What we see in Syria today is presented as a noble effort based on the policy of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) by the US and its allies to remove an alleged war criminal from power in that country. The hypocrisy of this claim is conveniently ignored by our official media. However the citizens of Viet-Nam, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Libya, and many others, would be amazed by the way the killers who run the US Empire are allowed to clothe their actions with the pretense of protecting human rights and spreading democracy.
Of course oil in Syria and pipelines through the country are the real reasons for the US Empire's war against Syria. Who asks for the reason why the people of Syria are resisting this aggression? For them it is just another very bloody stage in their long struggle for independence. For centuries they were part of the giant Ottoman Empire. During World War I they fought to defeat the forces of this empire. After World War I they were made a colony of France, and after World War II they had to deal with the manipulations of the newest empire, that of the US. They have spent the last 95 years fighting for their independence from the West.
In their history, Syrians have time and time again made it clear they want to run their own country, but observers in the West of virtually all political persuasions can only see a conflict over human rights, democracy or oil and pipelines. Anyone who thinks the current war on Syria is anything other than a continuation of the naked imperialist aggression of the 19th and 20th centuries is completely blinded by the lies and bogus morality of the murdering pirates who run the US Empire.
This is the second of two parts looking at the Syria's struggle for independence. Over time the players change but it is the same game with the same goal: imperial powers and their oil/gas multinationals want no opposition to their plans. The sovereignty of Syria or any other country must be crushed.
SUMMARY OF SELECTED EVENTS IN SYRIAN HISTORY 1963-2015
1963 In the 8th of March Revolution the Syrian Regional Branch of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party seized power.
1967 Israel begins Six Day War with attack on Egypt.
1973 Syria and Egypt initiated the Yom Kippur War against Israel.
1976-2005 Syrian troops protected Lebanon from Israel.
1976-1982 First Muslim Brotherhood uprising in Syria.
2000 Death of Hafez al-Assad. His son Bashar Hafez al-Assad becomes president.
2006-2015 US approaches Muslim Brotherhood to organize another uprising in Syria.
2009 Qatar approaches Syria with plan for Arab Gas Pipeline from Qatar to Turkey. Syria rejects pipeline plan.
2010 Syria agrees to an oil pipeline from Kirkuk in Iraq to Banias on Syrian coast and a gas pipeline from Iran into Syria.
2011-2015 Documents show US planned to support salafists, Muslim Brotherhood, and Al Qaeda in Iraq to organize insurgency in Syria which begins under cover of "Arab Spring". Bases set up in Turkey to train what becomes ISIS.
1958-1961: THE UNITED ARAB REPUBLIC EXPERIMENT
In 1958 Syria and Egypt began a short lived political union called the United Arab Republic. The United Arab Republic ended with a coup carried out by disgruntled Syrian Army officers on September 28, 1961. It resulted in restoration of the independent Syrian Republic. As the unification process continued, many Syrians felt that the union with Egypt was really a take-over. Eventually elements opposed to the union led by Abd al-Karim al-Nahlawi seized power on 28 September 1961. Two days later, Syria re-established itself as the Syrian Arab Republic. While the leaders of the coup were from the army, they entrusted politicians from the traditional political parties of Syrian Republic era to form the government.(1)
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE 8TH OF MARCH REVOLUTION BY THE BA'ATH PARTY
The 1963 Syrian coup d'état, referred to by the Syrian government as the 8 March Revolution, was the successful seizure of power in Syria by the military committee of the Syrian Regional Branch of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party. The traditional elite in Syria come to power during the French Mandate of Syria and Lebanon. The structure of this society had a very unequal distribution of wealth between the landowners and the landless peasants:
"An estimated three thousand families owned half of the land in Syria. The majority of small to medium properties were owned by the middle class. Some two-thirds of peasants were landless. Agricultural revenues were highly skewed – the top two percent of the population received 50 percent of the income, while the middle class (merchants or middle landowning groups), which was 18 percent of the population, earned 25 percent of agricultural revenues. The bottom 80 percent received the remainder."(2)
Further in Syria, minorities were often underprivileged, and a specific minority often belonged to a specific social class. The Alawites, the Druzes and the Isma'ilis for instance, were were part of the lower social classes, so they were attracted to a radical form of Arab nationalism offered by the Ba'ath Party.
The 8 March Revolution is often seen as just a military coup. However the success of the revolution comes from the fact that it was made up of an alliance between a radicalized lower middle class, strategic members of the officer corps, marginalized minorities and peasants who were part of an ongoing agrarian conflict. In particular the Syrian military, which in many countries is socially conservative, became radicalized because they believed the traditional elite were unable to defend the country. Also many military personnel were recruited from the new middle class or from the peasants, and the peasants were an essential element of the Ba'athist revolution. Because the traditional elite monopolized the land and its wealth, there were many peasant movements which fought for change. As a result the Ba'ath Party was able to recruit young peasants from these radical peasant movements, and could in the end mobilize large sectors of the population to support their policies.
