What Really Happened in Syria

Exclusive: The U.S. government blames the Syrian civil war almost entirely on Bashar al-Assad – and some progressives have bought into that propaganda narrative – but there is another side of the story, as Daniel Lazare describes.

By Daniel Lazare

How did Syria get so ugly so fast? This is a question that could just as well be asked of Libya, Egypt or Yemen, all of which saw stirring democratic revolts during the so-called Arab Spring only to descend into religious bigotry, civil war or military dictatorship.

But it is especially urgent with regard to Syria, a great bleeding wound on the edge of Europe that, over the last five years, has seen as many as 470,000 deaths, generated some 4.8 million refugees, and sent out waves of terrorism that are destabilizing politics from Eastern Europe to the U.S. Not since Yugoslavia has a country collapsed more completely or calamitously.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

This should make Robin Yassin-Kassab and Leia Al-Shami’s Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War the book of the hour. Published by London’s Pluto Press, long associated with the International Socialist Tendency, it seemingly analyzes the Syrian disaster from  a critical-left perspective, in other words one that isn’t afraid to tell the left when it goes wrong but otherwise reflects a progressive and democratic point of view.

Considering that the leftwing website Counterpunch hailed it as nothing less than the second coming of George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia, this is a book that many readers have been waiting for.

But they’ll have to wait some more. Burning Country is a disaster – defensive, contradictory, all too eager to blame others rather than asking how the revolution itself may have gone awry. Considering how it downplays the problem of religious sectarianism, makes excuses for Al Qaeda, and pushes for U.S.-Saudi military intervention, it’s not just bad but pernicious – an example of how broad sectors of the Left have collapsed with regard to one of the most explosive issues of the day.

But even pernicious books have their uses and, almost despite itself, Burning Country is packed with valuable information concerning how and why Syria went so grievously off course. To get at the truth, all one has to do is turn it on its head – or, rather, on its feet.

Yassin-Kassab and Al-Shami – respectively a novelist, journalist, and blogger and an activist associated with the “anti-authoritarian” Tahrir network – repeatedly harken back to those heady days in early 2011 when it looked like the Arab masses would shrug off generations of nationalist dictatorship like a horse shrugging off a fly. Seemingly out of nowhere, vast crowds materialized chanting, “The people want the regime to fall,” as strong men like Tunisia’s Ben Ali, Libya’s Gaddafi, or Egypt’s Mubarak cowered in their offices.

Glorifying an Uprising

In Syria, the authors write, quoting unnamed interviewees, the protests were decentralized and spontaneous; they were neither led by political parties nor defined by the traditional narratives of socialism, nationalism or Islamism. They were “creating a new geography of liberation, which is no longer mapped on colonial or cast upon postcolonial structures of domination,” a “restructuring [which] points to a far more radical emancipation.

Religious differences, they add, faded as revolutionary fervor swelled. They quote a Christian attending her first anti-government demo: “I went to Meydan to protest. It’s a conservative Muslim neighborhood, and I was wearing a skimpy top. One young man asked me, politely enough, to dress more appropriately when I came next, but his friend said, ‘No, sister, you wear whatever you like; we’re here for our freedom, after all.’ We really were ready to transform into an open society. We had great momentum.”

But the euphoria turned out to be short-lived. Divided, unstable, and reduced to little more than a rump by repeated foreign incursions from Sykes-Picot on, Syria is one of the most complex societies in the Middle East. Where Sunnis account for 90 percent or more of the population in North Africa, they account for only about 65 percent in Syria, with the rest made up of Alawites (10 to 15 percent), various Christian sects (another 10 percent or so), plus Druze, Yezidis, other branches of Shi‘ism, plus the remnants of a once-thriving Jewish community as well.

But something else made it even more volatile. Syrian politics had undergone an inversion as the Alawites, previously an oppressed mountain people centered around the Mediterranean port of Latakia, displaced the old Sunni ruling elite and took political power following a 1970 military coup. The government was not solely Alawite since it drew on support from other minority groups as well as a significant portion of the Sunni community. But Alawites were unquestionably dominant.

To put this in a U.S. perspective, it’s as if African-Americans had somehow seized control of the Mississippi state government at the height of Jim Crow and, with support from disaffected whites, had held onto power for decades despite Ku Klux Klan uprisings and assassination campaigns. The regime might not have been the best government under the sun. In fact, it might have been downright awful. But however much Mississippians might complain about repression and economic stagnation, the one thing they feared even more was a return to old-style segregationist ways. Any sign of resurgence on the part of the old White Citizens’ Councils would therefore send them fleeing back into the arms of the black-led government.

Assad’s Popularity

This was more or less the Syrian situation as of early 2011. Bashar al-Assad was “genuinely popular,” as Burning Country concedes, but there is no doubt that the Baathist regime as a whole had run out of steam. The Soviet collapse in 1991 knocked away a critical life support while the advent of Bashar al-Assad, a London-trained ophthalmologist, in June 2000 brought even worse, a neo-liberal “reform” program that slashed welfare outlays and sent corruption shooting through the roof. By 2010, as Juan Cole points out, per-capita GDP was three-fourths below that of neighboring Turkey and roughly on par with Honduras and the Congo.

Syrian women and children refugees at Budapest railway station. (Photo from Wikipedia)

Syrian women and children refugees at Budapest railway station. (Photo from Wikipedia)

The protests that erupted in March 2011 were thus entirely justified. But as much as one might sympathize with masses of ordinary people rising up against poverty and authoritarianism, it should have been obvious that simple “majoritarianism” would not do in such a polarized society.

To avoid falling into religious civil war, anti-Assad Sunnis would have to reach out to Syria’s minority communities, Alawites first and foremost since they had the most to fear from a return to the status quo ante. This meant not just toning down poisonous rhetoric that for centuries had described the Alawites as enemies of Islam who deserved to be killed on sight. Rather, it meant tearing it out by its roots.

This is what should have occurred but didn’t, as a careful reading of Burning Country makes clear. Sunni majoritarianism went unchallenged while arch-sectarian Sunni fundamentalists like the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists were given free rein. Predictably, Alawites, Christians and others responded by rallying to the government.

