Warning: This site contains images and graphic descriptions of extreme violence and/or its effects. It's not as bad as it could be, but is meant to be shocking. Readers should be 18+ or a mature 17 or so. There is also some foul language occasionally, and potential for general upsetting of comforting conventional wisdom. Please view with discretion.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Syria Disaster Blame: "Assad" or the Regime Change Campaign?

Syria Disaster Blame: "Assad" or the Regime Change Campaign?
October 8, 2015 
edits October 10, adding The Wikileaks Files

"A muddled international strategy, a brutal regime, and a turbulent Middle East drove Syria to become a hell on earth," writes Armin Rosen, in his recent analysis "The 3 main drivers that destroyed Syria" By Business Insider, October 5 (Yahoo Finance mirror). Or alternately, as he also writes "simply, the Syrian civil war has gotten this bad because the Assad regime has made it this bad." His muddled assessment of these one to three core causes annoyed me, and sparked the following general overview of what really sparked the fire and kept it stoked for going on five years now.

How "Assad" Started a Civil War
The basic rundown of drives is: brutal Assad, confused response and not enough fighting Assad, and, nearer to relevance, the whole Arab Spring upheaval mentality ("A region where there are no longer any certainties"). But ultimately, all the bombing and massacres, bloodshed, devastation, and displacement, the rise of Daesh (Islamic State/ISIS/ISIL) in Iraq and Syria, and everything else bad is all on the shoulders of "a regime whose cruelty and desperation knows no limit." 

That's supported by an insanely long catalog of allegations suggesting Assad's cruelty also knows no logic. Such claims have been examined by many, including myself and team members at A Closer Look On Syria. We've debunked most of the bigger massacres by now. Rosen emphasizes only two major crimes, apparently chosen for their size; the Ghouta alleged sarin attack ("over 1,000" claimed dead, with the best evidence blaming the rebel side) and  the "Caesar" torture photos, ("10,000 tortured and killed inside of the regime's prisons since the uprising began" - the true story is not yet clear, but "Caesar" is clearly not to be trusted).

"The uprising" began, we recall, in mid-March, 2011 with peaceful protests allegedly crushed by government violence. As Rosen reminds us:
"Syrian government forces killed six people during a peaceful protest in Dara'a. The "stability" that the Assads had supposedly been so effective at fostering was rapidly exposed as a fraud. Massacres of protestors were frequent occurrences by the end of April, and by summer the country was in a full-blown civil war."
That's his short story of the war; protesters wanted regime change, the regime started killing them, and so they decided instead to fight for regime change. Then the first fighters were chased off by terrorists, and here we are. It's all the "regime's" fault, either directly or indirectly as they started the war by resisting their peoples' demands.

That's obviously missing some parts. As a random example, consider Kindi hospital in Aleppo, as shown at right after a terrorist truck bomb hit it in 2014. (It was housing soldiers at the time, not functioning medically). That was one powerful blast - a lot of explosives, a stolen and armored truck, some technicians, and a suicide driver clearly played into this incident. And any role played by "Assad's repression" in bits like this is indirect at best.

The record on peaceful protests vs. armed uprising and false-flag provocation is crucial here, but like the massacres, covered elsewhere (see Syria masterlist, point 6, for a partial overview). For now we can say that whether these claims of violent repression of protesters are true or not, the next question remains the same;  how did civil war became a viable option? Repression doesn't lead to organized violence, blasting buildings open, and seizing swathes of territory without access to weapons, fighters, financial support, safe havens, public relations, more weapons, etc.

Consider Bahrain. In the same report, Mr. Rosen notes:
No regime seemed safe — even Bahrain, a Gulf monarchy that hosted a large US military base, needed to call in the Saudi National Guard to quash a peaceful popular uprising. Back then, the entire Middle Eastern state system looked brittle, perhaps even primed for collapse....
How many towns or provinces did the Bahraini insurgents take over? How many army posts did they blow up? Zero, I think it is. They were repressed, but it didn't blossom into civil war there. Yet in Syria, it did. Why?

A bloody, prolonged civil war can take root if, for example, a neighboring country declares the government illegitimate, based on echoed but unverified opposition reports of genocide and extreme evil, and then it starts training supporting opposition fighters. Maybe they would allow Islamist fanatics to cross back and forth to heal and re-supply, share intelligence, send in weapons and occasionally air support, and lobby to create "safe zones" in the other territory, not its own ...

