Syria: U.S. war policy at a crossroads

Despite CIA coordination of training operations in Jordan and safe havens in Turkey and despite countless reports in the corporate media of the imminent surrender of a panicked Syrian government, the more than two-year intense effort to overthrow the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad is collapsing.

This does not mean that the threat of a wider war has vanished. No, the Pentagon’s response to the humiliating defeats of the forces they have spent large amounts of funds recruiting, training and equipping is to float plans for a long-term war with the goal of partitioning Syria into nonviable parts. As the July 22 New York Times reported, Washington is preparing for “the long-term reality of a divided Syria,” of which Assad would only control a “rump portion.”

In a July 23 letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. Martin Dempsey outlined five escalating military options to overthrow the government of Syria. These already planned options include sending U.S. troops as “trainers”; strikes on Syria’s air, ground, missile defense and naval forces; and imposing “no-fly zones.” Other options include establishing buffer zones and sending in thousands of troops to “secure chemical weapons.”

Dempsey’s blunt letter acknowledged that all these military options risk a wider war, tens of thousands of lives and long-term U.S. involvement. Most scenarios “could also average well over one billion dollars a month.”

The many Pentagon plans are under intense discussion in Washington because the more than 1,200 bands of mercenaries funded and equipped by U.S. arms, supplied through Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and several other NATO countries, are now in almost total disarray.

The effort to overturn the Syrian government predates the uprising in the Arab world known as the Arab Spring. According to the April 16, 2011, Washington Post, the U.S. had quietly funded right-wing Syrian opposition groups since at least 2005.

Despite all U.S.-NATO efforts to cobble together a unified military command, they were never able to go beyond developing a collection of marauding bands. Despite their failures, the House and Senate Intelligence Committees have given a green light to publicly arm these forces, while continuing the thinly veiled flow of U.S. arms via Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Opposition lacks program & support

Behind the opposition’s imminent defeat is its absence of popular support. The Free Syrian Army and the religious sectarian groups have been incapable of providing for the social needs of the population in the areas they occupied, not even to sustain bread lines or organize basic medical needs. They mobilize only through fear, focused on intensifying sectarian differences.

Even the corporate media report the extreme disarray of the reactionary forces that are largely uncoordinated bands, increasingly bogged down in local turf wars for lucrative control of towns and cities.

Mercenaries, privateers and criminal gangs from many countries have flooded into Syria to take part in the looting of equipment and cars that can be spirited over borders, cashing in on paychecks for fighters, and kidnapping and ransoming business people.

Other forces flooding into Syria have a totally reactionary and religious agenda of intolerance and sectarian war that the Syrian population abhors. Because they can’t defeat the government, the competing groups are now selling their own weapons, looting weapons from opposing bands, and executing competing fighters and civilians, including children, to instill fear.

Widely publicized videos of bloody executions, along with decapitations, the eating of human hearts, the use of torture, and increasing bombings of civilian targets such as schools and marketplaces, have confirmed the thoroughly reactionary nature of these forces.

Top United Nations envoy Leila Zerrougui, special representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, reported to the U.N. that many children between the ages of 15 and 18 have been recruited from other countries and brought to Syria to fight, in violation of international conventions banning the recruitment of child soldiers.

Syrian rebels have sent children into combat and used boys as young as 14 to transport weapons and supplies, according to a June 22 Human Rights Watch report.

Of the 6.8 million people displaced or made into refugees, 70 percent are women and children. Over 3 million children are in desperate need of humanitarian aid.

A U.S.-NATO effort at imposing a unified political coalition of a government-in -exile of well-financed expatriates living in comfort has met with similar failure. Contentious and disconnected individuals and groups have refused to even meet in the same room.

People’s militias back gov’t

Throughout the country, the reactionary bands have run up against local defense groups and people’s militias, which have helped to turn the tide. SANA, the Syrian Arab news agency, has highlighted efforts such as those of the Palestinian Popular Committees that cleared several neighborhoods of the al-Yarmouk refugee camp, warning the armed terrorist groups to surrender or leave the camp.

The militias are now organized under a structure called the National Defense Forces to defend their own neighborhoods. Many of the militias sprung up spontaneously to defend their areas against sectarian forces, criminal gangs, car bombs and kidnappings. A New York Times article on July 21 described the militias that patrol the “Old City” neighborhood of Damascus to protect a diversity of peoples who have existed there in harmony for hundreds of years.

Government forces have rolled back rebel gains near Damascus, the capital; in Aleppo, a major city close to the border with Turkey; and in central Homs province. Hezbollah militia forces from Lebanon aided in the complete defeat of rebels in al-Qasr, a strategic transit and logistics point near the Lebanese border, which had been controlled by the opposition since the beginning of the war.

Washington’s goal in Syria was to pull down another country that had for decades attempted an independent economic and political course. The country had full literacy and the highest education standards and lowest infant mortality in the region.

Most importantly, Syria was the only remaining country in the Arab world that was not drowning in debt to U.S. and Western banks, which to Wall Street is the greatest crime. Many of Syria’s key industries are still nationally owned.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the U.S. wars in Iraq, the Syrian government had tried to reach an accommodation with Western corporate power by agreeing to privatize part of many industries and to cut basic subsidies. Now, under pressure of an imposed war economy and extreme sanctions from the U.S., European powers and the monarchies of the Gulf States, Syria has reorganized parts of the economy. Many of the unpopular economic decisions are being reversed.