David Graeber’s Homage to Rojava.

The imperialists and the ever-faithful Western “Lefts”, led by chronic NATO-cheerleading “Academic Anarchist” David Graeber and the effervescent celebrity-left cling-on Charles Davis, are attempting to appropriate the Syrian Kurds and engineer a situation in Syria very similar to events that occurred during the Spanish Civil War – both from the perceived propaganda angle with regard to the “Lefts”, and the concrete with regard to the imperialists. As a result of this ongoing deception, those who support Syria against imperial aggression are to be portrayed as obstructing an ostensibly “thriving democratic Kurdish autonomy”, or “Kurdish self-determination” in its supposed battle to create a libertarian anarchist eco-utopia in Northern Syria, and break free from the clutches of the “evil Assad regime”, or, as is otherwise known to adults still able to converse outside the lexicon of Orientalist bourgeois propaganda: the Syrian State and nation at large.

Contrary to the mythical fantasies of Graeber & Co., most Communists are fully aware that this supposed “autonomy” gained via the US military will never be achieved under the aegis of imperialism. It will only be usurped and used to further the reactionary goals of empire in dividing Syria and to further exacerbate the consequences of this reaction and impending subordination of the entire region.

Just as the opportunists and anarchists misunderstood the historico-material international characteristics of the civil war in Spain, followed their own utopias and chose to break with the united front and the republic against Franco’s fascism–they choose to oppose the right of nations – the Syrian nation and all its people regardless of their ethnicity – to self-determination by supporting the inevitable imperial domination and division of Syria such imperial “aid” to the Kurds will engender. In their shortsighted compartmentalized support of a “just cause”, the Western “Left” opportunists and poorly disguised social chauvinists once again support the road to reaction.

People may well “empathize” with oppressed actors seeking to acquire “impure assistance” [from US empire] but it is a Communists duty to expose that “impure assistance” as reactionary to the core, that it is antithetical to the material aims both of the oppressed actor forced into a condition of seeking to attain it and to the working classes and oppressed peoples of the wider region. US empire has never aided even the slightest progressive movement without it being in the US empire’s larger interests, which in turn are nothing but reactionary all along the line.

The “Lefts” could arguably sing: the Kurdish cause in Syria is a “just cause” based on the historical persecution they have undoubtedly received at the hands of the Syrian Arab ruling class, and therefore the Kurds “desiring impure US assistance” must be supported to achieve an assumed utopian future, but this is the argument of a one-sided simpleton. Would a Communist have ever advocated the oppressed Irish take the military or political “aid” – and equally therefore the domination – of the German Nazi’s to break the yoke of the British ruling class, to jump from the frying pan into the fires of hell?

The PYD will have no political authority over the “assistance” they are given by empire, as a result of receiving such aid they must become empire’s subordinates, in line with the Kurdistan Regional Govt in Iraq ruled by the NATO/Israeli clients of the Barzani clan. Again, the US will only aid the PYD and its military wing the YPG if that course of action furthers US imperial interests (hence the rabid support from the imperialist “Left” David Graeber), interests which are fundamentally opposed to the interests of the vast majority of the entire region, not least the vast majority of the Kurdish population. US goals in Syria are the break up of the Syrian State into antagonistic ethno-sectarian “mini-states” incapable of obstructing imperial (Western/Israeli) domination. This is not the road to the emancipation of the Kurdish working class, much less the working classes of Syria and the region. Yet it may well prove to be the road to “freedom” (imperial patronage) for a small minority of bourgeois Kurdish elements – as it has proven to be for the Barzani clan in Iraq – at the price of the enslavement of the majority of the population. The argument could well be made that life “under the regime”, would be no better, but this is an ahistorical blind assumption contrary to all the facts. Life for Syria’s Kurdish minority “under the regime” may well have been oppressive, but it was by no means the worst in the region, and nothing like the oppression minorities receive under US client regimes.

So, our dear “Lefts” end up once again appropriating the sections of the Kurdish Syrian community that mistakenly seek alliances with and aid from fascist US imperialism, by focusing on intermittent flare-ups with the Syrian army and anti-Assad elements from within the PYD, and those who aim to influence it in this direction from without, as the sole expression of the entire Syrian Kurdish community. (As it must also be noted here that the PYD is itself divided on its future path and fluctuating alliances, even as it engages in sporadic clashes with the Syrian army and localised militia of the National Defense Forces, and releasing bellicose denunciations of “Assad’s fascist forces”, there are nonetheless concrete local alliances on the ground elsewhere, not to mention the historic ties between the Syrian Ba’ath and the PKK/PYD leadership) Graeber & Co. are deceptively promoting the partition and weakening of the Syrian nation currently under vast imperial aggression and the imminent threat of reaction from all sides. They are further advocating the Kurds submit to US empire, to become its patsies in a war of aggression, its proxy enforcer against the Syrian army and State; they advocate the PYD succumb to an empire that has played a lead role in the persecution of the Kurdish community for decades upon decades.

It is important to stress that the US empire is not attempting to simply aid the Syrian Kurds’ quest for political autonomy; throughout the insurgency the US and its partners have used “ISIS” & Co. as a tool of coercion against the PYD in attempts to cause further cleavage between them and the Syrian State and to act as a conduit for US/Turkish contras. It is these “rebel” contras that viciously assaulted Kurdish communities ever since the PYD became detached from the puppets of imperialism in the “SNC” and refused to become part of the project against the Syrian State in 2012 – coincidentally, of course, when David Graeber & Co. were no doubt singing the praises of the very same “moderate” chauvinist Takfiris utterly opposed to any form of Kurdish self-rule. The US and Turkey have been very clear that any aid to the PYD would be subject to strict conditions, the principal condition being to abandon their neutral stance – by extension any possibility of Bookchin’s libertarian anarchist eco-utopia – and join these “rebels” against the Syrian army.

While the “Left” imperialists pretend the US is willing to “aid” the Syrian Kurds’ quest for this metaphysical “democratic libertarian autonomy” (or pretend that this is even a practical possibility under current conditions), empires’ Kurdish compradors attempt to usurp and coerce the PYD into an alliance with imperialism, with the ultimate objective of using them as a tool to irrevocably divide and disintegrate the Syrian nation, thus further weakening the entire region and its peoples ability to combat Western-Israeli imperial fascism.

The Western “Lefts” who advocate the Syrian Kurds subordination to the fascist American empire are not supporting Kurdish progression or “self-determination”, they are supporting imperialist reaction under the guise of Kurdish progression. And it is an unfortunate but necessary responsibility that falls upon Communists to remind the Kurds themselves who have been lured by this course of action and these reactionary alliances that they are mistaken in their choices, just as Barzani was mistaken in helping to create the cleavages that now form the puppet Kurdish petro-state of US and Israeli imperialism in Iraq.

It is a Communists duty (a Communist of any nation as we are internationalist in outlook, not philistine chauvinists who make concessions to our own imperial bourgeoisie under guise of supporting “their own chosen natives”) to warn the PYD and its supporters that seeking such “aid” from empire is a reactionary and dangerous policy and will lead to the further immiseration and oppression of the Syrian people, including the oppressed Kurds. Communists should just as surely recognise the historical roots of this antagonism and while lending support to the necessity for a unified Syrian front against imperial fascism to not become accustomed to forgetting to criticise and oppose the chauvinist elements within the Arab ruling classes and their oppression of the Kurdish population. It is about separating the two trends and determining a principled position on them both that forwards the objectives of the global working classes and oppressed people, from within the totality of the class struggle under the modes of production during the current epoch of imperial fascism.

Orientalism and the ISIS spectacle.

The Guardian’s resident “Marxist” Richard Seymour has provided us an opportunity to briefly expand upon the prevalent Orientalist narrative oozing throughout the vast majority of modern Western commentary on the Arab and Muslim world.(1)

To frame his latest feebly ambiguous opposition to NATO-bombs on Iraq, Seymour invokes a typically obfuscating perspective from “muted parts of the Left”. In these unspecified sectors of wrongheadedness, according to Seymour, “Leftists” are apparently in reluctant agreement with the recently commenced American airstrikes in Iraq – likely to extend into Syria –  ostensibly aimed at the fundamentalist insurgency, morphed into an existential threat now known as the Islamic State.

Precisely who these “Lefts” are, and what exactly constitutes their political persuasions within an ever-growing and ever-politically abstract demographic of Western “Lefts” remains a mystery. Are these “Lefts” Marxists, Social Democrats, Liberals, anti-imperialists? Or perhaps imperial core petty bourgeois Trotskyite opportunists such as the “socialist” cheerleader for NATO’s destruction of Libya Gilbert Achcar? Who knows, but the desired effect of endowing these pro-NATO characters so terrified in their suburban dwellings of the ISIS monster – “under their skin, infesting them” – with the abstract title of “Left” allows Seymour to portray them, and their pro-imperialist, pro-war, white supremacist “fear” of the Other Barbarian, their irrational and wholly uninformed “reason” for supporting the civilising mission, as something sensible, something to be quietly debated over a frappaccino slouched on a corduroy Starbucks sofa – as opposed to being vehemently rejected.

Of course Seymour’s pro-war “Lefts” are entirely fictional and built to provide him the opportunity to give his petty bourgeois white western liberal readership the luxury of self-identifying as the all-encompassing benevolent “Left”, while massaging their culturally racist affection for the fantasy of the Noble White Crusader destroying the Evil Arab Savage.

The principle that domination is indeed the ultimate motive of imperialism isn’t really touched upon, no totality of analysis is even attempted. Seymour may perhaps believe, as appears do his “Left” subjects, that US imperialism perceives ISIS – a paramilitary organisation the US itself played the principle role in creating and empowering(2)- as an imminent threat, rather than the reality of a strategic boon(3), and is intent on pursuing its God Given altruistic mission of Vanquishing Evil for the good of all mankind – humanitarian intervention(R2P). But surely no serious Marxist would entertain such subjectivist nonsense. Nevertheless, rather than expose this Orientalist spectacle and the civilising mission pretext it now affords imperialism, Seymour instead opts to furnish it, and proceeds to form his reductive analysis and “explanations” for the Islamic State with idealistic twaddle and Western media’s false premises.

The explanation then, for this somewhat rationalised “Left fear” and consequent support for American imperialism are the “monsters” of ISIS, and by offering this explanation all Seymour achieves is to justify the racist ideology underlying his Western “Lefts” agitprop-incited fear of ISIS and the false altruism masking Western imperial machinations. Of course as any serious analysis shows, the West has no real intention of destroying its Frankenstein ISIS, but merely corralling and manipulating it toward meeting strategic objectives.(4)

But how has this organisation of “monsters” come to be? And how has it been able to engender this supposedly justifiable fear within Seymour’s “muted Western Left”? First and foremost, according to Seymour, is the organisations apparent “widespread support within much of the population it seeks to rule”, support “gained on the basis of vicious sectarianism”.

“..whereas the jihadi ultras of the “war on terror” era were an unpopular, marginalised minority within the Iraqi resistance, always fought and opposed by the mainstream of the Sunni Arab insurgency, Isis succeeds because of the support it enjoys within much of the population it seeks to rule. And this support, be it noted, is gained on the basis of vicious sectarianism.”

And the alleged reason for Seymour’s assertion of widespread support is nothing but a regurgitation of US State Department propaganda, “President [sic] al-Maliki’s repression of Sunni Arabs is now driving an insurgency against his rule, from which Isis is gaining” says Seymour, and this one-sided repression is quite literally all that is offered as explanation for the rise of ISIS.

For at least 8 years, the US, and its Gulf Cooperation Council clients – primarily Saudi Arabia – have led a policy of bolstering “Sunni”(5) militants in the region to incite sectarian aggression against the perception of an expanding “Shia crescent” consisting of Iran, Syria and Hezbollah.(6) No account or even acknowledgement of this – the crucial context for the US’ latest bombing campaign and wider imperial strategy – appears in Seymour’s article. Not a single mention of the three-year NATO/GCC sponsored Wahhabi insurgency across the border in Syria, nor any word on tens of thousands of foreign fighters, thousands of tons of arms and billions of dollars thrown at ISIS and its intermittent “moderate rebel” allies and competitors.(7) Through this sweeping omission of vital historical context, Seymour’s analysis erases the concrete reality of the policy it purports to examine and instead relies on the rhetoric and propaganda of the spectacle being used to further it.

American or British bombs seem to offer a tempting short cut. This is what has always given “humanitarian intervention” its compelling ideological power: while we as citizens watch in horror, we know that there are powerful people in the world who could stop this without breaking a sweat.

Seymour thus successfully reduces the antagonism into an ahistorical idealist binary of a Sunni-Shia divide in Iraq, through which alleged Shia repression of the Sunni community has resulted in the “natural expression” of the Other: the Savage ISIS. Yet this crass assertion isn’t backed up by a single piece of evidence, it is undoubtedly based on the wretched reporting of Western media and the fantasies promoted to obscure ISIS’ material causes and real sources of influence, those being externally supplied money, fighters and weapons. ISIS and Co. rule the areas they invade through coercion and violence, not through the ridiculous idea of a “tech-savvy popular base”.

This false perception is further exposed by the fact a large contingent of ISIS fighters are not even Iraqi in origin, or Syrian for that matter. A recent report by the CIA(8) revealed that there are approximately 15,000 foreign fighters in ISIS ranks – a figure that has been consistently undercounted by the “experts” to maintain the fantasy of an indigenous uprising in Syria. This coincides with the Syrian Observatory’s latest death toll – often cited by western media & NGO’s – which tallied up to 15,000 foreign fighters killed in action in Syria. Put another way, that’s roughly 1000 foreign fighters for every month since the Syrian insurgency began. Are we supposed to believe all these fanatics took it upon themselves to travel to Iraq & Syria due to Maliki & Assad’s “sectarian policies”?

