Boston bombing, Syria, and the Russian connection

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Ayesha Alam

Rajab 22, 1434 2013-06-01

News & Analysis

by Ayesha Alam (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 42, No. 4, Rajab, 1434)

American attempts to use the Boston bombings to exert pressure on Russia to compromise on Syria at the UN Security Council seem not to have worked.

Every terrorist event in the United States is framed within the geopolitical webs of the national security state, the global canvas of war graphed by Pentagon Inc. For instance, it is impossible to examine 9/11 in isolation from Iraq and Afghanistan. Likewise, the Nigerian underwear bomber must be contextualized within the Pentagon’s expansion of AFRICOM. And while the Boston bombing has many complex strands, the Russian connection cannot be disputed — that is, Russia’s support for the Syrian regime as a critical bulwark against the US-Israeli-Saudi nexus of war.

As a number of experts have noted, the underlying purpose of the escalating violence in Syria is the quixotic quest for Israel’s security in the region — and since the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war, Israel has demanded the dismantling of Iran in the region, or more specifically the Iran-Hizbullah-Syria nexus. As the British commentator Tariq Ali noted in an interview with Russian news agency RT, “…the rise of sectarian violence and recent Israeli bombing indicate that the true aim of the Syrian civil war is to weaken Iran’s position in the region.”

Unlike the Libyan proxy war, where Muammar Qaddafi’s regime was dismantled with NATO bombardments and al-Qaeda equipped mercenaries within a few months, Syria has held out for more than two years. The deciding factor has been support from Iran and Hizbullah — and from Russia, whose supply of military hardware has altered the equation of power established by NATO’s supply of advanced weaponry to al-Qaeda and other salafi militants.

Russian military aid has been instrumental in the latest victory of the Syrian Army against the “rebels.” Al-Qusayr, a logistically important town, has been retaken by government forces — it gives the government a corridor into the province of Homs, where the rebel camp is based; and it opens a strategically valuable corridor to the coastal region on the Mediterranean where the ‘Alawi base of power is situated. From there a military supply line can be established for the purposes of defending Damascus.

Currently, the Syrian “rebels” are losing the battle against government forces, both in terms of logistics, military victories, and the global moral support. As videos circulate the internet depicting the barbarity of al-Qaeda militants — in one particularly charming video, an al-Qaeda militant cuts open the chest of a Syrian soldier, takes out his heart and begins gnawing it — the narrative of the oppressive regime cracking down on an indigenous Syrian revolution is beginning to fray.

The implications of the latest shift in war should not be underestimated. Dan Layman, head of media relations for the pro-opposition Syria Support Group says that it will be very difficult to regain control if al-Qusayr falls to Asad’s forces. “If Qusair [sic] is taken back by the regime, it’s going to be a huge morale blow [for the opposition],” he said. According to the intelligence company, the Syrian government’s recent success in and around al-Qusayr and Homs is due largely to support from Iran, Russia and Hizbullah.

Russia’s weapons support has leveled the playing field by placing high-tech weaponry in the hands of trained Syrian soldiers; in NATO’s attempts to arm the mercenary al-Qaeda militias, they are confronting the lack of trained expertise in illiterate men programmed in the violence of takfir. On May 16, the New York Times anxiously reported that Russia has delivered the sophisticated Yakhont anti-ship missiles to al-Asad’s government. “Unlike Scud and other longer-range surface-to-surface missiles that the Asad government has used against opposition forces, the Yakhont anti-ship missile system provides the Syrian military a formidable weapon to counter any effort by international forces to reinforce Syrian opposition fighters by imposing a naval embargo, establishing a no-fly zone or carrying out limited airstrikes,” groused NYT writers Eric Schmidt and Michael Gordon.

Russia has defended its decision to send the missiles to Syria. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he did not understand “why the media is trying to create a sensation out of this. We have not hidden that we supply weapons to Syria under signed contracts, without violating any international agreements, or our own legislation,” he said. “And we most importantly supply anti-aircraft system, and it doesn’t create any imbalance of power in the region or any kind of advantages in the fight against the opposition.”

Analysts in US-based Pentagon Inc. think tanks charged Russia with out-dated thinking, and interpreting the world in the lens of Cold War histories rather than “modern realities.” Israeli newspapers threw a hissy fit, and Israeli politicians began to lobby Russia from making any more weapons sales to the Syrians. Russia had also been planning to sell the S-300 air defense system to Syria which will allow the government to shoot down enemy aircraft, which spurred Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to fly to Russia on May 21 to urge Putin not to go through with the sale.

For his part, Barack Obama has shifted gears on facing a Syrian quagmire, inviting Russia to hold a Syria “peace conference.” As per media reports, the peace conference is being organized by US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov. Of course, when the Syrian civil war was moving in the direction desired by Pentagon Inc. — the destabilization of the Asad government in favor of a puppet regime friendly to Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the GCC countries — the US rejected any and all calls toward a diplomatic solution for Syria. If we look to the workings of the war machine behind this latest rush toward diplomacy, it appears that the peace conference is motivated by the necessity of forming a Russian connection — that is, the pragmatic consideration of neutralizing Russian support for al-Asad.

