Is There a Western Plot to Overthrow Assad?

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The Western narrative of the Syrian conflict, which began in the Spring of 2011, suggests that the Syrian people began to peacefully protest for an end to the Assad regime, which then responded with brutal oppression; killing, imprisoning and torturing innocent Syrian civilians in an effort to maintain power. In time, Syrian soldiers defected from the army (because they refused orders to shoot peaceful protesters), began to arm themselves, and created the Free Syrian Army (FSA) to fight the regime. The West then began to support the Syrian rebels, in an effort to protect civilians and allow Syrians to realize their aspirations for democracy and freedom.

The Syrian government of course rejects this narrative, claiming instead that it has the support of the majority of Syrians, and is in fact the victim of a “conspiracy” or “plot” by the Western powers to support “terrorists” in an effort to overthrow it.

While Western journalists at times report on claims of such a plot by Syrian officials, the tone of such reports is always from the perspective that that these claims are regime propaganda meant to justify the killing of civilians. There is no attempt to analyze the claim or determine if it might have some merit. It is simply taken for granted that Syrian government claims are not credible. In contrast, Western officials’ counter-claims ridiculing the Syrian government view are assumed to be true and quoted uncritically, as are claims by spokespersons of Western-backed Syrian rebels.

As skeptical as one should certainly be regarding claims by any government, a closer examination of US policy toward Syria, as well as of the development of the Syrian conflict over time, suggest that in fact there was (and still is) a Western plot to overthrow the Assad government and replace it with one more friendly to US interests. This plot has resulted in US support for Islamic militant groups that, in other contexts, would be considered terrorists by the West.

Given that the Syrian government has faced a foreign inspired plot before (the campaign of assassination and terrorism carried out by a militants from a Muslim Brotherhood offshoot in the early 1980’s, backed by Israel and Jordan), that US efforts to overthrow Assad long predate the 2011 uprising, that armed gunmen were indeed attacking Syrian police and security forces from the first weeks of the protests, and that the US and its regional allies (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, and Israel) have openly supported Syrian rebel groups (financially, militarily, and through public relations efforts), including groups who espouse the ideology of Salafi-Jihadism (the same ideology espoused by al-Qaeda and ISIS), Syrian government claims of such a plot should be taken seriously.

Evidence of such a plot is abundant and openly available in the Western press if one takes the care to look. Sometimes, it turns out, plots are real. In this essay, I will discuss each of the above mentioned claims in additional detail.

The Syrian Government has Faced Foreign Plots Before

In his book “Assad: The Struggle for the Middle East,” historian Patrick Seale details how from 1977 to 1982, the Syrian regime, led by Bashar al-Assad’s father, Hafez, faced a campaign of bombings and assassinations by militants from the Islamic Front, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, which very nearly toppled the regime, and to which Assad responded with considerable brutality.

According to Seale, some of the victims of the Islamic Front terror campaign “were prominent officers and government servants but others were professional men, doctors and teachers and the like, who were not involved with the regime and were therefore undefended. Most of them were ‘Alawis which suggested that the assassins had targeted the community and were deliberately setting out to sharpen sectarian differences. . . (page 317).”

Seale emphasizes the importance of the June 1979 Aleppo Artillery School massacre, in which Islamic militants murdered thirty two Alawi army cadets. “A member of staff, Captain Ibrahim Yusuf, assembled the cadets in the dining hall and then let in the gunmen who opened fire indiscriminately (page 316).”

In June 1980, Assad himself narrowly escaped death after militants threw two hand grenades and shot bursts of machine gun fire at Assad while he waited to welcome an African dignitary. In response, Assad’s brother, Rif’at sent army units to the prison in Palmyra, where soldier’s murdered some 500 Muslim Brotherhood members held by the regime (page 329).

The terror campaign and brutal Syrian government response famously culminated in a showdown between the Syrian army and Islamic militants in 1982 in the town of Hama. On February 2nd, 1982 militants ambushed an army unit. Roof top snipers killed some 20 soldiers. When army reinforcements were sent in, the local militant commander put out the call for a general uprising throughout Hama. According to Seale, “At this signal hundreds of Islamic fighters rose from their hiding places. Killing and looting, they burst into the homes of officials and party leaders, overran police posts and ransacked armories in a bid to seize power in the city (page 332).” By the time the Syrian army was able to crush the uprising three weeks later, between 3,000 and 20,000 Syrians lay dead (depending on whose estimates one believes) including Islamic militants, Syrian security forces and civilians living in the city (page 334) .

