US-based corporate-financier funded policy think tank, the Brookings Institution, published a particularly incoherent piece titled, “Should we work with the devil we know against the Islamic State?” The piece’s author, a senior fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings, Daniel Byman, claims (emphasis added):
Saudi Arabia has proven a major source of terrorist recruits and financing, while the Syria-Turkey border was a major crossing point for Islamic State recruits. Both countries [Saudi Arabia and Turkey] still have much to do, but that’s the point—if the Trump administration alienates them, the Islamic State problem will get much worse. With the United States on the other side in Syria, Turkey and Saudi Arabia might send anti-aircraft weapons to Syrian rebels and otherwise escalate the fighting in ways dangerous for international terrorism—actions that, so far, the United States has helped reduce.
In essence, Byman is admitting what the rest of the world already long ago concluded – the vast fighting capacity the so-called “Islamic State” (ISIS) possesses is not only a result of immense state sponsorship, it is sponsored by two of America’s closest allies in the region – Saudi Arabia and NATO-member Turkey.
It was Turkey’s own foreign minister who inadvertently admitted while trying to make a case for the Turkish invasion and occupation of northern Syria that Turkey itself served as the primary staging point for ISIS and supplied the summation of its weapons and reinforcements required in Syria and beyond.
A May 2016 Washington Times article titled, “Turkey offers joint ops with U.S. forces in Syria, wants Kurds cut out,” would quote the Turkish Foreign Minister admitting (emphasis added):
Joint operations between Washington and Ankara in Manbji, a well-known waypoint for Islamic State fighters, weapons and equipment coming from Turkey bound for Raqqa, would effectively open “a second front” in the ongoing fight to drive the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, from Syria’s borders, [Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu] said.
Byman confirms this with his appeal for the United States to remain aligned and committed to Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
Retroactively Blaming Syria for a War the US Engineered
Byman continues by claiming:
Assad facilitated the flow of fighters to Iraq to kill American soldiers there after the 2003 U.S. invasion. He has supported terrorism against Israel and otherwise opposed U.S. interests. And an Assad victory would be widely, and correctly, seen as a triumph for its biggest friend—the clerical regime in Iran.
However, according to the US Army’s West Point Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) in a 2008 report titled, “Bombers, Bank Accounts and Bleedout: al-Qa’ida’s Road In and Out of Iraq,” it is admitted that not only did Syria play a significant role in fighting Al Qaeda and its affiliates since their inception, but that underground networks were involved in trafficking terrorists into Iraq during the US occupation, not the Syrian government itself.
It would state:
Syria can almost certainly do more to disrupt the traffic across the border. However, it is unrealistic to expect the regime to expend more energy, given the economic and internal political importance of the underground cross border trade to Syrian social and political leaders, and the inherent limits of the regime’s ability to enforce a crackdown indefinitely.
Byman’s other ‘moral metrics’ for opposing Syria include “supporting terrorism against Israel” and being otherwise opposed to “U.S. interests,” but neither accusation is qualified. In reality, Byman is admitting that the US is aligned with two of the largest regional sponsors of terrorism, including sponsors aiding and abetting ISIS itself, and seeks to depose the Syrian government because it otherwise opposes US interests.
Byman then claims:
Assad’s regime is the primary culprit in a war that has killed roughly half a million Syrians and driven millions more into long-term exile.
Byman also laments that an Assad victory would create more refugees still – apparently oblivious to the “successful” regime change the US carried out in Libya in 2011, leaving the nation a failed state and the epicenter of the current and still ongoing regional refugee crisis.
In his eagerness to blame the Syrian government for the ongoing war, Byman strategically omits his own direct role and those of other US policymakers who, for years before the war began, advocated and plotted for its fruition.