Contrary to the one-sided idealistic tales of Seymour and John Kerry, the simplistic portrayal of ISIS & Co. earning “grassroots support” simply through the Sunni community’s alleged persecution is entirely false and built to conflate foreign-sponsored militants and their collaborators with the whole Iraqi Sunni population, while shifting the blame for the massive expansion in militant fundamentalism into a reaction against the alleged oppression of “Shia regimes” and away from its chief protagonists: the Wahhabi clients of NATO imperialism.

Peddling sectarian narratives serve several purposes for the Western commentariat, a consistent example of which is provided by the Independent’s highly regarded Patrick Cockburn, who recently went as far as to suggest that “Sunni’s of Syria in areas under ISIS control prefer it to the Government”, an utterly wrongheaded and misleading sentiment that has been repeatedly debunked in the face of ceaseless propagation on behalf of Western and Gulf media for over three years. Yet these narratives persist as they are the primary ideological camouflage to hide external material causes.

In Syria for example, the oft-repeated refrain of a supposedly sectarian “Alawite regime” is largely made up of a Sunni merchant class. The “Alawite army’s” ranks are dominated by Sunni conscripts, along with Christians, Shia, and Druze. But the Assad government has been ceaselessly portrayed as a “sectarian regime” intent on suppressing the Sunni majority. The reality of course is the precise opposite, militant forces of the opposition are of a majority Salafi/Wahhabi fundamentalists, and this has been the case since the very beginning of the Syrian uprising(9) – if you are looking to blame anyone for the rise in sectarianism in Syria then you need look no further than the reactionary Wahhabi clients of Western imperialism.

Equally, blaming the “sectarian policies” of the Maliki government is just as hollow a narrative in the Iraq context(10); the US is responsible for installing the sectarian political system in Iraq in its attempts to divide nationalist resistance to its occupation and ongoing exploitation, a system in which the Maliki government was by no means an innocent bystander.

But the historical record shows that Maliki’s more recent attempts to reverse this destructive process, along with a multitude of other policies which upset US strategic ambitions, including his refusal to allow the permanent installation of US military bases; his governments close alliance with neighbouring independent Iran; their efforts to aid the Syrian government against the NATO-sponsored Wahhabi insurgency; and not least attempts to remove the vassals of the GCC from Iraqi politics–formed the real motives behind the US-Saudi-led campaign to incite Wahhabi fundamentalists against Maliki’s Shia dominated government. Maliki’s “sectarian policies” no doubt existed to an extent in reaction to the circumstances imposed upon it by the dominant aspect driving the antagonism; such policies came about as a result of both the historical legacy of the US occupation and the ongoing US-Saudi-led sectarian incitement and subversion, which in fact forms the historical “social base” for ISIS & Co.(11)

Cockburn and many others within the corporate media circus have continued to peddle these sectarian myths as a useful tool in idealizing the spectacle and extricating wider politics, more specifically culpable external actors. Although rightly regarded as one of the more sensible and rigorous journalists covering the Middle East, Cockburn is nonetheless just as susceptible to selling ahistorical reductive tales in what appear to be attempts at whitewashing or mitigating the role of Western imperialism; often putting repeatedly destructive Western policy down to “mistakes” in lieu of explanation for ceaseless aggression and decades of empowering reactionaries – supposed enemies of “Western Democracy”. The flip side being of course the compassionate West must now attempt to fix its mistakes by means of further intervention, and on and on it goes.

Such narratives are largely premised upon the white supremacist ideal that the Western imperial bourgeoisie inherently seek “progress”, or perhaps even “democracy” within foreign nations, as opposed to the fundamental characteristic of imperialism seeking political reaction all along the line(12). Contrary to Cockburn’s perception of benevolent imperialism, the US does not seek even “stability” within nations unwilling to submit to exploitative Western capital–it seeks their destruction, as has been historically proven time and time again. Yet this concept of “bumbling benevolent imperialist” persists and is drawn from an inability to see past the Noble Western Empire’s altruistic mythology and grasp the reality of a rapacious class destroying its competition.

Imperialism intentionally bolstered ISIS, its predecessors and intermittent Wahhabi allies, in the aim of setting them against Shia dominated political actors and states in the region opposed to US domination. It is now using the ISIS “threat” and spectacle as the moral pretext to both re-invade and divide Iraq, and reinvigorate its regime change and destructive agenda in neighboring Syria.

Instead of attempting to expose these policies in an international totality, Seymour & Co. aim to bolster the white supremacist mythology underlying the imperial civilising mission; on the one hand Seymour Others the Sunni population of Iraq as sympathisers of the ISIS Savage, a racist caricature dutifully embellished in all avenues of Western corporate media. On the other, by portraying “oppressive sectarian (Shia) regimes” as an even worse option than ISIS the entire region and its peoples are painted into a dystopian landscape of Savages and brutal sectarianism; accordingly, Noble Western Empire must save them from their own barbarity.

Moreover, by blaming Iraqis for the barbarism imposed on them externally, Seymour & Co. successfully extricate imperialism from its principal culpability in fomenting and sustaining sectarian antagonism in the Middle East. It therefore needs repeating that ISIS in Iraq is but a continuation of the imperialist-sponsored insurgency in neighboring Syria and the longstanding support to militant fundamentalism preceding it. The states acting under the autonomy of US imperialism responsible for arming and funding said insurgency hold the same principal objectives in Iraq as those pursued in Syria for the last three years, namely: the destruction of state sovereignty; weakening the allies of an independent Iran; the permanent division of Iraq and Syria along sectarian lines establishing antagonistic “mini-states” incapable of forming a unified front against US/Israeli imperial domination.

 

Notes:

1.) Bombs wont solve the ISIS problem – Richard Seymour: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/15/bombs-isis-beheadings-iraq

2.) How the West created the Islamic State – Nafeez Ahmed: https://medium.com/@NafeezAhmed/how-the-west-created-the-islamic-state-dbfa6f83bc1f

3.) ISIS: an expression of imperialism in Iraq: https://notthemsmdotcom.wordpress.com/2014/06/18/isis-an-expression-of-imperialism-in-iraq/

4.) US Intervention Is Not Humanitarian and Will Not Protect the People of Iraq – Sami Ramadani: http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2014/ramadani080814.html

5.) While consistently referred to as “Sunni” within Western and Gulf media it should be stressed that the ultra-conservative strains of Islam practiced by the majority of both “moderate rebels” in Syria and their overtly fundamentalist counterparts within ISIS, Al Qaeda, Jabhat al Nusra et al, are of the Wahhabi/Salafi doctrine and largely rejected by the majority of practicing Sunni muslims outside of the reactionary Gulf Kingdoms where such doctrine is enforced. By applying the Sunni label, authors such as Seymour enable the crude conflation of ISIS & Co. with the indigenous population, furthering Orientalist dehumanization and false sectarian narratives.

6.) The Redirection – Seymour Hersh: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2007/03/05/the-redirection?currentPage=all

7.) How Saudi Arabia helped ISIS take over the North of Iraq – Patrick Cockburn: http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/iraq-crisis-how-saudi-arabia-helped-isis-take-over-the-north-of-the-country-9602312.html

8.) CIA says ISIS numbers under-estimated: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/09/cia-triples-number-islamic-state-fighters-201491232912623733.html

9.) The Reactionary Essence of the Syrian Insurgency: https://notthemsmdotcom.wordpress.com/2014/01/07/the-reactionary-essence-of-the-syrian-insurgency/

10.) Nouri al-Maliki: the scapegoat in Iraq -Ali Raza: http://lubpak.com/archives/315192

11.) The strange case of Nouri al-Maliki – Eric Draitser: http://journal-neo.org/2014/07/03/the-strange-case-of-nouri-al-maliki/

12.) Imperialism and the Split in Socilaism – V.I. Lenin: https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1916/oct/x01.htm

Western left-opportunism, and “denying agency” in Syria.

Having last week expounded upon the duplicity of the western “liberal lefts” position on the imperialist-sponsored fascist coup in Ukraine, a particularly egregious example of the same petty bourgeois sophism so pervasive within western civilised dissent has once again reared its ugly head. In what can only be described as emo agitprop, the western petty bourgeoisie’s flagship of misinformation and imperialist propaganda recently published an article on Syria by self-proclaimed “leftist Artist” Molly Crabapple.

The article covers a demonstration organised by an anti-government Syrian activist, who has chosen to read the names of 100,000 victims of the Syrian war standing outside the White House for 72 hours. The intended symbolism of such a demonstration is quite difficult to ascertain, particularly considering a sound historical analysis shows that western imperialism – ergo: the White House – bears huge responsibility for the deaths of those very people now being used to “guilt” the western public into supporting some form of further “action” against the Syrian state – meaning, (overt) US military intervention, NATO freedom-bombs, etc. Moreover, it seems that both Crabapple and her subject have forgotten, or are intentionally omitting the fact that over half of those victims met their deaths at the hands of the western/Israeli/wahhabi monarch-sponsored fundamentalist dominated militia; the very same militia Crabapple is now lionizing as “revolutionaries”.

Naturally for the Guardian, the narrative fulfills the many western falsehoods propagated on behalf of the reactionary insurgency since it began, by doing so, it provides an opportunity to expand upon and expose the role that western left-opportunism has played in buttressing said falsehood throughout the Syrian crisis. Further still, it provides a chance to counter the twisted theories and phrasing being used to attack anti-imperialists and anti-revisionists from within the western petty bourgeois “celebrity-left” camp, through which Crabapple and Co. postulate the absurd notion that westerners with the tendency to focus on the role of western imperialism represent “perverse Orientalists”.

Barring the usual “40 year dictatorship” slogans so typical of the deluded and self-righteous cheerleaders of western bourgeois “democracy”, the historical context for Crabapple’s Syrian “revolution” is built via the rosy portrayal of a wave of protests that “swept the world”. In Syria, a “police state and neoliberal reforms” are the central material factors used to explain the crisis.

These puerile simplifications are employed to distort and minimise the primary role of western predatory imperialism, either that, or simply through blind stupidity and laziness. In such a decontextualised analysis, there is no space available to document the years of western-led economic sanctions and subversion; nor is any space permitted to analyse the sociopolitical effects of the five-year drought that had decimated Syria’s agricultural industry prior to 2011 – causing widespread impoverishment to the disaffected rural sections of society. There is no economic analysis whatsoever. More importantly, there is no space afforded to document the decades of western support and collusion with Saudi Arabia’s sponsorship of ,ilitant fundamentalist ideologues, with the direct aim of unleashing them and their sectarian hatred upon Syria (or any other target in the region, see: Libya, Hezbollah, Iraq, etc) when political needs required; no space is given for the direct sponsorship of western imperialism toward the ex-pat “SNC” puppet administrators travelling between hotel suites in Ankara, Doha and Riyadh, or the thousands of US State Department-trained “activists” and NGO workers flooding media and commentary with false or bias accounts, staged photos and misinformation. Any critique of the western corporate media, and its complimentary “tailored analysis” industrys disgraceful servitude to western government narratives is completely omitted – regardless of the fact that both form essential components of modern “soft” imperialism.

To suggest western imperialism has invested in any of these individuals, policies or organisations with any sort of altruistic intention is comparable to suggesting over sixty years of historical evidence to the contrary is worthless; negating any value in historical materialism and dialectics. Omission of context and crude historical revisionism are entirely deliberate and further prohibit the prospect of reaching a sound political or moral examination of events and their evolving processes. Dialectics, logic, critical distance and contradictory evidence are replaced with emotionally driven narrow-framed discourse to remove the wider context – therefore western culpability – and form the false depiction of a “popular peaceful uprising versus despotic regime”.

Crabapple informs us that “it took four months for Syria’s protests to become an armed insurgency”. This blatant lie is a most crucial one in upholding western Imperialisms false narrative on Syria. Yet, as we shall see, while the celebrity-lefts continue to blindly recycle the lie, it has long been refuted, in even the most loyal organs of western imperialism itself.

Once the underlying causes of the crisis have been distorted beyond any semblance of reality, whitewashing the “rebels” and their imperialist sponsors’ role as the instigators and primary actors responsible for excacerbating the crisis, Crabapple then attempts to bolster the false distinctions between the supposedly moderate and extremist rebel groups with the double fabrication that Al Qaeda took six months to enter the fray, and that Saudi Arabia took twenty months to “officially” start supplying arms; thereby portraying the fundamentalists emergence at around February to March 2012.

This is quite the perversion, and once again can only be interpreted as pure stupidity, or outright disingenuity in the aim of furnishing the imaginary “secular moderate freedom fighters” with unwarranted moral platform.

Contrary to such crude and uninformed analysis, and long known by anyone paying attention, the dominant proto-Salafi militia, such as Ahrar-al Sham – who form the vanguard of the insurgency throughout, and are inextricably linked to both overt Al Qaeda elements and ostensible “moderates” in thrall to Imperialism – openly admit to planning a violent insurgency before any protests in Syria began. These militia, sharing much in common with their overtly extreme counterparts, were most certainly active in the first weeks of the crisis, as evidenced by the oppositions own death-toll accounts: the one hundred-plus Syrian soldiers and police killed during March-April 2011 alone belies the fantasy that the violence erupted simply through state oppression of peaceful protesters.

