[Posted by Lara Keller 6/3/16 Updated 15/3/16]
[Update 15th March 2016 …. Three recent developments may well put a different spin on the way in which the defeat of the Syrian Revolution is being planned. Yesterday Putin announced that Russia would be withdrawing the bulk of it’s air-force, whose bombing of Syria has reversed the fortunes of the Assad militias (a blitzkrieg of 9000 sorties since Sept 2015). A clear pattern of increased diplomatic exchanges and visits between the Sunni monarchies and the Kremlin. Apparent tension between the Assad and the Russians….. This could add up to a plan by Putin to extend Russian influence beyond Shia Iran, Iraq and Syria, towards the Sunni authoritarian regimes (while saving money and military hardware for other wars). Creating a dubious “peace” in Syria by cutting support from the Sunni monarchies for the Syrian Opposition (both the moderates and extremists) in exchange for a re-balancing of the Assad regime towards the wealthy Sunni business class in Syria. They have lost ground since Hafez was replaced by Bashar in 2000. A new authoritarian regime that appears not to be Shia Alawite dominated could then be presented as a compromise, and a triumph for diplomacy. The US would then have no alternative but to drop their half hearted support for the moderate democratic Syrian Opposition. Any opposition to effectively a re-branded Assad regime could then be crushed without outside intervention. An example of this kind of process on a much smaller scale can be seen in the Algerian Civil War of the 1990s.]
Nearly two weeks ago now US president Barack Obama finished his speech, with the phrase the “world will be watching”, just before the ceasefire in Syria on the 27th February was due to start. This is exactly what the world has been doing for the last five years, as the Assad dictatorship has fought a war against ordinary Syrians demanding representative government. Most of the speech was directed at so called “Islamic State”. It did include the statements “there’s no alternative to a managed transition away from Assad”, and that many Syrians would continue to fight while he remained in power.
Russia has been supplying military support to Assad throughout this conflict, and has been conducting an intensive bombing campaign against the Syrian Opposition (and to a lesser extent towards Islamic State) since last September. The Assad regime is now advancing, and looks set to crush the opposition. The chance of serious support for the Syrian opposition appears to be close to zero. Industrial scale murder and torture by the Assad regime, that has impoverished and starved millions, killed hundreds of thousands, tortured tens of thousands to death and even dropped chemical weapons on civilians, has provoked no meaningful response, beyond an endless media debate of distorted swirling half-truths. The absurdity of this debate has been covered before in depth, and there is no point in revisiting it now (see: https://partnershipblog.wordpress.com/2015/11/30/assad-regime-arguments-against-non-intervention/).
The Assad regime will win back dictatorial control of Syria, unless there is a sharp change in Western foreign policy. Bashar Assad was only ever a figurehead, and will be replaced by another psychopath from the regime’s inner circle. The security forces will continue to torture men, women and children. Human rights reports will be written and ignored as they have been for the last 45 years. Damascus’ luxury shopping malls and shanty towns will continue to expand. The Gulf States will direct their support for Islamic Extremists away from Syria, towards Tunisia and Libya, where the threat of the Arab people demanding their rights and dignity continues. The states around Syria will turn the refugees back towards the Assad prison state. Young Syrians will say as young Algerians do now, that the only hope is emigration. Western secret services will sigh with relief that the status quo of stability by threat of torture has been returned to Syria. The Hard Right will say that this is the only way that Muslims deserve to live. The Hard Left will sip their cappuccinos, and congratulate themselves on defeating “Capitalist Imperialism” in Syria. They will then continue with their real work of leading the left up radical blind alleys. The bitterest fruits will be human scars of young lives blighted by the conflict, and the moral and spiritual scar that inevitably “Syria” will be shouted every time an appeal is made to support people struggling against brutal authoritarianism.
Discounting the defeat of the Syrian Revolution shows an acute failure of analysis. Our leaders have been so careful in appeasing international tension, they are creating a greater crisis.
The situation is this:
An impending economic crisis is set to overwhelm international economic cooperation. Western democracies unravel into nationalistic authoritarian states, with the covert support of Russian and Chinese dictatorships. At this time the success of the Arab Democratic Revolution would be highly valuable to ordinary people in the West, informing a popular counter movement to isolation and paranoid nationalism. The authoritarian counter revolution is currently winning in the Middle East. The defeat or victory of the revolution in Syria would determine which way this tide flows.
The background is:
Market fundamentalism over the last 35 years has led to an international economic system built on historically unsustainable levels of debt, owed to elites who own an international financial system beyond any national control. The only method of temporary redistribution of accumulated capital demands continuously increasing debt.
The response to ever deepening economic crises and endless austerity, will be aggressive nationalism and attempts to regain national economic control. This will be led by the resources of the same global elites who created the problem. These elites are no longer fighting any ideological war, as happened during the Cold War. The result is that public opinion is no longer required in the West to win this type of conflict, resulting in relatively weak democratic institutions.
Economic power will not be regained by democratically elected governments. Instead it will pass to monopolies run by these elites, replacing unaccountable international corporations and money markets, with powerful crony capitalists. See Russia, China, India and Brazil for contemporary large scale examples of this process.
This corrupt process in the West provided the ideological backing for the “market fundamentalism” that replaced it in the 1980s. Most of the blame was directed by the media to traditional trade unions, with the larger problem of business monopolies mostly ignored.
A system of mutually beneficial international trade agreements, and national economies which balance and blend social responsibility with individual enterprise is possible. It requires politics that are not polarized, and an atmosphere of constructive progress rather than crisis. Chance of this is zero.
Greater nationalism will inevitably lead to fragmentation of relationships between democratic nations, followed by authoritarianism. Solutions to the most critical and urgent problems of our times, “climate change” and related “resource shortages” will never be agreed in this atmosphere.
Not to grasp the reality of the shared interests of global elites that has developed since the end of the Cold War is laughable. This is true internationally and regionally. Much is made of the proxy war and sectarianism in Syria, with the greater theme of resisting authoritarianism ignored. All the governments backing sides in the conflict, want the return of authoritarianism, and promoting sectarianism is the main way to achieve this. The answer is for ordinary people in democratic countries to demand foreign policies that support the rights of the Syrian people, rather than the narrow elitist agenda of Western elites or political extremists.
A strong healthy democratic culture in the West that we do not realise that we now need, would never have allowed mass murder, starvation and torture to bulldoze the revolution for representative government in Syria. Half-truths would not have swept aside solidarity with the revolution. It was a chance to turn back the counter revolution against the Arab Democratic Uprising that has been thrown away. An uprising whose courage and spirit we need desperately. As the defeat of the Syrian Revolution slips from the headlines, expect shocks that put small scale extremist terrorism in the West into clear perspective.