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March 30, 2023

Syria: A conspiracy theory?

The Middle East got us accustomed, of late, with a series of events whose interpretative azimuth changed, suddenly or slowly, as events unfolded. This is not as much about the Arab spring phenomenon, in its entirety, which was initially perceived with outstanding enthusiasm, as a democracy driver in the Arab world ossified under the burden of unbearable autocracy especially for the young generations. As it is known, the latest analyses about this phenomenon are much more nuanced in the western press, which even speaks about ‘the Arab winter’ – with reference to the new radical Islamist forces which the phenomenon legitimised and paved their way to power, where they had an anti-western attitude. This is also the light in which one can see the present evolutions of Egypt, where the ousting from power of the first democratically elected president in the history of this country, Mohamed Morsi, through a military action – one month ago, on July 3 – was hesitantly treated by official reports in Washington somewhere between “keeping the evolutions under careful control” and appeals to avoid as much as possible the violence that already caused hundreds of fatalities, and the consolidation of the civil leadership of the state. Obviously it was avoided calling the July 3 event “a military coup.” The US Secretary of State John Kerry said in an interview granted in Islamabad: “In effect, they (the Egyptian military) were restoring democracy,” and “The military did not take over, to the best of our judgment—so far, so far—to run the country. There’s a civilian government.” Let alone that, almost simultaneously, the mastermind of the July 3 military intervention in the internal political life, General Sissi, deplored that “the USA turned their back on Egypt,” which increases the mystery regarding the events going on in this country. But almost immediately after the statements made by the head of the American diplomacy, White House officials tried to diminish the importance of his words, mentioning that it was a case of ‘neglecting the notes’ by the high dignitary. I think that the truest opinion about Kerry’s blunder is found in a comment posted on his blog by an acute observer of American and international politics: ”Let’s get the obvious parts out of the way: No, the Egyptian military is not restoring democracy in Egypt. You can’t ‘restore’ something that never existed, and it takes a lot more than a couple of elections to make a democracy.” Or, resorting to an example, the recent warning issued by the USA regarding the danger of imminent terrorist attacks organised by Al Qaida provoked some doubts, immediately noticed by the media, about the realism of what the Obama Administration had said last year regarding the dismantling of this terrorist organisation (also during the presidential campaign). And the temporary closing of some embassies and consular offices in the Middle East by the USA or other states on this occasion sparked many comments about the USA, or the West in general, abandoning this region after the withdrawal from Iraq, or the confusion over the solution to the Syrian crisis or other regional evolutions.
There are also other events that result in such contradictory characterisations. The Middle East apparently is a fertile ground for conspiracy theories, whose veracity must be – naturally – doubted as long as they are not verified with independent sources or they simply rely on interested or politically motivated statements. As it is known, one of the reasons for this ambiguity of the West in supporting the Syrian armed opposition resides in the fact that it is politically heterogeneous and includes important radical Sunni Islamist groups / transferred from the whole region, which actually prove to be the most competent in military terms. How could one grant military support to the opposition without risking that Syria, once the Assad regime toppled, becomes a problem-state, sponsor of terrorism and an anti-western stronghold?
As a result of this dilemma, western chancelleries set their eyes on the solution proposed by Moscow, which consists in encouraging negotiations between the combatants of the civil war that develops in Syria, with the first round of talks due to be held soon in Geneva. In this context, with the Assad regime perceived as approachable, although it is responsible for a bloody internal repression that made 100,000 victims so far, while the opposition is targeted by massive terrorist infiltrations, an unusual thesis appeared. In brief, this is what it refers to: the Assad regime collaborates with the radical, terrorist groups of the opposition, upon staging large-scale terrorist attacks or they agree upon the reciprocal spheres of influence on the Syrian territory. This collaboration allegedly dates back since the times when Syria acted as intermediary for the transfer of jihadists from abroad to Iraq, in order to fuel the Sunni insurgence in this country against the multinational forces operating under American command. Here are a few of the pieces of evidence produced by this new theory, as they are presented in an article recently signed by an attentive Lebanon-based observer of the Syrian conflict, Michael Weiss. The author quotes the leader of the Syrian Freedom Army, General Salim Idris, recognised by the international community as the legitimate representative of the anti-Assad resistance, who in an interview granted last week said that one of his deputies was shot by ‘foreigners,’ implicitly hinting that they belong to the Al Qaida network: “We refuse them strongly because unfortunately they work with the regime of the criminal Bashar al-Assad.” The analysis made by the aforementioned analyst rules out the possibility that it is just an attempt of the military leader to rapidly obtain the weapons which the West refused to the insurgents, because of its cooperation with Al Qaida. The statement of Idris is corroborated with a mention launched by the British newspaper ‘The Guardian ’, which in May quoted a western official incriminating the cooperation between the Assad regime and a group affiliated with Al Qaida and operating in Syria among rebels (Jabhat al-Nusra). According to another witness, this cooperation is also demonstrated by the ‘deal’ between the aforementioned jihadist organisation and the Assad regime referring to the oil transport through the territories under its control to the Mediterranean ports held by the regime. To prove the veracity of his theory, the author does not hesitate to show that it is about a typical operation aimed at intoxicating the international public opinion, staged by the Assad regime, as it is known that the same operatives of the Syrian secret services who in the past facilitated the transit of jihadist insurgents to Iraq today cooperate with the radical rebels: “Every Syrian revolutionary I’ve ever met or spoken with believes that, at some level, the Machiavellian who used to send ‘ratlines’ of al-Qaeda fighters into Iraq and provide newly arrived jihadist recruits with safe houses in the Jazira, is still working with these erstwhile allies, even at the cost of seeing his own military and security installations blown up in suicide or car bombings “.

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