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For whom the Syrian bell tolls

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Cross-posted from Asia Times 


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The top geopolitical tragedy in 2012 is bound to remain the top geopolitical tragedy in 2013: the rape of Syria. 

Just as once in a while I go back to my favorite Hemingway passages, lately I've been going back to some footage I shot years ago of the Aleppo souk -- the most extraordinary of all Middle Eastern souks. It's like being shot in the back; I was as fond of the souk's architecture as of its people and traders. Weeks ago, most of the souk -- the living pulse of Aleppo for centuries -- was set on fire and destroyed by the "rebels" of the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA). 

In this Syrian tragedy, there is no Hemingway young hero, no Robert Jordan in the International Brigades fighting alongside Republican guerrillas against the fascists during the Spanish Civil War. In the Syrian civil war, the international brigades are mostly of the mercenary, Salafi-jihadi, beheading and car-bombing type. And the (few) young Americans in place are basically high-tech pawns in a game played by the rapacious NATOGCC club (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and its Arab puppets of the Gulf Cooperation Council).  

The tragedy continues. The Syrian state, political and military security apparatus will maintain its mini-blitzkriegs -- with no second thoughts for "collateral damage." On the opposing side, "rebel" commanders will be betting on a new Saudi-Qatari-encouraged Supreme Military Council. 

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The Salafis and Salafi-jihadis of the al-Nusrah Front -- 7th century fanatics, beheading enthusiasts and car-bombing operatives who do the bulk of the fighting -- were not invited. After all, the al-Nusrah Front has been branded a "terrorist organization" by Washington. 

Now check the reaction of a Muslim Brotherhood (MB) bigwig, Hama-born deputy comptroller general Mohammed Farouk Tayfour; he said the decision was "too hasty." And check the reaction of the new Syrian opposition leader, Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, at a "Friends of Syria" meeting in Morocco; the decision must be "reexamined." Virtually all "rebel" outfits publicly declared their undying love for the hardcore al-Nusrah. 

So with the al-Nusrah fanatics probably disguising their Islamically correct beards under a prosaic hoodie, expect plenty more "rebel" advances on Damascus -- despite two major beatings (last July and then this month), courtesy of Syrian government counter-offensives. After all, that lavish training by US, British and Jordanian Special Forces has got to yield some results, not to mention the loads of extra lethal weapons provided by those paragons of democracy in the Persian Gulf. By the way, the al-Nusrah Front controls sections of devastated Aleppo. 

Sectarian hatred rules 

Then there's the Orwellian, brand new National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces -- a Washington-Doha co-production. Meet the new boss, same as the old (lousy) boss, which was the Syrian National Council (SNC). It's just rhetoric; the only thing that matters for the "National Coalition" is to get more lethal weapons. And they love al-Nusrah, even if Washington doesn't. 

Qatar unloaded tons of weapons "like candy" (according to a US arms dealer) in "liberated" Libya. Only after the Benghazi blowback did the Pentagon and the State Department wake up to the fact that weaponizing the Syrian rebels may be, well, the road to more blowback. Translation: Qatar will keep unloading tons of weapons in Syria. The US will keep "leading from behind."  

Expect more horrible sectarian massacres as the one in Aqrab. Here is the most authoritative version of what may have really happened. This proves once again that what the NATOGCC "rebels" are actually winning is the YouTube war. So expect more massive, relentless waves of spin and propaganda - with Western corporate media cheerleading of the Syrian "freedom fighters" putting to shame the 1980s jihad in Afghanistan. 

Expect more major distortions of context, as when Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said, "The fighting will become even more intense, and [Syria] will lose tens of thousands and, perhaps, hundreds of thousands of civilians... If such a price for the removal of the president seems acceptable to you, what can we do? We, of course, consider it absolutely unacceptable." 

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Ergo, Russia is trying to do everything to prevent this from happening. And if NATOGCC "rebels" carry out their threats to attack the Russian and Ukrainian embassies in Damascus, they had better trim their beards and run for cover from the no-nonsense Spetnatz -- Russian Special Forces. 

Expect more sectarian hatred, as in Sunni Sheikh and al-Jazeera star Yusuf al-Qaradawi casually issuing a fatwa  legitimizing the killing of millions of Syrians, be they military or civilian, as long as they are Alawites or Shi'ites. 

Sectarian hatred will rule, with Qatar in the lead, followed by Saudis with large pocketbooks and assorted hardcore Islamists. Agenda; war against Shi'ites, against Alawites, against secularists, even against moderates, not only in Syria but all across the Middle East. 

A Patriot vs Iskander face-off

The new Syrian Army strategy boils down to a major pull-back from countryside backwaters and bases, concentrating their troops in cities and towns. 

Expect the overall strategy of the NATOGCC club to remain more or less the same; bog down the Syrian Army in as many areas as possible; demoralize them; and keep oiling the terrain for a possible North Atlantic Treaty Organization intervention (the chemical weapons hype and the relentless carping over a "humanitarian catastrophe" are part of the extensive psy ops package). 

The Syrian Army may have the heavy weapons; but when confronting a tsunami of mercenaries and Salafi-jihadists fully trained and weaponized by the NATOGCC club, the whole thing may take years, Lebanon civil war-style. That leads us to the next "best" option -- which is in fact a spin-off; the death of the Syrian state by a thousand, make it a million, cuts. 

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Pepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia (more...)
 

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