Syria’s murky, multi-level conflict continues to grow worse. So does public confusion here in the west as the US, British and some European media keep depicting Syria’s civil war as a simple passion play pitting the evil Asad regime in Damascus against mostly unarmed democratic protestors.

We saw this same one-dimensional, deceptive reporting recently in Libya that was designed to support foreign intervention. It’s as incomplete today about Syria as it was in Libya which, by the way, is turning into a dangerous mess.

My assessment based on reliable primary sources in Washington, Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon:

Support for the Asad family’s Ba’ath regime, now in power for 41 years, is clearly slipping. But important sections of the armed forces, the 17 intelligence and security agencies, the powerful Alawai minority, most Syrian Christians, tribal elements and much of the commercial middle and upper class still back the Asad’s. In spite of intense western efforts to overthrow  him, Bashar Asad, a  mild-mannered former eye specialist, is still hanging on.

The US, Britain, France, and some conservative Arab allies have funded and armed the Syrian rebellion from its start a year ago. In fact, the US has been funding anti-Asad groups since the mid 1990’s. Arms and munitions are said to be flowing to Syria’s rebels through Jordan and Lebanon. Extreme rightwing groups in Lebanon, funded by western and Arab powers and Israel, are playing a key role in infiltrating gunmen and arms into northern Syria.

The Sunni Muslim Brotherhood has once again risen against the Alawi-dominated regime in Damascus. In 1982, this writer was outside the Syrian city of Hama when government forces crushed a Brotherhood uprising, killing an estimated 10,000 people and razing part of the city with heavy artillery.

Enter the jihadis. Recently, small numbers of al- Qaida veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have entered Syria and are using car bombs to try to destabilize the government. Current al-Qaida leader, Dr Ayman al- Zawahiri, has called for all-out war against the Asad regime.

Interestingly, the US, France and Britain now find themselves in bed with the very jihadist forces they profess to abhor – but, of course, whom they used in Afghanistan in the 1980’s and, lately, in Libya.

Add to this dangerous mix growing numbers of local militias in Syria who are battling one another and committing many of the atrocities against civilians, recalling Iraq and Lebanon’s bloody civil wars.

Washington’s key objective in Syria is to overthrow the Asad regime in order to injure its closest ally, Iran. There is so much anti-Iranian hysteria now in the US, that any blow against the Islamic republic is seen as good. Former US fears of a chaotic, post-Asad Syria are now forgotten in the rush to undermine Iran, by destabilizing Syria. Republicans, led by Sen. John McCain, are baying for war against Syria as President Barak Obama tries to hold back the war hawks.

Israel, whose influence in Washington in this election year is unprecedented, is stoking war fever against Syria and Iran. Israel is delighted that the crises with both nations have eclipsed the issue of Palestine and of Syria’s Golan Heights, which were illegally annexed by Israel in 1981. Golan supplies on third of Israel’s total water. Israel’s objective is to see Syria splintered into feuding cantons like today’s Iraq.

France’s right wing, led by President Nicholas Sarkozy’s UMP party, has long desired to re-establish France’s former colonial influence in Lebanon and Syria. The Asad regime in Syria has been a thorn in France’ side for four decades, particularly so in Lebanon, which Syria still insists is a historical part of Syria. France hopes to duplicate in Syria its success in stirring up and profiting from the uprising in Libya.

Russia has been defending the Asad regime and is determined not to be outfoxed in Syria by a false “humanitarian” intervention as it was in Libya. China is similarly cautious. But both are slowly lessening their former staunch support of Damascus as seen by last week’s UN Security Council call for a new peace plan in Syria.

A cease fire is urgently needed. Syria must stop using heavy weapons in urban areas. But outside powers  must also stop supporting violent armed groups that Damascus calls “terrorists.” There are no clean hands in Syria.

copyright Eric S. Margolis 2012

For German translation of above column, please visit:

This post is in: Uncategorized


  1. George Rizk says:

    It is very interesting that the U.S. supported jihadist during the Reagan administration in Afghnistan, then they supported the al qaida work in Chechnia, then supported al Qaida again in Bosnia, then declared al Qaida to be public enemy # 1 after 9/11, then they gave al Qaida money and farms to depose Qaddafi, then they sent the same jihadists to Syria.


