Part 1: A Quick Overview (2011-2014)
By Patrick BAHZAD
It has been more than four years now since the start of Syrian civil war. Some 200 000 dead and 4 000 000 refugees later, you might think the US could have come up with a comprehensive and reasonable strategy for putting an end to the bloodbath. You would be wrong though. The war is not over and various factors play a role in its continuation. On the one hand, these factors are linked to local, regional and international interests and players. But what also plays into the hands of those who want to avoid a peaceful settlement, is the failure of US strategies with regard to the conflict. This is not just a question of focusing on ISIS first and taking care of Syria second. You can't solve one without considering the implications on the other. But in Syria in particular, the policy of supporting so-called "moderates" is one more reason why US influence on the outcome of the war is dwindling. Yet, all of this could have been foreseen and avoided. Chances are however, US failure in those areas is going to continue.
Everything had started with the tidal wave of supposedly democratic revolutions that came along with the "Arab Spring" of 2011. Sweeping across North-Africa and the Middle-East, a grassroots movement of young people craving for democracy, modernization, economic opportunity and basically Western style freedom proved to be unstoppable, or so we were told.
Tunisia and Egypt showed the way. Others followed. In some cases, like in Libya, we had to give them a hand. It took a little longer, as well as some serious NATO airstrikes, but it worked out fine in the end. Once Gaddafi was gone, most of us looked away ... Another "Mission Accomplished" feeling. Libya was free and that was the end of the story as far as the West was concerned. The gates were wide open for a new dawn from Tripoli to Benghazi. One year later though, Benghazi was in the headlines again, for an alltogether different matter. But that is another story.
The "Arab Spring" as model for regime change in Syria
The blue-print for these "Arab Spring" revolutions should have worked in Syria as well, according to the Beltway experts. Bashar al-Assad, the ex-ophtalmologist turned "butcher of Damascus", wouldn't last much longer than the Ben Ali's and Mubarak's of this world. From the first semi-peaceful demonstrations in a small city on the border to Jordan, to the first fire-fights against a rag-tag army of allegedly secularist freedom fighters, it took only a couple of weeks.
All over the summer of 2011, and especially after the ouster of Gaddafi in Libya, the mainstream media had nothing better to do than feed us videos and accounts of anonymous rebel groups, with exotic names and less structure than the Mexican army of 1910, fighting against Evil. The supporters of covert regime change – whether they were in the Gulf, in Turkey, in Western Europe or in the US – quickly realized the need for a unified command, both from a military and from a PR point of view.