International Boulevard

Syria: The Pro-Bombing Faction

Opinionmakers in the Arab world are predictably divided over America’s planned attack on Syria and President Obama’s effort to obtain congressional approval for a bombing campaign in support of anti-Assad rebels. Here, a survey of recent opinion among the pro-war faction in several countries.
The pro-bombing writers surveyed here base their arguments on claims of universal human rights and accusations of regime use of poison gas against civilians, but in most cases they represent factions or elite groups whose hatred of the Assad regime predates the recent suspected poison gas attacks, and indeed predates the entire course of the Syrian civil war and the Arab Spring. Their newfound concern for the welfare of the Syrian people should certainly be viewed in this light.


saud-al-faisal21Saudi minister of Foreign Affairs, Bin Faisal Al Saud.

The Saudi regime, financiers of the recent coup in Egypt, are longtime enemies of Assad, and the most important backers of the rebels in Syria. In this editorial from Saudi Arabia’s Arab News, the newspaper claims that overwhelming opinion in the Arab world is for an American attack, and underlines the Saudi regime’s leading role in the attempt to overthrow Assad.

The Kingdom has led the Arab world in condemning the horrific [Ghouta poison gas] incident in Syria, and called for stern global action against the Assad regime.

For far too long, the international community has failed to face up to the appalling events in Syria.

Despite the seemingly decisive words of his Cairo speech at the very start of his presidency, Barack Obama has demonstrated extreme caution, most particularly in confronting the monstrous Assad regime.

When Washington drew its line in the sand, saying that if Damascus used poison gas on its own people, the US attitude would change decisively, there was very probably the earnest hope that Assad and his creatures would do no such thing. That the dictator nevertheless last week launched just such an attack on the defenseless citizens of a Damascus suburb, demonstrated, not only the contempt with which he views world opinion, but also constitutes a direct challenge to Obama.

Now the Americans, it seems in company with the French and the British, are obliged to take notice of the overwhelming view in the Arab world, which has been led by the Kingdom.

This was expressed on Tuesday when Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal came up with one of the harshest condemnations of events in Syria.

Calling for a “decisive and serious” stand against Bashar Assad for the massacre of his own people, Prince Saud said that it was the responsibility of the international community to bring this humanitarian tragedy to an end.

The Assad regime, said Prince Saud had lost its identity, to the extent that it was no longer a part of the Syrian civilization that has contributed so much to the Arab world.

Yet even now, as the US at last prepares to strike at the Damascus dictatorship, there are questions. The Russians and Chinese remain opposed to military action.

In Moscow, President Vladimir Putin has gone on record, expressing his doubts that the regime really did launch the chemical attack.

The weapons inspectors are still conducting their tests and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is pleading for them to be allowed to complete their work.

The secretary-general is also emphasizing that a Security Council resolution will be necessary for the international community to act against Assad. Moscow and Beijing seem sure to obstruct any call for decisive action.

The UN chemical weapons team, meanwhile, is likely to continue to encounter more of the disruption that forced them to abandon part of their investigations on Tuesday.

The regime of course will deny that they had anything to do with the sniper fire that obliged UN inspectors to withdraw. Yet it was exactly this same tactic that was deployed to obstruct members of the Arab League mission in the early days of this bloody conflict.

Obama may yet find an excuse to avoid the decisive action for which the majority of Syrians are crying out in their agony. If Russia and China refuse to back a resolution authorizing the use of force against the Assad regime, will the US president genuinely seek another way to do what clearly needs to be done?

The time for expressions of horror and disgust has passed.

The time for the wringing of hands in despair is over.

The time for yet more threats and warnings has gone.

Now is the moment to put the promised retribution into effect.

Now is the time to demonstrate to Assad and his people and all those who support him, that there is a terrible price to pay for the regime’s loathsome treatment of its people.

As Prince Saud made perfectly clear, the international community and the Arab world in particular is waiting for action.

-The editors of Arab News


syria-rebels21Syrian rebels in Aleppo, October 2012. Photo Freedom House.

