US Exposed As Russia Intervenes in Syria
R Arun Kumar
THE war in Syria took a significant change with the entry of Russia. Russian president Vladimir Putin in his address to the UN General Assembly on the occasion of its 70th anniversary, questioned US hegemony and its uncalled for interference in the internal affairs of sovereign countries. Two days after, on the request of Syrian government, Russian air force began its targeted attack on ISIS. This, according to many commentators brought about a qualitative change not only in the Syrian war and the situation in West Asia, but also in the entire international relations.
The 'euphoria' generated by Russian intervention made some commentators state that 'the hegemonic unipower ceased to exist on September 28 (the day on which Putin addressed the UN General Assembly)'; 'it (this move of Russia) will affect the behavior of every government. Even some of the craven vassals states, whose 'leaders' are bought-and-paid-for, will move toward a more independent foreign policy'.
Putin, in his speech called for the creation of “a genuinely broad international coalition against terrorism”, similar to the “anti-Hitler coalition”. Elaborating on this idea, he said, “Muslim nations should play a key role in such a coalition, since Islamic State not only poses a direct threat to them, but also tarnishes one of the greatest world religions with its atrocities”. Of course, his calls for joint efforts were rejected by the US and its allies.
Before entering into a discussion about the effect Russian entry into the war has, let us do a brief recap of the situation in Syria. In the first half of 2011, along with many other countries in the region which witnessed protests against economic hardships and lack of democratic rights, Syria too saw people coming out against their government. These protests, which were brutally suppressed by the government, were utilised by the various militant groups to launch an armed attack on the government, with the help of external agencies.
Authenticated reports prove that the US, along with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have liberally funded the rebels, armed and trained them. According to a report published by the US Congressional Research Service, that country has sent over $7.7 billion worth of 'military aid' to the rebels in Syria since 2011. William D Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy, states that under the Nobel Peace Prize winner Obama's first five years in office as president of the US, more than $169 billion worth of arms were sold. Tellingly, this exceeds the arms sales approved by 'war monger' Bush in his eight years in office, by nearly $30 billion. Importantly, over 60 percent of these arms sold in this period by Obama's administration were to West Asia.
Saudi Arabia has reportedly spent over $50 billion funding Wahhabism around the world, most of it going to organisations like the Al Qaeda, which are active in Syria under the name of Al Nusra.
Apart from the monetary support, terrorist organisations received training and other logistical support from the US and its allies in the region. Former president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf wrote in his autobiography, “Neither Pakistan nor the US realised what Osama Bin Laden would do with the organisation we had all allowed him to establish”.
Retired Lieutenant General Michael T Flynn, who was the former head of the US Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) and a commander of J-SOC, the ghost military unit whose squads hunted Al Qaeda in Iraq and Afghanistan all the way to Osama Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan, states that the US government took a “willful decision” in creating and nurturing terrorist agencies like the Al Qaeda and the ISIS. A classified report of the DIA (August 12, 2012), he had submitted states: “the Salafist, the Muslim Brotherhood, and AQI (Al- Qaeda in Iraq) are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria, supported by the West, Gulf countries and Turkey”.
General Lloyd Austin III, head of the US 'war against ISIS', admitted in a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Syria that many (rather, all except “four or five”) among the 5,400 US trained fighters per year, under its military program, are joining the ISIS and Al Nusra front of the Al Qaeda.
It becomes crystal clear that the US and its allies are actively behind the rebel forces in Syria. No wonder, their real intention is not eliminating terrorism, but destabilisation of Syria by ensuring a regime change. If the real intention is to fight terrorism and ‘export democracy’, their first target would have been Saudi Arabia, which funds and feeds terrorism and religious fundamentalism. Instead, the countries at the receiving end of these interventions in the West Asian region are all secular countries – Syria, Libya, Iraq – where a semblance of rights and equality between various sects and faiths existed. After the intervention of the US, sectarian divisions not only surfaced, but got accentuated, resulting in gruesome sectarian strife. And all this is done on design.
The Task Force on Precision Compellence of the Defense Science Board of the US, registered as its aims, before the invasion on Iraq, in March 13, 2002: “At these meetings, the Defense Science Task Force on Precision Compellence will survey the focused use of force so as to alter regimes' behavior, and in ways that are most promising to isolate regimes of concern from their populations and supporting organs and bureaucracies...of particular relevance are the cleavage planes, where the discriminating use of force might divide the interests of different strata, political, ethnic or religious groups, or even personal rivalries”.
