A footnote on the pathology of imperialism part 5 – sectarian war in Syria

Sectarian STRATFOR Map of Syria

By Belfast Plebian

Over the summer months we were given to believe by reports in the western media that a more suitable, moderate army might be recruited and equipped to fight in Syria, the army of the oppressed Kurds. For a few months we listened to upbeat stories about how the Kurds were pushing back the Wahhabi fighters, of pictures of liberated Kurdish women not secluded in veils but dressed in military uniforms. This only lasted as long as NATO’s ally, Turkey refrained from attacking the positions of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PPK) and destroying the Kurdish People Protection Units

At the recent G20 gathering to discuss, supposedly, how to beat back Islamic State, we find the same western politicians standing shoulder to shoulder with the political leadership of another ultra conservative Sunni Islamic Party, only this time of a rediscovered ‘moderate’ one, the justice and development party or the AKP, led by what the English Guardian Newspaper likes to call Turkey’s dependable strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The recent election in Turkey took place at the same as a massive military onslaught on the Kurds was taking place, crossing the international border into Syria. The raid was so big that the Strongman had to go the Americans to plea for a renewal of his diminishing stock of bombs. The strongman is so committed to beating back the Islamic State their fighters were able to explode two massive bombs directed against the AKP and other non-sectarian political opponents during the election campaign

The party of the strongman supplies and equips its own legion of fighting Sunni sectarians across the border called the Ahrar al Sham. The strongman then ordered attacks on Rojava, the free part of Syria held by the Kurdish forces. It was reported in the Wall Street journal that Washington wanted it to be known that it was anxious to keep the territorial ambitions of the Kurds in check to fit with the interest of its NATO partner Turkey, and suddenly stories in the western media supportive of the army of the oppressed Kurds quickly faded away again.

It is generally accepted that Turkey is also buying oil and gas on the cheap from Islamic State. So it seems that the Kurds are not to be the West’s fabled boots on the ground after all. More and more the western governments are looking at Turkey as their agent of change in the region; we will have to wait to see how this turns out.  On the face it one might expect the western diehards to recalibrate their order of priorities, given that they have no willing army to substitute for the seventy thousand Wahabbi mercenaries already fighting and failing in Syria. The conflict is no longer a noble one, between the ‘just’, protesting on behalf of democracy and the ‘unjust’ who want to retain the dictatorship, it is an ignoble anarchy of competing local, regional and imperial interests all wrapped up in a frightful sectarian garb.

Syria is currently divided into at least four political territorial units. There is the part still held by the ‘Arab Socialist’ regime that is being backed by Iran and Russia. There is the part held by Islamic State that is being facilitated by Turkey and still being financed by sectarian backers in the Sunni Gulf States. There is the part that is in the hands of the partners linked to the western allies who still call themselves the Free Syrian Army, even though there is no unified army command any longer, and is endorsed in some fashion by the International Community i.e. the UN humanitarian agencies. Then there is the part that is in the control of the Kurdish factions, which have now to become self -sufficient. I don’t know how it will all turn out.

It should be mentioned that with this example I have only emphasised the strategic pact operating between the Western governments and the Wahabbi theocracy of Saudi Arabi, yet there is another side to the imperialist intervention, the pact between the Theocracy in Iran, the Arab Syrian dictatorship and the ruling element in Russia. The patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church has claimed that Russia is waging ‘a holy war’ to preserve Christianity in Syria, a view backed by Putin. The Iran regime has called for a worldwide Shite jihad to protect the sacred religious sites of the believers in Syria. The Islamic Republic of Iran has rallied thousands of foreign fighters to protect the golden domed Sayyeda Zaynab Mosque of Damascus which is said to contain the remains of the granddaughter of the Prophet, and who is also the daughter of the martyred third imam Hussein. As many as 5,000 Lebanese Hezbollah have entered the sectarian fight, also thousands have come from Iraq, they all fight under the slogan ‘Bashar is not our concern, it is the Shiites.’ The India media report they think as many as 30,000, Indians Muslims could be involved. For every youtube video and facebook page placed by Sunni fighters there is another put there by the Shiites. If anything the Sunni foreign have met their match on the battlefield at the hands of the foreign Shiite fighters

Cameron’s case for bombing Syria

cameron imagesLast week when I was watching the news David Cameron said it was a good idea to bomb Syria because our friends in France had asked us to.  He was very calm and measured and responded mannerly to all the questions and criticisms.  He even told Jeremy Corbyn that “I very much respect his long-held views about these issues” even though he had previously described him as “a threat to national security”.

This reminded me of when I was nine and my family had moved house and I had just started a new school.  I was a bit apprehensive and nervous and I knew I needed some friends.  So I was very pleased when I fell in with a couple of boys who were very friendly.

