Germany’s role in the Syrian conflict

by Dr Salem El-Hamid, Chairman of the Deutsch-Syrische Gesellschaft DSG* (German-Syrian Society DSG*)

cc. The basis of the following text is a lecture given by Dr Salem El-Hamid in the early autumn of 2016 at an international Syria conference in Bad Sooden-Allendorf, Germany. The latest developments (change of government in the USA) are not yet included. Nevertheless, the text is a valuable analysis giving a more accurate picture of Germany’s role in the Syria conflict. This is all the more important since Germany is claiming a leadership role in Europe and wants to follow in the footsteps of the established US policy. In view of the renewed negotiations in Geneva, the text is highly topical.

“In Germany in public, the German attitude and commitment is declared to be within the meaning of a defense of human rights, of the introduction of democracy and the fight against all dictators who kill their own people. Basically, these are slogans intended for the masses that have little or no knowledge of the details and peculiarities of the conflict. This task, of course, is taken over by the state-controlled mass media.”

Shortly after the start of the conflict in Syria it became clear to every observer that this was not a people’s uprising but a “proxy war”. It was also not difficult to see which forces were – and are – involved in this murderous conflict.
There are, however, two states also participating in this sad concert whose roles are hardly discussed in public. These are Israel and Germany. Both are close allies of the United States. Israel is acting according to its own interests and has a clear plan which it pursues, while Germany is acting selflessly, sometimes even against its own interests, just only because it wants to demonstrate its loyalty to the alliance with the US. Therefore it submits to the will of US policy. In this article Germany’s role is discussed in detail.
In the wars and conflicts provoked by the US, some countries have to undertake the cleaning-up operations. One of the most important states to do this is Germany.
In fulfilling this task, German policy tries to convey the impression that it acts voluntarily and on its own authority. It makes its actions out to be humanitarian or in aid of development and it ostensibly helps the civilian population of the affected countries. The history of the construction of girls’ schools in Afghanistan is by now known to everyone.
In the Syria conflict, Germany has not shown itself up as “humanitarian”, as it usually does, but from the outset, it appeared progressive in and greatly committed to carrying out all the destabilisation measures against the Syrian state.

What did Germany do in detail?

Germany was one of the initiators of the so-called “Friends of Syria”, a network of many Western and Arab states under the leadership of the US, which have a single goal: to overthrow the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad. These countries have different notions and agendas, particularly as regards the further development of Syria after the fall of its government. Until recently, attempts were made to hush up or to simply ignore these distinctions and conflicts of interest, but we are currently experiencing serious differences between the individual participants in this artificial network.
In the context of its activities as a member of the “Friends of Syria,” Germany has made an important contribution to destabilising the Syrian state, and has given massive support to the insurgents.

A) Destabilisation measures aimed against the Syrian state. Here are some of the sanctions and restrictions that concern the following fields:

–    crude oil and petroleum products, including air-turbine fuels
–    Equipment for the oil and gas industry
–    Power plant construction
–    Equipment for internet/telecommunication
–    Financial transactions and financial services of the Central Bank in Syria
–    Freight control
–    Flights of the Syrian airline

B) Support of the opposition:

– Logistical support
– Military support
– Medial support

Logistical support:

