Tony Greenstein | 30 June 2012 | Post Views:

Syrian Butcher Assad and UN/US’s Compliant Diplomat Kofi Annan
There is
no doubt that the armed opposition to the Assad regime in Syria is now armed
and directed by the imperialist states and their Arab sponsors – Quatar and
Saudi Arabia.  That special forces from
the US, UK and France among others are active in Syria, not least in stirring
up sectarian conflicts and strife.
Mass anti-Assad demonstration in Damascus
In this
they are behaving no differently from how they acted in Libya.  A popular revolution against Ghaddaffi was
subverted by the West for reasons of imperial regional hegemony and oil.  The same is happening in Syria.  There is little doubt that the appalling
al-Hola massacre was carried out by pro-Western forces. The evidence is
impressive.  This is not to say that the
Assad regime is anything but a blood stained and murderous entity.  There is nothing progressive about them but
to replace one set of murderers with others whose only difference is the
targets to be chosen is to jump from the frying pan into the fire.
The other interesting thing is the silence from Israeli politicians.  One might expect them to be utilising what is happening in Syria to the maximum.  But no, they have kept quiet.  Unlike Iran’s Ahmedinajad, Assad is not the new Hitler.  Why?  Because just as in Egypt, Israel welcomes a stable border and a people kept under the jackboot.  There may be differences between Ba’athism and Israel but Assad and his father kept a firm grip on the country.  The border is quietest of any sorrounding Israel.  Assad may allow a flow of arms to Hizbollah from Iran but at the moment Israel has more pressing concerns than Lebanon.  In short Assad has always been a man to do business with.  Apart from rhetorical flourishes, as a means of diverting attention from Israel’s own crimes, the focus on Assad’s crimes have been minimal.

At the bottom is an article explaining who, in the opinion of the author, actually carried out the massacre at Al-Hola.


