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World View: Turkey Fails to Prevent Russia and Iran Mass Slaughter in Idlib, Syria

High-stakes diplomacy as battle for Syria's Idlib looms
The Associated Press

This morning’s key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • Turkey fails to prevent Russia and Iran from committing mass slaughter in Idlib, Syria
  • Turkey prepares for massive refugee problem
  • Syria and Russia launch a big, new disinformation campaign
  • The Greek Tragedy in Syria

Turkey fails to prevent Russia and Iran from mass slaughter in Idlib, Syria

Rouhani, Erdogan and Putin, the three amigos, hold hands prior to their meeting (Reuters)
Rouhani, Erdogan, and Putin, the three amigos, hold hands prior to their meeting (Reuters)

The leaders of the three countries in the so-called “Astana Group” met in Tehran on Friday to decide the fate of Syria’s Idlib province. No Syrians participated in the meeting. Representatives of the three countries, Russia, Turkey, and Iran, have met several times in Astana, the capital city of Kazakhstan.

Russia, Syria, and Iran have been preparing for weeks, massing troops and tanks, for an assault that will create a massive humanitarian disaster among the 3.5 million civilians in Idlib. ( “5-Sep-18 World View — Syria and Russia prepare to inflict massive bloodbath on Idlib”)

At the summit meeting, Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan argued for a ceasefire, and no invasion at all. At the press conference following the meeting, he said, “We don’t want Idlib to turn into a bloodbath,” and said:

Idlib is not only about the future of Syria, it is also about the peace of the whole region. Any attack launched or to be launched on Idlib will result in a disaster, massacre and a very big humanitarian tragedy.

If we can declare a cease-fire here, it will be one of the most important steps of the summit, and it will relieve the civilians.

Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani rejected Erdogan’s plea, saying that the fighting in Syria must continue until all “terrorists” are “uprooted,” especially in Idlib. He added, “fighting terrorism in Idlib is an unavoidable part of the mission of restoring peace and stability to Syria.”

Russia’s president Vladimir Putin also rejected the plea, saying that “the legitimate Syrian government has a right and must eventually take control of its entire national territory.” Daily Sabah (Turkey) and BBC and Vox

Turkey prepares for massive refugee problem

Idlib has a population of about 3.5 million people, including several tens of thousands of jihadists belonging to al-Qaeda linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), or less than 2 percent of the population. Many of the jihadists are hiding out in the same homes as the civilians. There are reports that many civilians are demanding that the jihadists leave the homes and go elsewhere, though that’s unlikely to happen.

Bashar al-Assad intends to kill all “terrorists,” but he has made it clear in the past that he considers the entire population of Idlib to be “terrorists,” meaning that he will be targeting the entire population.

In a sense, Turkey has the most at stake in the Astana Group decision about Idlib. In the press conference on Friday, Erdogan said that there are already 3.5 million Syrian refugees hosted by Turkey, and: “Idlib’s population is now 3.5 million. We do not have power and facilities to host another 3.5 million.”

Bashar al-Assad’s regime, along with Russia, will be using missiles, barrel bombs, chlorine gas, and Sarin gas to kill the “terrorists” in Idlib following Vladimir Putin’s “Grozny Model.” Entire neighborhoods will be flattened, and schools, markets, and hospitals will be particularly targeted in order to kill as many women and children as possible, as part of Bashar al-Assad’s genocidal campaign.

This means that hundreds of thousands or even millions of civilians will be abandoning their homes, trying to flee the violence. When al-Assad was conducting a similar slaughter on Aleppo, Ghouta, and Daraa, many thousands of civilians fled to Idlib. Now, there is no Idlib for Idlib, meaning that people who want to flee have no place to go.

Idlib borders Turkey, and undoubtedly many of them will try to flee across the border into Turkey. It is possible that millions of refugees will succeed in reaching Turkey, and a few hundred thousand of them may then travel to Europe. According to Turkey’s Red Crescent, this would be the beginning of a “new immigration wave” into both Turkey and Europe.