The plans for the 8th of March revolution were drawn up and implemented by the military committee of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party. The first act of the military committee was to establish the twenty-man National Council for the Revolutionary Command, however the military committee of the Ba'ath Party formed state policies, not the civilian Party leadership headed by Michel Aflaq. To begin with, the members of the military committee were bound together by their goal of building a prosperous nation. The leading members of the military committee throughout the planning process and in the immediate aftermath of taking power were Muhammad Umran, Salah Jadid and Hafez al-Assad. Salah Jadid was Syria's effective ruler from 1966 until 1970, but in 1970 a bloodless military overthrow Hafez al-Assad replaced him.
It is interesting to note that in the elections held in 1973, which experts in the West would not consider free, the Ba'ath Party gained 122 seats of 250, slightly less than an absolute majority. There were 46 independents, but no seats were held by the two traditionally conservative parties, the People's Party and the National Party.(3) Was this a result of tyrannical repression or had many people become radicalized and no longer happy with the older parties who had worked for independence but did not consider serious social changes to the rule of the traditional elite?(4)
1967, 1973 AND 1976: WARS WITH ISRAEL
In 1967 Israel began the Six-Day War with a preemptive strike on Egypt. Syria joined the war and attacked Israel as well. However, after defeating the Egyptian forces Israel captured two-thirds of the Golan Heights from Syria which it has retained until the present day. In 1973 Syria and Egypt initiated the Yom Kippur War against Israel. The Israel Defense Forces reversed the initial Syrian gains and pushed deeper into Syrian territory. In 1976, Syria entered Lebanon, beginning its thirty-year military occupation. Over the following 15 years of civil war, Syria worked to stop Israel from taking over in southern Lebanon.(5)
WHAT ARE THE ISSUES IN SYRIA'S POLITICAL HISTORY?
The conventional understanding of the conflict at the center of Syrian history for the last 50 years is that the Ba'ath party is secular and nationalist, while their opposition, Muslim Brotherhood, is religious. The Brotherhood sees nationalism as un-Islamic and religion as inseparable from politics and government. There are two serious errors with this way of understanding events in Syria. First as we have seen above, the main political parties have not made religion an issue. They were and still are all secular in the sense that they do not see religious affiliation as politically important. Western "experts" and the Muslim Brotherhood see Al-Assad's religion as politically significant, but nobody in Syria itself thinks this.
All major parties in Syria have supported independence from the Ottoman Empire and France. In spite of its name, the People's Party was a monarchist party, while the National Party was republican. It seems this question was settled in 1961 when the country adopted the name Syrian Arab Republic, in line with National Party policy. The main issue between the Ba'ath Party and the two traditional opposition parties concerns the best social structure for Syria. "Most Ba'ath party members were from humble, obscure backgrounds and favored radical economic policies, while Sunni Muslims had dominated the souqs and landed power of Syria, and tended to view government intervention in the economy as threatening."(6) Remember that the leaders of the two traditional parties, and the leaders of the National Bloc, were members of wealthy landowning families.
1976-1982: THE FIRST MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD UPRISING
The first confrontation between the Ba'ath party and the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria occurred shortly after the 1963 Ba'athist coup. Some believe that the Islamist political groups, of which the Brotherhood was the most prominent, represented the strongest opposition to the new government. However looking at the results of the 1961 parliamentary elections in Syria, it gained 10 of 172 seats, which made it a distant 4th of the top four parties represented. Remember also that in this election 84 of the 172 seats were held by independents. It might have been the strongest military opposition to the government, but it was clearly of little political significance when measured by electoral results.
The Brotherhood was banned in 1964. From 1976 until 1982 there were a series of revolts and armed insurgency, organized mainly by the Muslim Brotherhood from 1976 until 1982. The insurgency culminated in the 1982 Hama Islamic uprising which was crushed by the Syrian government in an event usually described as the Hama massacre in which thousands of insurgents, soldiers and residents were killed.(7)
BUT WHAT IS THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD?
The group now known as the Muslim Brotherhood was founded in 1928 by the Egyptian Hassan al-Banna. The Brotherhood claims it wants to restore Islam to the alleged purity of its earliest days and rests on an ultra-orthodox view of Islam. From the beginning, however, the Brotherhood had "enormous power behind the scenes in monarchical Egypt, playing politics at the highest level, often in league with King Farouk against his political opponents, including the left, the communists, and the nationalist Wafd Party."(8) The political positions of the Brotherhood meant that it often had the same views as the colonial British. For this reason, the Brotherhood became an intelligence agency, infiltrating left-wing and nationalist groups. Thus even its early years the Brotherhood was not just interested in an ultra-orthodox approach to Islam.