From the Beginning, an Alliance with Terrorism, An Alliance of Convenience
As early as 2007, US journalists like Pulitzer Prize-winner Seymour Hersh warned of US policymakers plotting with Saudi Arabia to use militants aligned with Al Qaeda to overthrow the governments of both Syria and Iran. In his article, “The Redirection: Is the Administration’s new policy benefitting our enemies in the war on terrorism?,” Hersh prophetically reported (emphasis added):
To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.
Byman himself, in 2009, would sign his name to a Brookings policy paper titled, “Which Path to Persia?: Options for a New American Strategy Toward Iran” (PDF), in which he and other US policymakers would advocate the use of terrorism, color revolutions, staged provocations, sanctions and a vast array of other methods to provoke war with and overthrow the government of Iran. As a prerequisite for war with Iran, the paper noted that Syria would need to be dealt with.
In 2011, it became clear that many of the methods described in minute detail in the Brookings policy paper were put into practice, targeting the government in Damascus, not Tehran.
In essence, the Brookings Institution and their gallery of desk-bound warmongers have not only advocated a destructive war they themselves calculate has cost nearly half a million lives, but have advocated both before and during the war, the state sponsorship of terrorist organizations to fuel this war.
Byman’s latest piece promoted by Brookings all but admits the US maintains an alliance of convenience with the state sponsors of ISIS – not to defend any sort of value, principle, or moral imperative, but instead to achieve a self-serving geopolitical objective at the cost of such values, principles, and moral imperatives.
Byman concludes by claiming the Syrian government is too weak to consolidate control over Syria, omitting that there exists no alternative more unified or capable than the Syrian government. He then claims that the US should continue backing the “Syrian opposition,” either oblivious of or indifferent to the fact that no such thing exists aside from ISIS and other foreign sponsored terrorist organizations. Aside from Raqqa and Idlib run by ISIS and Al Qaeda’s Syrian franchise – Al Nusra respectively, the Syrian government has already indeed consolidated control over the country’s main urban centers, including Aleppo.
For Byman and other policymakers like him, they find themselves moving imaginary armies across the battlefield that simply do not exist. In the end, the US will have to either abandon its enterprise in Syria, or pledge increasingly open support for ISIS and Al Nusra.
The Financial Times provides confirmation that as claimed by The Duran in early November Turkey is brokering talks between Russia and the Jihadis in eastern Aleppo for them to surrender the eastern districts of the city.
Back on 2nd November 2016 I wrote a piece for The Duran in which I said that all diplomatic contacts with the US over Syria having completely failed, the Russians were trying to negotiate the surrender of eastern Aleppo with Turkey.
This is what I said:
“Having despaired of getting the US to separate Al-Qaeda/Jabhat Al-Nusra from the other Jihadis in Aleppo, and getting them to withdraw, it is likely the Russians are trying to agree the same thing with the Turks. Indeed [General] Gerasimov’s [Russia’s Chief of General Staff] comments today essentially say as much.”
Today there is confirmation from the Financial Times that such talks in Ankara are indeed underway. Here is what it reports:
“Syrian rebels are in secret talks with Russia to end the fighting in Aleppo, according to opposition figures, a development that shows how the US could become sidelined in some of the Middle East’s most pivotal conflicts.
Four opposition members from rebel-held northern Syria told the Financial Times that Turkey has been brokering talks in Ankara with Moscow, whose military intervention last year on the side of President Bashar al-Assad helped turn the five-year civil war in the regime’s favour. Russia is now backing regime efforts to recapture the rebel’s last urban stronghold in Syria’s second city of Aleppo.
“The Russians and Turks are talking without the US now. It [Washington] is completely shut out of these talks, and doesn’t even know what’s going on in Ankara,” said one opposition figure, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the negotiations.”
Importantly the Russians are not denying the talks. Maria Zakharova, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s formidable spokeswoman, responded to questions by the Financial Times about the talks as follows
“Washington isolated itself. We’ve been negotiating with the [Syrian] opposition in Turkey for years — it’s not news.”
