by Zainab Cheema (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 41, No. 2, Jumada' al-Ula', 1433)
After the 2011 Libya War, a beleaguered Syria is the new Middle Eastern prize for which the world’s military-industrial gladiators are now battling. This smoldering long war was inaugurated by the Arab Spring, where the popular movements provided a perfect cover for the Anglo-American axis to slip in their Manchurian candidates a la the Syrian “opposition.”
After the 2011 Libya War, a beleaguered Syria is the new Middle Eastern prize for which the world’s military-industrial gladiators are now battling. This smoldering long war was inaugurated by the Arab Spring, where the popular movements provided a perfect cover for the Anglo-American axis to slip in their Manchurian candidates a la the Syrian “opposition.” But the seeds were planted long before the Arab Spring. After all, it was right after September 11, 2001 when Senator Joe Lieberman declared: “First we must go after Iran, Iraq and Syria [before Afghanistan]”. The maps were drawn and the coordinates plotted a decade ago — or perhaps longer.
The latest update is the recent spate of car bombings that ripped through Syria on March 17. Bashar al-Asad’s administration cried foul and blamed foreign-trained operatives who have been working to destabilize the government; the Syrian opposition movement has in turn blamed the government for self-sabotage as a ploy to win sympathy. Twenty-seven people were killed in the car bombings; over 140 were injured. There was also a suicide bombing attack in a Palestinian refugee camp, but only the bombers lost their lives. According to a recent Washington Post report, whole towns and villages have become emptied as residents flee for their lives. There is one rill of a full-scale war between the Syrian Army and the “Free Syrian Army” being supplied out of Cyprus and Turkey. The UN estimates that 8,000 people have lost their lives since the war began.
As in Libya, al-Qaeda mercenaries have been deployed to wreck mayhem. Insulated Syria, a staid archipelago in the midst of the firestorms of Iraq, Kuwait, and Lebanon, has become the new staging ground for the signature gruesomeness of these Manchurian superbots. In one shocking footage from the Syrian killing fields, 27 bodies (including women and children) were discovered bearing signs of violent torture and rape. Syrian citizens are threatened with the collapse of their society, confronting shades of Tripoli within their own borders. Iraqi and Palestinian refugees in Syria once more face the specters of danger, violence, and fear.
Like Afghanistan, Syria has been done in by geopolitics. With the sparking of the Arab Revolutions, the US-Israeli nexus seeks to split the Iran-Syria-Hizbullah alliance and build a staging ground from which Iran can be invaded. “The road to Teheran passes through Damascus,” according to a US State Department memo. Iran must be wiped off the map because Israel’s security demands it — the Iranian-Syrian bulwark arms Hamas and Hizbullah, those ever-present thorns on the Yellow Brick Road to Greater Israel. Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense project — a US Congress subsidized, multi-million dollar venture designed to “reassure” Israel about the rockets from Gaza, as the title of a Christian Science Monitor article put it — is the latest example of the bizarre dimensions of this fantasy for security.
Syria’s fate was also sealed by the discovery of the signature curse of the Muslim East — energy. Recently, a natural gas bonanza amounting to potentially 122 trillion cubic feet of liquid energy has been discovered along the coasts of Lebanon, Gaza, and Israel. Ever dreaming of becoming the energy ring-master of the Muslim East, Israel has promptly dubbed the find as the “Leviathan gas field,” after the biblical monster, and is proceeding full steam with plans for off-shore drilling. By right, Gaza and Lebanon enjoy access to the basin too — and hence, the plans for defanging Hamas and Hizbullah and fully incorporating both Gaza and Lebanon into Israel, plans with which Israeli generals lazily danced for the past few decades, must now be speeded up to a super-sonic timeline. Now, conquering the territories of Sham is no longer a matter of Manifest Destiny — it is about the golden ticket to economic plutocracy that will make Saudi Arabia look like the lobby to the Chocolate Factory.
Saudi Arabia’s role in bankrolling the mayhem and shepherding the Gulf States behind Pentagon Inc. has been well documented. At the Friends of Syria (aka Crusade against Syria) council convened in Tunis in late February 2012, Prince Saud al-Faisal declared that humanitarian aid against Syria was simply not enough, and that arming the rebels was an “excellent idea”. According to a Foreign Policy news bulletin, Saudi clerics ranged around the king are openly calling for jihad in Syria (code word for al-Qaeda-inflicted blood and gore). One prominent cleric, ‘A’id al-Qarni, has even demanded Bashar al-Asad’s assassination. Off with his head, indeed.
