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What Social Animals Owe to Each Other

Monday, November 30, 2015

Why Assad Isn't "Our Son of a Bitch"

While Franklin Roosevelt may not have said that Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza "may be a son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch," he probably thought it -- just as other presidents have had similar thoughts about myriad brutal rulers.

So if the U.S. government has forced the American people to support useful dictators, why is it trying to overthrow Syria's brutal president, Bashar al-Assad, whose enemies -- Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Qaeda in Syria) and the Islamic State (the ambitious al-Qaeda offshoot) -- are also self-proclaimed enemies of America?

This question merits discussion in the establishment media, yet instead of discussion we get a parade of retired generals and CIA analysts, along with terrorism "experts," who insist that to defeat the Islamic State the U.S. government must end the Syrian civil war by ousting Assad. (That's a responsibility for the U.S. government?) In light of the catastrophic U.S. intervention in Iraq and Libya, isn't Assad's overthrow more likely to help the violent jihadist groups, principally the Islamic State? After all, in 2012 the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency acknowledged that American, Turkish, and Gulf state attempts to isolate Assad were leading to a radical caliphate.

To put this into a larger context, it's worth noting that the U.S government worked with Assad in the past. Syria was one of many countries to which the George W. Bush administration outsourced torture services in its "war on terror." Outsourcing torture has negative ring to it, so the administration called it extraordinary rendition (just as torture became enhanced interrogation). In a sense, then, Assad was our son of a bitch when the U.S. government needed him. Then he outlived his usefulness.

Why? The short answer is Iran.

The longer answer is that the U.S. government has been willing to play footsie with violent anti-Western jihadist organizations in order to undermine regimes it does not like. It used jihadists against secular pan-Arab regimes, such as Nasser's in Egypt, and it did the same against the Soviet-backed regime in Afghanistan -- attracting Osama bin-Laden. (Jimmy Carter's national-security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski bragged about it.)

Post-9/11, the U.S. government has tilted toward violent jihadist organizations in order to harm Iran and its friends. But overthrowing Iraq's Saddam Hussein, who had suppressed the Shia Muslim majority, predictably brought an Iran-friendly regime to power in Iraq, and the American military enabled Shia militias to rid Baghdad of Sunnis. Thus Bush's neoconservative brain trust had no reason to support regime change in Iraq unless Iran and its friends Assad and Hezbollah in Lebanon were next on the hit list. And they were.

With Saddam out of the picture, the U.S. government, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Israel could warn of the menacing "Shia Crescent" from Tehran to southern Lebanon (plus Yemen). Saudi Arabia, home of Sunni Wahhabism (the ideology of bin Ladenites), hates the reemergence of Shia rival Iran as a major regional power, and Israel wants, among other things, to undermine Hezbollah, which protects southern Lebanon from invasion and ate Israel's lunch in 2006. So Saudi Arabia, its Gulf partners, and Turkey (which wants to defeat the U.S.-backed Kurds) help violent jihadists against Assad (the moderate opposition was known to be a "fantasy"; the Assad opposition was violent from the start), while Israel and the U.S. government also weaken Assad while conducting covert war and facilitating terrorism against Iran. (The Iranian nuclear program is a bogus part of this campaign. Israel is the nuclear monopolist in the region.)

Iran is portrayed as on the march to regional conquest (or beyond), but that's ridiculous. It, like Russia (another neocon bogeyman), has long been Assad's Shia ally, the Houthi movement in Yemen has little to do with Iran, and Hezbollah arose against Israeli brutality in Lebanon. Assad's secular regime (like his father's) has not bothered Israel even though the self-identified Jewish state annexed Syria's Golan Heights, seized in the 1967 war. But being an ally of Iran and Hezbollah is enough for Israel to want to destabilize Syria.

All this adds up to an American, Saudi, Turkish, and Israeli preference for violent Sunni jihadists, the sort of people who attacked the Twin Towers and Paris, as the lesser evil -- regardless of what Obama, John Kerry, and Hillary Clinton say about the Islamic State.

