Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem has censured certain governments in the Middle East and the West for taking advantage of the humanitarian sufferings of Syrians to reach their political objectives.
In an address to the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Saturday, Muallem said Syria was being constantly blamed for the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the country, especially in the war-ravaged northern part, regardless of the fact that certain states favored the continued humanitarian catastrophe to advance their own objectives.
The Syrian foreign minister said Western governments continued to accuse the Syrian military of resorting to siege and starvation as a tactic of war, but at the same time supported militants to use people most affected by the conflict as human shields.
Muallem said Syria would spare no effort to put an end to the sufferings of Syrians and give them back their dignity. He also stated that the country faced a tough task of coping with systematic destruction by foreign-backed militants.
Israeli regime supporting terrorists
Elsewhere in his remarks, Muallem said Syria’s confrontation with mercenary terrorism was not new as the country had long confronted the terrorism of Israel, which occupied the Golan Heights in 1967.
He said Israel was intervening militarily and directly in Syria to assist terrorists operating in the Golan Heights.
The top Syrian diplomat called on the international community to pressure Israel to conform to UN resolutions that guarantee Syria’s sovereignty over Golan.
“We hope that the UN could regain the trust of the people through upholding its Charter, which guarantees the protection of the country’s sovereignty,” Muallem stated.
‘Recent US airstrike was intentional’
Muallem rejected claims by the United States that an airstrike a week ago on a Syrian army base in the east of the country was a mistake, saying the strike, which killed over 80 Syrian soldiers, was “intentional.”
“The Syrian government holds the United States fully responsible for this aggression, because facts show that it was an intentional attack, and not an error, even if the United States claims otherwise,” the Syrian foreign minister said.
Muallem reiterated Syria’s commitment to moving forward with the UN-led peace process, saying, however, that the complicity of the US and its allies with the Takfiri Daesh terrorists and other militants was a major obstacle to honoring pledges on the cessation of hostilities.
On September 9, Russia and the United States agreed on a milestone deal on the crisis in Syria after some 13 hours of marathon talks in the Swiss city of Geneva. The deal, which went into effect on September 12 and was initially agreed to last seven days, called for increased humanitarian aid for those trapped inside the northwestern city of Aleppo.
The Syrian army announced an end to the week-long ceasefire on September 19, when US-led coalition warplanes attacked a Syrian army base and an aid convoy was hit near the city.
Russia hopes that the next US president will be more committed to ratification by his country of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which Moscow has already ratified, Russian ambassador to the United Nations Vitaliy Churkin said Friday.
“We hope that the next president of the United States will be more strident in his commitment to [CTBT] ratification,” Churkin said at the UN General Assembly noting that Washington failed to ratify the treaty under the administration of President Barack Obama.
Earlier in the day, UN Security Council has adopted a resolution in support of the early enforcement of the CTBT.
The CTBT was finalized in 1996 and has been signed by the United States and 182 other countries. It was ratified by 166 countries but is yet to be ratified in Washington.
To enter into force, the CTBT requires ratification by all 44 states listed in the annex.
At present, the treaty is ratified by 36 countries, including the three nuclear weapons possessor states — Russia, France and the United Kingdom. The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty provides for a legally binding global prohibition against nuclear explosive tests or any other nuclear explosions.
“The American bombing in Deir ez-Zor, pieces of evidence and responses”, “An outrageous back stab”, “What is behind the American onslaught?” – those are the headlines one could run across while looking through the Middle Eastern media sources on the recent raid of the international coalition led by the United States against the position of the Syrian armed forces in the above mentioned city.
The deaths of dozens of Syrian soldiers sparked a wave of harsh criticism of Washington across the region. Some Arab commentators have rejected the official interpretation of the attacks as a “fatal error” of the US Air Force, that was allegedly trying to hit ISIS. Instead, they are drawing attention to a number of crucial details of the events that have been unfolding in Syria.
Thus, according to the Lebanese newspaper As-Safir, before that fatal attack neither the United States nor the international coalition forces made any attempts to bomb this area that was largely occupied by ISIS. This also remains true when we are to take a look at the other areas of Syria, where radical militants are occupying large chunks of territories in a bid to push the government forces back.
And even before the latest bombardment, Syrian troops have repeatedly come under fire of the so-called US-led coalition back in September 2014.
The latest attack is being perceived by the above-mentioned newspaper through Washington’s desires to put an end to a string of successful advancements of the Syrian forces, who have recently recaptured the city of Palmyra with the extensive amount of support provided by Russia’s aircraft. For putting an end to the Deir ez-Zor advancement, the United States added fuel to the fire of armed clashes in the north of the country, especially in the Aleppo area.
The US has been trying push the Syrian army forces back, preventing Damascus from using its oil and economic resources in the east of the country.
The attempts to squeeze the Syrian army out of the areas in the east corresponds with a number of previously announced scenarios. Like the project of the deceased Saudi King Abdullah to unite the nomadic Arab tribes in the border triangle of Syria, Iraq and Jordan and subject them to the Saudi rule. It would go in direct correspondence with the creation of a Sunni controlled area in the Iraqi Anbar province and a number of Syrian territories too.
Yet another motive of the latest bombardment is a political one. According to the Secretary-General of the pan-Arab National Forum, Dr. Ziad Hafez, the attacks against the positions of the Syrian army were carried out in a bid to undermine the US-Russian peace talks, that could potentially lead to a peaceful settlement of the conflict.
After all, there’s a long list of opponents to the possible truce both acorss the Middle East and in the US itself, including the sitting US administration.
Several Arab commentators indicate there’s conflicting statements and positions within the US towards the cease-fire agreement. They recall that during the long negotiations between Russia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State, John Kerry the latter had to wait for three hours to obtain a “go” from Washington.
The airstrike against Syrian forces is being perceived by the Arab newspaper Al-Kasyun as the first indicator of a break up deep within the American ruling elite. This was an avid demonstration of what could the “party of war” in Washington achieve. It manifests itself openly in an attempt to prevent the implementation of the agreement between the Russian Federation and the United States, or to at least undermine its value. Moreover, there we are witnessing prominent American politicians working hand-in-hand with radical Islamists in Syria, the newspaper notes.
After all, the agreement was heavily criticized by all the militant groups fighting against Damascus. Once it was announced, the social networks of radical militants were flooded with the same slogan “No truce, shame.”
At the same time, the UAE newspaper Al-Bayan says that, despite the tensions in relations between the US and Russia, the White House is keen to find an understanding before the new president is elected to show at least some success in its foreign policies, in particular in the fight against ISIS. Washington is also governed by the desire to avoid a direct confrontation with Russian military forces both on the ground and above it in Syria. This newspaper believes that the situation in Syria is still under control of both Damascus and Moscow, and they are not interested in letting it slip away.
Yury Zinin, Leading Research Fellow at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO).
Excerpted from the just released book War Is Never Just.
World War II is often called “the good war,” and has been since the U.S. war on Vietnam to which it was then contrasted. World War II so dominates U.S. and therefore Western entertainment and education, that “good” often comes to mean something more than “just.” The winner of the “Miss Italy” beauty pageant earlier this year got herself into a bit of a scandal by declaring that she would have liked to live through World War II. While she was mocked, she was clearly not alone. Many would like to be part of something widely depicted as noble, heroic, and exciting. Should they actually find a time machine, I recommend they read the statements of some actual WWII veterans and survivors before they head back to join the fun.[i] For purposes of this book, however, I am going to look only at the claim that WWII was morally just.
No matter how many years one writes books, does interviews, publishes columns, and speaks at events, it remains virtually impossible to make it out the door of an event in the United States at which you’ve advocated abolishing war without somebody hitting you with the what-about-the-good-war question. This belief that there was a good war 75 years ago is a large part of what moves the U.S. public to tolerate dumping a trillion dollars a year into preparing in case there’s a good war next year,[ii] even in the face of so many dozens of wars during the past 70 years on which there’s general consensus that they were not good. Without rich, well-established myths about World War II, current propaganda about Russia or Syria or Iraq or China would sound as crazy to most people as it sounds to me. And of course the funding generated by the Good War legend leads to more bad wars, rather than preventing them. I’ve written on this topic at great length in many articles and books, especially War Is A Lie.[iii] But I’ll offer here a few key points that ought to at least place a few seeds of doubt in the minds of most U.S. supporters of WWII as a Just War.
