Wednesday, May 01, 2013

President Obama’s Imaginary Syria Red Line


By Chriss Street

The war in Syria is all about outside interference.  The popular protests against autocratic Bashar al-Assad  began two years ago and would have brutally suppressed democratic opposition late last summer. 

 But Saudi Arabia, UAE and Turkey decided to redeploy their client Islamist militias who had just won in Libya to join the supposed “Free Syrian Army” (FSA).  With the help of the CIA over the next six months, the Muslim Brotherhood dominated FSA used mass frontal attacks, suicide bombings and as widely reported, chemical weapons to strike terror against government soldiers.   The FSA made major territorial gains across the country.

But over the last month the Syrian government troops, aided by Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah militias and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, have stormed back to retake Damascus suburbs, key transportation crossroads and cut-off the rebels supply lines.  Increasingly on the defensive and their military position getting desperate, it is not surprising that unconfirmed reports surfaced that tried to blame the Syrian government’s success on the use of chemical weapons.  Without intervention by the U.S. to save the rebels, the rebel militias may be destroyed in the war.

Syrian President al-Assad is head of the Ba’ath Party, which was founded as a secular Pan-Arabism nationalist movement to eject Western Imperialistic control and establish popular self-determination.  Ba’ath Party followers oppose traditional European socialism and communism as foreign influences.  Co-founders Michel Aflaq (Christian) and Salah al-Bitar (Sunni Muslim) studied together in the 1930s at the Sorbonne University in Paris.  Ba’athists sought to form a secular government that would unite Shiite Alawites, Sunni Muslims and Chaldean Christians to avoid religious infighting.

Before the 1966 revolution that brought al-Assad father to power, Shiite Alawites and Christians were segregated and economically disadvantaged by Sunni Muslims in Syria.  After the revolution, Alawites and Christians gained significant economic power.
Saudi Arabia, UAE and Turkey (Sunni Muslim) became 3 of the 10 largest U.S. arms customersas they sought to destroy Ba’athist secular government.  With funds from the coalition and logistics and training from the CIA, extremist Islamic militias fresh from conquering Libya, were moved to Turkey and on to Syria.

At first, the Syrian government troops were overwhelmed and retreated back to defensive positions.  But early this year the rebel foreign fighters attacked Shiite villages on the Syrian-Lebanon border, a convoy carrying members of Hezbollah’s (Shiite) leadership and the Shiite neighborhood of Sayyida Zaynab in Damascus that holds the sacred burial tomb of the grand-daughter of the Prophet Mohammed.  Hezbollah and Iran (Shiite) retaliated by sending their militias to fight for al-Assad.  Fearing an Islamic extremist victory, Russia is providing the government advanced weapons and training.

The Syrian rebels were widely reported to have acquired chemical weapons in the chaos of the fall of Gadhafi in Libya.  They bragged to Middle East media that they planned to use them against civilians and pin the atrocity on the Bashar al-Assad’s regime.  This caused panic in government controlled districts of Damascus and led to substantial gains by the rebels.  But over the last month, it is the rebels who are beginning to panic as the Syrian government and its allies are fiercely counter-attacking.

President Obama stated that any use of chemical weapons would cross a “red line” and cause the U.S. and Europeans to intervene on the side of the FSA.   But the American public has no appetite for intervention after their experiences in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.  President Obama sheepishly softened his red line by saying evidence of chemical weapon usage was vague enough he was not required to act immediately.

There is no doubt that the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad is corrupt and vicious.  But the Free Syrian Army dominated by the Moslem Brotherhood or al-Qaeda would be worse.  The New York Times published an article this week pointing out that all secular forces in areas held by the Sunni insurgents have been replaced with religious forces.  In Syria, secularism belonged to the Baath Party and the Alawites, and it was brutal.  But get rid of it, and you do not get liberal democracy.
As Stratfor Global Intelligence advised this week:  “The United States, with its European allies, does not have the force needed to end Syria’s bloodshed.  If it tried, it would merely be held responsible for the bloodshed without achieving any strategic goal. There are places to go to war, but they should be few and of supreme importance.  The bloodshed in Syria is not more important to the United States than it is to the Syrians.”

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