Armed rebels clash with Syrian government forces in the center of Syria's restive northern city of Aleppo. (File photo)
Last week, the NATO powers launched their long-awaited summer offensive against Syria. This was a multi-pronged effort designed not just to overthrow the government of President Assad, but also to totally disintegrate the existing structures of the Syrian state
, dissolving the entire country into chaos, confusion, secession, attempted coups d’état, and a likely massacre of Assad backers, Alawites, Christians, Kurds, and other minority groups.
This assault peaked between July 18 and July 21. Almost a week later, all indications suggest that Assad, the Baath party, and the Syrian state have proven to be much stronger than the NATO planners had imagined, and that the imperialist attack has been defeated for the time being.
The easiest way for NATO to destroy independent Syria would be to obtain a UN Security Council resolution authorizing a no-fly zone, a bombing campaign, and incursions by special forces, many of them sent by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the other reactionary Gulf monarchies. But this path has been blocked by the courageous resistance of Russia and China. Another method would be to form a coalition of the willing outside of the United Nations and proceed to the attack, as was done in the cases of Serbia and Iraq. But, with Russian President Vladimir Putin reasserting Russia’s support for Syria, this method poses the risk of Russian and Chinese retaliation in ways which the Anglo-Americans might find extremely painful. Therefore, NATO created a multi-layered strategy to subvert and destroy the Syrian state using covert action below the threshold of bombing and invasion, although including out special forces and espionage.
The signal to activate the assembled capabilities was given by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on July 8, when she warned Damascus that little time remained to avoid a “catastrophic assault” capable of destroying the Syrian state. This is exactly what was attempted last week.
First, NATO attempted to isolate Syria by interrupting communications with its traditional ally, Iran. According to the Wall Street Journal of July 23, the United States in particular has exerted pressure on the government of Iraq to deny overflight permission for flights between Syria and Iran through Iraqi airspace. An official US diplomatic demarche delivered in Baghdad demanded that such flights be banned. At the same time, pressure was exerted on the government of Egypt to violate the international status of the Suez Canal by preventing the transit of Iranian ships allegedly headed for Syrian ports. But these efforts have yielded only mixed results, according to thisaccount.
The main diplomatic thrust of the destabilization effort was yet another UN Security Council resolution opening the door to Chapter Seven economic sanctions and military attack on Syria. This transparent bid for a general war in the Middle East was duly vetoed by Russia and China, while Pakistan and South Africa abstained despite US pressure. United States Ambassador to the UN Susan E. Rice became hysterical, raving that the Russian Federation was “pitiful,” “dangerous,” and “deplorable” after she lost the vote. Hillary Clinton had previously branded Russia as “despicable” and “intolerable.” One imagines these charming ladies chewing the carpet as Hitler reportedly did during the run-up to the Munich conference of September 1938.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov correctly described the US diplomatic posture as “justifying terrorism.” According to Lavrov, the US stance amounted to, “We will continue to support terrorist attacks until the Security Council does what we want.” It would now be in order for Russia and China to propose a Security Council resolution condemning the United States and its allies for giving material support to terrorism.
The most dramatic single episode of the assault was an apparent explosion on Wednesday, July 18 in one of the main Syrian government buildings which killed Defense Minister Rajha (the top Christian in the government), crisis management director Turkmani, and Assef Shawkat, a military intelligence expert and brother-in-law of President Assad. Interior Minister Shaar was reported wounded, and national security director Ikhtiyar succumbed later to injuries. Western media were quick to gloat, attributing the explosion to a suicide bomber recruited from inside one of the key ministries, but this may reflect an attempt to launch a variation of Operation Splinter Factor among top officials. Other hypotheses include a rocket fired from a US drone. Thierry Meyssan has reported that the explosion was detonated from inside the US Embassy, which is nearby.
The goal of this attack was clearly the decapitation of the Syrian military and security forces, and of the Syrian state overall. But thanks to the fact that President Assad was not involved, Syria was able to maintain continuity of government and a functioning command structure, which quickly recovered from this staggering blow. Within hours, replacements for the slain officials had been nominated and announced to the public, and a reshuffling of top jobs continued for several days. If NATO had prepared a coup d’état to fill the void, there is no indication that it ever got off the ground.
