Welcome Pause in the Craziness Over Syria
By Eric Margolis
May 11, 2013
Clearing House" -
WASHINGTON DC – The vicious Syrian civil war has put the world’s
two biggest nuclear powers on a collision course over a small
Levantine nation of no strategic interest to Washington. This
cannot be allowed to go on.
News that the US and Russia will hold a Syrian peace conference
this month is most welcome and long overdue.
As Benjamin Franklin so wisely noted: “there is no good war, and
no bad peace.”
Moscow has been calling for such a conference for two years. But
Washington rejected the idea in hope the Syrian rebels it was
backing would prevail. However, now that the Syrian war is in
stalemate, the US has opted, albeit reluctantly, for a
diplomatic effort to end its war before the whole region goes up
Syria is the latest example of Henry Kissinger’s famous quip,
“being a US ally is often more dangerous than being its enemy.”
The Assad government in Damascus was for decades a tacit Western
ally that suppressed militant Islamists, kept its border with
Israel quiet, and interrogated prisoners for US intelligence
services. Damascus even muted claims to its Golan Heights,
illegally annexed by Israel after the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.
But good behavior and cooperation did not help Syria when the
US, Britain, France and Israel decided to go after Iran, Syria’s
leading ally. When Syria’s President Bashar Assad refused to
join the US-led alliance of western powers and conservative Arab
states against Iran, his nation’s fate was sealed.
“The road to Tehran runs through Damascus,” went up the cry.
Syria was marked for Iraq-style destruction.
In Syria, Washington encouraged growing animosity between Sunni
and Shia Muslims which it had found so useful in breaking Sunni
resistance in Iraq. Theological differences were turned into
bitter political rivalry as Iran also continued inflame the
Sunni-Shia dispute across the Muslim world.
What began in Syria as a small, non-violent protest against the
Assad regime was met by typical brutal repression and quickly
grew into a national rebellion. Recalling the western-engineered
uprising that overthrew Libya’s Muammar Gadaffi, the West and
its Arab allies quickly armed, financed and directed Syria’s
insurgents. As in Libya, the cutting edge of the rebellion were
France, Syria’s former colonial ruler, played a quiet but
important role, supplying the rebels communications gear and
anti-tank weapons. France seems intent in reasserting its former
colonial influence in West Africa, the Sahel, Lebanon and Syria.
The US stayed in the background, providing finance, advanced
equipment and political support, letting ally Turkey do most of
But after two years of vicious fighting, the Syrian civil war
appears stalemated. The cautious US President Obama seems
reluctant to get US forces involved in a Mideast ground war –
and for good reason. The US military is dangerously stretched
across the globe and the US Treasury runs on money borrowed from
China and Japan. But Obama is under intense political pressure
from warlike Republicans, the religious far right, and partisans
of Israel to crush Syria, then Iran.
As a result, Obama has been dithering while Syria bleeds and its
war threatens to spread to Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. Last week,
Israel launched heavy air strikes against Syrian military
targets, a clear act of war, killing some 80 Syrian soldiers.
It was unclear if Israel was indeed trying to destroy shipments
of long-ranged artillery rockets being sent from Iran to
Lebanese ally Hezbollah, as it claimed, or launching a campaign
to defeat the Assad government by destroying its air and armored
According to reports, Israel did not give the US prior warning
of its air strikes against Syria. Here in Washington, many
security officials are now wondering if Israel might drag the US
into a war with Iran in a similar fashion.
What is clear: Syria is being ground up and pulverized. Like
Iraq, it is being severely punished for a defiant, independent
policy and refusing to comply with western plans for the
Mideast. Syria is also serving as a whipping boy in the place of
Iran – a graphic message to Tehran of what can happen if its
nuclear program is not switched off.
Margolis is an award-winning, internationally syndicated
columnist. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, the
International Herald Tribune the Los Angeles Times, Times of
London, the Gulf Times, the Khaleej Times, Nation – Pakistan,
Hurriyet, – Turkey, Sun Times Malaysia and other news sites in
Asia. ericmargolis.com .
Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2013
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