The Financial Times misunderstands the negotiations which are underway. It quotes Charles Lister, a Syria expert at the Middle East Institute in Washington, as explaining Russia’s intentions in this way
“Russia is hedging its bets. It would prefer to make a deal with the opposition. If Aleppo were to fall, the Syrian regime would need so many troops to hold the city that its forces would be left thin elsewhere in the country — or dependent on Iranian help, which Moscow would prefer to avoid.”
This is certainly wrong. As The Duran has been reporting ever since September, the consistent Russian demand, and the key provision of the unsuccessful Kerry-Lavrov agreement of September, is that all the Jihadis fighters must quit eastern Aleppo, which must be surrendered to the government.
It should hardly need saying that Aleppo would be far more defensible without any Jihadi fighters there, rather than with Jihadi fighters owing allegiance to terrorist organisations like Al-Qaeda and ISIS still in control of some of the eastern districts of the city.
Charles Lister’s analysis is I am sorry to say just another example of the wishful thinking and failure to assess realities in Syria objectively which has beset Western understanding of the conflict in Syria since its start. … Full article
While a year has passed since Turkey shot down a Russian jet in Syria and while a few months have passed since the beginning of rapprochement between both countries that includes co-operation in Syria and co-operation in the field of energy, their bi-lateral ties remain uneasy—a situation that largely owes its existence to the still-lingering disagreement over Syria, particularly the future of Assad, and the dual role Turkey happens to be playing there. On the one hand, it has sent its own troops to supposedly fight the Islamic State, and on the other, there are on the ground proxy groups who are receiving support from Turkey. Therefore, while Turkey has repeatedly said that it “respects” Syria’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, it continues to support these “rebel” groups who are in Syria, first and foremost, to oust the Syrian president and to contain the Syrian Kurds—something that not only is a violation of Syrian sovereignty but also pits Turkey against Syria and Russia in the region.
As such, while Turkey rhetorically respects Syria’s territorial integrity, it has still created a “safe zone” inside Syria, in the name of creating a shield against the Islamic State’s incursions into Turkey, and is pushing for bringing more of the Syrian territory under its direct control—a step that is akin to a de facto territorial disintegration of Syria due to a foreign (Turkish) occupation. Hence, the contention that while Turkey may not actually be seeking to create a permanent “zone” in Syria—something that Turkey and Russia have developed some understanding about —Turkey certainly has not changed its mind towards Assad’s future as Syria’s president (read: Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu recently acknowledged in an interview that Turkey and Russia have disagreement over Assad’s future). This un-changed position makes Turkey more of a NATO ally, which it is by all means, and less of a partner of Syria and Russia against terrorism.
What the current nature of relationship between Turkey and Russia implies is that it is yet to convert itself into a full-fledged strategic alliance. Although we have seen a lot of progress towards normalization, this normalization is of tactical nature only wherein Russia appears to be an important actor for Turkey to neutralize the prospects of Kurds, who are being continuously supported by the US, establishing their own state i.e., Kurdistan. Besides it, Turkey also sees in Russia an opportunity to counter-balance its relations with the US and EU and send them a signal that it does have other ‘avenues of support.’
That Turkey’s rapprochement with Russia is of tactical nature only is also evident from the fact that this rapprochement and normalization has not so far created any rupture in NATO. This normalization is likely to stay what it actually is i.e., normalization and, as such, least likely to turn into a strategic re-alignment, although earlier signs had shown that it was not an impossibility.
What impedes this transformation is, as stated above, Turkey’s contradictory dual role in Syria, where it is carrying on NATO’s agenda of ousting Assad and where it is also seemingly targeting IS along with Russia and Syria.
What such a position further implies is that Turkey is tapping into both blocks to take advantage of its geographical location and achieve all of its major objectives i.e., oust Assad and roll back Kurds to other side of Euphrates river. While Turkey does aim at both targets, this perusal puts it in a conflicting position vis-à-vis Syria. Some recent incidents strongly indicate the potential of this conflicting position to transform into yet another war.
