The Syrian Puzzle and the future of the Middle East


France Leads Neocolonial Carve-up of Syria 

By Finian Cunningham

November 17, 2012 "
Information Clearing House" - French President Francois Hollande told his nation this week: “Decline is not our destiny”. Aptly for the theme of putative French renaissance, Hollande delivered his speech amid the splendor and opulence of the Elysee Palace in Paris.

The seat of French government can be seen as symbolic of the wealth that France has exploited over centuries from countless people around the world under its colonial subjugation. France’s supposed modern status is thus paid for with the blood, sweat and misery of impoverished African and Asian nations. So too, it seems, will its efforts to be a great power once more.

Not that all that expropriated wealth down through the centuries seems to have benefited the ordinary French people. Today, the country is mired in record unemployment, shocking inner-city poverty and decay, and deepening deficits.

However, as in foregone times, the French ruling class appears to be seeking political and economic salvation from its national woes through foreign adventurism, or what may be deemed neo-colonialism. And again countless people will pay for French imperialist meddling with their blood and suffering.

Nowhere is this more clearly seen than in regard to Syria, one of France’s former colonies. For the past 20 months, France and that other colonial has-been Britain have been at the forefront of the conspiracy of foreign powers to destabilize the government of President Bashar Al Assad.

Massacres, car bombings, executions, kidnappings - every form of terror has been deployed against Syrian civilians by foreign mercenaries supported by France, Britain, the US, Turkey, Israel and the Persian Gulf Arab dictatorships of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The Western media spin this criminality as a noble uprising or a civil war when in reality it is a covert war of aggression fomented by France, Britain, Washington and their regional proxies.

What gives these foreign powers the right to subvert a sovereign government is nothing but their own arrogant presumption. As the former colonial power in this part of the Middle East, France seems to be particularly laden with this arrogant self-righteousness.

This week saw the French government crowning the newly cobbled together Syrian National Coalition as the “sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people”. The coalition was hastily hammered out last weekend after a week of horse-trading among squabbling exiles and political careerists in a luxury hotel in Doha, the Qatari capital. The newfound group - which is reported, somewhat laughably, to represent 90 per cent of the Syrian opposition - is meant to replace the former Syrian National Council. The latter - another Western creation - was riven with petty rivalries and was seen as having no control over the myriad militant groups ransacking Syrian society. It wasn’t quite delivering for its foreign masters, and so was unceremoniously dumped.

What makes the SNC Mark II any more representative or legitimate is nothing other than Western diplomatic and media propaganda that is infusing an image of gravitas. The new group is headed by Syrian Sunni cleric Moaz Al Khatib and it is to be based in Cairo. However, opposition parties within Syria that are calling for negotiated reforms with the Assad government in Damascus say that the SNC is not representative of their position or the vast majority of Syrian people.

For a start, the Western-backed exile group has made it a primary principle to not entertain any negotiations with the Syrian government - even though the latter has an elected mandate from the citizens living in Syria. This point-blank refusal to negotiate with the Assad administration is in contravention of the Geneva accord that was formed last June in discussions between Russia, China and the Western states. Not surprisingly, the Western regimes have backslided on their empty, treacherous words when it suits their cynical self-interests.

What is going on here is a move by the Western governments and their regional allies to contrive a Syrian government-in-exile, regardless of its complete lack of legitimacy, in order for the foreign enemies of Assad to find a legal way to increase weapons supplies to the mercenaries and to set up no-fly zones. This has become a necessity because the foreign conspiracy to destroy Syria from within has so far failed - despite copious covert supply of weaponry from the West via its conduits of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. 

The French neo-colonialists are leading the way in this next phase of covert aggression. President Hollande stated this week: “I announce that France recognizes the Syrian National Coalition as the sole representative of the Syrian people and thus as the future provisional government of a democratic Syria and to bring an end to Bashar Al Assad’s regime.”

Note that while the US, Britain, Germany and the Arab League had only granted the SNC official recognition as the Syrian opposition, Paris was jumping the gun to afford governmental status. This move is an outrageous assault on Syrian sovereignty, which Damascus rightly denounced as an “act of war”.

