Syria Again

Following reports by US intelligence officials that Syrian forces are moving their chemical weapons into position for a possible deployment, Obama issued a warning to the Assad regime that “there will be consequences and you will be held accountable” should chemical weapons be used against US-backed “rebels”. British Foreign Secretary William Hague said his country had also warned Assad over the use of chemical weapons. Meanwhile, NATO is about to order deployment of Patriot missiles to Turkey’s border with Syria, despite warnings by Russia. “I have made it clear that we will support the deployment of Patriot missiles in Turkey”, said Mr. Hague.

US intelligence sources have also reported recently that they have intercepted orders to prepare Sarin nerve gas for use.

According to London’s Telegraph, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Nato’s secretary general, warned Syria that the international community would not stand by if the Assad regime unleashes chemical warfare against the Syrian people. And United Nations today announced it is pulling “all non-essential international staff” out of the country.

Now, I don’t claim that the Assad regime is above using chemical weapons, but nor would I put US intelligence reports above fabrication for a more direct and forceful intervention. And “more” is the operative word here since they already have been intervening. But, now, as The Telegraph says, “the West seriously contemplates further measures to aid Syrian rebels”.

Before all the lies about the intelligence reports pointing to Saddam possessing weapons of mass destruction, warnings by skeptics that such reports are lies designed to justify military action would largely go unheeded. But, those false reports are not ancient history and are still relatively fresh in people’s minds. That’s why when broadcasting Obama’s and Secretary Clinton’s warnings to Assad, CNN quickly made it clear that “this is different”, that there already is a war and they are using other weapons anyway, making it more plausible that they might use whatever they have. This is the same logic that says “things are different now” because Obama is the president, not Bush. That president could have lied, but this one “is different”.

Yes, people are getting killed from both sides. Bombings by Free Syrian Army kills both government soldiers and civilians, as well. But, this war, at this point, given the current dynamics and composition of forces is anything but a revolution or popular revolt. If it was a revolt at some point, now it’s anything but. Revolution is what happened in Tunisia and Egypt and what has been going on in Bahrain and Yemen for over two years where unarmed and defenseless people have been protesting on the streets for democracy and social justice despite the brutal crackdown by US supported dictators using US supplied arms and ammunition and crowd control gear. What we see in Syria is not a sea of people in city squares demanding change. What we see is US backed “rebels” armed with heavy weapons and RPG’s and rockets and sophisticated communication gear and satellite images and command and control openly receiving weapons from the CIA from the Turkish border.

In a revolution, an empire does not selectively arm certain individuals it has screened for loyalty and let loose against the regime, no matter how undemocratic, in order to topple it and bring to power those chosen “rebels”, as they did in Libya where the kind of weapons they used to overthrow the regime was not an issue and neither was how many innocent civilians were killed to achieve their goal. Is phosphorous and cluster bombs that the US and its allies drop or thousand pound bombs that level neighborhoods or depleted uranium dropped on urban areas supposed to be okay but a possible use of chemical weapons is where they draw the line? The truth of the matter is, even setting aside the questionable veracity of the so-called intelligence reports, it’s not so much where the line is drawn, but who’s doing the drawing. Their or Israel’s bombs that kill people in the hundreds aren’t discussed on CNN as “this is different”, neither is the ongoing brutal suppression of protests by unarmed people in Bahrain and Yemen.

What started as a pro-democracy movement against the Assad regime was immediately viewed by the West as an opportunity to undo some of their “loss” in Egypt when a loyal US puppet and Israel collaborator was overthrown by a popular revolution – a real revolution without and despite foreign intervention. While they left no stone unturned in trying to get UN approval for military intervention which would involve massive aerial bombardment to topple the regime as they did in Libya, they wasted no time in arming and funding anti-regime individuals.

At one point, they raised the “danger” that the chemical weapons might fall in the hands of Lebanon’s Hezbollah fighters who are Israel’s nemesis and were successful in driving them out of their country during the latest invasion of Lebanon by Israel. That pointed to their thinking even then that the chemical weapons are something they might be able to use to justify military action. Mentioning Israel as a possible target of the chemical weapons also indicated that they contemplated getting them involved as they have several times in the past. But, gone were those days when the Zionist regime would roll in its US provided tanks and impose the will of their bosses’ in Washington without a second thought. The world we live in now is different thanks to the Arab Spring, and Israeli invasion is no longer such an easy solution.

So the US turned to Turkey, an old ally with common border with Syria, a Muslim nation whose military has for decades been the de facto ruler of the country, receiving aid and substantial military assistance to prepare them for a time like this. They used the pretext of some cross border mortar by Syrian military that killed four Turks to have Turkey stage an attack against Syria. Turkish parliament approved sending in tanks and troops and fighter jets started flying into Syria. But, that idea too died soon since they failed to invoke enough resentment among people against their neighboring nation to garner support for war, especially given the ongoing genocide against Palestinians and overwhelming anti-US and anti-Israel sentiment among the population.

So, the stalemate has continued. But, now, it seems they have revisited the chemical weapons pretext once more, but without Israeli assistance. This time, they’re talking about taking “action” on their own should the Syrian government cross “the red line”.

On the one hand, the Arab Spring and the awakening it created among people in the region, as well as the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and the atrocities against the Palestinian people, have created conditions that make it more difficult for the US to attack countries in the region as freely as they did in the past. On the other hand, however, I believe, they might be viewing the fast changing landscape as closing on them their chances for regaining the momentum and turning the tide to their advantage. I believe, given their losses and a more limited use for Israel in the region, they may decide to get more aggressive as hard as it seems given how aggressive they already are. Furthermore, they realize that changing the regime in Syria will bring them one step closer to their next goal: regime change in Iran.

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