This has been a strategy not only for Iraq, but is applied even to Syria. According to Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, who had written extensively on West Asia and Syria, it is necessary for the US interests, to 'deconstruct' Syria. This, he argues, will lead to the ultimate prize in the region, Iran. He had co-authored a Report published by the Brookings Institution in 2009, which details the steps US needs to take to achieve this goal. This Report cannot be struck down as an academic exercise of an insignificant 'think-tank'. Some of the suggestions made in the action plan of the Report are actually followed, like the de-listing of Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) from the US State Department's foreign terrorist organisations list, which was done in 2012. The Report states that Syria and Hezbollah have to be dealt with before dealing with Iran and accordingly, the war in Syria started in 2011.
More than the author, the Report gains importance because of the corporate backing the Institution enjoys. Brookings Institution is sponsored by giant finance companies like JP Morgan Chase Co., Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, State Farm, MetLife and GEICO; defence companies like General Electric, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon; telecom giants like Comcast, Google, Facebook, AT&T and Verizon; oil conglomerates like Exxon, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, British Petroleum and Shell and the renowned Pepsi and Coca Cola. So it is these corporations and their vested interests that are driving the conflict in Syria and the entire West Asian region, for obvious reasons – control over resources and profits.
It is these corporates that are behind the death of nearly 2,20,000 Syrians in the war, until January 2015 (according to certain reports. Another report estimates the death toll to be as high as 3,10,000 until April 2015). It is they who are responsible for the internal displacement of nearly 7.6 million Syrians and more than 5 millions who have fled the country. Hundreds of thousands among these are now turning to Europe as refugees, which the European Union is terming as a catastrophic crisis. In their effort to migrate, more than 3,000 have drowned in the Mediterranean and many more have died unaccounted.
Certain analysts point to inter-imperialist rivalries in play in this refugee crisis – some state that it is upon the egging of the US that Turkey, host to nearly two million refugees, flushed them into Europe to put pressure on its economy, particularly on Germany. To lure Turkey back into its fold, Germany is now negotiating with an offer of three billion Euros in aid, positively consider easier travel visas for Turkish citizens and 're-energise' talks for joining the European Union.
It is in this background that we have to understand the about-turn made by the EU on Russia. EU president, Jean-Claude Junker, who as late as March 2015, was demanding the establishment of an EU army against Russia and actively supporting sanctions on it, suddenly changed track. Until now, EU was always eager to show that it was in complete consonance with the US in imposing sanctions on Russia, a fact vouched by US vice-president Joe Biden. In a complete reversal, few days back, Junker criticised the US for downgrading Russia as a 'regional power' and stated: “Russia needs to be treated correctly. We cannot have our relation towards Russia dictated by Washington. It's simply not on”.
Also, one should not forget here the negotiations going on between the US and EU on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Pact (TTIP), which are inconclusive till now. Moreover, the world economy is not yet comprehensively out of the recession and many are forecasting that the coming year will push the economy further into recession. All these do not augur well for the US and its hegemonic designs. Upon this heap of miseries, we find the US challenged by Russia through its air campaigns in Syria.
Russia's involvement in Syria has exposed the US double-standards in its fight against terrorism. The US, which took a moral umbrage as a 'saviour of the world, from terrorism', was caught in a position where it cannot support Russian intervention. Obama vehemently opposed the Russian interventions stating: “Russia’s air campaign would only lead to further bloodshed and bog down Moscow...Russia, would become stuck in a quagmire”, while David Cameron, British prime minister, called the Russian move a “grave mistake”.
Not contained with venting anger, they tried to downplay Russian intervention by spreading lies that Russian missiles failed to hit targets and fell in Iran. In the face of facts to the contrary, this line was soon abandoned.
On the other hand, we find the Washington Post, reporting ruefully, under the heading 'Amid Russian air strikes, a Putin craze takes hold in Mideast’: “Posters of Putin are popping up on cars and billboards elsewhere in parts of Syria and Iraq, praising the Russian military intervention in Syria as one that will redress the balance of power in the region. The Russian leader is winning accolades from many in Iraq and Syria, who see Russian air strikes in Syria as a turning point after more than a year of largely ineffectual efforts by the US-led coalition to dislodge Islamic State militants who have occupied significant parts of the two countries”.
Russia is claiming that its 'precision strikes' targeting the ISIS are yielding results, with the destruction of many training centres, camps and munition depots. It is also claiming that hundreds of IS terrorists are fleeing and Syrian forces are gaining ground. According to Russia, the fight has now begun and it might last for three to four months. Of course, during war, all such claims need to be taken with a pinch of salt.
However, the intervention of Russia in Syria shows the growing trends towards multipolarity in the world, though one cannot agree with the statement that 'unipolarity has ended'. How strong these trends develop and emerge depend on a lot many factors. But as an analyst put it: “Solving Syria truly, means solving the problem presented to us by the prevailing unipolar order itself. It is not a battle simply for Syria and its allies to fight within the borders of Syria, but a battle for all who oppose unipolar global hegemony to fight”.