No sooner had the French unilaterally anointed this elitist exile group as the government-in-waiting than the predictable logical next step was taken. France, it was disclosed, would now open up the way for officially supplying weapons to the Syrian militants - despite the fact that the European Union has an embargo on all arms sales to Syria.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said: “For the moment, there is an embargo, so there are no arms being delivered from the European side. The issue ... will no doubt be raised for defensive arms."

No doubt indeed. One begins to detect the smell of grease being slapped on to the rhetoric and legalities. Fabius went on to explain that “weapons for defensive purposes” could include anti-aircraft missiles.

Thus the French government has in one fell swoop created a parallel government for Syria, based in Cairo, which in turn allows Paris to openly supply weapons in spite of an EU arms embargo. With such weaponry, the mercenaries will be able to set up “no-fly zones” - or as the French like to call them “liberated zones” - near the Turkish border and within Syria.

This is the beginning of Syrian sovereign territory being carved up by terrorist gangs who have no support among the Syrian people - indeed have been committing endless atrocities against the people - and who could only achieve such a feat because of criminal foreign intervention.

France’s militarist vanguard role in Syria is a repeat of how it paved the way last year for arming anti-government militants in Libya and a seventh-month NATO aerial bombardment of that country, which led to some 50,000 deaths and the murder of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. France is also taking a prominent lead in calling for military intervention in the West African state of Mali, allegedly to defeat “Islamic terrorism”.

In other words, French neo-colonialism is strutting with a newfound arrogance. Ironically, however, this resurgence in French militarism and apparent prowess is closely related to the country’s chronic demise as a bankrupt, broken-down capitalist power.

While President Francois Hollande spoke this week about “decline not being France’s destiny” he also outlined a grim package of public spending cuts and tax hikes on the nation.

Evidently, the fiscal austerity demanded by the French ruling class does not extend to cuts in military funding for conflict in Syria and elsewhere around the world. Decline would seem to be everyone’s destiny except, bien sur, for the deluded French neocolonialist rulers.

Finian Cunningham (born 1963) has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. He is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in journalism.
This article was originally posted at 
Press TV

Michael Hastings, whose article in Rolling Stone led to the firing of General McChrystal in Afghanistan has also been following Petraeus for years. He writes that in Afghanistan:

The reputations of the men who were intimately involved in these years of foreign misadventure, where we tortured and supported torture, armed death squads, conducted nightly assassinations, killed innocents, and enabled corruption on an unbelievable scale, lie in tatters. McChrystal, Caldwell, and now Petraeus — the era of the celebrity general is over. Everyone is paying for their sins. (And before we should shed too many tears for the plight of King David and his men, remember, they’ll be taken care of with speaking fees and corporate board memberships, rewarded as instant millionaires by the same defense establishment they served so well.)

David Petraeus ran two illegitimate, unjust occupations, the whole Central Command, and now the CIA. Adultery is surely the least of his crimes.

Bales, who did four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, arguably was driven nuts, as his lawyers assert. His crime is a horror, as we saw from testimony linked into Fort Lewis over the last few days from victims in Afghanistan.  The AP 

The stories recounted by the villagers have been harrowing. They described torched bodies, a son finding his wounded father, and boys cowering behind a curtain while others screamed, “We are children! We are children!”

The actions of both of these men represent the real face of the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan, and they need to be thoroughly investigated, with the aim of keeping criminals like this away from people they could kill.
Copyright © 2012 War Criminals Watch. All Rights Reserved.


This is a lucid explanation of the Arab Spring's mysterious angle: what are the reasons for the conservative Saudis to support radicals abroad. To my knowledge, nobody yet explained it as clearly as Dr Omar Kassem, an Egyptian scholar residing in London: Israel Shamir

The Syrian Puzzle and the future of the Middle East

Omar Kassem

The Arab Spring, for all its meanderings, is a harbinger of the end of the post-colonial era in the Arab world. If America and Britain are finally going to be leaving the area to its own devices with a rump military presence no bigger or larger than anywhere else in the world, it isn’t without having tried in an expensive and delusional millennial moment to upgrade from post-colonialism to empire. In an example of the delusion, nine years ago Paul Bremer was accepting Israeli bids to run the Iraq electricity grid.