In short, the intensive intervention of NATO member Turkey is a crucial driving force enabling and prolonging the civil war. And this has happened with approval of their NATO allies, and with help from fellow Islamists in the Persian Gulf, Libya, and elsewhere. Everyone knows Turkey has supported all the Jihadist parties, even Daesh, in many ways but none of this is mentioned by Rosen. In fact, Turkey isn't mentioned at all. 

Financial and fighter support plus sectarian religious decrees flowing from the Persian Gulf tyrannies is absent from Rosen's analysis. The kingdom of Jordan's role in training and harboring fighters isn't mentioned. A known channel of weapons looted from post-war Libya into Syria goes ignored. CIA training and other US and Western hands in facilitating or covering up such things is not worth considering, Rosen decided.

But clearly, whether Assad started the conflict or not, outside powers have done much to make war an option, to make it the real state of affairs, and to keep it nice and prolonged (since outright victory is unlikely?).

Managing Expectations and Perceptions
The mental set-up for prolonged war goes back at least to mid-2011 declarations that the government was illegitimate, sparking hopes of a repeat of the Libya scenario. These criminal statements are mentioned by Rosen, but only derided in their lack of follow-through, not as having a role in enabling the civil war.

He does consider the Arab Spring mentality, in which protests + crisis + maybe intervention = regime change in favor of Islamists and against secular leaders. This mindset and expectation was of course engineered by Western-sponsored "democracy promotion" structures. These were, as usual, organized through the U.S. State department, this time working with Arab-world actors, most notably the Muslim Brotherhood, and solidified with the Libya example (itself backed and laundered by the more peaceful Egypt and Tunisia examples).

This mentality could be seen as a sort of poison sprayed into the whole region, and some states (the Gulf monarchies) got the antidote while others were expected to die. The clear aim of this, in Syria as with the others, was regime change. It was an optional decision taken before "Assad" killed a single "peaceful protester," and was taken for preexisting reasons (being an ally of Iran seems the primary one).
Consider the signs of thawing relations the US placed in the first years of Obama's presidency. As Robert Naiman's The Wikileaks Files (chapter 10, available here) explains,this "thaw" seems false. The public image was to show the U.S. "tried to engage Syria and failed, and that after the Syrian government cracked down on protests in 2011, the US had no choice but to abandon its efforts at engagement," In fact, the leaked cables show regime change plans, including fostering sectarian tensions, going back at least to 2006, and shows Washington "pursuing regime change for years and never fully switching to diplomacy."

In that light, consider Robert Ford, the first U.S. ambassador to Syria in years, sent as a sign of the that thaw. But he arrived in Damascus in late January, 2011, just weeks before the start of the "uprising" in Syria. In mid-March, protests and murky deaths of civilians and security personnel began. By early August the death toll was climbing when Ford vehemently denied any armed opposition fighters in Hama, a claim he considered a smear against the peaceful protesters there. This call was based on his own thorough inspection of the same city in early July; "the only weapon I saw was a slingshot," he said.

Extremists dump massacred policemen 
 in the river, Hama, August 1, 2011
The problem is the charges arose from an unprecedented July 31 armed rebel offensive that killed several police and soldiers in Hama in at least 3 different areas. 13 of the victims were dumped in the Orontes River the next morning (see detailed explanation here). At least one had his throat cut. The dumpers shout Allahu Akbar. Alarmed local activists warned that these were al-Qaeda fighters returned from Iraq. But the warnings were ignored, thanks to assurances like Ford's. In denying Islamist armed groups in Hama just as they seriously emerged there, Ford helped allow the civil war to take root without being clearly noticed as such. (see Robert Ford, Weapons Inspector: The Rebellion Begins in Hama, Part 2) Was this by accident or design?

Before that and to the present, the U.S. and its allies have maintained a reflexive refusal of alleged  rebel crimes, alongside a blanket acceptance of rebel allegations of regime crimes, to often ridiculous effect. For years now this has maintained the cover for armed gangs turned loose on the Syrian people, as was clear by the end of July, 2011.

Why the War "Assad Started" Failed to Topple Him as Planned
One notable feature of this war is how it goes on and on, rather than having a decisive regime-change moment like in Libya ... after which it all goes to hell. This hell has a slower onset, and that is enabled by the mixed steering it gets, from Washington especially. The massage sent to rebels, Syrian and otherwise, is something like "you deserve help and victory, so continue the fight, but ... don't expect help or victory just yet. Maybe next month."

