Since March 2011 Syria has grown to become the definitive conflict of our generation. By the time details of this apparent extension of the Arab Spring reached our television sets in the West it had already become an impenetrable tangle of propaganda and counter-propaganda. It was quite clearly packaged for our consumption as a popular uprising against what had – all of a sudden – become a tyrannical and despotic al-Assad régime.
According to the official narrative the conflict erupted in response to President Bashar al-Assad’s repressive response to grassroots pro-democracy protests, leading to the commission of human rights violations by the Syrian government – including the use of chemical weapons against the civilian population. What followed was a series of US-led interventions on the side of the rebel forces.
With the rapid escalation of hostilities and the spread of the insurgent Islamic State across norther Iraq and eastern Syria, Russia – under a degree of pressure from the United States and its allies – entered the conflict, at the time, in a limited capacity. Russia, however, was telling another story quite at odds with the accepted version being told in Europe and North America.
As the war intensified and spread over the country a colossal humanitarian crisis developed, resulting in unprecedented internal displacement and a horrific refugee crisis. It is at about this point in the US-UK narrative that the story began to come apart. Reports from within Syria, from a number of international journalists, were presenting another version of events.
A counter-narrative developed in which the Islamic State and the al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda proxy, were, by design or otherwise, the product of US interference; being supported and funded by both the CIA and MI6 through the agency of their allies in the region, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. It is in this context that Vanessa Beeley, an independent journalist and daughter of a former British diplomat, denounced the White Helmets – ostensibly a humanitarian organisation – as a front for terrorists backed by the West.
As a consequence of the clash between the Russia and Turkey in northern Syria and south-eastern Turkey evidence emerged that Turkey was importing cheap oil from the Islamic State, thus directly funding it. Other connections between the Wahhabism of Saudi Arabia and IS were apparent, further implicating the US-led coalition in the rise of the Islamic State.
Continued US and British arms deals with the Saudis, together with foreign aid, have lead a growing number of people reporting on the situation to conclude that Western governments are themselves funding ISIS. When we add to this the strangeness of ISIS militants receiving medical assistance from the State of Israel – while Israel has been launching strategic attacks against the Islamic States’ enemies in Syria – we would be naïve not to be suspicious.
Going down the rabbit hole of conspiracy will benefit no one, but it is clear that the West’s conflict with the Islamic State and its support of anti-government Islamists in Syria is not as clear cut as the Western news would have us believe. What is clear is that a full reassessment of the Syrian conflict is urgently needed; firstly for the good of the Syrian people, and in order to find a more balanced account of the conflict by which the beginnings of peace can be made possible.