One thing that is clear is that Russia and Vladimir Putin are in charge now. Putin can delay the assault, or launch it immediately. He can also use the threat of an assault to get leverage. For example, Putin has been demanding that the U.S. and EU pay billions to rebuild Syria, after Russia played the biggest part in destroying Syria. Russia could use the Idlib assault in a negotiation that says, “Pay up or else!” Anadolu (Turkey) and Yeni Safak (Turkey)

Syria and Russia launch a big, new disinformation campaign

There have been reports that Syria and Russia have been launching a new disinformation campaign to hide al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons and other atrocities. My personal experience is that the article that I wrote three days ago generated a much higher level of troll attacks than I have been seeing recently. So it may well be that Russia’s troll factory, the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg, is on the march again.

The trolls generally try to paint Bashar al-Assad as a sweet, gentle ophthalmologist (his college major), a sensitive guy who now runs a country and is trying to bring peace, justice, and stability to Syria and the world.

So for trolls and for those readers with short memories, here’s an article from last year from the London Guardian, summarizing a report by Amnesty International:

[In Bashar al-Assad’s Saydnaya prison in Damascus,] thousands of civilians considered opponents of the regime are systematically starved, deliberately dehumanised, mercilessly tortured and finally hanged in the utmost secrecy in the dead of night, 20 to 50 at a time. These witnesses have described executions and the conditions in the prison before December 2015 but they could be continuing.

It’s like something from a grindingly bleak horror film – a grotesque series of depraved acts that almost defies description. … Amnesty has gathered testimony from 31 former Saydnaya detainees as well as former guards, and we calculate that between 5,000 to 13,000 people have been hanged at Saydnaya since the uprising against Assad began, possibly many more.

On top of that witnesses have described deaths through sadistic beatings, starvation and disease. They have said that food and water are regularly cut off for prisoners at Saydnaya. When food is delivered, it’s often dumped in the blood, puss and dirt of the cell floors. The prison also has its own set of “special rules”. Prisoners are not allowed to make any sounds, speak or even whisper, even when being brutally beaten. They’re forced to assume certain positions when the guards come into the cells and merely looking at the guards is punishable by death.

Here’s how one former detainee described the terrifying beatings that those about to be hanged are made to endure: “We would hear a huge sound. From 10pm until 12, or from 11pm until 1am, we would hear screaming and yelling come from below us … This is a very important point. If you keep silent, you will get less beating at Saydnaya. But these people were screaming like they had lost their minds … It wasn’t a normal sound – it was not ordinary. It sounded like they were skinning them alive.”

As for the hangings themselves, witnesses have described how they are carried out in the basement of a place called the White Building. After hours of beatings, groups of up to 50 blindfolded men at a time are taken to the execution site by white delivery trucks (called “meat fridges” by other prisoners) and made to stand on a metre-high platform. Here a noose is placed over their heads and they’re bundled to their deaths.

Not all the hangings result in quick deaths. Some of the lighter men are still alive several minutes into the hangings, and two prison officials have the job of pulling on the bodies of those still alive to break their necks. One former detainee, Hamid (not his real name), told me how he could hear the sounds of the hangings as he and other prisoners slept on the floor of the rooms above: “There was a sound of something being pulled out – like a piece of wood, I’m not sure – and then you would hear the sound of them being strangled … If you put your ears on the floor, you could hear the sound of the gurgling. This would last around 10 minutes … We were sleeping on top of the sound of people choking to death. This was normal for me then.”

Guardian (London, 7-Feb-2017)

The Greek Tragedy in Syria

It is pretty obvious now that the massive impending Idlib disaster is completely preordained and unavoidable, and nothing can be done by anyone to prevent it. It is like a mile high tsunami that is headed for land. Nothing can stop it. But for how long has it been unavoidable? Six months? Six years? Could it have been prevented seven years ago?

