CUI BONO – “who benefits” from the gassing of Syrian civilians? – By Uri Avnery

CUI BONO – “who benefits” from the gassing of Syrian civilians?

– By Uri Avnery

Uri Avnery

CUI BONO – “who benefits” – is the first question an experienced detective asks when investigating a crime.

Since I was a detective myself for a short time in my youth, I know the meaning. Often, the first and obvious suspicion is false. You ask yourself “cui bono”, and another suspect, who you did not think about, appears.

For two weeks now, this question has been troubling my mind. It does not leave me.

In Syria, a terrible war crime has been committed. The civilian population in a rebel-held town called Idlib was hit with poison gas. Dozens of civilians, including children, died a miserable death.

Who could do such a thing? The answer was obvious: that terrible dictator, Bashar al-Assad. Who else?

REACTION     

And so, within a few minutes (literally) the New York Times and a host of excellent newspapers throughout the West proclaimed without hesitation: Assad did it!

No need for proof. No investigation. It was just self-evident. Of course Assad. Within minutes, everybody knew it.

A storm of indignation swept the Western world. He must be punished! Poor Donald Trump, who does not have a clue, submitted to pressure and ordered a senseless missile strike on a Syrian airfield, after preaching for years that the US must under no circumstances get involved in Syria. Suddenly he reversed himself. Just to teach that bastard a lesson. And to show the world what a he-he-he-man he, Trump, really is.

The operation was an immense success. Overnight, the despised Trump became a national hero. Even liberals kissed his feet.

BUT THROUGHOUT, that question continued to nag my mind. Why did Assad do it? What did he have to gain?

The simple answer is: Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

(“Assad” means “lion” in Arabic. Contrary to what Western experts and statesmen seem to believe, the emphasis is on the first syllable.)

With the help of Russia, Iran and Hizbullah, Assad is slowly winning the civil war that has been ravishing Syria for years, He already holds almost all the major cities that constitute the core of Syria. He has enough weapons to kill as many enemy civilians as his heart desires.

So why, for Allah’s sake, should he use gas to kill a few dozen more? Why arouse the anger of the entire world, inviting American intervention?

There is no way to deny the conclusion: Assad had the least to gain from the dastardly deed. On the list of “cui bono”, he is the very last.

Assad is a cynical dictator, perhaps cruel, but he is far from being a fool. He was raised by his father, Hafez al-Assad, who was a long-time dictator before him. Even if he were a fool, his advisors include some of the cleverest people on earth: Vladimir Putin of Russia, Hassan Rouhani of Iran, Hassan Nasrallah of Hizbullah.

So who had something to gain? Well, half a dozen Syrian sects and militias who are fighting against Assad and against each other in the crazy civil war. Also their Sunni Arab allies, the Saudi and other Gulf Sheikhs. And Israel, of course. They all have an interest in arousing the civilized world against the Syrian dictator.

Simple logic.

A MILITARY act must have a political aim. As Carl von Clausewitz famously said 200 years ago: War is the continuation of politics by other means.

The two main opponents in the Syrian civil war are the Assad regime and Daesh. So what is the aim of the USA? It sounds like a joke: The USA wants to destroy both sides. Another joke: First it wants to destroy Daesh, therefore it bombs Assad.

The destruction of Daesh is highly desirable. There are few more detestable groups in the world. But Daesh is an idea, rather than just an organization. The destruction of the Daesh state would disperse thousands of dedicated assassins all over the world.

(Interestingly enough, the original Assassins, some 900 years ago, were Muslim fanatics very similar to Daesh, today.)

America’s own clients in Syria are a sorry lot, almost beaten. They have no chance of winning.

Hurting Assad now just means prolonging a civil war which is now even more senseless than before.

FOR ME, a professional journalist most of my life, the most depressing aspect of this whole chapter is the influence of the American and Western media in general.

I read the New York Times and admire it. Yet it shredded all its professional standards by publishing an unproven assumption as gospel truth, with no need for verification. Perhaps Assad is to blame, after all. But where is the proof? Who investigated, and what were the results?

Worse, the “news” immediately became a world-wide truth. Many millions repeat it unthinkingly as self-evident, like sunrise in the east and sunset in the west.

No questions raised. No proof demanded or provided. Very depressing.

BACK TO the dictator. Why does Syria need a dictator? Why isn’t it a beautiful USA-style democracy? Why doesn’t it gratefully accept US-devised “regime-change”?