Besides such blinking green lights to rebels, Rosen complains how Obama issued his chemical weapons "red line" threat against Syria, but then didn't follow-up on it. (side-note: it seems, rebels framed "Assad" by crossing the red line for him, on its birthday and just after UN CW "inspectors" arrived next to the attacks. Again, "Assad" crimes know no limits and also no logic).

Further, Obama failed to develop any credible secular alternative to ISIS, leaving the battlefield to Jihadists vs. Jihadists vs. Assad, and "now the US policy towards Assad's role in a post-war Syria remains unclear." Maybe that's because they've failed but don't want to admit it yet, but have to start adjusting anyway.

In contrast to this chronic Western vacillation, Rosen writes,
"Assad's supporters haven't flinched. ... . There was never any doubt in the minds of Assad's backers, who were far more organized and more committed to the fight than their adversaries."
This is true, but he cuts the truth off at its knees. External players are highlighted (Russia, Iran, Hezbollah - but not the lesser roles played by Iraq or Lebanon, among others). But Rosen doesn't mention the Syrian people, especially its loyal Syrian Arab Army, among these supporters. They've lost more soldiers and officers than the U.S. did in its entire Vietnam War, and they keep on fighting. They and their backers know they're dealing with terrorists and a life-and-death conspiracy. They know they don't have the option - enjoyed by the conspirators - to play around with denying that.

 Damascus, late March, 2011: not all of
"the people" wanted to "topple the regime"
Of course some of the Syrian people reject the current government as worse than the devil, but the population at large apparently does not agree. Early in the crisis they put on demonstrations like the one shown at right, only to be widely ignored in favor of Islamists on Youtube and calls for a "No Fly Zone." In 2014,  those Syrians not in rebel-held areas or displaced to hostile countries managed to cast 10.2 million votes (88.7%) for the "dictator" Bashar al-Assad to be their elected president (this is disputed, but not very well). Today, about 90% of those remaining in Syria live by choice in the dwindling government-held areas, despite the fact that more than half the country's territory has now been "liberated" by this regime change campaign.

Perhaps nothing but a Libya-style air can have any hope of crushing the will of all these people, and so this remains the call of the "opposition" and its supporters with their "humanitarian" concerns. But you know, considering Syria's excellent air defense ... massive nuclear strikes would be the easiest answer.

"Assad" as Creator of the Islamist Menaces
In Western minds, the most alarming thing about the Syria crisis is the rise of the obnoxious Deash (Islamisc State/ISIL/ISIS). They're so brutal and extreme in their Islamism even al-Qaeda has disowned them, they seem like a self-demonizing cartoon of themselves, and yet they control a good chuck of two nations. They could plot attacks on the West from inside Iraq and Syria, instead of somewhere else. It's a problem we finally have to stop, maybe. 

We've all seen the many lazy attempts to paint Daesh and "Assad" as cooperating on some illogical "evil" side in the conflict, either in a general sense (Assad's sectarian brutality drives recruitment, etc.) or direct, tactical and financial teamwork (secret oil deals, etc.). There were similar efforts to link "Assad" to the once-embarrassing al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra before the emergence of ISIS, and also to the FSA's Farouq brigade before that.

In Armen Rosen's article, the allegation appears in this form;
 "The regime freed jihadists from its prisons in the early days of the war, hoping to hasten the buildup of a jihadist element in the insurgency so that the regime could position itself as the only guarantor of the country's stability."
They claimed it was to help quell protests by meeting some demands, but Rosen sees through that to his imagined true intent. So the rise of ISIS was all an Assad plot? Well if so, no one in on the regime change campaign was taken in by it. Everyone in that camp knows there is so another protector of stability besides Assad. No one knows who it is, but since anyone would be better, they're pretty sure he'll appear right after the carpet bombing of Syria and destruction of its central government, saving the day from chaos ... just like someone probably did in Iraq and in Libya. Right?  

And just like the war he started but others continued, somehow "Assad" was able to get Turkey, Gulf monarchies, and their Western sponsors and other allies to sign on and help maintain these Islamist distraction forces that now run half of Syria.