Meanwhile Bahrain, fresh from suppressing its own domestic insurrection, has offered Russia on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council $5 billion dollars for abstaining from vetoing a Security Council resolution for al-Asad to step down from power. Both Russia and China, who have banded together out of their mutual fears of encirclement by the EU-US-Israeli axis, vetoed such a resolution on February 4th to widespread furor. Susan Rice, the U.S. Ambassador to the UN, called the vetoes “disgusting”; Secretary of State Hilary Clinton dubbed Russian and Chinese resistance “despicable” and Peter Wittig, Germany’s UN ambassador, chimed in to term the vetoes “a disgrace.” Russia and China seem to hold firm for now — oil wealthy Russia has laughed at Bahrain’s bribe — and speaks of not letting the “Libyan scenario” reoccur.
As the ringmasters of the Syrian debacle chastised Russia and China for abandoning humanitarian concern for the Syrian people, the Free Syrian Army made it abundantly clear what this humanitarianism translates to on the ground. As a Syrian opposition spokesmen at the Tunis meeting told Reuters: “We are bringing in defensive and offensive weapons… It is coming from everywhere, including Western countries and it is not difficult to get anything through the borders.” In short, this brand of humanitarian intervention looks down from behind the barrel of a gun.
Bahrain’s bribe to Russia counts as one of the most ironic bit of political theatre in recent years. Of course only the most politically naive would be surprised at the Saudi and Gulf Arabs’ Shylockian eagerness to transmute lucre into pound(s) of flesh in the Syrian killing fields. Their brutal repressions during the Arab Spring is perhaps the most recent example of their status in EU-US-Israeli nexus (otherwise known as Pentagon Inc.) That is, they are client states whose political absolutism and personal debauchery depends on preventing Muslim publics from forming a collective political will.
If the Syrian enterprise is designed to break up the Iran-Hizbullah-Hamas nexus in favor of the robotic conservatism of Saudi-sponsored Wahhabism, then the critical piece in the puzzle of the New Muslim East as it takes shape is the Muslim Brotherhood. All along, the operative question of the Arab Spring has been: what will the Brotherhood do? As the dinosaur client regimes of Ben Ali and Mubarak toppled, the Brotherhood was presented with a choice. Either align with Iran to form a revolutionary axis against EU-US-Israel or vacate the chairs left behind by Mubarak and Co in an incestuous union with the secularized army. As the fires of popular unrest raged, the Brotherhood brain trust chose the latter (the Turkish model, as many put it).
In recent news, as the Brotherhood is poised to take over political power in Egypt, it has thrown its support behind US Inc. on the Syrian question. Particular historical memories are at work here — they recall the brutal suppression of the group by Hafez al-ssad, and see Asad Fils as a replica of the father and an Iranian agent to boot. The Brotherhood has organized rallies around al-Azhar, where slogans against al-Asad were chanted and prayers offered for the “free Syrian martyrs,” as Ikhwan web puts it. A sample of the slogans: “Leave Now, O Bashar,” “Syria and Egypt, One Hand” and “The People Want Execution of Bashar.” The shades of Libya still ghosting the news like the unhappy Dido, doesn’t disturb this political vendetta at all.
To be fair, the Brotherhood would certainly disagree with this portrait. As an example of their tolerance and fair-mindedness, they recently declared that they would adopt a far more “neutral” position between Hamas and Fatah in the Palestinian conflict, rather than supporting their branch Hamas. As noted by a Sydney Morning Herald article: “Brotherhood officials say that they are pulling back from their previous embrace of Hamas and its commitment to armed struggle against Israel in order to open new channels of communications with Fatah, which the Brotherhood had previously denounced for collaborating with Israel and selling out the Palestinian cause.”
As the US and Israel continue to watch over the Brotherhood — an anxious tutelage indeed — perhaps the news they are the proudest of is the split between Hamas and the fragile Syria-Iran axis. Capitalizing on the Brotherhood gaining bastions of power in Tunisia and Egypt, Ismail Haniya of Hamas launched a Middle Eastern tour in February 2011 where he disassociated himself from al-Asad’s regime and emphasized his links with Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. Meanwhile, Hamas’ exiled political leader Khalid Mish‘al has moved his offices out of his Damascus headquarters. “Anything that divides Hamas and Hizbullah is likely to be welcomed by Israel, which has been watching warily recent moves by Hamas to reconcile differences with its Palestinian rivals in Fatah,” gleefully noted a Haaretz article.
In the rawness of the political moment, the successors to Mubarak et al scramble around playing musical chairs with the empty seats of power. The Saudi and Gulf client states have long been a study in political debauchery, enjoying their oil wealth and spending it on a desperate Muslim world only to the end of subjugating it further to Pentagon Inc. But as the Arab Spring gives way to the shade and quiet of Autumn, the Brotherhood’s shining moment is now past as they join the EU-US-Israeli-Gulf axis to taste the pleasures of the power club. The golden mask of the Pharaoh proves itself to be a flexible one indeed, adapting itself to piously bearded chins as easily as it did the smooth shaven jowls of Mubarak and Ben Ali.