In Saudi Arabia’s London-based daily Al-Sharq al-Awsat, Syrian opposition figure Michel Kilo has several theories on why the Assad regime allegedly used poison gas against civilians even as it appeared to be winning the war. An excerpt here:

Just why did the Assad regime use chemical weapons?

A simple and direct answer to that question is that the Assad regime used chemical weapons because criminality is a core philosophy of this regime, which has ruled Syria over the past five decades according to the equation, “Either we rule you or kill you!” Today, it seems that the Assad regime is no longer able to rule, and so has moved directly to killing.

The Syrian elite have upheld the criminal Assad dynasty because it is expressive of their own nature, as shown by the limitless backing they offered Bashar Al-Assad, rather than rising up against him and standing against his homicidal approach. They followed their foolish president without objection or hesitation, and now they continue to follow him towards the edge of the abyss, even though they assumed leading positions in Syria long before he was born and have taken the lead in handling Syria’s problems over the past 50 years.

In addition to this, there is also an indirect answer related to the current state of affairs regarding the struggle against the Assad regime. It is this same regime that three months ago launched its fifth strategic attack against the Syrian people and the Free Syrian Army (FSA). The Syrian media applauded what happened, launching a campaign of lies to claim that what happened represented a pivotal victory for the regime that completely transformed the strategic reality on the ground. This includes claims of the fall of Al-Qusayr, reports of huge troop deployments around the heroic city of Homs, enforcement of a blockade on Jabal Al-Zawiya, and the recapture of Deir Ezzor and Aleppo with the assistance of Hezbollah.

However, these claims were false, and the regime’s plans ultimately backfired following defeats at Khan Al-Assal, Ming Airbase and Al-Sahel.

All of this is coupled with the emergence of an unprecedented phenomenon, namely the flight of Syria’s pro-Assad elite-including the military elite-who had remained firm and unyielding over the past two years and more. However, at Khan Al-Assal, Ming and Al-Sahel, it was military officers who escaped, a new phenomenon that perhaps foreshadows a possible sudden collapse of the entire regime.

To confront this possibility, those who undertook the war against the people proposed the idea of carrying out a strike that will completely suppress the protests. For those managing this war, this strike had to be strong enough to prompt a Free Syrian Army collapse and ensure the regime stays in power for a long period of time, boosting the low morale of its military. This explained the chemical strike’s barbaric nature, with the number of victims standing at 10,000, according to some estimates. According to information leaked from inside the city, the strike exterminated a considerable part of the city in eastern and western Ghouta, something that the regime saw as necessary for the success of any attacks on the Free Syrian Army.

-Michel Kilo


syria-lebanon-checkpoint21Checkpoint at Syria-Lebanon border. Photo: Freedom House.

In Lebanon, parts of the Maronite Christian establishment seem eager to see Assad overthrown, even as the Christian clergy of both countries warns that Western interference could be catastrophic. In L’Orient Le Jour, Michel Touma writes that Al-Assad is no protector of Christian minorities, and claims that some of Lebanon’s violent Sunni jihad groups are controlled by Damascus.

Syrian propaganda has succeeded in making Bashar al Assad appear to the West as a secular president and a protector of Syria’s Christians. In reality, however, he has frequently made use of Islamist movements to solidify his power, in particular against the Christians of Lebanon.

Bashar al Assad’s regime is a master of the use of disinformation. Unfortunately, many in the West and in Lebanon are still letting themselves be taken in by his diabolical schemes. Since the uprising that began on March 15, 2011, in particular, the regime’s deceptive slogans have been much in evidence: “Bashar al-Assad is the defender of the Christian minority”; “The Syrian Regime is a bulwark against the Jihadis,” etc.

Many western politicians and opinionmakers base their decisions and actions on such received truths. Even in Lebanon, a certain part of the Christian population and its clergy exhibit a remarkable degree of political blindness or pretend not to see what is really happening in front of their faces. Because even a cursory look at the facts on the ground is enough to demolish the edifice of lies built by the regime in Damascus.

A reminder of these facts might be useful, since a number of western legislators and politicians, supported by a portion of their public, are looking for excuses to campaign against airstrikes on Bashar al-Assad’s war machine. They have been finding pretexts for such an anti-airstrike campaign in Syrian regime propaganda.

