Target Syria – by Stephen Lendman
Washington’s Greater Middle East project involves waring against the region one country at a time to replace independent regimes with client ones.
Softer targets were attacked first. Tougher ones remain, notably Iran and Syria. Subduing them may involve turning the entire region into an uncontrollable cauldron, not least because China and Russia have interests to defend.
Russia maintains a strategic naval base at Tartus, Syria, its only Mediterranean location. It considers it vital protection for its Black Sea Fleet. It’s being modernized to accommodate heavy warships after 2012. Russia came to stay.
Three Russian warships now patrol Syrian waters. Unofficial sources confirm it, saying Russia’s there to protect strategic and national security interests, as well as prevent war.
About 120,000 Russian citizens are in Syria. Moscow’s obligated to protect them the way they aided South Ossetian Russians after Georgia attacked the province in August 2008.
Provocatively, America’s nuclear carrier USS George HW Bush anchored off Syria. Its Strike Group and additional vessels are conducting maritime security and support operations nearby. The US 6th Fleet patrols the area.
Meanwhile, Washington and Turkey urged their citizens to leave Syria. A November 23 US statement said “depart immediately while commercial transportation is available.” Whether something’s brewing isn’t known. Tough talk alone doesn’t suggest it. Nonetheless, it’s worrisome.
Syria’s being assaulted like Libya. Heavily armed insurgents are involved. Washington orchestrated everything. Neighboring countries are involved, including Israel. Syria’s blamed for defending itself. Libya redux looks possible. Continued violence and escalating tensions suggest it.
An anonymous Russian intelligence official said America “is playing a very dangerous game here. One that may result in Russia taking defensive actions to protect itself, its military installation and Russian citizens.”
A Russian military expert called US carriers “expensive floating targets that are vulnerable to attacks by aircraft, missiles and torpedos. They were designed for Cold War scenarios, and are less useful in establishing control of areas close to shore.”
According to Pravda.ru, Center for Military Forecasts analyst Anatoly Tsyganok said Washington no longer will inform Russia about planned troop deployments.
“Apparently, it is connected with the situation in the Mediterranean Sea,” he said. “One may assume that NATO will create a military group near Russia’s southern borders to strike Syria.”
“They will most likely raise this issue at the NATO summit in December. They will try to analyze Syria’s actions in case NATO conducts a military operation against the country, like (earlier) in Libya.”
Itar-Tass contributor Anatoly Lazarev accused Washington of “initia(ting) the campaign for strangling Damascus.” Russia stresses dialogue for conflict resolution. “Washington obviously does not like the stand assumed by Moscow. By all appearances, it wishes to play first the Libyan and now the Syrian card” to ensure its regional interests “at all costs.” Then on to new targets to control the entire region.
International Crisis Group (ICG) Comments on Syria
Founded in 1995 by World Bank vice president Mark Malloch Brown and former US diplomat Morton Abramowitz, ICG supports power, not popular interests. Comments on its Middle East Project Director Peter Harling’s analysis follows below.
Titled, “Uncharted Waters: Thinking Through Syria’s Dynamics,” he assessed where things now stand, saying:
“The Syrian crisis may or may not have entered its final phase, but it undoubtedly has entered its most dangerous one to date. The current stage is defined by an explosive mix of heightened strategic stakes tying into a regional and wider international competition on the one hand and emotionally charged attitudes, communal polarisation and political wishful thinking on the other.”
Based in Damascus, Harling’s observing events firsthand. Entirely missing from current considerations, he believes, “is a sober assessment of the challenges provoked by (balance of power) shifts and the very real risk that they could derail or even foreclose the possibility of a successful transition.”
Of course, it’s for Syrians, not outside powers, to decide. Intervening in other nations’ internal affairs is illegal. For Washington, its NATO partners, and Israel it’s standard practice. Harding’s analysis omitted international law issues, focusing on imperial ones instead.
Five key issues are excluded from Syria’s debate, he believes, including:
- the dominant Alawite community’s fate;
- Syrian and Lebanese ties;
- implications of international intervention;
- impact of the protest movement’s militarization; and
- “creeping social, economic and institutional decay.”
