The comments that follow are based on my experiences and observations from the last month which I spent in government-controlled Syria, in particular, from my time in Damascus, Ma’lulah, Saydnaya, Latakia and Kasab where I saw at first-hand the results of the terrorist war of attrition the Syrian rebels, Turkey and their Western allies are waging against the Syrian people.
Syria is like a hunted animal, being slowly killed one American arrow at a time. In Syria’s north east, the Islamic State forces, obviously trained, supported and supplied by their regional allies, Turkey in particular, inflict heavy losses on the outgunned Syrian Arab Army forces. In the north, roving bands of Western armed and funded “moderate” gangs, aided and assisted by Turkey, plunder isolated Christian communities at will, slaughtering the inhabitants and, crucially, ripping the heart out of these communities.
Across the border, in Turkey, Western aid, most of it channeled through the terrorist Syrian Muslim Brotherhood organization, is given to the Islamic bands who control the refugee camps; some of the aid is given to the families of the fighters, more is given to opportunistic entrepreneurs and the rest is sent to the “moderate” Islamic fighters across the border in Syria to help them rid areas contiguous to Turkey of all non-Sunni minorities. All of this is designed to dismember Syria and to divide it, like ancient Gaul and modern Iraq, into three dysfunctional but malleable pieces, all the better to control and exploit it.
Aleppo, the industrial heartland of Syria, has been stripped of its factories, which have been sold as war booty in Turkey. Scores of civilians remain missing, sold, no doubt in Raqaa to Turks or Saudis who are not too particular how they acquire their non-Sunni sex slaves whom they regard as sub-humans.
Across the border, Lebanese soldiers are kidnapped by American-trained rebels and are beheaded so that Lebanon, which stands at the edge of the Syrian abyss, might also be devoured by the sectarian fires all of Syria’s armed rebels, along with their foreign mercenaries and the foreign powers, which fund them, stoke.
In the north, the mothers of Tartous and Latakia continue to bury their sons, who die in the uniforms of the Syria Arab Army, defending their families from the unspeakable fate Obama’s moderate rebels have decreed for them and which was visited in person to the mothers of Latakia in August 2013 by suspected war criminal and White House darling General Sam Idriss, when his moderate rebels kidnapped hundreds of women and children and slaughtered entire villages for no other crime than being moderate in their beliefs. Syria’s Christians, meanwhile, their churches ransacked, scour the world, looking for a refuge, any refuge, from the fate that the West has decreed for them and for Lebanon’s Christians by the hands of the moderate Syrian rebels, who delight only in death and destruction, pillage and rape.
To the south, Israeli artillery units give covering fire to moderate rebels as they over-run Druze villages and behead their elders. In the outskirts of Damascus, the story is not much different. The moderate rebels shell residential communities on a daily basis and, when the Syrian Army counter-attacks, the West condemns them for defending their homeland against foreign rebels and mercenaries who brook no resistance, who countenance no contrary opinion and who execute all who are not fully subservient to them and their sectarian, slaughter campaign.
Syria’s true opposition, meanwhile, are numbed into inertia by all of this. This group, which includes opposition MPs, doctors working in Syria’s hospitals, as well as voluntary and church workers, cannot understand why Syria’s most sectarian forces, the extremist and ultra-sectarian Syrian Muslim Brotherhood in particular, are the darlings of the West. Though they can point to countless atrocities committed by these embittered thugs, they cannot understand why John Kerry continues not only to wine and dine them but also allows them to continue their criminal enterprises.
This is not to say that they do not comprehend what the Pentagon has in store for Syria and her people; with Iraq just over the border, no one could fail to understand that the entire region is being fashioned to the design of the obnoxious regime of Saudi Arabia, which beheads far more people than do their Islamic State proxies and which suppresses freedom of expression in Bahrain with the same gusto than do the moderate rebels in Syria.
They know that the rebels could not function without the help of Saudi Arabia and Turkey and that their help is, in turn, conditional on the United States and the human rights groups she controls turning a blind eye to their crimes. They know all that but they cannot understand why the West wants to sacrifice them on the altar of Saudi Arabia’s ugly obscurantism. They cannot understand why Turkey is allowed to collude in blatant war crimes against the civilians of Kasab, Idlib and Aleppo and why the West also colludes in the final solution of extermination that is their lot.