Further contradicting the “peaceful protester-moderate rebel” narrative, corresponding incidents of organised violence against state security became widespread by the middle of 2011 (see: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), the massacre of 120 soldiers in Jisr al Shugour (20 miles from the Turkish border) in June 2011, provides but one prominent example. Either Crabapple is oblivious to all this, or is deliberately omitting it for the same reasons listed above. In attempting to skirt the issue, Crabapple regurgitates the evidence-free conspiracy theory that the soldiers were executed by their own superiors for refusing to fire on protesters, further dehumanizing the Syrian army.

Another critical falsehood follows, and one that has been endlessly spewed to form unwarranted moral platform in the face of compelling contradictory evidence. Crabapple claims that “crimes are committed on all sides. But only the Assad regime, with its superiority of force … could kill on the scale and with the consistency that turned war crimes into a tactic of war.” Again, this is a blatant lie and distortion of the facts. The theory that the Syrian airforce’s bombardment of rebel encampments in civilian zones equates to a larger percentage of the death toll is complete logical fallacy void of any material evidence. The opposite is in fact true: according to the US Chief of Staff, 90% of deaths in Syria have been incurred by gunshot or ground-to-ground artillery; weapons which the rebels have had, and used in abundance since the early stages. It has been amply documented that every stage of western, Turkish or Gulf initiated military support to the rebels has resulted in a huge increase in both the death-toll, and civilian displacement – most notably in the period between late 2011, when Russia and China made it clear they would block any Libya-style No Fly Zone attempts, and July 2012, when the CIA and Gulf states dramatically increased the arms shipments to rebels.

Death tolls provided by anti-government activists such as the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) – used as a principal source for western media, the UN, and western humanitarian “NGO’s”, no less – show it is the fundamentalist rebels that are likely responsible for the majority of killing. In its latest tally, the SOHR claims that 55,000 Syrian army and national defence force personnel have been killed during the conflict, accounting for almost 40% of total deaths, whereas rebel deaths – including 10,000 foreign fighters – amount to 33,000, accounting for almost 25% of the total, leaving roughly 50,000 civilian deaths, or 35% of the total.

Using these figures; if one were to equally divide the civilian deaths between government and opposition forces, then the “revolutionaries” would be responsible for close to 80,000 people killed, or around 55% of the total – unless of course one were to posit the absurd theory that thousands of disparate fundamentalist militia have the ability to kill twice as many professional soldiers than they lose, while avoiding a considerable toll on civilians within the urban zones they invade and militarize.

The equally false portrayal that a majority of Syrians oppose the government is omnipresent throughout such commentary, and of course, this is another blatant lie. An example of just how far-removed from reality this perception is was exposed way back in January 2012 – at the height of domestic anti-government sentiment and western agitprop – when a Qatari-funded YouGov poll found that 55% of Syrians,  a massive majority considering the political conditions, still supported the government. This majority has undoubtedly continued to rise as the conflict has dragged on, primarily as a result of the barbaric practices employed by the rebels in civilian areas they encamp, ethnically cleanse, militarize, and generally terrorize the remaining inhabitants of – a sentiment further intensified through the prolonged incompetence of the ex-pat puppets in five-star hotels, elevated to the lofty position of “the sole representatives of the Syrian people” by virtue of imperialism alone. Needless to say, the poll and its results were completely whitewashed from the western media narrative and was most observantly ignored by the western petty bourgeois opportunists, who find themselves parodying William Hague when claiming to speak on behalf of the “Syrian people”.

Based on the fact a majority of Syrians support the government, and would therefore face the wrath of the fundamentalist rebels rather than the army they see as protecting them, a fact which is further evidenced by the vast majority of internally displaced people fleeing “rebel liberation” for the refuge of government safe-zones; then the wilful misrepresentation of the death toll becomes evermore deplorable. It can only be explained by Crabapple and the opportunists being so indoctrinated by their own narrow parameters and dehumanizing terminology; they simply don’t see the tens of thousands of dead Syrian soldiers, their families, and the majority of Syrian civilians who support the government as people worth accounting for. Crabapple and the pseudo-lefts in turn defile the victims of the wahhabi mercenaries and imperialism in Syria by attempting to blame their fate on the very actors protecting them, effectively turning the victim into the oppressor. The only other explanation is, once again, blind stupidity.

Over and above, it has long been known that western special forces, alongside Gulf, Jordanian, Lebanese factions allied to Saudi Arabia, and their Turkish and Israeli counterparts, have been actively conspiring with, and militarily supporting, what are essentially fundamentalist militia – to the tune of billions of dollars and thousands of tonnes of arms. It is these actors accountable for setting in motion a violent insurgency via the fundamentalist proxies they had been fomenting since at least 2006, and now continue to do so without even the pretense of plausible deniability.

The argument the pseudo-lefts are now attempting to throw at western anti-imperialists is one of utter opportunism and deception. Crabapple mimics Zizek (and other servants of bourgeois intelligentsia), and asserts that the emphasis on predatory western imperialism’s role when analysing conflicts and crises abroad – the emphasis espoused by westerners no less! – is in fact a “perverse kind of Orientalism” that removes and belittles the “agency” (another delightful abstraction implanted into petty bourgeois leftist discourse) of indigenous people.

How damning one might say, but where does this “logic” end? For instance, if one opposed the imperialist rape of Iraq, then did one oppose the “agency” of Ahmed Chalabi and all the other reactionary cretins who allied with western imperialism? Did they who opposed the imperialist destruction of Libya – whose position has now been fully vindicated, despite the grotesque doublespeak of Bernhard Henri Levy and his acolytes – “deny the agency” of Al Qaeda, Salafi warlords and the criminals now running riot and destroying the remnants NATO left behind?

The glaring contradiction is lay bare with the aid of a further simple example that may especially perplex the western opportunists who feign support for Palestinian Resistance: if one opposes the occupation and ethnic cleansing of Palestine, is one opposing Zionist “agency”?

Applying this “logic” to the Syrian question, if western anti-imperialists “deny the agency” of Syrians by opposing a fundamentalist-led insurgency sponsored by imperialism, then what exactly do the opportunists deny when ignoring the majority of Syrians that oppose the wahhabi revolutionaries!? In the western liberal-left equation, this majority of Syrians simply don’t exist, they have no “agency” worth even considering, let alone their right to self-determination. The opportunists are in fact misrepresenting said “agency” they hold in such high esteem by falsely portraying a minority of localised dissent, alongside a fundamentalist insurgency orchestrated and sponsored by western imperialism, as representative of the entire Syrian population. The opportunists accuse us anti-imperialists of Orientalism and “denying agency” while committing the very act! A case of pure cognitive dissonance, or simply a feeble attempt at creating confusion.

Such fallacious arguments and semantic trickery is employed in the vain attempt to shut down critical analysis that does not abide by western bourgeois political ideology and partisan agenda. In reality, it is the western pseudo-lefts who act as the agents of western imperialism, betraying self-determination and the foundations of internationalist socialism. To engage in such pointless obfuscation and theorizing is to deliberately obstruct simple material fact, historical dialectics, a “ruthless criticism of all that exists” and the correct examinations and conclusions to be drawn in the international sense.

Lenin was forced to spend great energy in combatting the same strands of left-opportunism one hundred years ago, rightly describing it as “the principle enemy within the working class movement”. The modern celebrity-lefts’ distortions and twisted theories represent nothing more than the vile opportunism witnessed within the socialist parties during the outbreak of WWI, when the so-called Marxists chose to side with their national bourgeoisie against the bourgeoisie and the working classes of hostile nations. The European opportunists who chose to employ the catchphrases of social chauvinism and act as the agents of their own bourgeoisie in “defending the fatherland” are today reflected by the western petty bourgeois “socialists” and “leftists” that endlessly obscure the international characteristics of modern capitalism and its inevitable antagonism, in turn diminishing the pre-eminent role, and therefore culpability, of western imperialism.

Israel and Saudi Arabia’s priorities in Syria.

Current developments both inside and outside of Syria have shown that the primary sponsors of the extremist-dominated insurgency – namely, the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Israel and Turkey – aren’t quite ready to throw in the towel.

One may be forgiven for thinking the Obama administration had decided to abandon the policy of regime change following the failed attempt to incite intervention, through the chemical weapons casus belli in August. But the harsh reality remains that the above mentioned alliance is indeed continuing its covert military support of the insurgency, in one form or another, in the full knowledge the vast majority of rebels are religious fundamentalists with a sectarian agenda, and vehemently opposed to any form of democracy or political pluralism.

Primarily, the continued support is a product of the American Empires’ overarching strategy of Full Spectrum Dominance over resource-rich and strategically placed regions of the globe, via subversion, economic and military aggression; a policy imposed to varying degrees upon any state unwilling to accept full US subordination. This aggressive US stance is by no means exclusive to periods of heightened tension or crises; it is a permanent one, brought forward to its violent climax purely through Machiavellian opportunism. In Syria’s case, the Arab uprisings provided the United States and its allies the perfect opening to set in motion the subversive plans they had been working on since at least 2006. The possibility of removing an opposing government that refuses to abide by American/Israeli diktat was simply too good a chance to be missed. Accordingly, and from a very early stage, the US made attempts to facilitate and support the violent elements in Syria, while its media arms were busy conflating them with localised legitimate protesters.

Since the US took the typically reckless decision to support, widen and exacerbate the militant elements, the policy has been an abject failure. Clearly, from the tone espoused by Western diplomats and propagandists, and the oft-repeated slogan of “Assads days are numbered”, they expected swift regime change. These desires were largely based on American hubris and the hope that the Libya No Fly Zone scenario would gain traction in the UN security council.

Contrary to such desires, Russia and China’s anger regarding NATO’s destruction of Libya and Gaddafi’s assassination, meant that any similar resolutions put forward on Syria would face immediate veto. In turn this has proven to be a turning point in the modern relationship between the permanent members of the security council, the full ramifications of which are yet to materialise. Moreover, it proved to be a turning point in the Syrian crisis itself; knowing Russia and China would block any attempts to give NATO its second outing as Al Qaeda’s airforce, the US once again chose the policy of further covert militarism, drastically increasing funds and weapons deliveries to the rebels – parallel to the sectarian incitement campaigns espoused by Salafi-Wahhabi clerics across the Gulf – in the hope they could overturn the Syrian army through terrorism and a brutal sectarian war of attrition.

As a consequence of the failure to remove Assad or destroy the Syrian government and its apparatus, the Obama administration, reluctant and politically incapable of engaging in overt acts of aggression, is employing a realpolitik strategy; using primarily covert militarism to appease the desires of NeoConservative hawks in Congress, and its more zealous regional influences emanating from Riyadh and Tel Aviv, while avoiding the possibility of being dragged into another overt military intervention.

In turn, this double-edged strategy feeds the false public perception of the American Empire, which the pseudo-pragmatists and neoliberal propagandists are so eager to uphold and is so fundamental to US Empire-building; that of an inherently altruistic force, acting as global arbiter, grudgingly subverting, invading, bombing, and intervening in sovereign nations affairs for the good of all mankind. As long as this false perception is upheld, the sharp-edge to the grotesque charade of US realpolitik – that of covert militarism and state-sponsored terrorism – continues unabated. Clearly, the US Empire is in no rush to end the bloodshed in Syria, its priorities, as they have been since the start of 2011, are to remove, or at least severely disable and weaken the Syrian government and state, regardless of the consequences to the civilian population.

By using its control of state-funding, the arms flow, and therefore the strength and capabilities of the insurgency as a whole, the Obama administration has employed futile carrot and stick tactics in attempts to pressure the Syrian government during the current negotiations phase into acceding to US demands and giving up its sovereignty – with both the US-led alliance, and Syria and its international allies, primarily Russia and Iran, in the full knowledge the rebels lack both the domestic support, and manpower necessary, to oust Assad or defeat the Syrian army alone. Reports allude to the stick of US Democracy having its most recent outing in the form of “new”  and improved weapons supplies to the rebels, allegedly including MANPADS. This comes immediately off the back of the designed-to-fail Geneva “peace” talks and can be interpreted as a direct result of Washington’s failure to enforce their objectives: the stick is an endless supply of state-sponsored terrorism, the carrot is turning off the tap.

Whether the “new” arms shipments actually increase the rebels ability to inflict damage on the Syrian government remains to be seen, and is highly improbable at this stage as the Syrian army moves into the Qalamoun mountains to liberate the rebel-held town of Yabroud, in turn securing vital transit and logistical routes from Lebanon. The likely outcome of an increased arms flow to the rebels in the south, as evidenced at every interval of US-instigated militarization, will be a repeat of the same devastating results: more civilian displacement, adding to the already critical refugee crisis; more rebel destruction of civilian infrastructure, adding to further food and utility shortages; and many more lives lost.

“Lebanonization” a substitute for regime change?

As is proving to be the case, if the United States and its allies are incapable of removing the Syrian government via proxy forces without an increasingly unpopular Western military intervention, and Assad’s position and domestic support remain steadfast, then a Lebanonization strategy may well be the substitute “optimal scenario” the US and its allies are now working toward.