Mark Allman and Tobias Winright, the “Just War” authors discussed in previous chapters, are not very forthcoming with their list of Just Wars, but they do mention in passing numerous unjust elements of the U.S. role in WWII, including U.S. and U.K. efforts to wipe out the populations of German cities[iv] and the insistence on unconditional surrenders.[v] However, they also suggest that they may believe this war was justly engaged in, unjustly conducted, and justly followed through on via the Marshall Plan, etc.[vi] I’m not sure Germany’s role as host of U.S. troops, weapons, and communications stations, and as collaborator in unjust U.S. wars over the years is included in the calculation.
Here are what I think of as the top 12 reasons the Good War wasn’t good/just.
- World War II could not have happened without World War I, without the stupid manner of starting World War I and the even stupider manner of ending World War I which led numerous wise people to predict World War II on the spot, or without Wall Street’s funding of Nazi Germany for decades (as preferable to communists), or without the arms race and numerous bad decisions that do not need to be repeated in the future.
- The U.S. government was not hit with a surprise attack. President Franklin Roosevelt had quietly promised Churchill that the United States would work hard to provoke Japan into staging an attack. FDR knew the attack was coming, and initially drafted a declaration of war against both Germany and Japan on the evening of Pearl Harbor. Prior to Pearl Harbor, FDR had built up bases in the U.S. and multiple oceans, traded weapons to the Brits for bases, started the draft, created a list of every Japanese American person in the country, provided planes, trainers, and pilots to China, imposed harsh sanctions on Japan, and advised the U.S. military that a war with Japan was beginning. He told his top advisers he expected an attack on December 1st, which was six days off. Here’s an entry in Secretary of War Henry Stimson’s diary following a November 25, 1941, White House meeting: “The President said the Japanese were notorious for making an attack without warning and stated that we might be attacked, say next Monday, for example.”
- The war was not humanitarian and was not even marketed as such until after it was over. There was no poster asking you to help Uncle Sam save the Jews. A ship of Jewish refugees from Germany was chased away from Miami by the Coast Guard. The U.S. and other nations refused to accept Jewish refugees, and the majority of the U.S. public supported that position. Peace groups that questioned Prime Minister Winston Churchill and his foreign secretary about shipping Jews out of Germany to save them were told that, while Hitler might very well agree to the plan, it would be too much trouble and require too many ships. The U.S. engaged in no diplomatic or military effort to save the victims in the Nazi concentration camps. Anne Frank was denied a U.S. visa. Although this point has nothing to do with a serious historian’s case for WWII as a Just War, it is so central to U.S. mythology that I’ll include here a key passage from Nicholson Baker:
“Anthony Eden, Britain’s foreign secretary, who’d been tasked by Churchill with handling queries about refugees, dealt coldly with one of many important delegations, saying that any diplomatic effort to obtain the release of the Jews from Hitler was ‘fantastically impossible.’ On a trip to the United States, Eden candidly told Cordell Hull, the secretary of state, that the real difficulty with asking Hitler for the Jews was that ‘Hitler might well take us up on any such offer, and there simply are not enough ships and means of transportation in the world to handle them.’ Churchill agreed. ‘Even were we to obtain permission to withdraw all the Jews,’ he wrote in reply to one pleading letter, ‘transport alone presents a problem which will be difficult of solution.’ Not enough shipping and transport? Two years earlier, the British had evacuated nearly 340,000 men from the beaches of Dunkirk in just nine days. The U.S. Air Force had many thousands of new planes. During even a brief armistice, the Allies could have airlifted and transported refugees in very large numbers out of the German sphere.”[vii]
Perhaps it does go to the question of “Right Intention” that the “good” side of the war simply did not give a damn about what would become the central example of the badness of the “bad” side of the war.
- The war was not defensive. FDR lied that he had a map of Nazi plans to carve up South America, that he had a Nazi plan to eliminate religion, that U.S. ships (covertly assisting British war planes) were innocently attacked by Nazis, that Germany was a threat to the United States.[viii] A case can be made that the U.S. needed to enter the war in Europe to defend other nations, which had entered to defend yet other nations, but a case could also be made that the U.S. escalated the targeting of civilians, extended the war, and inflicted more damage than might have occurred, had the U.S. done nothing, attempted diplomacy, or invested in nonviolence. To claim that a Nazi empire could have grown to someday include an occupation of the United States is wildly far fetched and not borne out by any earlier or later examples from other wars.
- We now know much more widely and with much more data that nonviolent resistance to occupation and injustice is more likely to succeed—and that success more likely to last—than violent resistance. With this knowledge, we can look back at the stunning successes of nonviolent actions against the Nazis that were not well organized or built on beyond their initial successes.[ix]
- The Good War was not good for the troops. Lacking intense modern training and psychological conditioning to prepare soldiers to engage in the unnatural act of murder, some 80 percent of U.S. and other troops in World War II did not fire their weapons at “the enemy.”[x] The fact that veterans of WWII were treated better after the war than other soldiers before or since, was the result of the pressure created by the Bonus Army after the previous war. That veterans were given free college, healthcare, and pensions was not due to the merits of the war or in some way a result of the war. Without the war, everyone could have been given free college for many years. If we provided free college to everyone today, it would then require much more than Hollywoodized World War II stories to get many people into military recruiting stations.
- Several times the number of people killed in German camps were killed outside of them in the war. The majority of those people were civilians. The scale of the killing, wounding, and destroying made WWII the single worst thing humanity has ever done to itself in a short space of time. We imagine the allies were somehow “opposed” to the far lesser killing in the camps. But that can’t justify the cure that was worse than the disease.
- Escalating the war to include the all-out destruction of civilians and cities, culminating in the completely indefensible nuking of cities took WWII out of the realm of defensible projects for many who had defended its initiation—and rightly so. Demanding unconditional surrender and seeking to maximize death and suffering did immense damage and left a grim and foreboding legacy.
- Killing huge numbers of people is supposedly defensible for the “good” side in a war, but not for the “bad” side. The distinction between the two is never as stark as fantasized. The United States had a long history as an apartheid state. U.S. traditions of oppressing African Americans, practicing genocide against Native Americans, and now interning Japanese Americans also gave rise to specific programs that inspired Germany’s Nazis—these included camps for Native Americans, and programs of eugenics and human experimentation that existed before, during, and after the war. One of these programs included giving syphilis to people in Guatemala at the same time the Nuremberg trials were taking place.[xi] The U.S. military hired hundreds of top Nazis at the end of the war; they fit right in.[xii] The U.S. aimed for a wider world empire, before the war, during it, and ever since. German neo-Nazis today, forbidden to wave the Nazi flag, sometimes wave the flag of the Confederate States of America instead.
- The “good” side of the “good war,” the party that did most of the killing and dying for the winning side, was the communist Soviet Union. That doesn’t make the war a triumph for communism, but it does tarnish Washington’s and Hollywood’s tales of triumph for “democracy.”[xiii]
- World War II still hasn’t ended. Ordinary people in the United States didn’t have their incomes taxed until World War II and that’s never stopped. It was supposed to be temporary.[xiv] WWII-era bases built around the world have never closed. U.S. troops have never left Germany or Japan.[xv] There are more than 100,000 U.S. and British bombs still in the ground in Germany, still killing.[xvi]
- Going back 75 years to a nuclear-free, colonial world of completely different structures, laws, and habits to justify what has been the greatest expense of the United States in each of the years since is a bizarre feat of self-deception that isn’t attempted in the justification of any lesser enterprise. Assume I’ve got numbers 1 through 11 totally wrong, and you’ve still got to explain how an event from the early 1940s justifies dumping a trillion 2017 dollars into war funding that could have been spent to feed, clothe, cure, and shelter millions of people, and to environmentally protect the earth.
[i] Studs Terkel, The Good War: An Oral History of World War II (The New Press: 1997).
[ii] Chris Hellman, TomDispatch, “$1.2 Trillion for National Security,” March 1, 2011, http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175361
[iii] David Swanson, War Is A Lie, Second Edition (Charlottesville: Just World Books, 2016).
[iv] Mark J. Allman & Tobias L. Winright, After the Smoke Clears: The Just War Tradition and Post War Justice (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2010) p. 46.
[v] Mark J. Allman & Tobias L. Winright, After the Smoke Clears: The Just War Tradition and Post War Justice (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2010) p. 14.
[vi] Mark J. Allman & Tobias L. Winright, After the Smoke Clears: The Just War Tradition and Post War Justice (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2010) p. 97.
[vii] War No More: Three Centuries of American Antiwar and Peace Writing, edited by Lawrence Rosendwald.
[viii] David Swanson, War Is A Lie, Second Edition (Charlottesville: Just World Books, 2016).