After World War II the US Empire joined the British in working with the Brotherhood:
"By then , the group’s chief international organizer and best-known official was Said Ramadan, the son-in-law of Hassan al-Banna. Ramadan had come to the attention of both the CIA and MI-6, the British intelligence service. In researching my book … I came across an unusual photograph that showed Ramadan with President Eisenhower in the Oval Office. By then, or soon after, Ramadan had likely been recruited as a CIA agent. Wall Street Journal reporter Ian Johnson has since documented the close ties between Ramadan and various Western intelligence services … Johnson writes: ‘By the end of the decade, the CIA was overtly backing Ramadan.'"(9)
In addition the Saudis have been backers of the Brotherhood for the same reasons that the United States and the Western powers needed them: to promote opposition to Arab nationalism and the growing influence of Shiite states. Robert Dreyfuss writes, “From its early days, the Brotherhood was financed generously by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which appreciated its ultra-conservative politics and its virulent hatred of Arab communists.”(10) The other message of the Brotherhood which helps promote the interests of the US Empire is the Salafist ideology that preaches conflict and inescapable war between the branches of Islam. This promotes the age-old conqueror's strategy of divide and rule as the different Arab states fight with each other, or become dysfunctional through internal conflicts.
COMPARE THE BROTHERHOOD'S THREAT TO SYRIA WITH AL-QEADA'S THREAT TO THE USA, OR THE THREAT OF ISIS TO AUSTRALIA
One of the most common criticisms of Syria is that the Al-Assads are "dictators" with an extensive secret police presence and a history of killing hundreds or thousands of their citizens. However this story is usually told with the assumption that the opponents to the Assad regime in Syria are just responding to local issues. However once we realize that the opposition by the Muslim Brotherhood is organized and financed by the US, the UK and the Saudis, the response of the Assad government is the same as any other government would be in the same circumstances.
In the US, for example, which is held up as a model of a free, democratic society, there are multiple intelligence agencies which focus on the surveillance of domestic political opposition while there is no organization in the US even approaching the power and influence the Muslim Brotherhood has in Syria. For example, in 1979 there were a series of assassinations which led up to 16th of June slaughter of cadets at the Aleppo Artillery School. According to the official report 32 young men were killed, while unofficial sources say the toll was as high as 83.(11) In the following year there was a nearly successful assassination attempt on the life of Hafez al-Assad.
People in the US are told to fear "Al-Qaeda", but if this organization really exists, there is almost nothing other than 9/11 that they are alleged to have done in the US. No country in the West in the last 70 years has had any serious internal or external threat which could justify the methods used by the Syrian government against the Brotherhood. But if such a threat did arise, does anyone really believe they would be any different? The only reason there is the limited freedom and democracy found in the West is that there is no externally funded and organized opposition, and internal opposition is completely ineffective.
THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD AND ISIS IN SYRIA 2006-2015
The Muslim Brotherhood was nearing extinction as a result of the efforts of Hafez al-Assad, but around 2006 the US decided to revive the work of the Brotherhood and other activists in Syria. The "Arab Spring" uprising in Syria which began in the early spring of 2011 and is always described as a civil war was actually the result of planning which began at least by 2006. The return of the Muslim Brotherhood to Syria is described in this report from Reuters in May 2012:
"From annihilation at home 30 years ago when they challenged the iron-fisted rule of Hafez al-Assad, the Brotherhood has recovered to become the dominant force of the exile opposition in the 14-month-old revolt against his son Bashar. Careful not to undermine the council's disparate supporters, the Brotherhood has played down its growing influence within the Syrian National Council (SNC), whose public face is the secular Paris-based professor Bourhan Ghalioun. 'We chose this face, accepted by the West and by the inside. We don't want the regime to take advantage if an Islamist becomes the Syrian National Council's head,' former Brotherhood leader Ali Sadreddine al-Bayanouni told supporters in a video. 'We nominated Ghalioun as a front for national action. We are not moving now as Muslim Brotherhood but as part of a front that includes all currents', said Bayanouni."(12)
Seymour Hirsh reported that late in 2006 the Lebanese leader Walid Jumblatt said to Vice-President Cheney that "the basic link between Iran and Lebanon is Syria—and to weaken Iran you need to open the door to effective Syrian opposition.” Jumblatt also "advised Cheney that, if the United States does try to move against Syria, members of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood would be “the ones to talk to."(13) In May 2015 yournewswire.com posted a report about a stunning discovery by the US Government watchdog Judicial Watch. They forced the US government to reveal documents in which the US planned their support of the rise of ISIS in Syria and directed the CIA train ISIS members in Jordan:
"The U.S. intelligence documents not only confirms suspicions that the United States and some of its coalition allies had actually facilitated the rise of the ISIS in Syria – as a counterweight to the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad- but also that ISIS members were initially trained by members and contractors of the Central Intelligence Agency at facilities in Jordan in 2012."(14)
The US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) provides military intelligence in support of planners, policymakers and operations for the US Department of Defense and intelligence community. Here are two parts of the relevant US Defense Intelligence Agency document written in August 2012:
This shows that extreme Muslim terrorists – salafists, Muslim Brotherhood, and AQI (Al Qaeda in Iraq) – have always been the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria. The salafists, following the Wahhabi sect of Sunni Islam, are supported by Saudi Arabia. They formed the core of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. The Muslim Brotherhood, which has similar fundamentalist beliefs, is supported by Qatar. These groups have been active in Middle East politics for almost 100 years.
