THE LONG AND TENSE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SYRIA AND THE US

An old professor of mine used to say that events do not usually have a single reason for being, that there is usually a galaxy of factors that help an event to crystallize. In Syria, several factors seem to converge to make the country's dominance a vital reason for the geopolitical interests of various international actors, indeed it seems to have been the case for some time. We are seeing in recent years how the US has developed the most expensive covert operation in its history with the sole purpose of overthrowing the current Syrian government. So many efforts are not made out of interest; they are made out of necessity, and the geopolitical necessity of the US in Syria has been reiterated over time.

Husni al-Za'im in the front. 1949

It is not difficult to follow the need of the USA in Syria during the last half of the 20th century. In fact, if the CIA was created in 1947, two years later it was already preparing a coup d'état in the country. On 30 March 1949, following democratic elections in the region's first former colony free from European influence, the Kurdish-born Syrian Chief of Staff, Husni al-Za'im, overthrew the democratically elected Syrian President Shukri Al-Quwatli. Former President Al-Quwatli had won the elections in July 1947 (it was his second term, the first in independent Syria). From that very moment the US denounced that the elections had been rigged and that Iran and Transjordan had maliciously influenced the outcome. Certainly, the elected Syrian president had problems, starting with Syria's previous defeat by Israel in the 1948 war, adding to the problems was the refusal of the Syrian parliament to build an oil pipeline from Saudi Arabia. After the defeat in the war against Israel, it was feared from the United States that the situation in Syria would be radicalized and the Muslim Brothers, the Ba'ath party, or the Syrian Communist Party could take power, continuing their harassment of their ally and protégé in the Middle East. All three events helped crystallize the project in which the newly formed CIA conspired with a coup d'état in Syria. Thus, on April 11, 1949, the Kurdish coup leader Husni al-Za'im became president of the country. In the same month, armistice negotiations with Israel began, an armistice that was signed in July of the same year; Syrian troops were withdrawn from non-occupied Palestine in the war against Israel. In May, the US company Bechtel Corporation had already approved the construction of the Transarabigo pipeline from Saudi Arabia to Lebanon. Fears of radicalization in the area were dispelled, and he had managed to prevent communists and Islamists from taking power. U.S. covert action had scored a hat trick with the Al--Za'im hit. It should be noted that the pipeline route was made through Syria because of the new state of Israel's refusal to let the pipeline pass through its territory. This change of government was followed by great turbulence; on 14 August 1949 the Kurdish coup leader was deposed and shot after a new coup d'état by Sami Hilmy Al-Hinnawi, with the help of the Syrian Nationalist Socialist Party (PSNS). But one of Al-Hinnawi's collaborators in the coup, and a strongman in the army, Adib Bin Hassan Al-Shishakli, would stage a third coup in the same year, deposing Al-Hinnawi and installing a tight military dictatorship, banning political formations and expelling Ba'ath party leaders to Lebanon.

Nasser with a Syrian delegation. Nasser shakes hands with Afif Bizri. 1958.

The CIA coup in Syria was a momentary patch over a population with its own problems, idiosyncrasies and synergies. Following the new covert action by the US, the exiled leaders of the Ba'ath party had the sole objective of overthrowing the last coup leader, Al-Shishakli, by means of a coup d'état, and they did so in February 1954 (with the invaluable help of members of the Syrian Communist Party). The new parliamentary system has just been overshadowed by the socialist bloc after the Suez Canal conflict; Nasserism had a great influence on politicians and people in Syria. This situation led Syria to sign a cooperation agreement with the USSR, a situation which led the CIA to take further action. Syria was strengthening relations with the communist bloc and with neighbouring countries, so the concern of Israel and Turkey was palpable. The U.S. Secretary of State for the Eisenhower presidency, John Foster Dulles, gave the go-ahead for sending CIA agents into Syria to try to overthrow the pro-communist government.

Secretary of State's brother, Allen Dulles, was coincidentally Director of the CIA at the time, and was in charge of the unsuccessful Operation Straggle. The operation was cancelled due to the war between the UK, France and Israel and Nasser's Egypt; Geofrey Reagan dedicated an entire chapter to the actors of that military odyssey in his classic "Great Military Blunders", Reagan wrote that the high command of these countries stood in the middle of a firefight with the official cars to take pictures for the press thinking they had already won the battle. Secretary of State's brother, Allen Dulles, continued to work on conspiracies against the pro-Soviet government in Syria (and against Iran). The following year he formed Operation Wappen, on which several million dollars in bribes were spent, but the covert operation was discovered and all they managed to do was to show their intentions in public by provoking the reciprocal withdrawal of ambassadors. Certainly, the need for the US in Syria has always been a reason for statehood. And so has England, in fact after Anthony Eden left his post, the warlike Harold Macmillan rose to the presidency. Eisenhower, Macmillan, and the man in charge of Middle Eastern affairs, Kermit Roosevelt (coincidentally President Roosevelt's grandson), drew up a plan for the assassination of several regime figures who appeared to hold real power to the detriment of the Syrian presidency. The targets were Abdel Hamid al-Sarraj, Chief of Intelligence, Afif al-Bizri, Chief of General Staff, and Khalid Bakdash, leader of the Syrian Communist Party. The plan was to create conflict on the border, denounce Syria for encouraging terrorism in neighboring countries, create a Free Syria Committee, arm paramilitaries, including the Muslim (Sunni) Brothers within Syria, flood radio stations with messages of confusion, panic and alarm, and convince Iraq to carry out the invasion. The plan failed, not because of implementation, but because of the reconfiguration of regional diplomacy, which made it unfeasible to justify an invasion of Syria.

Resultado de imagen de SIRIA FRANCESAThe need of the United States for Syria does not end nor does it give truce. Dr David Sorenson, an expert on Middle Eastern affairs and professor at Air University, narrated that by 2015, under the Obama administration, aid to Al Assad's opposition forces had become the most expensive covert operation in US history. The reasons for the war against Syria go beyond the media narrative that portrays Al Assad as a bloody tyrant; Syria is a major piece of the power structure in the region, and preventing it from positioning itself alongside Iran, preventing it from remaining a Russian access to the Mediterranean, get to use Syria to get and/or transport crude, or preventing a strong Syria from representing a danger to Israel were vital issues for US geopolitics. That is why the American country has been in one way or another developing covert actions in Syria; recently it has used the country as a base for secret prisons, they have developed paramilitary incursions in several Syrian cities... armed groups are financed to overthrow the government, they have even brought their own soldiers. As long as Syria continues to have a foreign policy that is not aligned with US and Israeli foreign policy, attempts to control its domestic policy through political warfare operations are likely to remain a primary need for the latter.

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