What You Probably Do Not Know about the Syrian Conflict.

It’s possible that the matter of Syria and chemical weapons is a distraction and not really the main issue, although it may have ended up serving the interests of Russia. Let me explain.

The Syrian rebels want to overthrow Assad and some may have high aspirations about democracy and regime change, but a large geopolitical energy issue is being played out here. It’s the kind of story that does not interest most people, nor get much attention in the press. God only knows that religious conflict, evil dictators, chemical weapons, and Muslim sects killing each other is far more interesting, not to mention the grandiose abstractions about democracy development.

In 2016 what is called the Islamic pipeline is set to open. This will be the largest gas pipeline in the Middle East and is being constructed by Iran, Iraq, and Syria. It is designed to run from the south of Iran to Europe and it will weave its way through Iraq, Syria, South Lebanon and the Mediterranean. As you might imagine, the pipeline has been politicized with some Muslims calling it a Shiite pipeline that will serve Shiite interests. There are more than a few journalists and commentators who have suggested that the current conflict in Syria is highly related to the pipeline politics. There are claims that Sunnis will be disadvantaged; Al Qaeda will be resurgent; Saudi Arabia wants to eliminate Assad; and Middle Eastern countries want to deny Russia. You can read more about the pipeline here.

Russia is such a big player and so prominent in the news about the Syrian conflict because they currently supply a very large portion of Europe’s energy. The new pipeline poses a threat to Russian capabilities and supply orders. Qatar would like to see Assad relieved of his duties because they proposed a gas pipeline that would traverse Syria and ship energy to Europe. Assad nixed the deal and instead signed a deal with the Russians.

A few people, mostly the alternative media, have thoroughly dismissed the issue of Assad and chemical weapons and suggested that the entire matter is about the natural gas pipeline. The charge goes that Saudi Arabia wants to remove Assad and install a favorable government which will allow the Saudis to control the flow of energy. Russia, on the other hand, supports Assad partially because he helped block the flow of natural gas to Europe which is helpful for the profits of Gazprom.

You want to hear the left-wing conspiracy theorist on this issue? Check out the site called Who Is Really behind the Syrian War? The reasoning on this site is quite poor because the commentator selectively chooses some information and interviews and uses these as authoritative when they are clearly ideologically motivated. Not only that, the assumption is that the United States and Israel are intentionally trying to destabilize the Middle East and there is a sort of conspiracy going on to topple various governments for energy reason. Again, the person who controls the site makes connections between people and countries that are unjustified in the service of some sort of conspiracy theory about Israel being concerned with the greater Israel, and the United States doing Israel’s bidding.

The news stories are full of claims about how Obama has been outmaneuvered by Putin. Putin has been close with Assad for a long time and even helped him acquire chemical weapons. The Russians have a real stake in the relationship with Syria and have probably made promises to the Syrian regime that they would help them manage the United States. It is rare that the Russians would become so involved in directly challenging the US with respect to military activity. But Putin has done just that. He has blamed chemical attacks on the rebels rather than the government, sent his representatives out to lobby the U.S. Congress, and promised to play a more supportive role in the United Nations.

Say what you will about Putin and his political and diplomatic maneuvers, it remains the case that Obama did what American citizens wanted him to do which was to avoid military intervention in Syria. Obama is to be applauded for accepting the possibility of a diplomatic solution, avoiding military action, satisfying the interests of most Americans, and “keeping the peace.”

About Donald Ellis

Professor emeritus at the University of Hartford.

Posted on September 17, 2013, in Political Conflict and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on What You Probably Do Not Know about the Syrian Conflict..

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