Encouraging, exacerbating, and inciting division between Arabs has been the long-term strategy for the Zionist establishment since the colonialists first usurped Palestinian land in 1948 – with specific effort made toward fomenting conflict along sectarian lines. The strategy of division is directed toward any Arab state or government that refuses to abide by Zionist demands. Israeli strategist Oded Yinon’s now infamous “A strategy for Israel in the 1980’s” – dubbed the Yinon Plan – provides perhaps the clearest account of Israel’s intentions toward its Arab neighbours:

The total disintegration of Lebanon into five regional local governments is the precedent for the entire Arab world … The dissolution of Syria, and later Iraq, into districts of ethnic and religious minorities following the example of Lebanon is Israel’s main long-range objective on the Eastern front. The present military weakening of these states is the short-range objective. Syria will disintegrate into several states along the lines of its ethnic and religious structure … As a result, there will be a Shi’ite Alawi state, the district of Aleppo will be a Sunni state, and the district of Damascus another state which is hostile to the northern one. The Druze – even those of the Golan – should forma state in Hauran and in northern Jordan … the oil-rich but very divided and internally strife-ridden Iraq is certainly a candidate to fill Israel’s goals … Every kind of inter-Arab confrontation … will hasten the achievement of the supreme goal, namely breaking up Iraq into elements like Syria and Lebanon.

When viewed in this context, it can be no coincidence that US Secretary of State John Kerry is desperately pursuing a fait accompli with the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Contrary to the sickening media portrayal of the US as impartial peacebroker, Kerry’s eagerness to pursue a “deal” at this moment in time is a direct result of the Syrian conflict, and the divisions within the resistance camp it has created. The US and Israel are now attempting to force through an Israeli-oriented “peace deal” with the corrupt PA that will inevitably be both a failure, and against the Palestinians interests. Staunch allies of Palestinian resistance, currently bogged down fighting Al Qaeda ideologues in Syria and defusing car-bombs bound for Dahiyeh, are in no position to support the Palestinians against Israel in their hour of need, the US and Israel fully grasp the importance of isolating genuine Palestinian resistance from the few Arab states and actors it receives support. In his latest speech, Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah reminded his listeners of this very crucial issue:

“the US Administration is seeking, along with the Zionist Administration to put an end to the Palestinian cause, and it considers that this is the best time for that because the Arab and Islamic worlds are absent today, and every country is occupied with its own problems.”

In a similar fashion, the US has used the Syrian conflict as a lever against Iran in the nuclear negotiations, Washington’s longstanding attempts to pacify and subordinate an independent Iran has undoubtedly played a major role in US policy on Syria – perhaps the defining role. Consequently, both the Palestinian and Iranian conflicts with Israel and the United States are now, as they have always been intended to some extent in US calculations, inextricably linked to resolving the Syrian crisis.

True to form, Israel’s evident glee at the destruction in Syria and overt preference for the removal of Assad and the Syrian government, with the devastation that would entail, has proven at times hard for them to conceal. Furthering the point, just one of many examples of Israeli-rebel collusion came in a recent report from the National (falsely portraying the rebels Israel is “reaching out” to as ostensibly “moderate”) which relayed that hundreds of rebels have received treatment in Israeli hospitals and been sent back into Syria with up to a $1000 in cash. Israel have made further efforts to consolidate contacts with the rebels in the south, regardless of the level of fundamentalism, and cooperated with rebel factions during the Israeli bombings on Latakia and Damascus.

In a feeble attempt to whitewash this collusion, Israeli propagandists are busily spreading the misinformation that Israel is facilitating the Druze community in the south of Syria; yet the Druze community are firmly allied with the Syrian government. In reality, Israeli attempts to cultivate relations with the communities and rebels in the south should be correctly viewed as attempts to create enforced “safe-zones” around the occupied Golan Heights, in furtherance of the Zionists land-grabbing expansionist aspirations. Accordingly, Israel’s fraudulent neutrality is completely exposed by their collusion with the rebels to meet their own interests, and overt acts of aggression against the Syrian army.

There are many other indications that allude to prominent factions of the US alliance being preferable of, and encouraging an outcome of division, most notably Israel, but simple logic determines that Saudi Arabia, Israel’s most vital strategic partner in the region, and the actor from within the US alliance that possesses the most material influence and political will to support fundamentalists and terrorism, would also approve of the disintegration of the Syrian state, primarily viewing it as a blow to “Shi’a expansion”. The Saudi and Gulf fixation on sectarian themes, to mask what are essentially politically oriented conflicts, is also intentionally built to intensify the strategy of division in multi-ethnic, religiously plural societies – as evidenced in virtually every country fundamentalist Gulf proxies have been unleashed upon, most recently in Libya.

Yet even the Saudi’s have limits to their own capabilities and decisions, ultimately they rely on the military largesse and protection of the United States, and will therefore reign in the terrorist networks if push comes to shove. Hence, the recent Saudi attempts to dissociate from Al Qaeda and the various extremists fighting in Syria can be seen as largely cosmetic and for public consumption. In reality, the Saudi leadership see Al Qaeda and its extremist confrères as malleable proxies of no real threat to themselves, while constituting a critical component of Saudi foreign policy and covert aggression.

Of far higher importance to both Israel and Saudi Arabia’s confluent interests in the region, which in turn play a critical role in US calculations, are the very actors and states the fundamentalist proxies are currently being sponsored to wage war upon; namely, Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah. The disintegration of the resistance axis is the utmost priority for the states that drive US policy in the Middle East, the supposed “threat” faced by militant fundamentalist ideologues, originally created, and intermittently sponsored by the US and its allies, is merely an afterthought.

The US Empire, in its efforts to contain, and therefore dominate and control such a strategic and resource-rich region, is more than content to allow its reactionary and sectarian clients to incite the conflict necessary to subvert, fracture and divide the inevitable power a unified Middle East could claim: if only their progressive aspirations and unity were not repeatedly “set back” by Zionist occupation and manufactured antagonism.

The reactionary essence of the Syrian insurgency.

Western corporate media, its Oil and Gas counterparts (GCC), and the various acolytes and paid-propagandists in the “tailored analysis” industry, are once again attempting to bolster and rebrand the public image of the fundamentalist rebels in Syria.

In the space of a week, two new formations of armed rebels mysteriously appeared across the mass-media lexicon and declared war on the dominant extremists through the usual “activist” social media accounts. The new brigades have virtually no historical record in the conflict, and appear to be largely a creation of the impotent exile opposition and its western sponsors. An abundance of reports relay stories of the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS) simply abandoning their posts and being turned over by this supposedly “moderate” new force. Yet, in reality, the most predominant militia in Syria – those of a Salafi-Wahhabi fundamentalist bent, who now fight under the umbrella of the Islamic Front (IF), and are led by Hassan Abboud of Ahrar al-Sham, and Zahran Alloush of Liwa al-Islam – have made a concerted effort to avoid sowing discord between themselves and the overt Al Qaeda affiliates of ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra (JaN).

The new narrative emerging draws heavily from the Sahwa (Awakening) in Iraq, in which Sunni tribes from the western province of Anbar took up arms against, and eventually defeated, the Al Qaeda insurgency that followed the US invasion and occupation of that country. Western and Gulf media are now attempting to reinvigorate the rebels’ public image by concocting a portrayal of brave “moderates” taking on the extremists within ISIS. Yet contrary to the Syria-Sahwa narrative, the vast majority of opposition forces, as much as one can generalise, have in fact been shown to share far more in common with their extremist equivalents than they have differences, particularly in regards to their reciprocal – and sectarian-laden – religiopolitical ideologies.

According to Western and Gulf propagandists, Jabhat al-Nusra ostensibly represent the “homegrown” Syrian Al Qaeda branch, whereas in actual fact, the claim is entirely false; JaN’s militia hold a distinct foreign contingent and many of its commanders have been found to be of foreign descent – particularly Iraqi. Jabhat al-Nusra, therefore, should be correctly viewed as a semi-Syrian militia at most, built and sustained by ISIS under its former incarnation: the Islamic State of Iraq, (ISI) also formerly known as Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).

The ideologically aligned Salafi-Jihadists of Ahrar al-Sham, Jabhat al-Nusra, and more recently ISIS, have formed the spearhead of the insurgency throughout the entire Syrian crisis, leading offensives against Syrian army installations, whilst also having enough manpower, funds & materiel to attack, encamp and militarily fortify civilian areas across the country. Most notably in Raqqah, which has become a virtual Al Qaeda statelet under the control of either Jabhat al-Nusra or ISIS.

Examples of the dominant role fundamentalists have played in the insurgency are abundant, during an interview with TIME magazine, Ahrar al-Sham fighters – who, as we have seen through a plethora of evidence, are inextricably linked to Jabhat al-Nusra – freely admit they were planning a violent insurgency in Syria well before any peaceful protests occurred in 2011, and that recruits with underlying sectarian agendas made efforts to sanitize and mask their true Jihadist cause during the earlier phases of the conflict in order to win over the Syrian population. Whats more, a recent report in the National relayed much the same admissions from supposed “FSA” rebels operating in the south of Syria around Dar’aa. The rebels interviewed admitted that “They [JaN] offer their services and cooperate with us, they are better armed than we are, they have suicide bombers and know how to make car bombs,” rebel sources went on to say that “the FSA and Al Nusra join together for operations but they have an agreement to let the FSA lead for public reasons, because they don’t want to frighten Jordan or the West,”. During the interview rebels further elaborate on the efforts made to boost the public image of the western-backed imaginary moderates saying that “operations that were really carried out by Al Nusra are publicly presented by the FSA as their own,” and that supposed moderate FSA fighters “say that Al Nusra fighters are really from the FSA to enable them to move more easily across borders,”. The reports bolster earlier analyses that contradict the dominant narrative, often dismissed as “conspiracy theory”, which indicated such actions were being undertaken, and that the armed groups responsible for the initial violence in March-April 2011 were indeed religious fundamentalists, not the secular “freedom fighters” endlessly lionized by the lackeys of western governments and media.

Such candid rebel admissions once again expose the falsehoods that liberal opportunists rely on when blindly repeating the Imperialist narrative of a peaceful protest movement simply morphing into an Al Qaeda-led insurgency. In reality, the generally small and legitimate protests calling for reform were used as a fig leaf by Syria’s various internal and external enemies to hide the extremist-led militant insurgency they were orchestrating and colluding with.

As evidenced in numerous interviews and statements from Abboud and Alloush, the Islamic Front is not by any stretch of the imagination a “moderate” force opposed to JaN, ISIS, or Al Qaeda ideology in general (unless one utilises the doublespeak of the US State Department when describing their “moderate” Wahhabi-Salafi monarchical clients in the Gulf). Ahrar al-Sham, Liwa a-Islam and other various proto-Salafi militia operating under the umbrella of the Islamic Front have repeatedly fought alongside Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS, and taken part in offensives that have targeted towns and villages on the specific criteria of the sect of the civilian inhabitants. The massacres committed upon the civilian residents of Latakia provide just one recent example of such sectarian barbarity – committed not only by the extreme elements, but with the full cooperation and participation of supposed moderate “FSA” militia. A more recent example of the Islamic Front cooperating with its Al Qaeda-affiliates came in December, when the IF took part in the attack and ensuing massacre of civilians in the workers district of Adra, Damascus – another rebel war-crime almost totally omitted from western media, regardless of the fact the BBC’s chief foreign correspondent was a mere 20 miles away while the massacres were occurring.

When framed in the correct context, it becomes clear that the vast majority of rebels in Syria are in fact ideologically allied to the very Al Qaeda affiliates the media is trying to portray them as opposed to. A recent communique from the political head of the IF, and leader of Ahrar al-Sham, Hassan Abboud, was disingenuously portrayed as a Islamic Front “warning” to ISIS. Opposition-friendly media outlets and analysts are in effect conflating the Islamic Front with imaginary “moderates” and in turn attempting to portray them as ideological opponents to their more extreme Al Qaeda counterparts. This narrative is turning reality on its head, as Abboud’s recent statement is actually a “warning” against discord with ISIS. Abboud encourages the Syrian population to treat the Muhajirin (foreign jihadists busy murdering Syrians) “kindly”, and further encourages ISIS to emulate the “more healthy” manner of their supposed “home-grown” incarnation Jabhat al-Nusra. Accordingly, one can safely conclude that Abboud, Ahrar al-Sham, Liwa al-Islam, and the various Salafi militia operating under the umbrella of the Islamic Front – the largest militant force of the opposition – have close to zero ideological disparity with ISIS or JaN.

Even if what seem to be inflated reports of discord and infighting between the Islamic Front and the supremacist ideologues in ISIS were to result in a considerable loss for the latter, it would simply be replaced at the top of the fundamentalist food-chain by the next militia willing to impose its barbarity and coercion in the most effective way. This is ultimately the inherent nature of fundamentalist militant insurgencies, they are designed, indoctrinated, equipped, and funded to impose upon states and peoples through murder, coercion and fear, not through the appeal of a popular political doctrine and the mass support of the people. The simple facts that the insurgency as a whole is under no central hierarchy, and holds little to-no support inside Syria and is therefore susceptible to becoming subordinate to its foreign patrons, are clear indications that it will not be cohesive, regardless of the varying shades of fundamentalism the dominant groups have attempted to enforce.

The historical record of Western-GCC-backed insurgencies in the Arab and Muslim world provides copious amounts of evidence to show that invariably the United States and its Saudi partners have always utilised, fomented, and sponsored reactionary forces to meet geopolitical ends, particularly when subverting or attacking nationalist governments that refuse to abide by the Anglo-American capitalist order – with disastrous consequences for the countries in which the fundamentalist proxies are set upon. One needs only to glance at the very recent history of Libya to negate the establishment falsehood that if the Syrian government had been overthrown quickly the fundamentalists would not have gained in strength. Again, this is turning the historical record on its head, as the joint NATO-Al Qaeda war on Libya has once again shown; the swift overthrow of a state’s government and leadership inevitably results in reactionary fundamentalists taking advantage of the power vacuum left behind. The US-Saudi-backed insurgency in Afghanistan during the 1980’s, which fought against the Soviet-backed Communist government, provides perhaps the definitive example of the type of proxies the United States and Saudi Arabia choose to employ to destroy target states. As with Syria and Libya, the original “Afghan Arab” insurgency – which helped to create and empower Al Qaeda, Bin Laden, Hekmatyar, the Haqqani network and a host of other fundamentalist militancy – was wrought with infighting, extremism, warlordism, and reaction, this trend has continued in virtually every state the US and its GCC partners have targeted for “liberation” via jihadist proxies.

