Exodus and betrayal: How a Syrian Nakba was created


David Hearst writes: US Secretary of State John Kerry came close to revealing his true thoughts when he was accosted by two Syrian aid workers at a reception in London after the collapse of the Geneva talks last week.

The Syrians accused him of doing nothing to protect civilians from the onslaught they are facing in Aleppo. Kerry replied: “Don’t blame me – go and blame your opposition,” laying the fault for the government’s offensive on the opposition walking out of the talks.

Kerry got flustered in the encounter: “What do you want me to do? Go to war with Russia? Is that what you want?” the aid worker said Kerry told her. Kerry then anticipated three months of bombing during which time “the opposition will be decimated”.

Kerry’s off-mic encounter deviated significantly from the official line which was that Russia and Iran had offered Washington a ceasefire. Kerry’s remarks differed also from the State Department mantra that the brutality of Assad against the Syrian people had helped foster the growth of the Islamic State group. Apparently now, Syrians who resisted Assad’s brutality were responsible for the barrel bombs being dropped on them.

After multiple avowals that Assad’s army was on the point of collapse and the ill-fated CIA training programmes, Syrian rebels are being sold down the river by the country that urged them to rise up five years ago.

The Deraa protests started peacefully. To that everyone attests. Four factors turned those protests into an armed uprising: the brutality of the regime’s response, Assad’s decision to release Jihadis from Sednaya Prison, an act which “Islamised” the opposition, the Libyan intervention, and the intervention of foreign powers – Iran and Saudi Arabia.

The scenes today on the Turkish border are a direct consequence of Obama’s “intervention-lite” in Syria – a drip feed of weapons – but only 16 bullets per fighter per month. The Free Syrian Army has reportedly stopped receiving weapons for four months. In Libya, Obama boasted he was leading from behind. In Syria he is now wringing his hands from behind. [Continue reading…]

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2 thoughts on “Exodus and betrayal: How a Syrian Nakba was created

  1. Syd

    To see the civil war through this prism, you have to persuade yourself that the opposition to Assad consists exclusively of Salafi jihadi extremists, supported by the Wahabi doctrines of Saudi Arabia and the imperial conceit of Erdogan’s Sultanate in Turkey. You have to persuade yourself that the Syrian rebels, like IS, want to impose a brutal theocracy on a secular state. You have, in short, to airbrush out of this landscape the faces and views of the majority Sunni population.

    No one’s saying they all support ISIS, but here’s the reality:

    More than half of the rebel fighters in Syria who are opposing President Bashar al-Assad are sympathetic to Islamic State views, a leading think tank has claimed. The Centre on Religion and Geopolitics said efforts to wipe out Isis in Syria and Iraq would not end the global threat from jihadi groups because extremist views were common among Syrian fighters of all stripes.

    And the Defense Intelligence Agency said in 2012 that “THE SALAFIST [sic], THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD, AND AQI ARE THE MAJOR FORCES DRIVING THE INSURGENCY IN SYRIA”. So even if had overthrown Assad a year after the uprising, the only thing we could do was replace a sectarian Shiite government with a sectarian Sunni government. That’s still true.

  2. Paul Woodward

    Can an assessment be described as “the reality” just because it can be attributed to a think tank? I’d be a bit more cautious about attaching this much weight to the findings of Tony Blair’s organization.

    “Syd” — your thinking is in complete alignment with what remained U.S. foreign policy for decades: that the virtue of authoritarian governance is that it provides stability.

    All the evidence, however, points in the opposite direction: that the stability offered by authoritarianism is tenuous and will eventually expire. The longer it holds, the more explosive that expiration is likely to be.

    Let’s suppose that thanks to Russian intervention, the tide has now turned in Assad’s favor and that the opposition can be bombed into submission. Do you think that’s what’s going to bring peace to Syria?

    There’s no question that the war in Syria has become increasingly sectarian, but there’s a willful ignorance among those who parrot the line that the sectarianism is only being driven by Sunnis.

    Iran has been shipping in its mercenaries from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Lebanon all on the pretext that their mission is to protect Shia shrines. Everyone knows this is bullshit — except for the cannon-fodder themselves.

    The sectarian narrative is pushed by Saudi Arabia, the Salafists, and Iran all for the same reason: it’s a reliable ideological mechanism for the consolidation of power. It fabricates an appearance of equality between those who issue orders and those who are meant to blindly follow them.

    The same narrative now serves as a convenient rationalization of anti-interventionists to turn their backs on fellow human beings by seeing them as some kind of alien species — ignoring the fact that the majority of those fighting in Syria, even now, are fighting for their land, not a utopian caliphate.

    That those fighters could in increasing numbers be labelled as Islamists says less about their individual ideological hardening than its says about the supply lines of support. Who wants to stay in a militia that’s been approved as secular if that then means trying to survive on a ration of less than a bullet a day?

    That’s the last time I’ll respond to your comments Syd. Since you come here to grind your anti-interventionist ideological ax, you really should create your own platform for that purpose rather than chew up my time.

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