The above photo is of one of the exultant visits Hillary Clinton made to post-Qadhafi Libya in 2011
I am delighted that after a hiatus of more than a dozen years (in the course of which I was working mainly as a book publisher) I have now returned to the pages of The Nation, with this article about the return of Syria to the Arab League and the prospect this raises for radically de-escalating the civil war that has devastated Syria for the past 12 years, or even—inshallah!—helping this conflict toward an end.
I warmly invite everyone to read the whole of the Nation article! But toward the end I wrote this, which was a point I want to explore a little more deeply in today’s essay:
Especially since the end of the US-Soviet Cold War, many Americans have been attracted to the idea that our foreign policy should be based on morality. But the version of morality that’s most widespread in today’s America is worryingly vulnerable to the influence campaigns of parties that seek to entangle the United States in regime-change operations in various places. And it pays little heed to the long-existing wisdom that war itself is something that inflicts deep harm on everyone caught in its tentacles, and therefore that bringing a halt to an existing war is itself a deeply moral endeavor.
Regarding the “influence campaigns”, I had provided a lot more information (here) on the heavily funded influence (propaganda) campaigns that Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and others had maintained for many years in Washington DC, regarding Syria . Let’s hope those campaigns are now dialed back, or even pushed into a strongly pro-reconciliation mode!
In today’s essay, though, I want to dive deeper into the topic of “the long-existing wisdom that war itself is something that inflicts deep harm on everyone caught in its tentacles.”
The Western corporate media that for 12 years have cheerled the brutal regime-change project in Syria are still sore about the fact that the project failed and that the other Arab states have agreed to reinstate Syria into the Arab League. So in what they’ve been publishing about Syria in recent days—whether “news” or “opinion”—they still clearly embody the deeply one-sided way they have been “covering” Syria for many years now.
(Other voices can be found—if you know where to look. I’ll come to one of them a little lower down here.)
The story in today’s WaPo that purported to tell us how “Syrians” feel about Pres. Bashar al-Asad’s participation in last Friday’s Arab League summit was a classic. “Syrians”, the headline tells us magisterially, “feel anger, hurt as Assad is welcomed back to Arab League.” But no attempt was made by the two reporters bylined there to, um, actually go to Syria and ask that majority of Syrians who live in areas under the government’s control. Instead, they are writing with no dateline, that is, presumably working the phones and the WhatsApp lines from Washington, to the three named sources whom they quote. One of those sources is described as currently located in Qatar, one in Germany, the other, not located.
The reporters make a couple of references to them as “Syrian activists“, a deliberately vague descriptor that is usually understood to mean “Syrian pro-regime-change activists”… But then they also, several times, build on those quotes to conclude that “Syrians” (meaning, presumably, all Syrians) feel that same way.
That is exactly how, through lazy writing based on a barrow-load of wishful thinking, pro-war propaganda gets ever more deeply embedded into the minds of readers. It really makes you wonder. If all “Syrians” feel exactly that same way, how on earth did the Syrian government manage to survive the 12-year-long regime-change campaign?
The above photo is of Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah during his meeting with Pres. Bashar al-Asad in Damascus.
Suddenly, within the past few weeks, there has been a flurry of diplomatic activity that provides real hope that the civil war that’s devastated Syria for 12 years may be headed toward a negotiated peace and a chance for rebuilding. These moves have involved a number of key West Asian governments though there’s a potent global underpinning to them, too.
The past week has seen reciprocal visits by Syria’s foreign Minister to Saudi Arabia, and by the Saudi foreign minister to Damascus, where he met Pres. Bashar al-Asad. Last month, too, Pres. Asad made a state visit to the United Arab Emirates where he was greeted with a 21-gun salute and held talks with UAE president Sheikh Muhammad bin Zayed. Given that Saudi Arabia and the UAE were for many years—along with Qatar, Türkiye, and the United States—the main financiers and strident advocates of the regime-change push in Syria, these visits signal that the war may finally be winding down.