American and British failure in the area was down to their actions always hurting their friends more than their enemies. This was the policy of seriously flawed leaders who were not checked by the democratic systems in their countries. Once begun, the lunacy continued. Now forced to leave (or not to leave, that is the question!) Afghanistan in disarray, there is apparently a new desire to get involved in Syria. That’s not all, for America and Britain are now also in the position of having to condemn Assad’s regime in Syria, support al-Thani’s régime in Bahrain, and keep a straight face, all at the same time.

Having hurt Saudi Arabia with their lunatic gallivanting about the Middle-East, America and Britain are now having to make amends. This is not of course out of any contrition, for Anglo-Saxon moral certitude is unbending, but because they need Saudi Arabia to help them with the task of containing Iran, a long-time enemy, since it was unintentionally propelled by their policies into suddenly becoming the most powerful country in the region. If oil sanctions on Iran are to work, then Saudi help is vital.

In October 2009 King Abdulla of Saudi Arabia visited Bashar al-Assad to have him relinquish his Iranian alliance and to act more ‘within the Arab fold’. If Baghdad was lost, then perhaps Damascus could be regained. But the trip was a failure. Not only didn’t Assad budge, but he unwisely reminded Abdulla that the Iranians had so far been the Palestinian cause’s best chance. Little did Assad know it, but he was setting himself up then for the situation he finds himself in today. The best example I can give of the new direct enmity between Riyadh and Damascus is the almost contemporaneous attacks on each other’s intelligence headquarters in July 2012.

Of course, in giving the Saudis and Qataris strong support in the Syrian situation, without being drawn into what would become possibly the ultimate military quagmire, the Americans and the British are, in another example of self-contradictory policies in the Middle-East, supporting the rise of a traditionally and absolutely anti-colonial regional movement: that of the Muslim Brothers. This movement is at the epicentre of a broad shift in politics in the Middle-East, and Egypt is at its core.

Turkey is often seen as the source of a new politics for the region; as in Russia, religion there has made a comeback, junking the drab meaningless secular fascism of the past. The AKP’s Islamic idea has been trumpeted as the model for a troublesome area. But that’s not how the Muslim Brothers see it. Of course it is good thing that the people of Turkey have re-engaged with their traditional normative philosophy of life, one which furthermore extends into the political sphere. But while the Arabs and the Turks have found friendship, Turks cannot offer the Arabs a model of Islam of the future. Memories are long, and scholars are deeply conscious of the fact that it was Ottoman ‘State Islam’ which undermined the true nature of the faith. Wahhabism was only one of a long series of revivalist movements that sought to overturn it. Furthermore, the latinisation of the Turkish language, as well as the abolition of the caliphate, continue to cause offense. The Turks know all this despite their Ottoman instincts.

Thus the problem isn’t about religion as such, it is about identity. Despite reports to the contrary, and some fraying at the fringes, Egypt is a deeply homogeneous nation. This homogeneity is both racial and ideational. The latter factor is based on a conception of the 19th century Egyptian reformers – at their head Mu?ammad ‘Abduh – who, in reaction to the overwhelming dominance of western culture then, defined Islamic civilisation in opposition to it. It in fact was the beginning of the ‘clash of civilisations’ idea, and changed the nature of the religion from a normative philosophy into a mark of the self. Egypt exported this idea to the rest of the Muslim world, and it is an idea which unites apparently secular to apparently religious, and apparently Muslim to apparently Christian. The creation of Israel and its insistence on being a ‘Jewish state’ in the midst of the Arab world subsequently provided this idea its cause célèbre. The Muslim Brothers vision is still couched in the absolute need to return this identity to Egypt and the Arab world, but it is one that still needs to face the constant tests of democracy lest it become dogmatic.

The democratic battle after the January 25th 2011 uprising was bitterly fought, but it was principally vested interests – ironically beneficiaries of state sinecures and of crony capitalism both fighting a retrograde battle - who opposed the Islamic parties. Ultimately it was the instigators of the uprising, the youth movement and the April 6th movement, who, as the swing vote, saw the need to give the Islamic parties their head. They were repaid by Morsi the new civilian President hailing from the Muslim Brothers, with his relatively quick domestication of the military, although obviously a considerable amount still remains to be done constitutionally (if not economically!).