[ix] Book and Film: A Force More Powerful, http://aforcemorepowerful.org
[x] Dave Grossman, On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society (Back Bay Books: 1996).
[xi] Donald G. McNeil Jr., The New York Times, “U.S. Apologizes for Syphilis Tests in Guatemala,” October 1, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/02/health/research/02infect.html
[xii] Annie Jacobsen, Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program that Brought Nazi Scientists to America (Little, Brown and Company, 2014).
[xiii] Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick, The Untold History of the United States (Gallery Books, 2013).
[xiv] Steven A. Bank, Kirk J. Stark, and Joseph J. Thorndike, War and Taxes (Urban Institute Press, 2008).
[xv] RootsAction.org, “Move Away from Nonstop War. Close the Ramstein Air Base,” http://act.rootsaction.org/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=12254
[xvi] David Swanson, “The United States Just Bombed Germany,” http://davidswanson.org/node/5134
Does the failure of the U.S.-backed, major insurgent August “push” on Aleppo – and the terms of the consequent ceasefire, to which some in the U.S. only irascibly agreed – constitute a political defeat for the U.S. and a “win” for Russia?
Yes, in one way: Moscow may, (just may) have cornered America into joint military air attacks on Al Qaeda in Syria, but in another way, one would have to be somewhat cautious in suggesting a Russian “win” (although Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s diplomacy has been indeed tenacious).
Secretary of State John Kerry’s Syria agreement with Lavrov though, has sparked virtual open warfare in Washington. The “Cold War Bloc,” which includes Defense Secretary Ash Carter and House Speaker Paul Ryan, is extremely angry.
The Defense Department is in near open disobedience: when asked in a press teleconference if the military would abide by the terms of the agreement and share information with the Russians after the completion of the seven-day ceasefire, Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, the commander of the U.S. Air Forces Central Command, which is directing the bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria, responded: “I think … it would be premature to say we’re going to jump right into it. And I’m not saying yes or no.”
But President Obama wants to define some sort of a foreign policy historical “legacy” (and so does Kerry). And the President probably suspects (with good cause possibly) that his legacy is set to be trashed by his successor, whomsoever it be – the minute he steps down from office.
In brief, the Establishment’s dirty washing is hanging on the line in plain sight. And it does not look great: Ash Carter, whose Department would have to work jointly with Russia in Syria, last week at Oxford University, accused Russia of having a “clear ambition” to degrade the world order with its military and cyber campaigns.
House Speaker Paul Ryan called Russian President Vladimir Putin an “adversary” and an “aggressor” who does not share U.S. interests. There is a U.S. media blitz in train, with powerful forces behind it, which paints Putin as no possible partner for the U.S.
Only in the coming days will we see whether Obama still has the will and clout to make the Syria ceasefire agreement stick. But the agreement did not appear out of the blue. One parent was the failure of America’s military “Plan B” (itself a response to the failed February ceasefire), and the other “parent” was Kerry’s wringing of a further concession from Damascus: Obama supposedly agreed to the separation of U.S. insurgent proxies from Al Qaeda (the former Nusra Front now called Jabhat Fateh al-Sham), and to their joint targeting, in return “for the what the Obama administration characterized as the ‘grounding’ of the Syrian air force in the current agreement,” as Gareth Porter has reported.
The U.S. and its Gulf allies – in pursuit of Plan B – had invested enormous effort to break Damascus’ operation to relieve Aleppo from the jihadists’ hold in the northeastern part of the city. The two sides, here (Russia and U.S.), were playing for high stakes: the U.S. wanted its Islamist proxies to take Aleppo, and then to use its seizure by the jihadis as political leverage with which to force Russia and Iran to concede President Bashar al-Assad’s ouster. Plan B, in other words, was still all about “regime change.”
Aleppo, Syria’s second largest city, has from the outset of this conflict been strategically pivotal – its loss would have pulled the rug from under the Syrian government’s guiding objective of keeping the mass of the urban population of Syria within the state’s orbit.
America’s long-standing objective thus would have been achieved – albeit at an indescribable price paid by the inhabitants of western Aleppo, who would have been overrun by the forces of Al Qaeda. Thus, the Syrian government’s recovery of all Aleppo is a major strategic gain.
In the end, however, the U.S. and its Gulf allies did not succeed: their much vaunted Plan B failed. And in failing, the insurgents have sustained heavy loss of life and equipment. Indeed, such are the losses, it is doubtful whether a “push” on this scale could again be mounted by Qatar or Saudi Arabia (despite the post-Aleppo “push” in Hama) .
In spite of the failure of Plan B, the U.S. was not ready to see Al Qaeda isolated and attacked. It wanted it protected. The U.S. ambiguity towards the jihadists of being “at war with the terrorists”; but always maneuvering to stop Syria and Russia from weakening the jihadists was plain in the letter sent by the U.S. envoy to the Syrian opposition Michael Ratney to opposition groups backed by the United States.
The first letter, sent on Sept. 3, after most of the Kerry-Lavrov agreement had already been hammered out, “makes no reference to any requirement for the armed opposition to move away from their Al Qaeda allies, or even terminate their military relationships, and thus implied that they need not do so,” Porter wrote.
A second letter however, apparently sent on Sept. 10, reverses the message: “We urge the rebels to distance themselves and cut all ties with Fateh al-Sham, formerly Nusra Front, or there will be severe consequences.”
Will it happen? Will the agreement be observed? Well, the Syrian conflict is but one leg of the trifecta that constitutes the “new” Cold War theatre: there is the delicate and unstable situation in Ukraine (another leg), and elsewhere NATO is busy building its forces on the borders of the Baltic Republics (the third leg). Any one of these pillars can be wobbled (intentionally) – and crash the delicate political framework of all the others.
Which brings us to the complex question of the current demonization of Russia by the Cold War Bloc (which includes Hillary Clinton) in the U.S. presidential election campaign.
Gregory R. Copley, editor of Defense & Foreign Affairs has described the situation as one in which the U.S. Establishment is deliberately and intentionally “sacrificing key bilateral relationships in order to win [a] domestic election,” adding “in my 50 odd years covering the US government, I have never seen this level of partisanship within the administration where a sitting president actually regards the opposition party as the enemy of the state.”
In short, the stakes being played here – in demonizing Russia and Putin – go well beyond Syria or Ukraine. They lie at the heart of the struggle for the future of the U.S.
There is practical evidence for such caution – for, three days before the Syrian artillery was scything the ranks of Ahrar al-Sham near Aleppo on Sept. 9 to close the chapter on America’s Plan B – (and four days before Ratney’s letter to the Syrian insurgents telling them to separate from Al Qaeda “or else”), Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in addressing the Ukrainian parliament, the Rada in Kiev, was eviscerating the Minsk II accords, brokered by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande as the only possible political solution to the Ukrainian civil war.
“Moreover, in a difficult dialogue,” Poroshenko said (see here and here), “we have convinced our western allies and partners that any political settlement must be preceded by apparent and undeniable progress on security issues: a sustainable ceasefire, withdrawal of Russian troops and equipment from the occupied territories, disarmament of militants and their family – and finally the restoration of our control over our own border” (emphasis added.)
Poroshenko, in other words, unilaterally turned the accord on its head: he reversed its order completely. And just to skewer it further, he told Parliament that any decision would be “exclusively yours” and nothing would be done “without your co-operation” – knowing full well that this Ukrainian parliament never wanted Minsk II in the first place.
And Kiev too is deploying along the entire borders of Donetsk and Lugansk. (A description of the military escalation by Kiev can be seen visually presented here).
Is Poroshenko’s U-turn the American “revenge” for Russia’s “win” in Syria – to heat up Ukraine, in order to drown President Putin in the Ukraine marshes? We do not know.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has boasted: “I think I tend to be in more direct conversation, for longer periods of time with the President [Poroshenko], than with my wife. (Laughter.) I think they both regret that (Laughter).”
Is it possible that Biden was not consulted before Poroshenko made his annual address to the Rada? We do not know, although within 48 hours of Poroshenko’s making his Rada address, Defense Secretary Ash Carter was in London, recommitting to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, as he signed a “bilateral partner concept” with the Ukrainian defense minister.
What we do know however, is that this is – and is intended to be – a direct provocation to Russia. And to France and Germany, too. Within a week, however, Poroshenko was backtracking as “coincidentally” a new IMF loan was being floated for Kiev, just as the German and French Foreign ministers insisted on the Minsk formula of “truce – special status – elections in Donbass – control of the border” be respected – and as the Donetsk and Lugansk leadership unexpectedly offered a unilateral ceasefire.
