Writing in The Guardian, Charlie Skelton has produced a remarkable piece of journalism aimed at unearthing the connections among the Syrian opposition and their friends in high places in the West ( “The Syrian opposition: who’s doing the talking?“). The take home message is that there are two groups of non-Syrians who are promoting regime change: globalists and neocons—two powerful forces indeed. One can certainly understand that there would be disaffected Syrians—there are dissidents in every regime, and especially so in a society riven with religious and ethnic divisions with a government dominated by an ethnic and religious minority, the Alawites. But the ever greater success of the insurgency seems unlikely without powerful allies in the West.
Among the globalists, there is Bassma Kodmani of the Syrian National Council and her ties to the Bilderberg group and the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), and in particular, the CFR’s US/Middle East Project headed by Brent Scowcroft. Skelton also notes that Zbigniew Brzezinski and Peter Sutherland are on the board of the US/MEP.
Sutherland is chairman of Goldman Sachs International and is a major player in the Bilderberg group. He is particularly loathsome character who, as “UN special representative on migration,” has been a strong advocate for the dissolution of all traces of European national identity based on a common peoplehood and a common culture (“EU should ‘undermine national homogeneity’ says UN migration chief.“) Sutherland cynically argues that the EU must have high levels of migration in order to care for an aging population, in the belief that that might be appealing to native Europeans. But it’s clear that he sees multiculturalism and the dissolution of European cultural and ethnic identities as intrinsically positive goals. As indicated in the article, these goals are to be pursued even if the migrants take jobs from natives.
Scowcroft’s US/MEP is quite critical of Israel. For example, it now features an article, “Israel in peril,” discussing Israel’s “irrational” and “suicidal” policies in creating “Bantustans” on the West Bank. This puts them at odds with the neocons. Indeed, Bill Kristol recently boasted about how a major accomplishment of the neocons was to get people like Scowcroft and other “old-fashioned Arabists” out of the Republican Party.
Centered mainly on pro-Israel advocacy, the neocons mentioned by Skelton are an influential contingent in the opposition to the Syrian government. The most obvious motivation is that Syria is allied with Iran, Israel’s arch-enemy. (Dennis Ross, a longtime pro-Israel activist [he was head of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy], should be included in this category.) Prominent neocons mentioned by Skelton include Michael Weiss (“the director of communications and public relations at the Henry Jackson Society, an ultra-ultra-hawkish foreign policy thinktank.” Henry Jackson is a sainted figure in neocon lore (see here, p. 27ff), hiring figures such as Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz as foreign policy aides well before they became synonymous with promoting eternal war on behalf of Israel. Other luminaries of the Henry Jackson Society mentioned in the article are a Who’s Who of neocons: Perle, Bill Kristol, Joshua Muravchik, and Robert Kagan. In a manner quite analogous to the role of Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith and Abram Schulsky in creating the WMD myth in the lead up to the war in Iraq (see previous link, p. 48ff), Weiss’s function seems to be to produce atrocity propaganda for the media. For example,
On 1 January, Nick Cohen wrote in the Observer [in an op-ed titled, “The west has a duty to intervene in Syria; Those who continue to appease President Bashar al-Assad also have blood on their hands”: “To grasp the scale of the barbarism, listen to Hamza Fakher, a pro-democracy activist, who is one of the most reliable sources on the crimes the regime’s news blackout hides.”
He goes on to recount Fakher’s horrific tales of torture and mass murder. Fakher tells Cohen of a new hot-plate torture technique that he’s heard about: “imagine all the melting flesh reaching the bone before the detainee falls on the plate”. The following day, Shamik Das, writing on “evidence-based” progressive blog Left Foot Forward, quotes the same source: “Hamza Fakher, a pro-democracy activist, describes the sickening reality …” – and the account of atrocities given to Cohen is repeated.
It turns out the Fakher is deeply enmeshed in the Henry Jackson Society.
Given support from both the US/MEP and the neocons, it’s not surprising that the US government is deeply involved in supporting the Syrian opposition. For example, Skelton notes that the US State Department has funded the Democracy Council which supports opposition propaganda programs and exile groups. It is not at all surprising that there are credible reports (see also here and Skelton’s article) that the CIA is involved in providing military aid for the rebels.