Geopolitics of the Syrian crisis
by Feroze Mithiborwala on 05 May 2013 1 Comment

Way back in 2006, when Israel had waged the war on Lebanon, we had to travel from Damascus to Beirut, the twin cities of resistance. When we went back in February 2013, approaching Damascus from Beirut, amidst the sounds of bombardments that continued all day and night, we were aware that the geopolitical war for Syria will have tremendous ramifications for the power structure of the world and especially for West Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. Thus, there was need for a deeper understanding and a constructive politically informed intervention on the part of the Indian people’s movements.


An Indian delegation comprising Jatin Desai (freelance journalist), Nirja Bhatnagar (Gender and Human Rights), Mubasshiruddin Khurram (Siyasat, Urdu daily) and this author, was the first team (February 9-16th) of a series of Indian journalists and political activists on an invitation from the Syrian Ministry of Information and in coordination with Syrian civil society.


On international issues, we remain largely dependent on Western news sources, both in the print and the electronic media. Though India is a growing political and economic power, our political leadership, social movements, and media lack an informed and independent perspective on issues of strategic geopolitical significance. The daily reporting on Syria in our media has been entirely through the prism of Reuters, AFP, BBC, CNN, Al Jazeerah and Al Arabiya, all of which are part of the Western imperial alliance and their vassal states in the region.


This has led to a vastly distorted perspective in our analysis of the Syrian crisis, where a war has been unleashed upon its very unity and sovereignty, led by an alliance of the US-UK-France-Turkey (NATO) and Israel, in alliance with the despotic Gulf monarchies of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE and Bahrain.


On the other side stands the alliance of Russia-China-Venezuela and Iran, and the BRICS nations. Here it needs be said that India, as part of the alliance, has adopted a position that calls for adherence to the UN charter, political solution to the Syrian crisis and has opposed foreign intervention and resorting to fomenting terrorism as a strategic option, as well as the imposition of war on Syria by nations that are funding, arming and fuelling an insurgency.


The NATO-GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) agenda is definitely not for ‘democracy’. But it certainly is once again a glaring instance of ‘regime change’ in the garb of ‘humanitarian intervention’. The Western-led alliance has mobilized militants, mercenaries and terrorists from across 29 nations to infiltrate and destroy Syria, partition and balkanize along religious, sectarian and ethnic lines. The mercenaries are part of a global network led by extremist Wahabis, Salafists and Takfiris, who are extremely intolerant in their beliefs and consider all other Muslim sects as kafirs, leave alone the adherents of all other faiths, where the less said the better.


Al-Nusra, a Taliban-Al Qaeda-like affiliate, is deeply involved in the insurgency. Thus whilst the US, UK and France claim to be fighting these very forces in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Mali, they have systematically organized, promoted, funded, armed and mobilized them in Libya and in Syria. The cold-blooded hypocrisy has never been more evident, but has rarely been written about in the Indian media (Syria: A Jihadi Paradise, By Pepe Escobar


Certainly Syria requires major democratic reform in its socio-religio-cultural, economic and political structures. But the relevant point here is that, is the Syrian government and ruling elite which comprises all sections, entirely opposed and disconnected from the aspirations on the ground, or where they willing to respond to a process of democratic reform and actively engage the opposition parties and civil society?


In our estimation, the Syrian Government and dominant sections of the national opposition are committed to a political process of dialogue to resolve the national crisis. The NATO-GCC powers had drawn up advance plans for another “Libyan solution”, or even worse - ‘Somalization’!


Syria has been subjected to this geopolitical war for the following reasons:


After the Arab Spring in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, (which the media entirely neglects) peaceful protests also broke in Daraa, in southern Syria. We met protesters who had raised slogans for democratic reform and people’s empowerment. As with entrenched one-party ruled states, the initial protests were met with a degree of state violence, a fact the regime acknowledged. But at the higher levels of Syrian leadership, they also began to respond to the demands of the people.


But soon an armed insurgency began to spread across Syria and mercenaries began to pour in from neighbouring countries, namely Turkey, Jordan (Governments are openly complicit), as well as Lebanon and Iraq where militias are funded by the Saudi-Qatari’s. The peaceful democratic protesters were marginalized and armed rebels, insurgents, mercenaries and terrorists with a very regressive sectarian Islamic agenda began to spread across the country.


