At a time when after two and a half years of an unrelentingly brutal conflict, Syrian government forces are on the front foot, enjoying continuing success against a polyglot opposition increasingly made up of thousands of foreign funded jihadists from outside the country. At a time when UN inspectors are already in Syria – Damascus specifically – to carry out an investigation of previous alleged incidents of chemical weapons use during the conflict. And when western governments in Washington, Paris, and London are itching to up the ante when it comes to supporting the opposition in its attempt to topple the Assad government, it would constitute one of the greatest military and political blunders of all time if the provenance of this most recent incident of chemical weapons use – in Ghouta on the eastern outskirts of Damscus – was the Syrian army.
It would, in fact, be tantamount to Bashar al-Assad signing his own death warrant along with that of his government.
No matter how you look at it, and at this point speculation reigns, the distinct whiff of a set up surrounds the allegations made by the Syrian opposition that the government deployed what looks to have been sarin in and around the Damascus suburb of Ghouta as part of its ongoing military operation to crush the opposition forces holed up there. The images of the victims of the attack in the throes of agony – many of them children – are horrific even by the standards of this brutal conflict. This is why it is vital that a credible and scrupulously independent investigation does take place and as soon as it can be undertaken.
But let’s not pretend: from the outset the US, Britain, and France – along with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey in the region – have been open in their political, financial, and military support for the opposition and the toppling of the present Syrian government. It’s instructive that of all the western powers lined up against Assad, France is the one to come out first with a call for direct military intervention in the conflict should it be proved that the government was in fact behind this particular atrocity. France – the former colonial power – whose bloody war to maintain control another of its former colonies, Algeria, from 1954 to 1962, cost the lives of up to 1.5 million people – has clearly already decided that the Syrian government is responsible and views this incident as an opportunity to garner support both at home and abroad for some kind of military intervention.
The West’s hegemonic objectives when it comes to the region as a whole involves removing Syria as one element in the axis of resistance to those objectives. This has been clear from the beginning. With Syria as a pole of resistance both to the West’s geopolitical objectives and Israeli military domination removed, Hezbollah, a second part of this axis of resistance, would be significantly weakened. The major stumbling block to complete western domination of the region and its resources is, of course, Iran, which would be left isolated if both its close allies, Syria and Hezbollah, were defeated and/or destroyed.
Those are the stakes involved in this ongoing conflict; and this is why these allegations must be regarded with a healthy dose of scepticism until a full, credible, independent, and proper investigation can be carried out.
Meanwhile the suffering of the Syrian people continues throughout the country, with reports and graphic images and videos of atrocities committed a near daily occurrence. In Latakia province in the west of the country, for example, reports that hundreds of civilians were slaughtered by the rebels have failed to make headlines in the West. Nor has it resulted in calls for military action against those responsible.
With these and other atrocities taking place on a regular basis, with millions crossing Syria’s borders to escape the violence, and millions more displaced within the country, the need for an end to hostilities and a political solution has never been more stark. Yet in the West the emphasis remains on supporting the opposition in its attempt to topple the government by force. The lessons of the human suffering, carnage and chaos to beset Iraq and Libya have been forgotten – or as is more likely ignored – in service to the more important issue of an outcome favourable to western geopolitical interests.
Twas ever thus.