Syria: Business as Usual

August 19, 2013 11:15 am

As helicopters fall from the sky and cities are levelled by bombings, President Obama sits cosily in the oval office conducting business as usual. Apparently Libyan lives are more valuable than Syrian lives. You may argue that NATO invaded Libya, not the US, but NATO is primarily an American run organisation. The war has brought sheer devastation upon Syria’s cities and it has lost over 20% of its GDP. Not to mention that over 20,000 people have been killed since the fighting began and more than 650,000 people have been displaced, 150,000 of which have had to flee to neighbouring Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. The biggest massacre of the war so far has been uncovered in the town of Daraya, near the capital, Damascus, where 400 bodies have been found in a mass grave. Before you claim this as evidence of the brutality of the regime, as most of the western media has been quick to do, there are eyewitness accounts that it was in fact anti-government militants who were behind the atrocity, not Bashar Al Assad’s men.

In 2003, the United States invaded and bombed Iraq in what would turn out to be an almost decade long war. In 2011, NATO, mainly comprised of US troops, invaded and bombed Libya in what would turn out to be a much shorter war. However, both of these countries lie in disarray, with violence being a common occurrence. This is the legacy that the US and its allies leave behind themselves in the Arab world; chaos and violence.  While the situation was different in many ways for the two countries, it is also similar. One of these similarities is that all three; Iraq, Libya and Syria, are quite divided along sectarian lines and this makes internal conflict easy to incite. There are, in the American foreign policy playbook, different reactions to be taken for different countries. However, the end game is the same for the strategically important region that is the Middle East: incite and control.

Stratfor and the Force Continuum

In December of last year, online hacktivist group Anonymous stole thousands of emails from intelligence company Stratfor. These emails were then obtained and leaked by Wikileaks, in what became known as the Global Intelligence files. Stratfor is a private intelligence company based in Austin, Texas, where it was founded by George Friedman, who is often a keynote speaker at events for firms such as JP Morgan, Citibank, Ernst & Young and many Fortune 500 companies. Robert Kaplan, their Chief Geopolitical Analyst, worked in the Pentagon for two years under Secretary of Defence Robert Gates. They primarily serve major corporations and have often served military officials and international agencies. Wikileaks states that “The emails also expose the revolving door that operates in private intelligence companies in the United States.”

The way Stratfor gives its opulent subscribers information and analysis is revealing (a subscription costs $40,000 a year). It shows apathy and an attitude like that adopted by a chess player. Bear in mind that not only has their staff worked for government and big business, but also, their main clients are large firms. These firms are the main shapers of party platforms, as they are also their largest financial contributors.

Stratfor details Washington’s step by step strategy in dealing with the overthrow of a foreign government. This does not always entail overthrowing a dictatorial government and quite often means deposing a democratically elected leader. The article called this plan the “Force Continuum” and cautions that there is flexibility within each step and that different stages need not be undertaken in order. Every situation is different. The playbook is as follows:

First of all, diplomatic pressure precedes all other steps and accompanies them too. This includes denouncing the target, and often demonizing him/her at home in order to justify a possible future intervention or to mobilize your population in some way. This may also include efforts to instigate economic sanctions or resolutions by foreign bodies. The next step would be to support opposition leaders and encourage government or military officials to defect. This step could also include helping the opposition with informational warfare by expanding the propaganda effort. The Stratfor article states: “When figures such as former Libyan intelligence chief and Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa defected from the Gadhafi regime, they were doing so in response to clandestine intelligence efforts.”

If these steps are not effective with satisfactory rapidity, Washington would then try to intervene directly by sabotaging or assassinating high value targets. This step is already evident in Iran, although the situation with Iran is different to the situation with Syria as the Iranian project is a more long term one and the US acts quite often through their Israeli proxy. Each situation demands a different approach but the overall goal of each step is maintained.

This stage may be followed by enhanced efforts to aid the opposition, including with intelligence and training. This training is often carried out in a third country; in the case of Syria, the FSA (Free Syrian Army) is being trained in Turkey. The evolution of this stage also includes aiding the opposition army with food, medical assistance, clothing and finally, weaponry. The author of the article also warns of the importance of being covert: “When providing weapons, an outside government will usually try to supply opposition forces with arms native to their country. This is done to maintain deniability of assistance.” And “…training provided by mercenaries or the CIA’s Special Activities Division is far more low-key, and therefore easier to deny, than training provided by the U.S. Army’s Special Forces”. CIA operatives have reportedly already been training and arming FSA fighters in neighbouring Turkey.