But Poroshenko’s “backtrack” was itself “backtracked” by Sept. 16, when the French and German visiting Foreign Ministers were reportedly told that Ukraine’s government now refused to implement the Minsk accord as it stood, as it now insists that the order be fully reversed: “truce – control of the border – elections.”
The American bitter internal election “civil war” is now shaking the pillars of the tripod on which America’s – and Europe’s – bilateral relations with Russia stand. It would therefore seem a stretch now for Obama to hope to prevail with any “legacy strategy” either in the Middle East or Ukraine that is contingent on cooperation with Russia.
The U.S. Establishment seems to have come to see the very preservation of the global status quo as linked to their ability to paint Trump as President Putin’s instrument for undermining the entire U.S. electoral system and the U.S.-led global order.
To the world outside, it seems as if the U.S. is seized by a collective hysteria (whether genuine, or manufactured for political ends). And it is not clear where the U.S. President now stands in this anti-Russian hysteria having likened Putin to Saddam Hussein, and having accused the Republican nominee of trying to “curry favor” with the Russian president – for having appeared on “Larry King Live” which is now broadcast by Russia Today.
But the bigger question is the longer-term consequence of all this: some in the “Hillary Bloc” still hanker for “regime change” in Moscow, apparently convinced that Putin’s humiliation in either Syria (not so likely now), or in Ukraine, could see him deposed in the March 2018 Russian Presidential elections, for a more Atlanticist, more “acceptable” leader.
It is unadulterated wishful thinking to imagine that Putin could be displaced thus – and more likely, Ukraine (with its prolific ‘kith and kin’ ties to Russians) used as a lever to “humiliate” President Putin will prove counter-productive, serving only to harden antagonism towards the U.S., as ethnic Russians die at the hands of rightist Ukrainian “militia.”
But it is certainly so that this campaign is strengthening the hand of those in Russia who would like to see President Putin taking a less “conciliatory line” towards the West. So, we may be heading towards more troubled waters.
Alastair Crooke is a former British diplomat who was a senior figure in British intelligence and in European Union diplomacy. He is the founder and director of the Conflicts Forum, which advocates for engagement between political Islam and the West.
The Russian Defense Ministry says that a US coalition drone was in the vicinity of a humanitarian convoy when it was attacked outside Aleppo. According to the Russian military, the unmanned aircraft was a Predator drone.
“On the evening of September 19, in that specific region, a drone belonging to the international condition, which had taken off from the Incirlik air base in Turkey, was flying at a height of 3,600 meters and traveling at around 200 kilometers per hour,” said Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov.
“The object was in the area around the town of Urm Al-Kubra, where the convoy was a few minutes before it caught fire,” Konashenkov added. “It left after about 30 minutes.”
The Defense Ministry spokesman said he wanted to point out that, as was the case with the tragedy on September 17 which saw US-led coalition airstrike kill and injure 200 people, the Russians would not be making any unfounded allegations.
“Only the owners know what exactly the drone was doing at this particular area at that exact time,” he added.
Moscow says it has provided all the data it possesses regarding the attack on the convoy, which was carrying aid to rebel-held areas in Aleppo, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at a UN Security Council meeting on Wednesday.
“There was another unacceptable provocation on September 19 – the shelling of a humanitarian convoy near Aleppo,” he said. “I am confident that such coincidences require serious analysis and an investigation.”
On September 19, a humanitarian convoy consisting of 31 trucks was attacked while heading to Aleppo. According to the Red Cross, 20 civilians and one aid worker died as a result. Initial reports claimed the convoy had been targeted by an airstrike. Later the UN said all it could confirm was that the convoy was attacked.
On Tuesday, the Russian Defense Ministry reiterated that neither it nor the Syrian military had launched airstrikes on the convoy.
“Russian and Syrian warplanes did not carry out any airstrikes on a UN humanitarian aid convoy in the southwest of Aleppo,” Konashenkov said in a statement. He added that the military had studied video footage of the convoy, which appeared to rule out that an airstrike took place.
“We have closely studied the video footage from where the incident took place and we did not find any signs of any ammunition having hit the convoy. There are no craters, while the vehicles have their chassis intact and they have not been severely damaged, which would have been the case from an airstrike,” Konashenkov said.
“All of the video footage demonstrates that the convoy caught fire, which strangely happened almost at exactly at the same time as militants started a large-scale offensive on Aleppo.”
The United States should turn into the world’s “policeman” as it alone has the potential to find solutions to the challenges the international community is facing, former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in an article.
“From my former positions as prime minister of Denmark and secretary-general of NATO, I know how important American leadership is… The world needs such a policeman if freedom and prosperity are to prevail against the forces of oppression, and the only capable, reliable and desirable candidate for the position is the United States,” Rasmussen wrote in the article published by The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.
Rasmussen noted that the world in now facing a number of challenges, including the collapse of Libya, Ukrainian crisis, rise of China and North Korea’s nuclear program.
“In this world of interconnections, it has become a cliche to talk about the ‘global village.’ But right now, the village is burning, and the neighbors are fighting in the light of the flames,” Rasmussen stressed, adding that the world needs “a policeman” to restore the order and “a firefighter” to find solutions to various conflicts.
From Rasmussen’s point of view, only the United States could play these roles.
“Because of all world powers, America alone has the credibility to shape sustainable solutions to these challenges… This is not simply about means. It is also about morality. Just as only America has the material greatness to stop the slide into chaos, only America has the moral greatness to do it – not for the sake of power, but for the sake of peace,” Rasmussen said.
He pointed out that US President Barack Obama’s reluctance to lead the world destabilized the situation in the international arena.
“American isolationism will not make the US and other freedom-loving countries safer and more prosperous, it will make them less so and unleash a plague of dictators and other oppressors. Above all, American isolationism will threaten the future of the rules-based international world order that has brought freedom and prosperity to so many people,” Rasmussen outlined.
Rasmussen was Denmark’s prime minister from 2001 to 2009 and NATO’s secretary general between 2009 and 2014.
A recent article in The New York Times entitled, “The Secret History of Colombia’s Paramilitaries & The U.S. War on Drugs,” contains useful clues as to the U.S.’s true views towards the Colombian death squads and their massive war crimes and human rights abuses.  In short, it reveals a high-level of tolerance of, and condonation by, U.S. policy-makers for the suffering of the Colombian people at the hands of our long-time friends and allies, the right-wing paramilitaries.
The gist of the NYT story is that, beginning in 2008, the U.S. has extradited “several dozen” top paramilitary leaders, thereby helping them to evade a transitional justice process which would have held them accountable for their war crimes and crimes against humanity. They have been brought to the U.S. where they have been tried for drug-related offenses only and given cushy sentences of 10 years in prison on average. And, even more incredibly, “for some, there is a special dividend at the end of their incarceration. Though wanted by Colombian authorities, two have won permission to stay in the United States, and their families have joined them. There are more seeking the same haven, and still others are expected to follow suit.”
That these paramilitaries – 40 in all that the NYT investigated — are being given such preferential treatment is shocking given the magnitude of their crimes. For example, paramilitary leader Salvatore Mancuso, “who the government said ‘may well be one of the most prolific cocaine traffickers ever prosecuted in a United States District Court,’” has been found by Colombian courts to be “responsible for the death or disappearance of more than 1,000 people.” Yet, as a result of his cooperation with U.S. authorities Mr. Mancuso “will spend little more than 12 years behind bars in the U.S.”
Another paramilitary, the one the article focuses on most, is Hernan Giraldo Serna, and he committed “1800 serious human rights violations with over 4,000 victims . . . .” Mr. Giraldo was known as “The Drill” because of his penchant for raping young girls, some as young as 9 years old. Indeed, he has been “labeled . . . ‘the biggest sexual predator of paramilitarism.” While being prosecuted in the U.S. for drug-related crimes only, Mr. Giraldo too is being shielded by the U.S. from prosecution back in Colombia for his most atrocious crimes.
And so, what is going on here? The NYT gives a couple reasons for why the U.S. would protect such “designated terrorists responsible for massacres, forced disappearances and the displacement of entire villages,” and give them “relatively lenient treatment.”
First, it correctly explains that former President Alvaro Uribe, the most prominent and outspoken opponent of the peace deal between the Colombian government and the FARC guerillas, asked the U.S. to extradite these paramilitary leaders because, back home in Colombia, they had begun “confessing not only their war crimes but also their ties to his allies and relatives.” The NYT also writes off the U.S. treatment of these paramilitaries as the U.S. giving priority to its war on drugs “over Colombia’s efforts to confront crimes against humanity that had scarred a generation.”
