Monday, July 9, 2012

Syria:Straight Talking: -The Syrian Cauldron

By Jeremy Salt
Ankara – Tension between Turkey and Syria along their border is edging closer to flashpoint. Last week a Turkish air force jet was shot down after violating Syrian air space. The Syrian government said the plane was hit while inside Syrian air space. Turkey says it had already left Syrian air space and was hit in international air space.

What the plane was doing inside Syrian air space is another matter. Turkey’s President, Abdullah Gul, said it had ‘strayed’ off course. Other accounts suggest that it was there to ‘light up’ Syria’s radar system or test its missile defences. Turkey immediately sent troops and armor to the border and invoked Article 4 of the NATO Charter, calling for consultation with its partners in the alliance. They immediately endorsed the Turkish version. Hillary Clinton called the shooting down of the plane ‘brazen’ while William Hague thought it was ‘outrageous’, words, one cannot help noting, that they have never used to describe the missile attacks by their armed forces that have killed civilians in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya.

Another ‘incident’ might lead to Turkey invoking Article 5, the common defence article of the NATO Charter, which regards an attack on one member as an attack on all. War between Syria and Turkey would then become war between Syria and all NATO members, leading in turn to confrontation between the NATO/Gulf state bloc on one hand and Russia, China, Iran and their allies on the other.

There is nothing accidental or unwilled about what is happening in Syria.

The government in Damascus has been deliberately locked into a cycle of violence fed from the outside by the self-styled ‘Friends of Syria’. Both sides are implicated in the killing of civilians yet the mainstream media has created a narrative in which virtually all the killing is the work of the army or the ‘regime loyalists’ known as the shabiha.

‘Activists’ routinely blame every murder, bombing and act of sabotage on the government even when the victims have been Baath loyalists (as was the professor murdered by armed men in her home on the outskirts of Homs in late June, along with her three children and parents).

The suffering of families whose menfolk have been killed after taking up arms against the government is reported in the media but not the suffering of families who have lost members to the armed groups.

The jury remains out on the Hula massacre. ( Not True)

While the UN Human Rights Council says in its latest report that ‘many’ of the killings ‘may’ have been the work of regime loyalists, other evidence points to the massacre having been the handiwork of jihadis, reportedly including the Faruq Brigade of the so-called Free Syrian Army. As the Human Rights Council admits that it has no conclusive evidence as to who was behind this massacre it might have been more responsible for it say nothing unless and until it did have such evidence.

This unbalanced narrative feeds into the war strategies being framed by the ‘Friends of Syria’.

These ‘friends’ insist that the armed campaign they are sponsoring is directed against the government and not the people. What ‘the people’ – by any measure the majority of Syrians – want is hard to gauge amidst such chaos but evidence suggests they see these ‘friends’ as their enemies.

The referendum in February and the elections in May were hardly perfect but remain the clearest indications yet of general support amongst Syrians for a political solution to the crisis gripping their country.

Outside the enclaves dominated by the armed groups, the people are strongly opposed to these groups and their external backers, knowing that but for the obstruction of Russia and China, NATO warplanes would have been bombing their country long more