The West’s leaders could be a part of the solution and not the problem if they wished. First off, they could immediately criminalize the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood and prosecute those involved in its charity racketeering. Next off, they could investigate the role of Turkey’s leaders in the vast number of atrocities that have their paw prints indelibly embedded in them and take appropriate action against them and the Turkish state. Next, it could send fact-finding delegations to Damascus to get a feel for life under perpetual mortar fire, fortified by the West’s sanctions.
They could do all that and more but they do not want to because they want Syria destroyed and her people pauperized and impoverished. The moderate rebels have driven Syria’s farmers off their lands, they have stripped bare the factories of Aleppo, America’s green light has allowed them to hire armies of rapacious Chechen mercenaries and pay them three times as much in a day than Syrian soldiers can hope to earn in a month. That is the White House way.
These rebels and mercenaries are not harbingers of freedom but tools of Saudi conquest and oppression. Their policies, in as much as they have any, regarding women, minorities, religious, sexual or racial tolerance mirror those of the totalitarian Saudi state, which outlaws Christianity, persecutes most minority Muslim faiths, crushes civil dissent in Bahrain, funds terror and obscurantist ideologies worldwide and brooks absolutely no dissent to its obnoxious rule. The ISIS apple does not fall far from the Saudi tree.
Although the West’s leaders, for whom the mercenary end seems to justify the mercenary means, knows all of this and more, they still shame-facedly pose as honest brokers and as some kind of guardian angels to the region’s minorities and moderate Sunnis, even as they and their allies supply weapons of death to the jihadists who are slaughtering them and cleansing them from their ancestral homes.
The Western media’s idea that there are moderate rebels in Syria is likewise utterly contemptible. War has always radicalized and brought out the worst, not the best in humans. The rule of the bomb and the bullet is the antithesis of reason and all the more so when the West is determined to divide the region on confessional lines. Arming Syrian Sunnis, ostensibly because they are the majority, is, of course, a recipe for sectarian slaughter, as is the dictatorship of the majority premise it is based on. It is to accentuate, rather than to mitigate the region’s fault lines and to let out the dogs of war on an unimaginable scale. It is to ensure minorities have no rights, unless they can be corralled into their own Bantustan, complete with the types of ephemeral rights and mountains of obligations West Bank Palestinians are all too familiar with.
Though all of that may seem unimaginable to most ordinary people, it is the game plan on The Road to Persia. The illegal, opportunistic and ill-thought out sanctions on and war in Iraq directly caused the deaths of over a million children, the infamous collateral damage to that war that now barely warrant a footnote from those who comment on it. A million dead Iraqi children, forgotten by all as if they never existed and never had simple dreams, pleasures, pastimes, hopes and aspirations like the rest of us.
As in Iraq, so shall it be in Syria, which is being dismembered into confessional mini states as part of the Road to Persia project for, although the fog of war might make it hard to say who is currently winning the war, the ordinary people of Syria are definitely its big losers. Not only are their sons being captured and beheaded by the Chechen and Tunisian mercenaries plaguing their land but America’s sanctions, which play the good cop to the bad Chechen cop, continue to destroy their quality of life. Many of Syria’s most vulnerable, the old and the very young, have to beg for scraps from the tables of pavement cafes, where the diners are often little better off than themselves. The Syrian soldiers look like they have not slept in a year and middle-class and middle-aged families have to elect to let their parents and children die rather than give them what, for us, would be routine surgery.
Syria resembles Byzantium in its death throes. The Armenian town of Kasab has had scores of its inhabitants beheaded, and its old folk taken as hostages to Turkey where they were paraded, like the war trophies they were, in front of the American ambassador. I met an English teacher there who used to get her simple kicks by singing and playing the organ in church. Her church is now gutted and the organ split into smithereens after the rebels made a propaganda video about it. Her school has been torched as have all the books and other primitive instruments of learning it was home to. The school children have even had their teddy bears stolen by the rebels and they are quite rightly fearful about their futures, if, indeed, they have one. Conversation in Kasab is not about Real Madrid or Barcelona, Cher or Kim Karadashian but is mostly about how the rebels looted every single home, how they scrawled their messages of hate on every single wall and what neighbours were tortured and murdered and where and why.