When all the previous forms of support are insufficient or, more likely, when the targeted country is a strategically important one, the US takes more direct action by engaging in aerial warfare and laying specialized troops on the ground. This is a scenario similar to the one that we witnessed in Libya, although there were even more troops involved. The importance of Libya warranted large scale military action but not a direct invasion as it did in Iraq. This is the final and least exercised step taken by the US. It is often preceded by a massive propaganda effort, more often than not characterised by lies and overstatements of the target’s threat.

Where does Syria Lie?

The United States want Assad out. What is questionable is whether or not the US will take direct military action as it did in Libya, although this is highly unlikely. We can also be certain that there will be no American invasion as in Iraq. This is because Syria is not as high a priority as in the cases of Libya or Iraq. The problem is that, as is detailed in the Stratfor article, there is no incentive to go into Syria (apparently the death of over 20,000 people is not incentive enough). There is no resource motivation and no monetary motivation and the US do not want to spend too many of their own resources when they won’t be able to plunder somebody elses. There are two important reasons that the US is only helping to aggravate the violence in Syria. The first is the obvious one; they want Assad out. This is most likely due to the fact that Assad has shown too much sympathy to Israel’s enemy, Iran. They want to replace him with a more reliable leader and one who knows his place. The second reason is what lies behind Washington’s laid back attitude when it comes to the civil war: they want to prolong the war. If the United States really had an incentive to invade Syria, they would have done so by now, the Russian vetoes would not have deterred them at all. Recall that they went to war with Iraq without UN consent. This, apart from the obvious reason to expand the highly lucrative war industry, is to destabilize the region, which has been a high priority for every US target and has, unfortunately, also been their fate. A country engulfed in chaos and violence, and one without a powerful central government, is easy to manipulate and control. Already in Iraq, the Kurdistan Regional Government has made deals with foreign powers on oil and arms, without the consent of the central government. Meanwhile, 245 people were killed in shootings and bombings in Iraq in June alone.

It is saddening to think of people in the Middle East being killed as a regular occurrence. Every day a child, mother, father, brother or friend dies and all because of its strategic location and wealth in natural resources. The people living in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Yemen, Libya and other countries have to bear the burden of collateral damage every day of their lives, as warlords and presidents squabble over strategic locations and pipelines.  President Obama has never been concerned with human lives or the wellbeing of people in Libya, Iraq or Syria, nor has any other president before him. It is all one big strategic game for them. As long as the Middle East remains a brutal hotbed of constant violence so that the inhabitants remain powerless, big firms can continue profiting and political leaders can hold power over what Washington claims is a “a stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history.”. Business as usual.

 

 

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  • JFraze5150

    Hey dude, hows it going. Great article.
    One or two points…
    I think you underplay the fact that a large number of Syria’s own people are expressing their desire for change. Unfortunately, the arab countries in the middle east are becoming ever more split along Sunni/Shia lines. I accept your divide and conquor argument.
    I’m not saying that you are wrong and that there AREN’T unscrouplulous companys and individuals making money from war and the continued destabilization(even a word!?!) in the Middle East but I cannot agree with the almost persoanl attack on Obama here. With only weeks to go before the most important election in the world, you’re either with the good guys or against them. Obama and the Dems are a helluva lot better than the other option right now.
    In all, I think your article is great, I just think your attack is misplaced, certainly when it comes to politicians like Obama. The problem is that they do not hold the real power.
    Peace.
    Fraser

    • David King

      Hi, thanks for your comment.
      Quite honestly, I think you underestimate the ease with which information warfare plays into our heads here in the west. And also the sheer power of political will. The US government has a long history of galvanising seperatist or opposition movements in many countries, including most recently Yemen and Sudan(the latter of which worked to full effect), apart from the cases I already mentioned in the article.
      But anyway the main criticism was my “attack” on President Obama. I put “attack” in quotation marks because everything I have said here is true. I claim it is simply an emotional retelling of the facts. The main point I am trying to get across is that Obama has not differed in foreign policy from any other president since the second world war, including Bush Jr, in that he has pursued the aggresive and violent dominion of regions, completely disregarding human livelihood. The added tragedy is that he has normalised these violent actions, including many assassinations, for the left. Had a conservative President been in office instead of Obama, you would hear outcries from the left in America for what he has done.
      Having said this, my intent was not so much to attack Obama as it was to attack and raise awareness of US foreign policy. Also, I wrote this completely without thinking about the political climate, regarding the upcoming elections. I only meant to inform. In my opinion, when it comes to foreign policy every president in the last 60-70 years has been ruthless, regardless of which political party they were from.
      Cheers,
      David

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