US complicity in Daraa rubber stamps Assad's genocide

US complicity in Daraa rubber stamps Assad's genocide
Comment: The US has washed its hands of Syria's rebels, thereby supporting Assad's conquest of 'liberated' areas, writes Sam Hamad.
7 min read
04 Jul, 2018
The displaced of Daraa have been prevented from entering Jordan [Getty]
That the US will do nothing nothing when the Assad axis conquers another "liberated" area of Syria has become something of an expectation.

In fact, since the beginning of the conflict, it's been more of a given.

Assad's apologists are keen to establish parity between the kind of aid some rebel groups have received under now-defunct US arms programmes with the huge intervention of Iran on the ground and Russia in the skies on behalf of Assad. But only the most rabidly delusional could claim US support for any of the rebels now.

The assault by Assad and his allies on Daraa is unlike the recent devastatingly brutal assault on liberated Ghouta in one key way: The main rebel force in Daraa - the Southern Front of the Free Syrian Army - was a US ally expressly committed to not fighting Assad; unlike the rebels in Ghouta who had no relationship with the US.

The Southern Front consists of fighting forces originally set up by Syrians to fight Assad, but who were co-opted by the US to fight only the Islamic State group.

The Southern Front has clashed with Assad's forces, but this was despite then-President Obama's support for them. When Trump entered office, things deteriorated; the US would continue to support them as an anti-IS and anti-al-Qaeda force, but when some looked to fight Assad last year, the US warned that would cost them Washington's support.

In other words, they would be abandoned to fight Assad, Iran and Russia without any US backup.

Now they've been abandoned anyway.

US policy is one of non-confrontation with - nay appeasement of - Assad, Iran and Russia over Syria, save the tiny aspect of Assad's genocide that includes the use of chemical weapons. But Washington's stance over Daraa reveals the US is now actively supporting the conquest of liberated areas.

Many of us warned that the two-hour US-led action that followed the Douma massacre, far from being any kind of turn against Assad, was a backhanded rubber stamp of genocidal war by conventional means.

If the lack of action from the US as Assad destroyed and cleansed Ghouta and Yarmouk wasn't enough to convince you of this, its actions over Daraa ought to.  

It's not just the fact that the Assad assault on Daraa violates a "de-escalation" deal negotiated by the US, Jordan and Russia since July 2017, but that until as late as 14 June
, the US was threatening "firm and appropriate measures" should Assad - as he vowed - attempt to take the liberated province by military means.

Good words from the US, one might think. But the reality of the situation revealed their combative position to be little more than mere words.  

When Assad and Russia began assaulting Daraa, the US not only did nothing, but on 24 
June it sent a letter to its former rebel allies in the province, saying: "We are fully aware that you have to make your decision according to your interests and the interests of your families and factions as you view them, and you must not base your decision on the assumption or an expectation of a military intervention from our side."

The reality is that since the collapse of IS in its former form, the US under Trump has 'wanted out' of the Middle East and the 'quagmire' of Syria in particular

This is literally the opposite of their rhetoric on 14 June, but, moreover, it's a complete reversal of their policy in southwest Syria

So, what then has changed for the US?

In the
words of Nasir al-Hariri, the Syrian opposition's chief negotiator in Geneva, US complicity could be explained by "a malicious deal" between Washington and Moscow.

The reality is that since the collapse of IS in its former form, the US under Trump has "wanted out" of the Middle East and the "quagmire", as is the western cliche, of Syria in particular.

This trajectory - established by 
Obama - paved the way for genocide in Syria by failing to adequately support rebel forces against Assad and Iran. This emboldened Russia to intervene decisively, making a straight rebel military victory impossible.  

It will be Putin's ally Donald Trump who does the sweeping up, so to speak, and his upcoming summit with the Russian leader on 16 July will no doubt be key in this respect.

It was often said that the one thorn in the side of US Syria policymakers was Israel, which has reacted militarily against Iranian troops stationed in Syria, and may oppose Washington abandoning Syrian rebels because of Damascus serving an Iranian vassal.

But this, too, has been overcome. Israel is pragmatic, and has - along with the US - accepted Assad's "victory" as an inevitability. 

Though Iranian imperialism loves nothing more than the cloak of victimhood, and often justifies its expansionism on dubious grounds of impending plots and wars against it, Israel appears to be willing to live with a Russian-brokered curtailing of Iranian hegemony over Syria.

Iran, fearing Israeli wrath, has no option but to live with it. And despite narratives suggesting otherwise, Russia is also out of options.

Russia went out of its way to make the world believe that it was only with its consent that Turkey and the FSA took parts of northern Syria controlled by Russia's allies in the PYD, as opposed to it being a case of Russia not being able to do a single thing against such an action by Turkey, a militarily strong NATO member.

Similarly, you might hear about how Moscow will "allow" Israel to hit Iranian targets in Syria should Tel Aviv deem them to be threatening to Israel's security. But the reality seems more that Russia has appealed to Israel's pragmatism in getting them to hold back on attacking pro-Assad Iranian forces within certain parameters.

The key here is a maintenance of order.

Jordan, once a slippery ally of the rebellion when it seemed like it might succeed, now favours the triumph of Assad so that its struggling economy may resume trade

Israel might hate Iran and vice versa, but they have more in common with each other than any force fighting for genuine social justice in the region. And this is especially true when it comes to murdering and persecuting Arabs and Sunni Muslims.

Again, this has not emerged out of nowhere, but has come from a shift in the world order which began with the rise of toothless centrism, but which is continually transforming into a world where the logic of authoritarianism reigns supreme. In Syria, this means an international consensus that tacitly supports genocide.

Jordan, once a slippery ally of the rebellion when it seemed like it might succeed, now favours the triumph of Assad so that its struggling economy may resume trade; a tempting outcome that has been successfully dangled by Putin before the nose of his fellow authoritarian King Abdullah.

This is the narrow, barbaric method through which the Assad axis is triumphing.

Since 2011, and since Syria's revolution transformed from civil war to genocide, the world has become more like the Assad axis, and more accepting of its endgame.

This is what lies behind Jordan's cruel refusal to allow around 270,000 Syrians displaced from Daraa through its border, while the world does nothing as the lives of a further 750,000 innocents are put at immediate risk from Assad's offensive. 

This is what lies behind the relative silence, as Assad, Iran and Russia turn formerly liberated areas of Syria, "cleansed" of much of their population, into sectarian dystopias; the so-called 
"Homs model", where terror and kleptocracy rule.

This is what Russia demanded in its
failed negotiations with the Syrian opposition in Daraa. The talks were set up to fail, given Russia was ruthlessly bombing Daraa at the time.

It is a complete surrender to the will of the Baathist rump.

Though it might seem distant, the reality of this world order ought to terrify all those around the world who want to live free. We live not in a world moving towards peace and liberty, but in the abode of monsters.

Sam Hamad is an independent Scottish-Egyptian activist and writer

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.