There's ample evidence for US and allied support for the "jihadist element," but for those needing a reminder, let's just recall the released U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) documents from 2012 that reveal what the leaders' analysts knew at the time. To verify, see Judicial Watch PDFs - relevant ones are August 12, 2012 and October 12, 2012.  (see if needed external analysis here and here). Between the redacted majority are some golden snippets

The first notes that "western countries, the Gulf States and Turkey" - as the specified "supporting powers to the opposition" in Syria, were pursuing (or "wanted") the rise of an "Salafist Principality" (Islamic State) in the Syria-Iraq border area. Exact words:
"If the situation unravels there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime" 
Areas of control and support for Daesh 
in Syria and Iraq, mid-2014 (CNN map)
This willful unraveling was clearly to "isolate" Syria from any support from Iran or Iraq, to break the Iran - (Iraq?) - Syria - Lebanon / Hezbollah Shia-oriented "axis of resistance" as they call themselves.

This DIA report is widely read as predicting the rise of Daesh/Islamic State and its announced global caliphate (a type of "salafist principality" with radical implications). The more immediate emergence though was al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra (JaN, who declare emirates, not as radical). JaN emerged on the Syrian battlefield prior to this report - noted therein as AQI elements fighting under the name "Jaish al-Nusra" - and was using the final name before 2012 was out. The broad strategy, whoever's it was, may have been to emerge both movements in this way, creating a Hegelian dialectic (or a "good cop-bad cop" routine). That would be to make the JaN creation a palatable "middle choice" between verbotten ISIS and verbotten "Assad."

Salafist principality, isolating the Syrian regime, in Iraq
The DIA noted in 2012 that al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), as well as the more radical Islamic State of Iraq (ISI, immediate predecessor to Daesh) "supported the Syrian opposition since the beginning," seeing it as a "sectarian uprising" they boosted in their Friday sermons, recruiting fighters to help kill the heretics in Syria. These same sectarian groups were "trying to control the eastern areas (Hasaka and Der Zor), adjacent to the Western Iraqi provinces (Mosul and Anbar), in addition to neighboring Turkish borders," the report adds. These are just the areas where JaN and Daesh soon emerged. 

As the DIA noted in 2012, "Western countries, the Gulf States, and Turkey are supporting these efforts." Although allies "wanted" it, the analysts warned against this "unraveling" - not because of the problems it would cause for Syria but because of probable spill-over into Iraq.
The DIA apparently saw no intelligence supporting Bashar Assad creating this menace just to make himself look good (maybe that's in the redacted parts?) Also, this dire warning is not mentioned in Rosen's analysis of what caused the violence and terrorism in Syria today, as he writes:
"Even during the crisis of late 2011 and early 2012, few predicted just how bad things would get." 
Luckily some of those few who did were paid to predict, and their information was passed on the leaders who could make informed decisions (presumably the DIA weren't the only ones seeing these signs).

So informed, what did the White House, State Department, CIA, and allies against Assad do? They amplified armaments to the insurgents, kept up the green lights, downplayed terrorism worries until it became undeniable, then blamed Assad when an "Islamic State" appears in the Syria-Iraq border areas. Even then, they mainly ignored Daesh as long as it only bled Syrians; only when they destabilized Iraq as well with their brutal conquest of Mosul, it became an emergency requiring action. That action had been mainly in Syria, with little effect on Daesh outside of Kobane. But it does let them prolong their ISIS campaign, in which removing "Assad" remains the top goal, even above fighting ISIS - let alone the proper al-Qaeda terrorists or their allies - because ISIS is the main worry, and Assad is of course the main precondition that caused ISIS. 

Yes in fact I can finally see how this is true. Assad and Syria's government and culture underlies all of this by continuing to exist and to do so off the West's geopolitical script. This requires, in some genius minds ... things like fostering the rise of Islamic State just to "isolate the Syrian regime," and then to trying to monopolize the ineffective fight against that creation, and use the fight to instead topple the isolated government.

Clearly the regime change campaign is the primary cause of the crisis in Syria, even though this is denied by people who insist that the only answer is more of the regime change campaign.

Does this mean the world is insane? It was seeming so, and quite clearly. But finally, there's the materialization of Russia's anti-Daesh campaign, and hey ... that's not just part of the world but a sizable part. The final results are yet to be seen, but sanity has a new chance here, much to the dismay of the regime change camp. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments welcome. Stay civil and on or near-topic. If you're at all stumped about how to comment, please see this post.