Scenarios for Syria: War & Stabilization

Nile Bowie

NileBowie.blogspot.com

July 4, 2012

Diplomatic
attempts to solve the Syrian crisis have been rejected by both members
of the Syrian government and the opposition. As Ankara laments bold
rhetoric and militarizes its border with Syria, this article attempts to
foresee three possible outcomes to the ongoing crisis.

From
the start of the crisis in Syria, the possibility of open foreign
military intervention has loomed uncomfortably over the series of
diplomatic measures taken in an attempt to diffuse the situation. While
earlier attempts to implement the Peace Plan have failed to materialize,
Kofi Annan has proposed a new Syrian solution, mandating the creation
of a transitional national unity government consisting of both
representatives of Assad’s administration and members of the opposition,
insinuating that Assad would not have a place in the new government
[1]. Although Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov would categorically
oppose the idea of foreign powers dictating the future of Syria,
stating, “We will not support and cannot support any meddling from
outside or any imposition of recipes. This also concerns the fate of the
president of the country, Bashar al-Assad,” a recent meeting of the
“Syrian Action Group” (excluding Riyadh, Tehran and Damascus) in Geneva
saw world powers agree to a basic roadmap for a Syrian-led power
transition.

On
June 28, 2012, two large bomb explosions targeting a government
building rocked Damascus, prompting President Assad to reassert the
Syrian government’s duty to “annihilate terrorists in any corner of the
country,” adding, “We will not accept any non-Syrian, non-national
model, whether it comes from big countries or friendly countries. No one
knows how to solve Syria’s problems as well as we do” [2]. In response
to the meeting, both Syrian state media and opposition groups condemned
the UN-brokered peace plan for the formation of a unity government, amid
ceaseless violence across the country. Burhan Ghalioun, a senior member
and former head of the opposition Syrian National Council, offered,
“this is the worst international statement yet to emerge from talks on
Syria”. Ghalioun would call the UN-backed transitional plan a “mockery,”
insinuating that Syrians should not have to negotiate with “their
executioner, who has not stopped killing, torturing… and raping women
for 16 months” [3].

From the imposition of the ceasefire, the
Syrian government would claim that rebel fighters regularly ignored the
Kofi Annan Peace Plan by committing various ceasefire violations,
employing the use of bombing, kidnapping, murder, and arson as
corroborated by Reuters in their article, “Outgunned Syria rebels make shift to bombs,”
confirming that rebels had adopted tactics of suicide bombing, car
bombing and the use of roadside explosions [4]. While outside elements
provided arms and assistance to the militant Syrian opposition in full
violation of the proposed ceasefire, the mainstream media would
disproportionately lay the blame on the Syrian government for failing to
meet its obligations as it attempted to restore order. On June 21,
2012, The New York Times would confirm what alternative media outlets
and numerous geopolitical analysts had been reporting since the first
months of the uprising in 2011, that outside forces, including the
American CIA, were supplying Syria’s rebels with weapons and material
assistance from Southern Turkey. In their article, “C.I.A. Said to Aid in Steering Arms to Syrian Opposition,” the New York Times would state:

“A small number of C.I.A. officers are operating secretly in southern
Turkey, helping allies decide which Syrian opposition fighters across
the border will receive arms to fight the Syrian government, according
to American officials and Arab intelligence officers. The weapons,
including automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition and
some antitank weapons, are being funneled mostly across the Turkish
border by way of a shadowy network of intermediaries including Syria’s
Muslim Brotherhood and paid for by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the
officials said. The C.I.A. officers have been in southern Turkey for
several weeks, in part to help keep weapons out of the hands of fighters
allied with Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups, one senior American
official said. The Obama administration has said it is not providing
arms to the rebels, but it has also acknowledged that Syria’s neighbors
would do so.  