Between Imperialism and Repression

published: 12 June, 2012
Victims of Assad’s thugs in uniform

Ramadani is a senior lecturer in sociology at London Metropolitan University
and has been an active participant in anti-imperialist struggles for many
years. In an in-depth interview, he spoke to Samuel Grove about the dynamics of
the conflict in Syria, arguing that democratic resistance to Assad’s brutal
regime has been eclipsed by reactionary forces, backed by Western and Gulf
states, with potentially momentous implications for the Middle East.  
upheaval in Syria is an enormously difficult subject for Western outsiders to
get a handle on. One of the reasons for this is the sheer number of different
interests jostling for position and power, from both within and outside the
country. Let us start with the regime itself. Can you give us a brief
history of where the Al-Assad family came from and the direction they have
taken the country since they came to power in 1970?
Massive Demonstration against the Ba’athist Regime in Damascus
the magnificent peoples’ uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, toppling two
entrenched dictators, there developed a tendency not to closely examine the
nature of the various forces competing for political power both within the
opposition movements and the Arab regimes. Events in Libya and NATO’s
intervention there have alerted most people to the dangers of hijacking the
peoples’ struggle for freedom by reactionary forces. A brief look at the nature
of the Syrian regime and its changing role in the region is crucial in trying
to understand the current conflict and the reactionary forces’ success in
hijacking the people’s struggle for radical change.
Syria has
been run by a ruthless, corrupt regime. Syrian left activists have been on the
receiving end of severe repression since Hafiz Assad’s coup in 1970. It was
after that coup that Henry Kissinger described Syria as “a factor for
stability,” despite Soviet military backing for the regime. Hafiz Assad’s
regime, funded by the Saudi medieval dictators, played a leading role in the
1970’s and early 80’s in weakening the Palestinian resistance.  During the
1975-6 civil war in Lebanon Syrian troops sided with pro-Israeli Phalange and
other extreme right wing forces. The regime, in return for US promises over the
Israeli-occupied Syrian Golan Heights and Saudi petro-dollars, also backed the
1991 US-led war over Kuwait.
Burying the dead of another massacre by Syrian State troops
Syrian forces’ presence in Lebanon had the full support of the US and Saudi
rulers and the tacit support of Israel. It was only after Syria’s gradual
foreign policy shift and reversal of roles from enemies to allies of the
Palestinian and Lebanese resistance movements that the US and Saudi rulers
shifted their stance. They pursued an aggressive campaign to force a Syrian
withdrawal (1985) from Lebanon, particularly after the 2003 occupation of Iraq.
US forces even killed some Syrian soldiers on the Iraqi-Syrian borders.
relation to the media coverage today, it is important to note that, before
Syria’s shift the media were silent about the repressive nature of the regime.
This is similar to the their silence towards repression by a variety of
ruthless dictatorial allies. Today they talk of Sunni Saudi rulers opposed to
Alawite-Shia in Syria, but back then, the media did not bother highlighting the
fact that the Wahabi-Sunni Saudi rulers were bankrolling the Syrian regime nor
did they push their sectarian poison. A similar sectarian coverage unfolded in
relation to Saudi-Iranian relations after the 1979 Iranian revolution and the
overthrow of the Shah, a favourite US ally.
opposition to the Syrian regime was not confined to the left, but included the
Moslem Brotherhood, who led a popular revolt in 1982 in their stronghold of
Hama. The regime crushed the uprising by bombarding the City and killing
thousands of people. Nevertheless, Arab nationalism has for a century or more
been Syria’s main ideological current, developed in the struggle against
Ottoman rule and, much more deeply, against French colonial rule. Syria won its
independence from France in 1946.
Brotherhood today are backed by the Qatari and Saudi dictators, but the media
rarely dwell on the irony of these dictators championing democracy in Syria
while crushing any opposition to their rule and sending their troops to help
crush the people’s uprising in Bahrain.
In 1967
Syria was invaded and a strategic part of its territory, the Golan Heights, was
occupied by Israel. Since then, successive regimes legitimised their rule
partly by working for or at least appearing to be actively trying to liberate Syria
from occupation. However, US promises of rewarding Syria by forcing Israel to
pull out of the occupied lands came to nothing despite Syria’s compliant
with the failure of the US to deliver on its promises, a number of factors changed
Syria’s role. These include the rise of Iran as a formidable anti-US
anti–Israeli power, the Palestinian uprisings, the unstoppable rise of the
Lebanese resistance, led by Hizbullah, leading to the liberation of southern
Lebanon from occupation and defeat of Israeli-Saudi-US backed forces, the
arrival of hostile US forces along Syria’s borders with Iraq, and the rise of
Iraqi resistance and defeat of US forces in Iraq.
Syrian armed forces and security apparatus, with its multi-layer pyramids of informers,