Lovers of peace and justice from around the world should welcome this trend, and should also unreservedly support calls for all three of the foreign governments that still maintain hostile military forces within Syria to withdraw them immediately. These three are:
Israel, which has occupied Golan since 1967;
Türkiye, which has occupied parts of northwest Syria since 2011-12; and
the United States, which has occupied parts of northeast Syria since 2014.
The map above, showing UAE military bases in and around Yemen, is from The Cradle, an excellent news source on West Asian diplomacy.
I have long had a lot of respect for the work of Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, whom I first came across, briefly, when we both working as journos in Beirut in the early 1980s and whom at a personal level I like. His work is generally pretty smart and well-informed. And though he has long been eager to be close to the centers of power, especially at the highest echelons of the U.S. military and intel agencies, many of the opinion pieces he has written over the years that explicitly or implicitly conveyed the views of those officials did two helpful things: (1) They provided an informative view into the thinking of those officials. (2) They put the snippets of info he provided about those officials’ views into a generally smart and sometimes slightly critical context. (Though never quite critical enough for him to lose his access?)
Today, he had a piece in the WaPo that had neither of those qualities and that instead just seemed to be full of hyper-defensive and deeply misleading analytical blather. Lest anyone be tempted to think he is still a smart analyst and thinker, I thought I should comment on some of what he wrote, point-by-point.
Globalities is currently releasing its new content in audio format. What follows is the text of the podcast episode I released April 14. Seen above: Brazil’s Pres. Lula Da Silva and China’s Pres. Xi Jinping, in Beijing yesterday. ~HC
Today is April 14, 2023. In today’s episode I’m going to, first of all, present a quick review of some of the key developments this past week has seen in international affairs and what some of them might mean. Then, I’m going to reflect a little on the longer-term historical significance of the seemingly rapid shifts we are currently seeing in the global balance…
But first: My survey of the major developments this balance has seen over the past week, and what they might mean more immediately:
Today is April 7, 2023. In today’s episode I’m going to present my review of the key shifts in the global balance that we’ve seen over the past week:
NATO-Russia contest in Ukraine
If we start by looking at the ongoing contest between NATO and Russia over Ukraine, there have been two main developments there: Finland was finally admitted to NATO, which brought to an end a lengthy period in which there has been increasingly close military cooperation between Finland and NATO and then, the year-long process of Finland’s accession to the alliance. The big change with its final admission to NATO is that Finland now receives protection under Article 5 of NATO’s charter which states that an attack on any full member of NATO is considered an attack on all of NATO, and that other NATO states will then assist it to repel the attack using any means deemed necessary, including the use of force.
Image: Syrian Arab Red Crescent rescue teams at a collapsed building in Aleppo
We’ve all seen the pictures. On February 6, a 7.8-degree earthquake struck broad swathes of northern Syria, along with neighboring portions of Türkiye…
Türkiye has a functioning government, and since the earthquake it has received and deployed significant amounts of aid from all around the world. But Syria? The delivery of aid to that country’s people is hamstrung by the super-harsh sanctions that Washington and the EU have maintained on the country for many years now. These sanctions inflict their greatest harm on the government-held parts of the country, but they also seriously impede the flow of aid to residents of the rebel-held parts.
In northwestern Syria, the quake destroyed apartment buildings, mosques, and vital bridges in both the government-held and the rebel-held areas.
On February 9 the UN’s Special Envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen stressed that, “We need to do everything to make sure that there are no impediments whatsoever to delay lifesaving support that is needed in Syria.” He added that representatives of the United States and the EU had assured him, “they will do whatever they can to make sure that there are no impediments to assistance coming to Syria to help in this operation”.
Let’s hope that happens. Back on February 6, shortly after the earthquake struck, State Department spokesman Ned Price said glibly that, “It would be quite ironic if not even counterproductive…for us to reach out to a government that has brutalized its people over the course of a dozen years now.”