The political opposition and civil society protesters soon realized that a larger geopolitical war was being waged by the Imperial-Zionist powers and Gulf vassal monarchies and their agenda was not democracy. Can anyone seriously say Saudi Arabia and Qatar are democracies, or aspire to be so in the near future? Are the NATO powers here to create liberal secular democracies, or change regimes and control the natural resources of nations?


Syria was targeted as it was a bulwark of resistance and forms a physical arch that includes Iran, Syria, the Turkish people, Lebanon and Palestine. With all its faults, the Syrian leadership did not compromise with the US-Israel, as did Egypt and other Arab powers after the Camp David Treaty (1978) and the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty (1979). Then with the defeat of Saddam’s Iraq (1991), Syria was the only Arab country left with a political system, military and a courageous civil-society.


Syria and the leading Arab and Muslim nations have been targeted for regime change both in the Project for the New American Century, a Neo-Conservative Document, 1997, and documents authored by Benjamin Netanyahu and other Neo-Conservatives (see project-for-the-new-american-century-american-world-leadership-syria-next-to-pay-the-price; A Clean Break, A Strategy for Securing the Realm, 1996,; A Strategy for Israel in the Nineteen Eighties, by Oded Yinon, 1982,


The victory of the Lebanese and Palestinian national resistance in their historic victories in 2006 and 2008-09, 2012, was due to the fact that Syria stood by like a rock, whilst other Arab states stood and watched. Israel stood defeated and the myth of Israel’s military invincibility lay shattered forever.


Syria lies in the pathway of the Oil and Gas Pipelines with plans to pass from Saudi-Qatar-Syria-Turkey to Europe. Also the Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline challenges the hegemony of the Saudi-Qatar-US-Israeli plans to control the routes and the flow of the natural resource.


Recent discoveries of major Oil and Gas deposits in the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas have lead to competing claims between Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Cyprus, Greece and Israel. Thus both the Corporate West and Gulf Petro-Sheikhs require pliant regimes in Syria, as they now have in Libya (­F William Engdahl, New Mediterranean oil and gas bonanza,


Then, the Syrian Arab nationalist and liberal secular plural identity is anathema to forces in the region that cannot see beyond the narrow confines of religion and sect. Hence the plan for Bantustanization of Syria along Sunni, Christian, Alawite, Shia and Kurdish lines.


If this nefarious design were to be achieved, then Turkey with its Ottoman pretensions and Israel with its nightmare of Greater Eretz Israel, would once again carve up the Arab lands. Here the minorities and especially the Christian, Alawite, Shia and Druze communities have been targeted as kafirs and horrendous fatwas are brazenly issued.


The majority of Sunnis who are liberal as well as other Muslim and Christian minorities in Syria are truly frightened at the prospect of a Wahabi-Salafist takeover. Many Christians, proud of their Syrian-Arab identity will pack their bags and leave the day the ‘Syrian Arab Republic’ is transformed into a ‘Syrian Islamic Republic’. They will be reduced to second-class citizens, as is the case with all theocracies, as well as Atheocracies - though God forbid.


The common basis of their existence is the Syrian civilization and not on Islam. Christians do respect Islam, as part of a common Arab heritage. This is a position all minorities across the world have professed. The imposition of Islamic states will lead to more tensions in Egypt, as well as in Nigeria. We have already witnessed the partitions of Ethiopia and Eritrea, followed by Sudan and South Sudan-Darfur.


The Imperial-Zionist strategy is to balkanize Asia and Africa along religio-sectarian and ethnic lines. Thus the creation of Islamic States will exacerbate this very crisis. To again state the obvious – the common identity of the Egyptian people is not only Islamic, but the Egyptian civilization and Arabism as well


One of the most remarkable meetings we had was with Grand Mufti Ahmed Badreddin Hassoun who represents the Sunni majority. His 21 year old son was murdered and he too has been threatened with death. Yet his first words captivated us. He spoke of the ‘sanctity of God and the sanctity of Human life and beyond this nothing was more precious or sacred’. The Islam of the Mediterranean civilization will not be overcome by the Islam of obscurantist Gulf Sheikhdoms or the caves of Tora Bora. Syria must defend its secular liberal ethos and culture.