The fallout was evident from the outset, as Fabrice Balanche, a French political geographer who spent years studying the Syrian political scene firsthand, noted: “You could follow the sectarian patterns across the map. In mixed Alawite-Sunni areas, the protests only took place in the Sunni areas. In Latakia, Banias, and Homs, the demonstrators clashed with Alawite counterdemonstrators.…

“In the Daraa Province, the population is almost exclusively Sunni and the demonstrations naturally spread – but they stopped right at the border of the Druze-populated Sweida Province, which did not sympathize with them at all. In Aleppo, the divisions were mainly social, between the well-to-do and poorer people, and between indigenous city dwellers and new arrivals from the countryside who lived in the slums. But the sectarian factor was present in Aleppo too, with Christians remaining staunchly pro-regime and the Kurds playing their own game.”

The anti-Assad forces might have responded by doubling their outreach efforts. But instead they chose to shout down anyone who dared point out what was going on. Says Balanche: “In 2011–2012, we suffered a type of intellectual McCarthyism on the Syrian question: if you said that Assad was not about to fall within three months, you would be suspected of being paid by the Syrian regime.

“Members of the exile opposition’s Syrian National Council went on TV, one after the other, to assure us that the rare sectarian mishaps were all the work of Assad’s intelligence services, that the situation was under control, and that the Syrian National Council had a plan that would avert any risk of civil war.”

Judging from Burning Country, the spirit of neo-McCarthyism remains undiminished. Yassin-Kassab and Al-Shami refuse to admit that protesters were in any way at fault. They quote an account of an anti-government rally in Homs:

“Speeches were then delivered … a woman takes a turn, then an activist, then a sheikh, then an enthusiastic young man.…  Preparations for another type of prayer began to take place, for a prayer very well done, for a Qur’an recited smoothly.…  All along the understanding of the true essence of freedom the way God the most almighty wants it, not like what tyrants want it.”

But while Sunni traditionalists might have been pleased, others might have felt more at home if someone had read from the Gospels or an Alawite text. But no one did. Conceivably, leftists might have interrupted at that point to call for secularism and minority rights. But that would have ruined the “Kumbaya” good feeling that Burning Country values so highly. So they held their tongue. A seemingly democratic outpouring thus morphed into a religious civil war with astonishing speed.

None of this is unprecedented. The English Revolution turned into an anti-Irish crusade under Oliver Cromwell in the 1650s, while the Revolution of 1848, which the Arab Spring is often compared to, degenerated into bloody ethnic warfare among Romanians, Slovaks, Serbs, and Magyars once it advanced beyond Vienna.

Deep Divisions

Burning Country occasionally acknowledges the deep divisions that turned Syria into a charnel house. It quotes a Christian activist arrested for passing out pro-revolutionary leaflets: “I made the mistake of working in my own area, where my face was known. What hurt me most is that it was the people of the neighborhood who called the police. It’s a Christian neighborhood.”

A general view showing damages after what activists said was an airstrike with explosive barrels from forces loyal to President al-Assad in Al-Shaar area in Aleppo

A general view showing damages after what activists said was an airstrike with explosive barrels from forces loyal to President al-Assad in Al-Shaar area in Aleppo

The book quotes another Christian as saying: “We were always a society based on sectarianism. We lived in separate cantons and villages. When I was at school, although I was in a Muslim-majority city, I didn’t have a single Muslim friend. This is the Syrian geographical structure which the regime kept in place and exploited.”

Christians were so appalled that one of their own would join what they regarded as a Sunni revanchist movement that they didn’t hesitate to call the cops. Yet with crowds chanting, “Christians to Beirut, Alawites to the coffin,” they had reason to be afraid.

But not only does Burning Country fail to criticize Sunni chauvinism, it falls all too easily into the same trap. It quotes without comment an activist who says that revolutionaries initially ignored religious differences but then adds ominously that “sectarianism grew when people saw ninety percent of Alawis stayed loyal.”

Seeking to explain how Alawites had grown so powerful in recent decades, the authors write: “Alawis alongside rural Syrians of all sectarian backgrounds migrated to the cities to work and study, but – because of their poverty as well as the regime’s sectarianism – they also rose disproportionately through the Baath Party and army.…  This ‘empowerment’ of the community after 1970 arguably reversed its growing acceptance by the Sunni majority.”

Does this mean that Alawites would have to pay a price if Assad were overthrown? Evidently. Burning Country’s explanation for the sectarian conflict couldn’t be simpler. Rather than the uprising, it’s all the fault of the government. Once the rebellion was underway, it says, “the regime would stick to reading the revolution through ethnic and religious categories; largely as a result of its own efforts, these categories would indeed eventually grow in importance until they dominated the field of struggle.”

Quoting a writer named Rasha Omran, it adds that “the regime mobilized to counter the challenge by besieging the revolution in specific areas and alienating it from others – stock divide-and-rule methods….  Then it launched false-flag operations and … sacrificed some Alawis in areas of sectarian friction in order to frighten the rest into believing that those who claimed to stand for revolution were actually sectarian killers intent on revenge for Hama. Simply put, the regime let loose the monster of fear which had been latent in Alawi minds, and reinforced once again the link between homeland and sect.”

Without offering a shred of evidence, Yassin-Kassab and Al-Shami want us to believe in a monstrous conspiracy theory in which a Machiavellian government in Damascus kills loyal Alawites so as to panic others.

Alawite Fears

Elsewhere, the authors quote another anti-Assad activist saying of the Alawites that they “see the revolution as a threat coming from the east, as Sunnis coming to kill them. When the regime falls, there could be a lot of blood in the city. The Alawi majority may react badly, just to protect itself, so the best way is to show them that they can protect themselves by talking to these figures who are pro-revolutionary Alawis. It’s very important that there are figures from both sects, already known to revolutionaries, who can act as mediators.”

Journalist James Foley shortly before he was executed by an Islamic State operative, known as Jihadi John and identified as Mohammed Emwazi, the target of a drone attack that the Pentagon announced on Thursday.

Journalist James Foley shortly before he was executed by an Islamic State operative, known as Jihadi John.

If Alawite safety depends on a few well-placed individuals speaking up in their defense, then maybe they had a right to be nervous after all.

By placing all responsibility on the government, Yassin-Kassab and Al-Shami fail to acknowledge sectarianism’s deep roots in Syrian society as a whole. This is as serious as failing to acknowledge racism’s deep roots the U.S. It leads the authors down some exceedingly dangerous paths – toward outright apologetics, for instance, for the Sunni extremists who have dominated the rebel cause since its inception.

With remarkable credulity, the authors report that Al Nusra, as Al Qaeda’s official Syrian affiliate is known, entered into a pact with other rebel groups two years ago embracing “freedom, justice and security for Syrian society and its diverse social fabric.” Christian and Alawites might be forgiven if they were little impressed.

