Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary general of the Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah, says the Arab member states of the [Persian] Gulf Cooperation Council ([P]GCC), which recently listed the resistance group as terrorists, do not have the interests of Lebanon in mind.
During a live televised speech on Sunday, Nasrallah said those who assume that the Arab regimes will protect Lebanon have “pinned their hopes on a fantasy.”
Had Lebanon waited for a unified Arab strategy in the face of Israel instead of opting to resist against the occupying regime, “then the fate of this territory would have been the same as the fate of the territories Israel has taken control of,” he said.
On Wednesday, the six-nation Arab bloc issued a statement labeling Hezbollah a terrorist organization. The [P]GCC comprises Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
“Many of these Arab countries today, who designate us as terrorists, what do they have to do with this resistance and these victories and these achievements?” Nasrallah said.
Israel unleashed an all-out offensive on Lebanon 10 years ago under the pretext of releasing Israeli soldiers allegedly captured by Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. The invasion claimed the lives of nearly 1,200 Lebanese people, most of them civilians.
The Tel Aviv regime was, however, forced to retreat without achieving any of its objectives after Hezbollah fighters displayed heavy resistance against the Israeli military.
“Back then, we said to them (the Arab countries) ‘we don’t want anything from you… Today, we also say to them, to these regimes, ‘We don’t want anything from you. We don’t want money, nor do we want weapons, nor do we want support or blessing,” he said. “Just leave this resistance alone, leave this country alone, and leave this people alone.”
He blamed some Arab regimes for conspiring against anyone standing against Israel.
Nasrallah also underlined the assistance provided by the resistance group to the Iraqi government in its fight against the Takfiri terror group Daesh and reminded that Hezbollah did not wait for any orders to initiate its anti-terror fight in Syria and only fulfilled its religious commitment.
The secretary general of Hezbollah also addressed the tension that has been bubbling up between Saudi Arabia and Lebanon, causing the former to take a raft of hostile measures against the latter.
“If it’s angry with us, it has the right to. I understand Saudi Arabia’s anger. Why? Because when one fails, at the very least he will be angry,” Nasrallah said.
He went on to explain that the Saudi rage has emanated from the kingdom’s failures in Yemen and Syria.
“In Syria, there’s a very great Saudi anger because what they had calculated in Syria [was that] in two or three months, ‘Syria would fall into our hands,’” Nasrallah said.
Hezbollah has been successfully aiding the Syrian military against foreign-backed militant groups.
“He, who confronts Saudi Arabia in Syria is the real defender of the Lebanese national interests,” Nasrallah said.
“The same goes for Yemen. The estimations of the new Saudi leadership was that ‘we will decide the battle in Yemen. We will teach a lesson to all the Arab countries and the Arab world… and we will impose ourselves on the Arab world,’” he said.
Saudi Arabia launched a campaign of military aggression against Yemen in late March last year in a bid to bring fugitive former Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a Riyadh ally, back to power and undermine Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement.
Riyadh has, however, failed in accomplishing either of the two objectives, and has become entangled in a prolonged expensive war, whose adverse economic impacts—along with economic mismanagement—have gradually been giving rise to domestic discontent inside Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia will take delivery of French-manufactured arms originally ordered for the Lebanese army, following Riyadh’s recent decision to retract USD four billion in military aid to Beirut.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir announced the plan on Saturday during a visit to France.
Last month, the Saudi regime said it had suspended USD three billion in military assistance to the Lebanese military and another USD one billion to the country’s internal security forces.
The aid was cut after Lebanon refrained from endorsing Saudi-crafted statements against Iran at separate meetings held in Cairo and Jeddah.
The move also followed victories by the Syrian army, which is backed by fighters of Lebanon’s resistance movement of Hezbollah, in its battle against Takfiri terrorists battling to topple the government in Damascus.
“We made the decision that we will stop the USD three billion from going to the Lebanese military and instead they will be re-diverted to the Saudi military,” Jubeir told journalists in Paris, adding, “So the contracts (with France) will be completed but the clients will be the Saudi military.”
The aid is vital as the Lebanese army is fighting Takfiri militants from the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front and Daesh near the country’s northeastern border with Syria.
France’s arms delivery to Saudi Arabia comes amid Riyadh’s ongoing military aggression against Yemen and its support for militant groups in Syria.
Several European countries including Germany, Britain and France have been engaged in major arms deals with the Saudi regime, turning a blind eye to calls by rights groups to cancel the agreements.
Back in February, the European Parliament passed a resolution calling for the imposition of an arms embargo against Saudi Arabia, and urging EU member states to stop selling weapons to Riyadh as it is accused of targeting civilians in Yemen.
According to a recent report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Saudi Arabia’s imports for 2011-15 increased by 275 percent compared with 2006–10. The British government has licensed USD 7.8 billion in sales of arms, fighter jets and other military hardware to Riyadh since Prime Minister David Cameron came to power in 2010. France also signed USD-12-billion contracts with Saudi Arabia in 2015 alone.
Yemen has been under military attacks by Saudi Arabia since late March 2015. More than 8,300 people, among them 2,236 children, have been killed. The strikes have taken a heavy toll on the impoverished country’s facilities and infrastructure, destroying many hospitals, schools and factories.