Unfortunately, these explanations let the U.S. off the hook too easily, for they do not tell the whole story behind the U.S.’s relationship with Colombia and its death squads.
First of all, let’s start with former President Alvaro Uribe who the NYT states has a “’shared ideology’” with these paramilitaries and their leaders. This is of course true. But what does this say about the United States which gave billions of dollars of military assistance to Colombia when Uribe was President, all the while knowing that he had a long history of paramilitary ties and drug trafficking and that his military was working alongside the paramilitaries in carrying out abuses on a massive scale? And, how about the fact that Uribe was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush who considered Uribe his best friend in the region?
The answer is that the U.S. also shares an ideology with both Uribe and his paramilitary friends, and that it has wanted to prevent the paramilitaries from not only confessing to their links with Uribe, but also from confessing their links to the U.S. military, intelligence and corporations.
The NYT, while ultimately pulling its punches here, at least touches upon this issue when it states that “the paramilitaries, while opponents in the war on drugs, were technically on the same side as the Colombian and American governments in the civil war.” But “technically” is not le mot juste; rather, it is an imprecise and mushy term used to understate the true relationship of the paramilitaries with the U.S. The paramilitaries have not just been “technically” on the side of the U.S. and Colombian governments; rather, they have been objectively and subjectively on their side, and indeed an integral part of the U.S./Colombia counter-insurgency program in Colombia for decades.
Indeed, the paramilitaries were the invention of the United States back in 1962, even before the FARC itself was formed (in 1964) and before the civil war there began in earnest. Thus, as Noam Chomsky explains:
The president of the Colombian Permanent Committee for Human Rights, former Minister of Foreign Affairs Alfredo Vasquez Carrizosa, writes that it is “poverty and insufficient land reform” that “have made Colombia one of the most tragic countries of Latin America,” though as elsewhere, “violence has been exacerbated by external factors,” primarily the initiatives of the Kennedy Administration, which “took great pains to transform our regular armies into counterinsurgency brigades,” ushering in “what is known in Latin America as the National Security Doctrine,” which is not concerned with “defense against an external enemy” but rather “the internal enemy.” The new “strategy of the death squads” accords the military “the right to fight and to exterminate social workers, trade unionists, men and women who are not supportive of the establishment, and who are assumed to be communist extremists.”
As part of its strategy of converting the Latin American military from “hemispheric defense” to “internal security” — meaning war against the domestic population — Kennedy dispatched a military mission to Colombia in 1962 headed by Special Forces General William Yarborough. He proposed “reforms” to enable the security forces to “as necessary execute paramilitary, sabotage and/or terrorist activities against known communist proponents” — the “communist extremists” to whom Vasquez Carrizosa alludes. 
While the paramilitaries have been ever-evolving, taking different forms over the years and receiving legal imprimatur at some times and not at others, they have remained until this day, carrying out the same essential functions enumerated by Chomsky above while giving plausible deniability to both the U.S. and Colombian governments.
The potential confession of paramilitary leaders to their links with the U.S. and Colombia, as well as to U.S. multinationals, was as much of a threat to the U.S. as their confessions were to Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. And that is why the U.S. extradited the top paramilitary leaders and treated them with kid gloves.
As just one example, paramilitary leader Salvatore Mancuso told investigators nearly 10 years ago that it was not only Chiquita that provided financial support to the paramilitaries (this is already known because Chiquita pled guilty to such conduct and received a small, $25 million fine for doing so), but also companies like Del Monte and Dole.  However, given that Mancuso was never put on trial (the NYT notes that none of the paramilitary leaders have) but instead was given a light sentence based upon a plea deal, such statements have never gone on the court record, were never pursued by authorities and have largely been forgotten.
That there is more to the story than the NYT is telling us is revealed by the inherent contradictions of its story. Thus, the NYT at one point states that “[t]his is a crime story tangled up in geopolitics. Colombia is the United States’ closest ally and largest aid recipient in the region, and the partnership has focused on combating narcotics, guerillas and terrorism.”
Of course, it is quite true that the U.S. and Colombia have partnered together to fight both the guerillas as well as peaceful activists for social change. As just one example, Colombian President Santos just admitted and apologized for the Colombian government’s role in aiding and abetting the paramilitaries in murdering thousands of candidates and activists of the left-wing Patriotic Union party (UP) back in the 1980’s  – repression which scuttled the peace agreement with the FARC reached back then.
However, the other two listed goals of the partnership appear to be mere pretexts.
Let’s start with the claim, unchallenged in this story, that the U.S./Colombia partnership has been focused on combating terrorism. How could this possibly be given that the U.S. has in fact extradited the worst “designated terrorists” from Colombia – indeed, the NYT at one point acknowledges in the story that the paramilitaries have been the worst human rights violators in Colombia — and ensured that they will never answer for their acts of terrorism?
And, as for combating drugs, the NYT also points out elsewhere in the same story what many of us have been pointing out for years – that in spite of the U.S. dumping around $10 billion in military aid into Colombia since 2000, “[c]oca cultivation has been soaring in Colombia, with a significant increase over the last couple of years in acreage dedicated to drug crops.”
This leads us back to the more plausible claim that the U.S./Colombia partnership has in fact been all about instigating and supporting terror – that is, terror against the Colombian population in order to destroy any movement (whether armed or non-violent) for social change. That is why both the Colombian and U.S. governments are content to hold the paramilitaries harmless for their war crimes, for, after all, it was their job to commit such crimes and it was a job well-done. Indeed, the NYT quotes U.S. lawyers, a retired U.S. prosecutor and the U.S. Judge who gave a light sentence to vicious paramilitary leader Rodrigo Tovar-Pupo (alias, “Jorge 40”) for the proposition that these paramilitaries are viewed as “freedom fighters” whose role in the Colombian civil war is actually a “mitigating rather than aggravating factor in their cases.”
The paramilitaries in Colombia, and the role of the U.S. and Colombian governments in supporting them, should not be viewed as merely an academic matter for the history books. The paramilitaries are still very much alive in Colombia, and are still carrying out massive abuses such as the targeted killings of social leaders; mass displacements of peasants, Afro-Colombians and indigenous; disappearances; and torture.  And, the U.S. and Colombian governments, in order to continue to be able to shield themselves from any blame for the conduct of these paramilitaries, now simply deny that they exist at all. It is therefore more critical than ever that the truth about these paramilitaries, and their high-level backers in both the U.S. and Colombia, is exposed and their misdeeds denounced and punished.
Pro rebels demonstration at Brandenburg Gate in Berlin two years after the chemical attacks on the Damascus suburbs
Three long and terrible years have now passed since the staging of a Sarin attack in the Eastern suburbs of Damascus. These years have cost the lives of twice as many Syrians as had been killed in the preceding two and a half years of this unnecessary war against the Syrian state.
Yet it needn’t have been like this. Following the apparent chemical weapons attack on the Opposition-held suburb of Ghouta in the early hours of August 21st 2013 – for which the Syrian government was immediately held responsible by Western leaders and media – a ‘punitive’ military strike was proposed by the White House. This was averted, at the very last minute, by Russia’s proposal for the UN-supervised destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons stocks, or so it seemed.
Writing in a seminal article published by the London Review of Books that December, veteran investigative journalist Seymour Hersh reported that sections of the US intelligence community had also advised the White House to call off the strike, because of serious doubts about who was actually responsible for the Sarin attack.
But Hersh’s article – ‘Whose Sarin?’ – was comprehensively ignored by the Western media and even, it must be said, in the letters pages of the journal which had been brave enough to publish it. By comparison, his revelations were championed in the media of Syria and her allies, as well as by Syria’s supporters in the West, who had never given the slightest credibility to claims the Syrian government had launched Sarin-filled missiles ‘at its own people’. Such an idea, in the straightforward words of Russia’s President Putin, was ‘utter nonsense’.
And yet this idea persists, and continues to poison the minds of so many in the West who might otherwise have put an end to the illicit and covert war against the Syrian state and its people. Not only does the ‘original lie’ about the Ghouta attack get restated by self-described ‘supporters of the Syrian People’, but the facile idea of the ‘regime’ using chemical weapons has been reborn. Even before all the sarin and mustard gas stocks were destroyed, there were warnings that Chlorine might be used instead; now ‘chlorine filled barrel bombs’ have become a preferred method of killing people the government doesn’t like, according to Opposition activists. For the multiple NGOs, media and Western audience who condone the insurgency it matters not that these claims are vacuous and mendacious.
