By Alberto Negri
Every massacre, also the Syrian one, has its anatomy and, perhaps above all, a geopolitical angle. It is pointless beating around the bush as the Americans and Europeans have been doing by backing this or that faction together with their allies of the Gulf monarchies or Turkey. Syria is not a war amongst others, it is a proxy-war of a global scope that the West, at least for now, has lost as a result of the Russian intervention in support of the Assad regime in September 2015. There is a readiness to accept an interpretation of the events that is still not verified, even though it seems plausible, in order to regain the territories lost in the heart of the Middle East, keeping in mind that a few thousand American soldiers are deployed there.
There are no angels and devils on either side in Syria, only devils and victims. Moscow rebukes every UN resolution against Assad who, according to the White House, may very well remain in office. Thus, the indignation for the victims of Khan Sheikhoun, rather than carrying substance, has a political and symbolic aim particularly serving to isolate the regime in Damascus. The backyard of the Lebanese Shi’ite Hezbollah that troubles Israel was regaining ground on the international arena and amongst Arab countries such as Egypt and Tunisia, ready to collaborate with Assad against jihadism.
Accepting defeat in Syria does not mean justifying massacres on civilians, often used by the combatant groups and Syrian loyalist forces as shields, but coming to realise what has been done in the Arab and Muslim world during these years.
The civil war in Syria began in 2011 as a legitimate protest against a brutal regime engulfed in a severe economic and social crisis. The conflict soon transformed into a proxy-war fed by the influx of thousands of jihadists over the Turkish border backed by Ankara and the Sunni Gulf monarchies aiming to topple the allied regime of Shi’ite Iran. The United States and European powers such as Great Britain and France, then waging war in Libya against Gaddafi, endorsed the conflict that, together with the Arab spring, promised change in the traits of the region.
Syria became another miscalculation, just as its predecessor Afghanistan and, above all, Iraq had in 2003. However, the Syrian war had other justifications. The wealthy Gulf monarchies could not tolerate the downfall of the Sunni regime in Baghdad and demanded compensation – the downfall of the Alawite minority regime in Damascus, the historical ally of Tehran.
The Shi’ite crescent against the Sunni crescent and the United States and the Europeans as referees in-between – just as in the days of the Gulf war in the 1980’s. Let them massacre each other: we’ll pick up the remains. That’s how the reasoning went in the Western offices.
The Americans were ready to make this concession: Baghdad had realised the gift they had given the Iranians while the Saudis had bought weapons for over 100 billion dollars from Washington during Obama’s eight year administration and saved the French nuclear industry with another 10 billion. It was hard to dislike such wealthy and willing clients.
And so, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sent ambassador Ford for a walk amongst the rebels in Hama on 6 July. It was an unmistakable signal that Assad had become a target chosen by a business and military coalition.
One miscalculation often leads to another though. Assad was never toppled and the rise of the Islamic State had begun as the march on Mosul resulted in conquest in June 2014. Initially the United States did not lift a finger to prevent the bloodthirsty militias from occupying the second largest city in Iraq and then waged a murky and shady war against ISIS. Already back then, maps of a divided Syria and Iraq with a fundamentalist Sunni state as a buffer against the Shi’ites were circulating in American newspapers. Even Churchill, who besides Syria and Iraq invented a Hashimite princedom together with the French, would have approved.
But ISIS, created from Al Qaeda’s rib, got out of hand, just like control was lost over the Mujahideen, which defeated the Red Army in Afghanistan and went on to become Taliban and Al Qaeda.
The third mistake was to believe that it would be possible to steer the Islamic fundamentalists, who had become the inspiration behind a sort of terrorism, from bringing the war in the Middle East to Europe.
The wars in Syria and Iraq is a result of these policies. It is legitimate that the victims of the Idlib province fill us with indignation, but we should also save some for our Western leaders who are incapable of extricating themselves from the sticky situation of miscalculations and interests for over three decades. The war in Iraq was approved with an enormous fabrication about weapons of mass destruction, Gaddafi, the closest ally of Italy in the Mediterranean, was toppled because he bothered the French, and now Assad is remaining at the helm because the Russians want so. And it’s time for the second chapter – dividing Syria. That’s what the killed in Idlib will serve.
This article was first published in Italian on Il Sole 24 ore, on 5 April 2017.
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