peace Prize winner was open to the idea of letting Congress debate the use of military force (incidentally and for the record, that debate never occurred).
Several weeks later, as the United States weighed its options, former Secretary of State John Kerry blurted out that Assad could avoid a possible military attack by turning over his chemical weapon cache "in the next week.”
Russia was quick to act on the comment.
“A new opportunity to avoid military action has emerged in the past few days. The United States, Russia and all members of the international community must take advantage of the Syrian government’s willingness to place its chemical arsenal under international control for subsequent destruction,” Vladimir Putin wrote in an article for The New York Times.
The Syrian government also welcomed the idea, and the threat of war was averted at the 11th hour.
However, there was something far more noxious and sinister on the horizon than chemical weapons, and that was the sudden appearance of a terrorist group called Islamic State.
ISIS makes grand entrance
For those who thought the Obama administration was sincere about peace in Syria, they would soon be disappointed.
In August 2014, a new terrorist group appeared on the scene, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), whose perverse penchant for ultra-violence seemed so outrageous that it actually worked against its purported objective of creating an Islamic caliphate across the Middle East.
Indeed, these new hooligans on the block spent much of their free time videotaping grisly acts of murder, actions which – curiously - gave the Obama administration the very excuse it needed to begin military operations in Syria.
In August 2014, ISIS released a video of the purported beheading of US journalist James Foley who had been working in Syria at the time of his abduction. In September, Israeli-American journalist Steven Sotloff and British aid worker David Haines suffered the same fate. The US war machine was now off the leash.
On September 22, 2014, the US, Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates - without a UN mandate or formal invitation from the Syrian government - begin military operations against ISIS forces inside Syria.
However, it became quickly apparent that something was very wrong with the US-led efforts. Despite the US military possessing state-of-the-art drone technology, and other wicked, top-shelf military hardware, ISIS was not only left unmolested in the wide-open desert of Syria, it flourished, even finding time to start a lucrative oil export business through Turkey (!).
The reason for the group's seeming invincibility became more apparent after Judicial Watch, a government watchdog, obtained a secret Pentagon document that showed Western governments were using Islamic State as a lever of sorts to bring down the Syrian government.
The explosive part of the leaked document reads: “If the situation unravels there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in Eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion (Iraq and Iran).”
Investigative reporter Nafeez Ahmed wrote in Medium, the "leaked document reveals that in coordination with the Gulf states and Turkey, the West intentionally sponsored violent Islamist groups to destabilize Assad, despite anticipating that doing so could lead to the emergence of an ‘Islamic State’ in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).”
Russia says 'enough'
After receiving a formal request from the Syrian government to assist in the fight against Islamic State forces, the Russian military opened a fierce offensive on ISIS positions from warships in the Caspian Sea as well as from fighter jets.
Strangely, the Obama administration signaled no enthusiasm over the Russian efforts, and even refused to share information with Moscow regarding ISIS positions. No matter how one wishes to look at that refusal, it is hard to deny it is odd. After all, Russia was providing plenty of video evidence that it was actually carrying out the job it said it would: destroying ISIS.
Unfortunately, the situation in Syria went from bad to worse in September as US fighter jets laid siege for a full hour to the Deir Ezzor Airport, an attack the US claims was intended to target ISIS, but instead killed at least 62 Syrian soldiers.
The attack, which upset a sensitive ceasefire that had been in effect between Syrian government forces and the rebels, sparked a volatile row between the US and Russian ambassadors to the United Nations on the sidelines of an emergency Security Council meeting called by Russia.
Former US ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, chastised Russia for calling the meeting, calling it a "stunt."
Meanwhile, it is important to mention some of the dramatic geopolitical developments that have occurred since Russia entered the Syrian theater against ISIS.
After a Russian fighter jet was shot down near the Turkish-Syrian border on November 2015, it looked as if relations between Moscow and Ankara would be in the dog house for a long time.
However, following a coup attempt against Turkish President Recep Erdogan last July, Russia-Turkey relations made a dramatic comeback after the Turkish leader suspected US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen of being behind the failed insurrection. US relations with its strategic NATO partner remain in shambles to this day.
Today, Russia can take some degree of satisfaction knowing that it helped liberate a number of Syrian towns and cities, including Palmyra and Aleppo, which the Western media has gone to great pains to portray as a humanitarian disaster, a sentiment that is certainly not shared by those Syrians freed from the city.
It is just possible the Western doomsayers are attempting to overshadow the very real disaster the US-led coalition is now facing in Mosul, Iraq, where hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are scrambling for cover.
However, despite the real gains made in Syria against ISIS and other assorted villains, the Arab Republic has a long hill to climb before it reaches the summit of peace.
Just today, on this grim anniversary of the start of the Syrian conflict, dozens were killed in a suicide attack at the Justice Palace in al-Hamidiyeh, Damascus, which killed at least 31 people.
State-run Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reports that a second suicide bomber set off an explosive device inside a restaurant in the capital, killing several more people.
Godspeed, people of Syria!
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.