So far, the NATO attack on Syria has depended mainly on Salvadoran-style death squads composed mainly of foreign fighters, including al-Qaeda and similar groups, some of which had originated as part of the US counterinsurgency effort in Iraq in 2005, during the tenure in Baghdad of US Ambassador John Negroponte. One of Negroponte’s disciples, Ambassador Robert Ford, was present in Damascus during the pre-2011 preparation of the current assault.
But, given the inability of the numerically weak death squads to capture and hold even a single town or village, to say nothing of a region of the country, it was decided to recruit and deploy an entirely new echelon of foreign fighters from all over North Africa and the Middle East. These were necessarily mercenaries, fanatics, convicts, and adventurers whose military training and weaponry would be inferior even to those of fighters deployed by NATO so far.
Their task was to implement a strategy of swarming. In military terms, swarming is the attempt to overwhelm an opponent by a rapid series of attacks from loosely coordinated autonomous groups. Quantity trumps quality. Many thousands of additional fighters were shipped in by NATO; Meyssan puts their numbers between 40,000 and 60,000, but this may be excessive. They crossed Syrian borders with Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, and Iraqi Kurdistan. The fighters themselves came from Libya, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Iraq, and other countries. As they entered Syria from foreign territory, the fighters seized temporary control of several border crossings, a fact much-hyped by the Western press.
The premise of this irregular assault had been the wishful notion that resistance by the Syrian army would collapse. But the Fourth Armored division, the Republican Guard, and other key units held fast. This left the foreign fighters as sitting ducks in vulnerable positions they could not hope to defend. As of this writing, the foreign fighters have been largely mopped up in Damascus, and another large concentration in Aleppo appears to be surrounded and destined for annihilation. NATO’s pool of cannon fodder has thus been sharply depleted.
To spread the idea that Syrian resistance had collapsed and that further resistance against NATO was futile, Ben Rhodes of the Obama White House, the US ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Saudi Prince Bandar, and other officials had also prepared a campaign of psychological media warfare and video fakery. Syrian state television, al Adounia, and other pro-Syrian broadcasters were to be denied access to Nilesat and Arabsat, and their signals replaced by fake programming generated by the CIA, including with movie sets and Potemkin villages in the Gulf monarchies. But this plan had been revealed many weeks in advance, notably by Meyssan. Accordingly, loyal Syrian broadcasters prepared their audience with public service announcements about what was coming, and how to receive genuine programming.
Programming on Nilesat and Arabsat was in fact repeatedly interrupted, while the widely hated al Jazeera of Qatar and Saudi al Arabiya reported that Assad had fled. But few were fooled by the crude NATO substitutes, so shock and awe fell flat. A NATO plan to organize a panic run on the Syrian currency, contributing a further dimension of economic and logistical chaos, also fell short.
As it became clear that the anti-government forces trapped in Damascus were being decimated, King Abdullah of Jordan began harping on the danger that Syrian chemical weapons might be used or get out of control - an established meme of NATO propaganda. NATO was clearly still looking for a pretext to attack, but the eleven Russian warships assigned to Tartus and the eastern Mediterranean left that approach fraught with peril.
A danger is also emerging for the reactionary feudal monarchs who are NATO’s main allies in the Middle East. Partly as a result of NATO’s incessant pro-democracy rhetoric, the ferment of social protest is now widespread in Saudi Arabia, surely one of the countries most vulnerable to a mass upsurge. On July 22, an explosion occurred at the headquarters of the Saudi intelligence service in Riyadh, killing the deputy director. The target may also have been Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who had just been named intelligence boss, and who is deeply implicated in the Syrian events. Was this somebody’s payback? More importantly, might this attack become the trigger for a mass movement in Saudi Arabia powerful enough to threaten the feudal-reactionary dynasty and the power of the infamous Sudairi clan?