The then German Foreign Minister, Westerwelle, was one of the leading brains in the organisation and formation of the so-called “Friends of Syria”, newly called the “Syria Contact Group”, the most important aim of which is to overthrow the Syrian government. Since this group has been unable to implement its plan militarily, as had been the case in Libya, it decided to take a bundle of measures aimed at achieving the same goal.
Let us remember that Westerwelle was under pressure of a campaign artificially inflated by the media on the grounds of his alleged “wrong decision” in the UN Security Council’s Libyan resolution. He was accused of having weakened the Western alliance by his abstention from the vote. That is why he wanted to show determination and loyalty to the alliance in his Syrian policy and to demonstrate severity against the Syrian state. So to speak, he wanted to make up for his “sin”. Of course Westerwelle did not make these decisions alone and independently, but in consultation with Ms Merkel!
In their verbal and demonstrative support of the opposition, German politicians and their mainstream media gave strong impetus to the opposition parties in Syria, and moreover, above all else, to the radical forces in Germany itself. These were able to move about freely; they collected donations for the rebels; they were able to go to battle in Syria and to return to Germany without being prosecuted. They felt they were supported by the German government. They believed that they were forming a common front with the German government against a common enemy, a dictator who had – and still has – to be removed.
Up to the end of 2013, the Americans and their Western allies, the “Friends of Syria”, had the upper hand in the Syrian conflict. Until then, the opposition hoped that the Americans would intervene and overthrow the Syrian government. They wanted to bring about a so-called “humanitarian intervention,” but this hope was deceptive, as the later developments showed.

Medial support:

In Germany in public, the German attitude and commitment is declared to be within the meaning of a defense of human rights, of the introduction of democracy and the fight against all dictators who kill their own people. Basically, these are slogans intended for the masses that have little or no knowledge of the details and peculiarities of the conflict. This task, of course, is taken over by the state-controlled mass media.
As a person concerned, who occupies himself intensively with the Syrian conflict, I follow the news, reports and discussions of the various news broadcasts by the international agencies in English, Arabic and German every day. This information is so confusing and contradictory that, in my opinion, no normal person is in a position to get a clear picture and to form his or her own judgment.
However, as I have a good knowledge of the situation on the ground and receive direct and accurate information about the details by way of many relatives, friends and acquaintances in Syria, I try to get a more or less clear idea of the situation and to form my own judgment from the abundance of divergent messages.
When looking at the media reports, I have observed the following peculiarities:

  • It is interesting to note that the radical forces of the opposition express themselves quite differently in the Western than in the Arab media, a fact which is completely kept secret and hushed up here. The statements in the Arab media are often drastic and difficult to bear for Western tastes.
  • From the beginning of the events in Syria I already noticed that the overwhelming majority of the German leading media give out their information coincidentally with Arab broadcasters such as al-Jazira, al-Arabia or western broadcasters like BBC or France 24, i.e. those stations that are involved in the Syrian war actively and in a biased way. These broadcasters take their information exclusively from the opposition and from various dubious sources such as “Reports of Eyewitnesses”, activists, “The Human Rights Observatory” based in London, and the like. Luckily there were also some objective accounts reported by a few independent media.
  • It is striking how reports of allegedly particular atrocities and massacres coincide with certain important events and occasions, such as meetings of the UN or peace negotiations or the like. Many German journalists travel illegally across the Turkish border to Syria to report on the rebels’ “myths” and the alleged cruelty of the Syrian government (see Marcel Mettelsiefen “Heimlich in Homs” – Secretly in Homs). Such reporters even get prizes and awards for their largely polemical and one-sided reports.
  • For me it was paradoxical and difficult to understand that the liberal, as well as the leftist, politicians and their media represented the war in Syria as a popular uprising and called the radical, salafist and religious forces “freedom fighters”, that they solidarised with them and that they oppose the secular government, which is more or less oriented towards the West.
  • It is very difficult to understand why the Federal Government takes a position like this in such a dirty war. In addition, it is difficult to bear that the public-service media such as ARD, ZDF, Deutschlandfunk, WDR, NDR and almost all other broadcasters also “dutifully” participate in the dissemination of this kind of disinformation and war propaganda.

