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Sam Hamad

Syria: The ground zero of a new world order

"The US under Obama's watch abandoned the democratic opposition in Syria" writes Sam Hamad [Getty]

Date of publication: 23 November, 2016

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Comment: Obama's failure to support democratic forces in Syria has helped create the conditions for 21st century fascism to sweep across the West, writes Sam Hamad

Speaking in Peru recently, outgoing President Barack Obama rightfully warned that Aleppo was about to fall to pro-Assad forces due to the backing of Russia and Iran for Assad's rump state.

All of Obama's warnings are apt, but part of his statement ought to have left any supporter of the Syrian cause flabbergasted. 

He went on to claim that given the quantity and quality of Russian-Iranian support for Assad, "it was very hard to see a way in which even a trained and committed moderate opposition could hold ground for long periods of time". 

Obama doesn't have a bad memory and he isn't confused.  He has to offer this rewriting of history as a distorted and loaded mea culpa. Obama knows very well, that the situation that now engulfs Aleppo - the genocidal horror that is now playing out in that city and across much of Syria - could have so easily been averted by him. 

He has to tacitly blame the lack of what he calls a "moderate" and "committed" opposition for the situation, as he knows the alternative is for the blame to sit firmly with him and his administration.

Despite the obligatory panegyrics that might flow once Obama leaves office, when he gives way to Donald Trump, somewhere deep down he'll know that it was his policy towards Syria that led to this truly terrifying moment in world politics.

One might think that those of us who have for years spoken about the centrality of the Syrian revolution and how its significance and the consequences of its struggles would reach far beyond its borders are mere monomaniacs - that our will to attach Syria to the rise of Trump is merely part of this single-minded obsession. 

But simply look at the world around us today compared to 2011. 

It's perfectly true that Bush and Blair's "war on terror" made an unstable world all the more unstable and the dimensions of such a war - whether through its malfeasance or its recklessness - unleashed extremes, but the circumstances of genocide in Syria have allowed dangerously bubbling waters to boil over. 

The circumstances of genocide in Syria have allowed dangerously bubbling waters to boil over

Contrary to Obama's claims, the US under his watch abandoned the democratic opposition in Syria and, more sinisterly, began to acquiesce to the logic of the fascist Assad regime and its imperialist backers.

In 2012, before any Russian bomb fell on a Syrian school, house or hospital, but while Assad was ramping up his twin policies of extermination of the opposition in areas under his control and the mass ethnic cleansing of liberated areas through aerial bombardment, the US decided not to implement a no-fly zone (NFZ). 

If the US had been able to stop this cleansing via an NFZ, hundreds of thousands would still be alive, millions would have been spared displacement and democratic forces would've been able to unseat Assad.

Instead, Obama watched as millions of Syrians fled first into neighbouring countries and then into Europe by land or sea. In Europe, their mere presence has been seized upon by fascists to spread their Islamophobic message and otherise them as threats to Western Christian civilisation. 

Coupled with this is the rise of the Islamic State group (IS). If Obama's rewriting of history is to prevail, then the rise of IS will be seen as a failure of the Syrian opposition, but the very opposite is true. In early 2014, after popular protests against the growing threat of IS among revolutionary Syrians and their attacks on rebel forces, the Syrian rebels launched an offensive against IS, advertising the fact that they stood opposed to this counterrevolutionary menace. 

The offensive was initially successful, but, as is often the case, Assad pounced upon the opportunity to exploit the under-resourced rebels. The rebels were crying out for international support against the greater evil of Assad and his lesser twin IS, but the US wasn't interested. They watched as IS overran rebel positions, including Raqqa, thus paving the way for their sweep of Northern Iraq and the creation of their "caliphate". 

This racist connection between refugees and IS has been encouraged by Assad and Putin's propaganda

This has been a dream come true for the far right. While IS are a bigger threat to other Muslims and religious minorities in the Middle East, and while they have attacked the Syrian opposition more than any they have Assad (and vice versa), they do of course pose a threat to Europe, as we saw in Paris and Brussels. 

But the most dangerous long term consequence of this in the West lies in the manner in which fascists have been able to capitalise on this and use it to further demonise refugees in a vicious loop, as well as to exacerbate tensions with mostly home grown Muslim populations. 

This racist connection between refugees and IS has been encouraged by Assad and Putin's propaganda, as well as the fact that much of these insurgent fascist movements, as with Trump, have links with or are supportive of Putin. 

This is precisely what we have seen with Trump's ascendency, such as his very serious policy proposal to create a national registry for Muslims or his vow to ban Muslim immigration.

One of his key national security advisors claimed that fear of Islam was "rational", due to Islamic terror, and argued that it would be permissible to kill the families of "Islamic terror suspects". This is the new reality the world is dealing with thanks to the open sore of the genocidal war being waged by Assad, Russia and Iran in Syria.

In the UK, the vote for Brexit occurred due to a wave of pre-existing anti-immigrant sentiment exacerbated by the exploitation of the Syrian refugee crisis and the threat of IS by the Leave campaign. We see the fascist Marine Le Pen leading in polls to become the next president of France, where her Islamophobic message is almost identical to that of Trump's in a country that is, if anything, much more primed for fascism. 

Trump and his fascist comrades across the West demand refugees to be exploited for political gain, while Putin and Assad continue to supply them

We see the fascistic regime of Viktor Orban in Hungary become the vanguard for the racist, Islamophobic dehumanisation and persecution of refugees.

This is the legacy that Barack Obama leaves behind. When he hands the keys of the White House over to Trump, he'll be passing on his legacy of passive destruction to a man who actively supports the genocidal forces in Syria and thus provides the conditions for many more refugees to be made and a recruitment dream for IS. 

This is a twisted relationship of supply and demand - Trump and his fascist comrades across the West demand refugees to be exploited for political gain, while Putin and Assad continue to supply them.  

It would be absurd to suggest all of this could be traced to Obama, but his failure to support democratic forces in Syria has created the conditions through which the 21st century fascism can sweep across the West. 

This is precisely why it's so important to not allow Obama and his supporters to rewrite history. The philosopher Walter Benjamin once wrote that "behind every fascism, there is a failed revolution" - this is directly true for Syria, but it is the failure to support a revolution that has been the decisive factor for the concretisation of the 21st century fascism.

One need not wait for this fascism and its holocausts to arrive - they are already here. They are here in Syria, where genocidal forces triumph, and they are already here in Fortress Europe, where the increasingly brutal social relations of the refugee crisis play out daily at the hands of so-called "liberals" and "democrats". 

More people in Syria die or flee as they are engulfed by fascists; more people wash up dead on the shores of the Mediterranean; more people are once again herded into camps in the heart of Europe - this is the blueprint for the new world order. 



Sam Hamad is an independent Scottish-Egyptian activist and writer.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff. 

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