When is a “swarm” of migrants not a “swarm” of migrants? When Western Governments have oil and gas on their minds. It’s amazing what a difference 5 weeks can make in the world of Western politics and media.
On the 30th July, British Prime Minister David Cameron, commenting on the “migrants” trying to enter the UK via Calais after 9 people had died trying to get through the Channel Tunnel, described them as “a swarm of people coming across the Mediterranean”. He added that, “Everything that can be done will be done to make sure… British holidaymakers are able to go on their holidays.”
Fast-forward to the 3rd of September, and the same David Cameron, commenting on the death of 3 year-old Syrian “refugee” Aylan Kurdi who died trying to cross the Mediterranean, said: “As a father I felt deeply moved… Britain is a moral nation and we will fulfil our moral responsibilities.”
The right-wing tabloid newspaper the Sun used the word “swarm” 7 days before Cameron to describe the Calais situation, but in the wake of Aylan’s death launched a campaign to “help thousands of kids like drowned migrant boy”.
One could be forgiven for thinking that Cameron and the Sun were referring to two different topics, not the singular ongoing plight of millions of people in the Western-induced bedlam of the Middle East and North Africa. While the prime ministerial and media change of rhetoric was staggeringly obvious, the reasons for their sudden attack of scruples are less so.
Regime change in Syria has been an objective of the West since as early as 2006, as a WikiLeaks release published on 17 September appears to show. There was talk of using the media to cause Bashar Al-Assad to act “irrationally”, and intentionally stoking the historical tensions between Sunni and Shia, with Iran being the leverage.
In 2011, WikiLeaks revealed that the US had been financing Syrian opposition groups, right up until September 2010, including an anti-government TV station. In 2012 a “treaty” between Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey (with alleged support from the US and Britain) was agreed, with the aim of overthrowing the Assad government.
The British parliament voted not to carry out airstrikes against the Syrian government in 2013, after a chemical weapons attack purported to have been by troops loyal to Assad in Ghouta; the actual perpetrators have never officially been identified. Next month, a vote is likely to be take place again, although this time it will be under the premise of halting the refugee crisis by combatting Daesh.
The reasons behind nearly a decade of attempted regime change in Syria are, of course, the same as with any other nefarious Western meddling in the Middle East’s affairs: energy, Russia and the US dollar.
In layman’s terms, Syria under Assad is the last outpost of the fight against Western imperialism in the Middle East. While other Frenemies-turned-Beelzebubical leaders (think Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi) have been dealt with (and the failed states left in their wake allowed to fester), Assad is a perpetual thorn in the side of the free-marketeers pillaging regional resources.
The crux of the matter is that Assad put paid to the construction of an oil and gas pipeline which would have ended Europe’s reliance on Russia for its natural gas, by refusing to sign an agreement with Qatar; instead, he opted for a partnership with Iran (oddly, after which the civil war in Syria intensified). While the construction of the latter had previously been put on hold, it was quietly announced in July that Iran was forging ahead with a trunk-line to supply Iraq with natural gas; in theory, this could be the beginning of an Iran/Iraq/Syria pipeline.
Is it a coincidence that the rhetoric surrounding the “migrant crisis” was ratcheted up at the same time as this move? Whatever the truth of this might be, the most sordid aspect of the current “refugee crisis” is the West’s lack of concern for people’s lives, which is the exact opposite of the narrative that we are being fed.
As Dr Nafeez Ahmed wrote succinctly in the Guardian in 2013 before he was mysteriously dropped by the newspaper: “It is this — the problem of establishing a pliable opposition which the US and its oil allies feel confident will play ball, pipeline-style, in a post-Assad Syria — that will determine the nature of any prospective intervention: not concern for Syrian life.”
We are being led to believe that this sudden humanitarian emergency is due to the ongoing civil war in Syria and the march of Daesh, and that, as David Cameron put it, “Our goal remains to support the development of a secure, stable and peaceful Syria.” This is simply not the case, nor is this crisis “sudden”.
At the start of 2015 there were an estimated 1.5 million Syrian refugees in Turkey, which has operated a half-hearted “open-door” policy on migrants, neither granting them refugee status nor turning them away; they are referred to as “guests”.It’s this almost factory-farm approach that has led to the desperate scenes we have witnessed this year, with the latest figures showing a staggering 73 per cent of these “guests” now trying to reach Europe from Turkey as they have essentially been left to rot in the latter which, ironically, is a member of the duplicitously named “The Group of Friends of the Syrian People”.
To say that this was not a deliberate plan by Turkey, its megalomaniac President Erdogan (who has his own interests in garnering public support of late) and the Group of Friends of the Syrian People would be naïve in the extreme. As has been documented, the West has been actively financing and supporting the “opposition” in Syria, and Turkey specifically has been accused of allowing supplies to cross its borders and fall into the hands of Daesh.
As the public enthusiasm for war has waned in the wake of the Iraq scandal and the chaos that Libya was left in, the West’s only hope has been to tug relentlessly on its citizens’ heartstrings. By simultaneously fuelling war in Syria and allowing the desperate people trying to escape it to be herded into the “Gateway to Europe” unimpeded, a near stage-managed humanitarian crisis has been created, one to which the only solution now seems to be Western intervention in Syria.
What’s so dismaying about the situation is that Syrians are by no means the only refugees caught up in this, whatever Western mainstream media may try to force down our throats.
Around 54 per cent of the refugees who have attempted to find a safe haven in Europe this year are from Syria; 13 per cent are from Afghanistan; and 7 per cent are from Eritrea. However, the devil is in the detail. The number of Syrians has spiked over 20 per cent since June, whilst the percentage of Afghans, Eritreans and other nationalities has remained broadly static; no-one appears to be questioning just where these additional “Syrian” refugees, who were presumably “unidentified nationalities” before, have appeared from suddenly, unless someone at the UNHCR is particularly bad at compiling statistics.
This whole, utterly tragic situation begs us to ask, when will the citizens of the West notice the abhorrent manipulation to which they are perpetually subjected?
I am no supporter of Bashar Al-Assad. However, I am even less of a supporter of our contemptable Western governments, media and corporations, and their flagrant disregard for human life, and its use as a means to increase their own power and wealth. Assad may be a murdering autocrat, but our “superiors” do much the same under the veil of spreading democracy.
The “refugee crisis” and its victims are just more pawns in the never-ending strategic game of nations, keeping a select few in the wealth and level of power to which they have become accustomed; and the apathetic, unquestioning public are becoming complicit.
Dead children washed up on the beaches of holiday resorts? Oh well. At least you may get a few Euros off your gas bill next year. It’s a small price to pay.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.