Yes, you read that correctly:
… there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist Principality in eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime ….
That is, the powers supporting the Syrian opposition – the US and the UK, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey - wanted to create an Islamic caliphate in order to challenge Syrian president Assad, and they trained the people who became ISIS. What happened in Syria was no accident. These documents show that the US was involved in these ghastly crimes from the very beginning.
These documents echo similar claims by former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds that the CIA and NATO started recruiting and training people at a NATO base in Turkey – right near the Syrian border – to stage terrorist attacks in Syria to overthrow the Syrian government … and that this was the birth of ISIS:
"In 2011, months and months before Syria came in the headlines (...) we broke a story based on my sources here in United States military but also in Turkey about the fact that special CIA/NATO forces in a NATO base in Turkey, which is in the southern portion of Turkey very close to the Syrian border, they were bringing in, in Turkey, the CIA/NATO Gladio unit, they were recruiting and bringing in people from northern Syria into these camps, part of the US air force base in southern Turkey. They were training them – military training – they were arming them, and they were basically directing them towards create terror events inside Syria, not only against Assad, but also in various villages and regions against the people, against public.(15)
SO WHAT IS THE WAR ON SYRIA ALL ABOUT?
In 2009 the Assad government was asked to sign a proposed agreement with Qatar that would run a pipeline from its North gas field through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and on to Turkey, with a view to supply European markets. The clear intention was to transport gas to the EU as competition and/or replacement for gas from Russia and from Iran. The Assad government refused. According to former French foreign minister Roland Dumas, Britain started to plan covert action in Syria that same year.
Qatar's Proposed Arab Gas Pipeline
To make matters worse, the Assad government signed two deals with Iraq and Iran for oil and gas pipelines through Syria:
"In late 2010, his government signed a memorandum of understanding with Iraq for the construction of two oil and one gas pipeline to carry gas and oil from Iraq’s Akkas and Kirkuk fields, respectively, to the Syrian port of Banias on the Mediterranean Sea. In July 2011 Iranian officials announced a $10 billion gas pipeline deal between Syria, Iraq and Iran that would transport gas from Iran’s South Pars gas field, the world’s biggest, through Iraq to Syria."(16)
This Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline plan was a “direct slap in the face” to Qatar’s plans.
There are two sides to the oil driven wars in the Middle East. The first is for control of the oil in a given country like Syria. According to the International Business Times:
"Syria controls one of the largest conventional hydrocarbon resources in the eastern Mediterranean.
"Syria possessed 2.5 billion barrels of crude oil as of January 2013, which makes it the largest proved reserve of crude oil in the eastern Mediterranean according to the Oil & Gas Journal estimate.
"Syria also has oil shale resources with estimated reserves that range as high as 50 billion tons, according to a Syrian government source in 2010."(17)
The other side of these wars is driven by pipeline politics. As the Taliban were overthrown in Afghanistan after they demanded too much for the Unocal pipeline through their territory, Syria’s Assad is being attacked by the West and Western backed states like Qatar and Saudi Arabia because the Assad government has its own plans for pipelines through its territory. This is why the US Empire wants to break the power of states like Syria and Iraq, so their oil and gas companies can do what they want, as in the old days of the League of Nations "mandates" after World War II.
15. http://www.globalresearch.ca/silencing-a-whistle-blower-gladio-b-and-the-origins-of-isis-sibel-edmonds/5475126, quoted in http://www.globalresearch.ca/unmasking-isis-how-was-it-able-to-gain-land-arms-and-money-so-quickly/5475667.