Perpetual infighting evidenced throughout the Syrian insurgency is in fact a result of the long-standing fragmentation of the various opposition forces, their varying degrees of fundamentalism, and the battle to win influence, arms, and funds through foreign donors and exploitation.

The evidence-free narratives of supposed existential disparity between what actually represent ideological allies, the patterns of ever-changing nomenclature and rebel rebranding, and the efforts to scapegoat the most overtly extreme elements for the systematic crimes of the opposition as a whole, are nothing more than public relations exercises, designed to whitewash the massive crimes of the “rebels”, whilst extricating the Western NATO states and their GCC partners from the criminal act of sponsoring extremists for geopolitical ends.

Brown Moses and “new media”; same as the old media.

A glaring example of one of the major pitfalls emerging in supposed “new media” has arisen during the conflict in Syria. Most notably in the form of YouTube blogger, and self-proclaimed weapons expert Eliot Higgins, aka “Brown Moses”. The clique of highly ideological analysts, think-tankers and journalists Higgins’ regularly works with and consults – alongside the dubiously funded western NGO’s he receives payment from – provide a stark indication as to the factions within the corporate media circus this supposedly independent blogger is operating in unison with.

Higgins has provided the western corporate media apparatus the opportunity to present its war-propaganda as having a “new media” facade of impartial legitimacy. Yet it is the same capitalistic “old media” apparatus endlessly promoting his work – consisting of scouring Jihadist war-porn and agitprop on YouTube for tidbits that may bolster corporate media narratives – as an invaluable tool in tracking human rights abuses, arms trafficking, and risk-free coverage of fast evolving conflicts. Yet contrary to the innocuous portrayal of an unemployed YouTube addict in Leicester becoming a credible analyst of a conflict in the Middle East; Higgins’ blog has been thrust into the foreground not through the benefit of impartiality or public appraisals, but through corporate “benefactors” with vested interest operating alongside the same “old media” organisations and stenographers.

Bloggers such as Higgins promoting themselves as working from an impartial standpoint are actually nothing of the sort and work in complete unison with mainstream journalists and western NGO’s – both in a practical capacity, and an ideological one. As noted at the Land Destroyer blog and others; Higgins was initially pushed into the limelight by the Guardians’ former Middle East editor Brian Whitaker, a “journalist” with the honour of being a lead proponent of almost every smear campaign and piece of western propaganda directed at the Syrian government, while wholeheartedly promoting the Bin Ladenite “rebels” as secular feminist freedom fighters and repeatedly spouting the liberal opportunist mantra of western military “action”, which realistically means Imperialist military intervention. Whitaker and Higgins played a lead role in bolstering corporate media’s fantasy narratives throughout the joint NATO-Al Qaeda insurgency in Libya during 2011, with many of the anti-Gaddafi claims they propagated subsequently proven to be speculative at best, outright propaganda at worst.

Furthermore, Whitaker’s promotion of “The Gay Girl in Damascus” is but one embarrassing anecdote within the litany of completely fabricated narratives both he and the Guardian have made efforts to advance, while making equal effort to marginalize and discredit journalism and opinion that contradict western-desired narratives. It was during Whitaker’s period of running the Guardian’s “Middle East Live blog” – providing daily scripted coverage of the “Arab Spring” in a pseudo-liberal “new media” format – that he and other Guardian journalists first began to promote Higgins’ YouTube findings as credible evidence. Regular readers commenting on the Guardian blog quickly recognised the duplicity and close relationship between Higgins and the Guardian staff, resulting in his propagandistic comments being scrutinised, debunked, and ridiculed on an almost daily basis. Curiously, Whitaker has since left the Guardian and the “MELive” blog has been cancelled due to “staffing shortages” and the ridiculous excuse of a lull in worthwhile coverage. Yet the Guardians skewed standpoint on Syria, along with Whitaker and Higgins relationship, have remained steadfast.

The working relationship between Higgins and the corporate media became almost uniform during the course of the Syrian conflict; an unsubstantiated anti-Assad, or pro-rebel narrative would predictably form in the corporate media (cluster bombs, chemical weapons, unsolved massacres,) at which point Higgins would jump to the fore with his YouTube analysis in order to bolster mainstream discourse whilst offering the air of impartiality and the crucial “open source” faux-legitimacy. It has become blatantly evident that the “rebels” in both Syria and Libya have made a concerted effort in fabricating YouTube videos in order to incriminate and demonize their opponents while glorifying themselves in a sanitized image. Western media invariably lapped-up such fabrications without question and subsequently built narratives around them – regardless of contradictory evidence or opinion. Yet such media, and more importantly, the specific actors propagating it fraudulently to bolster the flimsiest of western narratives has continued unabated – primarily as a result of the aforementioned “old media” organs endlessly promoting it.

Following award-winning journalist Seymour Hersh’s groundbreaking essay in the London Review of Books, which exposes the Obama administrations intelligence surrounding the alleged chemical attacks in Ghouta as reminiscent of the Bush administrations outright lies and fabrications leading to the US invasion and occupation of Iraq, Higgins took it upon himself to rush through a rebuttal, published by the establishment media outlet Foreign Policy magazine – a predictable response as Higgins represents the principal source for the “Assad did it” media crowd. Accordingly, the “old media” stenographers that originally promoted Higgins became the vanguard force pushing his speculative Ghouta theories above Hersh’s – to hilarious effect.

A particularly revealing example of Higgins’ unwillingness to depart from mainstream discourse came shortly after the alleged Ghouta attacks. The findings of a considerable open-source collaborative effort at the WhoGhouta blog were repeatedly dismissed as ridiculous or unverifiable by Higgins. The bloggers at WhoGhouta drew more or less the same logical, and somewhat scientific conclusions outlined in the Hersh piece, but in much greater detail. Yet Higgins chose to ignore WhoGhouta’s findings and instead rely on his own set of assumptions, dubious videos, and an unqualified ex-US soldier that seems determined to defy both logical and scientific reality. The estimated range of the rockets allegedly used in the attack, with the alleged azimuth that pointed to Syrian army launch points breathlessly promoted by Higgins and his patrons at Human Rights Watch (HRW), and of course corporate media, were convincingly debunked mere weeks after the attack at the WhoGhouta blog, yet Higgins chose to stick to his orchestrated narrative until the bitter end, only revising his wild speculation on rocket range once the obvious became too hard to conceal.

As Higgins is a self-declared advocate of “open source investigative journalism”, it is perplexing that he attempted to marginalize and dismiss the many findings from independent observers and instead concentrated on bolstering the dubious narratives of the US government and western corporate media. Unless of course, he is tied to a particular narrative and desperate to conceal anything that contradicts it.

Predictably, Higgins now claims the Syrian army are indeed capable of firing the alleged rockets from anywhere in the region of Ghouta, no longer is the alleged launch-zone exclusive to the Syrian army’s Republican Guards base; effectively nullifying the original fabrications he relied on to build his earlier accusation alongside HRW.

It is no longer necessary to address the ins and outs of the Ghouta debate, as a comprehensive review by others has already highlighted the strawman nature of Higgins’ feeble refutation of Hersh, (see here,) not to mention the plethora of literature that has effectively demolished the US governments “intelligence” summary and the much-politicised UN report that Higgins originally built his fantasies from. Rather, the focus of this article is the pernicious nature of the “new media” model currently being promoted by Higgins et al, as a credible alternative to the corporate “old media” model. If the corrupt acolytes of “old media” are promoting their own versions of “new media” to the public, then the public aren’t really getting anything “new” apart from a YouTube generation of ill-informed and gullible recruits to the same old systems.

Prominent members of “new media” have invariably been pushed to the foreground of mainstream coverage by the very same corporate media institutions and establishment journalists that the public has rightly become exceedingly sceptical of. It is becoming an accepted normality for the lackeys of “old media” to determine what now represent the figureheads and platforms of “new media”, with large corporate organisations and their Jurassic minions making concerted efforts to raise the profile of, and offer incentives to bloggers who invariably say or write exactly whats required to bolster the “old media’s” still-dominant narratives.

The complete lack of historical materialism, geopolitical insight, critical distance, logical reasoning and dialectics, and crucially, an open political position, afforded by simplistically narrow-framed blogs such as Higgins’ gives the corporate media class a malleable tool it can easily manipulate to bolster its propaganda.

The Ghouta debate again provides an example of the way in which narrow frames of reference are manipulated by corporate media to subvert logical reasoning and the lack of solid evidence. Higgins’ simplistic narrative conveniently dismisses the fundamental argument that the Syrian government – winning its fight against an internationally orchestrated and funded terrorist insurgency – had nothing to gain from using chemical weapons, and everything to lose, while the rebels in Ghouta found themselves in the exact opposite conundrum. Motive generally tends to be a sticking point in a court of law, but not even an afterthought in the puerile “courts” of the corporate media and its underlings. Higgins’ argument also dismisses the fact that prior to the August 21st attack, it was the Syrian government that invited the UN inspection team to investigate the use of chemical weapons, and then supposedly launched a massive chemical weapons attack a mere 15 miles from the UN teams base. Such logical reasoning is afforded no space in the conspiracy theories of Higgins and the corporate media, instead the discourse is filled with obfuscation, misleading tangents and speculation.

Supposedly independent minded bloggers and writers being co-opted by corporate media is by no means a rare occurrance, as the self-proclaimed “leftist” Owen Jones can happily attest to. Since Jones’ rise to fame and employment with the corporate-owned establishment newspaper the Independent, he has become the archetypal Fabian opportunist, preaching a reform-based bourgeois social democracy, while duplicitously portraying himself as some sort of socialist Marxist. Jones now deems it reasonable, no doubt civilised, that he should “no-platform” speakers at western anti-War events in order to marginalize anyone accused of having an unacceptable opinion to that of the dominant media class of corporate vultures. Jones has become a caricature of himself, more eager to spend his time promoting the UK Labour party on war-mongering podiums of the BBC (for a fee of course) and appease the corporate stenographers and celebrities he is surrounded by, than to hear – or, heaven forbid, sit beside – a nun from a war-zone in the Middle East that disagrees with western prescriptions and corporate propaganda.

To avoid the pitfalls outlined above, a totally new model of journalism is required, a model that is not designed, or even accepted, by the current dominant corporate media class. A model in which writers and journalists have the space and freedom to express their opinions in an open and forthright manner – discarding the charade of objectivity. A model in which publicly oriented media is free from the chains of corporate power, advertising, celebrity subversions, and, more importantly, monetary incentive.

Thus, the question remains: in a capitalist incentive-driven world, is journalistic freedom and honesty even attainable? Or is the omnipotent corporate-media-system and its inherent corruption an inevitable side-effect of the sickness that is Capitalism?

Syria: HRW report on Latakia reflects Washington’s shifting policy.

A report from Human Rights Watch, titled “You Can Still See Their Blood”, gives a lengthy and detailed account of what amount to crimes against humanity committed by opposition forces in more than 10 majority Alawite villages in the region of Latakia.

Commencing in the early hours of the 4th of August, up to 20 rebels groups, led by the Salafi/Jihadi extremists that dominate the Syrian insurgency, among them: Ahrar al-Sham, Jabhat al-Nusra, the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham, Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar, and Suqoor al-Izz, commenced a prolonged and brutal sectarian attack upon the majority Alawite civilian population of Latakia. In another blow to the “moderate rebels” media narrative, it becomes clear that the western-friendly groups under “FSA” branding – ie, groups that receive arms and funding through the western-backed “Supreme Military Council” (SMC) – were also involved in the sectarian assault on Latakia. The report states that it is not clear whether SMC affiliated groups were present during the onset of the assault, but that “the participation of Idriss (leader of “SMC”) & fighters under his command in “Operation to Liberate the Coast” appears clear”. Furthermore, in a video filmed in Latakia countryside from August 11th, Idriss is shown congratulating the rebels for their “successes” in Latakia. And, in another video from August 12th Idriss declares his full support for the assault and appeals for more weapons for the “revolutionaries”:

I am here [in Latakia countryside] today to get a picture on the true achievements and the big successes that our fellow revolutionaries have achieved in the coastal campaign and to respond to the charges that claim incorrectly that we will end our operations here on the coastal frontlines. We are here today to assure everyone that our chief of staff is cooperating fully with the coastal military front command regarding their military activities. We are not going to withdraw as was falsely claimed but on the contrary, we are cooperating to a great extent in this operation.

We wish to remind everyone to provide the Syrian revolutionaries (sic) with bullets and weapons and all it needs so we can end the killing and destruction and build a free country.

The report is a damning account of the rebel groups that planned and took part in the unprovoked assault. Arguably for the first time a western “NGO” has reported on “systematic”, “premeditated”, mass atrocities committed by the rebels in Syria. It provides a stark wake-up call to the morally expedient media organs and western diplomats that have trumpeted the so-called “freedom fighters” for nigh-on two years – but that may be a desired intention, as we will discuss later.