The Syrian dictatorship is no accidental phenomenon. It has very concrete roots.

Syria was created by France after World War I. A part of it later split off and became Lebanon.

Both are artificial creations. I doubt whether there are even today real “Syrians” and real “Lebanese”.

Lebanon is a mountainous country, ideally suited for small sects which need to defend themselves. Over the centuries, many small sects found refuge there. As a result, Lebanon is full of such sects, which distrust each other –Sunni Muslims, Shiite Muslims, Maronite Christians, many other Christian sects, Druze, Kurds, and so on.

Syria is much the same, with most of the same sects, and the addition of the Alawites. These, like the Shiites, are the followers of Ali Ibn Abi Talib, cousin and son-in-law of the prophet (hence the name). They occupy a patch of land in the North of Syria.

Both countries needed to invent a system that allowed such diverse and mutually-suspicious entities to live together. They found two different systems.

In Lebanon, with a past of many brutal civil wars, they invented a way of sharing. The President is always a Maronite, the Prime Minister a Sunni, the commander of the army a Druze, and the Speaker of Parliament a Shiite.

When Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, the Shiites in the south were the lowest on the ladder. They welcomed our soldiers with rice. But soon they realized that the Israelis had not come just to defeat their overbearing neighbours, but intended to stay. So the lowly Shiites started a very successful guerrilla campaign, in the course of which they became the most powerful community in Lebanon. They are led by Hizballah, the Party of Allah. But the system still holds.

The Syrians found another solution. They willingly submitted to a dictatorship, to hold the country together and assure internal peace.

The Bible tells us that when the Children of Israel decided that they needed a king, they chose a man called Saul who belonged to the smallest tribe, Binyamin. The modern Syrians did much the same: they submitted to a dictator from one of their smallest tribes: the Alawites.

The Assads are secular, anti-religious rulers – the very opposite of the fanatical, murderous Daesh. Many Muslims believe that the Alawites are not Muslims at all. Since Syria lost the Yom Kippur war against Israel, 44 years ago, the Assads have kept the peace on our border, though Israel has annexed the Syrian Golan Heights.

The civil war in Syria is still going on. Everybody is fighting against everybody. The diverse groups of “rebels”, created, financed and armed by the USA, are now in bad shape. There are several competing groups of Jihadists, who all hate the Jihadist Daesh. There is a Kurdish enclave, which wants to secede. The Kurds are not Arabs, but are mainly Muslims. There are Kurdish enclaves in neighbouring Turkey, Iraq and Iran, whose mutual hostility prevents them making common cause.

And there is poor, innocent Donald Trump, who has sworn not to get involved in all this mess, and who is doing just that.

A day before, Trump was despised by half the American people, including most of the media. Just by launching a few missiles, he has won general admiration as a forceful and wise leader.

What does that say about the American people, and about humanity in general?

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Comments

  • Clyde Duncan  On April 18, 2017 at 7:08 pm

    Trump rattles seaborne sabre at North Korea, but his fleet was in wrong ocean headed the wrong way – by Mark Sumner – Daily Kos

    Because nothing comforts people and soothes international tension like reporting that you’re bringing in a fleet of warships. However, in this case, there’s an issue other than bringing in some ships to show the flag.

    The problem was, the carrier, the Carl Vinson, and the four other warships in its strike force were at that very moment sailing in the opposite direction, to take part in joint exercises with the Australian Navy in the Indian Ocean, 3,500 miles southwest of the Korean Peninsula.

    They … lied about where the ships were, where they were going, and what they were doing?

    Didn’t they think that someone might notice when a 100,000-ton ship that’s better than 1,000 feet long and carrying a crew of 5,000 didn’t show up?

    Actually, it appears that the Trump regime wasn’t so much lying about the ships.

    It looks like bombing Syria was a bad act, to boot!!

    How are they going to explain this to Vladimir Putin?? Oooops?

  • Clyde Duncan  On April 18, 2017 at 7:19 pm

    Ronald Reagan’s Budget Director, David Stockman said, “By now, it has become crystal clear that there will be no great Trump Stimulus.

    Instead, what lies ahead is an unprecedented outbreak of dysfunction, paralysis and unmitigated mayhem in the Imperial City…

    “The fact that The Donald has now flip-flopped on five core issues — China’s currency manipulation, the Fed, the Ex-Im Bank, [Import-Export Bank]; NATO’s obsolescence and intervention in the Syrian civil war — in less than a week is merely indicative of the chaos to come.”