For instance, the advance by largely Turkmen and Arab rebels backed by Turkey towards al-Bab, the last urban stronghold of Islamic State in the northern Aleppo countryside, potentially pits them against both Kurdish fighters and Syrian government forces, leading to clashes between them.
Al-Bab is of particular strategic importance to Turkey because Kurdish-dominated militias have also been pursuing a campaign to seize it. Ankara is determined to prevent Kurdish forces from joining up cantons they control along the Turkish border. Turkey is backing the Syrian rebels with troops, tanks and artillery, as well as reconnaissance flights along the border.
However, while Turkey is out there to prevent the Kurds from having any territory under their control in Syria, Syria itself is not ready to ‘host’ Turkish troops on its territory. This has created the threat of direct clashes occurring between them. In fact, such incidents have already started to occur.
On last Friday, the Turkish military said that Thursday, November 24, air strike, which killed three of its soldiers, was thought to have been carried out by the Syrian air force. It would be the first time Turkish soldiers have died at the hands of Syrian government forces. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan discussed this attack on Turkish troops in Syria with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Friday as Turkish-backed rebels pressed an offensive to take the Syrian city of al-Bab, a report from Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency stated.
While no major dispute of diplomatic and military nature has so far been reported developing between Turkey and Russia, this incident unambiguously underlines the fundamental disagreement both have in Syria.
Therefore, it is not energy-co-operation merely that would determine the future of their bi-lateral relations. While co-operation in this field required normalization, which they have already achieved, it is also quite clear today that the transformation of this normalization into a strategic realignment depends upon how smoothly both countries resolve their differences over Syria. In the coming months, the progress of the operation, as well as the battle for Aleppo, will become the decisive points in setting the trajectory of their bilateral relations.
Salman Rafi Sheikh is a research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistan’s foreign and domestic affairs.
Turkish President’s intention to depose Syrian leader contradict with previously reached agreements between Russia and Turkey, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said Wednesday.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s statements on his intention to depose Syrian President Bashar Assad run counter to earlier reached agreements between Russia and Turkey, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said Wednesday.
“This runs counter to all agreements. First, Resolution 2254, Resolution 2268, decisions of the Vienna format, Lausanne format. We have been participating in these formats jointly with Turkey,” Bogdanov told reporters.
Erdogan said Tuesday the Turkish armed forces’ military operation in Syria is designed to put an end to the rule of President Bashar Assad.
“We entered [Syria] to end the rule of the tyrant al-Assad who terrorizes with state terror. [We didn’t enter] for any other reason,” the Turkish president said at the first Inter-Parliamentary Jerusalem Platform Symposium in Istanbul, as quoted by Hurriyet daily.
Erdogan said that Turkey has no territorial claims in Syria, but instead wants to hand over power to the Syrian population, adding that Ankara is seeking to restore “justice.”
“Why did we enter? We do not have an eye on Syrian soil. The issue is to provide lands to their real owners. That is to say we are there for the establishment of justice,” he said.
He went on to say that “in his estimation” almost 1 million people have died in the conflict in Syria, although no monitoring group has provided any similar figures. The latest UN estimate stands at 400,000 people killed in the five-year civil war.
Erdogan said that Turkey could not “endure” the unending killing of civilians and “had to enter Syria together with the Free Syrian Army.”
The Turkish leader also accused the UN of inability to influence the situation in Syria and said that the organization is ineffective in its current state.
“The world is bigger than five,” he said, referring to the number of permanent members on the UN Security Council, as reported by Hurriyet.
There are distinct signs that the discussion regarding the Syrian conflict between Russian President Vladimir Putin and the US President-elect Donald Trump last Monday has been a defining moment. At the very least, it creates a firewall against the present US administration of President Barack Obama creating new facts on the ground that vitiates the climate for US-Russian cooperation in Syria after Trump takes over.