HRW collected the names of 190 civilians that were killed in the attack, including 57 women, at least 18 children, and 14 elderly men, the vast majority of whom HRW claim were killed in the first day alone. Over 200 civilians are still missing. Moreover, 105 civilians – the vast majority women and children – are known to have been taken hostage by the rebels; it is claimed these hostages have been passed from one rebel group to another, with the aim of exchanging them for rebel prisoners, and are now allegedly being held captive by Ahrar al-Sham. A “oppposition activist”, present during the onslaught claimed that after the first day of the attack “160-200 Alawite were dead”.

The well-regarded analyst of jihadist groups in Syria Aymenn J Al-Tamimi, gave a less-than optimistic estimate of the fate of the captives in September, stating that the more extreme rebel groups consider Alawite women and children “spoils of war”, and it was “likely that they had been put to sex and labour trafficking”. A video released on YouTube circulating for some weeks shows some of the women and children from Latakia being held by Abu Suhaib, a Libyan leader of the foreign jihadist group Jaish al-muhijireen wal-Ansar. Ominously, HRW claim that “Given that many residents remain missing, and opposition fighters buried many bodies in mass graves, the total number of dead is likely higher.”

The report goes into graphic detail of how rebels attacked the town in large numbers, quickly overpowering local government troops. Witnesses described “frantically attempting to flee as opposition fighters stormed the area, opening fire apparently indiscriminately, and in some cases deliberately shooting at them while they tried to flee. Many of those who were unable to flee were killed or taken hostage.” Whole families were massacred in their homes. In many cases, male civilians were summarily executed whilst women and children were either killed attempting to flee or taken hostage. Furthermore, the report makes clear that the attack on Latakia was not the work of a “rogue group” and was clearly premeditated and organised in advance. Decapitation, slit-throats, multiple point-blank gunshot wounds, multiple stab wounds, and “complete charring” among the victims. The ruthless barbarity inflicted upon civilians is reminiscent of previous unsolved massacres that received widespread attention earlier on in the conflict.

Although much attention should rightly be focused on the barbaric nature of the attack and identifying its perpetrators, it is also important to consider the timing of the HRW report. The attacks on Latakia were over two months ago; long before the chemical weapons attack on August 21st in Ghouta, which HRW covered extensively – with far less source material at their disposal – only two weeks after the event. Once the Syrian Army (SAA) and National Defense Forces (NDF) had driven out the insurgents and regained control of the villages in Latakia; local Syrian media reported on the mass-graves that were found, and indeed, the many missing people. Moreover, the aforementioned video of captives with the Libyan militant Abu Suhaib also received widespread attention in local and alternative media. Conversely, these events went largely ignored in western media; the focus of western coverage on Syria was immediately flooded by the furore surrounding the attacks in Ghouta on August the 21st, again, in stark contrast to any coverage of the assault on Latakia. It should also be noted that the Syrian government itself had (unsuccessfully) tried to suppress reports of the attack on Latakia in order to preserve morale within its core support-base and avert the possibility of exacerbating sectarian divisions rapidly spreading throughout the country. The rebels had no such intention; the region of Latakia was intentionally targeted for the specific reason that the majority of its civilian inhabitants are Alawite and supporters of the Syrian government.

The question then remains, why have HRW chosen to publish this report now? The fact that the report is being released over two months after the event suggests its release has been suppressed. Working from the “theory” that HRW is in no way “independent” and in reality acts as a propaganda arm to forward the objectives of the United States Government, the answer for the apparent delay may lie in Washington’s shifting policy on Syria. Last week John Kerry was berated by hawks in Congress for coming close to praising the Assad government for its efforts with the OPCW, in their attempts to destroy Syria’s chemical stockpile; a man three weeks earlier Kerry had equated to Hitler. Another indicator lies in the report itself, in which much attention is paid to third parties responsible for funding and providing logistics for the attack. In short, the report points to three principal parties as guilty in this respect: the Turkish government, Gulf states, and private Gulf donors.

From information gleaned from social media accounts, the report names several key private individual donors who contributed sufficient amounts for the Latakia offensive, going as far as linking to their personal twitter accounts. One such donor is Sheikh Hajjej al-Ajami, a Kuwaiti Salafi preacher and long time patron of Ahrar al-Sham who is reported to have donated 400,000 euros for the offensive. One Shafi al-Ajami, another prominent Kuwaiti Salafi preacher and scholar at the Kuwait University – who was recently suspended for his allegedly divisive sermons – is also named as a key sponsor. Sheihk Saqr, the leader of Suqqor al-Izz, and a deputy Abu Tahal from Ahrar al-Sham are named as key interlocutors running funds from an operations center under their command.

The HRW report calls on Gulf states to “Publicly condemn abuses committed by opposition groups and deny any military support to Ahrar al-Sham, Islamic State of Iraq and Sham, Jabhat al-Nusra, Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar,and Suquor al-Izz”. HRW stress that Gulf states should increase monitoring of transfers from Gulf residents, urging them to use “influence” to pressure individuals and prosecute those found to be supporting war criminals. The report urges Gulf states to “use any influence over armed opposition groups that hold civilian hostages to release those hostages.” Again, if one were to judge this from the perspective that HRW is speaking on behalf of the US government – which it often does – these recommendations seem a far-cry from the usual “moderate” rhetoric and could indicate a marked shift by Washington toward curbing Gulf activity and funding of the opposition in general.

The report repeatedly states that “Arms sales & military assistance to groups [responsible for Latakia] make the individuals supplying them complicit in crimes they commit.” Moreover, in a clear signal to the Turkish government , the report explicitly requests that the “UN Security Council and Turkey’s allies should call on Turkey in particular to do more to verify that no arms are passing through Turkey to these groups”. And that through interviews with “Syrian security officials, media reports, western diplomats, and direct observations by journalists and humanitarian workers who visited the area in the past, many foreign fighters operating in northern Syria gain access to Syria via Turkey, from which they also smuggle their weapons, obtain money and other supplies, and sometimes retreat to for medical treatment.”

It is has become common knowledge among Syria watchers that Turkey have – at the very least – provided safe-haven for the extremist militants. Consistent reports and allegations from official sources have also pointed to the AKP government providing them logistics and medical assistance since the insurgency took hold in 2011. Saleh Muslim, the Kurdish leader from Northern Syria who has been embroiled in battles with Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS parallel to the Turkish border, has repeatedly called on Erdogan’s government to end its support of the Salafi/Jihadis attacking the Kurdish population.

Relations between Washington and Ankara have turned sour of late on several fronts in the Middle East, primarily in Egypt, alongside increasingly divergent policies in Syria. Erdogan was vocally critical of the Obama administration during the recent military coup in Egypt, which resulted in the overthrow of Brotherhood ally Mohamed Morsi. In turn, the Erdogan government has recently been the target of several critical articles in US media, highlighting Erdogan’s “Islamist” ideology and ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. In a further signal to Ankara, the Wall Street Journal ran a critical profile yesterday of the Turkish intelligence chief, and top Erdogan aide, Hakan Fidan. Titled “Turkey’s Spymaster Plots Own Course on Syria”, the article portrays the Turkish establishment as at odds with the “moderate” approach supposedly favoured by the Obama administration. A Turkish opposition MP, and member of the Foreign Relations Committee, claims to have followed 50 buses filled with radical fighters being taken to the Syrian border with the full cooperation of Turkish authorities. In effect, the Erdogan government, since the onset of the crisis, has played a similar role to that of Pakistan during the US-backed Afghan insurgency; acting as a primary forward operating base and logistics hub for the militants waging war upon the Syrian state.

In what appears to be an attempt to publicly pressure its allies in the region, who may be less-than willing to abandon the insurgency, the Obama administration is using its ever-faithful Public Relations apparatus to convey a clear message to Turkey, and other regional Gulf allies, that now is the time to end – or at least drastically restructure – their support to the now dominant radicals that form the backbone of the insurgency.

Syria: The Army of Islam; Saudi Arabia’s finest export.

Recent developments regarding “rebel” groups inside Syria have shed further light on the ideologies and political aims of the militants waging war upon the Syrian state.

On the 24th September, under the moniker of the “Islamist Alliance”, 11 of the largest and most recognisable rebel brigades – a mix of supposed “moderate Islamists” such as Liwa al-Tawhid, the largest “FSA”-branded brigade in Aleppo, alongside more hardline Salafi/Jihadi brigades such as Ahrar al-Sham, and Al Qaeda ideologues Jahbat al-Nusra – released a joint statement denouncing the western-backed expatriates of the “National Coalition” (NC), along with its equally impotent military arm, the “Supreme Military Council” (SMC). Following this statement of intent, on the 29th of September, up to 50 rebel groups operating primarily in the area of Damascus merged to form Jaish al-Islam (Army of Islam). The Damascus merger also included a wide-ranging demographic of militant groups, from the supposed “moderate”, to overt Salafist hardliners. Jaish al-Islam is dominated by Liwa al-Islam, a large rebel group formerly of “FSA” branding, and led by Saudi-backed Zahran Alloush. Liwa al-Islam were also a signatory to the aforementioned statement of denunciation toward the western-backed political opposition.

These announcements have effectively put-to-bed the western propagated myth that was the “Free Syrian Army”. Militant groups the west ostensibly touted as “secular moderates” yearning for “freedom and democracy” from a tyrannical regime; have now openly declared their Salafi/Jihadi fundamentalist ideology, with the ultimate aim of creating a Syrian state ruled by Islamic law.

Already, these announcements are being portrayed as an attempt by Saudi Arabia – yes, ever tolerant and inclusive Wahhabi-preaching Saudi Arabia – and other leading Salafi factions supporting the insurgency to steer “vetted, or moderate Salafi” rebels away from the Al Qaeda aligned groups; particularly the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), who are now portrayed as simply “foreign jihadists” and have become the leading fall-guy in Western and Gulf media for every atrocity committed by the rebels. This false perception has been built as a result of a Western and Gulf initiated public relations campaign to “moderate” the image of the Salafi/Jihadi fundamentalists (aswell as those more inclined to basic criminality, killing, and destruction) who may be more willing to meet the requirements of their Gulf donors and the United States. Yet, contrary to this divisive narrative, the same “moderate” Salafi’s who are now supposedly being encouraged to  disassociate from their Al Qaeda affiliates have happily fought alongside – more often than not as a junior partner – the West’s supposed “number one enemy” (AQ) since the insurgency began in 2011.

In further contrast to the aforementioned “Awakening” narrative, Jabhat al-Nusra (JaN) – the Syrian branch of Al Qaeda ideologues – are still very much in the mix. Although various pundits and analysts have made efforts to publicise tensions between ISIS and JaN, the two groups still share a similar Jihadist ideology and cooperate in key areas, particularly on paramilitary operations; as do the hardline Salafi groups such as Ahrar Al-Sham, who in turn fully cooperate with the western friendly “moderates” forming the backbone of Jaish al-Islam. In the recent ISIS takeover of the “FSA” held town of Azaz from the western-friendly Northern Storm brigade (of John McCain fame), Liwa al-Tahwid quickly offered to broker a ceasefire and acted as interlocutor between the two warring factions. ISIS in turn, rejected any “FSA” authority and have since taken control of the town – not that Liwa al-Tahwid could have stopped them anyway. These events directly contradict the notion that the new “Army of Islam” is in any rush to disassociate, let alone be able to wage war upon the ISIS or its extremist affiliates. Moreover, the leader of Jaish al-Islam, Zahran Alloush, publicly disowned his own “captain” after he warned ISIS there would be open conflict if they “continued this chaos”. The leader claimed that the comments were “dangerous” and designed to “cause strife between muslims”.

Furthermore, in a recent interview with Al Jazeera, Alloush, free of his “moderate” chains, lets loose on his ideals for a future Syria, in which he aspires to resurrect the Umayyad Empire (2nd Islamic Caliphate with Syria at its core and Damascus as its capital), and “cleanse” Damascus of “Majous” (pejorative Arabic term for Iranians) “Rafideh” (Shi’ites) and “Nusayris” (Alawites). Rebel leaders openly espousing sectarian rhetoric has been a running theme throughout the conflict; in line with this trend, Alloush’s statement can be taken as a clear indication that his new “Jaish al-Islam” is not in the least bit concerned with abiding by a western-friendly moderate image. Alloush, like the majority of rebel leaders, is a fundamentalist Salafist, who looks on at the minorities of Syria as kafir (unbelievers) who must submit to his interpretation of Salafi Islam or be killed.

The western/Gulf media narrative surrounding this new “Islamist Alliance” is a re-hash of failed PR campaigns of the past, which attempted to mitigate the inherent fundamentalist ideologies of the insurgents waging war upon the Syrian state. In stark contrast to the Caliphate-inspired visions held by the majority of rebel leaders, Syria has been a pluralistic secular society for decades, the majority of its Sunni muslim population are conservative and have coexisted peacefully alongside the many other religions and ethnic minorities that make up Syria’s diverse society, history, and culture. The people of Syria do not aspire to a Saudi sponsored Salafi/Wahhabi leadership or doctrine of law. Contrary to the popular narrative emerging in western and Gulf media that this new force will represent an indigenous “moderate Islamist” coalition capable of taking on the foreign elements and Al Qaeda, the majority of Syrians will be repelled by the sectarian language and ideologies of Zohran Alloush; his groups overt affiliations and pandering to Al Qaeda ideologues; and his “Army of Islam”.

Considering the above context, the narrative of home-grown Salafis somehow being more amenable to the Syrian population than their ISIS/JaN fundamentalist colleagues becomes even less tenable. Alloush’s formation of Jaish al-Islam, alongside the “Islamist Alliance” denunciation of the western-backed political opposition, show a marked shift of the insurgency further toward the Al Qaeda ideologues fighting the Syrian regime, not further away from them.

