Syria's "false flag' terrorism, Houla and the United Nations
By Tim Anderson
On top of the tragedy of the violence in Syria we have the tragedy of a deeply biased United Nations, a malignant bias which is encouraging "false flag' terrorism. That is, the fundamentalists murder civilians, blame this on the government, then use these crimes as a pretext for greater foreign intervention.
The serious student of Syria will have worked out by now that the violence of the secular Syrian state has been overwhelmingly aimed at crushing a fundamentalist and foreign funded (by the US, Britain, France, Saudi, Qatari) rebellion. Even greater ruthlessness was used in the early 1980s when the previous government of Hafez Al-Assad definitively crushed an armed uprising by the Muslim Brotherhood.
The violence of the "Free Syrian Army' (FSA), on the other hand, is both anti-state and sectarian. On the one hand it aims to overthrow the secular state (not just the government), but can only do so with substantial foreign assistance, as occurred in Libya. At the same time it is driven by the most fanatical sects within Sunni Islam (e.g. salafis), which make a holy war against Shia Islam (including the liberal Alawis) because they are "not really Muslims'. They also attack Sunnis "in the middle', a majority who will not join in or collaborate with their holy war.
The fundamentalist-dominated FSA, backed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, is in alliance with US-funded exile groups, in particular the Syrian National Council (set up like the exile Iraqi National Council and the exile Libyan National Council). These groups provide logistic and foreign support; nevertheless, it is the FSA that is directly engaged with the Syrian Army.
The salafist slogan "Alawis to the grave, Christians to Beirut' flags FSA genocidal and ethnic cleansing aims, which were partly implemented in Homs and Aleppo, before the Syrian Army drive the FSA out. Donations for these lovely activities are now tax-deductible in the USA (Giraldi 2012; NRP 2012). The FSA these days incorporates more foreign "jihadis', local salafists and mercenaries than army defectors.
The large numbers of foreign fighters have been welcomed by the FSA (if not by the Syrian people) because the sectarian mandate has nothing to do with national politics. Religious leaders authorise them to kill in the name of God. The peaceful demonstrations and the domestic political reform process have been sidelined. Indeed, this sectarianism has wider roots in the oil-rich Gulf monarchies' fears of Shia Islam's influence from Iran and Iraq through to Syria and the Lebanon. The US is deeply worried about this, too. That is why the Saudis, with US support, funded Syria's armed uprising from the beginning of the violence, in March 2011 (Salt 2011, Queenan 2011, Truth Syria 2012b; Abouzaid 2012).
The US and NATO - used to having their way at the United Nations after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 - entered into their alliance with the most sectarian of Islamic groups for the same reason big powers always form alliances: to divide and dominate the region. They did something similar in Afghanistan back in the 1980s, in Iraq during and after Saddam Hussein, and they are doing it in Syria today. They not only want to control the oil resources of the region, but to strategically contain the influence of the other powers, notably Russia and China.
This strategic view is necessary to understand the attacks on Syria (which has very little oil) and the apparent contradiction between the big powers' stated aim of supressing the most radical, sectarian forms of Islam (e.g. "Al Qaeda'); and the big powers' current alliance with those same groups. The real issue is not religion but imperial strategy. How else do we explain Washington's silence at the ethnic cleansing of Christians in Homs (CNA 2012a; CNA 2012b)?
The United Nations Security Council, created to prevent war, was dominated by the US and NATO for twenty years, from 1991 to 2011. Only with the Syrian conflict has opposition re-emerged, mainly from Russia and China (two of the five nations that hold veto powers), backed by large sections of Latin America. Nevertheless, big power dominance continues to distort UN processes, in particular UN investigations. Partisan statements from the Security Council, backed up by Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon and Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay, generate pressure for findings of some extraordinary reason to increase intervention, and to move against the government.
Making good use of the corporate media, the big powers seek to de-legitimise the Syrian government to justify more open intervention and so bring about "regime change'. The sectarian FSA, for its part, desperately needs foreign assistance to make ground against the powerful Syrian Army. Despite their powerful backers, the FSA has not yet come close to winning any major confrontation with the Syrian Armed Forces.
Here we can see the root of a special feature of the sectarian violence in Syria: the ruthless Salafis are already prepared to kill civilians as part of their "holy' war. On top of this, if they can blame their own murders on the government, this adds to the international foment that might bring them outside military support. They already have the great advantage that the western media listens almost exclusively to their versions of events. The FSA's military weakness can thus be bolstered by a "false flag terrorism' which they can turn to their advantage. They have done this many times.
For example, deaths from rooftop snipers in Daraa and Homs were routinely blamed on the Syrian government. In the corporate media these killings were usually reported as "regime atrocities', even though extensive video of FSA rooftop snipers had been posted on YouTube (see Anderson 2012).
Al Jazeera, owned by the Qatari government, a financier of the conflict, also promoted "false flag' murders. For example early in the conflict, on 10 April 2011, the Qatari station showed a photo of Nidal Jannoud of Banias badly beaten and covered in blood. Al Jazeera said he was a victim of pro-government "Shabiha' (thugs) who were brutally attacking and killing peaceful protestors in Banias. Two days later Nidal's dead body was found near a gas station; it emerged he was a vegetable seller and a government supporter (Truth Syria 2012a; Dirgham 2012). Al Jazeera then claimed Nidal was himself a "Shabiha'. Four Aljazeera staff resigned over the station's anti-Syria bias.
More systematic evidence was collected by Homs-based nun, Mother Agnes Merriam al-Saleeb. She pointed out, in November 2011, that the Catholic Media Centre had a list of names of hundreds of murder victims, many of whose images had been later used in [FSA] media setups which claimed that security forces had killed them (SANA 2011).