Syria and Iran are targeted. Regime change is planned. At issue is replacing them with client ones, controlling the region's strategic resources, and depriving key rivals China and Russia from access.
Pressure keeps building relentlessly. For months, Syria's been ravaged by externally generated violence. Its economy's also suffered enormously. According to a Damascus University assessment:
"The general financial situation of the country is suffering from the inability of the state budget because of the inability of the general revenue to cover expenses."
Moreover, conditions ahead look worse because tax revenues are half what's needed. Economic sanctions also impede oil revenues. As a result, the estimated 2012 budget deficit will be about 529 billion Syrian pounds ($9 billion dollars) out of a total $1,316 billion budget. A 40% revenue shortfall amounts to 18% of GDP.
Combined with accumulated deficits, financial strain is hugely disruptive. Syria's been cut off from credit markets. Traditionally, Central Bank loans funded deficits. However, sufficient reserves are lacking. Prices keep rising. Purchasing power further erodes. In the past six years, it's fallen 40 - 50%.
The solution requires banks and corporate Syria to help. They're able to provide considerable government funding from their "enormous profits during the economic reform and liberalization process." Doing this can be done through laws specifying amounts, rates and terms.
Syria can only raise 60% of budget needs. It can't borrow so needs other ways to cover the shortfall. Currently, 59 Syrian pounds = one US dollar. So far, economic collapse has been prevented. However, it's coming without help, and with it greater pressure on an already beleaguered regime.
Washington Intervention Looms
In mid-December, State Department official Fred Hof called Syria a "dead man walking," saying it can't hang on much longer. More serious are reports of Washington preparing to intervene.
Options include a no-fly zone, a humanitarian corridor or safe zone along the Syrian/Turkish border, increasing aid to insurgent forces, bring in greater numbers, tightening sanctions further, perhaps a blockade, and if other measures fail, then war.
In fact, under international law, blockades are acts of war. They're variously defined as:
- surrounding a nation or objective with hostile forces;
- measures to isolate an enemy;
- encirclement and besieging;
- preventing the passage in or out of supplies, military forces or aid in time of or as an act of war; and
- an act of naval warfare to block access to an enemy's coastline and deny entry to all vessels and aircraft.
So far, it's not imposed, but anything ahead is possible.
On December 27, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said:
"If the Syrian regime continues to resist and disregard Arab League efforts, the international community will consider other means to protect Syrian civilians."
An opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) policy paper titled, "Safe Area for Syria," calls for armed intervention, saying:
"The (SNC) is entering a critical phase in the Syrian revolution whereby the hope of a continued campaign of passive resistance to an exceptionally brutal and unrestrained regime is becoming more and more akin to a suicide pact."
The paper was produced by the US funded London-based Strategic Research and Communication Center. Its head, Ausama Monajed, formerly ran Barada TV. Covert State Department funding backs it. It's closely affiliated with pro-Western Syrian exiles. It beams anti-government propaganda to Syria.
For now, Washington's relying on Arab League monitors to provide reasons for direct intervention. Regimes headed by pro-Western despots condoned Libya's ravaging, including massacres too great to ignore. Since March, they supported Western-backed anti-Syrian insurgents.
Nonetheless, at first, monitors reported calm in Homs. According to Sudanese General Mohamed al-Dabi, its mission head:
"There were some places where the situation was not good. But there wasn't anything frightening at least while we were there. Things were calm and there were no clashes."
On December 31, Press TV reported 150 monitors saying Syrian officials were cooperating. As al-Dabi said, they found normal conditions in Homs, the epicenter of unrest. It confirms independent reports of an externally generated insurgency if violence there resumes.
Al-Dabi also said more investigation is needed. Ahead of year end, monitors headed for Idlib, Hama and Daraa. They'll also cover Damascus, its suburbs and surrounding areas. Complying with Arab League conditions, Syria released 1,180 prisoners in November. In late December, another 755 were freed.
Russia urged Syrian compliance. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said:
"We constantly work with the Syrian leadership calling on it to fully cooperate with observers from the Arab League and to create work condition that are as comfortable and free as possible."
Expect future monitor reports to comply with Washington's wishes. On December 31, Haaretz said Arab League observers "called on the government to remove 'immediately' snipers from rooftops of buildings."
According to a delegation source:
"The observers saw the snipers with their own eyes in Douma," a town on the outskirts of Damascus. In fact, insurgents positioned on rooftops and elsewhere are responsible for much violence. They're killing civilians and security forces.
Expect Arab League monitors to report otherwise. If not Al-Dabi, then others sent to say what Washington wants to hear. Al-Dabi will be discredited or ignored. Western media scoundrels will regurgitate propaganda. When America goes to war or plans it, pack journalism follows in lockstep.
A Final Comment
Increasing Syrian destabilization looms. Expect intervention to follow, perhaps a blockade or war like against Libya. On December 27, the Mossad-connected DEBKAfile said Qatar was involved in building a "Sunni intervention force of Libyan, Iraqi terrorists against Assad."
Numbering 2,500, they include 1,000 Islamic Fighting Group Libya (IFGL) Al Qaeda-linked insurgents. In Libya, Qatar actively aided NATO, providing weapons, training and communications, linking insurgents with NATO forces. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Jordan and Egypt were also involved. At least the Saudis, Jordanians, Turks, Israelis, and Lebanon's Hariri March 14 alliance are involved in Syria.
Reports indicate Tripoli insurgent military commander, Abdelhakim Belhadj (a former Al Qaeda leader), now heads anti-Assad elements in Syria.
On December 19, Voltaire Network's Thierry Meyssan reported eyewitnesses saying they survived attacks by foreign gangs. They called them Iraqis, Jordanians, Libyans and Pashtuns. He also said other reports suggest up to 1,500 Al Qaeda linked Islamic Fighting Group in Libya insurgents operating in Syria.
In 2012, pressure's building for a confrontational showdown. If Assad's successfully ousted, Iran's likely next. General war may follow if China and Russia intervene to protect their regional interests.
Extreme dangers can't be underestimated, especially if nuclear weapons are used. More reports will follow this volatile situation.
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|Timothy V. Gatto|