Editor-in-chief of “ZUERST!” magazine, Berlin, Germany.
It was in 2010. A group of German businessmen and politicians step out of a plane in the Syrian capital Damascus. The sun is shining, they are smiling. In their suitcases they carry big plans. And they are in a positive mood. They want to get into deep business relations with Syria, earning money and much more money tomorrow. Syria opened its gates for the big business and the Germans step through these open doors. A “young progressive president”, as per the mainstream media and politics, reforms his state. He says good bye to planned economy and welcomes the free market, of course in small and careful steps. Journalists and politicians in Berlin are happy. German newspapers write: “The political process is important. The economic reforms of Syria will automatically turn into political reforms. And those reforms will be good for peace in the Middle East.” The German delegation shakes hands with that young progressive president; they sign contracts and found a “German-Syrian Business Council” together with Syrian partners. After their return to Germany, they give reports about the great visit to Damascus, about the chances of the future and the big business. Newspapers and magazines report positively about the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, the “young intelligent doctor” and his wife Asma, the “desert flower”. Both are “well educated” the German yellow press audience is informed. A couple of months later the so called “Arab Spring” starts – game over. Overnight the “young progressive president” turns into the “butcher from Damascus” and his reforms into dictatorship.
The same politicians who were shaking his hand now all of the sudden say: This evil president goes on a war against his own people. And it is a bloody war with massacres; the term “genocide” appears in German media. Within weeks the German government becomes one of the turbo motors of the aggressive EU-politics against Syria.
How is such a political “U-turn” possible? How can it take place with almost no media echo? How can the most powerful economic giant in the EU – Germany, be so changeable? What is the geopolitical mission of Berlin, and is there any?
Germany´s official position towards Damascus shows nothing else than the complete absence of an own geopolitical program. The homeland of the general, geographer and geopolitician Karl Haushofer became a state without any autonomous idea of world politics. It became the “Bandog” of Washington.
Back to the German business mission in 2010. The permission for the German-Syrian diplomatic approach came from Washington. US-president Barack Obama tried to get closer to Damascus and to establish in small steps again diplomatic ties to the Syrian government in that time, a time we don´t talk about anymore today. Berlin followed Washington in 2010. And when the crisis broke out in spring 2011, Berlin followed Washington again.
Within weeks Germany became the European front-state against Syria. Berlin started war-politics against Damascus in all traditional levels: economic, propagandistic, diplomatic and in terms of intelligence and military actions against the “enemy” – Syria.
The destructive economic war against Syria began in Summer 2011. Germany pushed an EU oil embargo against Damascus. Before the oil embargo, Syria sold nearly two-thirds of its exports to Italy and Germany with almost all of the rest going to France, the Netherlands, Austria, Spain and Turkey. The idea of the embargo was to cut off a major source of foreign currency “that helps to finance the security apparatus and restrict funds at Assad’s disposal to reward loyalists”, as per the mainstream media. What the media didn´t mention was the fact that Syria uses its income of the oil business to finance not just its security forces but also the whole civil sector as police, education, and health system. The idea of the oil embargo was the idea of a crackdown of the Syrian state. Neither German politicians nor the mainstream media realized that such an embargo causes harm especially to the Syrian civilians.
The Syrian president Bashar al-Assad reacted with a statement that the West was pressuring Syria “to sell out which will not happen because the Syrian people have chosen to have an independent will”. The west didn´t take into account that Damascus could also export its oil to other countries that don´t support the embargo. So the effect of the embargo politics against Syria wasn´t as destructive as Brussels and Berlin expected. But the economic war against Syria unleashed also by Germany has many other levels than just an oil embargo. Syrian businessmen and politicians are blacklisted and not anymore allowed to enter EU countries; a lot of goods especially high technology products are banned from import to Syria. The western theory that this might weaken the Syrian government is disproved every day in Syria. The inflation of the Syrian Pound hits the whole population. Electricity cuts, before the crisis almost unknown in Syria, forced especially the small shops and businesses in the country to buy diesel generators. The population is strangulated, not just the government. And by the way, this is not surprising. The experience of long term embargo politics for example against Iraq and Iran proved already that the effect will not be a collapse of the government but more solidarity among the civilians against such a the foreign interference.
To justify those rude economic measures against Syria, especially German state media unrolled the full scale of classical so called “grey” and “black” war propaganda against Damascus. Grey propaganda is propaganda without any identifiable source or author. A major application of grey propaganda is making enemies believe falsehood using straw arguments. Black propaganda is false information and material that purports to be from a source on one side of a conflict, but is actually from the opposing side. It is typically used to vilify, embarrass, or misrepresent the enemy.
Almost every day German state TV presented in the prime time news Youtube-videos of the rebel side with alleged war crimes committed by the Syrian security forces. German state TV journalists claimed it is “not possible” for foreign media to cover the conflict from inside the country although at the same time plenty of foreign journalists were officially accredited in Damascus. A German state TV journalist presented from the Jordanian-Syrian border a video which shows security forces hitting civilians with bats. He claimed this video was “smuggled” out of Syria and shows Syrian security forces. Later on it came out that the video was already published in 2007 and shows a violent scene in Iraq. Examples like that are uncountable.
