by Zafar Bangash (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 42, No. 1, Rabi' al-Thani, 1434)
Events in Syria are not entirely based on domestic factors. There are three other conflicts underway that are all being played out through the struggle in Syria.
No conflict in any society anywhere in the world is entirely due to internal factors. There are always external players that exploit internal divisions to advance their own agendas. This is even more so in Syria that lies at the confluence of numerous political fault lines and where the interests of many powers collide. While at a superficial level, it can be said that the Syrian people were motivated by the same desire as people elsewhere in the Muslim East — Tunisia, Egypt et al. — to seek freedom and have a greater say in governance, it would be wrong to assume that this was entirely a domestically inspired movement. Enough evidence exists, courtesy of Syrian opposition sources, to confirm that the plot was hatched outside Syria, to wit, in Paris under the auspices of the Americans, Israelis and Saudis in February 2011.
Events in Syria must be understood against the backdrop of three other conflicts: the Israeli-Saudi struggle against Iran for regional influence; US-Russian power struggle for regional domination, and the US-Iran struggle for ideological influence. In all three arenas, the US and its allies have suffered setbacks. Turkey and Qatar have also joined the US-Saudi-Israeli nexus against Syria, and by extension Iran. The Syrian opposition’s offer of talks with Damascus, albeit with caveats, is proof that some of them have understood the regional dynamics. They have come to realize who wields the most power and influence in the region. It is not Riyadh, Tel Aviv, Ankara or Washington; it is Tehran. And Islamic Iran can be relied upon to play the role of honest broker, unlike the duplicitous Americans and devious Saudis. The plot to weaken the resistance front against Zionist Israel has ended up weakening the gang of conspirators and the setback they have suffered in Syria will unravel their other devilish plots as well.
Let us start with Russia’s role in the Syrian crisis. By refusing to cede control of Syria that would have turned the Mediterranean into an American lake, Moscow served notice that there will be no repeat of the Libya scenario. Both Russia and China felt betrayed by the manner in which a UN no-fly zone resolution on Libya was turned into a shooting rampage decimating Colonel Muammar Qaddafi’s forces and infrastructure. Once the US-NATO war was unleashed, there was little that Moscow or Beijing could do to stop it. Unlike Libya however, Syria is of great interest to Russia. There is a 40-year long relationship; Syria is the biggest importer of Russian arms in the region and there is a Russian naval base at Tartus. Russia had too much to lose and it refused to roll over at the UN leading to the use of three vetoes against US-sponsored resolutions that would have authorized a NATO attack on Syria. China, too, sided with Russia.
Next came the US-Saudi-Israeli nexus that wanted to cut an important arm of the resistance front against Zionist Israel. For its own reasons that we need not go into here, Syria has been an important pillar of the resistance front. Without its cooperation, Hizbullah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad could not have been helped to maintain their resistance against Zionist aggression. Turkey and Qatar joined this axis for their own reasons. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan fancies himself as the “new leader” of the Muslim world and the Turkish model as an example for other Muslim countries to emulate. Both the US and Israel have also been peddling this line. Tiny Qatar has, by getting so deeply involved in the Syrian crisis, projected itself on the world stage but it is likely to come up against the harsh reality of global politics and its bubble will be punctured sooner rather than later.
Turkey has run into serious problems domestically as well as regionally with its Syria policy and in recent weeks, it has become more circumspect in its pronouncements about Syria. The strident demands from Ankara for Bashar al-Asad to resign have been toned down. In fact, the ruling party is facing stiff resistance not only from other opposition parties in Turkey but also from the Turkish people that see the government’s Syria policy as a failure bordering on the disastrous.
Zionist Israel’s animosity toward the Islamic Republic is well known. It has made no secret of its evil intentions toward Tehran and to strike it if it could. The Zionists, however, know that any such misadventure would result in serious blowback for which even these arrogant aliens in the Holy Land are not prepared. Thus, they joined the conspiracy to undermine and overthrow the Asad regime so that Iran would lose an important regional ally. The Zionists tried their hand first against Hizbullah in Lebanon in 2006 and were soundly defeated. Then they went after the softer target of Hamas in Gaza in December 2008–January 2009, and again they were unsuccessful. Their latest foray into Gaza last November also ended in failure. In fact, it exposed them to Hamas and Islamic Jihad rocket attacks that for the first time reached Tel Aviv. Should the Zionists make another mistake, more sophisticated rockets will be used in the next go around. If the Zionists are unable to defeat Hamas in a vulnerable enclave like Gaza, what chance do they have against Iran’s dedicated Revolutionary Guards that will make minced meat of the pleasure-loving Zionists.