The focus of ‘Whose Sarin?’ was mostly on how much US intelligence knew about the abilities of terrorist groups in Syria – Al Nusra/Al Qaeda and ‘AQI’, later to become ‘ISIS’ – to manufacture Sarin, and the consequent doubts about Syrian government responsibility for the Ghouta attack. While Hersh noted the observations of missile experts Lloyd and Postol that cast real doubts on the origins of the suspect Sarin-loaded missiles, he didn’t offer an opinion on the lack of an ‘a priori’ case against the Assad government; I think it must be restated now.
Following claims that Sarin had been used in a missile strike in the village of Khan al Assal, near Aleppo in March 2013, attributed to Al Nusra by a Russian investigation team, the Syrian government had been demanding a UN investigation of this incident. Although the UN representative Carla del Ponte agreed with the Russian conclusion, the US took the word of the Syrian opposition that the government was responsible, despite those targeted and killed in the strike being government supporters. Not until the 19th of August did a UN team arrive in Damascus to investigate the Khan al Assal strike, as well as opposition claims of two other smaller Sarin attacks.
But before the UN team could arrange their visit to Khan al Assal, the Ghouta attack occurred, as evidenced by videos released and spread through social media. What actually happened there, and in the suburb of Moadamiya where claims of a Sarin-loaded missile were not substantiated in the UN investigation, remains in doubt. Quite startlingly the declarations of outrage from President Obama and John Kerry that 1430 innocent civilians had been gassed were supported by zero evidence; not one single autopsy showing death from Sarin was carried out, as the UN team confined its investigation to a mere 36 supposed victims who survived the attack. Even the evidence from those victims was inconclusive, though that was hardly surprising given these ‘victims’ were supplied by ‘activists’ in Moadamiya, where no Sarin contamination was found.
Notwithstanding this lack of real evidence for a Sarin attack, regardless of the culprit, and the rapid emergence of doubts on the authenticity of the crucial video evidence, a fact that even disturbed some Western commentators was the absence of any rationale for such a chemical weapons attack on the Syrian government side. Not only had the Syrian Army made recent gains in driving back the insurgency, and was working hard on reconciliation in divided communities, but the government quite clearly had a lot to lose by launching such a criminal and militarily useless attack. To choose to launch such an attack, ostensibly against innocent civilians, right under the noses of the UN chemical weapons investigators just after their arrival next-door to the crime scene would have been more than stupid – it was simply incomprehensible!
Perhaps it was at this point that the two sides of the narrative on the Syrian war parted company. No-one whose survival now depended on the Syrian Arab Army and its allies could believe the talk from the West – of ‘humanitarian intervention’, and of ‘moderate rebels’ wanting a secular democracy. And when the support of Syrians for their Army and President was put to the test in the elections of May 2014 the great majority of them offered it enthusiastically. Conversely in the Western sphere of influence, in the countries supporting the insurgency directly and indirectly, and amongst Syrian refugees in those countries, the case was closed against President Assad and the Syrian army. Even though the military strike had been called off, this was on the condition Syria’s chemical weapons stocks were destroyed – an action that clearly assumed the Syrian government had used Sarin and must be prevented from doing so again.
Although the evident plan in some quarters to prosecute an illegitimate war on Syria with direct military intervention using the attack as a pretext was foiled, the success of the Ghouta ‘false flag’ operation was clear in a different respect – as a demonstration that the Western public could now be made to believe almost anything, however implausible, with emotive manipulation. Both before and since the Ghouta operation, opposition videos showing children killed and injured by ‘Assad’s bombs’ have been very skilfully employed to conceal the truth of these vile attacks on humanity. Nowhere was this more the case than with the Ghouta Sarin attack videos.
While most of the bodies pictured in those videos were shown wrapped in white cloth and unidentified, many dead children were pictured as they died in their variety of ordinary clothes, and were soon identified. Some two weeks earlier, one of the most brutal and barbaric attacks by ‘rebel’ forces had been launched against some Alawite villages near Lattakia, with hundreds massacred but also over a hundred women and children kidnapped. Their fate was unknown until relatives recognised some of those children in the videos of ‘Sarin victims’, even though these videos were released 16 days later and 200 kilometres away in Damascus. In subsequent close analysis of the videos it was then observed that some of the same children appeared in videos released in different suburbs, in different positions and surroundings.
The unspeakable barbarity of the ‘rebels’, who all came together to take part in the massacre and then so callously made ‘snuff videos’ to use as a propaganda weapon, should cause us to reflect on how the reporting of these atrocities went virtually unnoticed by our ‘humanitarian’ agencies, and remained uncondemned by the UN. The apparent condoning of this sectarian attack on rural Alawite communities – which was seen by some as a payback for the Syrian Army’s liberation of Al Qusair two months earlier – has unpleasant echoes in the reaction of those same agencies to recent events in Aleppo. Before considering these events, and the renewed threat of a catastrophic war, there is another story to be told for which Seymour Hersh’s further investigations provide a lead.
Having established ‘whose Sarin’ was used in Ghouta – and more recent investigations confirmed beyond reasonable doubt that the Sarin was not from Syrian government stocks – the question that must now be answered is ‘whose Rebels?’. It has been no secret for some time that Opposition forces in Syria are being supplied with ammunition and weapons from neighbouring countries, and that ‘jihadis’ from many countries have been flowing over Syria’s borders to join the fight. The Orwellian ‘Friends of Syria’ countries – the Western and Gulf states supporting the Syrian Opposition against the Syrian state – have long maintained that this support for the insurgency is being assisted and paid for by individuals over whom states have little control. While they might allow that some governments – Turkey for instance – are ‘not doing enough’ to stop the flow of fighters and arms across their borders, no Western leaders or mainstream media organisations will admit to the truth of direct state support for the insurgency.
The reality of this barely covert and illicit support from foreign governments for all the armed groups fighting in Syria is however like the proverbial ‘elephant in the room’, and the inability to see it barely comprehensible. It is as if the whole Western populace has been subject to a feat of mass hypnosis by their corporate media, who have themselves become witless facilitators of their governments’ agendas. The official ‘narrative’ of the ‘Civil War in Syria’ has now become self-sustaining, with the same false memes pervading every part of the Western media echo-chamber.
Yet ask anyone outside this chamber – and particularly the 17 million Syrians who have remained in and support their country – and they will tell you all we need to know about the ‘elephant’. They have long realised that – at its simplest – there is no ‘civil war’ in Syria, having its origins in an authentic sectarian uprising against an oppressive and brutal ‘Alawite’ government. The conflict is rather seen as a war on Syria being waged by a proxy army of ruthless ‘takfiris’, against which all actions of the Syrian Arab Army are considered legitimate self-defence of Syria and its people. Some Syrians may consider that the war was not like this from the start, but now accept the reality of foreign sponsorship of the insurgency and fully support the government and army’s fight against it.
Within days of the first protest rallies in Dera’a on the border with Jordan however, it became abundantly clear to the government that arms and fighters had infiltrated Syria’s borders, with assistance from foreign agencies and with the express intention of fomenting a ‘popular uprising’. The role played by Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, the state broadcasters for the key Arab states seeking the overthrow of the Assad government, in ‘spreading false news’ and thereby inciting rebellion, was fundamental in this operation. While the better informed and educated populations in the cities and in areas historically supportive of the government were sceptical of Al Jazeera’s reports and soon recognised their bias and fabrications, those in poorer rural areas readily accepted the false accusations against the government and army. What might have been peaceful protests, with legitimate demands that the government initially sought to address, rapidly descended into a spiral of violence. This was not as portrayed in the West, as a result of a ‘brutal crackdown’ by the security forces, but because of the reaction of those forces to lethal fire from ‘agents provocateurs’ amongst the protestors or hidden in nearby buildings. Adding insult to injury, soldiers who were killed by these snipers were reported by opposition fighters as having been shot ‘for failing to fire on protestors’, or for attempted desertion. These false assertions, relayed to the Western media by local and foreign ‘activists’, laid the basis for the ‘information war’ against Syria.