Important for our purposes is that the Islamic militants enjoyed external support, from both the Jordanian and Israeli governments, who wished to see Assad overthrown, and that as result, the militants “had a fortune in foreign money, sophisticated communications equipment and large arms dumps (pages 335-336).”  Further, Seale writes that Assad was convinced of US support for the militants, given the “discovery of US equipment in the hands of the guerrillas, and especially sophisticated communications equipment of a kind, he claimed, that could only be sold to a third-party with US government permission (page 336).”

This experience colored the views of the current Syrian government when the initial protests and attacks by armed groups against Syrian security forces began in the Spring of 2011.

Why Does the US Want to Overthrow the Syrian Government?

Flynt Leverett, former senior Middle East analyst at the CIA and senior director for Middle East affairs at the National Security Council during the first Bush Administration, described the reasons why US planners have long wished to overthrow the Syrian government. Writing in “Inheriting Syria: Bashar’s Trial by Fire” in 2005, Leverett highlight’s Syria’s strategic importance to the US interests in the Middle East, and the Syrian government’s resistance to these interests. Leverett explains that Syria is a “swing state” in the Middle East, and that since the establishment of the Assad regime in 1970, US policy toward Syria has been motivated by an interest in bringing Syria into the pro-US camp and therefore “tipping the regional balance of power against more radical or revisionist actors,” in particular Iran (page 8). Leverett complains however, that the US has “had to cope with Syrian resistance on a variety of fronts” since 1970, which resistance includes opposition to US support for Israel’s annexation of the Syrian Golan Heights, Syria’s “largely successful campaign to repulse Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon,” Syria’s “inauguration of a strategic alliance with Iran” which “ran against American moves throughout the 1980’s to bolster [Saddam’s] Iraq as a bulwark against the Islamic Republic’s revolutionary influence.” Leverett notes further that “As the Bush administration launched its military campaign against Saddam’s regime in 2003, Bashar [al-Assad] not only opposed the war but authorized actions that worked against the US pursuit of its objectives in Iraq (page 10).” Leverett also discusses Syrian support for Palestinian militant groups (PFLP-GC, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad) and the fact that Syria “has for many years been the principle conduit for Iranian military supplies going to Hizballah fighters in southern Lebanon” and that Syria “continues to see its ties to Hizballah as an important tactical tool in its posture toward Israel (pages 12-13).”

Leverett then wonders whether the best course for “changing problematic Syrian behaviors” would entail US efforts to “ratchet up economic, political, rhetorical pressure on Damascus,” on the one hand, or “coercive regime change” on the other (pages 17-18).

It must be noted here that the unprovoked Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 (killing some 10,000 Lebanese) and the unprovoked US invasion of Iraq (based on a series of fabrications) in 2003 (killing some 200,000 Iraqis) have caused immense human suffering, as has Israel’s ongoing colonization and occupation of Palestine (now reaching its 50th year). It is therefore inappropriate to refer to Syrian resistance to these US/Israeli policies as “problematic,” from a moral perspective. To its credit, Syria was opposing US/Israeli aggression in these instances. Also of note is that human rights concerns are not among the reasons cited by Leverett for proposing the overthrow of the Syrian government.  Rather it is Syria’s challenge to US and Israeli aggression and hegemony in the region that necessitates regime change, from the US perspective.

US Plans to Overthrow the Assad Long Predate the 2011 Uprising.

The US desire to topple the Syrian government reaches back to at least 2001, when prominent neoconservatives in the US government threatened to invade not only Iraq, but also Syria and Iran.

Former US General Wesley Clark discusses a conversation he had with a “senior general” a few weeks after 9/11 at the Pentagon, in which the general purportedly showed Clark a memo from then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s office which advocated a strategy to “take out seven countries in five years,” which would start with Iraq and Syria and end with Iran. That Syria and Iran were at that time potential US targets for regime-change was later confirmed by then Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith.