The US Defence Secretary Ashton carter had openly stated a week ago that he’d advise the president-elect firmly against taking any cooperation from Russia in addressing the Syrian situation. On the contrary, the remarks in Beirut on Thursday by the Russian presidential envoy on the Middle East and Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov suggest that there are contacts below the radar with Trump’s transition team. Bogdanov said:
- We are at an important turning point; a new team is coming in with president-elect Donald Trump. We are now already beginning contact with people who will likely assist the new president. We hope the outgoing and incoming administration will accept that without Russia it is impossible to solve the Syrian issue, we are ready for open dialogue.
It is highly significant that soon after Monday’s phone conversation, Russian jets have resumed bombing missions in Syria. Jets from the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov and ship-launched cruise missiles joined attacks on Idlib and Homs. On Thursday, long-range strategic bombers flew an 11,000 kilometre mission from bases in Russia to fire missiles at targets in Syria. Syrian jets have also operations against rebel targets in Aleppo.
Even as the Obama administration is reduced to a mute witness, a dramatic change in the US policy in Syria seems to be unfolding. To quote Prof Malcolm Chalmers, deputy director-general of Britain’s respected think tank, Royal United Services Institute, Trump’s “evident sympathy” for Vladimir Putin and his scepticism for America’s military alliances “cannot be assumed to be passing fancies”. (See a sensational report in Telegraph newspaper titled Downing Street warned to prepare for Donald Trump reversal on Syria and military support for the UK.)
Something of all this is most certainly emboldening Turkey to make a grab for the strategic northern Syrian city of Al-Bab, which aims at pre-empting any Kurdish enclave forming along Syria’s border with Turkey. The Syrian Kurds will be furious at the Turkish move, and they have been the US’ best allies so far in Syria. (Reuters )
Turkey’s intention is to break the backbone of the US-Kurdish alliance in northern Syria and pick up the pieces to put together a new Turkish-American paradigm by the time Trump takes office. By the way, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, a contender to be Trump’s national security advisor, has been a staunch backer of Turkish President Recep Erdogan’s government.
The Turkish offensive on Al-Bab cannot happen without a tacit Russian nod. Obviously, Turkey has reached out to [Russia] and Moscow is not standing in Erdogan’s way. Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim is due to travel to Moscow for talks about Syria and deepening bilateral relations. A Voice of America commentary said on a sombre note, “Deepening ties with Moscow is leading to some of Turkey’s NATO allies starting to question where Ankara’s loyalties lie… Ankara’s diversifying of its relations coincides with severe, if not unprecedented, strains with its Western allies.”
“Ankara remains at loggerheads with Washington over the latter’s support of Syrian Kurdish forces and Turkey’s demand for the extradition of U.S.-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen… Those ties could be further strained over rising speculation that Gulen could be allowed to leave the United States for a third country.”
“Another key anchor with the West, Turkey’s decades-long bid to join the European Union, is on the verge of being severed, with its effort facing collapse, amid mutual recriminations.”
Similarly, the Iraqi Shi’ite militia supported by Iran is making a bid to capture Tal Afar, some 60 kilometres to the west of Syria. Control of Tal Afar will facilitate a direct land route for Iran to Syria and to Lebanon. The capture of Tal Afar by the pro-Iranian militia will be a serious blow to Israel.
Where does Trump stand on Syria? Actually, there is remarkable consistency in Trump’s pronouncements on the Syrian conflict over a considerable period of time. Deutsche Welle put together ‘fragments of a blueprint’ for Trump’s ‘vision’ of the conflict. Read the revealing ‘fragments’ here.
US officials are split over the future of Raqqa, Syria, with some claiming all international forces will leave the city once it is freed from terrorists, and others announcing plans to stay to ‘govern’ it along with Turkey.
As Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters, backed by US advisers and coalition airstrikes, slowly advance on the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) stronghold of Raqqa, US officials have been voicing their opinions on what will happen to Raqqa once it is liberated. The US State Department says that after the terrorists are defeated, all foreign forces will leave the city to let the Syrians run it.
“How the liberation takes place, how we get local governance re-established after the liberation: our expectation, as has been elsewhere, is that outside forces would then withdraw,” US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in a daily press briefing on Monday. He then clarified that US forces will supervise the re-establishment of local authority in the city, but other than that will not intervene in its governance.
“We don’t want to see semi-autonomous zones. The reality is, though, as territory is liberated from [Islamic State], you’ve got to get some kind of governance back into these areas, but by no means are we condoning… any kind of semi-autonomous areas in northern Syria.
“Ultimately, we want to see a sovereign, intact Syria,” Toner stressed.
The US military’s position, however, differs slightly from that of the State Department.
“The coalition and Turkey will work together on the long-term plan for seizing, holding and governing Raqqa,” US General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Sunday, following a meeting with his Turkish counterpart General Hulusi Akar in Ankara.
He went further, saying that taking and holding Raqqa requires a “predominantly Arab and Sunni Arab force.”
“And there are forces like that. There is the moderate Syrian opposition, the vetted Syrian forces and the Free Syrian Army forces, and there is some initial outreach to forces in Raqqa proper,” the general added.
Syrian political analyst, Taleb Ibrahim, called these statements “a language for war,” and said the US has no right to impose any governance in Syria given the fact that it is an independent state which has a government, while the United States have never even received permission from Syrian authorities to participate in the conflict on Syrian land.
“I don’t think this is an appropriate language and it indeed is not the language of peace. It is not a language of political resolution, it is not a language for reconciliation – it is a language for war, it is a language for making new maps [in] the Middle East which were called in the past time the maps of blood,” Ibrahim said.
“This indicates a very dangerous concept and I am very much concerned about the future of Syria… They are intervening illegally in an independent state which has a government, an elected president and a real authority on the ground. But [the US uses Islamic State] as justification to occupy large areas of Syria for their geopolitical goals,” he noted.
Dr. Max Abrahms, assistant professor of public policy in the department of political science at Northeastern University, said the US is counting their chickens before they are hatched, deciding the fate of Raqqa at this stage.
“It’s almost premature to talk about governance. This Raqqa mission is going to take a long time,” Abrahms told RT.
The Syria Democratic Forces, or SDF, an alliance of predominantly Kurdish fighters and Arab tribal militia, is currently advancing on Raqqa. While the US has been supporting the SDF with weapons and airstrikes, General Dunford said he does not see the group as capable of governing Raqqa after the fighting is over.
“We always knew the SDF wasn’t the solution for holding and governing Raqqa. What we are working on right now is to find the right mix of forces for the operation.” He added that in deciding what these “right forces” are, the US military will rely on none other than Turkey.
“They will be helpful in identifying the right forces to do that,” he said.
Turkey, meanwhile, has been vocally opposing the SDF, or rather the dominant part of it – the YPG militia – from being the leading force in the Raqqa operation. Ankara sees the group as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and is worried that Kurdish advances in Syria will inflame a three-decade-old Kurdish insurgency in Turkey and lead to the establishment of a Kurdish state.
Turkish General Akar once again told Dunford on Sunday of Turkey’s frustration at the presence of Kurdish forces in Manbij, a strategically important northern Syrian city, whose liberation prompted Turkish intervention, as it is close to the Turkish border. Earlier this Tuesday, alluding to the YPG, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Ankara wants to ensure that the “wrong groups” do not participate in the Raqqa operation, and most importantly do not enter the city, although they may take part in the siege. He warned that Turkey was “taking measures” to guarantee this outcome, but did not specify what measures exactly, Reuters reported.
The Kurds themselves have been calling Turkey an “obstacle” to the attack on Raqqa all along, with SDF official Rezan Hiddo warning the group would halt the advance on Raqqa if Turkish forces moved against the Kurds in northern Syria, which even the US State Department sees as possible.
