Selling a phoney peace in Syria

Selling a phoney peace in Syria
Comment: By allowing French aid to be directly distributed by the Russian army, France's president Macron is endorsing Russian hegemony over Syria, writes Sam Hamad.
6 min read
07 Aug, 2018
Daraa, the birthplace of the revolution was taken by government forces in July [AFP]
It has long been understood by the opposition that 'peace' in Syria, when dangled in front of them by Assad-Iran-Russia like the proverbial carrot, has always been a synonym for acquiescence and total capitulation to the will of these foreign and domestic tyrants.  

The Assad axis has used the idea of 'peace' deftly towards the aim of the total conquest of the country by brutal war. Instead of focussing solely on the already toothless UN-backed Geneva 'peace process', which at least had Assad's exit from the country as a non-negotiable, Russia moved the goalposts and created its own, namely in Astana and Sochi.  

Geneva was always a half-hearted 'peace' effort by an international community degraded to the point of preferring genocide to even the most basic action against it. But the so-called 'four baskets' that formed its core were points that could be worked on.

Thus, they had to be subverted by enemies who wanted nothing less than the total conquest of the country. But Russia also had to sell to the world that its main aim beyond the widespread ethnic cleansing, mass murder, rape, torture, terror and destruction of entire cities and towns, was 'peace'.  

Now, French president Emmanuel Macron has essentially endorsed Russian hegemony over Syria, by allowing French aid to be directly distributed by the Russian army in Syria.

In Syria, we've seen a blueprint for the way Russian imperialism advances without breaking a sweat

This is no small thing - it came following a meeting between Macron and Putin during which they talked about joint efforts between France and Russia in Syria, while it was celebrated as a propaganda coup by both RT and Sputnik. This was a direct volte-face, given Macron's own diplomats had criticised Russia's role in the Syrian war, while also following a more general trend of western countries to accepting a Pax Russica in Syria.

Criticism of this leads to claims from apologists that you're opposing 'humanitarian aid to Syrians'. But aside from the fact that Assad-Iran-Russia have often exploited and weaponised aid, using it for themselves and their supporters, as well as to punish resistant civilian populations, the fact that France is now bypassing the 'neutral' UN for Russia directly represents a massive shift in Russia's favour.  

Read more: Syria's bureaucracy of death and the fate of the disappeared

From the very beginning of the Syrian war, with Libya in mind, the opposition looked towards western democracies such as France for support against Assad and the huge intervention of Iran, as well as the at the originally distal power of Russian imperialism.  

But Russian imperialism swiftly kicked into action in Syria precisely due to the failure of western democracies to rise to the occasion.

When, even forgetting Assad's role in directly and indirectly aiding their rise, the rebels pointed to the fact that Assad was responsible for so much more death and destruction than IS, they were told by the West that IS was the main priority.

Eventually, the only groups to receive any western, mostly US support, would be those who were committed to solely fighting IS. US warplanes now shared the skies with Russian ones bombing civilians.

France and Russia are now jointly delivering humanitarian aid to the former Syrian rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta [AFP]

Now, as we've seen with a brutal casualness that ought to send a shiver down what remains of the spine of the civilised world, Putin's ally Trump has abandoned those anti-IS rebels it cultivated in Daraa, as the Baathist, Iranian and Russian counter-revolution catastrophically swept over the formerly liberated province while it was under a US-Russian-agreed 'de-escalation' zone. 

Russia's successes in Syria are central to its wider global agenda. Its designs on Europe and the US are less about military confrontation and more about exploiting and exacerbating the societal deficiencies afflicting the so-called fee world, to make them more conducive to Russia's global agenda.

One need only look at the way it has triumphed in Syria with step-by-step acquiescence by countries who originally set themselves up as allies of the rebellion.

Over the course of the last seven years, including the three that Russia has been directly intervening, not one single concession has been made by Russia - largely because the rebels never had anyone willing to truly fight their case. Not Obama, and certainly not the authoritarian-loving Trump, who sides with Russia against his own country, never mind Syrian Muslim untermenschen that he has banned from the US.  

In Syria, we've seen a blueprint for the way Russian imperialism, by relying on the division, corruption and the epistemologically, socially and politically degraded nature of its enemies, advances without breaking a sweat. Russia has material and ideological allies within the so-called free world, at the highest levels of media and governance, willing at every step, to aid the propaganda offensive.

The fact that France is now bypassing the 'neutral' UN for Russia directly represents a massive shift in Russia's favour

Though they can't be compared in terms of scale, only a fool or a knave would not see Russia's triumph in Syria or its action against Ukraine in connection to its triumph in Salisbury, or in the US presidential election, or its role in the Brexit vote or its direct role in fomenting authoritarian forces to gain power in Europe.  

Even the refugees, deliberately cleansed from Syria, have been
weaponised by Putin as grist for the mill of the pro-Putin European alt-right.

The countries that formerly supported the opposition in Syria, beset by their own problems, many of which have been exacerbated by some level of Russian support, are now falling into line behind Russian hegemony over Syria – Russia has gone from strength to strength, while its enemies have only grown weak.  

Macron's concession did not occur because the world has been hoodwinked into imagining that the main perpetrators of genocidal war in Syria are actually 'peacemakers' and 'humanitarians', but rather that these perpetrators of genocidal war are becoming normalised. To put it bluntly: they have won.

Even those countries who still rhetorically condemn Assad's brutality, far from taking any collective action, can only plead with the fully complicit Russia to rein Assad in.   

But 'order' prevails in geopolitics. When one side is victorious over the other, this triumph of raw power can be sold as its opposite, namely 'peace'.  Those who resist this phoney 'peace' can be portrayed as 'rejectionists' (as Israel has done with Palestinians unwilling to accept Israel's own unjust 'peace process') and 'terrorists', all the better for them to be, in the case of Syria, openly exterminated.

But Syrians won't die quietly. While the world watched the destruction of East Ghouta and Daraa, the Assad axis now has its eye definitively fixed on Idlib. The scale of the assault will be on a level that surpasses even the fall of Aleppo.  

And though Assad-Iran-Russia's allies in the West might all tacitly endorse this war of annihilation in the name of 'peace', 'stability' and the necessity to 'rebuild', as if these things represent some new progressive future for Syria, it is the job of those of us who know differently to point out that they mean nothing of the kind.  

They mean vicious revanchism, mass terror, counter-revolution, permanent instability and the triumph of the first genocide of the 21st century. They mean a world order that is increasingly defined by these things.

Sam Hamad is an independent Scottish-Egyptian activist and writer.

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Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.