Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
The Syrian Uprising:
US Follow a Failed Path
By Ramzy Baroud
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, October 10, 2011
United States ambassador to Syria Robert Ford is quite a feisty
diplomat. He shows up unannounced and uninvited at various hot spots in the
country, greeted with varying degrees of enthusiasm and, oftentimes, anger.
When he made a highly touted appearance in the city of Hama in
July, residents reportedly greeted him with flowers. However, his appearance
at the home of an opposition figure in Damascus on September 29 earned him a
salvo of tomatoes and rocks from angry protesters.
Naturally - and
as confirmed by various WikiLeaks cables - American diplomats don't behave
independently from the main organ of US foreign policy in Washington, the
State Department. It is also safe to assume that Ford's alleged solidarity
visits throughout Syria were not intended to cater to a Syrian audience. We
all know how most Syrians feel about US foreign policy in the region.
Writing in the Gallop website on June 25, 2009, Steve Crabtree described a
decision by the Barack Obama administration to send a US ambassador to Syria
(the first one in six years) as an "important signal that it seeks improved
relations between the two countries". One of the unstated objectives of this
was to "contend with widespread anti-US sentiment among Syrians".
According to a March 2009 poll, nearly two-thirds of Syrians (64%) have
unfavorable views of the United States, and more (71%) disapprove of the US
leadership. One could argue that such views are sensible, considering the
US's history of anti-Syria policies, and its lack of support for the Syrian
people's urgent call for democracy and reforms.
In the past decade,
if not longer, Syrians have watched as US policies in the region destroyed
two neighboring countries, Iraq and Lebanon. For several decades now, they
have seen the US support and subsidize the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
The targeting of Syria in the US Congress and plots to "roll back" Damascus
to ensure Israeli domination is a whole different story. Few in Syria
believe that the interests of the people in revolt are at the heart of US
Syria had already survived the regime-change frenzy that
took Washington elites by storm after their "success story" in Iraq. This
survival was aided by two conditions. One was the stiff resistance in Iraq
following the US invasion, which thwarted the US's long-term agenda for the
country. Another factor was the number of concessions made by the Bashar
al-Assad regime, which had played its role well in the so-called "war on
Israel's friends in the US - government, think-tanks and
media - were clearly frustrated that the US government was forced to settle
for a status quo in Syria. This defied the conventional wisdom imparted by
the neo-conservative likes of Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, David Wurmser
and others. While the neo-cons were ready to move into a new phase - one
that went beyond simply "containing Syria" - circumstances were no longer
suitable; thus the unwelcome return of the containment policy, whereby Syria
would pose as a guardian of Arab resistance while ensuring that its border
with Israel (or rather its own occupied Golan Heights) remained calm.
The Syrian people began their uprising for long-denied rights in March. The
government responded with the only method it knew well: sheer brutality,
coupled with illusory language of change and reforms. The world watched as
Syrians died in droves. But then the politicking began. Some genuine Syrian
opposition groups passionately organized to give a voice to their people at
home. Others also organized, although their reasons were not so genuine.
"The State Department has secretly financed Syrian political opposition
groups and related projects, including a satellite TV channel that beams
anti-government programming into the country, according to previously
undisclosed diplomatic cables," reported the Washington Post on April 17. It
was WikiLeaks that exposed a US program founded and financed by the George W
Bush administration and continued under Obama's.
"The US money for
Syrian opposition figures began flowing under President George W Bush after
he effectively froze political ties with Damascus in 2005," according to the
Post. While Obama verbally set himself apart from his gung-ho predecessor,
finally appointing a US ambassador to Syria in January, his administration
continued to facilitate ties and secretly fund opposition groups and
The US insists on enforcing the same failed policies of
the past, but expects different results every time. Propping up an Iraqi
opposition that took part in the destruction of Iraq (following the US
invasion of 2003) seems to be the model used by US policymakers in Syria.
And this too is doomed to failure.
The US is also leading the
charge against Syria at the United Nations, once more trying to co-opt the
Security Council to impose crippling sanctions on Damascus. These sanctions
are already felt in the streets of Syria, but hardly among the elites - a
characteristic of all US sanctions throughout history. The prices of most
basic foodstuffs are already skyrocketing and this trend is likely to
United States involvement in Syria is the second-greatest
danger facing the Syria uprising (the first being the cruelty of the
regime). Sweeping sanctions and threats will turn the conflict into another
American fight against an Arab regime, as opposed to an unadulterated
people's uprising - a revolution even - for the rights of Syrians and the
future of their country.
Robert Ford is a mere conduit of failed US
policies. His insistence on hijacking the diplomatic scene in the country
will garner him some media attention, and perhaps a book deal. But for now
it will be a liability for the Syrian uprising, which needs to remain
independent from US posturing in order to triumph.
And in the long
run, the economically frail and militarily compromised US cannot be an
effective player in shaping the political landscape in Syria - or anywhere
else in the Middle East. Ultimately, the future of the Syrian people will be
determined by their own fortitude.
- Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net)
is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of
PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter:
Gaza's Untold Story (Pluto Press, London), available on Amazon.com.