The US government has been urged to impose economic sanctions on any company doing business with the private Iranian airline Mahan Air, four US senators wrote in a letter to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew.
The US Department of the Treasury has designated Mahan Air for its support for terrorism and funneling of weapons to Hezbollah and to the government of President Bashar Assad in Syria, yet the airline continues to operate with a network of partners throughout Europe, the senators pointed out.
“Mahan Air continues to operate and even expand its international business network… It is time to impose sanctions now on companies aiding Mahan Air,” Senators Kelly Ayotte, Chris Coons, Lindsey Graham and Richard Blumenthal wrote in the letter on Friday.
“We urge you to immediately identify to us all known entities engaged in commercial transactions with Mahan Air and take action now to sanction those companies, including freezing all assets of those entities found under US jurisdiction,” the lawmakers said.
Mahan Air flies to and from Denmark, Sweden, United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy, as well as Persian Gulf Arab allied nations. The airline has recently introduced new flights to Russia, the senators added.
The Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf have declared Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, which has been fighting terrorist groups in Syria and Israeli occupation, a “terrorist group.”
The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council officially added Hezbollah and all groups affiliated to its so-called list of “terrorist” organizations on Wednesday.
In a statement, GCC’s Secretary General Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayan accused Hezbollah and associated groups of committing “acts of aggression”, recruiting “youth” inside the Persian Gulf littoral states, smuggling “weapons and explosives”, sowing “sedition” and instigating “chaos and violence.”
The bloc, however, did not provide any evidence for its allegations.
The GCC comprises Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain and Kuwait.
The move by the six-member bloc is the latest measure against Hezbollah, which is fighting terrorists in Syria.
In 2000 and 2006, when Israel launched two wars on Lebanon, Hezbollah fighters gave befitting responses to the Tel Aviv regime’s acts of aggression, forcing Israeli military to retreat without achieving any of its objectives.
The GCC have taken a series of measures against Hezbollah since Saudi Arabia last month halted a $4- billion aid pledge to Lebanon’s security forces.
The aid suspension came after Beirut did not follow Riyadh’s lead and refused to endorse joint anti-Iran statements at separate meetings held in Cairo and Jeddah.
On February 26, Saudi Arabia blacklisted four Lebanese firms and three individuals over alleged affiliation to Hezbollah, and imposed sanctions on them. The kingdom also ordered its citizens not to travel to Lebanon, and is poised to expel the Lebanese citizens working on its territory.
On Tuesday, Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary general of Hezbollah said Saudi propaganda against Hezbollah has led to a political conflict in Lebanon, and advised the Lebanese youth against playing into the hands of Saudi Arabia, which he said spreads lies about Hezbollah and wrongly accuses the resistance movement of sowing sectarian strife between Shias and Sunnis.
He also denounced the Arab world’s silence in the face of Riyadh’s aggression on Yemen, where over 8,000 people have lost their lives since the Saudi onslaught began in late March last year.
Nasrallah warned that there are some Lebanese groups hoping to see a war in Lebanon just like the one Riyadh has waged against Yemen.
This comes as the Persian Gulf monarchies themselves stand accused of supporting extremists and terrorists in the region.
Local media outlets in Turkey reported that the Greek coast guard detained on Sunday a Turkish ship loaded with weaponry, adding that it was heading towards Lebanon.
The ship which took off from the Turkish city of Izmir on February 4 contained six containers, two of them holding weapons and munitions.
The Greek authorities also arrested all the crew members who are: six Syrians, four Indians and a Lebanese.
Al-Manar’s correspondent noted that the Turkish officials have not commented on the report.
It is worth noting that Turkey has been providing the terrorist groups in Syria with weaponry, inflaming the crisis which erupted in 2011.
A former director of America’s Central Intelligence Agency has said that the international agreements made after World War Two are starting to fall apart, and may change the borders of some countries in the Middle East.
“What we see here is a fundamental melting down of the international order,” Michael Hayden told CNN. “We are seeing a melting down of the post-WWII Bretton Woods American liberal order. We are certainly seeing a melting down of the borders drawn at the time of Versailles and Sykes-Picot. I am very fond of saying Iraq no longer exists, Syria no longer exists; they aren’t coming back. Lebanon is teetering and Libya is long gone.”
Hayden described the current situation as a “tectonic” moment. “Within that we then have the war against terrorism; it is an incredibly complex time.”
He explained that there are two fronts in the war. “The way I think about it, we Americans with our military backgrounds, call one element the close battle and the other the deep battle. The close battle is the one you and I are able to see everyday, that’s the heat-blasting fragmentation against those people who are already convinced they want to come kill us, and frankly, we are pretty good at that one.”
However, he said that the US is “not good” at the deep battle. “That’s the production rate of people who want to come kill us in 3, 5 or 10 years. Fundamentally the problem there is that that is not our fight.”
Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam has called for national unity in the face of Saudi pressure after Riyadh suspended a $4 billion in aid to Beirut amid a diplomatic row.
During a Thursday cabinet meeting, Salam highlighted the importance of national unity and urged ministers to “take into consideration the Arab consensus during the difficult and delicate crisis [the country] is passing through,” Information Minister Ramzi Joreige quoted him as saying.
