1. This video by The Real News gives important context to the Syrian war.
Sami Ramadani talking to Paul Jay notes that although the Syrian regime is brutal it could never have survived by mere brutality. Assad is supported by the military, the merchant and professional classes. He says that the female members of these groups, who don’t wear the hijab, have enjoyed relative freedom under the regime and are frightened by the armed opposition who are supported by the Muslim Brotherhood and Saudi Arabia.
“Saudi society is the most brutal towards women on planet Earth”
Saudi society is also hostile to religious diversity so Syria’s religious minorities feared the armed opposition.
Ramadani says that there was a peaceful democratic opposition to Assad and had it not been for the armed opposition Assad would have been displaced. He argues that the armed uprising supported by the Saudis and the US was designed to stop the democratisation process.
2. Julian Assange puts the conflict in the context of US policy:
Assange references a leaked cable from US Ambassador William Roebuck in Damascus 2006 suggesting opportunities for overthrowing Syrian government. One of the suggestions was to foster tensions between the Sunni and Shia communities through spreading false rumours that Iran is trying to convert Sunnis.
The Truth Out website discusses Roebuck’s December 2006 cable and other related cables in some detail. Truth Out quotes Roebuck’s summary of his own cable:
We believe Bashar’s weaknesses are in how he chooses to react to looming issues, both perceived and real, such as the conflict between economic reform steps (however limited) and entrenched, corrupt forces, the Kurdish question, and the potential threat to the regime from the increasing presence of transiting Islamist extremists. This cable summarizes our assessment of these vulnerabilities and suggests that there may be actions, statements, and signals that the USG can send that will improve the likelihood of such opportunities arising.
See also the following testimony that the US/UK have been planning to overthrow the Syrian government for many years before the 2011 uprisings:
First testimony from General Wesley Clark that Syria was on a list of seven countries that the US planned to overthrow:
And testimony for former French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas that the UK was involved in plotting against the Syrian government:
3. US Vice President Joe Biden says that Daesh (Isis/Isil) was created through funding and support from America’s allies Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. He suggests that they have now seen the danger and have stopped funding Daesh and the more extreme armed opposition, that they are now in alliance with the US to stop Daesh. Still he says:
“Our allies in the region are our largest problem in Syria.”
4. General Michael Flynn a former US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) chief admits that his agency in 2012 concluded that the Salafists, the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda in Iraq were the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria and that in 2012 the US was helping coordinate arms transfers to those same groups.
Flynn believes that the US should have supported the Free Syrian Army (FSA) more strongly at the beginning of the insurgency and that it was the failure to do so that led to the insurgency becoming dominated by these more extreme elements. Flynn admits the US intention to bring down the Syrian state and implies that he shared this intention but he is critical of the Obama administration for failing to take more robust action earlier and for then supporting the extremists.
According to journalist Seymour Hersh, from 2013 the DIA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff believing that the fall of Assad would lead to a takeover by extremists, worked against the Obama Administration to funnel intelligence to the Syrian military. Hersh writes:
The military’s resistance dates back to the summer of 2013, when a highly classified assessment, put together by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, then led by General Martin Dempsey, forecast that the fall of the Assad regime would lead to chaos and, potentially, to Syria’s takeover by jihadi extremists, much as was then happening in Libya. A former senior adviser to the Joint Chiefs told me that the document was an ‘all-source’ appraisal, drawing on information from signals, satellite and human intelligence, and took a dim view of the Obama administration’s insistence on continuing to finance and arm the so-called moderate rebel groups. By then, the CIA had been conspiring for more than a year with allies in the UK, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to ship guns and goods – to be used for the overthrow of Assad – from Libya, via Turkey, into Syria. The new intelligence estimate singled out Turkey as a major impediment to Obama’s Syria policy. The document showed, the adviser said, ‘that what was started as a covert US programme to arm and support the moderate rebels fighting Assad had been co-opted by Turkey, and had morphed into an across-the-board technical, arms and logistical programme for all of the opposition, including Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic State. The so-called moderates had evaporated and the Free Syrian Army was a rump group stationed at an airbase in Turkey.’ The assessment was bleak: there was no viable ‘moderate’ opposition to Assad, and the US was arming extremists.
Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, director of the DIA between 2012 and 2014, confirmed that his agency had sent a constant stream of classified warnings to the civilian leadership about the dire consequences of toppling Assad. The jihadists, he said, were in control of the opposition. Turkey wasn’t doing enough to stop the smuggling of foreign fighters and weapons across the border. ‘If the American public saw the intelligence we were producing daily, at the most sensitive level, they would go ballistic,’ Flynn told me. ‘We understood Isis’s long-term strategy and its campaign plans, and we also discussed the fact that Turkey was looking the other way when it came to the growth of the Islamic State inside Syria.’ The DIA’s reporting, he said, ‘got enormous pushback’ from the Obama administration. ‘I felt that they did not want to hear the truth.’
‘Our policy of arming the opposition to Assad was unsuccessful and actually having a negative impact,’ the former JCS adviser said. ‘The Joint Chiefs believed that Assad should not be replaced by fundamentalists. The administration’s policy was contradictory. They wanted Assad to go but the opposition was dominated by extremists. So who was going to replace him? To say Assad’s got to go is fine, but if you follow that through – therefore anyone is better. It’s the “anybody else is better” issue that the JCS had with Obama’s policy.’ The Joint Chiefs felt that a direct challenge to Obama’s policy would have ‘had a zero chance of success’. So in the autumn of 2013 they decided to take steps against the extremists without going through political channels, by providing US intelligence to the militaries of other nations, on the understanding that it would be passed on to the Syrian army and used against the common enemy, Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic State.
So we have an admission here that “the CIA had been conspiring for more than a year with allies in the UK, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to ship guns and goods – to be used for the overthrow of Assad – from Libya, via Turkey, into Syria”, thus contravening international law. We also learn that branches of the US government were working against each other. This suggests to me that it is the US government and its allies and not Bashar al-Assad who are most responsible for the death and devastation in Syria.