Syria: imperialists keep flipping script

Elements of the US national security establishment have clearly got their money on Bashar Assad. Ex-CIA director Michael Hayden on Dec. 12 outlined three options for Syria's future at the annual Jamestown Foundation counter-terrorism confab: "Option three is Assad wins. And I must tell you at the moment, as ugly as it sounds, I'm kind of trending toward option three as the best out of three very, very ugly possible outcomes." Option one was ongoing conflict between radicalized sectarian facitons. Option two, which Hayden considered the most likely, was the "dissolution of Syria." (It isn't explained why this option ranks two if it's the most likely.) This, in turn, "means the end of Sykes-Picot… it sets in motion the dissolution of all the artificial states created after World War I." (AFP via Maan News Agency, Dec. 13)

It is unclear how the Arab states are any more "artificial" than, say, the United States of America. An entity known as Syria, more or less conforming to the current borders, goes back to biblical times. It should be noted that there is definitely a sector of Washington wonkdom that avidly favors a balkanization of the Middle East, beginning in Syria. Of course, an imperial position on this at all merely replicates the hubris of the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement, in which the Great Powers drew up the map of the contemporary Middle East. There is also clearly an element rooting for Option One: a strategy of equivocation aimed at prolonging the war—to let Assad and the jihadists exhaust each other. It is amusing to see Hayden and the idiot left elements that support Assad making common cause.

Another tellingly contradictory development: Just days ago, the US announced it was cutting aid to the Free Syrian Army because one of its bases had been overrun by the jihadist Islamic Front. Now it is reported that… US officials are due to hold talks with Islamic Front commanders in Turkey in the coming days! "The expected contacts between Washington and the radical fighters reflect the extent to which the Islamic Front alliance has eclipsed the more moderate Free Syrian Army brigades," we are told. It is implied that the US has deicded to groom the Islamic Front as a (perhaps ever so slightly) more "moderate" alternative to the Qaeda-linked Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). (Reuters via Jerusalem Post, Dec. 14)

We have long been correcting the Assad-apologists who refer to the jihadists as "Obama's rebels," when it is the secular-led FSA that has been receiving US aid. Maybe that is now about to change. Reminds us of the imperial strategy we have now seen in both Iraq and Afghanistan of supporting reactionary fundamentalists on condition that they transfer their loyalties from al-Qaeda to the US military. So  instead of totalitarian sharia enclaves loyal to al-Qaeda, much of Iraq is now made up of totalitarian sharia enclaves loyal to the US. What a promising model for Syria.


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  1. US betting on Assad?

    It sure looks that way, but never let the facts get in the way of a good conspiracy theory. From a Dec. 22 New York Times op-ed, "Don't Get in Bed With Assad," by Emile Hokayem, a Middle East analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies:

    One might think that America’s policy toward Syria couldn’t get any worse, but the rise of extremists there is generating dangerous thinking in Western capitals. High-level advisers and former officials have recently started to talk about Bashar al-Assad as a lesser evil than whatever comes next; some even see him as a potential partner in fighting jihadi terrorists.

    Rebuilding bridges with Mr. Assad, the reasoning goes, would allow Western intelligence agencies to penetrate and disrupt the activities of extremist groups and help identify the many hundreds of Western jihadis who are flocking there.

    Such simplistic analysis whitewashes the Assad regime’s record. It could also lead the Obama administration, for whom success in Syria is seemingly measured in terms of how uninvolved it is, to revert to the narrow, reactive counterterrorism strategy it has adopted in other troubled countries, like Yemen.

    The latest exponent of this reasoning is Ryan C. Crocker, a former American ambassador to Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. "We need to start talking to the Assad regime again," he told The New York Times, referring to counterterrorism and other issues of shared concern. "Bad as Assad is, he is not as bad as the jihadis who would take over in his absence."

    Again, how cute to see the Workers World Party making common cause with Ryan Crocker…