Syria and the Invisible Hand of Foreign Intervention
By Eric S. Margolis
August 11, 2012 "Information
Clearing House" --
The Polish Zionist
ideologue Vladimir Jabotinsky, the father of Israel’s right
wing, observed nearly a century ago that much of the Arab world
was a fragile mosaic. A few sharp blows, he wrote, would cause
it to shatter, leaving Israel the region’s dominant power.
Jabotinsky may have been right.
Even if the Bashar al-Assad regime manages to hang on in Syria,
that country’s economy is being wrecked, its people driven into
poverty and neighbors tempted to intervene. Israel just
threatened to attack Syria’s modest store of chemical weapons.
Turkey is stumbling into the morass, egged on by the Saudis and
Gulf Arabs. Russia’s national prestige is increasingly involved
in Syria—which is as close to its borders as northern Mexico is
to the United States. Iran may yet get involved.
We could be observing the beginning of a twenty-first-century
version of the 1930s’ Spanish civil war, which became a proxy
struggle between Germany, Italy and the Soviet Union. The only
thing we know for sure about Syria’s civil war is that it is
extremely dangerous to the entire region. Its outcome is
entirely unpredictable. Meanwhile, the West keeps fueling the
As a veteran correspondent who has covered fourteen conflicts
and closely followed events in Syria since 1975, I have become
convinced that there’s much more to the civil war raging in
Syria than Westerners are being told by their governments or the
Last week, Reuters reported a classified intelligence “finding”
signed by President Obama authorizing aid to the Syrian rebels.
This may be the tip of the iceberg that eventually reveals an
extensive covert campaign by the United States, Britain, France,
Saudi Arabia and Turkey to overthrow the Assad government in
Damascus. According to this scenario, these U.S. allies would be
using Qatar, assorted freelance jihadists and Lebanese rightists
as cat’s-paws to sustain the uprising. Jihadists, both Syrian
and foreign, may also play a spearhead role in the fighting.
In fact, the Assad clan was long a target of jihadist wrath,
described as godless tyrants oppressing good Muslims, in bed
with the heretical Shia of Iran and too often cooperating with
Western powers. Osama Bin Laden called on all jihadists to
overthrow the Assads. Bin Laden is gone, of course, but the
movement he sparked continues to gain momentum.
That revolution has erupted again in Syria is no surprise: the
Assad family and its Alawite power base have brutally ruled
Syria for over forty years. Rebellions by the Sunni majority,
led by the underground Muslim Brotherhood, have been crushed
with ferocity. This writer was outside the city of Hama in 1982
when government heavy guns and tanks put down a Sunni rebellion
there, inflicting an estimated ten thousand casualties.
But until recently, Syria was in our good books. The Assad
regime quietly cooperated with Western powers and Israel, jailed
or liquidated Islamists, and kept quiet about the
Israeli-annexed Golan Heights. The Bush administration even sent
Islamist suspects to be imprisoned in Syria. Assad and his
henchmen were another of our unsavory allies.
However, that was before war fever over Iran gripped Washington.
Overthrowing the Assad government, Iran’s only Arab ally, would
be a natural first step in overthrowing Iran’s Islamic
government and isolating, then eliminating, Israel’s bitter
Lebanese foe, Hezbollah.
If Syria were shattered into little confessional ministates and
Hezbollah crushed, Lebanon likely would become an Israeli
protectorate. Such was the strategic plan of Israel’s General
Ariel Sharon in 1982.
Western powers already may be employing destabilization methods
in Syria that were perfected in Libya. The DGSE, French foreign
intelligence, cobbled together a group of Libyan exiles to form
the “National Forces Coalition,” which rallied anti-Qadaffi
elements in Benghazi. Britain’s MI6 intelligence had been active
there for decades stirring up opponents of the Qadaffi regime.
In Libya, NATO air power intervened on “humanitarian” grounds to
halt killing of civilians. News reports showed only lightly
armed civilians battling Qadaffi’s regulars. Not shown were
French, British and some other Western special forces disguised
as Libyans that did much of the fighting and targeted air
France made use of a similar tactics in its brief border war
with Libya in 1986 over the disputed Aouzou Strip on the
Chadian-Libyan desert border. Chadian troops supposedly routed
Libyan forces. In reality, the “Chadians” were actually tough
French Foreign Legionnaires decked out in Bedouin dress. I
interviewed some of the Legionnaires involved.
Fast-forward to today’s Syria. As a former soldier, I cannot
believe that anti-Assad forces in Syria have made such great
strides on their own. All armed forces require command and
control, specialized training, communications and logistics. How
have anti-Assad forces moved so quickly and pushed back Syria’s
capable, well-equipped army? Where does all their ammo come
from? Who is supplying all those modern assault rifles with
so many Syrian T-72 tanks and other armored vehicles been
knocked out? Not by amateur street fighters. Powerful antitank
weapons—likely French, American or Turkish—have been used
extensively. You don’t blow up a modern T-72 tank with light,
handheld RPG rockets. Powerful antitank weapons, like the U.S.
TOW or French Milan, require professional, trained crews. The
use of these weapons suggests that outside forces are involved
in the fighting, as they were in Libya.
reports that the rebels are receiving small numbers of
man-portable antiaircraft missiles. If properly used, they would
threaten the Assad regime’s armed helicopters. Yet using such
missiles requires a good deal of training. I saw in Afghanistan
in the 1980s how long it took the mujahidin to learn this skill
from CIA instructors—and then how quickly the Red Air Force was
denied air superiority.
rebels are being trained, it is probably happening in Turkey
(which makes the deadly U.S. Stinger AA missile under license).
However, the United States has a major campaign under way to
prevent jihadist groups from acquiring such man-portable
missiles. If the Taliban received effective antiaircraft
missiles, U.S. military operations in Afghanistan would be
to Reuters sources, the United States may have worked with
Turkish allies to set up a command HQ at Adana, close to its
Incirlik airbase in eastern Turkey near the Syrian border. This
is where it would make sense for U.S. intelligence to coordinate
the flow of arms, communications gear, medical supplies, food
and munitions to the Syrian rebels.
unverified reports from the Mideast suggest that the U.S.
mercenary firm formerly known as Blackwater (it recently changed
its name to Academi) is training Syrian rebels in Turkey, moving
in veteran mercenaries from Iraq, where there were once fifty
thousand U.S.-paid private soldiers, and sending combat units
groups such as the Free Syrian Army probably would be
ineffective without some kind of covert Western support. Whether
they can grasp power from the jihadis who now dominate the
streets remains to be seen. This gambit worked in Libya—at least
so far. Syria, in contrast, is a very complex nation whose
modern era has been marked by instability and coups.
overthrowing one Syrian government in the late 1940s, Washington
wisely backed off from Syria. Now it may get drawn back into the
vortex of one of the Mideast’s most difficult nations.
Eric S. Margolis is an internationally syndicated columnist. His
articles have appeared in the New
York Times, International Herald Tribune, Los Angeles Times and
others. He is a regular columnist at Huffington Post,
LewRockwell.com, The Gulf Times (Qatar), Khaleej Times (Dubai),
Nation Pakistan, Sun Malaysia and a member of the Institute for
Strategic Studies in London. His most recent book is
American Raj: Liberation or Domination?
(Key Porter Books, 2008).
This article was originally published at
The National Interest.
Scroll down to add
/ read comments
Support Information Clearing House
Search Information Clearing House