With al-Qaida officially declaring war on the Syrian regime, the de facto US-Saudi-al-Qaida-Israeli marriage of convenience against the anti-US "crescent" is quite startling.
By Sami Ramadani
3 July 2012
US GENERAL Wesley Clark, the former supreme commander of allied forces in Europe, once revealed that within weeks of the 9/11 terrorist atrocity the then secretary of defence Donald Rumsfeld described how "we're going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran."
After invading Afghanistan of course.
The 2003 occupation of Iraq, however, did not go according to plan, and Israel was defeated in Lebanon in 2006. The downfall of US-Saudi allies Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, raised more alarms, leading to the Nato bombing of Libya.
Today's target is Syria, which is at the heart of what Jordan's King Abdullah called the "Shia crescent": Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Iran.
It is opposition by the "crescent" to hegemony by the US and Israel, rather than religion or human rights, that worries Washington and its dictatorial allies in the region.
For it wasn't very long ago that the Saudi rulers bankrolled the so-called "Alawite-Shia" regime of former Syrian president Hafez al-Assad and had good relations with "Shia" Iran under the shah's dictatorship.
Today it still backs Iraq's former pro-US Shia prime minister, Ayad Allawi against Nouri al-Maliki, the current Shia prime minister. And the US Congress has been pampering the Iranian Mujahideen e-Khalq, a "Shia" organisation classified by the US itself as a terrorist group.
It is now obvious that a strategic reconsideration of US-Saudi-Israeli regional priorities followed big US losses in Iraq and rising American popular opposition to US wars. In his 2007 New Yorker essay, the journalist Seymour Hersh related that senior US officials changed strategy not only in Iraq, but also in Lebanon and Syria:
"In Lebanon, the administration has co-operated with Saudi Arabia's government, which is Sunni [Wahhabi], in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shia organisation that is backed by Iran. The US has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to al-Qaida."
But it was deemed that Syria and Iran were "more dangerous" than al-Qaida supporters. Congressional procedures were circumvented "by leaving the execution or the funding to the Saudis".
Iran has also officially pointed the finger at an Israeli "terrorist training base" in Iraqi Kurdistan, which is a major route for intervention in Syria.
US and Nato tolerance of al-Qaida former terrorists was evident in Libya. And with al-Qaida officially declaring war on the Syrian regime, the de facto US-Saudi-al-Qaida-Israeli marriage of convenience against the anti-US "crescent" is quite startling. It is an alliance not too dissimilar to the one that waged war on the communist "infidels" in Afghanistan in the 1980s.
Many Iraqis also believed that the US-led occupation forces followed the same strategy by turning a blind eye to al-Qaida-type sectarian terrorism in Iraq, because it weakened patriotic resistance to occupation and encouraged divisive sectarian conflict.
As the threat to their rule from the uprisings moved ever closer, engulfing neighbouring Yemen and Bahrain, headquarters of the US 5th fleet, the Saudi and Qatari rulers put their intense rivalry to one side and moved to violently crush the Bahraini people's uprising, and to undermine the democratic protest movements in Yemen and the entire region.
Backed by the CIA and Turkey, their favoured means were throwing petro-dollars at selected opposition factions and militarising the conflicts. Meanwhile, the Pentagon is "fine-tuning" US military options against Syria and the CIA is organising the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and backing the Syrian National Council (SNC).
But what goes unreported in relation to Syria is that democratic opposition organisations, at the receiving end of decades of regime repression and probably representing the will of majority of Syrians, strongly opposed the militarisation of the protests.
They argued that militarisation weakened the growing mass movement for radical democratic change, left the door wide open for foreign intervention, threatened the social fabric of Syrian society and helped Israeli forces occupying the Syrian Golan Heights, where Israeli tanks are an hour's drive away from Damascus.
They also draw lessons from the destruction of Iraq and the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees who fled Iraq's fires to Syria after the US-led invasion.
However, the media here and in the Arab world, especially the influential al-Jazeera TV, owned by the Qatari ruling family, act as the cheerleaders for the pro-intervention factions of the SNC and the FSA, founded in and logistically backed by Nato member Turkey.
All this sadly reminds me of the drums of the Iraq war and the media circulation of made-up stories peddled by Blair, Bush and pro-intervention Iraqi factions, while the anti-Saddam but anti-war Iraqis were marginalised.
There was the WMD big lie of course. But also the lies that Iraqi soldiers tossed away babies from their incubators, and that Saddam used people-shredding machines. Murdoch's Sun newspaper editor boasted: "Public opinion swung behind Tony Blair as voters learned how Saddam fed dissidents feet first into industrial shredders".
Those who want Nato to "humanely" intervene say that Syria is not Iraq. They are right, Syria will be much worse. They need to tell us what will happen to Syria's 25 minority ethnic and religious groups, including the 10% Christians and 10% Alawites, if some of the Saudi-Qatari-backed bloodcurdling clerics come to power? Or to millions of Syrian women, who have immeasurably more rights than in absolutist Saudi Arabia? Or to the Iraqi refugees still in Syria?