“Any attempt by Turkey to make an aggression against Manbij will certainly impede liberation of Raqqa and we will not remain silent. Our priority is confronting Turkey’s aggression against Manbij. The ball is now in the coalition’s court and its seriousness will be shown in forcing the Turks to withdraw from the region,” Hiddo was quoted as saying by Fars News Agency.
The US State Department says that in this “complicated climate,” the US will try and “keep pressure on what is the common enemy here, which is [Islamic State],” but Max Abrahms believes it is not likely they will succeed.
“I think that the US is really just trying to placate Turkey [but] I think that there’s a real concern that Turkey is going to go on the offensive even more on Kurdish fighters,” he stated.
The SDF has meanwhile moved south towards the city despite fierce resistance from IS militants. Alliance forces captured at least 10 villages and advanced on two fronts, including at least 10 kilometers (six miles) south towards the city from the towns of Ein Issa and Suluk, SDF spokeswoman Jihan Sheikh Ahmed told AFP on Tuesday.
In both locations, the SDF is still some distance away from Raqqa, but the offensive is said to be going according to plan. The SDF says it has some 30,000 fighters taking part in the operation dubbed “Wrath of Euphrates,” aiming to surround and isolate terrorists inside Raqqa before launching an assault on the city itself. The US-led coalition said it carried out 16 airstrikes on Islamic State positions on Sunday, hitting the group’s tactical units and several car bombs near Ein Issa.
Weiner, Sexting and Emails
It all started with the FBI investigation regarding a ‘sexting‘ scandal. A 15-year-old girl reported having received compromising photos from Anthony Weiner, former husband of Hillary Clinton’s top advisor Huma Abedin. It is the type of situation where the person of interest’s computing devices are reviewed by the FBI to check the contents for clues or evidence. The problem is that Anthony Weiner’s computer is not just like any other but rather one that he shared with his then wife, Huma Abedin. From the small amount of information leaked, it seems that the New York FBI division charged with investigating the affair has for a long time been silent over the enormous 650,000 email archive found. That was until a few days ago, when the director of the FBI revealed, with a letter to Congress, that this data was considered relevant to the ongoing investigation regarding Hillary Clinton and her private email server. It is a huge revelation given the few days left before the elections, causing huge problems for the Democratic campaign.
The more appropriate question to ask is why the director of the FBI, James Comey, decided to inform Congress. The most likely answer points to a leak that would have otherwise caused irreparable damage the reputation of the FBI. Had the new information about Clinton been withheld by the FBI, then it is easy to imagine that the reaction would have been far worse for Comey than the criticism he is currently enduring.
The FBI and Wikileaks
While it is easy to assume that senior federal employees are mostly expressions of political interests, Andrew McCabe being an indicative example, it is unlikely that there is a complete control of all the employees of a large agency like the FBI. This is essentially what the story of Anthony Weiner, former husband of Abedin, centers on. Fox News reported that the FBI detachment in New York had for months ignored the email archive in the computer thanks to the plausible excuse of the lack of a mandate. It almost looks as if the FBI had managed to conceal this new discovery for a long time. It is a fact that in the past Clinton has repeatedly been saved from catastrophe, managing to block federal investigations and forcing the FBI chief to a ridiculous testimony before Congress in order that she not be investigated. It is her trail of scandals that has outraged many federal agents and members of the intelligence community. More than one source has revealed that the Bureau was facing the risk of an internal revolt driven by agents eager to release to the American public basic information regarding an ongoing investigation on one of the presidential candidates.
Therefore it is very difficult to believe that 650,000 emails were found on Abedin’s computer that were of little significance or even irrelevant. Otherwise what sense would there be in trying to keep them hidden? Evidently the agents working on the case have discovered explosive information.
Who is Huma Abedin?