Beirut-Riyadh ties have recently soured after Saudi Arabia suspended a $3-billion package to the Lebanese army and a remainder of $1 billion in aid to its internal security forces earlier this month.
The suspension came after Lebanon refused to endorse joint anti-Iran statements issued last month at separate meetings held in Cairo and Jeddah.
Riyadh also called on Tuesday on all its nationals in Lebanon to leave the country due to deteriorating political relations with Beirut.
Lebanese ministers rejected Saudi calls for apology to the kingdom. Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mohammad Fneish said Beirut had “committed no wrong for which to apologize.”
Industry Minister Hussein Hajj Hassan also voiced surprise over Riyadh’s measures against Beirut. “I don’t understand this great equation: we either apologize or we must bear a collective punishment.”
Economy Minister Alain Hakim, however, urged calm and said the country should not “panic before any measures by [Persian] Gulf states because such fears harm our economy.”
Saudi severed diplomatic relations with Iran on January 3 in the wake of the attacks on two of its diplomatic missions in Iran amid the angry protests over the execution of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr. This is while Tehran condemned the violence and made dozens of arrests after the incidents.
A number of Riyadh’s allies, including Bahrain, Sudan, Somalia and Djibouti, also followed the kingdom’s lead under pressure and broke off diplomatic ties with Tehran. The Saudis pledged the Somali government USD 50 million in aid on the same day Mogadishu declared it had cut ties with Iran, according to a leaked document.
Lebanon’s resistance movement Hezbollah has slammed Saudi Arabia for suspending aid to the country’s army and said the move exposes the real face of Saudi Arabia and refutes its claims about fighting terrorism.
The Saudis are apparently irked by the victories of the Syrian army, backed by Hezbollah resistance fighters, against the Takfiri militants fighting to topple the Damascus government with the backing of Riyadh.
Meanwhile, some analysts believe the Saudi regime is pressuring Lebanon to regain the influence it lost there in 2011, when the cabinet of former pro-Saudi prime minister, Saad Hariri, collapsed.
They say the kingdom might take further steps against Lebanon such as stopping flights to the country or evicting thousands of Lebanese nationals working in Saudi Arabia.
A number of Lebanese media outlets also speculate that Riyadh is exerting pressure on Beirut to secure the release of a Saudi prince jailed in Beirut for drug smuggling.
Saudi Prince Abdel Mohsen Bin Walid Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud was arrested in Lebanon in late October with two tons of amphetamines at the Rafik Hariri International Airport in Beirut last October.
The Kuwaiti embassy in Beirut advised on Wednesday citizens to leave Lebanon unless it was necessary to stay, Kuwaiti News Agency (KUNA) reported.
In a statement, the embassy also called on the Kuwaitis tending to travel to Lebanon to re-consider their plans.
Saudi, UAE and Bahrain have already issued similar travel alerts without submitting clear evidence about any security threat over the Lebanese territories.
Saudi Arabia has advised its citizens Tuesday against travel to Lebanon and urged those already in the country to leave it, citing “safety” concerns, a few days after it halted military aid to Lebanon.
“The Foreign Ministry calls on all citizens not to travel to Lebanon for their own safety,” the Saudi news agency SPA quoted a ministry official as saying.
“It also urges citizens residing in Lebanon or visiting it to leave and not to stay there unless for utmost urgency while observing vigilance and caution,” the official added.
The ministry also called on Saudis in Lebanon to contact the kingdom’s embassy in Beirut for “the necessary help and attention.”
UAE has also banned its citizens from traveling to Lebanon and decided to downsize its diplomatic mission in the country, according to AFP.
A George Washington University professor has overtly suggested that Israel should “flatten Beirut” — Lebanon’s capital with around 1 million people — in order to allegedly destroy the missiles of Lebanon-based resistance group Hezbollah.
Professor Amitai Etzioni, the prominent American scholar who teaches international relations — and who has taught at a variety of prestigious US universities, including Columbia, Harvard and Berkeley, and who served as a senior advisor in President Jimmy Carter’s administration — made this proposal in an op-ed in Haaretz, the leading English-language Israeli newspaper.
The newspaper, also known as “The New York Times of Israel” represents the liberal wing of Israel’s increasingly far-right politics.
The author wrote a few op-eds that held blunt and aggressive titles; the latest of which originally used the headline, “Should Israel Flatten Beirut to Destroy Hezbollah’s Missiles?” but then was modified to “Should Israel Consider Using Devastating Weapons against Hezbollah Missiles?”
Etzioni cites Israel’s chief of staff, who claims that most of Hezbollah’s missiles are in private homes, an accusation that Israel alleges against all resistance groups in the region to justify Israel’s attacks on civilian areas. But this claim, according to sources, is to justify any Israeli attack on civilian areas, adding that “it has been proven numerous occasions that there were no weapons in the civilian areas Israel bombed in Gaza for instance.”
Etzioni suggests that there can be many Israeli casualties in case Israeli soldiers take part in raids on the alleged houses, explaining “I asked two American military officers what other options Israel has. They both pointed to Fuel-Air Explosives (FAE). These are bombs that disperse an aerosol cloud of fuel which is ignited by a detonator, producing massive explosions. The resulting rapidly expanding wave flattens all buildings within a considerable range.”
