Syrian civil war, initiated by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, supported by Turkey, turned out to be much more dangerous for its organizers and sponsors than any other incidents of the “Arab spring”, taken together.
This article originally apperared at Vpk-news, translated by Olga Seletskaia exclusively for SouthFront
“Sucker Punches”, that are being applied by the above mentioned countries and their Western allies against the Assad regime under the guise of international refugee programs, have been analyzed by Russian researcher Khodynskaya- Golenischeva. This article is based on her work.
The Syrian conflict has become one of the most devastating since the genocide in Rwanda. The bottom line now is: more than 220,000 dead, 10 million displaced, and at least four million refugees. More than 40 percent of the medical institutions of the country have been destroyed, more than 560 physicians have been killed. During the conflict, 70 humanitarian specialists – representatives of the UN, the Syrian Red Crescent volunteers, employees of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, NGO workers – have been killed.
“The opposition participated in the sabotaging and plundering of aid delivery, as well as in murdering humanitarian workers”
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) – a division of the UN Secretariat responsible for providing humanitarian assistance in conflict-affected countries, – worked in Syria. However, the approach of employees in ‘rear’ management departments, who promoted Washington and Brussels’ initiatives was poorly correlated with the approach to the case of those who risked their lives on the ground. The implementation of Washington and Brussels’ initiatives is contrary to generally accepted humanitarian principles, and it was incompatible with international law. Most of them were aimed at obtaining pressure leverages over Damascus government and helping the opposition fighters.
To be able to increase criticism of the Syrian government, the West emphasized the humanitarian issues in the UN Security Council in an attempt to push through a resolution justifying the forceful intervention. Consideration of this topic is beyond the competence of the Security Council of the United Nations and in most cases it does not lead to a separate discussion. “Friends of Syria”, realizing this, previously tested the discussion of the issue at humanitarian forums, at the UN Council on Human Rights and the General Assembly. However, only a Security Council resolution could provide an opportunity to accuse the Assad government of “violating the binding decision of the United Nations” and to justify the intervention under the guise of “humanitarian aid”.
In UNSC, West insisted on a resolution that demanded the Syrian authorities to agree on everything. Otherwise, they proposed automatic sanctions. Russian diplomats were willing to work in this format, but after the Libya case, when humanitarian aid under the NATO’s guise ended up at the rebels in Benghazi, they insisted that the SC’s decision did not allow different interpretations. As a result, the UN Security Council adopted a number of documents. The first was the statement of the Chairman of the Security Council, which presented a plan to address the humanitarian problems in the SAR.
Without giving the document a chance, without giving the international community a chance to assess the degree of effectiveness of the proposed methods of humanitarian assistance, the United States and its allies started pushing in the UN Security Council a draft resolution on the “Force” Chapter VII of the UN Charter. Their resolution was a set of claims and demands to the government of Syria in the humanitarian sphere, with the sanctions threats for non-compliance. Saudi Arabia was announced to be the initiator of the resolution. Russian analysis of the technical characteristics of the document reveals that the real author of the text was the opposition Syrian National Coalition. As a consequence, the document failed.
Games of “Benefactors”
After the opening of the International Conference on Syria in Montreux in January 2014, the “Friends of Syria” once again began to lobby the UN Security Council resolution on humanitarian issues. The Russian side explained that at the stage of a dialogue between the government and the opposition when they were negotiating on the settlement, the international community needs to avoid steps that could derail them. Moscow was convinced that the UN Security Council resolution would not help the work of humanitarian agencies. However, while Russia was conducting a dialogue with Damascus and the opposition on all issues, including humanitarian, the Western states had no contact with the Syrian authorities and they could not influence their “wards” of Syrian opposition fighters.
The outcome of the consultations and coordination in the UN Security Council was a resolution 2139 (February 2014), which called on the parties of the conflict to engage constructively with humanitarian agencies, to assist in the delivery of aid in the locked and inaccessible areas, including those occupied by jihadists. The resolution emphasized political solution to the crisis. Neighboring countries had to ensure the civilian character of Syrian refugees camps (which were actually used for recreation and treatment of militants, recruitment and arms sales). Security Council called upon countries, pledged for humanitarian projects, to make contributions.
In the document, Moscow managed to make the Western partners for the first time unequivocally condemn terrorism in Syria. A paragraph that terrorism is a threat to peace and security, and terrorist attacks can not be justified in any way, deprived Washington of the opportunity to continue its rhetoric that terrorist attacks were a just reaction to the “bloody regime” in Syria. However, the West immediately “forgot” the counter-terrorism part of the Resolution, and it focused on the collection of compromising materials on Damascus in the humanitarian sphere. The objective was to show that Assad “does not respect” the Security Council’s decision and it must be punished. The controlled Western NGOs and the media helped to promote this.