Building on this narrative that the Syrian army, under the command of Bashar al Assad, was determined to stamp out the protests by any means, including by committing massacres of innocent and unarmed civilians, the ‘Free Syrian Army’ was contrived as a self-defence force for ‘the Syrian people’. Thanks to the developing links between Al Jazeera and some Western media organisations the completely false narrative of ‘the Syrian Popular Revolution’ took root in the western mind. This movement was assisted by the formation of the ‘Syrian National Council’ from the expat Syrian community in France, the US and UK. The SNC was strongly affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, ejected from Syria in 1982 by Bashar al Assad’s father Hafez, following the Brotherhood’s earlier violent attempts to undermine the central government. While the political significance of this group was not lost on the Syrian government or amongst Syrians, given that both Qatar – the home of Al Jazeera – and Turkey also had strong allegiance to the Muslim Brotherhood, the connection was dismissed or ignored by the ‘Friends of Syria’ and their subject populations. Astoundingly, following meetings with western leaders, this self-elected group of people, most of whom hadn’t set foot in Syria for thirty years, were pronounced as ‘the legitimate representatives of the Syrian people’ by their Western ‘friends’, and proposed as the government-in-waiting once Bashar al Assad was removed.
More astounding even than this was the acceptance by almost all NGOs, the UN, commentators and general public of this self-evident fiction. I shouldn’t even have to explain why people who have been through no conceivably democratic process of selection by any small fraction of ‘the Syrian people’, who don’t reside in Syria, and who seek the overthrow of Syria’s legitimate government cannot be legitimate representatives of anyone – other than the foreign states on whose behalf they are evidently acting. That the ‘Friends of Syria’ consider them so tells us just which foreign states these are.
While the SNC was always presented as a political group, and with only a tenuous connection to ‘Opposition’ fighters in Syria, this may be seen as one of the ways its ‘supporting powers’ concealed their own direct support for the armed insurgency. The years of rhetoric about a ‘peace process’, and vacuous debate over whether Assad could play a role in an interim government, gave false legitimacy to the role of the US in particular in its contribution to the Syrian conflict. Despite the wide acknowledgement of the false claims used by the US in its war against Iraq, the similar role it had played in fomenting and supporting the violent war on Syria went unnoticed, even amongst the most vocal left-wing opponents of US policies and ‘foreign interventions’.
Many mainstream commentators repeatedly represent the US role in the Syrian war as one of ‘reluctance to become involved’, while supporters of the armed insurgency both within and without Syria frequently complain about the ‘US failure’ to help the ‘rebels’, both militarily and politically. This call for intervention is echoed by influential NGOs such as Amnesty International and Medecins Sans Frontieres and charities such as Save the Children, as well as the UN and UNHRC.
Faced with the reality, of significant covert military assistance to the Syrian insurgency by the CIA, as discussed in detail by Seymour Hersh in two later articles published by the LRB, we have a difficult choice. Either these NGOs who are helping the opposition forces in Syria are ignorant of the direct US military support for armed groups conducting daily attacks on Syrian civilians and soldiers, or they condone this support. Clearly it is preferable to believe that these respected humanitarian agencies, who claim to be apolitical and oppose all violence against unarmed civilians, are ignorant of the extent and criminality of US and other foreign military support for the violent extremists and mercenaries who increasingly dominate the opposition forces in Syria.
Perhaps they did not read, or chose to dismiss the unchallengeable evidence for a ‘Rat line’ of both weapons and fighters from Libya through Turkey into Syria, facilitated since 2012 by the CIA and the Turkish Intelligence organisation MIT, as discussed in April 2014 by Seymour Hersh. (LRB, ‘Obama, Erdogan and the Syrian Rebels’). Hersh reiterates and further elaborates on the operation of the CIA’s rat line in his most recent article discussing intelligence sharing between the US and Syria (Military to Military, LRB January 7th 2016), noting the state department’s support for the operation, and apparent carelessness about the final destination of the weapons or the true nature of the ‘rebels’ they were arming. During this period the CIA was also running a training program for opposition fighters in Jordan who then joined jihadist forces fighting the Syrian army up to Damascus. Credible reports put the number of mercenaries so trained and armed at around 10,000 over several years.
While both these covert and illegal US operations were quite visible to those who looked, the false narrative about US reluctance to arm the ‘rebel’ forces remains dominant, sustained by periodic statements from the White House. Following constant calls from sections of Congress and pressure groups, the US finally ‘agreed’ to set up a ‘train and assist program’, selecting suitable ‘moderate’ Syrians for this force, not to fight ‘Assad’s Army’ but Islamic State. Much was made of the failure of this programme and the rapid defeat of its first recruits by Al Nusra. In fact it was a significant success for the White House in concealing the reality of its massive contribution to the violent military campaign to change Syria’s government. Considering the number of innocent Syrians who have been killed by US weapons, used by US trained mercenaries and foreign fighters, it was a truly criminal deception.
This deception continued until late last year, when Russia’s intervention in support of the Syrian army finally brought ‘the Rats’ out into the daylight. The US could no longer hide the armed groups it was supporting within the main Opposition-held area in the north-west as the Syrian army backed by Russian air power advanced towards Aleppo; it was forced to reveal their identity and location, and appeal to the Russians to avoid bombing these US-approved ‘moderate rebels’. No-one thought to point out that if these ‘vetted’ groups were there to fight Islamic State, they seemed to be in the wrong place, at least according to their sponsors. The US had complained since the start of the Russian air-campaign that Russia was targeting the ‘moderate rebels’ – claiming there was no IS presence around Aleppo.
But this left another problem for the US covert operation – Syria’s Al Qaeda. The dominant presence of this group around Aleppo, which has been holding Aleppo under siege for years while subjecting the government-supporting population to constant terrorist attacks, makes it the prime target for the Syrian forces and Russian air-strikes. Unable to deny that the ‘Al Nusra front’ did dominate the armed groups in East Aleppo, or persuade Russia not to target the terrorist group for fear it might kill ‘moderate rebels’ the West is vocally supporting, the US came up with another idea, claiming Al Nusra had cut ties with Al Qaeda and would henceforth be known as ‘Jabhat Fatah al Sham’. Even though this was so transparently disingenuous – and statements from the new ‘Foreign Media Relations Director’ of ‘Fatah al Sham’ confirmed the group’s continuing extremist Islamist agenda – the name-changing ruse worked.
Following a long-awaited campaign to liberate Aleppo from Al Nusra’s siege by the Syrian army, assisted by Iranian and Lebanese forces and the Russian air force, and the breaking of their resupply route from Turkey, an estimated force of 10,000 armed militants launched a huge counter attack on West Aleppo (at the end of July). Quite astonishingly the assistance of Al Qaeda’s suicide bombers in making this a ‘successful’ assault was acknowledged and even welcomed by Western media, who took their cue from aid agencies and others supporting the ‘besieged rebels’ in their hold-out in East Aleppo. One of the most influential of these ‘aid’ agencies is the ‘Syrian Civil Defence’ or White Helmets, whose logo can be seen on many videos showing people being rescued from buildings allegedly destroyed by Syrian or Russian bombs. While the White Helmets’ origins with MI6 are not hidden, – origins which should cast serious doubt both on their reports and their actual activities – Western media agencies have managed to ignore them.
Indeed one wonders now whether the White Helmets’ evident support for Al Nusra would any longer serve to disqualify it as a recipient of the West’s charitable and political assistance. If Al Qaeda’s suicide bombers can now be viewed as ‘good suicide bombers’ for helping the cause, then presumably the White Helmets would also be praised for their supporting role.
Yet it is only a supporting role. Taking advantage of the ceasefire and ‘humanitarian pause’ in the Syrian campaign forced on it by the West, huge new stocks of US weapons and vehicles paid for by local allies were shipped in across the Turkish border to resupply ‘rebel forces’. For the first time these included MANPADS, enabling Syrian or Russian planes to be shot down.
Perhaps now we should consider the disdain and disgust amongst Syrians, not just for those who kill their brave and loyal soldiers, but for those amongst us who would celebrate the brutal deaths of their loved ones and protectors. Consider the particular degree of wrath reserved for ‘terrorists’ who dare to kill just one of our soldiers on our own soil, or for those who seek to justify or even explain such brutality as a response to our own murderous campaigns in their homelands.
Having established, beyond a shadow of doubt, that neither the Syrian government nor any of its agents was responsible for the deaths of civilians from Sarin poisoning in Ghouta three years ago, it follows that all subsequent action taken directly or indirectly against Syria has been illegitimate. It also follows that responsibility for the deaths and injury of tens of thousands of innocent Syrian civilians and as many loyal Syrian soldiers and defence forces at the hands of violent sectarian extremists and mercenaries since August 2013, lies with those who have – in full knowledge of the truth – developed and maintained the fraudulent supporting narrative of the ‘Syrian civil war’ in the Western sphere.
