Assad’s useful idiots

How can Assad’s useful idiots be characterized?

Firstly, they will offer a perfunctory declaration that they oppose tyranny and tyrants everywhere and have no sympathy for Syria’s president or its government. They will nevertheless refrain from using the term Syrian/Assad “regime” since they are unwilling to pass judgement on the legitimacy of Assad’s rule and have a visceral distaste for the language of Assad’s Western opponents.

Secondly, the idea that an armed uprising could be a legitimate way of challenging authoritarian rule will swiftly be dismissed. Anyone in Syria who carries a gun and does not represent the state must have been provided their weapon by a foreign power — most likely Qatar or Saudi Arabia — and is either simply acting as an agent of Western/Gulf interests or is a Salafist fighting a holy war or is both.

Thirdly, the idea that the Syrian uprising should be seen in the context of the Arab Spring will be ignored and the Arab Spring itself viewed with deep suspicion on the grounds that it bears strong similarities with the Western-supported “color revolutions” which accompanied the fall of the Soviet Union.

Fourthly, it is axiomatic that the driving force behind the conflict in Syria is the hegemonic designs of the United States and Israel in their effort to put a stranglehold on Iran.

Lastly, the idea that what is happening in Syria can primarily be understood as the outcome of five decades of Ba’ath Party rule, will be excluded from the discourse.

In a nutshell, for Assad’s useful idiots Syria can be understood by listening to reports from figures like Deputy Foreign Minister Abdulfattah Ammura and without paying much or any attention to the views of ordinary Syrians, least of all to those identify themselves as belonging to the opposition.

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8 thoughts on “Assad’s useful idiots

  1. Fedup21

    Almost everyone knows Assad is a terrible dictator, but what do you want done Mr. Woodward? Deputy Foreign Minister Ammuras does not look to have many allies.

    I find the arguments against intervention to be compelling in this case and would generally like the United States to avoid it given our unsavory past in this regard.

    It also looks like the flow of arms from outside powers is prolonging and/or intensifying the conflict.

    I am usually skeptical of western governments when they howl about human rights, while they continue to support and/or fund other dictators. If the United States is going to talk about a Right to Protect then aren’t they obligated not to harm innocent civilians in the first place by aiding dictators or giving them weapons?

    In any case, the Syarian people no doubt have a legitimate right to be angrily, but it is and probably should remain primarily their fight.

  2. dmaak112

    Mr. Woodward demonstrates his ignorance when he dismisses the arming of the rebels by the “democratic” kingdoms of Saudi Arabia and Qatar. He left out how Bahrain shows how to treat its dissidents. Having invaded Iraq in 2003 to stop WMDs and the Saddam-bin Laden alliance, perhaps Mr. Woodward would like to discuss why our Saudi friends have such a link to the very worst elements of Salafist movements that gave us the 9/11 attack. And if Mr. Woodward wants history, how about how well Syria was governed from 1945 to 1970 when Hafez al-Asad came to power? Apparently it is not just Bashar who can count on cretins to obfuscate the situation.

  3. C. Spoleta

    The western “Regime Change” monster is having a good year, maybe its best, since 1953. Perhaps I am too squeamish, but I don’t go along with this “We had to destroy the village in order to save it” nonsense. The usual suspects are behind it, and they don’t give a damn about the people in any other country – or even their own – as long as they get their cut.

  4. Paul Woodward

    Arguments against intervention can easily be made if or when intervention is proposed. So far, none of the powers that would be doing such intervening have expressed even a hint of willingness to become militarily involved in the conflict.

    The reason intervention is such a hot issue is because a certain number of pundits are raising the specter of intervention in order to frame the issue as one that will resonate with opponents of the war in Iraq. Galvanizing support in opposition to intervention is an easy sell since anyone can reasonably oppose American forces being used in Syria or anywhere else.

    As for the idea that this is and should remain primarily a fight being waged by the Syrian people against Assad, indeed it is — but let’s not have any illusions about how self-sustaining any insurgency can be. In the American War of Independence, how would the revolutionaries have fared without outside support? By accepting weapons and ammunition from the France, Spain and Holland, did the revolutionaries turn themselves into the tools of foreign powers? Yes, in the sense that they were being offered support by those whose primary interest was diminishing British power – not fostering American independence. But that didn’t then mean that America would take shape in accordance with French, Spanish and Dutch designs.