Russia in turn has strengthened the work with the Syrian government to promptly remove the concerns of the humanitarian agencies. It was important to achieve the simplification of bureaucracy. As a result, Damascus announced a new “strategic” approach to the cooperation with humanitarian agencies. During the short period many obstacles were removed: new humanitarian centers opened, aid delivery across borders was permitted, the process of verification and custom clearance was simplified. Damascus has created a special working group under the leadership of Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs H. CAP Alaa for contacts with humanitarian organizations, and it established the Department for Cooperation with the Red Cross.
This came into conflict with the goal of “Friends of Syria” to portray legitimate Syrian authority as the inhuman, that uses a humanitarian tragedy to punish disloyal population. Damascus addressed the concerns of the international community, and it took measures to remedy the situation. In the meantime, the opposition was sabotaging and plundering aid delivery and murdering humanitarian workers. Moscow raised the question that either all the international players, primarily the West, work with the opposition to implement the Security Council resolutions, or Russia will stop providing “reports” by itself only about its work on international aid panels. After that, the Western countries lost interest in the politicization of humanitarian issues.
To put pressure on Damascus and to support the opposition, West tried to organize humanitarian aid deliveries to Syria across borders from neighboring countries through specially selected checkpoints, primarily from Turkey, without the consent of the addressee. Realizing that such delivery in some cases may be fast and efficient, Damascus agreed to the humanitarian assistance through Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. However, for the “Friends of Syria”, it was necessary to set up a delivery route through the Syrian-Turkish border, over 550 kilometers length, which is hardly controlled.
Northern Syria was controlled by jihad terrorist organization “Islamic State”, “Al-Nusra Dzhabhat” Islamic Front. Adjacent Turkish land was used by them to house training camps, for recreation and treatment of militants. Weapons were delivered across the border. Under the pretext of moving refugees to a safer place, Ankara suggested to establish the buffer zone and the security zone along the border with Syria. But humanitarian aid supplies could end up in hands of irrelevant groups. Like, for example, their redistribution to “Provisional Government of Syria” and its militants located in Turkish Gaziantep.
West and a number of countries in the region established cross-border supply through their own “charity” organizations. The UN was informed about it. Attempts to give the status of official cross-border deliveries were intended to justify retroactively illegal activities. They needed a UN Security Council resolution obliging to launch such supplies or to organize pressure on the Syrian government under the pretext of failure to comply with international law. In the first case, this resulted in attempts to adopt by the UN Security Council a “humanitarian” resolution under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, in the second case – a US-instigated media campaign about how the SAR government starves the people.
Continuing to “push” cross-border supply, the West defined checkpoints on the borders with the neighboring countries, which it would like to use. All these checkpoints on the Syrian side were controlled by radical groups, including “Islamic state” and “Al-Nusra Dzhabhat” which are in the terrorist lists of the UN Security Council. In each case, the government-controlled check points were working not far from the ones defined by the West. But neighboring countries have banned their use, insisting on using the ones controlled by radicals.
Russia proposed a compromise: to organize delivery across borders under the UN control, to form a UN mission accordingly. Based on the Russian proposal, resolution 2165 was adopted by the UN Security Council and the mission that controls deliveries across the border was formed. Thus, Russia managed to defend the principle of delivering humanitarian aid to the north of Syria under international supervision and respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the SAR.
However, cross-border deliveries did not solve humanitarian problems. During the first two months we were able to help only a seventh of those in need. Food was delivered to one fourteenth of those to whom it is vital. Taking over the Turkish-Syrian border by Syrian jihadists and the expansion of the “Islamic state” did not allow to increase the supply.
UN staff would check the convoy and escort it to the border. What happened further with the convoy was unknown – it would be taken away by NGO’s twhich were not in the United Nations’ list. It was impossible to check if the convoy was received by civilians or jihadists. Suggestion by leaders of these operations to install cameras on trucks distributing goods was blocked by the western members of the UN humanitarian agencies.