By
helping to vet rebel groups, American intelligence operatives in Turkey
hope to learn more about a growing, changing opposition network inside
of Syria and to establish new ties. ‘C.I.A. officers are there and they
are trying to make new sources and recruit people,’ said one Arab
intelligence official who is briefed regularly by American counterparts.
American officials and retired C.I.A. officials said the administration
was also weighing additional assistance to rebels, like providing
satellite imagery and other detailed intelligence on Syrian troop
locations and movements. The administration is also considering whether
to help the opposition set up a rudimentary intelligence service. But no
decisions have been made on those measures or even more aggressive
steps, like sending C.I.A. officers into Syria itself, they said”
[5].

Undeniably,
this confirms that the West, led by the US and its Gulf State proxies,
has been undermining the Kofi Annan Peace Plan by arming insurgent
fighters, particularly those of the Muslim Brotherhood, while
concurrently berating the Syrian government for “violating” a UN
mandated cease-fire and for “failing to protect” its population. The
implications of these mainstream admissions of state sponsored terrorism
and illicit arms smuggling cast shadows of doubt over any serious
implementation of the Kofi Annan Peace Plan coming to fruition. The
Brookings Institution, a US think-tank noted for its influence on
American foreign policy, would release a publication in March 2012
titled, “Saving Syria: Assessing Options for Regime Change,”
which called for using the UN-brokered ceasefire and the Kofi Annan
Peace Plan to rearm the militant opposition to secure the toppling of
the Syrian government in a bid to further Washington’s geopolitical
objectives in the region [6]. Additionally, TIME Magazine’s June 25,
2012 article “A War on Two Fronts,”
would describe how the US State Department budgeted over $72 million to
train armed Syrian dissidents in encryption, hacking, and video
production: 

“Washington
has said it will not actively support the Syrian opposition in its bid
to oust Assad. Officially, the U.S. says it abides by the U.N process
led by Kofi Annan and does not condone arms sales to opposition groups
as long as there are U.N. Observers in Syria. Nevertheless, as U.S.
officials have revealed to TIME, the Obama Administration has been
providing media-technology training and support to Syrian dissidents by
way of small nonprofits like the Institute for War & Peace Reporting
and Freedom House. Viral videos of alleged atrocities, like the footage
Abu Ghassan produced, have made Assad one of the most reviled men on
the planet, helping turn the Arab League against him and embarrassing
his few remaining allies almost daily. ‘If the [U.S.] government is
involved in Syria, the government isn’t going to take direct
responsibility for it,’ says Lawrence Lessig, director of Harvard’s
Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics. ‘The tools that you deploy in
Internet freedom interfere with tools deployed by an existing
government, and that can be perceived as an act of aggression.’

The
program actually began four years ago with a different target: China.
In 2008, Michael Horowitz, a longtime religious-liberty advocate, went
to his friend Representative Frank Wolf, a Virginia Republican, and
suggested setting aside funds to help Falun Gong, a religious group that
Beijing has labeled a dangerous cult. The money was supposed to help
the dissident distribute software to jump China’s massive firewall and
organize online as well as communicate freely with the outside world.
Wolf succeeded in appropriating $15 million. But U.S. diplomats feared
that move would derail relations with Beijing, and little money was
spent. Then in 2009 – 10 Iranian protests and last year’s Arab Spring
made Internet freedom a much more fashionable term in Washington.
Congress soon forked over an additional $57 million to State to spend in
the next three years. The money is spilt among three areas: education
and training; anonymization, which masks users’ identities, usually
through encryption; and circumvention technology, which allows users to
overcome government censors so that their work – and that of repressive
regimes – can be see worldwide.

An ongoing challenge is that the
flow of software goes to both sides. The regime has imported technology
from the U.S. to track people online. ‘A lot of these technologies can
be used for great good,’ says Sascha Meinrath, who is leading the
Internet-in-a-suitcase project, ‘but they are also a Faustian bargain.’
The Obama Administration last month issued an Executive Order imposing
sanctions on any company helping Syrian or Iran commit human-rights
abuses. Washington’s high-tech campaign will not dethrone Assad. But is
has given Syrian dissidents a measure of confidence as they face the
regime’s advantage in firepower. In the months since finishing his
training, Abu Ghassan has shot dozens of videos. Asked whether his AK-47
or his video camera is the more powerful weapon, Abu Ghassan laughs.
‘My AK!’ he says. He pauses for a few seconds. ‘Actually if there is an
Internet connection, my camera is more powerful’” 
[7].

