By Jeremy Salt
Let us be crystal clear about this. The road to the bombings in Paris began with the invasion of Iraq. It ran through the destruction of Libya and the attempted destruction of Syria. One of the principal architects of the destruction of Libya and the attack on Syria is the current president of the United States. Another is the woman who hopes to be the next US president. Under Saddam Hussein and Muammar al Qaddafi there was Al Qaida in Iraq and Libya. There was no Al Qaida in Syria. There was no Islamic State anywhere. War opened the cracks and fissures out of which have emerged the most murderous groups the world has seen since – since different kinds of murderous groups called ‘governments’ launched the attacks on three Arab countries that have led to the death of hundreds of thousands of people. In destroying the governments that held these countries together they removed the lid holding down the boiling, fermenting mass out of which has come the Islamic State and the terrorists who have just slaughtered more than 130 people in Paris.
In Syria, despite what they said, these governments have been supporting anyone prepared to take up arms against the Syrian government. The people they chose to call ‘rebels’ were almost all takfiri Muslims committed to the destruction of the very values they said they stood by. Of course, their wars were not about ‘values’ at all but about their own selfish concerns. In the past five years, not once have they expressed sympathy for the victims of thousands of atrocities committed by their armed protégés in the villages, towns and cities of Syria, on the streets, in homes, schools, universities and mosques. Now the world has to put up with the same leaders who have supported terrorism in Syria calling on the world to stand firm against terrorism in Europe, in the name of humanity and civilized values. Where was their humanity and where were their values during their wars on Iraq, Libya and Syria?
These ‘world leaders’ are moral reprobates who should spend the rest of their lives in penance, living off bread and water in atonement for their crimes, yet there they are every day grabbing the headlines as though the horrors we have seen since Iraq was invaded in 2003 – not to speak of the horrors inflicted on Iraq through the invasion of 1991 and the ten years of sanctions which followed – have nothing to do with them. ‘Stuff happens’, as Donald Rumsfeld once said. Hillary Clinton was in Tripoli a few days before Qaddafi was murdered. She said she was looking forward to his capture and killing and after he was murdered most savagely she celebrated with a little chuckle. She paused to oversee the destruction of Syria before moving on to her presidential campaign. Blair moved on to his Faith Foundation and George Bush back to his golf course. William Hague was hot for war but he moved on too.
Far from coming in behind Russia and the Syrian army to finish off the Islamic State, the governments that orchestrated the attack on Syria will be thinking of how to use the Paris attacks to undercut Russia. In the past month its air attacks have very significantly degraded the Islamic State’s fighting capacity in Syria. Only recently the Syrian army ended the long siege of the Kuwayris air base and is now poised to launch ground offensives against Idlib and Aleppo. In particular, the liberation of Aleppo will be the beginning of the end of the campaign to destroy the government in Damascus, which is why the Paris attacks have come at the most fortuitous moment. These attacks are the lever already being pulled to get the US and its European allies back into the game on their own terms.
At the G20 summit meeting in Turkey the heads of these governments have been calling on Russia to change its policy and come in behind them in attacking the Islamic State when they should be coming in behind Russia and the Syrian army if they are serious about destroying the Islamic State. Far from thanking Russia for doing such damage to the theoretically common enemy, European Council President Donald Tusk complains that Russian air attacks are increasing the number of Syrians trying to reach Europe. Here the intention is to scare the Europeans into giving the hard core of the anti-Syrian collective what it wants, which includes the bridgehead in Syria long sought by Turkey’s president and prime minister. Mr. Tusk has no evidence to back what he says. In fact, in the wake of the Russian attacks, what the evidence does indicate is that many Syrians are returning to their country.
Mr. Tusk does not mention the millions of Syrians already driven out as a consequence of the onslaught on Syria financed, armed and supported in other ways by the US, its European allies, the gulf states and Turkey. Tusk says Russia should concentrate on the Islamic State and leave the ‘moderate Syrian opposition’ alone. Cameron says the same thing, as if there is still someone left who believes there are ‘moderates’ in Syria. Cameron claims Russia is doing too much to ‘degrade the non-Isis opposition in Syria’, rather than attack the Islamic State, degrading, in other words, ‘people who could be part of the future of Syria.’ In truth, unless these people drop their arms and their ideology, they have no part to play in the future of Syria, especially as many of them are not even Syrians.
