While the world’s attention has been focused on the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, the conflict in Syria has continued unabated, and with it the suffering of the Syrian people.
With the third anniversary of the conflict now upon us, it is appropriate to consider where we are and to look at what the future holds for this nation of 23 million people who’ve seen their country ripped apart in the course of one of the most protracted and brutal civil conflicts since World War II.
When historians consider this war in years to come, they will only be able to do so accurately if they factor in its specific regional and historical geopolitical context. In this regard they will note how Syria has existed in the crosshairs of the West since 9/11 as a pole of opposition to Washington’s and Tel Aviv’s objective of regional and geopolitical hegemony, predicated of course as a struggle against terrorism.
Here the sentiments of US academic and political commentator, Noam Chomsky, are apposite: “If you wish to end terrorism, stop participating in it.”
The mass uprising swept through the Middle East, beginning in Tunisia in late 2010 after a poor street vendor by the name of Mohamed Bouazizi set himself alight in protest at being denied the right to scrape a living selling cheap produce in the street by a corrupt and bullying local police officer.
The momentum of what came to be known as the Arab Spring arrived in Syria in 2011 and it was expected to just sweep aside yet another ‘unpopular’ Arab government. Pro-Western commentators and voices were verily rubbing their hands in glee at the thought of Bashar al-Assad’s regime going the same way as Saddam Hussein’s in Iraq and Muammar Gaddafi’s in Libya before it.
Three years on and those same commentators and voices are vocal in their condemnation of the West’s failure to intervene militarily in order to topple the Syrian government. This mindset is a consequence of a blinkered approach to the region, in which its people are reduced to pawns in a geopolitical version of a John Wayne movie, pitting the civilized West against a barbaric enemy standing in the way of progress.
In the real world, however, it is the West which represents barbarism. The record in this regard doesn’t lie. The devastation visited on the Iraqi people, for example, alone qualifies as one of the most brutal crimes against humanity ever witnessed, compounded by the years of punitive sanctions that went before the 2003 invasion and occupation. To date, millions of Iraqis have been killed, maimed, displaced, or seen their lives reduced to a living hell. The sectarian fissures within the country have burst asunder, with no sign of any let up in the regular diet of sickening violence the world has become desensitized to.
Libya is another country on the charge sheet when it comes to the West’s role in the region. This is where the Arab Spring ran out of momentum and where the West, willfully abusing a UN resolution, intervened with the objective not of protecting civilians, as the lie went, but with effecting regime change. In the name of democracy Muammar Gaddafi was slaughtered by a mob and Libya is now a country where chaos and lawlessness reigns.
The aforementioned examples of the West’s role in the chaos to engulf the Arab world leave us in no doubt of the stakes involved when it comes to the conflict in Syria. The nature of this war, in which atrocities are being committed on a near industrial scale, reflects those stakes. With 120,000 people dead and over 9 million displaced - over 2 million of whom have crossed Syria’s borders seeking sanctuary - there appears no end in sight.
The lack of progress in trying to arrive at a political solution at the Geneva II, which broke down in February, was no surprise. With an opposition that is hopelessly fractured and lacks cohesion, and with the West supporting that fractured opposition’s unreasonable and ludicrous demand for Assad to step down as a precondition of any negotiated settlement, once again we see that the words‘serious’ and ‘diplomacy’ have no place in the same sentence where the West is concerned.
Meanwhile, in Syria itself, an invasion of the country by thousands of Sunni fundamentalists, which includes hundreds of British jihadists, rubbishes any lingering claim that Syria without Assad would be a shining beacon of democracy and human rights. Some of the most heinous and savage acts of brutality imaginable have and continue to be committed in service to a medieval ideology that seeks to turn the country into a graveyard for minorities – both Muslim and non-Muslim - leaving no doubt that the Syrian government is pitted in a struggle to prevent Syria descending into the same abyss as Iraq and Libya before it.
The consequences for the Syrian people and people throughout the region if barbarism is allowed to prevail do not bear thinking about. The West, in its support for the country’s destabilization, has blood on its hands.
Author, John Wight is a writer and commentator specializing in geopolitics, UK domestic politics, culture and sport.