How did it come to this – a situation where the truth of the ‘dirty war on Syria’ is completely concealed from those whose governments are conducting it, while being known to all those who are the victims of it in Syria? How can our comprehension of the motives and methods of our own governments be so lacking that they can literally get away with murder, while claiming the moral high ground and pretending sympathy with their victims?
But do we also share some responsibility for these crimes against humanity, for our gullibility in believing only the stories told by one party to the conflict, while rejecting those of the actual victims of the war – the Syrian people and their defence forces?
Russian and Syrian warplanes did not launch airstrikes on an aid convoy that was attacked en route to Aleppo, the Russian Defense Ministry said. The ministry added that only the militants who control the area had information regarding the location of the convoy.
“Russian and Syrian warplanes did not carry out any airstrikes on a UN humanitarian aid convoy in the southwest of Aleppo,” Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a statement Tuesday.
The Russian Center for Reconciliation said that it had used drones to accompany the convoy because its route passed through territory controlled by the rebels, but only to a certain point.
“Around 13:40 Moscow time (10:40 GMT) the aid convoy successfully reached the destination. The Russian side did not monitor the convoy after this and its movements were only known by the militants who were in control of the area,” Konashenkov added.
The Red Cross said that at least 20 civilians and one aid worker had been killed after what the organization believed was an airstrike struck the 31-truck convoy.
The aid worker was identified as Omar Barakat, the director of a sub-branch of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC), which was helping with the delivery of aid intended to reach rebel-held areas of Aleppo.
“Today, the Red Cross and Red Crescent is in mourning. In solidarity with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, we are calling on the international community to ensure the protection of humanitarian aid workers and volunteers. We are not part of this conflict,” Tadateru Konoe, the president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said in a statement.
Benoit Matsha-Carpentier, the head of communications at the IFRC spoke to RT and said there has been a loss of life, but it is difficult to understand fully what has happened.
“We have very diverse information and it is quite difficult to get a full picture of the situation,” he said. “Very tragically, we have volunteers from the Red Crescent who have been attacked. We have information that several people have died, but we don’t have confirmation on the identities.”
The SARC said it would suspend aid deliveries in Syria for three days in protest at the airstrikes on the convoy.
Meanwhile, the UN said it will be suspending all its aid convoys while the security situation in Syria is assessed.
“As an immediate security measure, other convoy movements in Syria have been suspended for the time being pending further assessment of the security situation,” UN humanitarian aid spokesman Jens Laerke said. He added that the UN had received permission from the Syrian government to deliver aid to all areas of the country.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is also postponing an aid convoy that was to deliver supplies to four besieged Syrian towns.
Earlier, the Kremlin said it was assessing the situation, while Vladimir Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, said it would be incorrect to make hasty conclusions when trying to apportion blame.
“I do not think it is possible and correct to make unfounded conclusions. At the moment, our military is checking information regarding the airstrike and I hope they are getting concrete information from first-hand sources that were present in order to present their own findings,” he said.
Peskov also pointed out that terrorists from Jabhat Al-Nusra (Al-Nusra Front) had been firing rockets at areas under the control of the Syrian government.
“We know that the Syrian armed forces, who for the whole week have been the only party to have kept to the terms of the ceasefire, had to respond to this offensive,” he said.
The Syria Solidarity Movement unequivocally condemns and denounces the vicious US bombing attack on the Syrian army defending Deir ez-Zour, and we wish to make the following observations.
- The attack killed at least 62 Syrian soldiers and wounded more than 100. This is larger than the number of casualties inflicted in any US bombing on any terrorist target in Syria since the US announced its “war on ISIS”.
- The bombing inflicted no known casualties on ISIS, which the US says was its intended target.
- The US has produced no evidence that it notified its Russian counterparts, as required by agreement. In fact, joint action against ISIS was not expected for another two days. This leads to suspicions that the US attack was intended to preempt the provisions of the agreement.
- Syrian soldiers report seeing reconnaissance drones the previous day.
- ISIS fighters were poised to begin fighting the Syrian army units as soon as the US bombing raids ended. How did they know what constituted the end of the bombing?
- Although the Russian military presence in Syria is legal because it came at the invitation of the sovereign Syrian state, the US presence is illegal and was never approved, either by the Syrian government or by the United Nations. All US military actions in Syria therefore constitute an illegal invasion of Syrian territory, and must end now.
We find the US explanation of “unintended” targets, and especially the belligerent performance of Ambassador Samantha Power at the United Nations Security Council, to be false, disingenuous and counterproductive. The only credible explanation is that the US attack on Deir ez-Zour was intentional. The US has never seriously tried to fight ISIS other than to defend Kurdish fighters, with rare and largely ineffectual attacks against ISIS fighters in their strongholds, and none during the ISIS campaign against Palmyra, when they were very vulnerable by air.
We believe that the US intention is to dismember the sovereign Syrian state, and that the Syrian army base at Deir ez-Zour constitutes an obstacle to this plan, and is therefore a US target. In accordance with this plan, the US does not mind if ISIS continues to occupy a large portion of the Syrian Euphrates valley, and, in fact, prefers to maintain ISIS as a destructive force that weakens Syria and is available as a proxy fighting force for other US regional designs, in partnership with their Israeli allies.
We are doubtful that the US intends to honor its agreement with Russia, and implicitly with Syria. US strategists are seeking to weaken and threaten Russia and not to form cooperative and mutually beneficial agreements. Accordingly, the only option may unfortunately be to make the cost to the US too high to be acceptable, and thereby to force a change in its priorities.
There is another and more constructive alternative, as follows.
- The US should immediately issue a formal apology to the government of Syria and offer restitution for damages, both to the Syrian government and to the families of the dead and wounded.
- The US should withdraw completely from all Syrian territory and end its support for all fighting forces there.
- The US should enforce its end user agreements on the use of its arms supplied to Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and other countries, to prevent their use in non-defensive roles outside their territories, and in particular to prevent supplying them to subversive forces in Syria.
- The US should use its influence in international banking and commerce to prevent the transfer of funds to terrorist forces in Syria and to prevent illegal trafficking by terrorists of oil and other Syrian assets from terrorist-held territory.
- The US should try to develop a new and cooperative relationship with Russia, and to stop threatening Russia through its subversive actions in Syria, Ukraine and other places, including the stationing of bases and troops in countries on Russia’s borders. The US should end its commercial and financial sanctions against Russia and Syria.
- The US needs to take action to end the internal bickering within its own government. International diplomacy is impossible when agreements negotiated by diplomats are undermined by other governmental agencies. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and other US government figures should be fired for insubordination and replaced with figures that allow the administration to speak with a single voice and so that negotiated agreements can be assured of implementation.
The Syria Solidarity Movement advocates respect for and compliance with all international law, prosecution of international outlaws, an end to attempts to strengthen one country by destroying others, the use of diplomacy to settle international disputes, and the development of peaceful and constructive relationships among all nations. We hold these goals to be of the utmost priority at the present moment because, given the level of escalation to which the USA has pushed a confrontation with Russia (and China) over Syria, Ukraine, and the South China Sea, the threat to world peace has never been higher since 1939.
Syria Solidarity Movement was founded in 2013 to counter misinformation about Syria and to promote peace, reconciliation and justice.
Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked called the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement “the new face of terrorism” in New York on Sunday.
Speaking at the Jewish National Fund (JNF) in New York, Shaked said, “The BDS is illegitimate. I define it thus: BDS is another branch of terrorism in the modern age.”
The BDS movement is a global campaign to end Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land through the boycott of Israeli goods and services, the divestment of funds and, in theory, sanctions.
Shaked claimed that the aim of the BDS movement was to “to wipe Israel off the map.”
As the decade-long movement gains momentum, Israel has pushed back against it with increasing determination.
“Sometimes the BDS movement’s funding sources are identical to those funding the terrorist organisations,” Shaked told the New York crowd. “This is the new face of terrorism.”
Shaked, a conservative member of Israel’s government who does not believe in a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, has made controversial statements in the past.
In, 2014 she was accused of inciting genocide with a Facebook post which quoted a Jewish settler, “They are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should follow their sons, nothing would be more just. They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.”
Shaked reminded the crowd about 9/11, and said that the terrorism which has taken place in Jerusalem, New York, Paris, Tel Aviv, London, Brussels, Istanbul “is the same terrorism.”
The minister went on to tell the crowd that Israel and the rest of the world are all “fighting against extreme Islamic terrorism.”
The justice minister expressed concern that young Jewish people are “confused and are led astray” by BDS, claiming that they are being tricked by “terrorists from radical Islam.”
She congratulated states in the US that have adopted legislation against BDS and expressed hope that others would follow suit and make BDS illegal.