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Syria, the United States and The El Salvador Option (Part One)

June 18, 2012

1916 secret Sykes Picot Agreement which carved up the Middle East between France and Great Britain. Is there another Sykes Picot in the making for Syria and the Middle East today?

Syria, the United States, and the Salvador Option: Part One

(commentary in three parts)

by Ibrahim Kazerooni and Rob Prince

(also posted at Foreign Policy In Focus  and US Labor Against War)

Every day the news from Syria is more and more somber as the country and the region continue their journey to unknown and more dangerous realms.  Syria appears headed for “beyond explosion”, for implosion and NATO foreign military intervention that could result in unpredictable dangerous consequences.

The most recent news reports are alarming. A curious person asking about the situation would get the following predictable reply: Syria is on the verge of civil war; it is run by a ruthless leader that violates human rights on a biblical scale and needs to be removed so that the `peace loving’ Syrian people can live in harmony and tranquility and it appears the only way to achieve this goal is through yet another NATO-led military `humanitarian’ intervention under the auspices of the United States.

Stepping back from the official (and Fox’s) version of the Syrian analysis, and remembering a few historical facts, changes the picture considerably.

  • Through repeated presidential doctrines, U.S. administrations – starting at least with Truman – have made it clear that the Middle East holds a strategic position in U.S. regional and global policy
  • It’s an historical fact that to protect those strategically declared interests, the United States will partner with anyone from Netanyahu in Israel to Erdogan in Turkey, to Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, to Hosni Mubarek in Egypt, to Osama Bin Laden (when it serves U.S. purposes)and do anything – kosher or not – .
  • Over the years since World War Two, the United States has repeatedly engaged in the destabilization of unwanted regimes, through various means (economic boycotts, bribes, CIA clandestine operations, infiltrating foreign militaries).

All this is done to change regimes that oppose U.S. interests in one way or the other! Why think that the basic paradigm has changed in the case of Syria? The goal remains the same; only the methodology– we would argue – is slightly different. Old wine, new bottle.

Let’s look at just a few pertinent facts:

  1. The destabilization of Syria and Lebanon as sovereign countries has been on the drawing board of the US-NATO-Israel military alliance for at least ten years. Action against Syria is part of a “military roadmap”, a sequencing of military operations that is being put into operation. According to former NATO Commander General Wesley Clark–the Pentagon had clearly identified a total of seven countries, namely Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Somalia and Sudan” (Pentagon official quoted by General Wesley Clark in Winning Modern Wars[page 130]).
  2. The overthrow of Syria’s government is a premeditated US plot which was instituted long before the outset of the Arab Spring. A concerted campaign to isolate, destabilize and overthrow the government of Syria began as early as 2002, a year after Clark was informed of the Pentagon’s plan to blitzkrieg through the Middle East. It was then that Secretary of State John Bolton added Syria to the growing “Axis of Evil.” It would later be revealed that Bolton’s threats against Syria included covert funding and support for opposition groups inside of Syria spanning both the Bush and Obama administrations. In 2011, State Department spokesperson Mark Toner  remarked that the US has been funding Syrian opposition groups since at least 2005 and the funding continues until today.  In an April 2011 AFP report (14), Michael Posner, the assistant US Secretary of State for Human Rights and Labor, stated that the “US government has budgeted $50 million in the last two years to develop new technologies to help activists protect themselves from arrest and prosecution by authoritarian governments.”
  3. A Washington Post report went on to explain that the US “organized training sessions for 5,000 activists in different parts of the world. A session held in the Middle East then gathered activists from Tunisia, Egypt, Syria and Lebanon who returned to their countries with the aim of training their colleagues there,” The same Michael Posner would add, “They went back and there’s a ripple effect.” That ripple effect of course is the “Arab Spring,” and in Syria’s case, the impetus for the current unrest threatening to unhinge the nation and invite in foreign intervention.”(emphasis added). What we have here is not a humanitarian gesture to democratize Syria, but to the contrary, a pro-active policy of regime change similar to what happened in Iraq and Afghanistan that was planned many years ago, the only thing missing was the proper context to implement the plan.

As every effort by the U.S. administration so far has not brought down the Syrian regime, this leads us to posit that the next step in the sequence of events – as it happened in Iraq and Afghanistan – is the implementation of the Salvador Option. This operation under U.S. supervision and support was perfected in El Salvador at the cost of 75,000 lives and in Guatemala with several hundred thousand deaths in the 1980s

In Part Two, we will discuss this further.


Ibrahim Kazerooni is completing a joint phd program at the Iliff School of Theology and University of Denver’s Korbel School of International Studies.

Rob Prince is a lecturer of International Studies at the University of Denver’s Korbel School of International Studies.

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