    And don’t forget: Congress has to come up with a “continuing resolution” to fund the government for the rest of fiscal 2017 within the next 10 days. Otherwise, it’s “partial government shutdown” time.

  • Clyde Duncan  On April 18, 2017 at 7:22 pm

    I like to give credit where credit is due – I unintentionally sent the comment without including the source:

    Dave Gonigam
    The 5 Minute Forecast

  • Clyde Duncan  On April 18, 2017 at 9:11 pm

    Turkey’s Role in Idlib Chemical Attack Needs To Be Probed

    M K Bhadrakumar – Indian Punchline

    Turkey is, in principle, uniquely placed to call for an independent investigation into the chemical attack in the north-western Syrian province of Idlib on April 4.

    Idlib borders Turkey and it is well-known that extremist groups (Al-Qaeda affiliates) controlling the province have enjoyed covert support from Turkish intelligence, which has trained them, equipped them and guided them in the past in a joint enterprise with the CIA and the USA Gulf Arab allies.

    Yet, curiously, President Recep Erdogan shies away from demanding an independent inquiry. Instead, he insists, “We have the radar information and we have the forensic reports. Some say Syria does not have chemical weapons. Of course it does. It’s clear which planes dropped it.” Erdogan wants to close the file and move on. He lost no time to extend enthusiastic support for the USA missile attack in Syria on April 6 and is beseeching President Donald Trump to revive the “regime change” agenda in Syria. Why such bizarre behaviour?

    Erdogan’s pro-activism in real time has only one explanation – the chemical attack in Idlib was in reality planned with the knowledge of Turkish intelligence.

    Erdogan has everything to lose if this truth comes out.

    Turkey stood to gain by precipitating a situation in Syria that would willy-nilly lead to some form of American intervention. (Indeed, CIA input was the basis of Trump’s decision to order the missile attack in Syria, which of course has severely impacted USA-Russia relations.)

    On the other hand, Idlib attack was just what suited Trump too to generate a new conversation in Washington that took the heat off him over his alleged links to Russia.

    ALL THREE protagonists gained out of this cynical game – Erdogan; the “cold warriors” in the CIA and the Russophobes in the Washington establishment; and the beleaguered American president himself.

    But Erdogan stands most to gain. He overnight hyped up the Syrian situation to burnish his image as the tallest Sunni Islamist leader in Muslim Middle East – Idlib is a Sunni province – just a week ahead of the crucial Turkish referendum on April 16 that votes on the creation of a presidency with executive powers.

    Two, Erdogan has brought about a discord between USA and Russia, which creates space for Turkey to carry on with its military operations in northern Syria and consolidate its occupation of large tracts of Syrian territory.

    Three, Russia and Iran may come under pressure to postpone the planned military offensive on Idlib to liberate the region from the al-Qaeda. (Idlib is the only Syrian province remaining still under the control of extremist groups.)

    And, four, Erdogan’s persistent demand for creation of “safe zones” inside territory as well as “no-fly zone” – both of which would boost a permanent Turkish military presence inside Syria – has gained fresh lease of life. Indeed, that would also be the kiss of death for Kurdish ambitions to create an autonomous homeland (“Rojava”) in northern Syria.

    Suffice it to say, Turkey’s territorial ambitions over Syria (to reclaim Ottoman territories which it lost in the 1922 settlement) took a leap forward this past week.

    An international investigation will help uncover Turkey’s role in the chemical attacks in Idlib. However, alas, the CIA is unlikely to let that happen because what happened in Idlib also happens to be a back-to-back enterprise with Turkish intelligence. Erdogan and the folks in Langley are swimming in the very same river of blood. So long as such cynical games continue, the prospects of a Syrian settlement will remain bleak.

    Turkish policies threaten regional security in the Middle East as well as Europe.

    By Erdogan’s reckoning, Europe is inhabited by Nazis, and Middle East’s future lies with political Islam. Sadly enough, Turkey has once again become the “sick man of Europe”.

    Read a chilling Reuters report, here, detailing that the suicide bomber involved in the recent subway terrorist attack in St Petersburg had travelled to Turkey and Syria.

  • demerwater  On April 19, 2017 at 6:29 am

    “Syria was created by France after World War I. A part of it later split off and became Lebanon.”
    I am tempted to add Kashmir, Israel, Palestine, Guyana, Venezuela – as failed attempts at imposed boundaries – but I am always aware of my lack of knowledge in the subject of History.
    What can I say?
    I have character defects.

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