Criticizing the United States for bombing Al Nusra, the authors report that “Syrians in the liberated [i.e. rebel-controlled] areas were astounded that the US, which had declined to bomb Assad when he slaughtered them with barrel bombs and sarin gas, was now bombing those who were defending them from Assad.”

While noting that Al Nusra militants massacred 23 Druze in the northern province of Idlib in June 2015, the authors hasten to assure readers that the act “apparently resulted from a dispute over property rather than sectarian hatred.”

Thus, Al Qaeda embraces secularism if Burning Country is to be believed, it defends Sunnis against the bloody dictator Assad, and if it slaughters a few minority members on occasion, it does so not out of religious hatred but because of a business dispute that has gotten out of hand. The authors’ sectarian bias, meanwhile, leads them to excoriate Shi‘ite Iran as the source of all evil.

“Iranian policy in both Iraq and Syria had vastly increased the Sunni sense of victimhood,” they write.  “Iran was one of the factors behind ISIS’s rise, and will continue to galvanize Sunni extremists after ISIS’s fall.”

Once again, everyone is to blame for Sunni chauvinism except the Sunnis themselves. Bemoaning the failure of the “international community,” i.e. the U.S., U.K., and France, to intervene in the wake of Assad’s alleged sarin gas attack in August 2013, they express the fond hope that Saudi Arabia will intervene instead:

“Saudi commentators have suggested that once a clear defeat has been registered on Iranian-backed forces in Yemen, the Saudi-led coalition will turn its attention more fully to Syria, perhaps even providing air cover for a Southern Front offensive against Assad’s Iranian-backed forces south of Damascus. Saudi clumsiness in Yemen, however, does not give cause for optimism.”

Optimism? With U.S. encouragement, the Arab Gulf petro-states have poured billions into an international jihad aimed at imposing a Sunni fundamentalist dictatorship much like the one in Saudi Arabia, if not worse. It’s a crime as great as the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Yet Yassin-Kassab and Al-Shami wish to add to it by subjecting Syria to an air assault like the one the Saudis have inflicted on Yemen since March 2015. Progressives should do everything in their power to see to it that such hopes remain unfulfilled.

Daniel Lazare is the author of several books including The Frozen Republic: How the Constitution Is Paralyzing Democracy (Harcourt Brace).

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48 comments for “What Really Happened in Syria

  1. Jim Hannan
    July 15, 2016 at 11:05 am

    I have been somewhat surprised that the American left, or parts of it, led on by cheerleaders like Dexter Filkins of the New Yorker, has been so anti Assad. Early on in the war, I went back to prior years of human rights reports from groups like Amnesty International and found that Assad was a fairly run of the mill autocrat, with some cases of imprisoning dissidents.
    I do think that some in the US foreign policy establishment did want Assad out, for a couple of reasons. He was allied with Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas, so that alone made him a target. Syria also has the only Russian naval base in the Mediterranean, so taking out Assad would also help in our diminishment of Russia, which we are constantly working on.
    I don’t think that there is much of a left in America, and what there is, doesn’t really have a coherent foreign policy view. We have some stellar thinkers like Noam Chomsky, perhaps Chris Hedges, maybe some writers on this website. However, while the left was pretty unified in opposing the Iraq war, it has not been nearly as unified on our dirty war in Syria.

    • July 15, 2016 at 12:30 pm

      Jim —

      In my view, it is not possible to discuss Syria coherently without mentioning Israel. Here is ample proof of the bragging done by neocons and Likudniks alike about there being “no daylight” between Israel and the U.S. (If more proof were needed, latest WikiLeaks’s dump of Hillary emails makes this reality unmistakably clear.)

      I keep citing the following; few seem to agree with me about its significance. Good that the NY Times censors go to the Hamptons on occasion. They must have been hobnobbing there when the deputy, deputy, deputy censor forgot to leave this report from Israel on the cutting room floor.

      Jodi Rudoren (then-NYT Bureau chief in Jerusalem) got this story on page one of the NYT on Sept. 6, 2013.

      Here’s what I wrote after I read Rudoren:

      Who Profits from Syria Turmoil?
      Over the past year or so, it has become clear that the Netanyahu government has had powerful incentive to get Washington more deeply engaged in yet another war in the area. This Israeli priority has become crystal clear in many ways. Just skim through “A Clean Break: A New Strategy to Secure the Realm,” prepared by mostly American neocons for Netanyahu in 1996, and you’ll get the idea.
      Reporter Judi Rudoren, writing from Jerusalem in an important article in the New York Times on Sept. 6, 2013, addressed Israel’s motivation in an uncommonly candid way. Her article, titled “Israel Backs Limited Strike Against Syria,” noted that the Israelis have argued, quietly, that the best outcome for Syria’s civil war, at least for the moment, is no outcome. Rudoren wrote:
      “For Jerusalem, the status quo, horrific as it may be from a humanitarian perspective, seems preferable to either a victory by Mr. Assad’s government and his Iranian backers or a strengthening of rebel groups, increasingly dominated by Sunni jihadis.
      “‘This is a playoff situation in which you need both teams to lose, but at least you don’t want one to win — we’ll settle for a tie,’ said Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli consul general in New York. ‘Let them both bleed, hemorrhage to death: that’s the strategic thinking here. As long as this lingers, there’s no real threat from Syria.’”
      If this is the way Israel’s current leaders look at the unconscionable carnage in Syria, they seem to believe that deeper U.S. involvement, including military action, is likely to ensure that there is no early resolution of the conflict. The longer Sunni and Shia are at each other’s throats in Syria and in the wider region, the safer Israel calculates that it is.
      The fact that Syria’s main ally is Iran, with whom it has a mutual defense treaty, also plays a role in Israeli calculations. Iran’s leaders are not likely to be able to have much military impact in Syria, and Israel can highlight that. [[[Oops, that is the way the Israelis may have looked it then…before Russia and Iran entered the fray in bigger ways.]]]

      Last but not least, a chaotic Syria makes it immeasurably more difficult to supply Hezbollah.

      QED?

      Ray

      • Drew Hunkins
        July 15, 2016 at 12:48 pm

        Mr. McGovern,

        You are no doubt correct. The Zionist power configuration MUST be dealt with forthrightly or we’re all doomed to more wars in the Middle East. One reason a Killary presidency is so horrifying to contemplate.

        Much respect to you Mr. Govern and the valuable truth trips you dole out on a routine basis.

        • July 15, 2016 at 3:11 pm

          I suppose it is merely coincidental, then, that 2000 years of the History of Western “Civilization.” has become a litany of continuing war after warfare, every single one of them perpetrated and fought (usually won) by so-called Christians and Christian armies.