form the backbone of the regime’s control over Syrian society. Much is made of
the sectarian nature of the Syrian regime and its reliance on the Alawite
communities. I think this is highly exaggerated and ignores the much wider
circles of support that the regime has acquired, whether this support is
active, passive or of the ‘better devil you know’ type.
powerful, mostly Sunni, merchant classes of Syria, particularly in Damascus and
Aleppo, have close links with the regime. Indeed, the US-led economic sanctions
are partly directed at this merchant class to force it to shift its stance.
Sections of the middle and upper middle classes also tacitly support the
regime. Syria’s religious minorities, including Christians who form 10% of the
population, are fearful of the Moslem Brotherhood’s social and cultural agenda
for Syria. They too would rather have the secular regime than a state dominated
by a Saud-Qatari backed Brotherhood. Importantly, the Kurdish minority are also
fearful of the influence of Turkey on the Muslim Brotherhood and the fact that
the Syrian Free Army is headquartered in Turkey, which has a horrific record of
killing over 20,000 Kurdish people in Turkey. Millions of women also fear the
social programme of the Brotherhood.
In the context
of the current conflict, the poor, the unemployed and students who were
supportive of the initial, largely spontaneous protest movement are now much
more reticent, partly due to regime repression but primarily because of their
opposition to the NATO-Saudi-Qatari meddling and the militarisation of the
sections of the opposition, particularly the Syrian National Council (SNC) and
the Free Syrian Army which are dominated by the Brotherhood.
describe the recent protest movement as ‘largely spontaneous’. This doesn’t
mean obviously that grievances weren’t building up over a long period of time,
however it does suggest a lack of strong long term organisations of
resistance—as was the case in countries like Egypt and Tunisia for example.
Left and
progressive opposition to the Syrian regime has been going on for decades,
particularly after the 1970 Hafiz Assad coup, which ousted the ‘left’ faction
led by Salah Jedid. That faction backed the Palestinian resistance movements
based in Jordan against the military onslaught launched by King Hussein’s armed
forces in September 1970. Hafiz Assad, who was minister of Defence before the
coup, instantly appeased the US and Saudi rulers by siding with King Hussein
and starting a crack-down on all left forces in the country.
The left
in Syria was for much of the 20th century mostly organised by the
Syrian Communist Party. Founded in 1924, the party was subjected to varying
degrees of state repression. Since the 1970’s the more militant factions within
the party and other left organisations and figures have suffered imprisonment,
torture and exile. However, the party leadership’s docile stance towards more
militant forms of struggle within Syria, Palestine and Lebanon, and servile
support for the Soviet Union’s Middle East policies gradually turned it into a
party of sections of the intelligentsia rather than a genuine working class
party. Perhaps the latter would have appealed to wider society with a socialist
programme that also reflected Syria’s neo-colonial status and being part of the
wider struggle in the area against imperialism and Zionism. As it happened the
political vacuum was filled by the Islamic and nationalist movements, including
the Baath party, who champion the Syrian, Palestinian and wider Arab nationalist
causes. A similar process happened in Algeria where Marxists initially
advocated the line of the French CP declaring that Algeria would be free once
France became socialist!
In the
context of the current conflict, all the left forces in Syria supported the
initial protest marches that followed the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. The
marches, which started in Deraa on the border with Jordan, were also supported
by the Moslem Brotherhood. The demands of the protest marches were focused on
issues relating to corruption, unemployment and democratic rights. Though large
scale marches were held across many cities it was significant that no such
marches took place in Syria’s largest two cities, Damascus and Aleppo, where
more than half of Syria’s population reside.
It was
also noticeable that the more NATO intervened and militarised the protest
movement in Libya the smaller mass peaceful protests became in Syria. The
marchers shrunk from hundreds to tens of thousands and to to thousands and
less. Obviously, regime brutality was a factor, but I don’t think that fear
played the biggest role. I think the main reason is that most of the democratic
opposition in Syria is also staunchly anti-imperialist and naturally fearful of
NATO and Israeli plans for Syria. Events in Libya and, above all, the
bloodbaths in and destruction of neighbouring Iraq by the US-led forces and the
terrorist gangs, played the leading role in making most of the Syrian
democratic secular opposition fearful of the consequences of the escalating conflict.
They could not fail to notice that while Iraq burned Syria itself became home
to a million Iraqi refugees.
On the
other hand, the leadership of the Moslem Brotherhood and opposition leaders
based in Istanbul, Paris and London have effectively utilised the publicity
they enjoyed on all Arab state-controlled media, particularly the Qatari-owned
