There is mythology of Western interventionism in Syria: The role of the United States and other Western nations has been to bolster moderates within a broad anti-government coalition fighting for freedom against a tyrannical regime. As late as Feb. 28 of this year, Secretary of State John Kerry claimed the U.S. was for the first time shipping “nonlethal aid” to the Syrian opposition, a public position he has maintained through recent calls to double aid to Syrian rebels and reach a goal of over a billion dollars in international aid.
And then there is the truth of the West’s interest in the Syrian conflict, in which more than 70,000 people have been killed and over a million displaced. Since at least early 2012, the CIA has been sending large shipments of weapons to Syria via regional proxies. Many of these weapons have in turn ended up in the hands of foreign Sunni militants working with Jabhat al-Nusra — a U.S.-designated terrorist group and al-Qaida affiliate — which has emerged as the opposition’s leading military force. (New York Times, Dec. 8, 2012)
An official State Department release dated Dec. 11, 2012, documents how “since November 2011, al-Nusrah Front has claimed nearly 600 attacks … more than 40 suicide attacks due to small arms and IED operations in major city centers … [where] numerous innocent Syrians have been killed.”
The New York Times showed April 27 that the link between Western aid and the strength of the al-Qaida front al-Nusra is intentional and strategic. Confirming that the Syrian opposition is run entirely by al-Qaida affiliates, the report states plainly: “Nowhere in rebel-controlled Syria is there a secular fighting force to speak of. … Nusra has claimed responsibility for a number of suicide bombings and is the group of choice for the foreign jihadis pouring into Syria.”
Regardless of its character at its inception in March 2011, the Syrian conflict has become a regional proxy war between Western-equipped and -trained militants and a politically unfavorable regime. There is little evidence to support the claims by the U.S. and the allies that there ever were any moderate secular factions among the military opposition. Instead the facts overwhelmingly demonstrate how the West has for years been knowingly equipping extremist militants with little regard for civilian life.
U.S. geostrategic interests
Motives for the violent incursion predictably appear rooted in geostrategic rather than humanitarian interests. Iran recently signed a $10 billion pipeline deal with Syria and Iraq — bitterly opposed by the U.S. — that would bring Iranian hydrocarbons to the Mediterranean as well as Russia, which has sought to expand its influence in the region’s energy development.
A report published by energy expert Ruba Husari at the Carnegie Middle East Center on Jan. 2 observes that although Syria is not itself a major oil or gas producer, its location “offers Mediterranean access to landlocked entities in search of markets for their hydrocarbons and to countries seeking access to Europe without having to go through Turkey” and that “new opportunities will emerge under a new Syrian regime.”
Immediate “new opportunities” driving the intervention include unfettered access to the region’s energy development awarded to Western corporations. This process is already underway. The European Union has lifted sanctions on and is buying oil from the very oilfields in Syria that al-Nusra militants have seized from the Syrian government. The long-term strategy is to isolate and weaken the Iranian regime by removing a major regional partner, Syria, thereby clearing the way for imposed imperialist control of the vast energy reserves spanning from the Caspian Basin to the Persian Gulf.
Dubious statements by Western and Israeli officials — couched in suspicious language of unknown likelihood like “varying confidence” and “limited evidence” — have now accused the Assad regime of using chemical weapons, a purported “red line” for direct military response on the part of the U.S. and its allies.
None other than United Nations official Carla Del Ponte, who cooperated with the U.S.-NATO war against Yugoslavia, exposed the chemical weapons charge. She said that if chemical weapons were used, it was the anti-Assad forces that used them. (Reuters, May 5)
The West’s stale, transparent rhetoric of promoting human rights and democracy thus cannot be tolerated in Syria. What is building is a brazen imperial intervention through and through, one that has no actual regard for human rights or life. This must be universally recognized.