  2. Concerned says:

    Is it just me? I cannot remember a major news story in which there has been such a sharp discrepancy between the standard media account and perspective of informed people like Eric Margolis as is presently the case in coverage and commentary on the turmoil in Syria. Invariably, when you type “Syria” for a Google search the first ten items that appear will be updated variations of the story of the Irredeemably Evil Assad assaulting the Saintly Rebels. Not that Margolis is alone – Pepe Escobar, Tariq Ali and Thierry Meyssan are among those who manage to convince me they are trying to explain what is happening in this unfortunate land rather than what powerful people would like us to believe. But their perspective is barely acknowledged by the mainstream media. Are we observing an unprecedented disconnection between reality and “news” ?

    • No, we are not, it has been going on for a long long time, it is just that now you have other sources to obtain different views and position, some are neutral and some are not. Also, political awareness in North America and Europe is mounting higher than years before. Due to misleading governments and much lower trust in their leaders. So, it is not new or unprecedented , it is just people could see beyond their noses and they started to think if it looks like s%&t, smells like s%&t, and taste like s%&t, then it must be s%&t.

  3. Eirc should read recent Syrian history. His anaylsis is flawed that West is out to help rebels and fomenting unrest. It is other way round. The West like the former colonial ruler of France has made sure that the Alawites hold on to power. Israel has also made it very clear that it rather have known devil Assad than the unknown. Alawites were patronized since the French rule and were given important position is all echelons of society. They could not function openly as Alawites due to the fatwa of majority of scholars of Islam who histrorically classified them as heretics due to their pagan “secret” beliefs. They took cover of Baath party to fool the masses and the Assad has always tried to pose as a Sunni and declared publicly during Friday prayers at Damascus historic Omayyad Mosque that he is from mainstream sunni faith. That is because there is nothing wrong with Alawites as deception is part of their religion. The Iranian clergy is part of this game too and are trying desperately to establish a so called Shia Crescent.

    What Syrians should try is to follow the example of Afghans and Chechen rebels who have bloodied and humiliated the combined might of super powers. Assad is a just a diminutive pawn in the game played out by West and East together in Syria. The resistance should stop begging the West, NATO and treacherous Arabs but rely on their own and confront the Alawite thug and his supporters on their own. The situation of Syria is reverse backward Afghanistan 30 years when all factions-monarchists, secularists, liberals, socialists, sufis, and islamists rallied to repel Soviets and all were eradicated except Islamist Taliban who are now determined to bestow the same fate and place to American imperialism in the infamous graveyard of Empires.

    • You make me laugh, so Israel like Assad to stay, and Israel like Assad to leave the roads open for weapons to flow to Hizbullah, and Israel is fine with the relation of Syria/Iran. What world you live in???

      Syrian rebels? where are they?? I do not see them in Syria, almost all the fighters are not Syrians, more like one or 2 out of 100 are well paid Syrian front and the rest are from the rest of the world. Your suggestion that the “Syrian rebels “or as you called them “the resistance” which is by far is a wrong term to use, should do like Afghani resistance, during Soviet and American occupations. Do you think that Afghani fighters shot helicopters down using slingshot? Or blew tanks with big stones that they rolled from top of mountains?
      Syrian rebels do not have to beg anyone, the west, NATO and Arab world, most of it, are aiding them and preparing for this to happen since years, In one it’s issues last year, the London Gazette described Assad as the most expensive man in the world. The only thing that is stopping the West from direct intervention in Syria today is the Russian and Chinese stands. They know that it is a plan to rule the world for many many years to come. Syria falls, and next day Qatari natural gas is heating all of Europe and Russian are back to the Soviet times when huge lineups to buy their bread and the Chinese would have to kiss American ass to get enough oil to operate their sweat shops. So you see, you are by far not even close to the real thing. You are just another guy who gets his info from people like king of Jordan, and Aljazeera and Al Arabia TVs. Did you know that Mossad members are running the Jordanian borders, sitting side by side with Jordanians at Jordan’s entry points? Maybe you do and you wish to ignore it
      It saddens me to read your analysis of the situation, it shows me how much the west have influenced weak minds to make them believe in the “shia Crescent” which lead to the ultimate , mainly, Israeli goal is to have a Sunni/Shia war. They kill each other and Israel and the West watch, like what is happening in Syria, and will happen in Libya and Egypt

      • Wow, Dino, from the perspective of five additional years – you are a prophet! 🙂 In fact, Eric’s article could have been written yesterday and would not lose one bit of its accuracy. Can there be a better proof of quality?