          Of course, this might be a fact noted by those who studied history, and perhaps of no consequence to the warriors of our people who only study war, how to make war, and how to create wars, Intel and such related things of use only for creating and winning wars.

          But, they have not won so many lately have they? Or is that merely another misconception of mine?

          I ask you, Mr. Ray, with all due respect, as a Christian, what would Christ have to say about all of those wars?

          • guy
            July 18, 2016 at 1:54 pm

            @Debbie. How would you fit into your context (“litany of war….every single one of them perpetrated….by so-called Christians”) the Muslim invasion of Andalucia, Spain from AD 711 onward and the resultant 800 war waged by the Christian inhabitants to expel them?

      • ltr
        July 15, 2016 at 1:44 pm

        Excellent response.

      • Abe
        July 15, 2016 at 2:33 pm

        Thank you, Mr. McGovern, for being the first commenter to highlight the connection between what really happened in Syria and efforts to keep Israel “secure”.

        The plan to secure Israel’s position of dominance in the Middle East was advanced in “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,” a policy document that was prepared in 1996 by a study group led by arch neoconservative Richard Perle for Benjamin Netanyahu, the then Prime Minister of Israel.

        The “Clean Break” report advocated a much more aggressive policy that included the removal of Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq, and the containment of Syria by engaging in proxy warfare and highlighting its possession of “weapons of mass destruction”.

        The report was written by the Study Group on a New Israeli Strategy Toward 2000, which was a part of the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies (IASPS), an Israel-based think tank with an affiliated office in Washington, D.C.

        Former United States Assistant Secretary of Defense Perle was the “Study Group Leader,” and the final report included ideas from Douglas Feith, James Colbert, Charles Fairbanks, Jr., Robert Loewenberg, David Wurmser, and Meyrav Wurmser.

        During the neocon-dominated administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, efforts to directly (via US and allied regular military and special forces operations) and indirectly (via proxy forces incorporating the al Qaeda network) “break” Iraq, Syria and Libya met with varying degrees of “success”.

        Lebanon and Iran are scheduled to “break” next if the US does not immediately cease its support of the neoconservative project to secure the Middle East “realm” for Israel.

        • Abbybwood
          July 16, 2016 at 11:23 am

          To Ray,

          I have a question: The video of Gen. Wesley Clark speaking to Amy Goodman about the United States, “militarily taking out governments in seven countries in five years” which was revealed to him via a memo sent down from The Joint Chiefs at The Pentagon a few weeks after 9/11 lists Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, Syria, Lebanon and ending with Iran”.

          I am certain you know of this video. Do you think it is possible that this “hit list” was handed down from Israel as a “wish list”?

          My worry is that Hillary Clinton won’t stop as President until she has “finished the job” which could lead to WW III with Russia:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9RC1Mepk_Sw

          I find it odd that no one in Congress has ever bothered to question Clark regarding this memo.

          • July 16, 2016 at 12:20 pm

            It’s not only the neocons; it’s the military-industrial-congressional-media-deepstate complex. A whole lot of people are making a whole lot of dough from the tension in the Middle East and now in Europe. There is, of course, a lot of overlap between the neocons and the MICMD complex.

            It would be good to have statistics on how Congresspeople vote and how much money they are given by the MICMD complex.

            Ray

          • F. G. Sanford
            July 16, 2016 at 6:26 pm

            Think of it as “Sanford’s Paradox”. If you draw a Venn Diagram of the membership of The Atlantic Council, The Council on Foreign Relations, WINEP, Institute for the Study of War, The Jamestown Foundation, The Hoover Institute, Republican International, AIPAC, National Endowment for Democracy, USAID, The Bilderberg Foundation, HSBC, McDonnel Douglas, Raytheon and The Ford Foundation…you only need one circle. It’s a paradox that has baffled political scientists for years, but you have found the key to its secret…right here on Consortium News!

          • b.grand
            July 17, 2016 at 8:20 pm

            Ray McGovern, the money is key, but if you don’t mind, I’d like to expound on your simple term “given” which may leave people looking in the wrong places for evidence.

            For example, Zionist money is often indirect, such as when they “primaried” Cynthia McKinney after her visible support for Palestine. The Lobby found and supported a pro-Israel opponent in the Dem. primary. So, the threat of defeat keeps MOC’s towing the line.

            The arms industry is the heavyweight, but the money is also indirect. “Defense” related business and manufacturing is distributed as widely as possible, so valuable jobs are on the line in every Congressional district. Dear old sheepdog Bernie Sanders is devoted to the F-35 facility outside Burlington, Vermont. (Is this the plane the Air Force doesn’t even want?) David Swanson and others argue that a “Green” economy would provide more jobs. That might be true, but only after significant retraining and retooling. The greater the transition, the more disruptive. Meanwhile, people need to put food on the table. The MIC has the Congress over a (gun) barrel.

      • stefan
        July 15, 2016 at 3:37 pm

        Spot on Ray

        I have been trying to highlight this connection to friends and colleagues for over half a decade now – sometimes with success, but many times, the severe brainwash makes it nearly impossible for people to even consider that Israel is involved or even the mastermind.

      • elmerfudzie
        July 16, 2016 at 12:43 pm

        Ray, no matter what megillah we’re put through, the key issues remains the same; oil and gas pipelines and a strategically situated deep warm water port at Tartus (a Russian Naval outpost there). The ports’ flexibility to accommodate the widest possible variety of ships is well known. Iran, Iraq and Syria signed a deal in 2010 to construct the 3,480-mile natural gas pipeline connecting Iran’s South Pars field to the EU. Trillions of dollars in profit are at stake here. If this deal goes thru, it will undermine the strategic energy power of Qatar and also cut Turkey out of the equation. Assad has already made his deal with Russia and Iran. Since we can’t expect our Navy and Air Force to go all the way on this, WE MIGHT AS WELL JUST- BUTT OUT and take our losses. Whether or not an “Islamic pipeline” succeeds to deliver gas to Europe is inconsequential. In the long run, the “green” energy and fusion power technologies will combine and greatly reduce hydrocarbon fuel consumption. The reality of constructing super conductive electrical grids (at ambient temperatures) are right around the proverbial corner. This single example will shave off the current (nice pun), fifteen percent dissipation loss from long transmission lines. Even so, Germany’s going head long into solar energy where-ever possible. The short term financial gains are not worth a world war (nothing is, come to think of it). I request that should any oil mogul happen to be reading this blurb, pause, take time to watch an an old movie; On the Beach, circa 1959 starring Gregory Peck. In that movie, long after the conflict was over, the refineries were still running-without a soul living…

      • Peter Loeb
        July 18, 2016 at 6:55 am

        TO RAY MCGOVERN ON ISRAEL’S ROLE IN SYRIA

        Thanks for your excellent points.