The biggest propaganda coup took place in early June 2012 when on German state TV channel a talk show was presented with the title “Assad lets kill children – how long will we stand on the sideline?” The content of this show was based on the so called Hula-massacre from May 25 2012 where 108 people were killed including many children. Although there was neither a proof nor any criminal evidence that this massacre was committed by the Syrian government forces, German politics and media followed the Washington interpretation. The German audience was “informed” that a bloody dictator slaughters down even little children. The west should “react”.
Especially the German state TV seemed to “push” German politics. Before the investigations on the Hula-massacre were finished Germany expelled the Syrian ambassador as diplomatic punishment. The German minister for foreign affairs, Guido Westerwelle, said: “It is appalling that the Syrian regime does not put an end to the brutal violence against its own people. Those responsible for this crime must be punished.” When later the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported that the Hula victims came all from two pro-Government families and that the chance that pro government forces would kill their own supporters are very small, it was already too late. Germany didn´t take back the diplomatic aggravation against Damascus until today.
The diplomatic war against Syria enrolled by Germany became more and more aggressive. From January until July 2012 the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) invited the so called “Syrian opposition activists” to Berlin to “develop principles, goals and recommendations for a Syria after the demise of the Bashar al-Assad regime”. This conference was hosted not just by the German SWP but also by the US think-tank, United States Institute of Peace (USIP). Both the SWP and the USIP are official institutes of the governments of Germany and USA. At the end of the meeting the participants presented a paper called “The Day After” , a plan how to rule Syria after the regime change.
Since January 2013 Germany goes on war against Syria also in the most traditional way, the military one. German Patriot missiles have been put in combat duty in Turkey’s southeastern province of Kahramanmarash. The NATO command has activated the surface-to-air missile systems that are now monitoring the Syria-Turkey border. 350 German troops arrived in Turkey to work on the missile site and maintain the systems. Also the US is beginning to deploy its Patriot missiles in Turkey’s Gaziantep province.
Meanwhile the German government ignores the bloody facts about the war in Syria. It is the NATO-partner Turkey who behaves aggressive against the Syrian neighbor. Turkey gives shelter to terrorist gangs infiltrating into Syria. Ankara provides training camps and medical care for the armed gangs fighting in Syria not just against the army forces but also against the civilians. At the same time Turkey is an accomplice in the robbery of industrial facilities especially in Aleppo area. The aggression comes from Turkey, not from Syria. The facts are sometimes easy to understand but obviously not in Berlin.
The German politics towards Syria prove how much Berlin depends on the so called “western community”, on NATO, and on Washington’s political guidelines. The Berlin-Damascus relations show something else. The German politics don´t serve German interests, and of course not Syrian interests.
The politics of Berlin show how far the established politicians in these days are from the ideas of geopolitics and especially from the knowledge of Karl Haushofer. Geopolitics is the method of foreign policy analysis which seeks to understand, explain, and predict international political behavior primarily in terms of geographical variables. In the actual case of the Middle East it would mean to understand the complex correlations between the different religious groups, their traditional geographic areas, their history, and traditional attitude towards state power. It would also mean to understand the complicated spider web of different geopolitical interests in the Middle East: the struggle of dominance between the wahabi monarchy of Saudi-Arabia and the shia Islamic Republic of Iran who is an ally of Syria, the role of Russia as a traditional close friend of Syria until back to the times of the Soviet Union. All these important geopolitical effects are ignored in Berlin until today.
This ignorance of facts will be very costly in the future. Germany traditionally used to have a brilliant reputation not just in Syria but in the Arab world in general. This good reputation bases on the historical fact that Germany never appeared as a colonial power in the region as opposed to France, UK, and US. The Berlin politics of today contradicts this “good” tradition in a harsh way and damages its reputation. Germany as an export nation of high technology also benefits of stable trade partners, not of failed states and political chaos as well as economical chaos. After the downfall of Libya, Germany was one of the big political and economical losers of the bloody regime change in Tripoli. The same would happen in Syria in case of a disintegration of the state which will lead for sure to a region controlled by warlords and their militias. Germany’s politics bites the hand that feeds the country for the sake of the so called “better” of the western community. Haushofer would turn in his grave because of such a self-destructive politics.
The image of the German-Syrian relations shows precisely the limits of today’s Berlin foreign politics. Nothing will be done that might disturb the relations to Washington. It is a necessity to escape from the western “embrace” and to start an independent politics without asking for US or EU officials’ permission. The first and most important step would be to develop the relations with Moscow in a much better way than today. Russia and Germany share a lot of common interests especially when it comes to the Middle East region. It is also in the national interest of Russia to establish stability in the region which has an important strategic meaning to Moscow, not just because of the Tartus military Base of the Russian naval forces.
It is not a coincidence that Karl Haushofer is well known in Moscow while in Berlin they even don’t know anymore how to spell his name. The theories of geopolitics are developed and improved for the 21st century by Russians like Prof. Alexandr Dugin who are aware of the future challenges. Maybe the next generation of German leaders should study in Moscow where they can learn more about German interests and politics than at the pro-western liberal Otto-Suhr-Institut in Berlin. At the end Germany could play again a positive role in world politics and act as a peace power instead of being the NATO’s warhead of the NATO. The Germans would be as thankful as the Syrians and all the other nations that will be in the backsight of Washington in the future.