Al-Jazeera. Events have also shown that years of planning had gone into the
funding and arming of parts of the Syrian opposition.
lost Bin Ali and Mubarak in quick succession, US, Saudi, Qatari and Turkish
attention turned to Syria. The massive uprising in Bahrain, headquarters of the
US fifth fleet, also sharpened their sense of danger and fear of the people’s
uprisings. Saudi and other Gulf sheikdoms sent in their forces to help King
Hamad crush the uprising, which is still active.
Lebanon, Jordan and areas in Iraq became the centres of the counterrevolution
in Syria. Arms were smuggled into Syria and the US-created Iraqi militia
al-Sahwa backed the armed ‘rebels’ and Libyan fighters were smuggled into the
battle zones. Terrorists operating in Iraq also joined the “jihad” against the
Syrian regime.
On the
other hand, years of repression rendered the Syrian democratic opposition too
weak to lead the struggle in the country. As organised forces, they are no
match for the counterrevolution’s vast resources. Their only hope was to keep
the protests peaceful and sustained. Like in Libya, counter-revolution had
other plans.
The left
here has to also recognise that the regime does have the support of most of the
affluent middle classes, particularly in Damascus and Allepo. The numerous
ethnic and religious minorities and large sectors of the female population are
also fearful of the socially reactionary nature of the Moslem Brotherhood and
the type of regime that they might impose on Syria. Al-Qaida leader Ayman
al-Zawahir’s call for armed Jihad to overthrow Assad’s regime has also further
frightened the population of a sectarian conflict.
This puts
us in a difficult situation. As left wing activists we support the rights of
people to freedom, equality and self-determination. As activists based in the
imperial centres we are opposed to the actions of our governments to deny
people these rights. So our support for freedom and equality and our opposition
to imperialism tend to go hand in hand. However the picture you are depicting
in Syria is tied to the implication that we cannot do both these. Is it
possible to support Syria’s democratic struggle AND oppose foreign
intervention? Or is this a luxury we cannot afford?
You raise
a very important question. Let me make it crystal clear: it is vital for the
left to always oppose both imperialism and regimes that repress the masses.
This is a matter of principle that should never be abandoned. Movements that
abandoned one or other of these inseparable objectives have committed serious
and sometimes fatal errors.
The Iraqi
Communist Party (ICP) is a good example in this context. Within three decades,
it shrunk from being a formidable party of the working class, enjoying the
support of the overwhelming majority of the Iraqi people in 1958-9, to a
pathetic grouping that probably received funds from Saudi Arabia in 1991 in
return for siding with US-led 1991 Gulf war, and protection-at-a-price from
Barzani’s KDP from 1978-9 onwards. In practice, it betrayed brave chapters of
struggle against imperialism and domestic reaction with a chapter of shame by
serving the US-led occupation authority in 2003. It abandoned the struggle for
democratic socialism in 1959 in the name of opposing imperialism and abandoned
the fight against imperialism from 1990 onwards in the name of fighting for
Which of
the twin objectives becomes the main focus of the struggle is always in a state
of flux. However, within the context of an era of accelerated imperialist
aggression and wars, exposing imperialism and its exploitation of the peoples
of the world is always at the heart of the work of the left. Imperialism is a
manifestation of monopoly capitalism that exploits the masses at home and
abroad. The left in the “imperial centres” has the added internationalist duty
of firmly upholding this task: to always side with the oppressed peoples’
struggle against imperialism and for self-determination. However, siding with
the oppressed masses also means backing them when they rise up against domestic
oppressors. These uprisings and struggle for democracy are part and parcel of
the struggle against imperialism.
For me
the complexity of the problem resolves itself in determining whether the
people’s struggle for civil rights and social emancipation are clearly directed
against both domestic reaction/repression and imperialism. In Iraq and Libya
yesterday and Syria today, imperialism has succeeded in exploiting the struggle
for democracy and eclipsing the progressive opposition forces. The left has to
face the facts and not sweep inconvenient developments under the carpet. Syria
today has NATO-backed armed groups, led by Saudi/Qatari-funded reactionaries.
Syria is a major target of US-led imperialism to install a client regime or,
failing that objective, to plunge the country into a sectarian blood bath. The
duty of the left in Britain is to firmly uphold and raise the banners high:
“Hands off Syria”, “Don’t Iraq Syria”, “Don’t Iraq Iran”, “It is for the Syrian
people to determine their future”…
is a news station that has developed a reputation on the left for covering the
Middle East (some would say the news in general) with more sophistication and
seriousness than the mainstream media in this country. And yet you say that in
relation to Syria and Libya their role has been very insidious. Can you explain
how? Can you append to this your impression of the British media’s coverage of
With very