        It should be noted that the commenters that follow your
        contribution offer excellent insights but very slowly
        the Israeli and US roles get lost in discussions of other points.

        —Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

    • Winston Smith
      July 18, 2016 at 6:41 am

      Jim,

      it’s because the propaganda machine was set going. it’s called Psychological Warfare.

      After the opposition to the attack on Iraq and those pesky troublemakin’ Liberals all marching out with plackards it had to be avoided at all costs this time.

      The Alawites DON’T control the government nor is it “sectarian”.

      But such stories were vital to Washington’s propaganda.

      Ever heard of the Belgium Atrocity stories of August 1914 THE PROPAGANDA TO GET YOU GOOD FOLK INTO WW1 by your unprincipled cousins ?

      it was a long standing objective of US policymakers to overthrow the Syrian government and install a client on going back to the ;50;s.

      Read the ultimate vhistleblower;s article – Robert F Kennedy Junior’s article on Syria.

      htervenn/ttp://www.politico.eu/article/why-the-arabs-dont-want-us-in-syria-mideast-co-innflict-oiltio

    • Winston Smith
      July 18, 2016 at 7:07 am

      I’m sorry this article could not be more inaccurate, I am surprised it should have been written 5 years into the Covert Operation.

      it was NOT spontaneous and decentralised, but a Color Revolution, part of a massive Destabilisation to seize control of the Middle East y Washington.

      Color Revolutions are NOT peaceful, there being brutal violence if resisted. In this case Robert Ford’s Nicaragua Programme death squads were used against those organising counter-demonstrations, attending them or opposing it on the intenet. As well as other opponents.

      The order had to be given by Barak Obama personally under his signature since a Covert operation requires an order known as a”Finding”, signed by the president.

      A second “Finding” was signed in August 2011 converting it into a full Covert Operation, as they are known, using JIHADIST, I repeat, JIHADIST paramilitaries with bases in Turkey. This is the classic Covert Operation, with the exception of the paramilitaries being Jihadists.

      It is hardly surprising we have these problems with the American Left when they don’t understand what is going on.

  2. Brad Benson
    July 15, 2016 at 11:13 am

    As soon as the author cited CIA Asset Juan Cole, he lost all credibility.

    Juan Cole is a CIA Asset—once a member of the family, always a member.
    http://www.counterpunch.org/2011/08/30/meet-professor-juan-cole-consultant-to-the-cia/

  3. Drew Hunkins
    July 15, 2016 at 11:57 am

    Spectacular piece by Lazare.

  4. Zachary Smith
    July 15, 2016 at 12:08 pm

    Regarding all the mentions of “the left” at the start of this essay, they reminded me of a rant I found this morning at the nakedcapitalism site. “The Left” and “The Hillary Left” are not necessarily one and the same.

    https://medium.com/@jeevesmeister/dear-wearetheleft-you-are-not-the-left-d01355f274d5#.pb19pws5u

    The Soviet collapse in 1991 knocked away a critical life support while the advent of Bashar al-Assad, a London-trained ophthalmologist, in June 2000 brought even worse, a neo-liberal “reform” program that slashed welfare outlays and sent corruption shooting through the roof.

    So Neo-Liberal “reform” had a hand in Syria’s mess. Fascinating.

    Without offering a shred of evidence, Yassin-Kassab and Al-Shami want us to believe in a monstrous conspiracy theory in which a Machiavellian government in Damascus kills loyal Alawites so as to panic others.

    I have no trouble believing this – even without that “shred of evidence”. That’s just the way things are done anymore. Or, it shows how paranoid I’ve become.

    Finally, the Nice attack was the birds coming home to roost for France. From today’s Moon of Alabama:

    The French government did not care or even favored when its citizens went to Syria to overthrow the legitimate Syrian government by means of terrorism:

    “The fighters in Syria are not fighting France or Europe; they are fighting against the Assad regime,” Valls [,the French interior minister,] said.

    Now these fighters and their ideology are coming back to France.

  5. Gregory Herr
    July 15, 2016 at 12:46 pm

    Kudos for the critique of “Burning Country” and for summarily expressing the view that overall Western policy towards the Syrians is “a crime as great as the 2003 invasion of Iraq”.
    I would look forward to an article by Mr. Lazare discussing “The Dirty War on Syria” by Tim Anderson.

  6. ltr
    July 15, 2016 at 1:35 pm

    Sorely needed essay.

  7. Abe
    July 15, 2016 at 1:54 pm

    Why nary a whisper about Israel in discussions about “What Really Happened in Syria”?

    In June 2007, it was reported that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had sent a secret message to Syrian President, Bashar Assad saying that Israel would concede the land in exchange for a comprehensive peace agreement and the severing of Syria’s ties with Iran and militant groups in the region. On the same day, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that the former Syrian President, Hafez Assad, had promised to let Israel retain Mount Hermon in any future agreement.

    In April 2008, Syrian media reported Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told President Bashar al-Assad that Israel would withdraw from the Golan Heights in return for peace. Israeli leaders of communities in the Golan Heights held a special meeting and stated: “all construction and development projects in the Golan are going ahead as planned, propelled by the certainty that any attempt to harm Israeli sovereignty in the Golan will cause severe damage to state security and thus is doomed to fail”. That year, a plenary session of the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution 161-1 in favour of a motion on the Golan Heights that reaffirmed Security Council resolution 497 and called on Israel to desist from “changing the physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure and legal status of the occupied Syrian Golan and, in particular, to desist from the establishment of settlements [and] from imposing Israeli citizenship and Israeli identity cards on the Syrian citizens in the occupied Syrian Golan and from its repressive measures against the population of the occupied Syrian Golan.” Israel was the only nation to vote against the resolution. Indirect talks broke down after the Gaza War began. Syria broke off the talks to protest Israeli military operations. Israel subsequently appealed to Turkey to resume mediation.

    In March 2009, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad claimed that indirect talks had failed after Israel did not commit to full withdrawal from the Golan Heights.

