17.04.2013 Author: Alexander Orlov

Syria: The Last Line of Defense

5224The war in Syria entered a decisive phase after the Arab League summit held in Doha in March, at which Qatar and Saudi Arabia squashed all attempts at a peaceful resolution of the Syrian crisis by diplomatic means on either the international or the regional level. Syria’s fate now will be decided solely on the fields of battle between the forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad and the eclectic armed opposition that ranges from relatively sane units composed of deserters from the Syrian Army to terrorist bands like Jabhat al-Nusra, which bears a close resemblance to al-Qaeda. At the same time, there are increasing numbers of foreigners among the forces fighting against Damascus. These are not simply people from various Arab and Islamic countries. They also include citizens of European Union countries who go to Syria either out of feelings of religious solidarity with fellow Muslims or out of an idealistic idea of fighting for freedom and democracy inspired by the Western media.

Iraq’s Al Anbar province is becoming increasingly drawn into the war. It is inhabited by Sunnis, many of whom are recruited by officers of Saudi Arabia’s general Intelligence Presidency and by Qatari intelligence. There is also evidence that Saudi and Qatari officers are fighting in terrorist groups against the regime in Damascus, and Riyadh and Doha are stepping up arms supplies to the Syrian opposition, including MANPADS, through Turkey and Jordan. This means soldiers from Wahhabi governments in Arabia are fighting Syria’s legitimate government alongside a wide range of “international” terrorist criminals.

I don’t need to mention the foreign intelligence officers from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and several other countries in the region who take their cue from Washington, as well as those from Western countries — they have been in Syria almost since the very beginning of the conflict and have been engaged in both spying and subversive activities. They have also been bribing Alawite generals close to Assad with money from Qatar’s Emir in an effort to get them to change sides. Then there are intelligence agents both from neighboring countries and from countries belonging to NATO. Thus, all ideas about respecting international law have long been ignored by the “civilized” world, which does not stop at using the terrorist underground’s most notorious renegades.

Toppling the Syrian government is clearly not the ultimate goal. Their plans extend to Iran and then to the countries of Central Asia; after that, the Russian North Caucasus and the Volga region will get their turn. Then, the alliance of the West and the Wahhabi axis as represented by Saudi Arabia and Qatar expect to achieve their strategic objective — complete control of the world’s energy resources. Their plans call for Russia to simply cease to exist as a major player in world politics, and China will be shown its place in global and regional affairs. That is why Syria is, to a large extent, Russia’s final southern line of defense in those countries that do not want to buckle under to the dictates of the West, which is relying on the powerful financial support of the Wahhabi regimes in Arabia. The defeat of Damascus would mean the end of Russia’s Middle Eastern presence, which already has been seriously undermined in recent years. We began losing our positions in this region that is strategically important to Moscow long before the Arab revolutions of 2011 — it began with the US occupation of Iraq in 2003.

The question therefore arises — can the Assad regime still be saved and the advance of radical Islamists to our borders and those of our neighbors be stopped? It is still possible if we act quickly and decisively before the legitimate government in Damascus is overthrown. The direction we need to take is suggested by the very Wahhabi countries that pushed through the decision on arms for the opposition at the last Arab League summit. Since those sponsoring the opposition and the terrorists were able to do that, why couldn’t other countries assessed the country’s legitimate government militarily? Especially since the appropriate bilateral agreements are already in place. Why not increase military supplies to the Syrian army, including the most modern weapons? Why not let volunteers from countries sympathetic to Damascus go to Syria and set about destroying the foreign mercenaries and members of radical terrorist groups? Finally, why not send military forces to Syria from those countries that are willing to do so? After all, that would be consistent with the international community’s efforts to destroy the hotbeds of international terrorism.

And finally, we need to take steps to stop the overt intervention by Saudi Arabia and Qatar in the internal affairs of a sovereign state. These two countries are very vulnerable — from both an economics and a religious standpoint. Almost all of the oil produced in Saudi Arabia comes from its Eastern Province where the population is predominantly Shiite. They have demonstrated against the Wahhabi regime in Riyadh repeatedly in recent months. Also, there should be no double standards here. After all, the Shiites in Saudi Arabia are a severely oppressed religious minority, but the entire world is silent about that.

In general, it is well to remember that the Saudi Kingdom was artificially established after the Ottoman Empire collapsed 80 years ago when Wahhabi Nejd, with British support, annexed Al-Ahsa (the current Shiite Eastern Province), Hejaz (which is populated by Sunnis and overseas Mecca and Medina, Islam’s two most important holy sites) and Al-Athir (which is populated by Yemeni tribes).

Qatar’s origin is not entirely clear. The Miadadi tribes, from which the ruling Al Thani family comes, arrived in the region only in the early 19th century and settled on this small peninsula after relocating from oases in southern Arabia about 350 kilometers south of Riyadh. Prior to that, the peninsula belonged to Bahrain. The Al Thani government also got its authority from the British, who ruled over all of the princedoms of the Persian Gulf. Qatar became an independent state only in 1971, although it was originally slated to become part of the United Arab Emirates.

That is the way things stand everywhere in the Persian Gulf — oil is located in areas inhabited primarily by Shiites, and Sunni clans elevated by the British enjoy the proceeds from oil sales. Where is the justice in that?

It makes no sense to talk about democracy in those two countries. The people in Riyadh and Doha who are demanding democracy in the Arab world forget that their own governments are absolute monarchies that have never had parliaments, much less political parties, freedom and civil liberties. But they do have a lot of the oil and gas that the West values so highly and loves so much. There is no place here for human rights, freedom and democracy! But having eliminated revolutionary romanticism at home, the traditionally powerful Arab countries that formed many centuries ago and did not do so by artificial means or as a result of London’s scheming can demand democracy in these conservative Arab monarchies and make them share their oil and gas riches like good brothers. And perhaps they will be removed even sooner — these allies of a West that will no longer need the Wahhabi regimes as soon as they fulfill the role of Middle East “revolutionaries” that was prepared for them.

Alexander Orlov is a political analyst and an expert Orientalist. This article was written expressly for New Eastern Outlook.