Etzioni concludes his piece implying Israel has no other option but to bomb the city of Beirut. “In this way, one hopes, that there be a greater understanding, if not outright acceptance, of the use of these powerful weapons, given that nothing else will do,” he pointed out.
Such claims are similar to the ones Israel used during its 2006 aggression on Lebanon, in which it justified killing large numbers of civilians and dropping over a million cluster bombs by dubiously claiming innocents were being used as human shields.
The article triggered the fury of several Lebanese authors and activists who know the truth is otherwise. “I’m just speechless. It sounds ISIS-like, just eradicating an entire community of people,” wrote Kareem Chehayeb, a Lebanese journalist and founder and editor of the website Beirut Syndrome.
Also, Belén Fernández published an article responding to Etzioini’s op-ed, titled “No, Israel Should Not Flatten Beirut.” In which she pointed out “that Israel has already flattened large sections of Lebanon, in Beirut and beyond.”
She recalls visiting a young man in a south Lebanon village near the Israeli border who “described the pain in 2006 of encountering detached heads and other body parts belonging to former neighbors, blasted apart by bombs or crushed in collapsed homes.”
Etzioni is considered to be one of the prominent American scholars; he was among the 100 most-cited American intellectuals. He has also served as the president of the American Sociological Association. Etzioni served in the Haganah — the army that formed Israel after violently expelling three-quarters of the indigenous Palestinian population — from 1946 to 1948, and then served in the Israeli military from 1948 to 1950.
Hezbollah, the Islamic Resistance group in Lebanon, on the contrary to the claims of Etzion, does not involve civilians and civilian areas in war. The resistance movement does not justify deliberate attacks on civilian areas in wars and does not overpass ethics of war.
Also today, the same group that has been inscribed on the US and Europe black list is the same group that has been protecting the Syrian civilians and fighting a pre-emptive war to prevent Lebanon from being trapped.
In 2014, an anonymous European intelligence officer had said in an interview with al-Akhbar newspaper that “Hezbollah is fighting a battle against terrorism on behalf of the world, so it must be supported, at least in this confrontation”.
“I can say today that the resistance fighters are defending Europe,” he added.
Saudi Arabia has suspended a $3 billion package to the Lebanese army and the remainder of a $1 billion in aid to its internal security forces.
The decision, announced on Friday, comes following recent victories by the Syrian army, backed by Lebanon’s Hezbollah resistance fighters, against the Takfiri militants fighting to topple the Damascus government.
Riyadh proceeded to “a total evaluation of its relations with the Lebanese republic” in light of positions taken by Hezbollah, an unnamed official told the Saudi Press Agency (SPA).
The Syrian forces, backed by the Hezbollah fighters and Russian warplanes, have recently made major advances against militants.
Syrian government forces have been fighting a foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. Some 470,000 people have been killed and 1.9 million injured, according to the Syrian Center for Policy Research.
The $3 billion package was provided to Lebanon to buy military equipment from France. The Arab country received the first shipment of weapons in April 2015.
Saudi Arabia also halted the remainder of a $1 billion in aid for Lebanese security forces.
The SPA statement said the Saudi official also criticized Beirut for not condemning attacks on the Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran last month.
Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic relations with Iran on January 3 in the wake of the attacks which came amid demonstrations held in front of its embassy in Tehran as well as its consulate in the northeastern city of Mashhad by angry protesters who were censuring the Al Saud family for executing top cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr a day earlier. The cleric was an outspoken critic of Riyadh’s policies. Iranian officials strongly condemned the attacks and arrested over 100 people in connection to the transgression.
A Lebanese military source told AFP that the “Lebanese army command hasn’t been informed” of the Saudi suspension of aid.
Seeing the government in Damascus as too far to the left, Washington has been trying to orchestrate a regime change in Syria since at least 2003
Documents prepared by US Congress researchers as early as 2005 revealed that the US government was actively weighing regime change in Syria long before the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011, challenging the view that US support for the Syrian rebels is based on allegiance to a “democratic uprising” and showing that it is simply an extension of a long-standing policy of seeking to topple the government in Damascus. Indeed, the researchers made clear that the US government’s motivation to overthrow the government of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad is unrelated to democracy promotion in the Middle East. In point of fact, they noted that Washington’s preference is for secular dictatorships (Egypt) and monarchies (Jordan and Saudi Arabia.)  The impetus for pursuing regime change, according to the researchers, was a desire to sweep away an impediment to the achievement of US goals in the Middle East related to strengthening Israel, consolidating US domination of Iraq, and fostering free-market, free enterprise economies. Democracy was never a consideration.
The researchers revealed further that an invasion of Syria by US forces was contemplated following the US-led aggression against Iraq in 2003, but that the unanticipated heavy burden of pacifying Iraq militated against an additional expenditure of blood and treasure in Syria.  As an alternative to direct military intervention to topple the Syrian government, the United States chose to pressure Damascus through sanctions and support for the internal Syrian opposition.
