Motives for the violent Western intervention in Syria — where since at least early 2012 the CIA has been sending large shipments of weapons to Sunni militants working with al-Qaida front Jabhat al-Nusra — predictably appear rooted in geostrategic, rather than humanitarian, interests.
Iran recently secured a $10 billion pipeline deal with Syria and Iraq that the U.S. and its European allies bitterly opposed. The project would bring Iranian hydrocarbons to the Mediterranean as well as Russia, which has sought to expand its influence in the region’s energy development. As a report published by energy expert Ruba Husari at the Carnegie Middle East Center earlier this year observes:
Syria might not be a major oil or gas producer in the Middle East, but—depending on the outcome of the Syrian uprising—it may determine the shape of the future regional energy map… The country’s geographic location offers Mediterranean access to landlocked entities in search of markets for their hydrocarbons and to countries seeking access to Europe without having to go through Turkey. The opportunities presented to many in the region by the current Syrian regime could be lost in a post-crisis Syria. To others, new opportunities will emerge under a new Syrian regime.
Immediate “new opportunities” in a post-Assad Syria for the West include unfettered access to the region’s energy development awarded to American and European energy conglomerates. Early steps are already underway: the European Union has lifted sanctions on and is buying oil from the very oilfields in Syria that al-Nusra militants (officially linked to waves of suicide bombings and civilian IED attacks) have seized from the Syrian government. Over the long term, the strategy is to isolate and weaken the Iranian regime by removing a major regional partner, clearing the way for imposed imperial control of the vast energy reserves spanning from the Caspian Basin to the Persian Gulf.
Dubious statements from Western officials — couched in a suspicious language of unknown likelihood, “varying confidence,” and “limited evidence” — now accuse the Assad regime of using chemical weapons, a purported “red line” for direct military response on the part of the U.S. and its allies.
The hypocrisy of the U.S.’s saber-rattling on the issue of chemical weapons is magnificent. Notwithstanding the Syrian military’s own allegations that rebels have targeted civilians with chlorine gas, the West has a long history of deploying chemical weapons in the region for its own interests. For instance, the Reagan administration armed Saddam Hussein with the chemical weapons that he used against Iranian soldiers and Iraqi Kurds. Over the course of its two ground wars in Iraq, the U.S. dropped white phosphorus, highly carcinogenic depleted uranium and a new kind of napalm on dense urban areas. Cancer rates among Iraqis have skyrocketed from as low as 40 registered cases for every 100,000 Iraqis in 1991 to 1,600 in 2005. Similarly, the barbaric chemical siege of Fallujah in 2004 left a rate of congenital malformations 14 times higher among its infants than in Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the nuclear bombings. As Al Jazeera investigative journalist Dahr Jamail reports:
… it’s common now in Fallujah for newborns to come out with massive multiple systemic defects, immune problems, massive central nervous system problems, massive heart problems, skeletal disorders, babies being born with two heads, babies being born with half of their internal organs outside of their bodies, cyclops babies literally with one eye—really, really, really horrific nightmarish types of birth defects. And it is ongoing.
Already, more than 70,000 people have been killed and over a million displaced in the Syrian conflict. Two million Syrian children continue to grapple with disease, malnutrition and severe psychological trauma.
The West’s stale, transparent rhetoric of promoting human rights and democracy can no longer be tolerated. What is building in Syria is a brazen imperial intervention through and through, one that has no actual regard for human rights or ordinary life, and this must be urgently recognized.