        Five years in and now we know how the Western vision of “democracy” turned out for Libya and it was an inch away from happening in Egypt… or maybe it actually did happen there too, since ISIS appears to have a created a mini-state on the border with Israel of which we were informed only last week. Like nobody noticed them until they started shooting rockets and blowing up Christian churches…?

        Let’s not forget the Western “success” in dismantling Yugoslavia – the crown jewel of the former Eastern Block. The scary part is to suddenly realize that our hands may be as dirty, if not dirtier than those of the “Other” side. Does living with blood on your conscience (if not on your hands) constitute part of adult life? Can we succeed not to feel responsible for the actions of our governments? Is this why most of us prefer to believe in the easy to digest lies of the media and to turn their tv sets to another brainless sporting event with happy cheerleaders flashing their bums and the media-proclaimed sport heroes and multi-millionaires blow each other’s brains out on ice?

  4. Even with the mess in Syria and the world, there is always hope some intelligent and creative people will come forward out of the masses of the people.

    The following video, while off topic, is an example of human creativity that is amazing. It also is an extreme example of patience and adapting to new realities as I perceive it.

    Thanks to Weldon for bringing it to my attention.

  5. Mike Smith says:

    I read this story which primarily deals with the present state of Iraq, but also talks about how events in Syria may destabilize Iraq even further…,1518,823838,00.html

    It is amazing how the US and Israel are the biggest sources of unstablity in this region… and others as well

    Russia may yet solve the Korean situation… if the US keeps its nose out.

  6. Dear Moderator.
    Is there a plan to give us a chance to “edit our comments” once they were submitted?

    • Eric Margolis says:

      Unfortunately edits cannot be done from your end, but if you resend the comment, noting that it is a revision, I would be happy to post the revised copy.

      • Eric,

        Adding the edit function that was most useful in the old format should be an easy modification for an experienced Webmaster. I like that feature in The Jerusalem Post, RawStory and The National Post.

        I like the new colour and the added email function.

        • Some Canadian says:

          The edit option is actually available in most standard WordPress templates. Eric probably imposed this restriction on posts and edits to ensure there is a certain degree of quality among the comments here (which we all know what this refers to).

  7. sakandari says:

    I’m afraid syria’s issue would be a cause of a new 14-18 world war…

  8. Some Canadian says:

    It’s such a shame that the “Maverick” John McCain has fallen so low eh? I would imagine him not being obliged to appease the far-right that dominate the GOP these days. Or maybe he got converted into their ideology in the recent years.

    The fact that there are 17 intelligence/security agencies in Syria. It seems like a pretty decentralized system.

    By the way Eric, have you just lost your crowd of commentators from the old site?

    • Some Canadian says:

      Ah.. I see. “The comment is awaiting moderation” is what I would’ve been expecting. After all, it’s quite unlikely for this place to be completely deserted by chance.

    • frank in markham says:

      As usual, a good commentary by Mr. Margolis. SC, some from the old
      site are slowly drifting back, perhaps under new names. Still a little
      discombulated by the new site (submitted my info and was told my
      “new” password would be e-mailed to me. Never came.) Long story
      short, tried to register again, failed because I was already registered.
      So, I just clicked on the “forget password” and here I be.

  9. Steve_M. says:

    Eric: This is the best and most balanced commentary yet on the situation in Syria. It’s ironic that the US, Britain and France call for the end of the brutal Asad regime by backing rebels who would make the country an Islamist dictatorship that could be an even bigger threat to Israel.

    Last year, the US’s and Britain’s phony concern for “human rights and “democracy” was exposed for the fraud that it really is when they backed the rebel forces in Libya. Now Libya is turning into an Islamist dictatorship, but now the country is deeply divided and is threatened by a second civil war.

    • Steve_M. says:
      March 25, 2012 at 3:39 p
      Judging by Israeli news papers, I believe that Israel was in favor of Assad remaining at his position. Recently when the atrocities against his people got out of hand, (This is a brutal government known for advanced use of torture), public opinion in Israel began to change and calls for intervention started showing up.

