By Owei Lakemfa
TEN years ago, the ‘Arab Spring’ was on. Repressed peoples rose to challenge entrenched establishment, or so it was thought. First, the protests mainly affected Africa having started in Tunisia, burning through Egypt and Libya. Meanwhile, the repressive and monarchical Gulf states, except Bahrain, were left untouched. The flames in Bahrain were speedily extinguished by a punitive and brutal Saudi expedition which ensured that the minority monarchy continues its repressive rule.
So, while the Tunisian and Egyptian protests were genuine, those of Libya which overthrew President Mouamar Ghadaffi and Syria which was basically an attempted coup, were contrived by Western powers and their conservative allies in the Gulf region.
Syria was a beautiful, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious country. But the Western powers found it intolerable that it would not agree to be a satellite state and that it remained a power strong enough not just to resist the predatory Israeli state, but also strengthen Lebanon’s resistance against Israeli incursions. The conservative Gulf states which were actually the ones ripe for the ‘Arab Spring’ revolt, were uncomfortable with Syria’s radicalism and its alliance with the Shiites in Lebanon and Iran.
The contriving powers, while shouting that the Syrian government was a dictatorship, could not press for Western-style democracy because that precisely was what Syria was practising and the Bashar al-Assad government was winning at the polls. In any case, conniving Arab states like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, UAE; Bahrain and Jordan were, unlike Syria, monarchies!
Employing propaganda, funds for susceptible associations and campaigning on the basis of sectional religiosity, this foreign alliance was able to get unsuspecting Syrians on the streets. The main protests began on March 11, 2011 and within days, well-armed militias capable of taking on the military had sprung up. Unsuspecting protesters naively thought these were spontaneous groups that emerged to protect them. In fact, some elite, including some soldiers hoping for a coup, on July 29, 2011 founded the Free Syrian Army, FSA, under Colonel Riad al-Asaad with the sole objective of toppling the government.
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The Americans got a front organisation called the Syrian Support Group to channel funds and arms to the FSA. The various armed militias thought they were fighting for a new Syria. They were buoyed on by the free flow of funds, arms and foreign fighters, including from Europe, who flew as tourists into Turkey and were then escorted as fighters to the Syrian battle fields.
It took the FSA just a few weeks to discover that these foreign fighters were actually a mix of fundamentalists trained in Jordan by the Americans and funded by the conservative Gulf states, and Islamic fundamentalists from Europe who were tricked into believing they were going to Syria to fight a jihad against Shiite and Christian ‘unbelievers’.
The bulk of the foreign fighters, who were mainly from Iraq, belonged to a group formerly known as al-Qaeda in Iraq, AQI, which later became known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levan, ISIS. Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri al-Samarrai alias Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a well-known Iraqi terrorist, became the ISIS leader on April 7, 2013.
These foreign troops were linked up with local Islamic fundamentalists called the al-Nusra Front and had by end of 2012, jointly eliminated the Free Syrian Army. These fundamentalists were strengthened by then American President Barack Obama who, from 2013, gave the anti-Syrian forces $1 billion annually to procure arms and run their operations. But the main ISIS support funds came from Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The ISIS and al-Nusra soon launched into a Jihad with the FSA and other secular anti-Assad forces as their first casualties.
Obama in 2014 almost made the mistake of directly attacking Syria and handing the country to ISIS when his administration claimed the al-Assad administration used chemical weapons in the war. Soon, ISIS spinned out of the control of their American, European and Arab minders. In June 2014, ISIS after taking over parts of Syria and Iraq, proclaimed itself a caliphate with religious, cultural, political and military authority over all Muslims worldwide. This was the turning point as America, Western European and their Arab allies turned their weapons against ISIS just as Syria and its Lebanese, Iranian and Russian allies had done over a year before.
Today, ten years into the contrived, senseless and needless civil war, some half a million Syrians have been killed, 6.1 million internally displaced and 5.6 million are refugees. Most of the country is devastated with 12.4 million Syrians or 60 per-cent of the population in need of food aid. With the failed ‘regime change’ agenda of the West and Gulf states, President al-Assad remains the President of his country. On the other hand, ISIS, following the October 2019 elimination of el-Baghdadi by his former American allies, is virtually extinct.
However, the American, West European and Gulf states anti-Syrian coalition has not given up; it continues to perpetuate the Syrian war. One of its ways of mobilising world opinion against the Syrian government is its bogey that Syria is using chemical weapons against its own people, even when that country, years ago, gave up all its chemical stockpile.
Tired of this propaganda and the continuation of the war, 18 internationally renowned persons mostly scientists led by Ambassador Jose Bustani, the first Director General of the 193 Member-State Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, OPCW, on February 12, 2021 petitioned the organisation’s Director General, Fernando Arias, demanding an end to the misuse of the OPWC.
They specifically challenged the two OPWC reports released on October 2, 2020 on the alleged use of toxic chemicals as a weapon in Aleppo, on November 24, 2018 and Saraqib, Syrian Arab Republic, on August 1, 2016. Although the reports concluded that the OPWC could not “establish whether or not chemicals were used”, the protesting scientists, mainly from America, Europe, the Middle East and Latin America, pointed out that the inspectors involved in the investigations identified “major procedural and scientific irregularities” and feeding the United Nations Security Council “damning statements”.
They said with such politicisation, the “OPCW management now stands accused of accepting unsubstantiated or possibly manipulated findings with the most serious geo-political and security implications”.
The OPCW had “previously determined that the use of chlorine, sulfur mustard and sarin as chemical weapons took place in other incidents in the Syrian Arab Republic”. But the petitioners who accused the organisation of carrying out a smear campaign against some of its own senior scientists said the manifest non-transparency of the OPCW “raises concerns with respect to the credibility of previous (OPCW) reports”.
A decade of devastation, loss of lives and suffering is enough. The war in Syria must be brought to an end.