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Who Defends Syria’s Sovereignty?

NPR’s “The Diane Rehm Show” is an excellent barometer.  Each day Ms. Rehm interviews figures from the commanding heights of the Washington establishment.  Elected officials, Pentagon officers, foundation grunts, academics, media personalities and reporters, and the diplomatic corps all pass through her studio.

Syria was the focus of Ms. Rehm’s first hour on 17 August.  Her guests spanned a very small spectrum indeed.

Mona Yacoubian represented an outfit called the U.S. Institute of Peace.  She decried the crimes of the Assad government in Damascus and thought sanctions by the EU, including a halt to importation of Syrian oil, might turn things around.  Robert Malley of the International Crisis Group replied that sanctions should target the individual wealth of epigones of Assad and that oil sanctions would hurt the Syrian people.

Selcuk Unal of the Turkish Foreign Ministry explained how closely Ankara had worked with Damascus to reduce the number of refugees fleeing across the border.  He also explained that, since back-channel diplomacy had failed to stop the Assad government’s recent actions, Turkey was going to stop making demands.  Making demands, he explained, makes a nation look weak if they are not obeyed by the nation they are directed at.

A good chunk of the early part of the hour was spent interviewing CNN’s Beirut correspondent Arwa Damon.  Using some fugitive YouTube videos and cell phone conversations with Syrians, she had pieced together a horrifying narrative of military-police terror against the people of Syria by their own government.  She wove tales of activists being rounded up and placed in stadiums after having had their cell phones and IDs taken away from them.  She told listeners that a camp filled with Palestinian refugees had disappeared, as well.  Or so she had heard.

Actually, all Damon’s reporting was based on second- or thirdhand hearsay.  From another country her reporting consisted of watching videos on YouTube and speaking by phone with people she could not identify and had probably never met.

The general consensus among Ms. Rehm’s guests was that there would be no military intervention against Assad’s government, and probably no calls for him to step down.  Why?  All the guests seemed to agree on the answer to this.  There would be no military intervention because of Iraq and Libya; and it was worse than useless to call for a leader to step down when there was so little chance he would do it.

While no one on the Diane Rehm Show would be so bold as to say it, clearly US imperialism has suffered a series of setbacks in the region and is now operating from a position of disadvantage.  Their long-term funding of Syrian opposition groups, like their long-term funding of so-called Libya oppositionists (all revealed by Wikileaks), has given Washington and its allies little decisive strategic traction.  Whatever the tempo and direction of the mass movements in Tunisia and Egypt, they have not today been boxed in by imperialism.

Despite attempts to isolate Damascus as well as Tripoli, popular governments and organizations from Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez to the leadership of Hezbollah and Hamas have spoken out in favor of Syria’s sovereignty.

At a time when the Wall Street ruling class and its allies are suffering crises at home and military setbacks abroad, it is not time to side with forces in the Middle East supported by the likes of Joseph Lieberman and James Woolsey.


Jay Rothermel lives in Cleveland, Ohio.  His blog is Marxist Update.  He is on Facebook.


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