Saturday, September 09, 2017

Syrian War May be Over

Perhaps the apogee of US imperial power can be seen in the end of the Syrian civil conflict which has taken six years and nearly half a million lives.  The US halfheartedly backs rebels attempting to dispose the dictator, Bashir Assad. A UN special envoy joined by a former US ambassador to Syria said this week the rebels have lost that struggle.  The ambassador said Assad may never be brought to account for his war crimes, notably the use of chemical weapons against his own citizens. {28.09.13} Syria's civil war has certainly been prolonged by great power involvement and regional sectarian rivalry.

Recently the city of Deir al-Zor was liberated from a three year siege by the so-called Islamic State; it is the latest in a string of territorial gains by government forces. The second city of Aleppo is now completely in government hands.  Fierce fighting there included close air support from Russia which proved instrumental in recapturing the city and also killed a significant number of civilians.  The US-led coalition concentrated its air support on positions held by the so-called Islamic State (Daesh).  Assad's forces were also enhanced by Iranian militia and Hezbollah.  Raqqa, the nominal capital of IS, is expected to fall within the coming weeks.  Only the province of Idlib remains under rebel control.

The US was joined by Turkey and Qatar in supporting rebels that numbered elements of Islamic extremism.  Al-Nousra front received covert aid from the CIA before the new administration took office¹.  It was once affiliated with Al-Qaeda before it broke ranks to make western support politically more palatable. None of these extremists are interested in creating a secular state after Assad in which political power is shared with other factions. Therefore, the question of what to do with Assad quickly became sidelined.

Russia played the Great Game correctly: even though the Assad regime is a brutal dictatorship, Moscow's support gave the world a choice between a relatively cohesive, modernizing state at peace with Israel, or a destabilizing, fragmented territory controlled by extremists factions.  Libya, after the removal of Qaddafi, was a plausible precursor.  Russia supports a political process to let Syrians decide their future. The west can only hope it does not include Assad.  Moscow, after its decisive two year intervention, is now in the driver's seat much to the consternation of the Deep State in Washington².

1. Sixteen years after the event we now know that it was a Cold War imperative to provide military support for the Mujaheddin fighting the Soviet army in Afghanistan.  It was that cadre of trained fighters which including Osama Bin Laden that was the genesis of Al Qaeda.  The presence of infidel troops in the Wahhabi kingdom of Saudi Arabia after the decapitation of Saddam Hussein provided a reason for striking at the 'great satan's' homeland.  It was the chaotic US military occupation of Iraq that led to the formation of ISIS.  The US is still paying the price of its policy errors.

2. C.Wright Mills in The Power Elite, describing the military ascendancy in policy making observed, "When virtually all negotiation aimed at peaceful agreement is likely to be seen as 'appeasement', if not treason, the active role of the diplomat becomes meaningless; for diplomacy becomes merely a prelude to war or an interlude between wars, and in such context the diplomat is replaced by the warlord."  This observation made over 50 years ago explains why there is no peace treaty governing relations on the Korean peninsula.