    During his first term (1996-1999) as Prime Minister, Netanyahu said in May 2009 that returning the Golan Heights would turn it into “Iran’s front lines which will threaten the whole state of Israel.” He said: “I remember the Golan Heights without Katzrin, and suddenly we see a thriving city in the Land of Israel, which having been a gem of the Second Temple era has been revived anew.”

    In August 2009, al-Assad said that the return of the entire Golan Heights was “non-negotiable,” it would remain “fully Arab,” and would be returned to Syria.

    In June 2009, Israeli President Shimon Peres said that Syrian President Assad would have to negotiate without preconditions, and that Syria would not win territorial concessions from Israel on a “silver platter” while it maintained ties with Iran and Hezbollah. Syrian President Assad claimed that there was “no real partner in Israel.”

    In 2010, Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman said: “We must make Syria recognize that just as it relinquished its dream of a greater Syria that controls Lebanon … it will have to relinquish its ultimate demand regarding the Golan Heights”.

    Unsuccessful that its efforts to efforts to secure regional hegemony were being thwarted by an “uncooperative” Syria, Israel recruited its “allies” and resorted to more drastic measures.

    Terrorist groups have been set loose on Syria since the US, UK and their western and Gulf State allies launched a covert war in early 2011, dressed up by the media as a “revolution”.

    The “protest movement” in Daraa on March 17-18, 2011 in Syria had all the appearances of a staged event involving covert support to terrorists. The strategy in Daraa (repeated in Kiev in February 2014) involved roof top snipers targeting both police and demonstrators.

    See “Syria: Who Was Behind The Protest Movement? Fabricating a Pretext for a US-NATO ‘Humanitarian Intervention'” by Professor Michel Chossudovsky
    http://www.globalresearch.ca/syria-who-is-behind-the-protest-movement-fabricating-a-pretext-for-a-us-nato-humanitarian-intervention/24591

    The war in Syria has never been a “civil war” and the anti-government forces almost entirely are terrorist mercenaries, not “rebels”.

    Examining the “patterns” it becomes rather obvious that Israel is trying to achieve through terror what it was unable to achieve through non-negotiation.

    According to the prevailing Western propaganda narrative, the hapless West now finds itself “stuck” in Syria.

    In reality, Western involvement in Syria is not due to some unfortunate series of accidents or diplomatic fumbles, but because of its well-established patterns of “cooperation” with Israel.

    When a nation fails to be “cooperative” with Israel’s hegemonic agenda, “Islamic terror” pays it a visit.

    Europe, notorious for limping in its “cooperation” with Israel, apparently requires frequent visits.

    Countless “analyses” of Middle Eastern affairs perpetually proclaim that peace would reign o’er the Holy Land if only certain “uncooperative dictators” found the “will” to make the right “decisions”.

    In reality, the uncooperative dictator is Netanyahu.

    For decades, Israel has worked tirelessly to ensure that it not surrounded by stable and economically prosperous states. Perpetual “threats” to Israel guarantee an unending supply of US military, economic and diplomatic aid.

    Israel’s support for terrorist forces in Syria was denied by officials until Defense Minister Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon, former Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces acknowledged Israeli aid for al-Nusra in 2015.

  8. Joe L.
    July 15, 2016 at 2:32 pm

    While I do believe that there were legitimate protests all across the Middle East, I do believe that the “Arab Spring” was a tool for regime change used by the US. Whenever, I think of the Middle East I always think of US 4-star General Wesley Clark speaking in 2007 about US plans, which predate 9/11, for regime change in 7 countries across the Middle East (the Project for a New American Century) – Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran. Now what Mr. Clark was speaking of was well before what we see in Syria and I don’t believe that he is Nostradamus either. Count the countries and which ones have fallen and now we even have Newt Gingrich meeting with a group in Paris for possible support for regime change in Iran.

    There were even legitimate protests in Venezuela in 2002 but these were manipulated by USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy whom, I believe, funded protesters and opposition government officials. This ultimately led to Chavez being overthrown for, I think, 2 days until he was reinstated and many of the coup plotters fled to Miami. Now in keeping with the Arab Spring, Al Jazeera reported that US NGO’s such as USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy did much the same in Egypt before overthrowing their “democratically” elected leader, Morsi. Ultimately the United States plays the part of the Wizard of Oz and we need to look behind the curtain.

    Al Jazeera: “Exclusive: US bankrolled anti-Morsi activists” (July 10, 2013):

    ‘Bureau for Democracy’

    Washington’s democracy assistance programme for the Middle East is filtered through a pyramid of agencies within the State Department. Hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars is channeled through the Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL), The Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), USAID, as well as the Washington-based, quasi-governmental organisation the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

    In turn, those groups re-route money to other organisations such as the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute (NDI), and Freedom House, among others. Federal documents show these groups have sent funds to certain organisations in Egypt, mostly run by senior members of anti-Morsi political parties who double as NGO activists.

    http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2013/07/2013710113522489801.html

  9. July 15, 2016 at 2:54 pm

    where Syria is concerned there is only one legitimate case of torture for which there is ample evidence … that is the case of the Canadian citizen Maher Arar who was kidnapped by the c.i.a., taken to Syria (who’s government was keen on appeasing the empire) where they tortured him for an entire year. the government of Canada apologized, and “compensated” him for for it’s role in the kidnapping.
    no one was ever charged with a crime and brought to trial, or even indicted.
    this sets a precedent … if there ever has been any torture occurred in Syria, it is not a crime.
    http://www.amnestyusa.org/our-work/cases/usa-maher-arar

    • Joe L.
      July 15, 2016 at 3:00 pm

      common tater… thank you for the link and your comment. I am Canadian and I don’t even remember this – though Arar does look somewhat familiar. I don’t watch a lot of our news, so that might be why I am a little unfamiliar with it, but I also have a feeling that there was not a lot of coverage for this. So thank you again for the link.

  10. Roger Milbrandt
    July 15, 2016 at 3:45 pm

    This article is impressive and convinces me to be very skeptical about Burning Country. However, to my surprise, Lazare makes no mention of the abundantly documented shipments of arms and fighters to Syria from various other countries. He leaves the impression that the murderous sectarianism of the opponents of Assad is only a reflection of some deep-seated quality in Syrian Sunnis.
    In short, Lazare’s account suffers from a conspicuous distortion.