few and notable exceptions, it really doesn’t take much to provide a more
serious and reliable coverage of the Middle East than the mainstream media
here. With significant exceptions, the media here echo the line adopted by the
Foreign Office on any particular event or country. A complex array of
ideological, political, social, economic and commercial factors are at play in
the way the media reports on the Middle East and world affairs in general.
“British national interests” are perceived by media owners and editors as being
expressed by the Foreign Office, which is seen as the neutral depository and
slide-rule of the “national interest”. No distinction is made between the
genuine interests of the British people and those of the arms manufacturers and
oil companies.
of Israeli policies, Palestinian people’s rights, Mussadaq’s Iran (1953),
Nasser’s Egypt (1952-1970), Qassem’s Iraq (1958-1963), the murderous sanctions
policies on Iraq, the Iraq War, NATO bombing of Libya and the current covert
NATO intervention in Syria are examples of how the mainstream media towed the
line advocated by the government of the day. Similarly, the ruthless and
socially repressive nature of the Saudi regime is glossed over, because the
Saudi medieval rulers are seen as important allies.
As it
happens, Al-Jazeera had its own historical link with the media here! The
satellite broadcaster was launched in 1996 following the sudden collapse of the
BBC Arabic station, which was a joint venture with a leading Saudi prince. The
collapse followed Saudi insistence on monitoring all broadcast material,
forcing the BBC to pull out. The Qatari rulers seized the moment and launched
Al-Jazeera, with scores of the BBC Arabic service staff on board, and with the
Qatari ruling family as the owners and political custodians.
The dead
hand of the assorted dictatorships in the Arab world made all Arab TV stations
be perceived, to varying degrees, as purveyors of state lies, half-truths and,
at best, safe-reporting. The advent of satellite stations and the internet
opened the doors for the Al-Jazeera to project itself as the antidote to state
The more
cosmopolitan and less vulnerable Qatari rulers, who were at odds with the Saudi
rulers, saw in Al-Jazeera a vehicle for spreading their political influence.
They gave Al-Jazeera a free hand to report on the Arab and Muslim world, while
maintaining tight control on the Qatari state TV station. But it was of course
not allowed to report negatively on the Qatari dictators or to investigate how
the current Qatari ruler deposed his father with US blessing. Qatar became the
headquarters of US military operations throughout the Middle East, including
Afghanistan and Iraq.
aspect of Al-Jazeera that does not attract much scrutiny is the station’s
tendency to negatively report on the Saudi royal family and Saudi princes’
widespread financial and property interests, which are hindering Qatari
investments and influence in the Middle East. The friction between the Qatari
and Saudi royal families became much more intense after the Qatari rulers
started showing keen interest in widening their influence in the Middle East.
Occasionally, however, Al-Jazeera’s intrepid reporters on the ground upset US
military planners in Afghanistan and Iraq.
response to Al-Jazeera, the Saudi rulers funded al-Arabiya and other satellite
uprisings in the Arab world, especially in neighbouring Bahrain, however,
threatened all the ruling families of the Gulf region. This prompted the Qatari
and Saudi rulers to make common cause in suppressing the uprisings in Bahrain
and Yemen while backing NATO intervention in Libya and bankrolling sections of
the Syrian opposition and working for militarising the conflict in Syria. For
they are aware that militarising the conflict will not only facilitate covert
and possibly overt NATO intervention but will thwart the progressive
anti-imperialist forces’ efforts to lead the people’s struggle for democracy
and radical social and economic change.
English targets a different audience but still has to compete with other
stations, particularly Iranian and Russian satellite stations. But both
Al-Jazeera Arabic and English, along with nearly all Arab TV stations, target
Iran in a barrage of negative reporting, with a racist and sectarian undertones
against “Persian” and “Shia influence” in the region. This aspect of
Al-Jazeera’s reporting is becoming increasingly important in the context of
possible Israeli or US attacks on Iran.
Permit me
here to quote from an article I wrote last year in which I referred to the role
of Al-Jazeera within the Arab uprisings:
Al-Jazeera has now become the most influential political tool of
counter-revolution in the Arab world, its role in Libya and the impact of the
sectarian nature of its coverage of the Bahrain uprising would have been much
less lethal had it not been for the massive prestige and authority it had
gained at the height of the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings. […] This [has
given it] a unique position to influence events and perceptions, particularly
in relation to Libya, Bahrain, Syria, Yemen and Iraq. […]Although Al-Jazeera
has always had a sectarian undertone at an editorial level, a marked shift in
direction came when the Qatari ruling family […] buried their longstanding
conflict with the Saudi ruling family in the wake of the revolutionary tidal
wave reaching Bahrain […]
The channel’s silence towards the