Those in the west, in Lebanon, and in Russia who continue to support the Assad regime, even indirectly, surely do not know or perhaps they hypocritically pretend not to know that this same Assad clique has for years made use of Sunni jihadi organizations to carry out destructive attacks whenever needed.

As recently as last week, Lebanon’s internal security agency discovered that the double car bombing which bloodied north Lebanon’s main city of Tripoli, killing 45 and injuring hundreds, was carried out by Syrian intelligence services. To carry their demonic attack, they made use of a tiny Lebanese Sunni fundamentalist group, the Tawhid Brigade. Its chief, Hashim Minkara, currently under arrest for obstruction of justice, (he is alleged to have known of plans for the attack) and his second in command, Sheikh Ahmed al-Gharib (also detained) are accused of being part of the terrorist cell that provided the two car bombs.

Lebanese courts have issued arrest warrants for a Captain Mohamed Ali, a Syrian intelligence officer, and a second Syrian citizen, Khodr el-Aryane, accused of parking the car bombs with the help of the Sunni fundamentalists.

During the Lebanese civil war, this same Baathist regime likewise created another small Sunni fundamentalist group in Beirut, using it periodically as boogeyman against what was then the–Christian–opposition. Today’s defenders of the Assad clique seem to have entirely forgotten or at least pretend not to remember that for more than 35 years, since the beginning of the 1970s, the Baathist regime has never let up in its efforts to break the power of the Christians in Lebanon.

Because the Assad regime (since the days of the current president’s father Hafez al-Assad) understood very well that Lebanon’s Christians were the main obstacle to Damascus’s domination of Lebanon. In order to maintain the occupation of Lebanon, Christian power had to be broken, in particular, any Christian voices that were raised for the country’s independence and against the diktats of the Assads. For these same reasons the Lebanese presidents Bachir Gemayel and Rene Moawad were assassinated, and numerous Christian leaders forced into exile.

-Michel Touma


hagel-israel21US Secretary of Defense Charles Hagel with Moshe Yaalon Israeli Defense minister, April 2013

In Israel, establishment opinion strongly favors an American attack on the country’s longtime enemy. In Tel Aviv’s Yedioth Ahronoth, an op-ed ridicules president Obama as a weakling for not unilaterally attacking Syria without a congressional vote.

President Barack Obama won’t get any medals of honor for his handling of the Syrian crisis. Even if he eventually orders a military strike on the Assad regime, historians will mock him.

They will write that in 2012 he set a red line for Syria, which was crossed in 2013, but he made every effort to shirk his obligation.

They will write that he organized a limited attack and prayed until the very last minute that it will be rendered unnecessary. His body language projected determination, but his actions projected weakness.

There was no military or constitutional barrier which prevented Obama from striking Syria over a week ago, when the world was still under the impression of the horrible images from the chemical attack on rebel-strongholds near Damascus. US warships in the Mediterranean have at any given moment enough Tomahawk missiles to carry out such a simple mission. There is no shortage of targets either. Two or three salvos would have made it clear to all the crazies of the Middle East that the US keeps its word.

But for Obama, even this bare minimum was too much. He wasted time and energy on forming an unnecessary western coalition, as if this was world war three. Instead of calling IDF chief Benny Gantz and asking for his advice on how to bomb Syria without the scrutiny of the High Court and B’Tselem, the White House phoned everyone else in the world to seek approval for a strike. The largest superpower in the world became small-minded.

According to most reports, Obama was not furious when the parliament in London voted against an attack. In fact, he breathed a sigh of relief. The British refusal gave him the inspiration for the ploy – taking the decision on a strike in Syria to Congress.

Obama purposely complicated the situation to gain another two to three week window which he hopes will present him with an opportunity to avoid a military operation against Assad. He hopes that during this time a compromise offer will surface or that some event will distract the world from the situation in Syria. Who knows, maybe the Israeli government will suddenly decide to build seven and a half apartments in east Jerusalem? Then even the neutral Brits will vote enthusiastically in favor of a strike.

-Hagai Segal

TAGS:America In Other Words Bombing Israel Lebanon Saudi Arabia Strikes Syria USA War

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