  10. Mr. Margolis:

    What we are dealing with here is a classic case of Imperial over reach. In the case of France and GB, the former colonial powers have this delusion that they are as influential as they were 200 years ago, and by extension tying their delusion to that of the US. The same US that is experiencing what the Persian, Roman and Ottoman Empires experienced. It is also becoming clearer that Al Qaeda is nothing more than a CIA intelligence creation to do the bidding of NATO when convenient.
    So where does this lead to? No one can say, but do not let the recent actions by China and Russia at the UN fool anyone. This undertaking is about buying time, Russia will not give up its only Mediterranean port in Tartus. Secondly, both Russian and China have a military industrial complex as well. The more countries that fall to NATO, the less customer base these countries have. Thirdly, both China and Russia abhor being surrounded by hostile powers. This being said, can anyone really believe that these powers will allow themselves to become targets of NATO after Syria and Iran hypothetically fall? Finally, the religious strain that exists between Sunni and Shiite has been made more profound by the abomination called Wahabiism. But this excludes the tension that is alive and well in the Sunni community with the various monarchies of the Arab Gulf States. Say what you want, the Baathist ideology was more or less egalitarian.
    In closing, this tension could lead to a conflagration that in turn could lead to a Global War. One thing that major wars have taught is that the outcome of these conflicts are never scripted of for gone. This is a lesson that NATO and Israel have yet to discover.

    • Mr Lee.
      Your writing above shows that you have a perfect understanding of the subject and are willing to share. Please keep on writing.

    • Mr. Lee,
      Please tell me where you get your information. There is so much propaganda and lies a person has a hard time trusting anything he hears or sees.

      • Some Canadian says:

        You can get them the same way many others do:
        – Treat news from MSNBC/CNN/BBC with a grain of salt
        – Read a large collection of independent blogs/editorials/discussions

        In this internet age where information is largely freely available, there are much more people than one may imagine, who are aware of what’s actually going on.

    • Mr.Lee, I understand where you are coming from, but I feel it’s much closer to home than you may think!
      A Good Doctor might prescribe a controlled dose of Wahhabi Islam medicine for what ails the religion of democracy. After all, the only thing we have learned from history is that we have learned nothing from history. I have witnessed my Muslim “grown-up” neighbours boldly and ostentatiously brandishing machetes among other menacing implements of battle and intimidation for the better part of three years now on my street, and I don’t get many visitors anymore. The 2006 census has put this city at 3.4% Islam, and I am sure it has very subtly tripled since then, but I really do not feel any more threatened where I am than I would on the democratic “uranium and gunpowder” side of town, and one of these days soon, I’m convinced western democracy is in for a huge surprise, on our own soil. Believe it!

      • solum temptare possumus says:


        If you are inclined to read a book that can give an understanding of your neighbours may I recommend this book by Lesley Hazleton.

        After the prophet: the epic story of the Shia-Sunni split c 2009

        Although Muhammad had many visions or spiritual experiences (if one believes), and the complete community of Islam believes in such revelations; the Sunni follow the sunna or the practices of the prophet and his writings (the Hadith) and scholary interpretation of the Qur’an.

        The Shiat-ali, or Shia follow Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of the prophet. He aspired to be closer to Allah through spiritual asceticism. He was the true heart of Islam in those early days. While the Caliphs used sword against non-muslim, they also used violence against muslim brothers and sisters, forbidden by the words of the prophet. Ali used all methods to avoid this dictum. He rode to his death against overwhelming odds rather than submit to the co-caliph he shared the Islamic nation with.

        Another author you might be interested in is Ibn Warraq, a life preserving pseudonym of an agnostic secular humanist Islamic scholar and outspoken critic of Islam. He is author to:
        “Leaving Islam: Apostates Speak Out”
        “Why I Am Not a Musllim”
        “Virgins? What Virgins? And Other Essays”

    • solum temptare possumus says:

      Mr. Lee

      An excellent point about the Russian and Chinese Military Industrial Complex. All countries with similar industries want to keep their people employed.

      I disagree on your point about al Qaeda doing Nato’s bidding. The CIA may have helped form them early on as mujaheddin fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan, but the loose confederacy of Islamic mililtants want only to drive out the non-musllim invaders and impose a Sunni Islamic state over the rest of the Arab Middle East and then outward to the rest of the world. (see my reply to Weldon below). If the US government (by proxy the CIA) wants to fund them to overthrow the Alawite minority in Syria, I’m sure they will not turn down the help.
      In your final paragraph, “In closing….”, the second sentence ending: did you mean to say…”…..that the outcome of these conflicts are never scripted OR A FORGONE CONCLUSION?

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