While commentators are engaging the elegancies of doubt with respect to the outcome of peace talks with Syrian government and rebel groups, the more savvy analysts have focused on the Russian connection. For instance, Paul Pillar of Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies Program declared that there is reason for optimism concerning the peace conference. “I think the development in Moscow in terms of the agreement that Secretary Kerry reached with the Russians to convene a conference is one of the most positive, hopeful things we’ve heard in connection with Syria in quite some time,” he said.

If the Machiavellian parameter of end justifies the means, then it is clear that the Syrian peace conference is a different means toward the same end: regime change. Pillar says that he doesn’t believe there will be an immediate outcome to the conference, but he says he does believe it could set the stage for an eventual agreement that would result in what he calls a “new political order,” in which Syria’s ethnic groups would share responsibilities and a role in government.

Not that brokering the peace conference has stemmed the tide of threats against al-Asad: British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement on May 20 that “…no options are off the table” if the Syrian government refuses to negotiate the country’s future at the upcoming Geneva conference. Or as the Washington Post framed the situation, “Washington demands Asad’s ouster, while Russia continues to provide the Syrian leader with military aid and diplomatic cover, but President Barack Obama this week said the meeting ‘may yield results’.”

The US Defense Secretary took a page from Obama’s playbook and circumspectly warned Russia against “military escalation” in Syria. “What we don't want to see happen, the Russians don't want to see happen, is for Syria to erupt to the point where we may well find a regional war in the Middle East,” Chuck Hagel said. “So we continue to work with the Russians on their interests and everything we can do to convince the powers that are involved in the region to be careful with escalation of military options and equipment,” he said, adding that the US was planning for every military contingency.

In other words, Hagel appears to warn Russia against military support for al-Asad, or else face the US sanctioning deployment of its own troops in the region. US troops have already been deployed in Jordan, in preparation for a direct military campaign. As reported by the website, “[t]he Pentagon plans to relocate an effective military force beginning with 200 then up to 20,000 soldiers and station them in Jordan in order to be prepared for a possible military intervention in Syria.” The report is sourced from the Los Angeles Times, which reported that the 200 were deployed in April, and that the rest were to be deployed in May.

Nor should the Russian connection be underestimated in the way the Boston bombing incident is being framed in US media speak. Just as the foreign parameters of 9/11 took a few months to be set, in line with the foreign policy objectives of G.W. Bush and his team to launch wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the fuzzy borders of the Boston bombing should be watched with concern. If the US government has thrown its weight and reputation behind al-Asad’s ouster, as the necessary precondition for Israel’s survival in the Muslim East, then the webs of words and public emotions churned by US newspapers, television programs, and internet sites will inevitably graft together the northeast capital of Boston with the embattled Levant.

The Russian connection in the Syrian war is the current offensive, one being fought on the political front, amongst ambassadors, diplomats, and international aid directors. The Tsarnaev brothers’ connections with Russia have not yet been spun on US media programs — as of now, they have mostly been identified with the American Muslim problem, and with the imperative to expand the US surveillance and national security apparatus, in line with proposals that had already been in the pipeline for a number of years.

The Russian connection is a question of geopolitics. There are two potential directions the Russian connection can possibly be spun, depending on which way Russia swings in the Syrian war — that Russia is either a hostile, covert political enemy that by not sharing information, is tacitly deploying its Chechen Muslims against the security of the United States. Or if Putin et al. withdraw from Syria, Russia could be praised as a valuable partner in the US’ global quest against terrorism, with high-level invitations to share technologies and gain US domestic support for its ongoing efforts to clamp down on Chechen separatists.

The move to befriend Russia is swiftly moving apace. In a recent article entitled “The Russians are coming,” Fox reported that for the first time in bilateral relations between the two countries, Russian soldiers will engage in joint military exercises with US troops in Colorado. The two nations' militaries have been conducting joint exercises for years, but this is believed to be the first time Russian soldiers have trained on US soil, Lt. Col. Steven Osterholzer said. The Russians and Americans are training together on basic soldier skills ranging from firing weapons to making parachute drops, said Osterholzer, a public affairs officer for the 10th Special Forces Group.

But if Russia does not prove to be sufficiently compliant to Pentagon Inc., the US media is already rippling with the ominous rumblings, suggestive of the ways in which public emotions riled by the Boston bombing could be turned against the US’ Cold War foe. In an article published on May 10, 2013, the Wall Street Journal cited US Congressional discussions accusing Russia of withholding information on the Tsarnaev brothers that could have helped the US apprehend them before the Boston bombing took place. “The information Russia withheld ‘would have allowed the [FBI] bureau to open an investigation where you could track [Mr. Tsarnaev’s] communications,’ said House Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Rogers (R., Mich.).”

However, even this article, titled “US: Russia Withheld Intel on Boston Bomb Suspect,” offered an olive branch to the Cold War foe. “Following the 2001 terrorist attacks, US intelligence services sought to find common ground with their Russian counterparts, but soon discovered their interests diverged, said Andrew Liepman, former deputy director of the National Counterterrorism Center and a Central Intelligence Agency veteran. The US was focused on al-Qaeda, and the Russians were focused on Chechnya.”

The Russian connection then is about the Syrian front, which must be dismantled in preparation for Israel’s Muslim East foreign policy objective — taking down Iran. In the complex dynamics of modern geopolitics, events, emotions, and spectacles tie together far flung regions of the world, as determined by the shifting fronts of NATO’s perpetual war against Islam.

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