Within about a week they said they were going to a pre-arranged fight with three other boys in the class and I should come along so it would be three against three.  I wasn’t really very keen on the idea but peer pressure and my new status meant I didn’t think I could refuse.  I knew that there wasn’t a good reason for me to get into a fight and I knew it was a bad idea all round but I felt compelled to go.

When I arrived at the appointed spot, at what was supposed to be the right time, I saw to my amazement that the other three boys were stuck up three enormous trees, or they were enormous to me at the time.  I was immediately shit scared, not because I thought they could quickly get down and kick the shit out of me but because I had no idea how the f*** they got up there in the first place.  And I was pretty sure that if they were capable of getting up there they were probably pretty capable of giving me a right doing should they ever get down.

In the end they stayed up there and nothing much happened.  So at least in this respect turning up for this fight has absolutely no parallel with Cameron’s call that we should turn up for a bigger fight in Syria although, just like Cameron, the identity of the opponent doesn’t seem to matter very much. Not for example two years ago when he wanted to bomb the Assad regime and not now when he wants to bomb Isis, who funnily enough are on different sides.

The other reason he gave for bombing Syria is that there are 70,000 moderates in Syria who he can rely upon to sort things out when he’s stopped bombing.  This 70,000 however seems to include factions of Al-Qaeda (and the Kurds?); while he also wants to have an alliance with Russia and Turkey, although the former only wants to support Assad and the latter only really seems interested in bombing the Kurds.  This however seems to be the developed plan that his Tory skeptics and his Blairite supporters in the Labour Party have been looking for.

At least I would never have fallen for any old crap that my two new friends had other friends who would be turning up to help.

Cameron also said that Isis are a threat in Britain and stopping Isis “means taking action in Syria . . . because it is Raqqa that is their HQ.”  It might seem obvious but I somehow don’t think the threat to Britain of terrorist attack will come from jihadists in Raqqa making their way to Britain, that’s not after all how it happened in France.  It’s not really a question of getting them before they leave.  All those years ago this would have meant me putting a brick through the boys’ windows and I’m glad I wasn’t that stupid.

Cameron told the House of Commons that the “full answer” to the problem of sufficient reliable ground troops “can’t be achieved until there is a new Syrian government that represents all the Syrian people — not just Sunni, Shia and Alawite, but Christian, Druze and others”.  How this incredible gift is supposed to materialise is anyone’s guess.  By the time I was nine I had long ceased believing in Santa.

He also told the House of Commons that he wants to have the vote next week but he won’t have one at all “if there’s a danger of losing it”. This is because of “the message” a defeat “would send our enemies”, who presumably would decide to attack us anyway even if we didn’t attack them just like France(?) and because they want us to attack them anyway.  Presumably that’s the logic, if that’s not to put it too strongly.

On the question of the  legality of bombing Cameron appears to be saying that he has been asked to bomb Syria, just like Iraq, so that’s ok then.  Apparently once again, like my own adventure, he has had as much regard to the legality of his actions as I had when I was nine.  He also appears to be saying that it would be legal because it would be self-defence although it seems an awful long way to go to defend oneself.  I’m not sure I could have argued self-defence if I had waited for those boys to climb down from the trees.

Cameron obviously wants it to look like he has learnt the lessons of Iraq, which appears to mean he won’t dismantle the Syrian state when he wins, and presumably he has the agreement of 70,000 moderates for this entirely moderate strategy of leaving the apparatus of the ruthless Assad dictatorship in place so it can oversee the introduction of a democratic regime, just like in Britain.

I don’t actually think I have a parallel piece of idiocy for this in my own youthful experience.  I did on occasion come out with stupid answers in class but not one I can recall as divorced from the facts of the question as this.

I’m fully aware that my own juvenile adventure may seem to have absolutely no bearing on what is an infinitely more serious matter.  It’s just that if the arguments Cameron has for going to war are as facile and inane as these then the comparison is at least imperfectly valid.  A more perfect parallel would have involved me in something much more seriously misdirected and with much graver consequences.

Of course the potential deaths of countless people, for we can be certain the deaths of Syrians won’t be counted, is not a joke, except that saying something is a joke can have a much more mordant meaning.

The case put forward for bombing Syria is miserable and wretched. Only a fool could believe it.  It is cynical and malevolent, entirely befitting its proposer and supporters, and the idea that this is some sort of issue of ‘conscience’ is as devoid of conviction as the case for war itself.  Ridicule is of course not enough but sometimes it seems apposite when the arguments one faces appear so inappropriate and so grossly unequal to the issues at stake.