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, an argument can be made that the coming humanitarian disaster has been unavoidable since the 1980s.

Syria’s last generational crisis war was the civil war that climaxed in 1982 with the massacre at Hama. There was a massive uprising of the 400,000 mostly Sunni citizens of Hama against Syria’s president Hafez al-Assad, the current president’s father. In February, 1982, al-Assad turned the town to rubble, causing 40,000 deaths and 100,000 expelled. Hama stands as a defining moment in the Middle East. It is regarded as perhaps the single deadliest act by any Arab government against its own people in the modern Middle East. But once Hama was destroyed, the anti-government movement against Hafaz al-Assad pretty much ended. From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, this was a generational crisis war climax, like the nuking of Hiroshima at the climax of World War II, bringing the war to an end.

Since then 36 years have passed, and new generations have grown up. I have described what happens in country after country in the decades following a crisis ethnic civil war. Whoever comes to power after the war uses brutal police power to suppress the opposition, using the excuse that a new civil war must be prevented. I have described this in DR Congo, Burundi, Cameroon, Thailand, Cambodia, Iran, and other places.

What makes the Syria situation exceptional is the level of violence. There are various levels of oppression that can be used, but Bashar al-Assad is conducting full-scale genocide and ethnic cleansing. By comparison with other countries in similar situations, that level of violence is not necessary.

In Iran, for example, since the 1979 revolution, which was really just another civil war, the two Supreme Leaders have felt free to punish political opponents with gunfire, torture, rapes, jailings, and other atrocities.

The two Supreme Leaders, Ruhollah Khomeini and Seyed Ali Hosseini Khamenei, are psychotic monsters, but those punishments just described – torture, rape, etc. – have only been used against tens of thousands of people, mostly young college students. There has been no attempt to exterminate entire cities. Of course, tens of thousands is a horrific number, but I say “only” in comparison to Bashar al-Assad. Al-Assad has perpetrated the same genocidal atrocities but has gone much farther with barrel bombs and chemical weapons targeting millions of women and children, something that Khomeini and Khamenei did not do.

Particularly after those 50,000 prison photos came out of years of gruesome, depraved, systematic torture of political opponents on an “industrial scale,” I see Bashar al-Assad as a sociopathic monster.

So, given what happened in Hama in 1982, sooner or later there would have been anti-government protests, and al-Assad would have launched his genocidal attacks on peaceful protesters, focusing on women and children to exterminate the next generation. This is something that was triggered by the “Arab Spring” in 2011, but it had to happen sooner or later, and it would have led the same way to the same kind of genocide that al-Assad has been performing for the last eight years.

So that is why, from the point of view of Generational Dynamics, it could be argued that the Idlib massacre was preordained since the 1980s. It could have been stopped at any time in the last 30 years if al-Assad had been removed from power at any time and replaced with someone less sociopathic. Even then, there would have been some violence, as in the case of Iran, but probably not to the extent pursued by al-Assad.

The Greeks invented tragedy, and as a Greek, I understand tragedy very well. It’s in my bones. Tragedy is not some random event, like a child being hit by a car. The essence of Greek tragedy is that the tragic event is not random. The tragic event is inevitable: it MUST occur, and the reason it must occur is because of the nature, the personality, the character of the protagonists. A true tragedy cannot be prevented, even by those who foresee it, because the forces bringing about the tragedy are too powerful for anyone to stop. That’s what’s happening in Syria today.

My heart breaks every day when I see what’s happening in the world.

Related Articles

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Syria, Bashar al-Assad, Russia, Vladimir Putin, Grozny strategy, Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Iran, Hassan Rouhani, Turkey, Idlib province, Astana, Kazakhstan, Iran, Aleppo, Ghouta, Daraa, Saydnaya prison, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, HTS, chlorine gas, Sarin gas
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