Syria burning and why Filipinos should assert the nation’s sovereignty

bu-op-icons-benjieBy BENJIE OLIVEROS
Bulatlat perspective

Syria is in the center of world news because of the migrant crisis it precipitated, the devastation the four-year civil war has been causing that nation of 22.85 million, with 330,000 people dead, 7 million internally displaced and 5 million refugees, and the number of countries intervening in the war.

In 2015, an estimated 600,000 refugees have made their way to Europe, majority of whom came from Syria. The four-year civil war shows no signs of ending soon. Russia has been supporting and propping up the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. It has been launching airstrikes at territories controlled by the Free Syrian Army rebels, as well as that of the ISIS. The US has been arming and financing the rebels and has been allowing Saudi Arabia and Turkey to channel arms to ISIS. The US has declared that there would be no peace in Syria without the removal of Assad.

As of the latest count, 10 countries have launched airstrikes in Syria, in support of the Syrian government, against it, or against ISIS. These countries are Russia, the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Australia, Turkey, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan. Saudi Arabia, which already has troops fighting in Yemen, has offered to send ground troops to Syria purportedly to fight ISIS.

In an interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! Rashid Khalidi, a Palestinian-American and a professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University, described what is happening in Syria now as “a civil war that’s developed into a quite massive proxy war.”

Charles Glass, former ABC News chief Middle East correspondent who wrote a book “Syria Burning: ISIS and the Death of the Arab Spring,” described the situation in Syria as a civil war between and among the Assad government and different armed opposition groups, a proxy war between Russia and the US, and a regional sectarian war between Saudi Arabia, a Sunni government, which has been arming both the Free Syrian Army and ISIS and Iran, a Shia government, which has been supporting the Syrian Army.

Syria is the only Russian client state in the Middle East while the US has been able to subject to regime change all governments in the Middle East that have been opposing it, the latest of which were Libya, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Syria has been the only hold out.

It is ironic that Hafez al-Assad’s – the current president’s father – rise to power was the product of a CIA operation that overthrew the elected government of Syria in 1949. The US initiated a regime change in Syria to ensure that there would be no resistance and preconditions to the construction of an oil pipeline from Saudi Arabia to Syria. But this destabilized the Syrian government, with coup d’états occurring from 1949 t0 1970, until the older Assad took the reins of government.

The involvement of Russia and the US, as well as Saudi Arabia and Iran, complicated by six other countries, is the reason why there is no end in sight for the war in Syria. The people of Syria have, in effect, lost control over their own destiny. They have become mere pawns in the global conflict between the US and Russia, and the regional war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The worst part of it is that it is the Syrian people who are the main casualties of this war. It is the Syrian people who have been suffering most.

When Filipino progressives have been warning against the country being dragged into a war not of its own making because of its unequal military agreements with the US, specifically the US-RP Mutual Defense Treaty, the Visiting Forces Agreement, the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement, and more recently, the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), they were not talking from a theoretical point of view, but from actual historical experience. And the mess that Syria is in now is an example of what progressives have been warning about. The US and Russia have not only been interfering in the internal affairs of Syria, in gross violation of the sovereignty of the Syrian people. The US and Russia have dragged the Syrian nation in a global war for economic, political and military dominance, and it is the Syrian people who have been suffering.

When the EDCA was signed, the Aquino government would want to make us believe that we would be able to use the US to protect and support the country as we assert our claims over certain oil-rich islands in the West Philippine Sea. On the contrary, it is the US who is now using us to justify its pivot to Asia and to force China to kowtow to its interests. And if we do not fight our client state status, the Filipino people would not only lose control over our own destiny, we would be sacrificial lambs before the altar of US corporate and geopolitical interests. (

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