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My nomination for the most prophetic statement of 1949 goes to Deane Hinton, the CIA agent that was part of the CIA "Political Action Committee" carrying out a coup in Syria that was suppose to replace the government elected in 1947 with one that would recognize the new state of Israel. The US and US corporations tried hard to influence Syrian elections. Still the "wrong" people got elected, hence the need to implement what would soon become their favorite fall-back strategy, the military coup.

Hinton was kicked out of the group after he told a planning meeting in Damascus:

"I want to go on record as saying that this is the stupidest, most irresponsible action a diplomatic mission like ours could get itself involved in, and that we've started a series of these things that will never end."
They may end one day, but today the Syrian people are still suffering mightily from the reverberations of that insult to Syrian democracy carried out by the United States 63 years ago.

The CIA "made friends" with the head of the Syrian army, Husni al-Za'im. In 1968 a CIA agent, Miles Copeland who was involved wrote all about it in "The Game of Nations." The "Game" referred to a game-playing exercise the CIA did in the 1950s for planning interventions. [The Hollywood movie "Scorpio," starring Burt Lancaster is roughly about this stuff.] Copeland was part of the "Political Action Team" set up to carry out regime change in Syria:

"The political action team suggested to Za'im the idea of a coup d'etat, advised him how to go about it, guided him through the intricate preparations in laying the groundwork for it...Za'im was 'the American boy'."
The 1949 Syrian regime change was the first of many US inspired military coups in the Middle East in the wake of WWII. It was considered a great success; the US was "opening the door to Peace and Progress."

Za'im promised to recognize the new state of Israel but he turned out to be a violent tyrant and only lasted five months before he was overthrown in another violent coup. Just as Hinton had predicted, the US had "opened the door to the Dark Ages" in Syria.

Syria continued to be plagued by military coups throughout the 1950's until a parliamentary system was restore in 1954. By that time, the Syrian people were tired of US meddling and the new government turned to the Soviet Union for support.

In 1957, another CIA plot to change the Syrian government was uncovered and three CIA agents were expelled from the country. This military coup was code-named Operation Wappen, and the CIA man in change was Howard "Rocky" Stone.

That coup failed. Then in 1958, Syria and Egypt merged to form the United Arab Republic, led by President Nasser. By 1961 the UAR was falling apart.

In opposition to Nasser's version of pan-Arabism, the Baath party had been growing in both Iraq and Syria. In 1963 the Baath Party came to power in Iraq in a coup that was largely organized and funded by the CIA. A young party member, age 25, named Saddam Hussein was a CIA "asset" at the time, the CIA gave him a list of 600 communists and democrats to eliminate.

Hafez al-Assad was one of five Syrian army officers that formed a secret committee plotting to bring the Baathist to power in Syria. A month after the Baath came to power in Iraq, the coup in Syria succeeded without the direct aid of the CIA. The Baathist in Iraq and Syria portrayed themselves as socialist and pan-Arabists but Nasser called them fascist.

BBC "That Was The Week That Was" comedy sketch done 2 days after the 1963 coup

While Syria was still a colony, the French practiced a program of divide and rule which deliberately exaggerated the sectarian divisions in the country. These coup leaders followed this practice in establishing their rule. Of the five, three, including Assad were Alawite and the other two were Ismailis, two Shia sects, in this majority Sunni country. Hafez al-Assad quickly captured the leadership by ruthlessly removing, often killing, established Sunni functionaries and replacing them with Syrians from his sect that were loyal to him. By 1969, Assad had eliminated the last of his original co-conspirators.

Adam Curtis, BBC wrote:

Assad believed that this ruthless exercise of power was necessary because of the deep sectarian divisions. It was a strange echo of the American diplomat in 1949 who believed that a military coup was needed to "quarantine" the Syrian people...
Many people think that the United States has no colonial or imperialist responsibility for the current state of affairs in Syria but the history tells another tale.