TIME’s
report reflects the seemingly limitless degree of outside interference
in the Syrian conflict, with foreign entities attempting to meticulously
cultivate and shape every dimension of the situation to the detriment
of the legitimate government in Syria. TIME’s report also mentions the
Obama administration’s executive order imposing sanctions on any company
“helping Syria or Iran commit human-rights abuses.” Unsurprisingly,
this would not include the American companies that sold the Syrian
government the internet technology it uses to filter its internet
services – the very services the US government has allotted substantial
public funds towards to train dissidents to bypass. The downing of a
Turkish F-4 jet in late June further enflamed the situation, prompting
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan to vow “proportionate” retaliation
for its downed jet, pledging “all possible support to liberate the
Syrians from dictatorship” of Bashar al-Assad’s government by offering
support for Syrian rebels, while warning that any Syrian troops
approaching Turkish borders would be considered a threat and dealt with
as a military target [8].

On June 27th, 2012, Turkey sent a
heavily guarded convoy of 15 long-distance guns and other military
vehicles to the Syrian border, amid belligerent threats of retaliation
[9]. While the situation on the Turkish-Syrian border remains tense as
Turkish officials deploy 30 anti-aircraft batteries, the Turkish Defense
Procurement Agency has recently announced its plans to seek a $4
billion contract for a long-range air-defense missile system [10].
Documents released by The Brookings Institution and The Council on
Foreign Relations indicate that Turkey is the nation elected to lead the
charge against Assad if the situation continues to deteriorate,
ostensibly to annex regions of northern Syria to establish a series of
long proposed “humanitarian corridors,” from which Syria’s militant
opposition fighters would base their operations [11]. In reflection of
the current situation, several scenarios can be proposed in an attempt
to foresee how the crisis can be either diffused, or further enflamed:

Assad ignores UN calls for an interim government and attempts to quell the insurgency by force,
reflecting the conduct of nations such as Algeria, who have
successfully suppressed insurgents affiliated with AQIM. This course of
action may work to further enflame the situation if outside forces
increase their use of foreign mercenaries and continue to provide rebel
fighters with more dangerous armaments, including chemical or biological
weapons. If Syrian security forces were unable to immediately restore
order and crush the insurgency, any authentic or manufactured atrocity
or incursion into Turkish territory may be enough to tip the scale in
favor of open military intervention (with or without the approval of the
UNSC). If that occurred, the Turkish-Syrian border would see open
exchanges of fire, with Ankara attempting to capture territory in
northern Syria. Russia, Iran, and China would condemn Turkey and other
allied NATO member states, with the potential of those nations opposed
to regime change in Damascus offering military support to Assad. From
that point, the potential for a wider regional conflict is plausible.

Assad ignores UN calls for an interim government and succeeds in quelling the insurgency by force,
causing rebel militants to disperse, surrender and take refuge in rural
areas and neighboring countries. Syrian security forces would increase
their operations and attempt to maintain order in population centers.
The military would secure tense areas and some form of normality would
resume, although bombings and other attacks could persist on a smaller
scale. Assad would step up internal security, and be portrayed as an
international pariah in the international media. Syria would continue
suffering under heavy economic sanctions. If Assad continues to hold
onto power, failing to deliver reforms and political pluralism, internal
dissent could again become problematic, potentially shifting moderates
to embrace factions of the opposition. Political turmoil would ensue,
but the security situation could be stabilized if insurgent activity is
successfully subdued.

