Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Real Question About Syria

The piecemeal nature of the information that reaches the American public prevents us from seeing discrete events within a larger framework, the ‘big picture’ that I have been writing about for years, and which, by the way, is now the title of Thom Hartmann’s excellent show on Russia’s English language TV channel, RT.

What is happening across the Middle East?  1) Our client governments use increasingly brutal methods to keep their people down; 2) The United States tries to prevent these governments from losing power, not mainly because we need their oil, but because a radical shift toward any kind of people power in that region puts Israel in real danger (as opposed to the boogeyman dangers it has been crying wolf about for decades: first Iraq, now Iran).  (Likewise, Russian support for Syria may be about retaining port on the Mediterranean, or a carved-in-stone policy of not supporting enemies of the state, but it is also about supporting the 'front-line state'.)

One can only wonder why Israel is focusing so obsessively on Iran’s  putative nuclear program, when it is surrounded, if not by hostile regimes, then certainly by hostile populations.  Israel has been brutally occupying Palestinian lands for decades, acting as a veritable Goliath vis a vis a weaker Arab people, and the Arab street know that its rulers have been American puppets for decades, as part of the U.S.’s commitment to defend Israel.

As they fixate on the supposed deleterious influence of Islam, our politicians take no account of ideology. Across the Muslim world, the 99% wants more equity, while we want docile regimes run for and by the 1%.  On Israel’s southern border, it is no surprise that the Muslim Brotherhood is defying the military rulers of Egypt after seeming to support them after Mubarak’s ouster: the Brotherhood’s new generation of leaders are more interested in seeing their country break free of American domination than in checking on headscarves, while the military would be inclined to continue Mubarak's subservience to the U.S., its weapons supplier.

As far as I have seen, no news channel has viewed the Syrian crisis in terms of the Arab world’s greater or lesser hostility toward Israel.  The Assad regime has constituted a resolute enemy on Israel’s northern border, and Israel would feel more secure if Syria were run by American puppets.

American nervousness over the composition of the rebel movement is not about whether it is democratic, but about the attitude toward Israel of those who could replace Assad.  We would like to cherry pick the political figures who will replace Assad, but we really have no way of knowing which ones will go along with Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.


  1. Israel's "Boogeyman dangers"? Both Iran and Iraq have actively supported attacks on Israel since the beginning of the State. Iraq with troops, suicide bombers, Scuds and terrorist support. Iran got into the game later after their fanatic Islamist regime takeover. Both worked diligently toward getting "The Bomb" to erase Israel and its democratic system from the otherwise authoritarian region. After the painful "Arab Spring" the region is still firmly in the grip of military regimes, not "the people".

  2. Indeed! But the people are trying to gain power, and this is spreading throughout the world, not only the Middle East.

    As for Iran, there are rants and there is history: Iran has never made war on another country. I don't think we can separate the West's need for oil from what is going on.

  3. Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it". Hamas and Hizbolla are Iran's foreign legions in their war against Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Undoubtedly Iran actively supports Al Queda and the Taliban as well. It's asymetrical warfare until they can take on the big boys in the nuclear arena. They're not innocents, just another Islamic military dictatorship.

  4. This is interesting! You put Israel and the PA in the same camp? I don't think so. As for Iran, they are Shi'ites, as I'm sure you know.
    Why would they support the Sunni organizations? Shi'ites are the underdogs, the Islamic 'socialists' if you will. And the dictatorship is not a military one but a religious one. And who are we to call the kettle black!

    As for democracy, re your first comment, it's becoming ever more relative, everywhere.

  5. "The enemy of my enemy is my friend". Israel has open relations with Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Morroco, and Dubai. Through intermediaries (us) they act in concert with the other gulf states, and Asian and African Sunni islamic countries. Most Sunni states believe in some sort of a "Peace Deal" with Israel if the reward is high enough. Most Shia would prefer martyrdom. And yes, both Israel and the Palestinian Authority are mortal enemies of Iran, a theocratic dictatorship with its own army currently arming and training its friends whether Alawite Syria, Shi'ite Hezbolla, or Sunni Hamas. If they are "socialists", they are like the National Socialists of the 30's Germany.

  6. Please read Alastair Cooke's book.

  7. It is always enlightening to apply some history. Iran nationalized its' oil which caused the Western powers to overthrow a democratically elected president and replace him with a Shah which resulted in his overthrow by the Iranian people and the hostage crisis. And since, clerical rule when Khomenei came back from exile.
    So now the people struggle to regain the freedoms they had before the Western powers overthrew Mohammad Mosaddegh.
    Concerning Israel, The current Ayatollah has offered to recognize Israel if the Palestinians get statehood.

  8. Thanks for this wonderful comment: history in a nutshell!