That brings us to the tribal-ruled Saudi Arabia, the perennial troublemakers of the Muslim world. Prior to the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the Saudis had donned the mantle of leaders of the Muslim Ummah, at least in matters religious. The fact that the two holy cities of Makkah and Madinah were in Saudi Arabia added to their aura although they had nothing to do with it. The Islamic Revolution in Iran exposed their fraudulent Islamic credentials. Initially, the Saudis went along with the rest of the Ummah in “welcoming” the Islamic Revolution but their true intentions were soon exposed in two developments: support for Iraq’s attack on Iran in September 1980 and soon thereafter the creation of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), bringing together the tribal sheikhdoms on the western shores of the Persian Gulf. Some dubbed the GCC as the Gulf Conspiracy Council.
The Saudis have also chafed at the fact that Iraq, far from falling under the US umbrella despite being liberated from the clutches of Saddam Husain has become an ally of Iran. This has undermined Saudi influence even further hence their full throttled spouting of anti-Shi‘i venom and the murderous campaign of suicide and car bombings in places like Syria, Iraq and Pakistan. Saudi financing of terrorist operations in Syria is part of their effort to undermine al-Asad and by extension Iran. They have also dropped their mask and become open allies of Zionist Israel. They were always subservient to the US but their open alliance with the Zionists to oppose Islamic Iran has exposed them even more.
Let us finally consider the US-Iran struggle for ideological influence in the region. Behind all these moves in the region — whether in Syria, the Zionist regime’s wars against Hizbullah and Hamas or US attacks on Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003) — was the intended Western-Israeli attack on Islamic Iran. We must consider why the US is so obsessed with Islamic Iran. There are two reasons behind this. First, Islamic Iran is the only legitimate government in the region and is implacably opposed to the Zionist regime in occupied Palestine. Both the US and Israel know that the Arabian regimes were never serious in their opposition to Zionism. Their rhetoric was meant to camouflage their impotence and to hoodwink their own populations into believing that they were serious about liberating Palestine. Only Islamic Iran is serious and since the Zionists control the US, Washington’s rulers have been led by the nose to undermine Islamic Iran for the sake of Zionist Israel.
Iran’s real “sin” is that it has challenged the global order that was crafted by the victors of the Second World War. Iran has broken out of that stranglehold and refuses to abide by US or Israeli demands. Both Washington and Tel Aviv know that this poses a serious challenge to their exploitative policies because if allowed to succeed, it would influence the thinking of other people as well — both Muslim and non-Muslim — and help them launch campaigns to free themselves from the yoke of US imperialism. For more than 30 years, the US has been involved in a relentless campaign to undermine Islamic Iran through sabotage, assassinations, sanctions, wars and every kind of other illegal means. Despite all these pressures, Islamic Iran has stood its ground and not compromised on its principles. Instead, all these challenges have strengthened its resolve and given it more self-confidence. The US can clearly see that as a consequence of Iran’s successful experiment, increasing numbers of Muslims have turned to Islam to find solutions to their problems.
The US attempt to destabilize the Asad regime — admittedly not democratically elected but one that is not without some degree of internal support either — is part of the ongoing campaign to destroy the Islamic Republic. Washington’s warlords have repeatedly suffered defeats in their nefarious plans and their conspiracy in Syria is also coming to naught. Unlike previous wars, the Afghan and Iraq wars have bankrupted America. Both US President Barack Obama and his former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have admitted that war is not an option for the US in Syria. This is quite an admission from an arrogant self-proclaimed superpower that was used to getting its away in the world.
In the ideological struggle for the hearts and minds of people, the US and its allies have lost. There is a new world order in the making that is centered around Tehran. Muslims everywhere would do well to understand this reality and adjust their thinking accordingly. As Allah says in His noble Book,
“O you who are securely committed to Allah, if you help the cause of Allah, He will give you victory and fortify your [advancing] resolve.” (47:07).
What better deal do Muslims want from the Creator and Sustainer of all the worlds?