Syria: Controversy surrounding MintPress Ghouta report.

On Friday 20th September, the corporate media’s favourite “YouTube Syria analyst” and self-proclaimed “weapons expert” Eliot Higgins – aka “Brown Moses” – released a statement on his blog from the now infamous Associated Press correspondent Dale Gavlak; in response to his queries regarding the equally infamous MintPress article that included her byline. The MintPress article, published on 29th August, through interviews with rebels, family members, and villagers in Eastern Ghouta, alleges that elements within the opposition were responsible for the alleged chemical weapons attack on 21st August, and that those chemical munitions had been supplied through Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan.

Below is the statement as published on Higgins’ blog in full: (emphasis added)

Mint Press News incorrectly used my byline for an article it published on August 29, 2013 alleging chemical weapons usage by Syrian rebels. Despite my repeated requests, made directly and through legal counsel, they have not been willing to issue a retraction stating that I was not the author. Yahya Ababneh is the sole reporter and author of the Mint Press News piece.   To date, Mint Press News has refused to act professionally or honestly in regards to disclosing the actual authorship and sources for this story.

I did not travel to Syria, have any discussions with Syrian rebels, or do any other reporting on which the article is based.  The article is not based on my personal observations and should not be given credence based on my journalistic reputation. Also, it is false and misleading to attribute comments made in the story as if they were my own statements.

Following the release of this statement a flurry of questions arose, and Gavlak’s lawyer proceeded to send a second statement to Higgins’ blog to clarify Gavlak’s position and answer his queries: (emphasis added)

Dale Gavlak has sought to make a public statement from the beginning of this incident and now is able to do so.  Email correspondence between Ms. Gavlak and Mint Press News that began on August 29 and ended on September 2 clearly show that from the beginning Ms. Gavlak identified the author of the story as Yahya Ababneh, a Jordanian journalist. She also made clear that only his name should appear on the byline and the story was submitted only in his name. She served as an editor of Ababneh’s material in English as he normally writes in Arabic. She did not travel to Syria and could not corroborate his account.

Dale Gavlak specifically stated in an email dated August 29 “Pls find the Syria story I mentioned uploaded on Google Docs. This should go under Yahya Ababneh’s byline. I helped him write up his story but he should get all the credit for this.” Ms. Gavlak supplied the requested bio information on Mr. Ababneh later that day and had further communications with Mint Press News’ Mnar Muhawesh about the author’s background. There was no communication by Mint Press News to Ms. Gavlak that it intended to use her byline.  Ms. Muhawesh took this action unilaterally and without Ms. Gavlak’s permission.   After seeing that her name was attached to the article, Dale Gavlak demanded her name be removed. However, Ms. Muhawesh stated: “We will not be removing your name from the byline as this is an existential issue for MintPress and an issue of credibility as this will appear as though we are lying.” Mint Press News rejected further demands by Dale Gavlak and her legal counsel to have her name removed. Her public statement explains her position.

Following this statement, even more questions and contradictions arose, as it had previously been inferred Gavlak had little to no involvement in the article by Higgins’ and several of his corporate media colleagues. Gavlaks’ line had now changed to include in her statement that she “helped write-up” Ababneh’s story. Not only this, but Gavlak was responsible for pitching the story to MintPress News under her own volition. Gavlak received the report from her colleague, Yahya Ababneh, whom she has worked with before. Gavlak then proceeded to translate, edit, add background research, and crucially: pitch the story to MintPress News. Following MintPress receipt of the report, Gavlak then made further communications to verify her colleague Yahya Ababneh and to vouch for his reporting. MintPress news published the report on the same day, and it almost instantly went viral.

Since the reports release, much speculation has been focused on the veracity of the reporters involved and the substance of the report itself, yet it has taken Gavlak three weeks to publicly respond – at which point she chose Higgins’ blog to release the statement while adding comments under several other blogs that carried the story. Following Gavlak’s statement release, and after several attempts by myself and many others to contact MintPress News, MintPress editor Mnar Muhawesh in turn released a lengthy statement that defines their position in no uncertain terms: (emphasis added)

Thank you for reaching out to me in regards to statements made by Dale Gavlak alleging MintPress for incorrectly attributing our exclusive report titled: “Syrians in Goutha claim Saudi-supplied rebels behind chemical attacks.” Gavlak pitched this story to MintPress on August 28th and informed her editors and myself that her colleague Yahya Ababneh was on the ground in Syria. She said Ababneh conducted interviews with rebels, their family members, Ghouta residents and doctors that informed him through various interviews that the Saudis had supplied the rebels with chemical weapons and that rebel fighters handled the weapons improperly setting off the explosions.  

When Yahya had returned and shared the information with her, she stated that she confirmed with several colleagues and Jordanian government officials that the Saudis have been supplying rebels with chemical weapons, but as her email states, she says they refused to go on the record.

Gavlak wrote the article in it’s entirety as well as conducted the research. She filed her article on August 29th and was published on the same day.

Dale is under mounting pressure for writing this article by third parties. She notified MintPress editors and myself on August 30th and 31st via email and phone call, that third parties were placing immense amounts of pressure on her over the article and were threatening to end her career over it. She went on to tell us that she believes this third party was under pressure from the head of the Saudi Intelligence Prince Bandar himself, who is alleged in the article of supplying the rebels with chemical weapons.

On August 30th, Dale asked MintPress to remove her name completely from the byline because she stated that her career and reputation was at risk. She continued to say that these third parties were demanding her to disassociate herself from the article or these parties would end her career. On August 31st, I notified Dale through email that I would add a clarification that she was the writer and researcher for the article and that Yahya was the reporter on the ground, but did let Gavlak know that we would not remove her name as this would violate the ethics of journalism.

We are aware of the tremendous pressure that Dale and some of our other journalists are facing as a result of this story, and we are under the same pressure as a result to discredit the story. We are unwilling to succumb to those pressures for MintPress holds itself to the highest journalistic ethics and reporting standards. Yahya has recently notified me that the Saudi embassy contacted him and threatened to end his career if he did a follow up story on who carried out the most recent chemical weapons attack and demanded that he stop doing media interviews in regards to the subject.

We hold Dale Gavlak in the highest esteem and sympathize with her for the pressure she is receiving, but removing her name from the story would not be honest journalism and therefore, as stated before, we are not willing to remove her name from the article. We are prepared and may release all emails and communications made between MintPress and Dale Gavlak, and even Yahya to provide further evidence of what was provided to you in this statement.

At the time of writing, Gavlak, or her lawyer, have not responded to the above statement.

Several key questions regarding this affair still remain, and will hopefully be answered in due course if and when MintPress release the emails between Gavlak and themselves, or, if Gavlak releases a clear and specific statement regarding her actual input into the report and her vouching for Ababneh. Regardless of whether those emails are released, a key indicator as to the credibility of Gavlaks disassociation attempts will come from her and her lawyers next course of action. If the alleged emails prove MintPress’ case that Gavlak did indeed author and vouch for the report, then it seems anathema for the supposed “third parties” pressuring Gavlak to want these emails out in the open – further exposing Gavlak’s attempts to disassociate under duress.

The major questions that remain unanswered:

1) MintPress claim that Gavlak did not merely translate Ababneh’s article, but also edited; “wrote up” in its entirety; researched; and then pitched the article to Mintpress. Not only this, MintPress also claim that Gavlak had “further communications” with them post-pitch regarding Ababneh’s bio – in essence, to vouch for his credibility. Considering this; why has Gavlak waited three weeks to make a statement on the issue, and in effect discredit the story, if she ever thought it was dubious?  Surely Gavlaks’ alleged statement to MintPress that she had confirmed the story with “colleagues and several Jordanian government officials” belies any claim to her now trying to distance herself from it.

2) Where is Yahya Ababneh? From the above MintPress statement it becomes clear why both Ababneh and Gavlak may have kept out of the spotllight until now. And also why Gavlak seems to be communicating through a lawyer and only to corporate-media-friendly sources.  Yahya Ababneh has apparently been contacted since the reports release by journalists who have in turn claimed that a) he exists, b) he stands by the substance of the story, the claim that Gavlak wrote it and contributed to it, and c) has confirmed that he has recieved threats via actors attempting to force him to abandon the report and any follow ups or interviews regarding its substance. But Ababneh is yet to release a public statement regarding the issue. Considering the alleged threats coming directly from the House of Saud, and supposed “third parties”, Ababneh’s absence from the spotlight is hardly surprising.

3) Who are the “Third Parties” that are allegedly pressuring Gavlak to disassociate herself from the article? One can readily assume that these people are her employers at the Associated Press, who have apparently now suspended Gavlak “indefinitely”. If this is the case, there are again several scenarios as to why the AP is pressuring her. It may be a simple case of AP not wanting a reference to them on such a controversial – and as yet unproven – report. But it may be something entirely more sinister, the actions against Ms. Gavlak seem to suggest the latter, and that there is a considerable amount of top-level pressure being applied to her, if the report is merely bogus propaganda; why is so much effort being put into discrediting it?

4) Considering Gavlaks’ tacit admission that she “wrote up” Ababneh’s report in her second statement; MintPress are well within their rights to uphold the byline they added. Gavlak pitched the story to MintPress presumably knowing the editors valued her credibility and experience. So the question remains: why would Gavlak willingly translate and edit; then attempt to pitch the report but keep her name off it; then vouch for the report and its author through “further communications”; if she knew it was dubious or would bring scorn from her other employers? Why take that risk with a small independent outlet?

5) Why the haphazard attempt to disassociate from the story now, three weeks later? It has only given the report an added impotus – highlighted by the fact that a plethora of establishment media pundits and commentators (who originally dismissed and subverted the report) are now going to great lengths to discredit it. There is almost an air of desperation coming from several pundits, going as far as to insinuate that MintPress holds a bias simply because the editors father in-law happens to be a Shi’ite muslim. The NYT lede blog even ran a story on the issue late last night – totally omitting any reference to the crucial pieces of information relayed in the MintPress statement. This is even more perplexing when you consider the fact that outlets such as the New York Times completely ignored recent revelations that the Washington Post’s new Jerusalem correspondent is the wife of a Zionist PR tycoon that regularly lobbies for the Jewish state.

Regardless of the veracity of the original report from Ghouta, and the allegations against the Saud regime held within; MintPress News are undoubtedly within their rights to uphold the Gavlak byline and in turn deem her accountable for its credibility.

If one were to offer a hypothetical, it seems likely that Gavlak has received this report from a trusted colleague (Ababneh) and wanted to run it through a smaller outlet anonymously to avoid possible recriminations from her corporate media employers; at which point MintPress have realised the controversial nature of the report and added Gavlak’s byline to bolster its credibility (which is well within their rights). As Gavlak rightly forsaw, she is now being pressured to retract her name from the story and subsequently discredit it. Whether the report itself is true or not is an entirely different matter, which will hopefully be explored as more details emerge. The current furore, and alleged efforts made by powerful interests to discredit and supress it, suggests that this report is percieved by those powerful interests as more damaging than a mere piece of unverifiable propaganda.

Syria: Has Obama forsaken the insurgency?

Current events surrounding the Syrian conflict appear to be on the brink of a partial agreement toward peace. Brokered by the United States and Russia, the new quick-fire round of talks in Geneva between US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov have been promoted as a bilateral effort to disarm Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile and move forward with talks to help end the crisis (Geneva II). Yet parallel to the alleged chemical weapons attack in eastern Ghouta – which subsequently led to the diplomatic breakthrough between Washington and Moscow – a chain of events largely ignored may provide equally justifiable explanations as to why the United States chose to renege on its threats of overt military intervention, and towards public diplomacy and reconciliation.

Analysing the sequence of events leading up to, and surrounding the alleged chemical weapons attack in Ghouta shows that Syria, and its ally Russia, have thwarted a determined attempt by the United States to overtly attack the Syrian Army, in what was a last-ditch effort to save the crumbling insurgency and avoid a regime victory.

The failure of the “Re-branded” insurgency.

Several reports leading up to the alleged chemical attack claim that the United States – in line with its covert policy of over two years – had prepared and deployed a “rebranded”, moderate, non-jihadist battalion of rebel fighters into Syria with the desired objective of creating a buffer-zone in the southern province of Da’raa (birthplace of the insurgency); from which the rebels would regroup and replenish supplies lost in consecutive defeats in preparation for a “Storm on Damascus”: a carbon-copy of the CIA’s strategy during the overthrow of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi – minus the crucial NATO airforce.

An article from August the 22nd, authored by Yossef Bodansky, an Israeli-American political scientist who served as Director of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare of the US House of Representatives from 1988 to 2004 claims:

Starting Aug. 17 and 18, nominally Free Syrian Army (FSA) units — in reality a separate Syrian and Arab army trained and equipped by the CIA as well as Jordanian and other intelligence services — attempted to penetrate southern Syria from northern Jordan and start a march on Damascus. Two units, one 250-strong and one 300-strong, crossed into Syria and began advancing parallel to the Golan Heights border. Their aim was to break east and reach Daraa quickly in order to prepare the ground for the declaration of Daraa as the capital of a “Free Syria”. However, the CIA’s FSA forces met fierce resistance by the unlikely coalition of the Syrian Army, local jihadist forces (mainly the locally-raised Yarmuk Brigades), and even tribal units who fear the encroachment by outside forces on their domain. By Aug. 19 and 20, the FSA units were surrounded in three villages not far from the Israeli border.