The documents also revealed that nearly a decade before the rise of Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra that the US government recognized that Islamic fundamentalists were the main opposition to the secular Assad government and worried about the re-emergence of an Islamist insurgency that could lead Sunni fundamentalists to power in Damascus. A more recent document from the Congress’s researchers describes a US strategy that seeks to eclipse an Islamist take-over by forcing a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Syria in which the policing, military, judicial and administrative functions of the Syrian state are preserved, while Assad and his fellow Arab nationalists are forced to leave office. The likelihood is that if this scenario plays out that Assad and his colleagues will be replaced by biddable US surrogates willing to facilitate the achievement of US goals.
In 2005, Congress’s researchers reported that a consensus had developed in Washington that change in Syria needed to be brought about, but that there remained divisions on the means by which change could be effected. “Some call for a process of internal reform in Syria or alternatively for the replacement of the current Syrian regime,” the report said.  Whichever course Washington would settle on, it was clear that the US government was determined to shift the policy framework in Damascus.
The document described the Assad government as an impediment “to the achievement of US goals in the region.”  These goals were listed as: resolving “the Arab-Israeli conflict;” fighting “international terrorism;” reducing “weapons proliferation;” inaugurating “a peaceful, democratic and prosperous Iraqi state;” and fostering market-based, free enterprise economies. 
Stripped of their elegant words, the US objectives for the Middle East amounted to a demand that Damascus capitulate to the military hegemony of Israel and the economic hegemony of Wall Street. To be clear, what this meant was that in order to remove itself as an impediment to the achievement of US goals—and hence as an object of US hostility—Syria would have to:
o Accept Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state on territory seized from Palestinians, and quite possibly also Syrians and Lebanese, possibly within borders that include the Golan Heights, annexed from Syria by Israel in 1987 and occupied by Israel since 1967.
o End its support for militant groups seeking Palestinian self-determination and sever its connections with the resistance organization Hezbollah, the main bulwark against Israeli expansion into Lebanon.
o Leave itself effectively defenceless against the aggressions of the United States and its Middle East allies, including Israel, by abandoning even the capability of producing weapons of mass destruction (while conceding a right to Israel and the United States to maintain vast arsenals of WMD.)
o Terminate its opposition to US domination of neighboring Iraq.
o Transform what the US Congress’s researchers called Syria’s mainly publicly-owned economy, “still based largely on Soviet models,”  into a sphere of exploitation for US corporations and investors.
US government objections to Syrian policy, then, can be organized under three US-defined headings:
o Economic reform.
These headings translate into:
o Support for Palestinian and Lebanese resistance groups.
o Economic sovereignty.
Terrorism (support for Palestinian and Lebanese resistance groups)
The researchers noted that while Syria had “not been implicated directly in an act of terrorism since 1986” that “Syria has continued to provide support and safe haven for Palestinian groups” seeking self-determination, allowing “them to maintain offices in Damascus.” This was enough for the US government to label Syria a state sponsor of terrorism. The researchers went on to note that on top of supporting Palestinian “terrorists” that Damascus also supported Lebanese “terrorists” by permitting “Iranian resupply via Damascus of the Lebanese Shiite Muslim militia Hezbollah in Lebanon.” 
US Secretary of State Colin Powell travelled to Damascus on May 3, 2003 to personally issue a demand to the Syrian government that it sever its connections with militant organizations pursuing Palestinian self-determination and to stop providing them a base in Damascus from which to operate. In “testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on February 12, 2004, Powel complained that ‘Syria has not done what we demanded of it with respect to closing permanently of these offices and getting these individuals out of Damascus’.”
The Syrian government rejected the characterization of Hezbollah and Palestinian militants as “terrorists,” noting that the actions of these groups represented legitimate resistance.  Clearly, Washington had attempted to discredit the pursuit of Palestinian self-determination and Lebanese sovereignty by labelling the champions of these causes as terrorists.
“In a speech to the Heritage Foundation on May 6, 2002, then US Under Secretary (of State John) Bolton grouped Syria with Libya and Cuba as rogue states that… are pursuing the development of WMD.”  Later that year, Bolton echoed his earlier accusation, telling the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the Bush administration was very concerned about Syrian nuclear and missile programs. By September 2003, Bolton was warning of a “range of Syrian WMD programs.” 
Syria clearly had chemical weapons (now destroyed), though hardly in the same quantities as the much larger arsenals of the United States, Russia and (likely) its regional nemesis, Israel.  Citing the Washington Post, Congress’s researchers noted that Syria had “sought to build up its CW and missile capabilities as a ‘force equalizer’ to counter Israeli nuclear capabilities.”  It should be noted, however, that the idea that chemical weapons can act as a force equalizer to nuclear weapons is not only untenable, but risible. In WWI it took 70,000 tons of gas to produce as many fatalities as were produced at Hiroshima by a single US atom bomb.  To have any meaning at all, the concept of WMD must include weapons that kill massive numbers of people (nuclear weapons) and exclude those that don’t (chemical weapons.) Otherwise, it is a propaganda term used to magnify the non-threat posed by countries seeking independence outside the US orbit which have CW and biological weapons, but which weapons are no match for the United States’ nuclear weapons and are dwarfed by the Pentagon’s own CW and BW arsenals. Deceptively labelling these weapons as WMD, makes a non-threat a large threat that must be dealt with through military intervention and thereby provides a public relations rationale for a war of aggression.
