28.10.2015 Author: Salman Rafi Sheikh

The Western Reaction to Assad’s Visit is Dipped in Propaganda

3453454322The (Western supported) war in Syria has seen, since its start in 2011, many upheavals, with the latest twist coming with Assad’s surprise visit to Moscow. However, just as the West is struggling to come to terms with Russia over politically solving the crisis, Assad’s visit, too, has been received with a lot of suspicion and consequently mis-represented through a careful projection of it as an instance of “Russian intervention” in Syria and beyond. As a New York Times report noted:

The surprise visit — evidently Mr. Assad’s first trip outside Syria since the civil war began there in 2011 — highlighted how the political and military horizon of the long war of attrition has shifted drastically because of Russia’s intervention.”

Manipulation through propagation as it obviously is, the projection of the crisis in Syria as basically a “war of attrition” is heavily inclined towards exonerating the West of the sinister role it has fundamentally played in actually throwing Syria and the Mid-East in a perpetual state of crisis and destruction. As a matter of fact, such a projection of the War in Syria and Russia’s legitimate role as “intervention” is a Western attempt to revive the political language of the Cold war era and thus make, arguably wrong though, a case against supposed Russian “expansionism” in the twenty-first century.

While Assad’s visit to Moscow—first ever since the beginning of the conflict—is certainly a sign of his growing confidence as Syria’s legitimate ruler, it certainly is a piece of “bad news” for the West which continues to present Assad not only as an “illegitimate” but also a “brutal” ruler. As a White Hose spokesperson noted in his press briefing after Assad’s visit:

“We view the red carpet welcome for Assad, who has used chemical weapons against his own people, at odds with the stated goal by the Russians for a political transition in Syria,”

From the White House reaction, it is quite obvious that the U.S. does not consider and nor is it ready to take Assad as a part of any future political transition in Syria. Political transition, if it were to take place at all, continues to be projected by the West as something ‘minus-Assad programme.’ It is, in fact, a continuation of the notorious “regime change” policy that the U.S. has been following since the end of the Second World War. Only now it is called change through “civil war.”

While telling the world his purpose of the visit, Assad said that if it were not for Russian air campaign against terrorists, ISIS and other organizations might have spread their tentacles far and wide. However, for the US, the purpose of the visit was not to “express gratitude” but to aid Russia, directly and indirectly, in spreading its political influence in the Middle East as a counter-weight against the US’ erstwhile position in the region. The Western propaganda in this behalf has been going on all around for quite some time now.

For instance, it was just a few days before Assad’s visit that the US based Foreign Affairs journal issued its latest edition that said on its cover page “The Post-American Middle East” and end of “Pan-Americanism.” While it is a moot question if the US’ own “interventionism” has come to an end or not, it is quite obvious that such a representation certainly helps construct the impression of an era of “Russian interventionism”, thus directly aiding in casting Russia’s legitimate role as a villainous one, aimed at destroying the edifice of the US imperialism.

Contrary to this is, however, the fact that Russia campaign against the officially and unofficially Western-sponsored terrorist organizations is an attempt on its part to restore the balance of power in the region that has been displaced due largely to the West and its allies in the region. Explaining the cardinal purpose of Russian campaign in Syria, Mr. Putin said in plain words:

On the question of a settlement in Syria, our position is that positive results in military operations will lay the basis for then working out a long-term settlement, based on a political process that involves all political forces, ethnic and religious groups,” Mr. Putin said. “Ultimately, it is the Syrian people alone who must have the deciding voice here.”

However, as is evident, the West is not ready to accept the reality of Russian campaign against terrorists. While Russian is targeting terrorists, without making any distinction between good or bad, moderate or un-moderate ones, the West continues to see and propagate this campaign as an instance of Russian “expansionism” under Putin’s “generalship.” As the New York Times noted in its report:

Aside from the obvious issues of mutual concern given the current military alliance of Russia and Syria, the meeting between Mr. Assad and Mr. Putin was another chance to emphasize Russia’s re-emergence as a crucial player in the Middle East. Part of the inspiration for Russian interference in Syria was to break out of the isolation imposed on Moscow over the crisis in Ukraine.”

As is evident, the West is all focused on spreading a smoke-screen around Russia’s legitimate and successful campaign against all “types” of terrorists—a policy that directly runs counter to the Western ambitions and objectives with regard to the region, which are cornerstoned on political and economic domination of the region to control its energy resources that provide them, especially the Western Europe, the life line of its economy: Oil and Gas.

In this context, the source of Western anxiety is not merely Russia’s military offensive against terrorists in Syria, it is equally its diplomatic activism that is troubling the West. Assad’s visit to Moscow shows, more than anything else, the way Russia is engaging with regional states to pull the region out of a quagmire of violence and destruction.

As a matter of fact, it is not Syria alone that Russia has been talking to. Saudi Arabia’s Prince Muhammad’s visit to Moscow just a few days ago is another unmistakable evidence of the emphasis Russia is laying on the political side.

A political solution with all major actors on board is, however, something that would not allow the West to manipulate regional politics. Without a war in the region, the US’ weapons industry, too, would have to “suffer a loss.” The war, in other words, suits the Western interest. It keeps the oil cheap and allows them to sell weapons to the warring parties. Given this, it is not surprising to see the West worried over the pace of ‘anti-Western’ developments taking place in the Middle East.

Salman Rafi Sheikh, research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistan’s foreign and domestic affairs, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook


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