These plans to intervene militarily in Syria seemed to have been put on hold due to the difficulties the US military faced in Iraq at the hands of Sunni and Shiite armed groups opposed to the occupation. However, US planners were still actively looking for concrete opportunities to covertly destabilize the Syrian government.
In early 2005 the Bush Administration began to markedly increase funding for Syrian opposition groups, including some within Syria, leading to “persistent fears among U.S. diplomats that Syrian state security agents had uncovered the money trail from Washington,” according to the Washington Post.

By 2006, US planners were seeking to exploit the fact that many Islamic militants were traveling through Syria to join the fight against US forces in Iraq, and to turn these fighters against the Syrian government, according to a classified December 2006 cable written by William Roebuck, Political Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Damascus.

With the coming of the Arab Spring in 2011, popular anti-government protests broke out in various Arab countries, leading to the downfall of pro-US dictators in Tunisia, Egypt, and Yemen. US planners saw the chance to exploit the nascent protest movement that had also emerged in Syria, in order to destabilize and ultimately overthrow the Syrian government, and by extension weaken Syria’s Iranian and Russian allies.

In June 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton exchanged emails with an adviser, Sydney Blumenthal, in which they discuss whether the Syrian government could be overthrown in the manner in which US-supported rebels were then seeking to overthrow the Ghadhafi-led Libyan government. Blumenthal wrote in a June 2011 email to Clinton that, “Likely the most important event that could alter the Syrian equation would be the fall of Qaddafi, providing an example of a successful rebellion.”

Syrian Security Forces are Attacked from the Early Days of the Uprising

Protests in Syria began in early February 2011 in the southern city of Deraa, when several youths were arrested and tortured by Syrian intelligence for writing anti-government slogans on the wall of a school. These events were followed by protests in Deraa. Coincident to these peaceful protests, armed groups began attacking Syrian police and security forces, apparently with weapons smuggled in from outside the country. On March 11th, Reuters quoted Syrian state media as reporting that “security forces seized a large shipment of weapons and explosives and night-vision goggles this week in a truck coming from Iraq.” On the same day, Israel National Newsreported that 7 Syrian policeman were killed in clashes with protesters (or more likely, armed militants, given the number of police killed). On March 23rd, Al-Jazeera cites Syrian state media reporting that an armed gang attacked an ambulance near the Al-Omari mosque in Deraa, killing a policeman, a doctor, a paramedic and the ambulance driver, and that Syrian state television showed footage of weapons that were found stock piled in the same mosque. On April 5th, CNN cites Syrian state media as reporting that unidentified men shot and killed two police officers during a routine patrol in the town of Kafar Batna.  On April 11th, nine Syrian soldiers traveling by bus near the town of Banyas were killed by unknown gunmen. Syrian opposition members immediately claimed the soldiers had been killed by fellow soldiers for refusing to fire on civilians, however, this was debunked by Syria expert Joshua Landis, whose Syrian wife was able to speak with the brother-in-law of one of the dead soldiers to confirm details of the attack. Journalist Sharwine Narwani reports that on April 25th, nineteen Syrian soldiers were killed by unknown gunmen. Narwani also provides names and links to Youtube video footage of funerals for several Syrian soldiers and police officers killed in April 2011 in Homs, Hama, and Damascus. On April 29th, four Syrian soldiers were killed and 2 others kidnapped in Deraa, according to Syrian state media, as cited by the Saudi newspaper, Al-Riyadh. Al-Jazeera journalist Ali Hashem reported seeing groups of armed men passing into Syria from Lebanon in May.  Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar cites Syrian state media in reporting on June 11th that the provinces of Latakia and Deraa saw funeral processions for dead members of the police and security forces who had been targeted by armed groups, and that sheikh Anis ‘Eirut issued a call for help from the residents of Banyas, who demanded the “quick intervention of the Army to stop the gangs represented by known people to arrest them and sweep their areas.” On June 4th in Jisr al-Shagour, Syrian state media reported that 120 members of Syrian security forces were killed by unknown attackers, however Landis was only able to confirm the deaths of ten soldiers, four of whom were decapitated. On June 7th, the Independent’s Robert Fisk noted that, “For well over a month, I have been watching Syrian television’s nightly news and at least half the broadcasts have included funerals of dead soldiers.”  The Christian Science Monitor reported in June that weapons dealers in neighboring Lebanon were having trouble finding weapons to sell, as prices of common items such as AK-47s and rocket propelled grenades had increased significantly in recent months, and that “The demand is huge . . . They’re all going to Syria.” Narwani also mentions the observations of Dutch priest, Frans Van der Lugt, who had lived in Syrian city of Homs since the 1960’s before his killing in 2014, and who noted that “From the start, I saw armed demonstrators marching along in the protests, who began to shoot at the police first.” As noted above, reports from Syrian state media are typically dismissed by Western observers. In the case of soldiers who are killed by armed opposition groups, however, the fact that Syrian state television has so frequently aired footage of the funerals of these dead soldiers provides strong evidence that the Syrian uprising was not, as a whole, peaceful, despite the many peaceful protests opposition activists did in fact organize.