Assad linked the Alawite community’s fate to his own to assure loyalty among people who’ve gained little from the regime. Crisis conditions bonded them to Assad’s government. The same holds for Syrian Christians.
Critically, the regime controls Damascus and Aleppo, Syria’s largest city. It secured them because protests there remain peaceful. Its “divide-and-rule tactics have kept most Alawites, many Christians, as well as some Druze and Sunnis on its side.”
Nonetheless, civil society segments support insurgents. The longer conflict persists, the greater the incentive for affected business, middle class, and other elements to seek ways to end it. At issue is protecting their own self-interest. They want calm to get back to business as soon as possible.
At the same time, Assad won’t step down or be deposed internally. Regime officials need him. He’s been instrumental in keeping support among BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and other countries. He’s also popular so why remove a regime prop.
As for sanctions, civilians are mostly harmed much like everywhere they’re imposed. Assad said parliamentary elections will be held next February or March. Constitutional review will follow. So will presidential elections if new provisions in it say so.
If Syrians agree to test him, violence might subside but won’t end as long as criminal insurgents are encouraged by Washington, Turkey and other regional states to maintain pressure.
Nonetheless, without a political solution, violence will continue. Civilians will suffer horrifically. Military intervention may follow. For now, Assad’s holding firm. Violence hasn’t reached critical mass to topple him. Regime change isn’t imminent. Syria’s military supports him. Turkey’s pressure is limited, he believes.
Arab League states have no credibility whatever. They condoned Libya’s ravaging, say nothing about NATO’s plans to colonize another Arab state, ignore Bahraini and other regional atrocities, and brutalize their own people protesting against political, economic and social injustice.
On November 27, DEBKAfile said Syria’s neighbors are preparing for potential retaliation after League members imposed sanctions. Israel moved armored brigades to its Lebanese and Syrian borders. Turkey’s military is on alert. Lebanon and Jordan also responded defensively.
“Military sources in the Gulf report that 150 Iranian Revolutionary Guards specialists had landed at a military airport south of Damascus on their way to Lebanon to join Hizbollah which began bringing its rockets out of their hideouts.”
Russia’s supplying Syria super-advanced S-300 anti-missile systems, as well as advanced Pantsir-1 (SA-22 Greyhound) anti-air missiles and supersonic Yakhont (SS-26) missiles for targeting vessels blockading Syria’s coast.
Resolution’s nowhere in sight. Conditions remain fluid. War winds are blowing. Redrawing the region is planned. Arab Spring talk belies strategies to do it. Perhaps destroying it comes first.
A Final Comment
On November 27, Arab League states approved stiff anti-Syrian economic sanctions. Their 14-point plan includes travel bans on regime officials, asset freezes, blocking sale of “nonessential” commodities, halting transactions with Syria’s central bank, and ending financing for Arab-funded projects in the country.
Sanctions are effective immediately. Ordinary people will be hurt most. At issue is weakening popular support for Assad to facilitate regime change more easily. In fact, people under duress usually rally behind sitting governments for support. It remains to be seen if Syrians follow suit.
On November 28, Mathaba.net reported that Kuwait’s al Rai daily learned from unnamed senior European sources that Arab states, with US logistical support, will impose a no-fly zone over Syria once an authorizing Arab League charter decree is issued, calling for the protection of Syrian civilians.
With or without one, attacking a nonbelligerent state is illegal. Nations may only respond against others defensively. Intervening militarily in their internal affairs is prohibited. Nonetheless, doing it for humanitarian reasons will be invoked. It doesn’t wash but may work, with or without a Security Council resolution.
America and NATO partners aren’t deterred by international or statute laws. As a result, Syria is increasingly vulnerable.
According to al Rai, a no-fly ban will target Syrian artillery and military vehicles, including tanks and armored personnel carriers. They’ll be prohibited from moving freely. European sources say they’d be crippled “in less than 24 hours.”
War winds are blowing stronger.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.