violent suppression of the protesters in Bahrain, headquarters of the US fifth
fleet, was backed up by live interviews with Sheikh Qaradhawi, a very
influential Egyptian cleric and a guest of the Qatari ruling family.”
serious damage to the democratic forces in Syria, Al-Jazeera has been
trumpeting the Qatari and Saudi rulers’ calls for the militarisation of the
conflict. It has given voice to the pro-NATO intervention forces in
the Syrian National Council and the Free Syrian Army, who do not represent
a majority of the Syrian people and are dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood.
Perhaps more damagingly is the way they suppressed the anti-intervention
democratic opposition voices in Syria.
How do
you see this conflict playing out? Do you see a victory for the reactionary
forces as moving us closer to a war with Iran? Is there still a potential for revolutionary
change in Syria?
Yes, I
think that a victory for the Saudi and Qatari ruling classes, backed by the US,
will be a major setback for the people in Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq and
the entire region. It will plunge Syria and the entire region into a sectarian
bloodbath, and will strengthen plans to attack Iran.
In an
alarming move pointing to future developments, a major US-led military exercise
is taking place in Jordan. 12,000 multinational forces from 20 NATO members and
Arab states are taking part in Operation Eager Lion 2012, the first of its type
in the region. US military sources do not hide the fact that the simulation of
amphibious landings and other war manoeuvres were intended to be “noticed” by
Syria and Iran.
Syria is
of pivotal importance not only due to its historic role and strategic location
but also because it is Iran’s only ally in the region. Installing a pro US
regime in Damascus, or crippling Syria through severe sanctions, terrorist
attacks and sectarian civil war will apply further pressure on Iran to either
concede to US demands or be attacked.
I think
that Iran’s nuclear energy programme is not the major US concern, especially
given that the CIA itself has admitted that there was no evidence that Iran was
working on producing nuclear weapons. Iran is a formidable regional power, and
one of the world’s largest oil producers, which happens to be implacably
opposed to US and Israeli policies. Its policies run counter to US plans and
have created problems for the US in Afghanistan and Iraq and for Israeli
policies in Palestine and Lebanon.
the uprisings, the Saudi and Qatari rulers are being encouraged by Washington
to strengthen their influence in the Middle East by restoring their lost
influence in Syria and Lebanon. In the latter, defeating Hizbullah (and its
Christian and left and nationalist allies) is the main objective. They are
trying to drag Hizbullah into another Lebanese civil war. Al-Jazeera and Arab
states’ media have been conducting a prolonged and intense racist and sectarian
campaign against Iran, portraying it as the main enemy and accusing Syria and
Hizbullah of being stooges of Iran.
This is
not to argue that the counterrevolutionary onslaught will be successful. The
people of Syria are overwhelmingly opposed to political and social change in
their country that is funded and backed by the dictatorships of Riyadh and
Doha. Women, most of whom enjoy vast social rights compared to Saudi women,
ethnic and religious minorities and the democratic left in Syria are a
formidable force against Saudi-Qatari-funded forces and are opposed to calls
for NATO intervention. Militarisation of the conflict and resorting to
terrorist attacks are signs of failure of the reactionary forces to gain mass
support for their line. However, the struggle of the anti-imperialist left and
other democratic forces in Syria, as in Iraq, remain difficult and very
complex, due to the brutality of and corruption-ridden regime on the one hand
and the intervention of NATO and Saudi-Qatari rulers on the other.
Years of
repression by the dictatorships, backed by colonial and imperialist powers for
so many decades, has organisationally weakened the left and other democratic
forces. It is obvious that with Saudi-Qatari backing, the leaderships of the
Brotherhood and Salafi forces are, in the short term, reaping the fruits of the
uprisings. These forces have always played a dual role amongst the poorest
sections of the population, giving voice for their demands while acting as a
lid on the more politically and socially radical demands of the people. At
critical times, as in Egypt, Iraq and Syria today, they have played a
counter-revolutionary role and were accommodated by imperialist powers.
the uprisings in the region have unleashed massive popular energies that bode
well for the future.
In the
short term I am quite pessimistic about radical democratic transformation in
Syria. I think that is no longer possible in the current phase of the struggle,
because of the weakness of the left organisations and the foothold gained by
the reactionary forces in the country. But longer term the uprisings across the
Arab world are laying new foundations for the left to organise and prepare for
the protracted battles to come. The masses have flexed their muscles in an
unprecedented way. I think their triumphs and setbacks are massive schools for
the new generations to develop more effective means and organisations to lead
the struggle forward.
Grove is an independent researcher and journalist.