Even after more than five years of war and destruction in Syria, consciously or unconsciously politicians and media are still telling the same untruths and “fairy tales”. They are still reporting on the “revolution” and on “moderate rebels,” trying to convey a false and distorted picture of the Syrian conflict. Obviously, they still have not understood or are still in denial about the fact that if this policy is pursued, Germany will also be drawn into the Syrian chaos.
Many media and politicians now talk about the failure of the West in the Syrian conflict, meaning that an early intervention by the West would have prevented the current development in Syria and caused the Syrian government to have long since fallen. As the development now shows, this belief is erroneous.
Despite all attempts at obfuscation and disinformation, a survey has shown that only 13% of the German population advocate a Western intervention in Syria.
The development of the Syria conflict has shown that the many so-called “Syria experts”, government advisors and leading media in Germany and their reports, articles and commentaries of the past five years have almost consistently been unrealistic and unsubstantial. It is therefore advisable to review their earlier reports. You will realise that none of their analyses and forecasts has come true, and that everything they have written or portrayed was pretty much only an illusion and a mirage. Unfortunately, many of them persist with their mistakes and continue with their propaganda.

Moderate or temperate rebels

These terms are misleading. Those who invented them cannot or do not want to define them exactly because they themselves do not know who these groups are. But just only the names such organisations give themselves, their slogans, the look and the faces of their representatives promptly tell those in the know who these people really are.
Although these actors hate and disregard all Western values (democracy, human rights, women’s rights, freedom of the press, homosexual marriage, separation of state and religion, etc.), local media and politicians call them “moderate” or “temperate” rebels.
Here is a small “selection” of the great collective of these organisations:
•    al-Nusra Front (Jabhat Ahrar al Sham)
•    Free Syrian Army FSA
•    Farouq brigades
•    Islamic Front
•    Khorasan
•    Liwa al-Islam
•    Liwa al-Tawhid
•    Liwa al-Umma
•    Liwa al-Haqq
•    Suqour al-Sham
•    Khaled ibn al-Walid
•    Syrian Islamic Front
•    Syrian Islamic Liberation Front

Refugee policy/Humanitarian tasks

When the plan of the West failed in Syria and all that was left was a pile of shards, Germany had to take over its traditional role as a “humanitarian helper” again and so committed itself intensively to the refugee policy.

Refugee policy

The Federal Government takes advantage of the enormous willingness of the German population to help people. With each tsunami or in the case of other environmental catastrophes, the Germans donate unimaginable amounts and get involved with all their strength to help those affected. That is why there are nowhere as many aid organisations as in Germany. This moral and praiseworthy willingness to make sacrifices is, in my opinion, being instrumentalised, yes indeed, it is abused by politics and the media, in order to enforce their own refugee policy. A “welcome culture” has been spoken of – here are some examples of many:
Some journalists proudly reported in September 2015 that the migrants now prefer coming to Germany to going on pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
One politician even smuggled a refugee into Germany (Diether Dehm, member of parliament of the Left Party).
The Green politician Kathrin Göring-Eckardt travelled to Greece (of course with media support) to save a refugee (!) and to welcome him. If it were up to her, she might go and distribute the German citizenship to all migrants at once.
The refugee policy has developed its own momentum. There are many actors on this stage, and they all have different visions and motivations. They all assert they want to help the refugees, but their own calculations are always a factor.

Who supports the Federal Government’s refugee policy?

•    “Party troopers”
•    Trade unions
•    Employers’ associations
•    Churches
•    Benevolent and helpful people
•    Foundations,
•    Non-governmental organisations, etc.
•    Profiteers
•    Media
The role of the individual groups mentioned here can be discussed in detail. It will be noted that they are all after their own benefit.
What is not properly expounded is the fact that this hypocrisy ultimately leads to the opposite effect and to the creation of tensions and unrest in our society.