The above mentioned violent attacks aside, Syrian security forces certainly used unjustifiable violence and fired on peaceful protesters in the early days of the uprising. Journalist Nir Rosen wrote how “I have been to about 100 demonstrations in Syria. In many of them I had to run for my life from live gunfire. I was terrified. The demonstrators who go out every day since March know they are risking their lives.” This is, sadly, not surprising as most governments respond to popular protest with violence. Demonstrations during the Arab Spring in Iraq, Egypt, Bahrain, and Yemen have all seen security forces fire on protesters, while US forces fired on protesters in Fallujah in the aftermath of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. However, the armed and violent aspect of segments of the early Syrian opposition should not be ignored, especially when coupled with years of US threats to topple the Syrian regime.  Surely these factors colored the response of the Syrian government to the uprising, reinforcing the view that the government was the target of a foreign-inspired terrorist plot reminiscent of the events of 1977-1982 discussed above. Syrian government fears would soon prove justified once US and Gulf backed efforts to support Salafi-Jihadi rebel groups in Syria became clear.

The US Arms Salafi-Jihadist Rebels in Syria

US efforts to arm Syrian rebels via its regional allies date from at least January 2012. The New York Times reported that American officials described how, “[f]rom offices at secret locations, American intelligence officers have helped the Arab governments shop for weapons, including a large procurement from Croatia, and have vetted rebel commanders and groups to determine who should receive the weapons as they arrive,” and that a “former American official said David H. Petraeus, the C.I.A. director until November, had been instrumental in helping to get this aviation network moving and had prodded various countries to work together on it,” noting also that the arms airlift to Syrian rebels had started in January 2012 and “has grown to include more than 160 military cargo flights by Jordanian, Saudi and Qatari military-style cargo planes.” The NYT cited a former American official who noted that, “People hear the amounts flowing in, and it is huge.”

A Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) memo acknowledged that by August 2012, the Syrian rebel groups were dominated by religious extremists. The DIA memo notes that “The Salafists, the Muslim Brotherhood, and AQI [Al-Qaeda in Iraq] are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria,” contradicting the Western media narrative suggesting that the opposition was largely secular and “moderate.” Despite this conclusion, US support for the Syrian rebel groups continued, primarily by way of its allies, Saudi Arabia and Qatar..

Open Saudi and US support for rebels advocating Salafi-Jihadism is illustrated by their relationship with Zahran Alloush, the now deceased leader of a Syrian rebel group known as the Islamic Army (Jaish al-Islam), which Saudi Arabia played a crucial role in creating. Alloush’s father is a prominent Wahhabi cleric. Alloush embraced Wahhabism (the fringe version of Islam from which Salafi-Jihadism rises), including the concept of takfir, leading him to refer to Shiites as “rejectionists” (rafidha), and “Zoroastrians” (majus) and thus not Muslims, therefore justifying their killing. He stated that his goal was to “cleanse” Syria of all Shiites and Allawites, and to “destroy their skulls” and make them “taste the worst torture in life before God makes [them] taste the worst torture on judgment day,” employing rhetoric indistinguishable from that of ISIS.

Alloush has also declared his hostility to democracy. The pro-Saudi Lebanese newspaper An-Nahar reports that Alloush is “responsible for the disappearance of Ruzan Zeituna,” who is a well-known human rights lawyer, and that Alloush is “famous for his attacks on advocates of democracy,” and that he “embraces Salafi-Jihadi ideology and calls for an Islamic State, and is opposed to the democratic and republican systems.”

The Telegraph reported in November 2015 that the Army of Islam was using captured Syrian soldiers and kidnapped Alawite civilians as human shields by holding them in cages near public squares in areas under its control.