But the story of the Muslim Brothers cannot be seen from a purely Egyptian angle, for it is a regional movement. Al-Jazeera satellite TV channel, with al-Arabiyya TV in its wake, owned and run as they are by Gulf monarchs, broadcast continuous live footage of the Arab Spring, essentially facilitating the uprisings and fomenting revolution. So how did Gulf monarchs ever come to promote revolution – one may ask – with the Emir of Qatar at their head? The Emir of Qatar clearly has the support of important elements of the Saudi state. Qatar in fact has been at the forefront of fulfilling the Saudi policy of Arabisation of the Palestinian cause, competing with Iran for the rebuilding of Hezbollah’s infrastructure after the pointless 2006 Israeli demolition of it, and now also planning a major reconstruction of poor Gaza. The answer is that these developments are rooted in the history of the Muslim Brothers in Saudi Arabia ever since the 1950’s.

The Muslim Brothers as the strongest political contenders after the Egyptian revolution of 1952 were forcibly crushed by Gamal Abdel Nasser’s military régime. They sought sanctuary in Saudi Arabia and were granted it by the Wahhabi establishment in exchange for their help in fighting the spread of secularism and nationalism across the Arab world. While Nasser was the gravest threat, there were also the Ba‘ath parties in Syria and Iraq to contend with. Arriving in Saudi Arabia, the Muslim Brothers were wholly unlike the Wahhabi religious establishment. This last was a traditional doctrinal culture, unprepared for the social and economic upheavals that were to come in the wake of the oil boom. The Muslim Brothers on the other hand had run schools and hospitals for the poor in Egypt, and fostered an education surrounding an understanding of imperialism and colonialism, all of which would eventually help shape and run the new institutions of the Saudi state.

In alliance with the Wahhabi establishment, the Muslim Brothers came to criticise some of the policies of modernisation carried out by the Saudi royal family when too much western influence was permitted. Eventually however their shrill response to rising levels of poverty, high unemployment and economic stagnation in the Kingdom, became its primary source of dissent, and caused consternation. Subsequently divisions between the new revivalism and the gradually ossifying Wahhabi establishment opened up in the course of a series of crises: first in the seizure of Mecca’s sacred mosque and the call to overthrow al-Saud in November 1979, then in Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, and also after al-Qaeda’s 11 September 2001 attacks. On each occasion, under pressure from all quarters, the royal family sought the support of the Wahhabi establishment, and survived thanks to it. But each resolution and accommodation as it arose was met with general unpopularity and criticism. The régime became embattled and the Wahhabi establishment came to be seen as out of touch. From this state of affairs arose the policy of support for the Muslim Brothers in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Syria as an attempt to export their relentless energy and relieve tensions internally, while creating client states in the Arab world dependent on the Gulf nations for funding and support.

The rest is history as they say, but we are left with the Syrian morass. If that domino is to fall, and Syria is ‘return to the Arab fold’ in a new and democratic way, the best way forward is to starve the rebels of funds for arms, and make all help conditional on peaceful mass protests, at once. Thus ending the violence and leaving Assad, now no longer embattled and needing support, in the clutches of his people, to be held to account by them, will result in democracy. The Iranian régime will not prop him up if a democratic process truly gets under way, because they will want to deal with a legitimate government, and are quite capable of negotiating with one that is either Sunni or Alawi dominated or one that is a mixture of both. Don’t be fooled into thinking that there are any kinds of religious obstacles to such an outcome. But if the force of arms is permitted to have its way, then, given current circumstances, the rise of the Muslim brothers in Syria will not be as benign as it should be, confessional polarisation and potentially endless unnecessary suffering will ensue. As we saw in Egypt in Ta?rir Square, we need to see Muslims and Christians in Syria holding hands in protest.

