The videotaped beheading of US reporter James Foley at the hands of ISIL militants in Syria sparked worldwide condemnation last week. Fury was directed towards the terrorists and the US government began talking about expanding the targeted air strikes in neighboring Iraq to Syria in order to avenge Foley. Clearly, Washington has been following the axiom of ‘never let a good crisis go to waste’.
President Obama called ISIL a “cancer” and promised that the US would “do everything we can to protect our people”. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, then said that it wasn’t possible for the US to defeat ISIL in Iraq without striking it in Syria. This was followed up by Ben Rhodes, deputy national security advisor for strategic communication (emphasis on the last part), who said that Foley’s beheading was “a terrorist attack against our country”. Rhodes is clearly reminding the American public of the last time a terrorist attack was committed against the US, September 11th, and allowing them to draw their own conclusion as to what should ‘logically’ come next. To top it all off, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said that ISIL is now a greater danger to the US than Al-Qaeda was.
With the US once more talking about bombing Syria nearly one year after skillful Russian diplomacy prevented such an action, it is worthwhile to examine the progression of the information war against Syria to see how the US returned to this point.
The Four Stages
The US’ info war against Syria can be broken down into four distinct stages: pre-2011; 2011-September 2013; January 2014-Foley’s Beheading; and post-Foley. Each stage flows into the next and builds upon the previous, demonstrating a continuum in strategic communication devoted to regime change in Syria.
Social Infrastructure, Pre-2011
The information campaign launched prior to the Arab Spring Color Revolutions in the Mideast, including Syria, forms the backbone of everything that the world is witnessing today. The objective here was to create the necessary social infrastructure to assemble a cadre of anti-government activists, some of whom could later continue the crusade by taking up arms against the state if the Color Revolution failed. Examples of the methods of anti-government information diffusion were the internet, NGOs, and extreme Islamic ideology. Journalist Seymour Hersh documented the US’ plans to overthrow the Syrian government back in 2007 in his article “The Redirection” , showing that such externally managed social infrastructure was already years in the making.
Regime Change or Bust, 2011-September 2013
The next stage of the info war was when Washington was explicitly pushing for regime change in Syria at any cost. During this time, the entire Western media was flooded with many false stories about the war in Syria, such as the myth that there really were ‘moderate’ insurgents. This stage ended when the US’ plans for a Libyan 2.0 campaign in Syria were offset by decisive Russian diplomacy in the aftermath of the Ghouta chemical weapons false-flag attack. The thinly disguised arguments for regime change were exposed for what they were and garnered barely any public or global sympathy. Thus, in the aftermath of its diplomatic defeat, the US was forced to reconsider how it could sell a war in Syria.
The Transition: September 2013-January 2014
Russia’s diplomatic intervention in averting a conventional US war in Syria (the covert one is already raging) posed a dilemma for US decision makers. They were still intent on overthrowing the Syrian government, but the ‘Free Syrian Army’ of so-called ‘moderates’ was not up to the task. The backup plan, a conventional US bombing campaign, was also called off for now. In the midst of this, the US pondered the levers of influence it could use to continue its regime change mission.
The ISIL Insurrection, January 2014-Foley
After deliberating what to do, the US decided to throw all of its covert weight behind the rising ISIL terrorist group in order to further destabilize the country.
ISIL is actually the literal translation of the group’s name in Arabic, which means ‘The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant’. The US purposely distorted this to rename it ISIS, with the last letter representing Syria, in order to condition the public’s mind towards identifying Syria as a hotbed of terror and likening it to a type of Somalia or Afghanistan. This is an important aspect of information warfare and ‘strategic communication’ that should not be overlooked, as it directly leads to Stage 4.
When ISIL launched their invasion of Iraq, the West pretended to be shocked and caught off guard, even though this was an obvious development for a group that proclaimed Iraq in its very name to be within its area of operations. After ‘embarrassing’ the 8-year long efforts of the US to ‘stabilize’ and ‘democratize’ Iraq, the American government started to pay serious attention to ISIL. It eventually ordered targeted air strikes against some of their units in Northern Iraq and formal training to the Kurdish Peshmerga, with the latter likely being with the intent to create a new geopolitical ‘Israel’ in the heart of the Mideast.
Foley’s beheading incidentally comes at a very convenient moment for the US. The public had been geared up to see ISIL as the true evil that it is due to the West’s belated reporting of its inhuman crimes. The global disgust and anger at Foley’s beheading has mobilized the masses to accept the ‘logic’ of a US strike on Syria (which they now completely associate with terrorism due to the purposeful ISIS misnomer), in an attack which would likely lead to ‘mission leap’ and quickly jump from being an anti-terror strike to becoming a committed regime change operation.
The US info war against Syria has just reached a new, heightened phase. It is depending on a strong and emotional public reaction to Foley’s widely disseminated beheading to coalesce support for military strikes against Syria on anti-terror grounds. This is nothing more than convenient window dressing to cover up a regime change operation against Assad and fulfill the US’ original objective in Syria. Foley’s beheading is being used as the ultimate backdoor attempt to wage war against Syria, as prior to his death, it would have been political fantasy for one to seriously consider a US anti-terror campaign in the country, let alone one launched from Iraq. Thus, the world is witnessing a dangerous escalation of the info war against Syria, where tempting humanitarian and anti-terror justifications are being used to launch another attempt at regime change.