NIRAJ SRIVASTAVA | 1 JULY, 2016
Geopolitics of the Syrian Conflict
The Syrian conflict, which has entered its sixth year, did not happen by chance. Though the Western narrative claims that it is a revolt by the Syrian people against President Assad in the wake of the 2010 “Arab Spring,” the fact is that Syria was targeted for regime change much before that. Evidence for it is available in the public domain and will be detailed below.
Before proceeding further, however, it is necessary to recognise certain hard realities of contemporary international politics.
First, the US-UK-Israel combine wields enormous power, and often dictates terms to large sections of the international community, including the members of the European Union, individually and collectively. The top 1% or less of the population of this group, which takes all the crucial decisions, has been called “Anglo-Zionist” (AZ) by some analysts. The vast majority of the people of these countries are misled by their “mainstream media,” controlled by the AZ.
Second, NATO is the sword arm of the AZ, and is used for achieving its foreign policy objectives including “regime change.” It is also used to keep all NATO members in line; they have to mostly follow its dictates, whether they like it or not. Also, NATO is increasingly being used for “out of area” operations, in addition to targeting Russia. Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya are some recent examples.
Third, Israel controls the US foreign, defence, and security policies to an astonishing degree. This is done through highly placed members of the Jewish diaspora in the US in all critical areas—government, finance, industry, academia, media, think tanks, etc.—as well as through lobbies such as AIPAC. Many such individuals have dual nationalities, but they often give priority to Israel’s interests over America’s.
Fourth, the AZ, along with NATO, embodies the “deep state” of the Western world. It acquired real power after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, which gave rise to America’s “unipolar moment.” This continued for almost 15 years, till Russia under Putin regained some of its lost strength. During this period, the AZ did whatever it wished, unchecked by any power or institution; the 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia and the 2003 invasion of Iraq took place during this period.
The AZ thinking was reflected in the work of “The Project for the New American Century” (PNAC), a think-tank set up in 1997 by William Kristol and Robert Kagan. Both of them were Jewish, along with a large number of its 25 original signatories. Many of them held very high positions in the Bush 43 Administration. PNAC’s policy document, named “Rebuilding Americas Defenses,” openly called for total US global military domination. Believers in this doctrine came to be known as “neoconservatives” or “neocons”. Its salient feature was reliance on brute military force to achieve political, economic, territorial, and other objectives, irrespective of international laws or institutions.
The PNAC was wound up in 2006, but neocons continued to be influential in the Obama administration, during which they were instrumental in effecting regime change in Libya (2011) and Ukraine (2014) and starting an insurgency in Syria in March 2011. It was aimed at toppling the Assad regime, which had been in their cross hairs much before the “Arab Spring.” This is the background to the geopolitics of the Syrian conflict.
In a speech delivered in Oct. 2007, former NATO Supreme Commander Gen. Wesley Clark said that the neocons had drawn up plans a few weeks after 9/11 to attack and destroy the governments in seven countries in five years. The list was headed by Iraq and included Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Iran. Clark said the aim of the plot was to “destabilise the Middle East, turn it upside down, make it under our control.”
The major players in Syria are Israel, the US, UK, France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Russia, and Iran. All of them have their own agendas.
The primary impulse for regime change in Syria comes from Israel, which wants fragmentation of the country and annexation of the Golan Heights, as also other areas, if possible. That would also cut off the supply of Iranian weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon, which Israel views as a threat. Israel’s policies are influenced by the “Oded Yinon Plan for Greater Israel” which aims to reconfigure Israel’s geopolitical environment by balkanization of the large Arab states surrounding it into smaller and weaker states.
Israel has been playing a crucial role in Syria but behind the scenes. The US-UK-French policy to destabilise Syria and overthrow Assad is driven by Israel and the neocons, as was the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. According to a UN report, Israel is providing medical treatment to injured fighters of the ISIS, Nusra Front, and other Jihadi groups in Syria and possibly also weapons. Israel clearly prefers them to the secular Assad regime, which continues to enjoy substantial support amongst all sections of the Syrian population including the Sunnis and the minorities.
Turkey and Qatar turned against Assad when he refused their proposal in 2009 to build a gas pipeline that would have crossed Syria and Turkey to Europe. Instead, he concluded a deal with Iran to supply gas to Europe. Turkey also has territorial ambitions in Syria. It is the conduit for providing logistical support, fighters and weapons to the anti-Assad groups in Syria.
Saudi Arabia views Assad as an Iranian proxy with close links to the Hezbollah, which it has recently declared a “terrorist” outfit. The Saudis are obsessed with a purported threat from Iran, which they would like to reduce by regime change in Damascus. Both the Saudis and the Qataris have financed and supplied arms to Jihadi groups in Syria on a vast scale.
Russia has close military and political ties with Syria going back to the Soviet era when it acquired a naval facility in Tartus, its only base in the Mediterranean. Thousands of Russian nationals are married to Syrians, also a legacy of the Soviet era. Russia intervened militarily in Syria at the request of Assad in September 2015, when he faced the prospect of an imminent collapse. Russian intervention was aimed at protecting its interests in Syria and reasserting its role as a major international power, after having been duped by the West in Libya in 2011. Its intervention reversed the military situation in favour of Assad, though there is currently a stalemate on the ground.
Iran has been providing weapons and troops to Assad as a long-time Shia ally, which has facilitated the supply of Iranian weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Thousands of Hezbollah fighters have also been fighting alongside the Syrian army in the country. Iran knows that it has been an Israeli target for years, and will be the next in line if Assad falls.
India has so far been relatively unaffected by the war in Syria because the major Jihadi groups there do not have any significant following in this country. Even so, the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) released a 22-minute Arabic language documentary online on May 20, featuring purported Indian fighters in its ranks. The film included interviews with five Indian nationals known to have joined ISIS since 2014. In the video, ISIS also called on Indians to leave the country and join the Jihad in Syria against the “infidels.”
According to reliable sources, however, only a handful of Indian nationals are involved in the Syrian conflict, and their number is unlikely to increase significantly in the future. The ideology of ISIS and other Jihadi groups does not have much appeal for secular Indian youth.
One unexpected consequence of the Syrian imbroglio has been the massive exodus of refugees to Europe—more than a million in 2015 alone—which has caused a serious crisis in the continent. Suddenly, immigration has become a critical issue in European countries, which do not know how to deal with it. The New York Times wrote on June 25:
“Refugees have poured out of Syria and Iraq…it is the flow of people into the European Union that has had the greatest geopolitical impact, and helped to precipitate the British vote [on “Brexit”]…it was the onset of more than a million refugees marching through Greece and the Balkans toward Germany that may ultimately prove to be the most destabilising event in Europe’s recent history.”
The geopolitical consequences of the Syrian crisis have thus been truly stupendous, and this is not the end of the story. There may now be demands in Scotland, Northern Ireland, France, Italy and possibly some more countries for referendums, to take their destiny into their own hands.
This, in brief, is the geopolitics of the Syrian conflict, a complex interplay of the motives and agendas of the various players. The AZ, neocons, and their allies will not give up their goal of regime change and might escalate the military campaign against Assad in the future. It remains to be seen if the Russians, Syrians, and Iranians can resist that and prevent Syria from being balkanized.