Houla massacre carried out by Free Syrian Army

By Chris Marsden, 13 June 2012, WSWS

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

The May 25 Houla massacre was perpetrated by opposition forces aligned
with the Free Syrian Army (FSA), according to Germany’s Frankfurter
Allgemeine Zeitung.

The report refutes the official account by the United States and other
major powers and presented uncritically by the media. The massacre was
attributed to pro-government forces and used to step up the propaganda
offensive for military intervention against the regime of Bashar
al-Assad. Without providing any serious evidence, the US and its allies
claimed that either the Syrian Army or pro-government Shabiha militas
carried out the mass killing of over 100 people.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on June 7 published a report from
Damascus by Rainer Hermann, who based his article on investigations by
oppositionists who visited the area and took eye-witness testimony. They
largely confirm the account of the events in Houla given by the Assad

“Their findings contradict allegations of the rebels, who had blamed the
Shabiha militias which are close to the regime”, Hermann wrote, adding,
“As oppositionists rejecting the use of force have been killed or at
least threatened lately, the oppositionists did not want to see their
names mentioned.”

The massacre took place after Friday prayers and began with an attack by
Sunni “rebels” on three Syrian army checkpoints around Houla. “The
checkpoints are designed to protect the Alawite villages around the
mostly Sunni Houla”, the German daily reported.

Reinforcements were sent by the Syrian Army and fighting went on for 90
minutes, during which “dozens of soldiers and rebels were killed.”

It was during these exchanges that the three villages of Houla were
blocked off from the outside world. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
wrote: “According to eyewitnesses, the massacre took place during this
time. Among the dead were almost exclusively families of the Alawite and
Shia minorities of Houla, the population of which is made up of 90
percent Sunnis. Several dozen members of a family that had converted in
recent years from the Sunni faith to Shia Islam were slaughtered. Also
among the dead were members of the Alawite family Shomaliya and the
family of a Sunni member of parliament who was regarded as a
collaborator. “

The report continued: “Immediately after the massacre, the offenders are
said to have filmed their victims, calling them Sunni victims, and
distributed the videos via the Internet.”

This account is a devastating refutation of the propaganda campaign
waged by Washington, London and Paris, with the aid of the Syrian
National Council, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and a pliant
Western media.

On the day of the attacks, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon,
without evidence, condemned the Syrian government’s “unacceptable
levels of violence and abuses”, including the use of heavy weapons on
civilian populations.

The regime noted that the massacre was timed to coincide with the visit
of UN envoy Kofi Annan to Damascus. It charged that the mass killings
were carried out to undermine the ceasefire Annan had negotiated. Soon
after, the FSA, which is now accused of carrying out the massacre, said
it would no longer respect the Annan peace plan. New demands for
military intervention came thick and fast.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung article is given additional weight by
a report in Spiegel Online from March 29 pointing to the widespread
practice of summary execution carried out by the FSA. Spiegel
interviewed a member of an opposition “burial brigade” who had “executed
four men by slitting their throats.”