As to the substance of Bolton’s assertion that Syria had a wide range of WMD programs, the CIA was unable to produce any evidence to corroborate his claim. Alfred Prados, author of a 2005 Congressional Research Service report titled “Syria: U.S. Relations and Bilateral Issues,” listed CIA assessments of Syrian nuclear and BW programs but none of the assessments contained any concrete evidence that Syria actually had such programs. For example, the CIA noted that it was “monitoring Syrian nuclear intentions with concern” but offered nothing beyond “intentions” to show that Damascus was working to acquire a nuclear weapons capability. Prados also noted that Syria had “probably also continued to develop a BW capability,” this based on the fact that Damascus had “signed, but not ratified, the Biological Weapons Convention.” Prados conceded that “Little information is available on Syrian biological programs.”
US president George H.W. Bush is responsible for rendering the concept of WMD meaningless by expanding it to include chemical agents. Before Bush, WMD was a term to denote nuclear weapons or weapons of similar destructive capacity that might be developed in the future. Bush debased the definition in order to go to war with Iraq. He needed to transform the oil-rich Arab country from being seen accurately as a comparatively weak country militarily to being seen inaccurately as a significant threat because it possessed weapons now dishonestly rebranded as being capable of producing mass destruction. It was an exercise in war propaganda.
In 1989, Bush pledged to eliminate the United States’ chemical weapons by 1999. Seventeen years later, the Pentagon is still sitting on the world’s largest stockpile of militarized chemical agents. US allies Israel and Egypt also have chemical weapons. In 2003, Syria proposed to the United Nations Security Council that the Middle East become a chemical weapons-free zone. The proposal was blocked by the United States, likely in order to shelter Israel from having to give up its store of chemical arms. Numerous calls to declare the Middle East a nuclear weapons-free zone have also been blocked by Washington to shelter Israel from having to give up its nuclear arsenal.
Bolton, it will be recalled, was among the velociraptors of the Bush administration to infamously and falsely accuse Saddam Hussein’s Iraq of holding on to WMD that the UN Security Council had demanded it dismantle. In effect, Iraq was ordered to disarm itself, and when it did, was falsely accused by the United States of still being armed as a pretext for US forces to invade the now defenceless country. Bolton may have chosen to play the same WMD card against Syria for the same reason: to manufacture consent for an invasion. But as Congress’s researchers pointed out, “Although some officials… advocated a ‘regime change strategy’ in Syria” through military means, “military operations in Iraq… forced US policy makers to explore additional options,”  rendering Bolton’s false accusations academic.
Since the only legitimate WMD are nuclear weapons, and since there is no evidence that Syria has even the untapped capability of producing them, much less possesses them, Syria has never been a WMD-state or a threat to the US goal of reducing WMD proliferation. What’s more, the claim that Washington holds this as a genuine goal is contestable, since it has blocked efforts to make the Middle East a chemical- and nuclear-weapons-free zone, in order to spare its protégé, Israel. It would be more accurate to say that the United States has a goal of reducing weapons proliferation among countries it may one day invade, in order to make the invasion easier. Moreover, there’s an egregious US double-standard here. Washington maintains the world’s largest arsenals of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, but demands that countries it opposes should abandon their own, or forswear their development. This is obviously self-serving and has nothing whatever to do with fostering peace and everything to do with promoting US world domination. One US grievance with Assad’s Syria, then, is that it refused to accept the international dictatorship of the United States.
Economic reform (economic sovereignty)
In connection with Syria impeding the achievement of US goals in the Middle East, the Congressional Research Service made the following points in 2005 about the Syrian economy: It is “largely state-controlled;” it is “dominated by… (the) public sector, which employs 73% of the labour force;” and it is “still based largely on Soviet models.”  These departures from the preferred Wall Street paradigm of free markets and free enterprise appear, from the perspective of Congress’s researchers, to be valid reasons for the US government to attempt to bring about “reform” in Syria. Indeed, no one should be under the illusion that the US government is prepared to allow foreign governments to exercise sovereignty in setting their own direction economically. That this is the case is evidenced by the existence of a raft of US sanctions legislation against “non-market states.” (See the Congressional Research Service 2016 report, “North Korea: Economic Sanctions,” for a detailed list of sanctions imposed on North Korea for having a “Marxist-Leninist” economy.)
To recapitulate the respective positions of Syria and the United States on issues of bilateral concern to the two countries:
On Israel. To accept Israel’s right to exist as a settler state on land illegitimately acquired through violence and military conquest from Palestinians, Lebanese (the Shebaa Farms) and Syrians (Golan), would be to collude in the denial of the fundamental right of self-determination. Damascus has refused to collude in the negation of this right. Washington demands it.
On Hezbollah. Hezbollah is the principal deterrent against Israeli territorial expansion into Lebanon and Israeli aspirations to turn the country into a client state. Damascus’s support for the Lebanese resistance organization, and Washington’s opposition to it, places the Assad government on the right side of the principle of self-determination and successive US governments on the wrong side.