True enough, the Assad regime is much more of a Russia client, and was a Soviet client before that, and so on the other side of the cold war, in the "anti-imperialist" camp. While it is true that Syria fell out of the US "sphere of influence" after it escaped from the badly bungled repeated coups of the '50s, the practice of rule by sectarian divisions and the sword remained.

While it can not be said that the US had a direct role in putting the regime in power, unlike in Iraq, Iran and so many Latin American countries, it must at least be admitted that US interference in Syrian internal affairs and US attempts to put a strongman in power, prepared a fertile field for this 40 year dictatorship to take root.

While Assad or Son may have never been 'the American boy', they did not represent a type of 3rd world "leadership" the US has traditionally opposed, i.e. brutal military dictatorships in civilian clothes.

The Assad regime has proven to be one that could be bargained with; one that had a price.

Hafez Assad gave up the Golan Heights himself when he was only Defense Minister at the beginning of the 1967 war with Israel and it has been occupied by Israel for as long as the Assads have remained in power.

After the 1973 war, Nixon visited Assad in Damascus and ties got strengthen when many expected Syria to be slapped with sanction.

For a long time they "took" Lebanon off everybody's hands by occupying it between 1976 and 2005. Many observers saw the lack of US as a "green light" to the occupation. As the Middle East Forum Lebanon Study Group put it in their 2000 report:

"[The US] seemed tacitly to acquiesce to continued Syrian ascendancy in Lebanon."

In 1989 the US brokered the Tai'f Agreement between France, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Syria that called for "prompting international support for Syrian―guardianship over Lebanon."

The Assad regime may not have been the CIA's first choice for running Syria, they would rather bring Syria into their fold, but at least he was one of them, corrupt, expensive tastes, fondness for torture and endless detention. He could be guaranteed to not fight too hard for the Golan Heights and to ride herd on the Palestinians, and the Syrians too, for that matter.

In 1991 Hafez al-Assad made common cause with George Bush in attacking Saddam Hussein. Syria supported US imperialism in Operation Desert Storm to the tune of 14,500 soldiers and support personnel.

The two sons had a falling out over Iraq War 2, and George Bush Jr. put Bashar al-Assad on his no-fly list, but this represented an abnormally for US-Syrian relations, there has been no consistent effort to support regime change in Syria.  

In 2001 Syria started cooperating with US intelligence in the "War on Terror." That's when the infamous special rendition programs first got going. By 2005, the CIA's special rendition relations with the Assad regime were such a well established fact that this notice was published in the Guardian:

The US embassy in London was forced to issue a correction yesterday to an interview given by the ambassador, Robert Tuttle, in which he claimed America would not fly suspected terrorists to Syria,
President-elect Barack Obama moved to reverse Bush's isolationist policies towards Syria within days of winning the election in November 2008, and I have already documented the development of this relationship in great detail in Barack Obama's Courtship of Bashar al-Assad

Most activist see US imperialism as having "clean hands" with regards to the conflict in Syria, as compared to say Bahrain or Egypt or Palestine, because the US had nothing to do with creating the current situation.

And while it is true that it is not American made cluster bombs that are raining down on the Syrian people, US imperialism historically has had a whole lot to do with the mess they find themselves in.

Click here for a list of my other Daily Kos dairies on Syria
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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    divineorder, renzo capetti

    Remember history, Clay Claiborne, Director Vietnam: American Holocaust - narrated by Martin Sheen

    by Clay Claiborne on Mon Jan 14, 2013 at 01:51:15 PM PST

  •  More on "Scorpio" the movie (0+ / 0-)

    There is the IMDB plot summary for Scorpio:

    Cross is an old hand at the CIA, in charge of assassinating high-ranking foreign personalities who are an obstacle to the policies of the USA. He often teams up with Frenchman Jean Laurier, alias "Scorpio", a gifted free-lance operative. One day, the CIA orders Scorpio to eliminate Cross -- and leaves him no choice but to obey. Scorpio is cold-blooded and very systematic; however, as a veteran agent, Cross knows many tricks. He can also rely upon a network of unusual personal contacts, some dating back to the troubled years preceding WWII. A lethal game of hide-and-seek is programmed, but what are the true motives of every single player?
    Here are two quotes from Scoprio that will give you the favor of it as it relates to the current subject matter:
    After Scorpio carries out the contract killing of a mythical Arab leader with ties to Moscow:
    Scorpio: If Zim was America's man, why kill him?
    Cross: For your education, Zim dead, dead at the hands of the Left serves his government and mine better that Zim alive, but it's not his death that's important, it's who will have appeared to kill him that counts.
    Cross: There's a room just down the hall from McLeod's office where grown men play a game. It's a bit like Monopoly, only more people get hurt. There's no good and no bad. The object is not to win, but not to lose - and the only rule is to stay in the game

    Remember history, Clay Claiborne, Director Vietnam: American Holocaust - narrated by Martin Sheen

    by Clay Claiborne on Mon Jan 14, 2013 at 01:52:31 PM PST

  •  Empires have no friends, just eternal interests (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FG, renzo capetti
    U.S. secretly backed Syrian opposition groups, cables released by WikiLeaks show

    The State Department has secretly financed Syrian political opposition groups and related projects, including a satellite TV channel that beams anti-government programming into the country, according to previously undisclosed diplomatic cables.
    ...
    The U.S. money for Syrian opposition figures began flowing under President George W. Bush after he effectively froze political ties with Damascus in 2005. The financial backing has continued under President Obama, even as his administration sought to rebuild relations with Assad. In January, the White House posted an ambassador to Damascus for the first time in six years.

    The cables, provided by the anti-secrecy Web site WikiLeaks, show that U.S. Embassy officials in Damascus became worried in 2009 when they learned that Syrian intelligence agents were raising questions about U.S. programs. Some embassy officials suggested that the State Department reconsider its involvement, arguing that it could put the Obama administration’s rapprochement with Damascus at risk.

    Syrian authorities “would undoubtedly view any U.S. funds going to illegal political groups as tantamount to supporting regime change,” read an April 2009 cable signed by the top-ranking U.S. diplomat in Damascus at the time. “A reassessment of current U.S.-sponsored programming that supports anti-[government] factions, both inside and outside Syria, may prove productive,” the cable said.
    ...

    The following is one of the best reports on the machinations of the US and Saudi's against Syria.
    The Redirection
    Is the Administration’s new policy benefitting our enemies in the war on terrorism?

    by Seymour M. Hersh March 5, 2007
    ...
    To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.
    ...
    Some of the core tactics of the redirection are not public, however. The clandestine operations have been kept secret, in some cases, by leaving the execution or the funding to the Saudis, or by finding other ways to work around the normal congressional appropriations process, current and former officials close to the Administration said.
    ...
    Nasr compared the current situation to the period in which Al Qaeda first emerged. In the nineteen-eighties and the early nineties, the Saudi government offered to subsidize the covert American C.I.A. proxy war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Hundreds of young Saudis were sent into the border areas of Pakistan, where they set up religious schools, training bases, and recruiting facilities. Then, as now, many of the operatives who were paid with Saudi money were Salafis. Among them, of course, were Osama bin Laden and his associates, who founded Al Qaeda, in 1988.