Dr Kassem’s bio: I'm Egyptian, aged 60, and I live in London most of the time at the moment. I'm married have 3 children, 2 grown up, 1 still in education. I'm a graduate of Cambridge in theoretical economics. I'm a postgrad of London Uni., School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), Msc. in monetary theory. I'm a doctor (PhD) again of London Uni., School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), specialised in theory of justice (social choice theory) (1984), subsequently worked quite a lot on Kant and the Enlightenment and Islamic philosophers, finishing off a book on philosophy (in English first) available in early new year for peer review

It is my belief that the 17th century nation-state, which took over in Europe from the catholic church when it collapsed, although it has now spread to all countries of the world, is an outmoded system of human governance which will take us to the brink of destruction unless human beings reassert control over it.

An earlier letter From Omar Kassem re: (Turks and Syrians from Shamir)

A very interesting and knowledgeable explanation of the Arab Spring:

well done on a good article!

there is however one thing which I disagree with you about and that is the Neocon plan for the middle east coming about if Assad falls. If Assad falls: if he falls the Muslim Brothers will take over Syria with Qatari money. Now I support the MB in Egypt because they have been the country's social conscience and its welfare system for 85 years. But in Egypt the MB have a particular place among all the other forces with which it is balanced in the context of a homogeneous population. In Syria there is no such thing, the MB is the tough guy in a heterogeneous population. As you rightly say the Christians will suffer, and the Christians of Iraq, who left Iraq for Syria will suffer twice over. Memories of the Armenian exodus will return etc...

I've read a lot of your articles and I trust your judgment - so here goes:

What is actually happening in the Arab world few people understand. If you remember the Wahhabis brought al-Saud to power and al-Saud has underwritten the power of al-Sabah in Kuwait and al-Khalifa in Bahrain. Al-Thani in Qatar and al-Nahayan in Abu Dhabi are independent but being small also have to cow-tow to al-Saud. The Wahhabi ideology and 'priesthood' ruled all this in the early days. But the Wahhabi movement has ossified, and in becoming defenders of the Gulf regimes have lost status to the MB. The MB came over to Saudi during the Nasser expulsion of the 1950's and has taken root throughout the gulf, becoming the premier social movement. The shiite protests in the eastern provinces may fill our tv screens, but what worries gulf states the most is the power of the sunni MB. This is why they want to cut a deal with them and give them Egypt and Syria in exchange for protection (they will also give them Libya after a while - but that's less important). At such time as Assad falls, the MB will become the dominant power in the Middle East, and will received unlimited funding from the Gulf rulers as payoff. Hezbolla and Iran will cut deals with them, and they have a lot to offer them in terms of military expertise. Iran don't forget is what has caused all this to start with by banging the Palestinian drum constantly since 1979 and embarrassing the Gulf rulers over their ineptitude and treachery. This is what has led the Arab street to back the MB over the Wahhabis over the years. The MB will support radical Islam in Turkey, because they despise how Turkey ditched the religion and annulled the caliphate, and they despise Erdogan's 'half-baked' Islam as 'not enough'. As far as the Neocons and Israel are concerned, it will be the beginning of the end of their dream. They will reap the whirlwind, and they will sit and watch as what are now US-backed movements turn around to bite them where it hurts most.

From Saif, re Turks and Syria

Nice article, and while it praises the Islamic Ottoman empire and its current status, Turkey must be seen in the larger context of Sunni power, which causes Erdogan to support the Sunni Palestinians against the Jews, and the Sunni Syrians versus the minority Alawite dynasty of the Baathist party for the last 50 years. The Baathists are Communist dictators, with Alawite nepotism embedded in their ethos and ruling modus operandi, and working eventually for the Shi'ite crescent. Both Sunni and Shi'ism are powerful strains of Islam and they are united against the Israelis, but within Islam, ancient competitors for power.

  The Syrian Civil War is a just cause for Syrian Sunnis who constitute 80 percent of the Syrian population to have a say in their own governance, and it is a rightful demand that the Sunnis make, and the Alawites have massacred tens of thousands of Sunnis through their decades of rule through Oppression, while squandering the Golan Heights and their nascent Nuclear Power to Israel.

  I fully support Erdogan in his Sunni support to the 90 percent Sunni Islamic World, and when the 80 percent of Sunni Syrians will come to power, Turkey will reap enormous Geo-political and strategic benefits. We don't have to be psychic to see the outcome of the Syrian Civil War.