  11. LJ
    July 15, 2016 at 3:53 pm

    Wait a second here. We were all reading the News weren’t we? Why do you need a book to tell you what happened? Regime Change 1A . I had read in the News from respected writers that a Regime Change was being planned in Syria 6 months before the Arab Spring happened. I also remember reading illogical disinformation from the start of the Regime Change Attempt about massive protests then cross checking and seeing 50,000 Peaceful protestors becoming 500 and black hooded killers firing into their midst. That these black hooded killers were being represented in our mainstream media as Assad’s forces should tell you all you need to know. Then when the infamous sarin attack occured outside Damascus the propaganda films were ready for release and broadcast unquestioned by our media showing all the victims and the New York Times was ready with articles explaining vector analysis and proving the case for Kerry and Obama but the CIA and the British House of Commons wouldn’t go along and the UN Investigation disproved all the claims but they have never been retracted,. After Libya and that successful disinformation campaign THEY thought THEY could get away with anything and I guess they can if you can’t remember and don’t want to think. This is a single guy from “The Left” getting out in front of the narrative because certain segments of what is called “The Left” want this to be the accepted narrative. There has been enough information around from many sources left, right and center that anyone who wants to know the truth can research it fro themselves.

  12. F. G. Sanford
    July 15, 2016 at 4:01 pm

    The left-right paradigm may no longer be a valid analytical tool. All I see is radicalism trying to convince the audience it somehow represents the center. Genocide gets a pass as long as nobody builds an oven. Welcome to the Dada Cafe.

    • Joe Tedesky
      July 16, 2016 at 1:19 pm

      The other day I spoke of an instance where my liberal friends thought I was to Putin, and not enough behind U.S. actions in Syria and Ukraine. There is a left which is basically left on all social platforms, and not so left when it comes to America’s conduct concerning world affairs. Isn’t it strange how that a Republican candidate is promoting the idea of ‘just why are we doing this NATO thing’? When it comes to scrapping all trade deals, or at least make them balance better, who do you trust more, a Donald Trump or a Hillary Clinton? If the right is for Wall Street, and the left is for Main Street, shouldn’t the right promote trade deals and the left oppose them? If the left is representative of non confrontational foreign diplomacy, then why is Hillary with her ‘Putin is Hitler’ rant now the Democrate’s left leaning presidential candidate? You know the rest of how Trump and Putin are kissing envy pals…so what gives?

      One more thing, and I will make a prediction here; watch how left Hillary will go between now and November. This is a time to start writing down the promises she will make to cater to Bernies left followers. Later, you may score her accomplishments, and in all fairness I won’t predict, but I will doubt her score will reflect what the left leaning voter was expecting will just end up being a fool hearty wish list blown to the wind. In fact, I will play the part of the doubting Thomas when it comes to both candidates Trump or Clinton, that either will perform well if in office to keeping their promises made while campaigning.

      I always hated the label thing anyway, and politics shouldn’t be decided by just what or who’s group you are in. I mean okay to unions, and evangelicals, but a philosophy shouldn’t be determined by you looking to see who’s on your right or left for guidance. Candidates being what they are, a voter may become confused when one candidates stand on one issue the voter agrees with, while the same voter finds on a different issue that the other candidate fits their thinking also. Decisions, decisions, and more decisions, but you need to go to the mountain a lone, or you could wait to hear what O’Reilly, Maher, or Whoopi has to say.

  13. Joe Tedesky
    July 15, 2016 at 6:01 pm
  14. F. G. Sanford
    July 15, 2016 at 6:09 pm

    Breaking news: Reports indicate possible military coup in Turkey. A spokesperson claims, “Erdogan has eroded Turkey’s democracy.” Eliot Higgins tweeted that there has been an explosion in the TRT (state television?) building. Gee…I wonder who gave our good buddy Moses Brown the “heads up”?

    • Joe L.
      July 15, 2016 at 8:40 pm

      F. G. Sanford… it is a coup when US, and western, interests are threatened such as that of a NATO member but not a coup when it is in the US’, and western, interests – I guess it is all a matter of spin.

    • Joe Tedesky
      July 15, 2016 at 11:57 pm

      There is a lot going on today. As you all know Turkey appears to be having a coup. Syria seems to be on the move to rid it’s country of ISIS. The 28 pages involving the Saudi’s role in 911 are now being made available. A question to Saudi Arabia’s current leadership staying in power, is a good question to ask. With all of this going down, will we now learn who was the Dr Frankenstein who created ISIS?

      Read this….

      http://syrianperspective.com/2014/08/isis-and-the-game-nobody-can-play-neo-cons-in-wonderland.html

      • Joe Tedesky
        July 16, 2016 at 12:08 pm

        Here we are the morning after. You all may wish to search out the meaning, and effectiveness, of the Turkish coup that failed. The Saker, The Duran, and MooonofAlabama, have lots to read.

        The 28 page 911 Saudi involvement report is still being scoured by people in the media, so much for exposing anything, but there is that ‘but’, and the game may still be on….who knows????

        I’m leaving a link to a Wayne Madsen essay, where he explores the potentials of the G7 conference next May where we may see Merkel, May, and Clinton combine their talents together to take the world to wherever it is they seem to be taking us. Just something to read, but worth the contemplation of it all…whatever.

        http://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2016/07/15/the-three-maidens-war-are-angling-for-kill.html

        • F. G. Sanford
          July 16, 2016 at 3:05 pm

          Wayne appears to also have an article on his ‘pay site’ that makes a case for the coup in Turkey being a false flag/staged event. I haven’t read it because I’m not a ‘member’, but Madsen broke the Denny Hastert story circa 2006, and it turned out to be “on the money.” He has been predicting a likely coup in Turkey for months. Just my opinion, but I think the guy deserves a lot more credit than he gets.

          • Joe Tedesky
            July 16, 2016 at 10:05 pm

            Yeah Madsen reminds of that weird strange kid who sat in the back corner of the class, and who never said a word the whole semester, but then he was the one to submit the most brilliant thesis ever.

            I’m starting to think this Turkish coup is a Erdogan false flag, because if this had been Gulen supported by America’s CIA then it more than likely would have been a successful coup. The truth is hard to find, when you must search among a pack of liars.

        • Abe
          July 16, 2016 at 6:55 pm

          It’s strange
          Sure is strange

          You got to pick up every stitch
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JAzTnsSgs2s

        • Abe
          July 16, 2016 at 7:21 pm

          Act I. Scene I. A desert place.
          Thunder and lightning. Enter three Witches
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1jmXMZCq2tw

    • Abe
      July 16, 2016 at 4:14 pm
  15. farouk
    July 15, 2016 at 9:13 pm

    The war in Syria has been planned for years. General Clark said it was on the chopping block. There was the Yinon plan. Israel has been caught rehabbing fighters. Saudi and Turkey two Sunni Islamist countries with autocratic rule have been openly supporting Syrian Islamist of all stripes.General Michael Flynn admitted the US knew they were creating an Islamist Emirate. US Syria Ambassador Robert Ford immediately joined the rebels and supported open Islamists as moderates. Seymour Herysh wrote on the US aiding Sunni Islamist extremist to counter Iran. All of this is on record.