His victims included a Shiite soldier in the Syrian army, who had “been
beaten into a confession, or that he was terrified of death and had
begun to stammer prayers.”

The burial brigade kill and “leave torture to others; that’s what the so-called interrogation brigade is for”, Speigel wrote.

That report noted that whereas an admitted 150 Syrian army prisoners
have been executed, “the executioners of Homs have been busier with
traitors within their own ranks.”

“If we catch a Sunni spying, or if a citizen betrays the revolution, we
make it quick”, one oppositionist explained. “According to Abu Rami,
Hussein’s burial brigade has put between 200 and 250 traitors to death
since the beginning of the uprising.”

Also of immediate relevance are reports on the web site of the Monastery
of St. James the Mutilated in Qara, Syria. On April 1, Mother
Agnès-Mariam de la Croix wrote of an incident in the Khalidiya
neighborhood in Homs in which the FSA gathered Christian and Alawite
hostages in a building and blew it up. They then blamed the Syrian army.

“The Al Amoura family in Al Durdak village, in the Homs area, was
exterminated by Wahhabi terrorists. Forty-one people from this family
had their throats slit in one day”, she also reported.

Agnès-Mariam stated that of Homs’ one million inhabitants, two thirds of
the population had fled, including over 90 percent of Christians, due
to the activities of “snipers and acts of criminal aggression” against
“the Alawite and Christian minorities, Shiites, and many `moderate’
Muslims who did not choose to participate in dissident activity.”

She wrote that in numerous sectarian attacks “… people were mutilated,
their throats slit, disembowelled, cut up, thrown in street corners or
trash cans. They did not stop at shooting children at point-blank range
to create distress and despair, as was the case with the young Sari, the
nephew of our stonecutter. Such horrific acts were then exploited in
the media to put responsibility on government forces.”

Even without such corroborative accounts, the silence of the world’s
media on the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung report is extraordinary. The
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung is a respected, indeed conservative,
publication, with a circulation in the hundreds of thousands and a daily
readership in 148 countries. Yet no major newspaper took up its report,
because they are all complicit in the dissemination of naked
propaganda. There is literally nothing in the reports of the mainstream
Western media that can be taken as good coin.

The most important question posed by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
report, however, is what role was played in the massacre by the United
States itself. Clearly, given its own extensive contacts with the Free
Syrian Army, and the political, financial and military backing for the
FSA by Washington’s regional allies—Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey—the
Obama administration will have been well aware that the massacre was the
work of anti-regime insurgents and not the Syrian army, even as
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and others called for additional
action to be taken to depose Assad.

It is entirely possible that Houla was a massacre made in the USA.

US policy in Syria has from the start been based on the whipping up of a
Sunni-based sectarian insurgency, with the aim of destabilising and
deposing Assad’s Alawite regime. This, in turn, is linked to US
preparations for a military attack on Iran, which would be further
isolated in the Middle East with the demise of Assad, its major ally in
the region.

With the experience of Bosnia and Kosovo to draw upon, this was done not
merely in the certain knowledge that bloody internecine fighting would
result, but with the intention of provoking civil conflict in order to
provide a pretext for military intervention in humanitarian guise.

On Monday, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland expressed her
“concern” about reports that the regime “may be organising another
massacre” in Latakia province. “People will be held accountable” , she

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton escalated the crisis Tuesday,
accusing Russia of sending attack helicopters to the Assad regime and
charging Moscow with lying about its arms shipments.

The head of UN peace keeping operations, meanwhile, became the first
United Nations official to describe the Syrian conflict as a civil war,
and British Foreign Secretary William Hague, referring to the massacres
at Houla and al-Qubair, denounced the Syrian government for committing
“grotesque crimes.”

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Tony Greenstein

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