On WMD. Syria has a right to self-defense through means of its own choosing and the demand that it abandon its right is not worthy of discussion. The right to self-defense is a principle the United States and its allies accept as self-evident and non-negotiable. It is not a principle that is valid only for the United States and its satellites.
On opposition to the US invasion of Iraq. The 2003 US-led aggression against Iraq was an international crime on a colossal scale, based on an illegitimate casus belli, and a fabricated one at that, and which engendered massive destruction and loss of life. It was the supreme international crime by the standards of the Nuremberg trials. Applying the Nuremberg principles, the perpetrators would be hanged. US aggression against Iraq, including the deployment of “sanctions of mass destruction” through the 1990s, which led to hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths, and was blithely accepted by then US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright as “worth it,” was undertaken despite the absence of any threat to the United States. The deliberate creation of humanitarian calamities in the absence of a threat, as a matter of choice and not necessity, in pursuit of economic gain, is an iniquity on a signal scale. What, then, are we to think of a government in Damascus that opposed this iniquity, and a government in Washington that demands that Damascus reverse its opposition and accept the crime as legitimate?
Whatever its failings, the Assad government has unambiguously adopted positions that have traditionally been understood to be concerns of the political left: support for self-determination; public ownership and planning of the economy; opposition to wars of aggression; and anti-imperialism. This is not to say that on a spectrum from right to left that the Assad government occupies a position near the left extreme; far from it. But from Washington’s point of view, Damascus is far enough to the left to be unacceptable. Indeed, it is the Syrian government’s embrace of traditional leftist positions that accounts for why it is in the cross-hairs of the world’s major champion of reactionary causes, the United States, even if it isn’t the kind of government that is acceptable to Trotskyists and anarchists.
In 2003, the Bush administration listed Syria as part of a junior varsity axis of evil, along with Cuba and Libya, citing support in Damascus for Hezbollah and groups engaged in armed struggle to achieve Palestinian self-determination.  An invasion of Syria following the US take-over of Iraq in 2003 was contemplated, but was called off after the Pentagon discovered its hands were full quelling resistance to its occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. As an alternative to direct military intervention to topple the Syrian government, the United States chose to pressure Assad through sanctions and by strengthening the opposition in Syria, hoping either to force Assad to accept Israel’s territorial gains, end support for Hezbollah and Palestinian militant groups, and to remake the economy—or to yield power. However, as Congress’s researchers reveal, there were concerns in Washington that if efforts to bolster the opposition went too far, Assad would fall to “a successor regime (which) could be led by Islamic fundamentalists who might adopt policies even more inimical to the United States.” 
On December 12, 2003, US president George W. Bush signed the Syria Accountability Act, which imposed sanctions on Syria unless, among other things, Damascus halted its support for Hezbollah and Palestinian resistance groups and ceased “development of weapons of mass destruction.” The sanctions included bans on exports of military equipment and civilian goods that could be used for military purposes (in other words, practically anything.) This was reinforced with an additional (and largely superfluous) ban on US exports to Syria other than food and medicine, as well as a prohibition against Syrian aircraft landing in or overflying the United States. 
On top of these sanctions, Bush imposed two more. Under the USA PATRIOT Act, the US Treasury Department ordered US financial institutions to sever connections with the Commercial Bank of Syria.  And under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, the US president froze the assets of Syrians involved in supporting policies hostile to the United States, which is to say, supporting Hezbollah and groups fighting for Palestinian self-determination, refusing to accept as valid territorial gains which Israel had made through wars of aggression, and operating a largely publicly-owned, state-planned economy, based on Soviet models. 
In order to strengthen internal opposition to the Syrian government, Bush signed the Foreign Operations Appropriation Act. This act required that a minimum of $6.6 million “be made available for programs supporting democracy in Syria… as well as unspecified amounts of additional funds (emphasis added).” 
By 2006, Time was reporting that the Bush administration had “been quietly nurturing individuals and parties opposed to the Syrian government in an effort to undermine the regime of President Bashar Assad.” Part of the effort was being run through the National Salvation Front. The Front included “the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist organization that for decades supported the violent overthrow of the Syrian government.” Front representatives “were accorded at least two meetings” at the White House in 2006. Hence, the US government, at its highest level, was colluding with Islamists to bring down the Syrian government at least five years before the eruption of protests in 2011. This is a development that seems to have escaped the notice of some who believe that violent Islamist organizations emerged only after March 2011. In point of fact, the major internal opposition to secular Syrian governments, both before and after March 2011, were and are militant Sunni Islamists. Syria expert Joshua Landis told Time that White House support for the Syrian opposition was “apparently an effort to gin up the Syrian opposition under the rubric of ‘democracy promotion’ and ‘election monitoring,’ but it’s really just an attempt to pressure the Syrian government into doing what the United States wants.” 
The US Congress researchers noted that despite “US calls for democracy in the Middle East, historically speaking, US policymakers” have tended to favor “secular Arab republics (Egypt) and Arab monarchies (Jordan and Saudi Arabia.)”  They noted too that since “the rise of political Islam as an opposition vehicle in the Middle East decades ago, culminating in the 1979 overthrow of the Shah of Iran, US policymakers have been concerned that secular Arab dictatorships like Syria would face rising opposition from Islamist groups seeking their overthrow.”  “The religiously fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood,” which the Bush administration enlisted to pressure the Assad government, had long been at odds with the secular Syrian government, the researchers noted. 
