Since the commencement of hostilities in 2011, the Irish government’s aid contribution to the Syrian conflict has been just shy of €200 million, channeled through the Red Cross and various UN Aid agencies.
Mainly focused on the plight of refugees in neighbouring nations, some criticism has been aired that through support of the Bab Al Hawa crossing in northwestern Syria that the Irish state has been inadvertently prolonging the conflict by keeping one of the supplylines for Islamist adjacent rebels open.
The crossing which was visited by Simon Coveny in March is under the control of the Al Qaeda splinter Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham in conjunction with UN aid workers giving creedance to notion Irish aid to Syria is indirectly assisting terrorism.
With Ireland taking roughly 3,000 Syrian refugees so far (often snuck into Dublin through chartered flights as we documented last February), to most, aid, refugee resettlement and the occasional Irish born fighter are the totality of Irish involvement in the war.
Not so, as this ignores that rather vocal anti-Assad lobby that reared its head in the early stages of the war, later morphing into pro-refugee advocacy as well as the politicians and foreign officials advocating a more hawkish approach internationally.
Politically manifesting itself in the Irish-Syria Solidarity Movement, those in favour of an anti-Assadist approach favoured punishing Russia diplomatically for its support of the Damascus government.
This outlook triggered various protests organised outside the Russian Embassy in Dublin following the Kremlin’s support for Assad including calls for Ireland to end trade relations with Russia in 2018.
Hands above the most raucous voice for intervention in the conflict is former Goal CEO turned Fianna Fáil MEP for Dublin Barry Andrews. Expressing his desire for more resolute action against the Assad government, in a 2014 TED talk Andrews spoke of the potential of introducing a no fly zones to assist the rebel and humanitarian cause.
Visibly active in a variety of anti-Assad demonstrations, Andrews stood down in his role as Goal CEO after the fallout over corruption in the organisation’s aid to Syria. One of the keener advocates for refugee resettlement, it was revealed in 2014 that Mr Andrews’s wife had made over €1 million in asylum applications.
Vociferous in his criticism of fellow parliamentarians Clare Daly and Mick Wallace for their visit to Syria, as well their alleged belief that the chemical attacks allegedly perpetuated by the Assad government were in fact staged by rebels, Andrews has donated much of his parliamentary time in Brussels to the anti-Assad cause.
Ironically his cousin and now Sinn Féin TD Chris Andrews was snapped meeting Assad himself in 2009.
On the Irish left there is a general schism as to how to view the Baathist government in Damascus. Generally speaking those on the social democratic to trotskyist left favour Assad’s removal as opposed to those on the tankie and republican left who still see ideological merit in the regime especially against from pro-NATO/Islamist rebels.
People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett drew certain ire for his association with the Libyan born militant Mahdi al-Harati later exposed as an alleged American asset.
Notorious for his work in his home country fighting against Gadaffi, in Syria al-Harat founded the jihadist group Liwaa al-Umma which subsequently alligned with Al-Nusra front.
Boyd-Barrett himself repeatedly shared platforms with Mr al-Harati in the early days of the war advocating against the Syrian government.
Similarly in the early stages of the Libyan conflict the Irish Anti-War Movement (IAWM) of which Boyd-Barrett sits on committee called for anti-Gaddafi forces to be armed and using US aid to Egypt.
One very prominent PBP member of Turkish origin Mehmet Uludag has made quite a name for himself in his stalwart opposition to the Assad government simultaneous with their pro-refugee advocacy.
Recently enthroned TD Ivana Bacik has also associated with the anti-Assad lobby at home, even going as far as to meet members of the controversial White Helmets group.
The subject of claims and counterclaims, the White Helments are an aid organisation accused by some of being Islamist patsies, a fact denied by the group and pro-western observers.
A key international figure in the drive to involve Ireland diplomatically is Dr Annie Sparrow, an Australian born doctor involved through various international human rights groups.
Dr. Sparrow testified to the Oireachtas on the need for a more proactive approach needed by Ireland, both in terms of providing aid to rebels and removing any humanitarian assistance away from Assad forces.
The Irish anti-Assad lobby at its peak was a bizarre coalition of trotskyists, Sunni militant expats, foreign actors as well as what can only be described as neoconservative hawks keen to involve Ireland in a war it had no interest in.
Internationally the initial clamour to topple Assad took little account of the potential for Sunni radicalism to hijack any potential vacuum and paid dividends in the rise of the Islamic State and similar groups.
Once the migration crisis started, it became obvious that whatever geopolitical interest we had in the war came in the need for it to end quickly to mitigate its destabilising effects on Europe. Assad may be brutal but the permanent dissolution of the apparatus of state would only precipitate further chaos and openings for radical Islamists.
Irish humanitarians played a dangerous game in their support for the effective overthrow of the Assad government through the invariable reliance on Islamist rebels and outside mercenaries.
Soon to be memoryholed, it’s worth keeping in mind warhawks for whenever the American Empire seeks to insert itself into for its next foreign intervention.
Using human rights jargon, the Western establishment was able to run cover on their designs in the Middle East.
The result has been the systematic destruction of a functioning Arab nation state and weaponised immigration into Europe.
Don’t for a moment allow people who advocate for interventionism to claim to be humanitarians. The tears and suffering of millions of Syrians have been the fruits of their foolishness, and will haunt geopolitics for generations to come.