Anderson's Axis of Resistance takes on the leftist position of 'a plague on all your houses'. Yassin Al-Haj Saleh, 'the intellectual voice of the Syrian revolution' (for westerners), presents a bleak portrait of 'three monsters... treading on Syria's corpse': (1) the Assad regime and its allies, (2) DAESH/ISIS and the other jihadists, and (3) the West (the USA, UK, France, etc). This is the general view from outside the Syrian cauldron, but leads nowhere.
I remember the view from Cairo, where I was writing for Al-Ahram Weekly as the 'Arab Spring' exploded. The first few months of 2011 in Egypt saw the collapse of the pro-western dictator Hosni Mubarak, and a wave of uprisings in the region, including Syria. Would protestors succeed there too, I asked myself. But the Syrian army was not behind the protests, as was the case in Egypt, where the army was angered by Mubarak's embarrassing attempt to promote his younger son* as heir. There was no such split in Syria, despite resentment of the Alawite dominance and persecution of the Muslim Brotherhood.
I realized that any uprising was doomed, more so, since Assad was not Mubarak, and both domestically and internationally represented the broad interests of Syrians, seen by the West as the last of the Baath anti-imperialist socialists. Yes, quick to jail dissidents, but what else is new? If I were a Syrian eager for change, I would have bitten the bullet and done my best to calm the waters (and hopefully not have left a trail leading me to prison). There is no rose garden for anyone these days.
Erdogan vs Putin
Erdogan's stab in Assad's back was the final straw, revealing the metastasizing Syrian debacle as a western-Turkish effort, Turkey waiting for the chance to reassert its Ottoman muscles, with NATO hovering in the background. Anderson documents the gory details of what followed, where Putin shines as the knight in shining armour, also stabbed by Erdogan (shooting down Russian plane in 2015), but resolute enough to move forward, the goal to defeat ISIS and stabilize Syria, not letting it fall to the imperialists. Some key observations Anderson makes about Turkey:**
*'Direct Russian air power engagement in Syria not only degraded DAESH and Jabhat al Nusra, it exposed Turkish President Erdogan's backing for DAESH. In late 2015 Russia's Defence Ministry presented photographic evidence of convoys of trucks stealing Syrian oil and taking it for sale in Turkey.'
*Erdogan's government had worked 'hand in glove with ISIS', in particular through Turkey's MIT intelligence agency, to develop a relationship in which 'both sides benefit.'
*'Russia's relations with Israel are a major difference, but that does not destroy the common interests that made Russia an ally of Syria, Iran, Iraq and Hezbollah.
*Having backed the al-Qaeda armies against Damascus, Erdoğan claimed the Syrian refugees were fleeing the 'cruelty, oppression and violence' of the Assad government (Daily Sabah 2018), as he pressured Europe with sustained political demands.
*Over 2018-19 Erdoğan maintained this refugee threat in an attempt to stall off the looming Syrian-Iranian-Russian operation against his 'jihadist' proxies in Idlib. He was holding that province as a bargaining chip, using what had become a Turkish protectorate within Syria as a 'security zone'. In April 2016 Syria's Grand Mufti, Sheikh Ahmed Badreddin Hassoun, told this writer: 'Tell [the Europeans] to stop the war on Syria. The refugees will stop within one day. Within one month they will return.'
All along, refugees have been returning, though what should be encouraged by the West (where refugees of all kinds are desperately fleeing), i.e., working with Assad to bring this about, was rejected. Instead, Assad was pilloried ceaselessly in western media, and the Syrian government suffered under the US-Israel strategy of siege/ subversion of 'enemies'. The West's lust for regime change meant tragedy for countless millions of Syrians.
US-Israeli strategy in the Middle East has always been:
to subjugate independent peoples and dominate the entire region. By this logic, resistance forces must be kept fragmented. Regardless of any specific pretext for each conflict, the wave of bloody aggression has a single aim: to secure privileged access to the region's resources and so dictate terms of access to Russia, China and any other outside power.
US-Israel is so confident of itself and its privilege to control the world, that anything that interferes with this is considered terrorism/ evil/ whatever. This is why Iran is so crucial in preventing US-Israel from succeeding. We are treated to 'news' couched in US-Israel doublespeak: a 'shia crescent' is haunting Europe, to paraphrase the opening words of the Communist Manifesto.
Axis: Shia Arc or Band of Brothers?