By Eric Draitser
Aug 28, 2013
As the United States, along with its European and Israeli allies, prepares to launch yet another illegal war of aggression in the Middle East, the geopolitics of the US strategy could not be more apparent.
Despite the high-minded talk of humanitarianism, the US is advancing a transparently neo-colonialist agenda aimed at securing hegemony in the region by destroying what little opposition remains.
The images and videos flooding the internet since last week purport to show ‘evidence’ of a chemical weapons attack perpetrated by the Assad regime. This development neatly and conveniently coincides with the declaration by the Obama administration that the use of such weapons constitutes a ‘red line’, merely a euphemism for the point at which the US would feel emboldened to militarily intervene on behalf of the rebels.
And so, as news outlets report on the ‘likely use of chemical weapons’ by Damascus without anything other than unverifiable hearsay and ambiguous video footage, the drumbeat of war gets louder and louder.
A clear-thinking and rational political analyst would immediately be suspicious about the attack considering the presence of international chemical weapons investigators in Syria, as well as the fact that Damascus was undeniably winning the war against the jihadi rebel factions in cities like Qussair, Homs, Aleppo and elsewhere. That Assad would sabotage his own military victories and provide the perfect pretext for a foreign intervention is not only far-fetched, it runs contrary to his own record throughout this conflict. Remember that Damascus has shown restraint in the face of international war crimes committed against it by Israel, Turkey and other regional actors who have been fomenting the conflict in Syria for more than two years.
And so we see once again that we are living in what French philosopher and cultural critic Guy Debord called ‘The Society of the Spectacle’ – a world in which representation of truth is more important than truth itself, where videos of unknown origin and without verification take the place of authentic evidence and investigation, where wars that will destroy millions of lives and future generations are manufactured by paid actors on television who merely masquerade as journalists.
All this leads many to wonder whether the United States is really as stupid as it seems. Could Washington actually believe that a war in Syria will actually benefit the US and its interests? Could they truly be so short-sighted and unwilling to learn from past mistakes? Although these questions would seem entirely valid, they presuppose that a war with Syria is actually the goal of a war with Syria. On the contrary, this illegal aggression against the sovereign Syrian Arab Republic is merely the opening phase of a greater regional war with the ultimate target being the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Smashing the Shiite crescent
In the decades since the revolution of 1979 which created the modern Islamic Republic of Iran, the US policy toward that country has been antagonistic and belligerent to such a degree that Iran has been forced, out of sheer necessity, to rely very heavily on its few regional and international allies. And so, given the political posture of Bashar Assad, like that of his father before him, Damascus has been viewed as Iran’s key political partner, providing Iran with a crucial ally along the border with Israel and a bridge to the Hezbollah organization in Southern Lebanon. Additionally, a multi-ethnic society like Syria with a dominant Shiite-Alawite demographic presents itself as a natural friend to Shiite Iran. However, the importance of this relationship does not stop at mere similarities.
Since the United States imposed draconian sanctions against Tehran, ostensibly over Iran’s alleged nuclear program, the economics of the Iran-Syria relationship have become even more significant. As Tehran has been increasingly frozen out of world energy markets due to US and European sanctions that make it difficult if not impossible to settle international debts with the Islamic Republic, it has been forced to find alternative methods and infrastructure to sell its oil and gas and maintain its fragile economy.
A centerpiece of this strategy is the Iran-Iraq-Syria gas pipeline deal signed last month. Intended to provide Iran with a new delivery route to the Mediterranean coast, giving it renewed access to the Eurasian landmass and markets, the pipeline is obviously a blow to US-Israeli attempts to strangle the regime in Iran economically. Syria, being the critical linchpin in this deal, figures significantly in the Iranian strategy to survive the sanctions, thereby necessitating Iranian involvement in the conflict if only to provide the critical support Assad needs to maintain control of the security of the country.
When one looks at the players involved in the war in Syria, it becomes clear that the Sunni monarchies – Saudi Arabia and Qatar primarily – have committed to the war in order to ensure their own continued hegemony, especially in terms of energy production. Qatar, being one of the world’s wealthiest gas exporters, views the growing relationship between Iran and Syria, especially the gas pipeline deal, as an existential threat to their own standing. The Saudis, long since mortal enemies and rivals of the Shia Iranians, also have come to view Syria as merely a battleground in the larger proxy war with Iran.
And then of course, there’s Israel. Perched comfortably on Syria’s border, Israel has played a key role in stoking tensions and fomenting unrest on the other side of the Golan Heights. Not only did Israel carry out a number of blatantly illegal bombings inside Syria’s borders, there have been dozens of mainstream accounts, including videos, of Israeli Special forces commandos inside of Syria. Naturally, Israeli intentions are to further their own interests which for decades have been centered on the destruction of Iran, their main regional competitor and rival.
Furthermore, as renowned author and geopolitical analyst F. William Engdahl has noted, Israel’s new gas discoveries off the Mediterranean coast add a new dimension to the struggle for dominance in the region. Engdahl writes, “Now Israel faces a strategic and very dangerous dilemma. Naturally, Israel is none too excited to see Assad’s Syria, linked to Israel’s arch foe Iran, and Iraq and Lebanon out-compete an Israeli gas export to the EU markets. This could explain why Israel’s Netanyahu government has been messing inside Syria in the anti-Assad forces.”
Of course, Israel is not an entirely independent actor. As a principal player in the US-dominated imperial system, Israel serves as the bad cop to Washington’s good cop on Iran. While the warmongers in Tel Aviv call for Iranian blood, the US is able to feign interest in nuclear negotiations to resolve the conflict and lift the sanctions. At the very same moment, the US, EU and Israel foment civil war in Syria precisely to weaken the Iranians, already isolated politically and economically, thereby showing that not only are they not interested in peace with Iran, they are implementing a multi-phased strategy to destroy that country.
Adding insult to injury, the continued instability and violence in Iraq has politically weakened Prime Minister Maliki, a key Iranian ally. With Baghdad and Damascus in chaos, Tehran will find it very difficult to continue to support Hezbollah, another important piece on the chessboard. So one can see without great difficulty that the war in Syria is, at a fundamental level, a means to an end – the end being the total destruction of the Shiite Crescent insofar as it represents resistance to the hegemonic designs of the US, Israel, and their puppet Sunni monarchies.
What has become ever more apparent in recent weeks and months is that the conflict in Syria is much larger than Syria itself. Like the Balkans almost exactly 100 years ago, Syria has become the proverbial powder keg in which Western leaders play with matches. Tragically, the diplomatic brinksmanship of the imperial powers in 1914 unleashed upon the world one of the greatest tragedies in the history of humanity: the First World War. As the United States prepares to commence yet another war, let us hope that world war is not once again the outcome.
Eric Draitser is an independent geopolitical analyst based in New York City and the founder of StopImperialism.com.