Bodansky’s article is corroborated by a report published on the 22nd of August in French daily Le Figaro, which also alleges that a similar sized US-trained force, accompanied by Israeli, Jordanian and US commandos, had infiltrated Syria’s borders on the 17th of August from Jordan with the objective of creating a buffer-zone in Da’raa. The Figaro report does not state the new commando-escorted units encountered any resistance along the way, the report also fails to explain their whereabouts or justify their now obvious lack of success. In contrast to Bodansky’s version of events; Le Figaro purports that the Assad regime may have resorted to the use of chemical weapons due to an increased threat the new rebel units posed on Damascus. Analysis of the previous months of fighting in the Ghouta region, and the continuous gains made by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) suggest there was zero threat to the Assad regime’s seat of power coming from eastern Ghouta – or Da’raa for that matter. The precise opposite was in fact occurring, the SAA had been engaged in a concerted offensive in the Damascus suburbs and countryside for months; leaving rebel units in eastern Ghouta completely surrounded and increasingly desperate for supplies and ammunition. Moreover, the situation for the rebels was similarly desperate in almost the entirety of Da’raa, which had been stalemated for months with no significant gains for either side; the SAA had consolidated and fortified the areas it held in Da’raa whilst opposition rebel commanders repeatedly expressed their dismay at the lack of supplies and ammunition reaching them from Jordan.

The alleged chemical weapons attack.

There is already a plethora of literature and credible analysis that debunks Washington’s allegations surrounding the alleged chemical weapons attack, the claims are most importantly coming from a lead belligerent and architect of the conflict, yet even if one were to wrongly judge Washington as a neutral actor, they are still unverified, circumstantial, questionably sourced (to say the least), and in the words of top CIA officials “no slam dunk”, which makes them even-less credible than what turned out to be outright lies emanating from US intelligence sources in the lead up to Iraq. Washington’s claims simply don’t stand up to any serious scrutiny. Yet contrary to the many outstanding, and growing, contradictions and scepticism of the allegations; many analysts have pushed the theory that the regimes motive to use chemical weapons lay in its desperation to avoid defeat at the hands of the rebels. Incidentally, this supposed regime motive formed the “analysis” propagated by recently outed fraud “Liz O’Bagy” – a rebel lobbyist paid by the State Department and neocon think-tank the Institute for the study of war; to provide “tailored analysis” in a months-long propaganda campaign to portray the extremist dominated rebels as “moderate” western-friendly secularists. Yet when viewed with the above context, the supposed motive of a Götterdämmerung act by a regime in its final moments becomes even-less credible than it first appeared. The regime was arguably in the strongest position it has been since it lost vast swathes of land during the height of the insurgency, not to mention the growing amount of anti-rebel sentiment within public opinion working in the regimes’ favour – both inside and outside of Syria.

Conversely, the rebels on the ground in Syria were becoming increasingly desperate, losing battles with the SAA consecutively for months on end, and increasingly turning to fighting between themselves over the spoils of war, or simply through ethnic intolerance, extremism and fundamentalism. The regime had long been planning a large military offensive in Ghouta to consolidate the gains it had made in recent months and secure its hold on the Damascus countryside. The few remaining pockets of rebel encampments were largely surrounded from all angles; reports from multiple outlets, including staunchly pro-rebel, spoke of a “siege” in Ghouta and rebels repeatedly being ambushed by the SAA trying to escape.  A Reuters report from August 7th read: “Adra.. in the Eastern Ghouta region,… has been besieged by the army for months.” Accordingly, the situation on the ground prior to the alleged chemical weapons attack was in no way a threat to Assad’s seat of power in Damascus, if any actor had the motive for a last-ditch attempt at saving their cause it was indeed the rebels, or their regional backers intent on exacerbating and continuing the conflict. 

Regardless of who actually committed the attack that occurred on August 21st in Ghouta, its desired outcome from Washington’s perspective (a casus belli – intentional or otherwise – to garner western intervention), did not play out how the administration would have hoped.

UK Parliament set the tone for Congress.

A major blow to Washington’s war-plans came at the hands of the UK general public and Parliament. Unfortunately for David Cameron, earlier this year UK MP’s forced the government to agree to a vote in the commons to determine any future military intervention in Syria. Now, with Cameron threatening immediate military “action” against Syria he recalled Parliament in an attempt to rush through the vote and kickstart the war alongside the United States. Cameron, in typical establishment arrogance presumed the massive public sentiment against military intervention would go unnoticed by the publics representatives and ministers would vote in favour of war. Cameron was sorely mistaken, the “shadow of Iraq” provided a platform for a resurgence of anti-war sentiment and low-level activism. MP’s were bombarded with mail and phone-calls from angry constituents demanding a no vote. Crucially, the immediate scepticism of US “intelligence” was brought out into the public realm in real-time and exposed as reminiscent of the fabrications that led to Iraq. Accordingly, on the 29th of August, Cameron lost his vote.

The Obama administration was deeply concerned by the result of the UK vote, their most loyal ally and partner in militarism would no longer be at their side, years of war-plans and covert logistics had fallen apart, and the illusion of the United States “leading the International Community from behind” was crumbling even quicker. Obama’s surprise decision to gain the approval of Congress for military intervention in Syria came just two days after Cameron’s equally surprising defeat. Yet alongside Obama’s apparent willingness to “have a debate” in Congress and hold a vote to authorise intervention; Obama and a number of his senior aides reiterated their intention to attack Syria with or without a successful result.

Following Cameron’s defeat in Parliament, and facing what looked to be a certain defeat in Congress, Obama’s proposed war on Syria was arguably more unpopular than any before it. Polls on both sides of the Atlantic regularly showed massive disapproval ratings for any intervention, with numbers only slightly higher even if the White House allegations were proven to be true. Alongside the usual uncritical repetition of US “intelligence assessments” and government stenography emanating from the majority of corporate media; the ever-growing alternative and independent outlets allowed the public to express their massive scepticism, and more importantly share independent and credible alternatives of information to a wider audience. Obama was facing a humiliating defeat, and was arguably by this point already searching for a way out of his self-imposed ultimatums. Yet factions within the US alliance have a very different agenda, there are several actors that would prefer the Syrian war to remain “hot” indefinitely. The hawks within Israel are the most obvious candidates to be upset by this turn of events, as has been evidenced by what the IDF have termed their “optimal scenario” of endless civil war and partition. No doubt Israel will continue to pursue this overarching policy of subversion and destabilization. There are other US clients that will undoubtedly be equally as miffed if the US has indeed reneged on its regime change policy (for now at least) in return for Assad’s CW stockpile. Saudi Arabia and Qatar have much invested in the “Syrian file”, but Washington calls the ultimate shots when it comes to matters of global affairs, if a deal has been brokered between Putin and Obama, “Prince Bandar Ibn Israel” will be put back to rest and the King will reluctantly oblige. Turkey, likewise, will also be unhappy at Obama’s apparent change of policy, but Erdogan may be under too much pressure of his own domestically to afford any serious solo effort at subverting Assad.

Last throw of the Dice: missiles in the Med.

On September the 3rd, two days prior to the G20 summit in St Petersburg, the world awoke to reports that Russia’s defensive radar systems had detected two ballistic “objects” launched from the central Mediterranean on a flight path toward Syria’s eastern coast, where Russian navy ships currently reside; the missiles post-launch had apparently “fell into the sea”. At the time the finger was immediately pointed to Israel – who have attacked Syria at least three times with impunity in the past year alone – or possibly the United States, whose large Naval presence in the Med seemed the obvious primary suspect. Curiously, both Israel and the United States denied responsibility when the Russian reports were first released, then, only a few hours later Israel claimed responsibility for an apparent joint “test” launch with the Pentagon of a defensive missile system. The sheer recklessness of such an act – even if the innocent explanation were true – is hard to explain in such a circumstance. The US eventually confirmed the Israeli line that it was indeed a “test” missile launch with US assistance; after having first denied any knowledge of the incident.

The most likely explanation is Israel or the US were attempting to test Syria’s coastal defenses prior to any possible attack, but to do this without giving any notice to Russia in such a tense scenario seems reckless to say the least. Russian diplomats have repeatedly hinted that Russia would “help” Syria militarily in the event of a missile strike. It is quite possible that this incident was indeed an Israeli/US provocation in an attempt to garner a response from Syria, and in turn instigate a wider campaign. A report from Lebanese daily As Safir takes it one step further:

A well-informed diplomatic source told As-Safir newspaper that “the US war on Syria had started and ended the moment those two ballistic missiles were fired,… The source further told the Lebanese daily that “the US forces fired these two rockets from a NATO base in Spain, and were instantly detected by the Russian radars and confronted by the Russian defense systems, so one of them exploded in the airspace and the second one diverted towards the sea.” In this context, the source pointed out that “the statement issued by the Russian Defense Ministry, which stated the detection of two ballistic missiles fired towards the Middle East, intended to neglect two points: the first was the location from which the two rockets were fired, and the second was their downing. Why? Because the moment the full military operation was launched, Head of the Russian Intelligence Service contacted the US intelligence and informed it that “hitting Damascus means hitting Moscow, and we have removed the term “downed the two missiles” from the statement to preserve the bilateral relations and to avoid escalation. Therefore, you must immediately reconsider your policies, approaches and intentions on the Syrian crisis, as you must be certain that you cannot eliminate our presence in the Mediterranean.”

Whether this account of events holds true or not, at the very least the missile launch appears to be an intentional provocation by either Israel or Washington, in a last-ditch attempt to incite retaliation and salvage the now broken strategy against Assad. Either way, Russia’s decision to quickly publicise the detection and subsequent flip-flop of denial and acceptance from Israel bolsters the theory in the As Safir report: why would Israel accept responsibility for this provocative “test”, yet deny responsibility for every other act of aggression they commit unimpeded? Could it have been to save the face of another defeated attempt to continue the war? It was following this incident, that Obama and Putin were due to meet at the G20 conference. With both leaders eager to go into any negotiations on Syria from a position of power at such a crucial stage, it also adds to the theory that Obama was in a rush to commence the war before opposition became too overbearing; as indeed it now evidently has.

Contrary to Obama’s plans, he entered the G20 summit from a position of weakness, both globally and domestically, opposition to a unilateral US war on another Arab state was only ever-increasing. Obama – or US foreign policy in general – has long-lost the vote of confidence within the UK population, and the Parliamentary vote may indeed yet herald a new era of UK foreign policy. Obama was losing the confidence vote in Congress; his domestic population; and within world leaders at the G20 – the majority of which started to make clear their desire to move towards Russia’s longstanding position based on the Geneva communique. Despite the mass effort western media put into spinning support for Obama, he came out of the G20 further weakened, it is likely by that point Obama had already made his decision that lead to Kerry’s supposed “gaffe”.

John Kerry’s “gaffe” and the bargain.

In the two days following the G20, the US upheld its intransigent rhetoric in its attempts to rally support for war. John Kerry was scheduled to fly around Europe to pimp war on radio shows and TV interviews as any self-respecting humanitarian does – of course Willy Hague was more than eager to stand alongside Kerry to drum up support for a war the UK population has just stated clearly it wanted no part in. It was during this visit that Kerry made his now infamous “gaffe”, in which he flippantly offered Syria a way of avoiding imminent attack by giving up its chemical weapons stockpiles to international inspectors, Kerry said: “if Assad were to turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week,” there would be no US attack. It is indicative that once Russia had pounced on the deal the US chose to immediately play it down – for all of around two hours. The narrative then quickly shifted to what the US is now sticking to: the “deal” on CW was only implemented through the threat of US force. Yet the key point that both media and diplomats are avoiding is this: if the chemical weapons disarmament is due to run until “mid-2014” under the Assad regime and the Syrian Army’s cooperation, and is likely to run into considerable setbacks and require a concerted logistical and cooperative effort from the government; then that is surely a tacit admission from Washington that Assad will remain in power until at least the proposed operation is over.

In a revealing interview  on Sunday, Obama gave further sign of a shift in US policy and refused to be drawn on the future of Assad. Obama effectively announced the US intention of giving up on the insurgency, and said the “United States can’t get in the middle of somebody else’s civil war.” and reiterated previous statements that “We can’t enforce– militarily, a settlement there.” Has a deal to halt the US-led insurgency been done? Will the US stop arming jihadists now? Is Russia urging Syria to destroy its CW stockpile the carrot necessary to appease the angry donkey and the 800 pound gorilla (aka: the US military industrial complex & Israel)? In the remote scenario of a solid reconciliation between Russia and the US and a move toward peace; are Washington still able to control their autocratic clients in the Middle East? Will the White House apply the required amounts of pressure on Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Kuwait, to halt arms supplies and funding to the rebels? Can Obama rein in the apartheid Israeli regime, and its determination to incite and prolong conflict between its Arab neighbours? And will the Obama administration attempt to replicate the Iraq scenario, by infiltrating, obstructing, and subverting the mission of the UN inspectors or the OPCW to engineer a pretext to attack Syria at a later date?

These are questions only time can answer. Regardless of future events and subsequent geopolitical dynamics, there are still thousands of extremists, mercenaries, and outright criminals currently waging war upon Syria and its people. To regain any semblance of stability and peace it is the United States that ultimately holds the levers to end the arms flow and state-sponsorship of the rebels. Tellingly, in a recent interview President Assad revealed a critical precondition of his own on any future CW disarmament deal:

“It is a bilateral process aimed principally at making the US cease pursuing its policy of aggression against Syria and proceed in compliance with the Russian initiative. When we see the US genuinely working towards stability in the region and stop threatening, striving to attack, and delivering arms to terrorists then we will believe that the necessary processes can be finalised.”