The religio-sectarian battle being waged against the Syrian regime is based on the innuendo that President Bashal Al Assad is from the Alawite minority (who are Kafirs, according to the extremists and fanatics) and thus he should go. The demand is from the Gulf monarchies that sent in an army to quell the democratic uprising of the majority of the Bahraini population.


Our insistence is that the democratic change in inevitable, only it needs to follow a political process, not a destructive sectarian civil-war backed by international powers.


The solution is national reconciliation, dialogue and negotiation, leading to a new constitution and elections. We found during our stay in Damascus that the popular mass support for the Government actually increased after the war was unleashed on the nation. The President remains popular to the extent of 60% and beyond. This is why a political process and fresh elections are being opposed by the NATO-GCC combine.


It was the first Arab League Committee, led by General Dhabi (Sudan) that referred to a national dialogue and political process as the way to resolve this crisis. He was immediately sacked by the Saudi-Qataris. Then Kofi Anna’s initiative was similarly sabotaged by the US. The came Lakhdar Brahimi, who resigned two days ago.


Syria needs to be alone in peace to decide her future. The process entails a dialogue with all opposition forces and civil society, formation of a transition government, negotiations for a new constitution by referendum and then a free and fair election, leading to the formation of a new democratic government.


Actually the Syrian government undertook a process of reform and a new constitution was passed in a referendum in 2012, where 56% of the people voted. Here ‘clause 8’ that referred to the Baath party as the sole leader of the revolution was removed, paving the way for a multi-party system. This constitution is again up for discussion and a negotiated agreement. But not a word in our media.


Earlier in May 2012, general elections were held and a government constituted, but not a word appeared in the media. In contrast, elections in Yemen where there was only one candidate got headlines stating that Yemen is now a democracy! Such is the manipulation and deceit of the global corporate media, with their legions of embedded journalists.


Rebels and mercenaries continue to destroy Syrian infrastructure (with plans to be rebuilt by contracts to US companies). From electric transmission lines, to hospitals, schools, colleges and health centres, bakeries, to factories – all have been ripped apart and sold across the border in Turkey; even the cows and sheep have been looted. The entire Syrian welfare state, which has served the people well, is being systematically destroyed, readied for a neo-liberal takeover. Syria is self-sufficient in both food grains and energy. It has ‘zero debt’, despite subsidies in all key sectors.


Syrian missile sites defending all Arab lands against aggression are being targeted by the mercenaries. Couldn’t the Arab League and the OIC have resolved the crisis through a sustained political process; couldn’t NAM be involved? The Syrian crisis exposes the divisions with the Islamic nations, as it is their failure that has led to this crisis. It is these Islamic nations that let the US play arbiter in their internal regional issues. An Arab League in deep shameful slumber over Palestine has gone into a Rambo-like testosterone drive on Syria. Truth is most of the petro-Arab states are vassals and also follow a narrow regressive religio-sectarian agenda.


The role of the global corporate media needs to be discussed and exposed. It was the media, led by the CNN, BBC, Al Jazeerah and Al Arabiya amongst others, that fired the first salvos, even before mercenaries were mobilized from across the world. Their agenda was to pave the way for foreign intervention by distorting the news, through sheer lies and deception. They are manufacturing consent for a NATO-GCC intervention, so far prevented (unlike in Libya) by Russia and China and the BRICS. Here it is important to state that Al Jazeerah has lost all credibility amongst vast sections of the Arab masses and counter channels are taking root in Arab nations.


The Syrian crisis is deepening political differences between Islamists led by Ikhwaanul Muslemeen (Muslim Brotherhood) and the Salafists on the one hand and the secular-left liberal opposition on the other. This is evident in Egypt, Tunisia and even in Turkey.


On our last day, we visited the magnificent and exquisite Omayyad Mosque whose grandeur is breathtaking. Men and women pray together, even as Shia’s have been provided with two rooms. It also houses the ‘Ras-ul-Hussain’ and the shrine dedicated to the martyrdom of Imam Hussain, as also the Shrine of St. John the Baptist. Nearby is the mausoleum of Saladin the great. We then walked down the cobbled lanes of the Christian quarters of Bab Touma and paid respects at the Church of Ananias (more than 2000 years old), dedicated to the memory of St. Paul himself. This was all astounding to witness and provides great hope for the future of the world.


Feroze Mithiborwala is a peace activist in Mumbai; he is currently in Damascus; based on an article written for

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