Sunday, January 24, 2016

Secrets of the US-Syrian Relations

After the defeat of the Ottoman Caliphate in World War I, and through the Sykes-Picot agree­ment between France and Britain in 1916, the French occu­pied what we know today as  Syria. For one to under­stand the extent of US influ­ence in Syria and to map the rela­tion­ship between the Assad regime and the US, one must con­sider the his­tory of mod­ern Syria. The fol­low­ing are 10 key points, in chrono­log­i­cal order, start­ing from the time of West­ern col­o­niza­tion of Syria to the present day, high­light­ing US involve­ment in the country.
  1. US and CIA orches­trated mil­i­tary coups in Syria since 1949: The US, through its embassy in Dam­as­cus and the CIA, led the first ever mil­i­tary coup in Syria in 1949, as detailed in the book “The Game of Nations” by Miles Copeland. This marked the begin­ning of the inter­na­tional strug­gle over the Mid­dle East between the United States, the new entrant to the world arena, and the Euro­peans (French and British) who held the influ­ence in the region but came out of World War II dev­as­tated. The USembassy and the CIA con­tin­ued to sup­port sev­eral sub­se­quent mil­i­tary coups in Syria through­out the 50s and 60s against their Euro­pean rivals, this was an era of insta­bil­ity that lasted over two decades.

  2. Hafez’s pull­out out of the 1967 war to secure Israel: Ex-President, Amin al-Hafiz, said in an inter­view on Al-Jazeera on July 2nd, 2001 that Hafez al-Assad, the then Defense Min­is­ter, sent a strict order of with­drawal to the Syr­ian army from the Golan Heights at the begin­ning of the war. This was before any sign of defeat or real con­fronta­tion against the Israeli mil­i­tary which has resulted in the occu­pa­tion of such a strate­gic location.[1] It was through this move, Assad gained the trust of the US in defend­ing Israel’s north­ern bor­der, which he con­tin­ued to do for the next three decades.

  3. US sup­port­ing Syria through UN Res­o­lu­tion 242 in 1967: UN Res­o­lu­tion 242 which was passed after the 1967 War, com­monly known as the six-day war, with Israel and its occu­pa­tion of the Golan Heights, grants Syria, to this day, the right to regain back its territory.[2] The US sup­ported this agree­ment and Syria’s right to its ter­ri­tory. This is in stark con­trast to the Israeli posi­tion, apart from occa­sional lip ser­vice, of reject­ing any notion of sur­ren­der­ing this geo­graph­i­cally strate­gic territory. 

  4. Strength­ened US-Syrian rela­tions after the 1973 war: After the 1973 sur­prise war with Israel, the US should have slammed Syria with sanc­tions. On the con­trary, in 1974, Pres­i­dent Nixon per­son­ally paid a visit to Dam­as­cus to strengthen rela­tions with the Assad regime.

  5. US accep­tance of Syr­ian occu­pa­tion of Lebanon since 1976: Syr­ian troops invaded Lebanon at the begin­ning of the civil war. The silence on part of the US against such an occu­pa­tion was a “green light” to Hafez al-Assad to ini­ti­ate and con­tinue this inva­sion until 2005, when a French-mandated res­o­lu­tion pushed the Syr­i­ans out with Amer­i­can reluc­tance. One polit­i­cal ana­lyst described this US role by say­ing: “[The US] seemed tac­itly to acqui­esce to con­tin­ued Syr­ian ascen­dancy in Lebanon.“[3]

  6. Coop­er­a­tion of Syria and US through the Tai’f Agree­ment in 1989: The Ta’if agree­ment was signed in Saudi Ara­bia between the dif­fer­ent Lebanese fac­tions to put an end to the civil war in 89’. TheUS was the power bro­ker besides France, Saudi Ara­bia, Egypt and Syria that helped form the agree­ment, “prompt­ing inter­na­tional sup­port for Syrian―guardianship over Lebanon.“[4]

  7. Syria join­ing the US in its cam­paign to invade Iraq in 1991: Syria sup­ported the US in its war cam­paign against Iraq (Oper­a­tion Desert Storm) and sent 14,500 sol­diers and per­son­nel to aid the US in its inva­sion of Iraq.[5]

  8. US medi­at­ing nego­ti­a­tion between Syria and Israel dur­ing 1990’s: Hafez al-Assad accepted theUS to be a medi­a­tor between Syria and Israel. Army Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Hik­mat al-Shihabi, led the del­e­ga­tion to the US that dis­cussed peace nego­ti­a­tions on the mat­ter. In an inter­view with Rus­sia TodayTV, Syr­ian ex-Minister of Defense and a pil­lar of the Assad regime, Mustafa Tlass, stated unequiv­o­cally that al-Shihabi was a CIA-agent for the US.[6]

  9. Intel­li­gence coop­er­a­tion between CIA and Syria to tor­ture detainees since 2001: The close coop­er­a­tion between the CIA and the Syr­ian regime was so warm, that even dur­ing times when Syria was called a rogue state, the Syr­ian regime offered its ser­vices to do the dirty work of the CIA. The regime used its world renowned intel­li­gence agen­cies to extract infor­ma­tion from detainees and pris­on­ers of war through tor­ture for the CIA. The famous case of Cana­dian cit­i­zen Maher Arar is one exam­ple that made Inter­na­tional news.[7]

  10. US sup­port of regime dur­ing the Syr­ian Rev­o­lu­tion of 2011: As has been dis­cussed in detail through our first part of this series on the agency of the Assad regime, the US has stood silent and watched the daily slaugh­ter of Syr­ian civil­ians for 2 years, in addi­tion to deny­ing the rebels the weapons needed to pro­tect them­selves and to oust Assad.
As can clearly be seen, the US tried early on in Syria’s mod­ern his­tory to set its agents in power through mil­i­tary coups. Although the US con­tin­ued its pub­lic rhetoric against Syria, it achieved com­plete hege­mony when its agent, Hafez al-Assad, gained power in 1970. Since al-Assad, Syria has been a covert proxy state for the US serv­ing its inter­ests in the region and pro­tect­ing Israel’s north­ern bor­ders, while out­wardly claim­ing to be the resis­tance leader within the Arab region.

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