I was going to initially write this and the collusion piece (link below) as one piece, but there was enough to cover to warrant separating them, but with the linking factors being the avalanche of headlines swarming our news cycle and the contrast in “sides” taken.
Some major bombshell news has been broken this week in the international arena (no pun intended regarding Syria). The first was Mueller’s report being submitted, with the US Attorney General honing in on the fact no collusion between Trump and Russia has been proven. The second is the claim that ISIS has been defeated in Syria, with headlines heralding the fall of the terror group. Headlines are fanciful creatures, aren’t they?
Syria’s War Won’t End Soon
Syria’s current situation, like much of the Middle East, can be traced back to the fall of the Ottoman Empire after WW1. Since 2011, it has become one of the worst crises in the world, possibly only topped by the conditions in Yemen under the Saudi blockade. But what makes Syria so bizarre is just how convoluted the whole war is.
You have Syria’s ruling regime under Bashar al Assad, who is backed by Russia because their port in Syria is one of their few points into the Mediterranean. They have, for the most part, been a driving force against ISIS and other terror groups in the country, like al Qaeda and al Nusra. Another enemy of ISIS has been the Syrian Democratic Forces, which Robert Fisk (who I would believe more than most about what is taking place in Syria) commented was “in fact mostly Kurdish, many of whose members would prefer not to be thought of as Syrians, and whose ranks never enjoyed a democratic election in their lives”. Add in the US intervention and Turkey’s forays into the conflict and sometimes it is hard to tell who is doing what.
The easiest judgement to make is that the main conflict, between the US and Syria’s government, is nothing more than a proxy war between the US and Russia, just as it has been elsewhere since WW2. This endless battle has nothing to do with ideology, a fight for peace, or anything so thoughtful. It is simply two unbridled superpowers locked in battle over finite resources (although some have argued that if the world collapses into a nuclear war, it’ll be a different trouble duo more likely to cause it). In almost every case today and historically, anywhere the pretexts of religion or ideology is invoked, one can usually trace it back to some material goal. Resources, wealth, and power have always been more important than whether innocent civilians become necessary collateral.
And so, even if ISIS were to be defeated (which Fisk, in his article, is hesitant to say because there are many soldiers still out there, including other extremist groups), we have not seen the end of the Syrian conflict. There are still tensions on three fronts that will undoubtedly continue. The first is the Kurdish struggle for independence in amongst the other fighting. The Kurds seem to have enjoyed favourable ties with the US, but when the US has claimed to be leaving the country, the fear was that either Turkey would destroy the Turkish Kurds trying to secede, or that Syria (with Russian backing) would aid the Kurds but integrate them rather than giving them independence.
On the southern front, the Golan Heights – home to, surprise surprise, some large oil and gas reserves – has made its way back into the news. Trump has announced that the US officially recognises the Golan Heights as a part of Israel. In reality, the Golan Heights is a part of Syria that has been occupied by Israel for many years, and where US company Genie Energy has major investments. The US’ acceptance of this is not surprising when you consider names like Dick Cheney and Rupert Murdoch make up part of Genie’s strategic advisory board.
I doubt that Syria looks at this announcement cheerily, however, and tensions across the borders have spiked with accusations of an Iranian presence in Syria. If this escalates, retaliation from Syria or Israel could be guaranteed.
Lastly, the obvious issue is the US’ rivalry with the Syrian government itself. Toppling Assad to insert a more US-friendly regime has been in the pipeline since 2006, and the Arab Spring in 2011 was the perfect time to create chaos – it worked in Libya but hit a roadblock in Syria. The US do not appreciate Russian influence in the region, although their official platform is feeling bad for those poor Syrians under a brutal dictator. Nothing says freedom and compassion like committing war crimes and planning to prop up a government with a different shade of dictator.
So whether it’s a conflict involving Kurdish independence, Israeli encroachment in the Golan Heights, or simply the continuance of the US-Russia proxy war, Syria is no where near a peaceful resolution. Not to mention that ISIS is not entirely defeated yet. The US media, for all of their hatred of Trump, happily toe the line when it comes to imperialist policies, including Syria. It still strikes me as odd that people see Trump as a Russian puppet when his administration has clearly antagonised Russia more than any other presidency.
Part 1 HERE