The why is the easy part. The Armenians of Kasab were butchered and their village dismembered to let them and the uncaring world know that Turkey can repeat this exercise any time it sees fit. Those Armenians who have returned are thinking of leaving again and wondering is there any port in the world that will give them refuge from the Saudi-funded storm overwhelming them.
Kasab’s children are a nice lot, as children usually are. They know the score, as we say in Ireland and it shows in their nervous twitches. They hear the nearby shelling, the machine gun fire and the artillery and they see the wounded Syrian soldiers being evacuated. Because they know that they too might have to be again evacuated, they have been uprooted, their childhoods sacrificed on the altar of America’s ruthless foreign policy.
Although the old folk who were taken as hostages to Turkey for the amusement of the American ambassador or who had stay behind under the occupation also know the score, most of them put on a brave face and recount how they defied their oppressors in big or little ways. Samuel Polodian recounts how he traded cigarettes for sardines with the Chechen commander who billeted in his house and George Kortmosian tells similar tales, as does 95 year old Joseph Saghjian, who Turkey filmed, for propaganda purposes, along with Soughmon, his 85 year old brother, being helped off the bus in Turkey by their kidnappers. Though Dikranuhi Mangigian, who is 91 and who could not be evacuated because America’s sanctions deprives her of the medicines necessary to keep her legs mobile, recounts how she pretended she could only speak Armenian and not Arabic to her oppressor, Papken Djourian has no such tales of valour. He and his wife had to watch as the moderate rebels executed Kevork, their only son, in front of them, let his body rot in the son for three days and then dump it, like the carcass of a dog, in a hole in their apple orchard before evacuating them with Turkish complicity across their border for their safety and for the amusement of the American ambassador and his pretty wife, both of whom cared not a whit for their plight.
I took a lift from Kasab to Latakia on the back of a pick-up truck with Syrian soldiers fresh from killing al Nusra foreigners and eager to go back and kill more. Though we joked and laughed about the usual things soldiers joke and laugh about, I did notice the soldier opposite me, in between the jokes, kissing and caressing the muzzle of this AK47. He is no doubt keeping the last bullet for himself, which, all in all, is probably sensible enough, even if the old ladies who met some of them in Latakia would prefer that bullet through their ancient skulls rather than the attentions of the moderate rebels, who enjoy gang raping their female captives and, in the case of the Afghans, their much younger male captives as well.
Latakia itself is, along with Tartous, enjoying something of an economic boom as those who flee rebel-held areas, flock to those and other safe havens and cause knock-on economic benefits in housing and other sectors. Tourism also booms there as Syrians, unable to go abroad, opt for stay-at-home holidays. The funeral industry is also booming as recruits from those areas are bearing the heaviest brunt in Syria’s war against the criminal elements ravaging it.
The funeral industry is also booming in Damascus, most notably but by no means exclusively in the Christian and Druze enclave of Jaramana. It is no means exceptional for these exclusively civilian neighbourhoods to get 20 and more rockets lobbed into them in a single afternoon and, in this respect, Jaramana is to Syria what Malta was the Allies during World War 2. It has been bombed and rocketed every single day for the last three years, ever since the war to dismember Syria began. Deaths, injuries and multiple funerals are now an everyday occurrence there as these innocent folk have been abandoned by the West to the non-existent mercies of the Syrian rebels in all their inter-changing hues and alliances of convenience.
Though the Syrian air force has now entered the fray, continually bombing the rebel front lines of nearby Jobar from whence most of the deadliest rockets and mortars come, they cannot deliver a knockout blow. Hamas have taught the rebels and their supporting mercenaries how to make impenetrable tunnels and Western technology and Syrian slaves have allowed them multiply and cause mayhem in places such as Adra which are as diverse as Syria herself.
The coalition waged against Syria have left little to chance. They are confident of victory. Their allies and proxies are kidnapping and chasing UN soldiers from the Golan Heights, they are wresting large swathes of land from the central Syrian government under one flag of convenience or another and uncertainty, the spectre of death and the stench of permanent stagnation haunt the rest of Syria. This can be easily seen in the Aramaic-speaking town of Ma’lulah, where the priceless icons have been looted, the churches destroyed, the children traumatized beyond recovery, the community destroyed and, like Kasab, the entire place abandoned by Westerners, Christians in particular, who should be helping them keep the faith. It is a war crime repeated the length and breadth of Syria.