Another goal that the humanitarian advocates were trying to achieve was the overthrow of the Assad regime and legitimization of the Syrian opposition. The National Coalition of opposition and the revolutionary forces (NKORS) – a group, consisting of exiles, was created much later after the beginning of the conflict. It was funded by the “Friends of Syria” and it did not have support in the country. The easiest to promote NKORS was in the humanitarian field. To promote the coalition, US created within it a department ‘of Humanitarian Affairs’, headed by S. Al-Attas. The group had neither experience, nor operational capabilities, and it needed financial injections. It received hundreds of millions of dollars, but the money was stolen. As a result, even the jihadists sent families to the areas controlled by the government, as the situation there has been a lot better.
US and its allies in an effort to legitimize NKORS, brought it to the Humanitarian Forum – the main platform for the support of Syria with the participation of the donor community. The forum took place in European Office of the United Nations in Geneva. SAR Government was present as well, and this gave the opportunity to a dialogue on humanitarian issues between the Damascus and its opponents. However, the forum had been thwarted, when the West demanded that the Group of coordination of assistance participated as well. Russia and China made it clear that they would quit, if NKORS, which calls to bomb Syria, would be invited to the discussion on humanitarian assistance. Ultimately, this led to a freezing of the humanitarian forum.
The issue of NKORS’ participation in the activities of the United Nations dropped after dozens of children died as a result of vaccination against measles with the use of poor-quality vaccines in the province of Idlib in 2014. Those areas where were controlled by groups linked to NKORS. Hence, they were responsible for the tragedy.
As a result, Syrians were not invited at all to an international donor conference in Kuwait. UN’s humanitarian aiders hoped that excluding Damascus would appease big donors from the Gulf. However, announced half billion dollars for humanitarian operations in Syria never entirely reached the UN’s account, as Qatar transferred money directly to its people, and Saudi Arabia operated through “charitable organizations” such as ” Rabit.”
Humanitarian issues were used to discredit the government of Syria and its supporters. The media campaign was launched by US Secretary of State John . Kerry, who published in Foreign Affairs magazine article “Hunger War Waged by Assad .” United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights joined the hysteria campaign and began to prepare reports on the topic.
Militants had to succeed on the eve of the International Conference on Syria in Montreux. The army surrounded the jihads-controlled areas and prevented them from receiving food and medical supplies. Therefore, only cities and villages surrounded by the army were mentioned in the struggle against the blockade: Moaddamiya, Eastern Guta and others. But nobody mentioned the cities and villages besieged by the opposition militants: Nubul, Zahra, Foix, Adru Hasakah. To ease tensions, Syrian authorities with Russia’s support allowed access to blocked by the army Homs. They agreed to take out the women and children and to provide humanitarian assistance to those who wished to stay. Damascus requested lists of men who live Homs. Civilians were free to leave Homs. The opposition militants came under an amnesty law or could even get away with guns. The process was monitored by the United Nations.
Accompanying objective of humanitarian theme is to conceal the consequences of the West’s policy of economic strangulation of Syria. International experts wrote about the impact of the restrictions imposed by bypassing the UN Security Council. Because of them, GDP in Syria fell by 80 percent; trade and industry fell 60 per cent, crude oil production – by 45 per cent. Thousands of people lost their jobs, health care system was undermined, the pharmaceutical industry was destroyed. The sanctions have led to a sharp drop in living standards and the growth of the black market.
Humanitarian theme was integrated into the task of “containment ” of Russia , serving as a lever of pressure on Moscow to make it change its policy on Syria. However, from the autumn of 2014, the UN Secretary General reports on the situation in Syria hold that it’s the jihadist groups who impede the delivery of humanitarian aid. Gradually, the UN Security Council’s discussion on humanitarian issues in Syria became less confrontational and more efficient. But it is hard to expect that the “Friends of Syria” would change their policy. Their agenda to displace President Bashar al-Assad has not been canceled.
Accordingly, Ankara’s steps to establish a buffer zone on the Syrian border area are logical. Turkey’s initiative to include in the agenda of the 70th session of the UN General Assembly a discussion on the refugee problem in the region is clearly not accidental. The growing wave of refugees to Europe from Turkey is predetermined. Experts record refugees’ organized repression by Turkish local militia. That is why by the end of summer – early autumn the largest numbers of refugees arrived in Greece on their way to Italy.
This helps to please Turkish President Erdogan’s voters who on the eve of the early parliamentary elections demand to remove from Turkey more than a million Syrians who settled on their territory because of Ankara’s participation in the war against Damascus. In addition, the Syrian humanitarian disaster transmitted from Turkey to Europe, is designed to provoke a strike of Western powers on Syria, where, under the pretext of the bombing of the ISIS positions, they can attack the army of Assad. Elegant move …