Syria expert Joshua Landis noted in December 2013 that “Alloush has gone out of his way to keep good relations with Jabhat al-Nusra [the official branch of Al-Qaeda in Syria]” and that Alloush has said, “his relationship with Nusra is one of brotherhood with only superficial ideological differences that can be settled with shari’a and discussions,” leading Landis to argue that “the ideological differences between the Front and al-Qaida are not deep.”

In November 2013, the Army of Islam joined with other major Syrian Jihadist factions to form the Islamic Front (al-Jabha al-Islamiya) and Alloush became its head military commander. In December 2013, the Washington Post quoted a US intelligence official as saying, “We don’t have a problem with the Islamic Front.”

When Alloush was killed in a Russian airstrike in December 2015, the pro-Saudi Lebanese newspaper An-Nahar, surmised that Russia intended to “direct a blow against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with the assassination of one of its most prominent trusted persons in the Syrian opposition,” further making Saudi sponsorship for Alloush clear.

Qatar has also proven a crucial ally in US efforts to fund Salafi-Jihadi rebels as part of the effort to overthrow the Syrian regime. Foreign Policy reports that in an effort to help Syrian rebels, Qatar “sent planes to move an estimated 3,500 tons of military equipment in 2012 and 2013, reportedly with the CIA’s backing,” and that working with Qatar is easy given that “‘Their inter-agency process has about three people in it,’ said one former U.S. Official.”

Qatar is the main provider of support to Ahrar Al-Sham, a Salafi-Jihadist rebel group that calls for Jihad against Shia Muslims and other minorities in Syria, and that has worked closely with the Nusra Front (Al-Qaeda’s official affiliate in Syria). Notably, the two groups cooperated in 2015 a joint offensive that captured the provincial capital of Idlib in the north of Syria, which then prompted Russian intervention.

Ahrar Al-Sham’s founder, Abu Khalid al-Suri, had long standing links to Al-Qaeda, before he was killed in February 2014. According to reporting from the Long War Journal, the leader of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, Ayman al-Zawahiri named al-Suri as his “representative” in Syria. Al-Suri attempted to mediate the dispute between the Nusra Front and the Islamic State at the time the two groups split. Al-Suri was previously a courier for Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan, and Spanish officials allege that he received surveillance tapes of the World Trade Center from the operative who made the videos and delivered them to al Qaeda’s senior leadership in Afghanistan.

In September 2014, much of the leadership of Ahrar al-Sham was killed in a large explosion. As a result, Hashim al Sheikh (also known as Abu Jaber), was elected as the new leader of the group, which role he filled for one year before stepping down. Abu Jaber had previously been a recruiter for al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), helping Jihadists to travel from Syria to Iraq to fight, and then was arrested by the Syrian government and imprisoned from 2005 to 2011. After Ahrar al-Sham was formed, he became the deputy to Abu Khalid Al-Suri (mentioned above) who was then Ahrar’s leader (emir) of the Aleppo area. Another Ahrar al-Sham commander, Abu Hani al-Masri, fought with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, Somalia, and Chechnya, and was the al-Qaeda commander responsible for defending Kandahar airport with the Taliban in 2001.

Despite Ahrar Al-Sham’s ties to Al-Qaeda, the Obama administration did not list Ahrar al-Sham on its list of terrorist organizations, and the group was allowed to publish an Op-ed in the Washington Post in July 2015, while a sympathetic article about the group was published in the New York Times one month later. These articles seemed to be part of a US campaign to paint the group as “moderate” despite its Jihadist ideology, ties to Al-Qaeda, and praise of Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban in Afghanistan, describing him as the embodiment of “the true meanings of Jihad and sincerity” after his death. The NYT tried to justify Ahrar Al-Sham’s praise of Mullah Omar, by citing a cleric close to the group who contends that it “contained only an extremist minority.” A senior figure from Ahrar Al-Sham, Labib Nahhas, was then quietly allowed to visit the United States in May 2016.

In September 2014, when asked to comment about Qatar’s role in supporting Jihadist militant groups in Syria, the State Department made clear that Qatar is “a valuable partner to the United States” and plays “an influential role in the region through a period of great transformation.”

A less formal description of the Qatari and Saudi role in Syria was provided by former CIA field officer Robert Baer: “[T]here are just too many groups. The Saudis and the Qataris are doing everything through intermediaries. People are being handed out money and told to ‘go blow shit up.’”