    The fact is that those who choose to challenge the power of a state can’t be too picky about whom they accept support from.

  5. Fedup21

    Mr. Woodward, I understand what you are saying in regards to outside help, but I have seen arguments suggesting that even outside support in the form of the funneling of arms is unlikely to substantially help the rebels as it will just prolong a stalemate:

    That’s why I was asking what you think should be done?

  6. dickerson3870

    RE: “Arguments against intervention can easily be made if or when intervention is proposed. So far, none of the powers that would be doing such intervening have expressed even a hint of willingness to become militarily involved in the conflict.” ~ Woodward

    “There will be hell to pay for NATO’s Holy War”, by Pepe Escobar, Asia Times Online, 7/10/12

    It’s useful to examine what price Washington itself, not to mention its NATO subjects, could be paying for this Holy War branch-out fought with – who else – the same bunch of “terrorists” who until yesterday were about to destroy Western civilization and turn it into a giant Caliphate.
    Washington, London and Paris have tried – twice – to twist the UN Security Council into yet another war. They were blocked by Russia and China. So plan B was to bypass the UN and launch a NATO war. Problem is NATO has no stomach – and no funds – for a very risky war with a country that can actually defend itself.
    Thus plan C is to bet on a prolonged civil war, using the Far-from-Free Syrian Army (FSA), crammed with mercenaries and jihadists, and the band of opportunistic exiles known as the Syrian National Council (SNC).

    The SNC has actually called for a Libya-style no-fly zone over Syria – shorthand for a NATO war. Turkey also formally asked NATO for a no-fly zone. NATO commanders may be inept – but they have a certain amount of experience with major embarrassment (see Afghanistan). They flatly refused it.
    The SNC – and the FSA – could not be more un-representative. The “Friends of Syria” – as in Hillary and the Arab stooges – barely acknowledge the existence of the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change (NCB), the main indigenous opposition movement in Syria, composed of 13 political parties, mostly from the Left, Arab nationalists and including one Kurdish party. The NCB firmly denounces any form of militarization and totally dismisses the FSA.
    Iraq’s Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari – a Kurd – has warned that Salafi-jihadists of the al-Qaeda mould are moving into Syria in droves. Apparently this bunch still listens very closely to “invisible” al-Qaeda ideologue Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri; five months ago he issued these marching orders to jihadis in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. It also helps that many of them are being weaponized – via different networks – by the House of Saud and Qatar.
    For months everybody knows that the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) of al-Qaeda-linked Abdul Hakim Belhaj has been active in Syria – as well as remnants of al-Qaeda in Iraq now responsible for car bombings even in Damascus.
    In the event of a post-Assad Syria dominated by hardcore Sunnis infiltrated by Wahhabis and Salafi-jihadists, guaranteed blowback will leave Afghanistan after the 1980s anti-Soviet jihad looking like a ride on Disneyland Hong Kong. . .


  7. Paul Woodward

    In terms of identifying a just cause, I think it’s perfectly reasonable to take sides in a conflict even when one can’t offer a prescription for its resolution.

    To those who claim that the best form of support is to provide the rebels with a plentiful supply of weapons I would say this approach is very simplistic in that it treats the conflict like a battle which can end when one side “wins.” This ducks the question about what happens the day after.

    The recommendations in the paper you linked to sound as good as any I’ve heard. For the US to allow Russia to be the deal-maker may well be crucial, but for that to happen will require the Americans to dial down the arrogance with which they are habituated in approaching international affairs. In other words, letting the Russians take the lead role shouldn’t be thought of as an act of American generosity. It should be a way of saying, you have power which we lack. Is Hillary Clinton capable of making that kind of diplomatic shift? I wouldn’t bet on it.

  8. Paul Woodward

    Since everyone is obsessed with the “precedent” that intervention in Libya supposedly created, I’m using the phrase “military intervention” in the most obvious sense: missile attacks, air strikes, ground troops — the stuff we generally associate with starting or entering a war.

    It’s a shame Pepe Escobar doesn’t seem to do much roving these days. His commentary about the Middle East seems more insightful when it’s also from the Middle East. If after his most recent stint in Syria, Nir Rosen reports that the FSA is crammed with mercenaries and jihadists, I’ll take that claim seriously. But from Escobar in São Paulo this just sounds like anti-imperial rhetoric that is being forged into “truth” by the power of repetition.

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