The present violence is part of a larger narrative of Western manipulation of the Arab world
The situation in Syria today is a result of a hundred years of Anglo-American intervention and incitement. This is the third time the West has tried to topple a legitimate Syrian Regime. The difference this time though is that the West has a pliant press as an ally.
Bashar Assad had lost the propaganda war long before trouble started in Syria two years ago. The movement against him grew by the week in the media, while on the ground it remained a murmur of discontent. CNN, BBC and Wahhabi Arab channels belted out stories of large scale persecution, with preachers like Sheikh Aruoor and the Qatar based Ahmed Karazvi extorting the Syrians to rise up and bomb government buildings and blow up minority religious institutions.
The story of Western manipulation of the Arab world started in the early 20th century as imperial Britain attempted to redraw the maps of the Middle East. They did it for oil, they did it for trade routes, and they did it for fun. With the U.S. as an ally, Britain plotted the overthrow of unfriendly regimes, and the assassination of hostile leaders. After the Second World War President Eisenhower asked his British allies to develop “a high class plan to split the Arabs.” And by the early 60’s the Arabs were split right down the middle.
On one hand were the secular nationalist regimes led by Egypt’s Nasser, which included Syria, Libya and Iraq. On the other hand pro-Western monarchies of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar ruthlessly crushed human rights and followed archaic tribal laws.
“Britain is forced to support the traditionalist (read Salafi/ Wahhabi) though obscurantist regimes” piously wrote James Craig of the foreign office in 1973. “The anti-imperialists” (read anti west) are just so detrimental to our interests.”
In the last decade, America has targeted only those nations where there was no al-Qaida, no terror, and no Wahhabi ideology. American intervention has not only destroyed the infrastructure in these countries but also established violent terrorist movements in all of them. The staunchest allies of the U.S. in the Muslim world are Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and Pakistan. The first three are the largest sponsors of international terror and Pakistan of course practices terror as a state policy.
Through the 1950s, 60s and 70s, the US and the UK undertook military expeditions to destabilise secular Arab nations. They undertook an invasion of Egypt, which failed. They sponsored two assassination attempts on Nasser, which failed. They tried to instigate two revolts in Syria, which also failed.
Way back in 1957 the British cabinet had approved Operation Straggle, a plot to engineer a coup in Damascus. The plan was to create disaffection on the border areas, infiltrate armed insurgents into urban areas and instigate uprisings. Then an Arab invading force was to walk into the country and take over. The then British ambassador to Damascus, Sir John Gardener had been sent funds to encourage defection of Syrian officials. But the plot was foiled by the Syrians and the main conspirators arrested.
Undeterred the MI6 and CIA came up with a “Preferred Plan”, which envisaged sabotage and disruptions as strategy. “False Flag” action was initiated, under which Western sponsored terrorists would carry out killings and bombings in opposition areas, blaming the Syrian government, and instigating widespread riots and protests. Watching the events unfold in Syria over the past two years, it seems that the Americans are serving old wine in old bottles. They have just changed the date on the labels.
Beleaguered Assad has been claiming that the terror blasts in Syria in December 2011 were Saudi/US sponsored. The Western media kept insisting that they were engineered by the regime itself. But when a tragic blast recently killed the defence minister, the head of national security and Bashar’s brother-in-law, this media remained silent.
For centuries British foreign policy was dictated only by commercial gain. Today’s Western intervention needs to be understood against the backdrop of a new pattern of energy transportation. Gas pipelines between Iran, Iraq and Syria, provide an enormous impetus to growth. New markets, constructions contracts, infrastructure development are all now available to Russia and China while Bashaar cocks a snook at the West.
The Arab nationalistic challenge to Western interests has always been rooted in the desire to be masters in their own lands and control their own resources. In the latter part of the last century Nasser, Hafiz al Assad, Gaddafi and Saddam became symbols of this freedom for all Arabs.
Today, after 60 years, the lands of Nasser, Gaddafi and Saddam stand destroyed, their resources plundered, their infrastructure demolished, their children growing up in the shadow of guns. Assad stands as the lone survivor.
As the Indian diaspora flee from Damascus and land in Delhi, they have a similar story to tell. “Before an American presidential election some Muslim country gets ravaged,” says Kaniz Zainub Zehra. “Clinton did it to Afghanistan, Bush did it to Iraq, Obama did it to Libya. As he comes up for re-election, he is doing it to Syria.” “The protests against the regime were all engineered,” said Sayed Intikhab, who returned to UP recently.
Even as India has finally re-asserted its non-alignment by abstaining in the Saudi/Qatar/US sponsored UN resolution against Syria, Moscow and China staunchly shield Bashar. Saudi Arabia and Qatar provide rebels with heavy arms while the US and their Western allies continue to fund them.
While Syrians on both sides die the gap between Romney and Obama widens in opinion polls.
The writer is a theatre director and actor.