Remarks made by Vice President Joe Biden and comments by Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey also suggest that US allies sent many of these weapons to extremist rebel groups in Syria (including even ISIS), rather than to so-called “moderate” rebels. Speaking at Harvard University, Biden claimed that “Our biggest problem is our allies” who “poured hundreds of millions dollars, and tens thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against al-Assad, accepted the people who would be in supply for Al Nusra and Al Qaeda and extremist elements of Jihadists coming from other parts of the world.”

In 2014 Senator Lindsey Graham asked US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey during a Senate hearing if any major Arab ally of the US “embraces” the Islamic State (ISIS). Dempsey replied bluntly, “I know major Arab allies that fundthem,” after which Graham suggested this was understandable because these allies “were trying to beat Assad.”

Rather than a rogue entity supporting extremist groups against US wishes as Biden claims, however, Saudi Arabia is a crucial US ally in supporting such groups. The New York Times reported that “When President Obama secretly authorized the Central Intelligence Agency to begin arming Syria’s embattled rebels in 2013, the spy agency knew it would have a willing partner to help pay for the covert operation. It was the same partner the CIA has relied on for decades for money and discretion in far-off conflicts,” making reference to the conflicts in Afghanistan and Nicaragua in the 1980’s, while the Wall Street Journal reported in August 2013 on the importance of Prince Bandar bin Sultan (former Saudi Ambassador to the US, and by this time the head of Saudi intelligence) in providing “what the CIA couldn’t: planeloads of money and arms” to Syrian rebels.

The Growth of Jihadist Rebel Groups in Syria Serves US Interests

Given that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al-Qaeda, it seems odd that US planners would endorse Saudi and Qatari support for Islamic militant groups in Syria. Logic dictates that if US planners were really fighting a “War on Terror” as is typically presumed, the US would have taken action against their Gulf allies, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, once it became clear that these countries were supporting Islamic extremist groups. The US took no such action however. This is because Gulf support for such Sunni Jihadist groups was beneficial for accomplishing stated US government goals in Syria.

Speaking in a meeting with members of the Syrian opposition at the Dutch Mission to the United Nations in September 2016, Secretary of State John Kerry explained the growth of ISIS in Syria served US interests, namely to pressure Assad to negotiate his exit from power.. Kerry explains that “the reason Russia came in is because ISIL [ISIS] was getting stronger. Daesh [ISIS] was threatening the possibility of going to Damascus. And that is why Russia came in. They didn’t want a Daesh government and they supported Assad. And we know this was growing. We were watching. We saw that Daesh was growing in strength. And we thought Assad was threatened. We thought we could manage that Assad might then negotiate. Instead of negotiating, he got Putin to support him [emphasis mine].”

Implications

Given the evidence cited above, it is therefore no surprise that the Syrian government views the conflict currently engulfing Syria as a Western-inspired plot to overthrow it, in a replay of the foreign-inspired campaign of assassination and terrorism faced by the Syrian government from 1977-1982. Sometimes plots and conspiracies are real, then as now.

US efforts to overthrow the Assad government and militarize (through support for Islamic extremists) any opposition to Assad all but guaranteed that any legitimate, peaceful movement for democracy would fail, that much of Syria would be destroyed, and that tens of thousands would die, and millions be displaced, whether outside the country, or internally. Such results were entirely predictable, given the results of US intervention in Iraq since 2003 and Libya in 2011.

This is illustrated by comments made by US Special Envoy to Syria Michael Ratner, who explained that, “when you pump more weapons into a situation like Syria, it doesn’t end well for Syrians, because there is always someone else who is going to pump more weapons in for the other side. The armed groups in Syria get a lot of support, not just from the United States but from other partners. . . . But pumping weapons in causes someone else to pump weapons in and you end up with Aleppo.”

Failure to acknowledge the reality of the US plot to overthrow Assad, and to insist instead that the conflict in Syria is merely between a brutal dictator on the one hand, and peaceful, democratic activists and “moderate” rebels struggling for their freedom on the other, merely reinforces the false narrative of the conflict promoted by the Western powers. Such a narrative serves the geopolitical interests of the US and its regional allies, rather than the interests of the Syrian civilians the West purports to care for.

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