On intervening in Syria

Tariq Ali

The aim of the ‘limited war’ as set out by the United States and its European vassals is simple. The Syrian regime was slowly re-establishing its control over the country against the opposition armed by the West and its tributary states in the region (Saudi Arabia and Qatar). This situation required correction. The opposition in this depressing civil war needed to be strengthened militarily and psychologically.

Since Obama had said chemical weapons were the ‘red line’, the weapons were bound to come into play. Cui prodest? as the Romans used to inquire. Who profits? Clearly, not the Syrian regime.

Several weeks ago, two journalists from Le Monde had already discovered chemical weapons. The question is: if they were used, who used them? The Obama administration and its camp followers would like us to believe that Assad permitted UN chemical weapons inspectors into Syria, and then marked their arrival by launching a chemical weapon assault against women and children, about fifteen kilometres away from the hotel where the inspectors were lodged. It simply does not make sense. Who carried out this atrocity?

In Iraq we know it was the US that used white phosphorus in Fallujah in 2004 (there were no red lines there except those drawn in Iraqi blood), so the justification is as murky as it was in previous wars.

Ever since the war and occupation of Iraq, the Arab world has been divided between Sunni and Shia components. Backing the targeting of Syria are two old friends: Saudi Arabia and Israel. Both want the regime in Iran destroyed. The Saudis for factional reasons, the Israelis because they’re desperate to exterminate Hizbullah. That’s the endgame they have in sight and Washington, after resisting for a bit, is playing ball again. Bombing Syria is the first step.

It’s foolish to get too worked up about Britain. It’s a vassal state, de facto governed by a National Government that includes Parliamentary Labour. Its political parties have accepted permanently situating themselves in the ‘posterior of the White House’. Cameron was gung-ho for a war some months ago. When the US went cold on the idea, Downing Street shut up. Now they’re back in action with little Ed saying that he backs the war ‘reluctantly’, the most pathetic of positions. Conservative backbenchers are putting up a stiffer resistance. Will more Tories vote against than Labour? We shall see.

The Iranians have reacted strongly and threatened suitable retaliation. It may be bluff, but what it reveals is that even with a new ‘moderate’ leader, praised by the Western media, the stance being taken is no different from that of Ahmedinejad. Tehran understands well what is at stake and why. Every single Western intervention in the Arab world and its surrounds has made the conditions worse. The raids being planned by the Pentagon and its subsidiaries in Nato are likely to follow the same pattern.

Meanwhile in Egypt, an Arab Pinochet is restoring ‘order’ in time-honoured fashion, with the backing of the slightly embarrassed leaders of the US/EU conglomerate.


  • 29 August 2013 at 3:19pm
    NHA1965 says:
    There is no doubt that the aim of the attacks is to weaken the Syrian forces and thus giving the rebels the upper hand in the fight on the ground...the questions I would like the US/Saudi's to answer are: lets assume that Assad is defeated, how will Syria transition into the new regime? What happens to the arms on the ground (specifically so called chemical weapons)? How do you deal with the hired bandits (Terrorist groups)? How do you deal with the Syrian majority that did not sign off on this change? my answer is that they truly don't care what happens so long as the aim of weakening Iran/it's allies in the region is accomplished and setting the stage for US & Allies showdown with Iran when the Republicans to control of the White House after Obama...So, I believe Obama's/US' immediate task is to take care of Syria/Hezbollah...The other interesting twist to all of this is the deception & diversion these events have created for Israel in it's quest to seize more Palestinian lands, build more settlements, continue to isolate/disconnect existing Palestinian cities & villages from one another, and above all to get the attention of the world community focused on other matters than the Palestinian question and thus putting the matter to bed.

  • 30 August 2013 at 10:50pm
    Jonathan M. Feldman says:
    The idea that Israel is directing U.S. policy has to address some counter-factual arguments.

    First, the coup against Honduras showed that U.S. foreign policy under Obama partially responds to pressures from the Republican Party and their ability to create a media/spin cycle, particularly one linked to the idea of "military weakness." Perhaps that is what the code word "U.S. credibility means" when used by U.S. leaders suggesting that they need to strike. The idea that Syria would use weapons against the U.S. is utterly absurd of course. The Republican Party is more significant than Israel and even if Republicans ally themselves with militarist Israeli leaders, this hardly explains their motivations for supporting a strike against Syria. Their political card is to support war to differentiate themselves from the Democrats if they can (given demographic disadvantages, playing the war card is always useful to gain votes from some). The Democratic Party also has a militarist strain, but one might argue that the influence of Republicans and war corporations is stronger vis-a-vis that party than the Israelis and U.S. peace movement combined. If we wanted to be critical, we might ask why the independent variable of the peace movement is so much weaker than Israel, the war corporations, the Republican Party or their allies. This question almost never is asked in these contexts, a question that many on the Left or Right don't bother to ask because their paradigmatic view is rather narrow and adverse to historical research about an anti-militaristic discourse.