    This time, the U.S. government consultant told me, Bandar and other Saudis have assured the White House that “they will keep a very close eye on the religious fundamentalists. Their message to us was ‘We’ve created this movement, and we can control it.’ It’s not that we don’t want the Salafis to throw bombs; it’s who they throw them at—Hezbollah, Moqtada al-Sadr, Iran, and at the Syrians, if they continue to work with Hezbollah and Iran.”
    ...
    Fourth, the Saudi government, with Washington’s approval, would provide funds and logistical aid to weaken the government of President Bashir Assad, of Syria. The Israelis believe that putting such pressure on the Assad government will make it more conciliatory and open to negotiations. Syria is a major conduit of arms to Hezbollah. The Saudi government is also at odds with the Syrians over the assassination of Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese Prime Minister, in Beirut in 2005, for which it believes the Assad government was responsible. Hariri, a billionaire Sunni, was closely associated with the Saudi regime and with Prince Bandar. (A U.N. inquiry strongly suggested that the Syrians were involved, but offered no direct evidence; there are plans for another investigation, by an international tribunal.)
    ...
    Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/...

  •  The chickens are coming home to roost (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    renzo capetti

    Have the Saudis lost control of the forces they unleashed in Syria? We may be seeing a "recalibration" by the NATO/GCC countries in the coming weeks.

    Analysis: Study shows rise of al Qaeda affiliate in Syria
    January 8th, 2013

    A jihadist group with links to al Qaeda has become the most effective of the different factions fighting the regime, according to a new analysis, and now has some 5,000 fighters.

    The group is Jabhat al-Nusra, which was designated an al Qaeda affiliate by the United States government last month. It is led by veterans of the Iraqi insurgency "and has shown itself to be the principal force against Assad and the Shabiha," according to the study.

    CNN obtained an advance copy of the analysis, set to be released Tuesday by the Quilliam Foundation, a counterterrorism policy institute based in London.

    "The civil war in Syria is a gift from the sky for al-Nusra; they are coasting off its energy," the lead author of the report, Noman Benotman, told CNN.

    Benotman, a former prominent Libyan Jihadist who was personally acquainted with al Qaeda's top leaders including Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, consulted Western and regional intelligence officials as well as jihadists in Syria, including "al-Nusra sources."

    And at a time of optimism that the global threat from al Qaeda terrorism has crested, the study will fuel anxiety in Western capitals that a powerful al Qaeda affiliate may become entrenched in the heart of the Arab world, creating deep challenges in any post- al-Assad Syria, and a new threat to international security.

    Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind.
    Aleppo Dispatch: The Dark Side of the Syrian Opposition
    By Barak Barfi
    Jan 14 2013

    Why civilians are turning from the Free Syrian Army -- and into the arms of Islamist groups.
    ...
     Such troubled encounters explain why Syrians are increasingly gravitating toward Islamist brigades, such as Jabhat al-Nusra. "Before only a few people here supported them," explains a village council chief known locally by his patronymic Abu Umar. "But all the problems with the FSA have made them very popular."

    The United States recently labeled Jabhat al-Nusra a terrorist organization, claiming that it is a front for al-Qaeda in Iraq. But if Washington hoped the move would persuade other FSA units to distance themselves from the group, it grossly miscalculated. For in the Arab world, whatever America thinks is bad must be good. During my time in Aleppo, I was accosted daily by fighters and civilians demanding to know why the United States has blacklisted an organization that has done so much good in society.
    ...
    Islamic justice would likely have spared Ibrahim, the mentally challenged prisoner I interviewed, his anguish in the room across the hall from me. Though his captors offered me no proof of his crimes, during the night they continuously humiliated him to the point of tears. Behind thick steel doors the sounds of a grown man crying were all I could make out. And his torment has left Ibrahim just one more Syrian whom the FSA lost from their dwindling role of supporters.

  •  "Syria in the 2010's is the 1980's Afghan remix" (0+ / 0-)
    Syria: A jihadi paradise
    By Pepe Escobar
     Jan 11, 2013

    So Bashar al-Assad hath martially spoken - for the first time in seven months - predictably blaming the Syrian civil war on "terrorists" and "Western puppets".

    Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, he of the former "zero problems with our neighbors" policy, commented that Assad only reads the reports of his secret services. C'mon, Ahmet; Bashar may be no Stephen Hawking, but he's certainly getting his black holes right.
    ...
    This ain't Tora Bora

    If you want to know what's really going in Syria, look no further than Hezbollah secretary-general Sheikh Nasrallah. He does tell it like it is.

    Then there's what Ammar al-Musawi, Hezbollah's number 3 - as in their de facto foreign minister - told my Italian colleaguem Ugo Tramballi. The most probable post-Assad scenario, if there is one, will be "not a unitary state, but a series of emirates near the Turkish border, and somebody proclaiming an Islamic state". Hezbollah's intelligence - the best available on Syria - is adamant: "one third of the combatants in the opposition are religious extremists, and two-thirds of the weapons are under their control." The bottom line - this is a Western proxy war, with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) acting as a "vanguard" for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

    Asia Times Online readers have already known this for eons, as much as they know about the tectonic-plates-on-the-move fallacy of GCC autocracies promoting "democracy" in Syria. While the geologically blessed House of Saud has bribed every grain of sand in sight to be immunized against any whiff of Arab Spring, at least in Kuwait the winds of change are forcing the Al-Sabah family to accept a prime minister who is not an emir's puppet. Yes, petromonarchs; sooner or later you're all going down.

    As for those who ignore Musawi, they do it at their own peril; blowback is and will remain inevitable, "like in Afghanistan". Musawi adds, "Syria is not Tora Bora; it's on the Mediterranean coast, close to Europe". Syria in the 2010s is the 1980s Afghan remix - with exponential inbuilt blowback.
    ...
    What happens next? The new Syrian National Coalition is a joke. Those GCC bastions of democracy are now totally spooked by the jihadi tsunami. Russia drew the red line and NATO won't dare to bomb; Russians and Americans are now discussing details. And sooner or later Ankara will see the writing on the wall - and revert to a policy of at least minimizing trouble with the neighbors.
    Assad saw The Big Picture - clearly, thus his "confident" speech. It's now Assad against the jihadis. Unless, or until, the new CIA under Terminator John Brennan drones itself into the (shadow war) picture with a vengeance.

  •  So... (3+ / 0-)

    This looks quite a bit like the Revolution Observer's post from 17 Dec 2012, in both structure, content and specific links. Odd. On that note, Clay, did you ever identify who Abu Anas of the Revolution Observer is, or identify the ideological orientation and affiliations of that site? Always good to know who you're cribbing from...

    For anyone interested in a more sober assessment of the US/CIA role in the coup of 1949, I'd recommend Andrew Rathmell's article "Copeland and Za'im: Re-evaluating the Evidence" (1996).

    Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time. (Terry Pratchett)

    by angry marmot on Mon Jan 14, 2013 at 03:15:14 PM PST

  •  LOL (7+ / 0-)
    Most activist see US imperialism as having "clean hands" with regards to the conflict in Syria
    No.

    And no to the rest of your analysis which is a confused, incoherent mess. One moment Assad (pere ou fils) is a US stooge, then he's a Soviet stooge. I was getting whiplash from the changes. You call the Soviet camp anti-imperialist (!!!) when really it's just another empire which is just anti-US hegemony, you don't seem to get that there's a contradiction between 'courting' Assad (fils) on the one hand and then simultaneously funding opposition to him on the other etc. You also don't seem to get that power is complex and relational - sometimes you accept outcomes you don't like because the price of changing them is one you are unprepared to pay. Doesn't mean you support the outcome. Like I said, confused, incoherent mess.

  •  It is interesting that this post (4+ / 0-)

    is a rough summary of what representatives of the SNC say, but with the parts about President Obama's being a puppet of Israel and his doing Israel's bidding in cooperation with President al-Assad (also an Israeli puppet) in a secret plan to weaken Syria left out.

    Lamb chop, we can quibble what to call it, but I think we can both agree it's creepy.

    by InAntalya on Mon Jan 14, 2013 at 04:28:05 PM PST

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