The nearby all-Christian city of Saydnaya seems the exception that proves the rule. This city is dominated by a Greek orthodox convent the same way Italy’s Monte Cassino dominates its surrounds. Though these nuns are guardians to priceless icons, an icon of the Virgin Mary with the infant Jesus painted by St Luke the Evangelist taking pride of place amongst them, one wonders, if like those artifacts of Monte Cassino, these too will be rescued or if they will follow those of Ma’lulah into the underground markets of Turkey, France and the USA.
Although we cannot be sure about what will happen to the icons, we can be pretty sure what will happen to the town’s Christian defenders, an eclectic mixture of semi-professional soldiers and civilians determined to fight and die for their homeland. They are, quite simply, doomed. There will be no salvation for them when the Pontius Pilate West allows the moderate rebels and their extremist partners regroup. Saydnaya is not Monte Cassino. It is not defended by battle-hardened German paratroopers but by a ragtag group of lightly (and sometimes not so lightly) armed patriotic locals who have not received the training and material the USA and her allies have extended to their enemies.
Although they are doomed, these “Cross worshippers” are, like untold millions of their compatriots, determined to die with their boots on, faithful to their religion, to their culture and to their homeland until the inevitable, inescapable and extremely ugly end. One wonders what will follow their demise and the wasteland that will be Syria, and if the victorious warlords who inherit it, will, in time, allow narcissistic Western tourists potter around in the ruins and tut-tut about its “tragic” fate.
Perhaps the Pope in Rome will offer a Mass for the repose of the souls of those Greek Orthodox and Greek Catholic soldiers who die with an AK47 in one hand and their rosary beads in the other. Perhaps religious charities will raise a few bob on their backs and give some of it to those who manage to escape the fate that America has in store for them.
I know nothing of all of that. All I know is I met a bunch of lovely people in Saydnaya. I think of a little girl who proudly carried aloft an icon of Mary around for the entire procession on 8th September. I see the faces of the Greek Orthodox nuns who carried their icons on that procession as nuns before them have done since time immemorial. I see the faces of the young refugees from Ma’lulah the nuns house and can all too easily imagine their futures, blighted beyond repair by America’s machinations. I recall a very intelligent boy who gave me fascinating insights into the area on the convent’s roof and how we admired that convent, its view, its history and its culture and lamented how those America pays to attack it regard the convent as nothing more than a fortress to be stocked by their cohorts who are infinitely more ruthless than even Hitler’s Monte Casino paratroopers were.
The picture I see is very bleak, bleaker perhaps than the betrayal and subsequent fall of Byzantium. It is a picture of betrayal, of death and mass executions, of simple people being sold in slave markets and sacrificed for the interests of some of the world’s most repugnant regimes, Turkey and Saudi Arabia being pre-eminent amongst them.
This deliverance of the decent people of Iraq and Syria to their enemies is one of the most shocking and disgusting crimes of modern times and all of those, without exception, who colluded in this crime are at least as guilty as those who collaborated with Hitler’s SS when they committed their equally heinous crimes. The fact that an almost defenceless people stand, in their homeland, on one side and, on the other, Western governments and civil and religious organisations arm, fund, clothe, protect and promote those foreigners and local Quislings and ne’er do wells who wish to wrest it from them, does not reflect well on anybody of authority in the West. Should Syria survive, should she and civilization itself come through these trials, it will be no thanks at all to those Western regimes and institutions who have cosied up to the world’s most reactionary, most despicable and obscurantist regimes who have put the entire people of Syria on the wrack for the pettiest and most venal of reasons. Nor will it be some sort of celestial miracle, delivered from on high for some obtuse reason or other. Rather, it will be a tribute to the courage, bravery and humanity of all of those alluded to here: the soldiers, mothers and civilians of Syria who, though abandoned by the world, managed to persevere. For my part, I am happy to have seen that light of humanity shine in the Darkness of the West, even if the Darkness still does not and never will comprehend it. It is enough.
Dr Declan Hayes made three trips to Syria this year. He is helping organize a three-day conference in Damascus, beginning April 24th 2015, tentatively called: Syria: Between Destruction and Reconstruction to mark the murder of all Syria’s innocents and to help plot a way forward out of the morass.