Syria: what is the imperial agenda?

President Obama's speech to the United Nations on Sept. 24 displayed refreshing honesty: "The United States of America is prepared to use all elements of our power, including military force, to secure our core interests in the [Middle East] region… We will ensure the free flow of energy from the region to the world. Although America is steadily reducing our own dependence on imported oil, the world still depends upon the region's energy supply, and a severe disruption could destabilize the entire global economy." (American Forces Press ServiceThe Hill, Sept. 24) Although Syria was not the explicit context here, the speech also called the use of chemical weapons n Syria, "a threat to our own national security."

Syria has little oil itself, although its northern olfields have recently become a goad in the war. But it is the proximity of the world's most strategic oil reserves that makes Syria strategic. We've argued since the Libya intervention that the overriding US concern has been to control the political trajectory of the Arab Revolution—posing as its defender under regimes no longer useful to Washington, while continuing to underwrite its repression with petro-dollars and direct aid under regimes still seen as reliable clients. It is axiomatic that the final objective is domesticated regimes throughout the region, and exploiting the Arab freedom struggle to secure greater "freedom" for capital. But the stakes in Syria are now considerably higher—risking a regional conflagration that could threaten imperial control of the Persian Gulf reserves. Hence Obama's punt to Congress, acceptance of the Russian plan, and general equivocation.

Many see the equivocation itself as a strategem—to let Assad and the jihadists exhaust each other. Jeremy R. Hammond postulates in Foreign Policy Journal that "US policy is to prolong the conflict and escalate the violence by backing the rebels enough to eventually coerce Assad into agreeing to step down, but not enough to assist them in actually overthrowing the government."

This was also stated with refreshing frankness by one elder Israeli diplomat, in a Sept. 5 NY Times article, "Israel Backs Limited Strike Against Syria."

"This is a playoff situation in which you need both teams to lose, but at least you don't want one to win—we'll settle for a tie," said Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli consul general in New York. "Let them both bleed, hemorrhage to death: that's the strategic thinking here. As long as this lingers, there’s no real threat from Syria."

As we've noted, neocons and Zionists are divided on whether to give Assad a shove or prop him up as the Devil they know. Al Jazeera on Sept. 12 actually portrayed a split between Israel and its own stateside lobby, in a piece entitled "Israel and AIPAC clash on Syria strike." After noting John Kerry's pressure on Congress to approve intervention, it states:

Israel's largest backers in Washington have also pushed this line: Hours before Obama's speech, the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) dispatched hundreds of activists to meet with members of Congress and urge them to vote "yes", authorising a US strike on Syria.

All of this stands in stark contrast to the Israeli government itself, which does not oppose a US strike on Syria but has spent weeks trying to say as little as possible on the subject. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu asked his cabinet to keep silent on the issue; Netanyahu himself issued a bland statement saying only that Israel was "calm" ahead of any US military action.

This strategy of equivocation was also noted by Noam Chomsky in an interview by Syrian opposition journalist Mohammad Al Attar in The Republic, publication of the Local Coordination Committees, translated back into English by the German solidarity website Heinrich Böll Stiftung:

Israel has done nothing to indicate that it is trying to bring down the Assad regime. There are growing claims that the West intends to supply the opposition with arms. I believe this is quite misleading. The fact of the matter is, that were the United States and Israel interested in bringing down the Syrian regime there is a whole package of measures they could take before they came to the arms-supply option. All these other options remain available, including, for example, America encouraging Israel to mobilize its forces along the northern border, a move that would not produce any objections from the international community and which would compel the regime to withdraw its forces from a number of frontline positions and relieve the pressure on the opposition. But this has not happened, nor will it, so long as America and Israel remain unwilling to bring down Assad regime. [Sic] They may not like the regime, but it is nevertheless a regime that is well practised in accommodating their demands and any unknown alternative might prove worse in this respect. Much better, then, to watch the Syrians fight and destroy each other.

We've had our problems with Chomsky, but it seems like he might have this one right.

Speaking of keeping everybody paranoidRussia Today claimed Sept. 9, citing anonymous sources (of course), that Syrian rebels are planning a chemical attack on Israel from Assad-controlled territories as a "major provocation." Could be. More likely, RT is giving Assad cover to do it himself if attacked by the West, while scapegoating the rebels.

Either way, such scenarios explain why the Israelis and a sector of the neocons are now gun-shy. Easier to gamble with local stability in Iraq or Libya than right across the Golan Heights from the Jewish state…

Please support our fund drive.


  1. Syria: strategic oilfield seized by rebels?

    Islamist rebels claim they have seized Syria’s largest oil field, potentially cutting off President Bashar Assad’s supply of almost all internal crude reserves. If confirmed, the loss of the al-Omar oil field in the eastern Deir al-Zor province could leave Assad’s military forces relying almost entirely on imported oil in their campaign to crush the uprising.

    The news comes as the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported at least 29 deaths following regime air strikes in northern Aleppo, including 14 people who were killed in the city’s eastern district of Tariq al-Bab. (Sky News, Nov. 23)

    A new report by the UK-baed Oxford Research Group meanwhile says that 11,420 children have been killed in the Syrian war, now going on three years—including hundreds intentionally targeted by sniper fire, especially in Aleppo. “There are…well-documented cases of individual children being tortured and executed, and entire families, including babies, being massacred,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay. (BBC News, CNN, Nov. 23)

  2. Assad is the least harmful: Israeli official

    ARA news service on Jan. 15 quotes former IDF chief of staff Dan Halutz urging the West to support Assad against the jihadists. 

    "The Western countries should be more pragmatic and put their own interests and those of Israeli at the forefront of their priorities and seek reconciliation between the Syrian regime and the moderate opposition, rather than enabling radical Islamist groups to achieve victory against the regime," Halutz added

    Halutz argued if the Western countries allowed the fall of President Bashar al-Assad's regime, "they would have committed the most egregious mistake", adding that this has become recognized by many political elites in Europe and the United States.

    "The collapse of the Syrian regime would turn the region into a fertile ground for the jihadist groups with radical Islamic ideology, which will target Europe and Israel with their terrorist operations, in contrast to the Syrian regime which would never think of such steps if guaranteed to remain in power," the Former Chief of Staff of the Israeli Army stressed.

    Tell us again about the Israeli plot to destabilize Assad?