Assad accepts the interim government solution and submits his resignation,
potentially encouraging insurgents to take advantage of the sensitive
transitional period by increasing their operations against security
forces, continuing the months of belligerent violence and killing. If
insurgents pushed forward with their campaign and were able to maintain
an upper hand amid political transition, rebels would attempt to capture
territory in and around population centers. Armed gangs would persecute
Assad loyalists, Alawites, Shi’a, and other religious minorities such
as Christians and Druze if they successfully captured territory,
reflecting the conduct of Libyan LIFG fighters toward ethnic minorities
and loyalists. The interim government would struggle to maintain the
security situation and likely be unable to implement coherent policy
amid divisions in leadership. Political turmoil would ensue, and armed
gangs could continue their campaign, amid increasing sectarian tensions.

Civilian casualties could inevitably result from all these
potential scenarios, as an unintended consequence of infighting between
Syrian security forces and militants in populated areas, or as an
intentional act of sectarian belligerence as demonstrated by extremists
in Houla and elsewhere. The ongoing perpetuation of violence in Syria is
not attributable to the dominant media narrative of Assad “butchering
his own people,” but to the calculated and meticulous formation of a
violent Salafist-front, directed by foreign powers to overwhelm and
topple the government of Syria. Journalist Seymour Hersh’s 2007 exposé
published in the New Yorker titled, “The Redirection,”
exposed a joint US-Israeli-Saudi operation to create a violent
extremist Sunni-front to direct at the Shi’a leadership of Hezbollah in
Lebanon, President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, and the Iranian government,
using extremist forces with direct ties to Al Qaeda in proxy. The New
Yorker would report the testimony of a former senior intelligence
official and US government consultant:

“We
are in a program to enhance the Sunni capability to resist Shiite
influence, and we’re spreading the money around as much as we can,” the
former senior intelligence official said. The problem was that such
money “always gets in more pockets than you think it will,” he said. “In
this process, we’re financing a lot of bad guys with some serious
potential unintended consequences. We don’t have the ability to
determine and get pay vouchers signed by the people we like and avoid
the people we don’t like. It’s a very high-risk venture”
[12].

While
Kofi Annan’s original Peace Plan – if honestly implemented with both
sides respecting the cease-fire – would have defused the situation, it
is Annan and the member nations of NATO and the Gulf Cooperation Council
that disproportionately laid the blame for increasing violence solely
on the Syrian government, while those nations took every measure
possible to further enflame the situation by providing material
assistance to sectarian extremists. Considering the level of subversion
and deceit demonstrated by foreign powers operating in Syria, Bashar
al-Assad’s ambitions to crush sectarian fighters by force may well be
warranted. As with many other Western-backed uprisings operating under
the cover of “democratic” jargon, the use of violence, snipers,
mercenaries, and other armed provocateurs is part of a long established
pattern of national destabilization through the barrel of a gun.
Undoubtedly, there will come a time when those responsible individuals
answer for their crimes against the nation of Syria, and it’s people. 

Notes

[1] Kofi Annan proposes Syria ‘unity government,’ Al Jazeera, June 28, 2012

[2] Annan ‘optimistic’ about Syria talks, Tehran Times, June 29, 2012

[3] Syria transition plan denounced by both sides, Al Jazeera, July 1, 2012

[4] Outgunned Syria rebels make shift to bombs, Reuters, April 30, 2012

[5] C.I.A. Said to Aid in Steering Arms to Syrian Opposition, The New York Times, June 21, 2012

[6] Saving Syria: Assessing Options for Regime Change, The Brookings Institution, March 2012

[7] Hillary’s Little Startup: How the U.S. Is Using Technology to Aid Syria’s Rebels, TIME Magazine, June 13, 2012

[8] Turkish PM vows to help ‘liberate Syria from dictatorship,’ Russia Today, June 26, 2012

[9] Ankara deploys military convoy to Syrian border: Turkish media, PressTV, June 28, 2012

[10] Missile shopping: Turkey to buy long-range missile system, Russia Today, June 29, 2012

[11] U.S.-Turkey Relations: A New Partnership, The Council on Foreign Relations, May 9, 2012

[12] The Redirection, The New Yorker, March 5, 2007

 

….

Nile Bowie is an independent writer and photojournalist based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; he regularly contributes  Professor Michel Chossudovsky’s Global Research Twitter: @NileBowie