The United States play the Kurds card

Since the beginning of the events in Syria, the Kurds, in their overwhelming majority, stood on the side of the Syrian government, which in turn financed and armed the Kurds to fight against the radical forces. There was strong cooperation between both sides, because both sides fight against Turkey/Erdogan. The Syrian government gave the Kurds control over the northern parts of Syria to live there in some kind of “autonomy” and to also control this part independently.
In the course of the Syrian war, the Americans made a great deal of effort to find their own allies whom they would bring to power after the intended overthrow of the Syrian government. At the end of 2013, they realised that they could not find any forces they could truly rely on.
There is mistrust between the numerous fighting groups, but especially against the Americans (see Obama’s interview with al-Arabia in 2015). At long last, there was nothing left for the US but to play the Kurds card.
But in my opinion, the Kurds card will not work in the long run. All the regional powers (Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria) will vehemently fight the emergence of a Kurdish state in Syria, using all means available. The strongest resistance is to be expected from NATO member Turkey, as for Turkey/Erdogan, this is a vital issue.

The current situation

After the Russia’s direct intervention and the changes in Turkey after the coup attempt, the situation has changed fundamentally. Aleppo is under the absolute control of the Syrian state. And in the meanwhile Russia is dictating the process and development in Syria.
Turkey no longer appears to be an active member of the so-called “Syria Contact Group” (formerly “Friends of Syria”), but is rather cooperating with the Russians and Iran to find a solution in Syria. Now that Turkey has sheered off, the former group has become toothless and is no longer able to control the events. The most important member of this group is the US.

The attitude of the US

The US
•    have a deal with Iran (nuclear agreement),
•    have no allies among the so-called rebels any more,
•    have only the Kurds as allies,
•    have no economic interests in Syria,
•    are not ready to sacrifice its soldiers in Syria, and
•    are not willing to risk a direct military confrontation with Russia without a serious reason.
The other allies, ie Saudi Arabia, Qatar, England, France and Germany, have divergent interests and are unable to achieve anything without the US being involved.
In my opinion, there are two big losers in this conflict: the first loser is the people who are losing their lives in Syria, and the second loser is Germany (refugees will eventually destabilise the country).
Unfortunately, the federal government is not seriously seeking a solution to the conflict in order to protect Germany from these serious consequences. German policy continues on its wrong track, on the grounds that Germany is part of the Western alliance. It unrestrictedly provides arms to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, and these continue to sustain this murderous war.

What has Germany so far “accomplished” in the Syrian conflict?

Germany
•    has no agenda of its own,
•    does not have its own strategic, national or other vital interests in the region,
•    unconditionally follows US policy,
•    is so far the largest loser of the conflict (refugees).

What can and should Germany do?

Germany can
•    serve as a mediator,
•    stop the supply of weapons to Saudi Arabia and Qatar,
•    together with the other EU countries, urge the US to end the war,
•    play an important role in the reconstruction of Syria after the end of the war.
If the conflict continues, Europe and especially Germany will be destabilised in the medium term.
One has to ask what German parents would want to send their own children to the swamps of the dirty Syrian war, so that they would lose their lives there. An inconceivable thought.

Concluding remarks

As it now appears, there are various reasons why the US obviously have no interest in ending this war in the foreseeable future.
In my opinion, the US policy in this conflict will ultimately fail. The tensions in the region will continue to grow, entailing the threat of a regional war.
It is clear – the longer this conflict persists, the more dangerous it is for Germany. Germany, the exemplary student of the US, will be one of the biggest losers.    •

*    Dr med Salem El-Hamid was born and grew up in Syria. After his training in human medicine at the University of Aleppo, Syria, and his practice as an assistant physician at the University of Damascus, he came to Germany as a specialist registrar in 1975.
    He specialised in several areas of child and adolescent medicine and became a senior physician at the municipal hospital in Hildesheim in 1981. Shortly afterwards he was appointed senior consultant. He is the head of the children’s hospital in Kirchen / Sieg. He is also the secretary general of the Deutsch-Syrische Gesellschaft e. V. (German-Syrian Society) in Bonn, which he co-founded. The society was founded in 1994 by, among others, Hans-Jürgen Wischnewski (SPD). Its main objective is to promote international understanding amongst the peoples and to strengthen cooperation between Germany and Syria.
(Translation Current Concerns)