  16. dahoit
    July 16, 2016 at 10:23 am

    A thousand words where one would be sufficient.Zion.

  17. Peter
    July 16, 2016 at 11:33 am

    No mention of the US sanctions imposed on Syria around 2003/4 after Assad refused to join the coaltion of the killing in Iraq?
    6 to 7 years of sanctions by the US can do a great deal of damage to the economy of a small country like Syria.

  18. Akech
    July 16, 2016 at 11:11 pm

    Quoting from Ray’s comment:

    ‘This is a playoff situation in which you need both teams to lose, but at least you don’t want one to win — we’ll settle for a tie,’ said Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli consul general in New York. ‘Let them both bleed, hemorrhage to death: that’s the strategic thinking here. As long as this lingers, there’s no real threat from Syria.’

    ***************************************************************
    Most of you remember Idi Amin in Uganda. The bloody guy fed hundreds and hundreds of the bodies of his countrymen to the Nile crocodiles; the crocodiles became fat feeding on Idi Amin’s Ugandan victims!
    *************************************************************
    Richard Slater: The British High Commissioner in Kampala , Uganda and the Idi Amin Coup of 25 January 1971

    “But why should Israel be interested in Uganda? Slater never directly accused Israel of being behind the coup, but he did explain why they might have been. In the Six-Day War, Sudan had backed the Arab cause, and Israel wanted to take the fight to its enemies. They (Israelis) were supporting rebellion in southern Sudan, supplying the Anya-Nya fighters with weapons. As Slater said:

    “They do not want the rebels to win. They want to keep them fighting.”

    *****************BUT WHY?**********************************

    “Milton Obote had been trying to make peace in Sudan, but, unknown to him, Amin, then head of his army, had been secretly supplying the Israeli weapons to the rebels (South Sudanese Anya-Nya fighters). Amin had good friends in Israel, and suddenly the Israelis had the opportunity to remove the man who was trying to broker peace, and put their man in power”

    *****************************************************************

    Using this same bloody tactic, the warmongers are focused in continuous wars everywhere in the globe! Blood is still spilling in South Sudan with thousands and thousands displaced people in refugees camps. While this is going on, the focus is squarely on the flow of oil out of war torn South Sudan to some destination! The Clintons are involved, talking about religion, morality, child soldier and flow of oil:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtmkSTqfy9U

    *****************************************************************
    References:
    http://milfuegos.blogspot.com/2007/01/african-tyrant-truth-about-who-really.html

    http://jcpa.org/article/israeli-ugandan-relations-in-the-time-of-idi-amin/

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/revealed-how-israel-helped-amin-to-take-power-100683.html

  19. Alberto
    July 17, 2016 at 8:10 am

    Having read “Burning Country”, I feel that Mr. Lazare is being unfair to the authors. The book is dedicated to an activist killed by Islamists. Yassin-Kassab discusses ISIS and reports several criticisms of the insurgents on his blog.The authors never deny that the regime is popular in Damascus and with Alawites.

    “Burning Country”‘s message is not that Sunni insurgents are faultless. The message is that Assad sparked the civil war by shooting peaceful protesters, including women and children and that for every atrocities committed by the insurgents there are at least a hundred committed by the regime. 50,000 men, women and children have died in jail, tens of thousands have been killed by barrel bombs and other illegal warfare instruments. Cities are razed to the ground by regime troops in withdrawal. Also, let’s not forget that Assad freed hundreds of jihadis from jail in 2011-to radicalize the opposition and rally support around himself.

    Mr Lazare discusses none of the core claims. If he has evidence contradicting the authors, he should present it. He blames Sunni revanchism after almost two hundred thousands Sunni civilians have been slaughtered and millions are refugees. A bit outrageous, in my view.

    Finally, Yassin-Kassab has a critique of Lazare
    https://qunfuz.com/2016/05/07/daniel-lazare/
    readers should check it out and then form their own opinion

  20. Brad Smith
    July 18, 2016 at 5:00 am

    Just some quick points to consider. The first is that the degree to which Assad was a bad guy is harder to determine that one would think. How much control did he have over the Mahabharat (intelligence apparatus)? Well how much could he have considering his youth and inexperience?

    The second point I would like to make is; it’s known that from very close to the start trained fighters were crossing the boarder into Syria from Jordon. These fighters were committing acts of terrorism. This not only changed the dynamics of the protests but guaranteed a crackdown. At the same time the US and it’s allies were doing everything they could to get his military to defect and it was fairly successful at that as well. This was going on while Assad was in fact trying to give the actual protestors at least some of what they were asking for. (a new constitution, elections and new rules for the elections)

    My last point is to remind people that Assad was not allowed to step down or to make any type of peace at all. He was not offered any type of immunity from prosecution. So he was given a choice, fight or die. Not much of a choice.

    Take all the evidence into consideration and it’s rather obvious that the Civil war was not inevitable nor was it an organic uprising.

  21. bozhidar balkas
    July 18, 2016 at 8:14 am

    Israel, i think, was safe regardless whether assad stayed or had stepped down. It seems to me that US had own reasons for arming some rebel groups in syria. Some of them are or may be anger against, frustration with, hatred of syrian socialist structure.
    US supremacism is just one of the causes for all US wars and sidings with fascist revolts or governments.

    Another cause for wanting SAA army to be defeated or forced to surrender is a wish to gain a greater or total control or to split syria in more than two pieces.

    Arab states, turkey had own reasons for wanting SAA defeated or at least to dismember syria. For arab states, the main aim seemed and seems now is to establish a wahhabi or a muslim brotherhood in syria.

  22. Louis Proyect
    July 22, 2016 at 5:39 pm

    What a joke–Daniel Lazare trying to discredit “Burning Country”. Just a few days after publishing this rancid review, he spreads the Baathist lie about a “12 year old Palestinian boy” being beheaded by Syrian rebels. It turns out that it was a 19 year old Alawite militia member that has carried out horrors on a daily basis against civilians over the past 5 years and that never gets mentioned in a Baathist outlet like Consortium News.

    https://louisproyect.org/2016/07/22/the-beheading-of-a-palestinian-child-by-syrian-rebels-none-of-it-is-true-except-the-beheading/

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