By Dan Glazebrook
May 05, 2012
The strategy was simple, clear, tried and
tested. It had been used successfully not only against Libya, but also
Kosovo (in 1999), and was rapidly underway in Syria. It was to run as
follows: train proxies to launch armed provocations; label the state's
response to these provocations as genocide; intimidate the UN Security
Council into agreeing that "something must be done"; incinerate the army
and any other resistance with fragmentation bombs and Hellfire
missiles; and finally install a weak, compliant government to sign off
new contracts and alliances drawn up in London, Paris and Washington,
whilst the country tore itself apart.
Result: the heart torn
out of the "axis of resistance" between Iran, Syria and Hizbullah,
leaving Iran isolated and the West with a free hand to attack Iran
without fear of regional repercussions.
This was to be Syria's
fate, drawn up years ago in the high- level planning committees of US,
British and French defence departments and intelligence services. But
this time, unlike in Libya, it has not all gone according to plan.
First, there was Russia and China's veto of the "regime change"
resolution at the UN Security Council in October 2011, followed by a
second veto in February of this year. This meant that any NATO attack on
Syria would be denied the figleaf of UN approval, and seen instead as a
unilateral act of aggression not just against Syria, but potentially
also against China and Russia as well.
Vicious and reckless as
they are, even Cameron, Sarkozy and Obama do not necessarily have the
stomach for that kind of a fight. That left the burden of destroying the
Syrian state to NATO's proxy forces on the ground, the "Free Syrian
Army" -- a collection of domestic and (increasingly) foreign militias,
mostly ultra-sectarian Salafi extremists, along with a smattering of
defectors and Western special forces.
However, this army was
not created actually to defeat the Syrian state; that was always
supposed to be NATO's job. As in Libya, the role of the militias was
simply to provoke reprisals from the state in order to justify a NATO
blitzkrieg. Left to their own devices, they have no chance of gaining
power militarily, as many in the opposition realise.
believe the Free Syrian Army is a project that can help the Syrian
revolution," said leader of the internal Syrian resistance movement
Haitham Al-Manna, recently. "We don't have an example of where an armed
struggle against a dictatorial regime has won." Of course, one could
cite Cuba, South Vietnam, and many others, but what is certainly true is
that internal armed struggle alone has never succeeded when the
government is the only party in the struggle with any significant mass
support, as is the case in Syria.
This reality was brutally
driven home in early March in the decisive battle for the Baba Amr
district of Homs. This was supposedly one of the Free Syrian Army's
strongholds, yet they were roundly defeated, leaving them facing the
prospect of similar defeats in their last few remaining territories as
well. The opposition groups are becoming increasingly aware that their
best chance of meaningful change is not through a military fight that
they will almost certainly lose, and which will get them killed in the
process, along with their losing their support and credibility, but
through negotiations and participation in the reform process and the
dialogue that the government has offered.
This prospect -- of
an end to the civil war and a negotiated peace that brings about a
reform process without destabilising the country -- has led to
desperation amongst the imperialist powers. Despite their claims to the
contrary, a stable Syrian-led process is the last thing they want, as it
leaves open the possibility of Syria remaining a strong, independent,
anti-imperialist state -- exactly the possibility they had sought to
Hence, within days of Kofi Anan's peace plan gaining
a positive response from both sides in late March, the imperialist
powers openly pledged, for the first time, millions of dollars for the
Free Syrian Army: for military equipment, to provide salaries to its
soldiers, and to bribe government forces to defect. In other words,
terrified that the civil war in Syria is starting to die down, they are
setting about institutionalising it. If violent regime change is
starting to look unlikely, the hope instead is to keep the country weak
and on its knees by sucking its energy into an ongoing civil war.
At the risk of making the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC)
appear even more out of touch with ordinary Syrians than it does
already, its Western backers have increased the pressure on it to fall
into line with this strategy, leading to open calls from the SNC
leadership for both the full-scale arming of the rebellion and for
aerial bombardment from the West.
This has caused huge rifts in
the organisation, with three leading members defecting last month,
because they did not want to be "accomplices in the massacre of the
Syrian people through delaying, cheating, lies, one-upmanship and
monopolisation of decision-making." The SNC, according to one of the
three, Kamal Al-Labwani, is "linked to foreign agendas that aim to
prolong the battle while waiting... for the country to be dragged into a
This month, one of the few SNC leaders actually
based in Syria, Riad Turk, called on the opposition to accept the Anan
peace plan, "stop the bloodshed" and enter into dialogue with the
government -- a call not echoed by his fellow SNC colleagues abroad.
Likewise, the main peaceful opposition grouping within Syria -- the
National Coordinating Committee -- has fallen out with the SNC over the
latter's increasingly belligerent role as a mouthpiece of foreign
NCC leader Al-Manna spoke out against the Free Syrian
Army recently, saying "the militarisation of the Syrian revolution
signifies the death of the internal revolution...We know that the
Turkish government is playing an important role in the political
decisions of the Free Syrian Army. We don't believe that an armed group
can be on Turkish territory and remain independent of Turkish
So, there is a growing perception, even amongst the
Syrian opposition movement itself, that both the Free Syrian Army and
the Syrian National Council are working in the interests of foreign
powers to prolong a pointless civil war.
are playing a dangerous game. Short of a NATO attack, their best option
for the destabilisation and emasculation of Syria is to ensure that the
ceasefire fails and the fighting continues. To this end, they are
encouraging their proxy militias to step up their provocations: the
purpose of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's and French Foreign
Minister Alain Juppé's statements about "other measures" still being on
the table is to keep the idea of a NATO attack alive in the heads of the
rebels so that they continue to fight.
Indeed, many more
foreign fighters have been shipped into the country in recent weeks,
according to The Washington Post, and these have been launching
devastating bomb attacks in Damascus and Aleppo. US Ambassador to Syria
Robert Ford is a protégé of John Negroponte, who organised Contra death
squads to destabilise Nicaragua in the 1980s; he will almost certainly
have been organising similar groups in Syria during his time there last
year and for similar purposes.
destabilisation agenda is not going according to plan. The internal
opposition in Syria is becoming increasingly frustrated with the way
things are progressing, and a clear split is emerging between those
based outside the country, happy to see Syria consigned to oblivion in
order to please their paymasters and further their careers, and those
who actually have to live with the consequences.
attacks carried out by the armed militias are increasingly alienating
even those who once had some sympathy for them, especially as their
foreign membership and direction is being exposed ever more clearly.
Having been proven unable to win and hold territory, these militias are
turning to hit- and-run guerrilla tactics. But the guerrilla, as Mao put
it, is like a fish that can only survive in a sea of popular support.
And that sea is rapidly drying up.