Today, Islamic State operates as one of the largest, if not the largest, rebel groups in Syria. A 2015 Congressional Research Service report cited an “unnamed senior State Department official” who observed:
[W]e’ve never seen something like this. We’ve never seen a terrorist organization with 22,000 foreign fighters from a hundred countries all around the world. To put it in context—again, the numbers are fuzzy—but it’s about double of what went into Afghanistan over 10 years in the war against the Soviet Union. Those Jihadi fighters were from a handful of countries.” 
Islamic State differs from other militant Islamist opponents of the Syrian government in seeking to control territory, not only in Syria, but in Iraq and beyond. As such, it constitutes a threat to US domination of Iraq and influence throughout the Middle East and north Africa. In contrast, ideologically similar groups, such as Jabhat al-Nusra, limit the scope of their operations to Syria. They, therefore, constitute a threat to the Syrian government alone, and have proved, as a consequence, to be more acceptable to Washington.
The US government has publicly drawn a distinction between Islamic State and the confined-to-Syria-therefore-acceptable rebels, seeking to portray the former as terrorists and the latter as moderates, regardless of the methods they use and their views on Islam and democracy. The deception is echoed by the US mass media, which often complain that when Russian warplanes target non-Islamic State rebels that they’re striking “moderates,” as if all rebels apart from Islamic State are moderates, by definition. US Director of Intelligence James Clapper acknowledged that “moderate” means little more than “not Islamic State.” He told the Council on Foreign Relations that “Moderate these days is increasingly becoming anyone who’s not affiliated with” Islamic State. 
The rebels are useful to the US government. By putting military pressure on Damascus to exhaust the Syrian army, they facilitate the achievement of the immediate US goal of “forcing a negotiated settlement to the conflict that will see President Assad and some his supporters leave office while preserving the institutions and security structures of the Syrian state,”  as Congress’s researchers summarize US strategy. Hence, Islamic State exists both as a useful instrument of US policy, and as a threat to US domination and control of Iraq and the broader Middle East. To Washington, the terrorist organization is a double-edged sword, and is treated accordingly. US airstrikes on Islamic State appear calculated to weaken the terrorist group enough that it doesn’t gain more territory in Iraq, but not so much that pressure is taken off Damascus. A tepid approach to fighting the hyper-sectarian terrorist group fits with US president Barack Obama’s stated goal of degrading and ultimately destroying Islamic State, which appears to mean destroying it only after it has served its purpose of exhausting the Syrian army. In the meantime, the anti-Shiite cut-throats are given enough latitude to maintain pressure on Syrian loyalists.
Congress’s researchers concur with this view. They conclude that “US officials may be concerned that a more aggressive campaign against the Islamic State may take military pressure off the” Syrian government.  This means that the US president is moderating efforts to destroy Islamic State to allow a group he decries as “simply a network of killers who are brutalizing local populations”  continue their work of brutalizing local populations. If he truly believed Islamic State was a scourge that needed to be destroyed, the US president would work with the Syrian government to expunge it. Instead, he has chosen to wield Islamic State as a weapon to expunge the Syrian government, in the service of building up Israel and fostering free market and free enterprise economies in the Middle East to accommodate US foreign investment and exports on behalf of his Wall Street sponsors. 
1. Alfred B. Prados and Jeremy M. Sharp, “Syria: Political Conditions and Relations with the United States After the Iraq War,” Congressional Research Service, February 28, 2005.
2. Prados and Sharp.
7. Alfred B. Prados, “Syria: U.S. Relations and Bilateral Issues,” Congressional Research Service, March 13, 2006.
11. Israel signed the global treaty banning the production and use of chemical weapons, but never ratified it.
13. Stephen Gowans, “Rethinking Chemical Weapons,” what’s left, August 14, 2015.
14. Prados and Sharp.
16. Steve R. Weisman, “US threatens to impose penalties against Syrians,” The New York Times, April 14, 2003.
17. Prados and Sharp.
22. Adam Zagorin, “Syria in Bush’s cross hairs,” Time, December 19, 2006.
23. Prados and Sharp.
26. Christopher M. Blanchard and Carla E. Humud, “The Islamic State and U.S. Policy,” Congressional Research Service, December 28, 2015.
27. James Clapper: US Director of Intelligence: http://www.cfr.org/homeland-security/james-clapper-global-intelligence-challenges/p36195
28. Blanchard and Humud.
29. Christopher M. Blanchard, Carla E. Humud Mary Beth D. Nikitin, “Armed Conflict in Syria: Overview and U.S. Response,”Congressional Research Service,” October 9, 2015.
30. Blanchard and Humud.
31. Virtually every member of the Obama administration, past and present, is a member of the Wall Street-dominated Council on Foreign Relations, or additionally, has spent part of his or her career on Wall Street. Wall Street was a major source of Obama’s election campaign funding. The strong interlock between Wall Street and the executive branch of the US government is not unique to the Obama administration. See my “Aspiring to Rule the World: US Capital and the Battle for Syria,” what’s left, December 15, 2015.