According to reporters, ‘western sources’ say Bashar al Assad could be part of an 18-month transition period. Here we have the repetition of a demand made long ago, modified as the result of their failure to force him out from ‘Assad must go’ to ‘Assad can be part of the transition process.’ What transition process, one has to ask, but they speak as if it is already arranged. These governments are still insisting that it is they and not the Syrian people who will choose the government of Syria. Their arrogance seems extraordinary but is no more than the reflexive consequence of telling the rest of the world what to do for the past 500 years. Elections in the past three years – monitored from the outside and shown to be completely fair – have shown that the Syrian people want Bashir to stay and there is not the slightest doubt that in open and fair elections they will vote him back. After all, he is coming close now to seeing off the most determined attempt ever made to destroy an Arab government. He will be more popular than ever.
Swept along on the ‘we are all Paris’ tide the French people and shocked and horrified people around the world need to get a grip on what is going on. The innocent have died in Iraq, Libya and Syria and now the innocent are dying in France. The same leaders now standing firm against terrorism turned these countries into breeding grounds for terrorism which they supported when it suited them and opposed when it did not. They lied, cheated and deceived their own people about their reasons for going to war. Since 2003 about half a million people in Iraq and Syria alone have died as the result of their wars and now it is their own people who have died. In the name of giving the Syrian people democracy they armed and financed pseudo-Islamic gangs who spit on democracy. They opened their coffers, their arms depots and their borders to make sure their protégés could do the job, succeeding only in half destroying Syria and putting swathes of territory in the hands of men who are the enemies of every civilization, including their own. They cannot say they were not warned by the men they wanted to destroy. Muammar al Qaddafi told them the ‘rebels’ they were supporting in Libya were Al Qaida and Bashar al Assad warned that western intervention in Syria would cause an earthquake across the region. By the ‘activists’ he was accused of scaremongering: ‘He is trying to make the uprising seem threatening to the West.’
They were all in on it. Francois Hollande supplied the Syrian armed groups with machine-guns, rocket-launchers and anti-tank missiles in violation of an EU embargo and can be presumed to have supplied much more weaponry since the embargo ended. The embargo was called off in 2013 under pressure from Britain and France, officially allowing weapons to be sent to ‘the opposition’, ‘the rebels’ and ‘the moderates’ as the armed groups were variously called. Talk of controlling where these weapons ended up was for public consumption only because once they were inside Syria there could be no control: a few months ago ‘moderates’ trained in Jordan crossed the Syrian border with their weapons only to join Jabhat al Nusra. This is hardly a reason for shock and horror because this group – Al Qaida’s arm in Syria – plays a central role in the takfiri collective funded from outside.
The president of the secular French republic has been using armed gangs to destroy the legitimate government of the only secular state in the Middle East. His allies are not just other ‘western’ governments but the Saudi theocracy and the Qatari slave state. The cry of ‘We are all Paris’ drowns out the truth of the recent past and the truth of the destructive role France has played in the Middle East over the past two centuries: Egypt, invaded by Napoleon in 1798 and attacked again by France in 1956; Algeria, invaded and occupied in 1830, its people massacred time after time; Tunisia, occupied in 1881; Syria, occupied in 1920, its Mediterranean flank cut off to form the republic of Lebanon and Palestine – southern Palestine – taken by the British and handed over by the Zionists; Syria, 1920-25, crushed by the French occupation, with the bodies of its resistance fighters killed in the Ghouta triumphantly put on display in the middle of Damascus and the ancient streets around the Umayyad mosque blown to bits by French machine-gun and tank fire; and Syria again in 1938, its northern region of Iskandariyya given to Turkey by the occupying French government. Now, in the past five years, a French government has been at it again. This situation is sick but a true measure of what Oswald Spengler called the decline of the west.
– Jeremy Salt is an associate professor of Middle Eastern history and politics at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.