Sheldon Richman keeps the blog Free Association and is a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society. Become a patron today! 

Cross-posted at the Center for a Stateless Society.


Anonymous said...

Sorry Sheldon, but I am going to have to disagree with you here.

The Syrian revolutionaries, plus the Nusra Front, are no one’s bitch, even as they fight off the Assad regime and the Bakr al-Baghdadi regime.

To the contrary, the United States prefers the continuation of the Syrian regime (they are more flexible about who the head is) while Israel prefers Assad to the rebels.

Here are a few analytical posts that rebut a lot of the anti-revolutionary talking points:





Sheldon Richman said...

"The Syrian revolutionaries, plus the Nusra Front, are no one’s bitch...."

I never said otherwise.

It's only lately that Obama and Hillary Clinton have suggested that getting rid of Assad is not the priority. I think they were pushed by events, the most recent being Paris. Before that, the government's conduct suggested otherwise -- that Assad was the top target. And Israel has given medical help to jihadists, returning them to the battle, while striking at Hezbollah in Syria. Israeli officials say that radical Sunnis are a lesser evil than the Shia.

Anonymous said...

I should at least introduce my name. My name is Ishmam.

For now, I will only deal with the allegation about alleged Israeli support for the Syrian revolution.

Please note that I am anti-state, anti-Israel but also pro-Syrian revolution. I also consider myself to be of the left. As a libertarian and a leftist, I have been disheartened by the fact that both leftists and libertarians have allowed their anti-imperialist attitudes to get in the way of a proper perspective.

Syrian revolutionaries do not all deserve to be accused of being 'jihadists' and such arguments about 'jihadism' and 'anti-imperialism' does not warrant the disregard libertarians and leftists have displayed towards the Syrian revolution. Note that I am against all imperialism, whether American or Russian, so my support for the Syrian revolution is also built on an anti-imperialist foundation.

Anyway, back to Israel. To summarise, the treatment of 1,500 Syrians in Israeli hospitals is not a reason to dismiss the struggle against Assad in southern Syria. 500 of those Syrians were women & children, while there is no evidence that the vast majority of the men were not civilians (even putting aside the fact that Syrian rebels were former civilians and conscripts who were forced to take up arms in defense).

Note also that Palestinian civilians and even fighters have been treated in Israeli hospitals in the past. Does that undermine the legitimacy of the Palestinian struggle? Of course not. Neither should the Syrian revolution be attacked on those grounds.

Israeli attacks on Hezbollah in southern Syria are conducted for its own imperialist interests, not on behalf of Syrian revolutionaries.

Please, I encourage you to at least skim through some of the analysis found on the following link. Karadjis has made sure to read and analyse the sources in question, so he isn't going by hearsay.

We are all short on time, but in my experience, people have ended up denigrating the Syrian revolution on the basis of anti-revolution hearsay, a failure to integrate 'awkward' facts and the prevalence of hypocritical (or at least ironic) arguments. This issue is too important for anti-revolution arguments to go unchecked.


Anonymous said...

no the Syrian counter revolutionaries openly supported Obama' coup and Color Revolution when he gave the order in march 2011. This is what was happening, it was a very major operation.
They were to be in the words of one insider to be made slave and you will be enslaved. r economy will be taken over, raw materials and profits exported, you will be required to import everything you need. There won't be enough money and you will have to get loans from the IMF and foreign banks.
Free Market Economics/Monetarism is being described, which would have been imposed.
As also said "this makes them the dumbest revolutionaries in the whole of Arab history".
When that failed the order was given for a Covert Operation using Jihadist paramilitaries.

The Syrian government is defending the country.
These "lefties2 are giving aid to a hostile foreign power.

The key War Aim of Washington is the overthrow of the Syrian government and placing of a client government in power.
it has yet to abandon that War Aim.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to come back. One more time.
By definition Covert Operations, as they are technically knowm run out of Washington with an army of paramilitaries they have recruited is not a Civil War.

it is standard for Washington to claimed as the Covert Op goes on it wishes to bring peace and end the fighting. There are many examples of this.