Rethink stance on Syrian crisis

Column | Swimming Upstream

Amid the latest onslaught of tragic images and videos from war-torn Syria, the steady beating of Washington’s war drums has begun to sound. Reports of increased fighting and violence continue to pour out of Syria, and the establishment media pundits are jumping at the chance to uncritically promote U.S. involvement in yet another internal conflict in the Mediterranean. Don’t fall for it.

See, they’ve tried this before — and I’m not just talking about Libya. Back in the late 1950s, the United States and the United Kingdom teamed up with an entire group of shady characters to overthrow the Syrian government. The plan was called Operation Straggle, and it involved arming and supporting rebel and opposition forces from Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Lebanon in their quest for regime change in order to “swing Syria on to the right path,” as described by the United Kingdom’s then-ambassador in Baghdad, Michael Wright. The idea was to use opposition groups like the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood to provoke confusion and unrest in Syria and the Middle East. Also included in the plot was the goal to “attach Syria to the Iraqi state,” and to prevent Egypt and Syria from forming an alliance.

Officials in both the United States and the United Kingdom soon realized that the time was not right to go ahead with the plan. Foreign Secretary Selwyn Lloyd suggested, “[W]e may want to go further at a later stage in connection with the development of the fertile crescent.” They knew that direct U.S. and U.K. support for radical movements like the Syrian Brotherhood or Western military action would be far too risky, “because of Arab nationalist reactions, international repercussions and the possible strengthening in Syria of those elements who are against us.” The Brotherhood had recently gained serious ground against the regime. But Operation Straggle was never implemented, mainly because the Syrian government caught wind of the plot. They even chased the Central Intelligence Agency out of Syria. But did that stop us? Not a chance, America.

We were back in action by 1957 with the Preferred Plan and Operation Wappen. Syria had just signed a deal with the Soviet Union for technical aid and training, and we all know what that means. The same rule applies today as it did back then: If we can’t have it, nobody can. But where, you might ask, do you turn when you need to stir up more trouble in Damascus? You guessed it — the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Brotherhood was to play a critical role in starting an internal revolt to get the ball rolling for the overthrow of the Syrian government. The plan called for collaboration between Western, Iraqi, Lebanese and Jordanian intelligence agencies to send arms and aid to “political factions with paramilitary or other actionist capabilities.” It even called for assassinations and deadly false-flag operations to be conducted in Syria and blamed on political enemies — like we did with Mossadegh in Iran — and used to justify military intervention.

Like Operation Straggle, the Preferred Plan was never put into action. This was mostly because of the fact that Syria’s pesky neighbors wouldn’t agree to go along with the plot. Instead, the West settled on a policy of “containment plus,” involving the use of exiles, rebels, opposition groups and pro-Western Arab leaders to keep Syria under constant political pressure and turmoil.

The moral of the story: Just because CNN and company have decided to shamelessly promote John Kerry’s plan to give $60 million in “non-lethal assistance” to the Syrians, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. We have our own problems to deal with, here at home. So before we send another fortune to the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood or the Al Nusra Front, maybe we should think about sending some “non-lethal assistance” into our own domestic warzones.

Joe Amditis is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in criminal justice and political science with minors in psychology and criminology.

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