    Second, the theorists who suggest that the correlation of US policy and Israeli policy equals U.S. following Israeli policy is of course a potential confusion of correlation and causation. The "Israeli Lobby" thesis helps weaken the critique of the military industrial complex and warfare state as causal domestic actors, displacing responsibility to another country as the tail wags the dog (see:

    Third, some reports suggest that Israel wouldn't want to destabilize Syria (see Amos Harel, "Despite words of warning, Israel wants to stay out of Syria conflict,Experts say Assad has been using chemical weapons for some time, but the scale of last week's attack may have been a mistake," Haaretz, August 30, 2013: Of course, if the U.S. backs a military action, the Israelis as the "tail" that does not wag the dog, might be expected to follow along. Of course, Harel's reporting could be wrong, but logic suggests that to maintain the imperial or non-imperial status quo, Israel would want a stable Syria. Would Israel up the ante to push Hezbollah out? This thesis requires some further thinking. Let's assume Obama has maintained the military industrial complex and many Bush policies. Does he really want his legacy to be a war president? Wouldn't this conflict with his other domestic agenda that he sees more important to him and the U.S. in historical, political or even Party-interest terms? If the U.S. simply bombs Syria, that would hardly be sufficient for driving Hezbollah out. So, the idea that Israel backs the action to drive Hezbollah out seems to be based on insufficient data at this point. Of course, Israeli military leaders could be stupid and engage in wish fulfillment, but they have far less slack for error than their U.S. counterparts.

    I am rather surprised by the view that every time the U.S. decides to invade or bomb another country, we have to act surprised. It is rather inevitable as the byproduct of war-making institutions, including universities, defense firms, the U.S. Congress, the Executive branch, the Pentagon, security agencies, intelligence agencies, regional governments dependent on defense spending, war intellectuals and policy makers, etc. who profit politically, economically or ideologically from war, or have realist militarist actions as part of their identity and character structure. Subsuming all this to Israel reflects a rather a historical and naive view of the United States. I'm not saying Tariq Ali necessarily does this, but many do. And while we are at it, let's not forget all the funds invested in these defense companies and the mass media silence.

    This bombing will continue the cycle of violence: (see:,0,7387106.story) Both sides in the conflict are likely responsible for this violence. Israel and the U.S. and other militarists in the region are responsible. I don't support bombing as the road to peace, but doing nothing is not a solution either. What is required is: a) an alternative foreign policy for the U.S. and Israel, b) demilitarizing the US industrial base and a green conversion of that industrial base, c) the creation of a third way in Syria, that topples the dictatorship and displaces the opposition which itself is suspect, d) the creation of peace keeping and negotiation processes that are not manipulated cynically by the major powers. A systematic policy is the kind of approach which has been discussed in part at

  • 31 August 2013 at 8:09am
    Hermelin says:
    Why any journalist would wait for the US govt's appraisal of the situation or give credence to it beats me. In this case, the US govt is plaintiff, judge, and police.

    Spanning several administrations, at least since 2006, it gives millions to organizations of its choosing inside Syria ( This in order to weaken the Assad regime, a regime that was harsh even before it slid (or was sled) into civil war, but was it as bad as other regimes in the Middle East the US govt supported (Mubarak's Egypt) or still supports (the Saudi Kingdom)?

    Imagine the Chinese government funding, say, Occupy Wallstreet with millions of dollars for years. No matter if you consider that a good thing or a bad thing, giving a lot of money to one party can hardly be called democratic (1 person, 1 vote).
    Still worse, for a couple of years at least it is directly funding and training, and now directly weaponizing militants. We do not know when that started and if it even dates back to 2006 or even earlier.

    So the US govt is accusing one side of a horrendous crime, while "aiding and abetting" the other, then investigating the crime scene, judging over it and finally announcing the verdict. Now impartial should we expect the verdict to be?

    This in addition to Tariq Ali questioning whether it makes sense for Assad to attract bombs by intentionally crossing a pretty well-defined "red line". He had never given us any reason to believe he has suicidal tendencies in the past.

  • 31 August 2013 at 4:46pm
    habbat says:
    infact US involvement in any form toppling Assad regime would of course would have tremendous repercussions for US because that consequently would lead to disturb regional ailignment because whether to reinforce Al Queda by overthrowing Assad regime or negotiation to render Iran/Hezbollah with victory

  • 4 September 2013 at 4:29pm
    hughprysor-jones says:
    I fear the answer may be a lot worse than most ordinary decent people are willing to contemplate.
    After sixty years of relative stability in the Middle East, structural constraints are breaking down. No-one knows this better than the Israelis - or the Saudis - both of whom are afraid. Everyone missed the emergence of the Shia-Sunni conflict and the uneven economic growth in the region has made everything worse.
    Western patrons are losing traction. In Egypt, where the Saudis have triumphed, a regional actor has pushed out a Super-Power. But with no Regional Power agreement( Iran and Turkey, for instance, getting together ) what we probably face now in the Middle East is a sort of Thirty Years War.
    Make no mistake, it is in the real interest of the Western Powers to bring this on. Millions of civilians will die, and many countries will be wrecked but it will suit us.
    Foreign Offices probably think the "Thirty Years War" scenario is containable. They routinely exaggerate the threat of terrorism to keep the populace quiet. There will be spill-over, maybe even more home-made sarin, but it will be pinpricks ( they hope ).
    So while the liberal press bays for the blood of dictators, what our governments want is the chaos and anarchy the end of the era of minority regimes in the Middle East will bring on.
    It is a wicked world and , I fear, about to enter one of its particularly wicked phases.