Huma Mahmood Abedin is a good starting point down the rabbit hole of dirty and dangerous money. Born in 1976 in the United States, she moved with her family to Saudi Arabia two years later, returning to the US at the age of 18 to enrol at George Washington University. Certainly more interesting is the story of her parents, both Muslims and both heavily involved in Muslim Brotherhood networks as well as opaque financing mechanisms to structures linked Al Qaeda. How the daughter of two such controversial characters could come to occupy such an important role explains how deep down the rabbit hole this story goes.
To understand the influence of Abedin on Hillary Clinton, just think of all the latest scandals involving Clinton that revolve around the funding and indirect support of radical Islamist groups. From Libya to Egypt to Syria and Iraq, the trail of the State Department and the Clinton Foundation is everywhere. It is no wonder that a family like the Abedins have been able to forge such important friendships as the one with the possible future president of the United States. Abedin seems likely to be an intermediary connecting worlds that are adjacent but never fully overlapping. No American could ever accept the idea that alongside the next POTUS could be a person deeply embedded in such a milieu. But that is how it is. On September 11, 2001, for example, Abedin was simultaneously working for the Clinton Foundation as well as a charity subsequently discovered to be a front for money laundering on behalf of Bin Laden, as covered by Newsweek. The day when the twin towers collapsed, the current top advisor to the probable next US president was working for an organisation indirectly linked to Al Qaeda.
The American Deep State
When addressing the topic of Huma Mahmood Abedin, top advisor to Hillary Clinton, it is good to ask how deep we are willing to go to discover the mechanisms of American power, penetrating into the dark caverns and complex entrails of a state within a state, the so-called deep state.
To answer this question, it is good to define it. Generally, when we talk about the deep state, it means the various branches of power. The best known are certainly the military-industrial complex, energy giants, Wall Street, the mainstream news media, extremist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and its Wahhabi ideology, in addition to foreign lobbies, especially the Israeli and Saudi lobbies. Their interests are mainly based around the accumulation of money and their ability to generate more of it to buy influence.
Generally the major representatives of deep-state interests are the so-called think-tanks. These organisations, made up of experts and former members of the public and private sectors, exist primarily to influence and condition the political discussions, favoring the interests of their funders, which not surprisingly are precisely the industries and people related to the various branches of American power. As a result, think-tanks have now taken on a more central role in defining the domestic and foreign-policy postures of the United States.
Of course money also buys people in addition to associations. This is the case with direct donations to the election campaigns of senators and members of Congress by the giants of the deep state. Large companies, banks, financial institutions and the military industry use think-tanks, the media and politicians through their money with only one purpose: to protect and nurture their interests and their vision of the state within the state. Put simply, their objective is to continue to enrich themselves at the expense of taxpayers.
Wahhabism, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Deep State
In addition to the neo-conservative and liberal factions, as well as the Israel lobby, we find the ideological component of Wahhabi Islam and the Muslim Brotherhood participating in the US political system, playing an important role in the fashioning of American foreign policy. Suffice it to say that this trio has for more than two decades completely dominated the choices about foreign policy of the United States, with dire consequences. The Muslim Brotherhood, a creation inspired by the British MI6 in the early 1900s to fight nationalism and Arab governments with communist inclinations, quickly became the spiritual fathers of the Afghan freedom fighters. It is a monster that has continued to morph in our day from the Taliban in Afghanistan to Al Qaeda in the late 1990s to the 2000s, and currently metamorphosing into Al Nusra Front/Daesh. Of course in each of its historical iterations, Islamic extremism has been fomented and directed against nations hostile to American imperialism.
In recent years the once peaceful Arab Spring turned into violent riots thanks to the ideological inspiration of movements such as Saudi Wahhabism or the Muslim Brotherhood. This distorted view of Islam has often been the catalyst transforming initially peaceful movements into violent anti-government clashes. The Wahhabi ideology and the Muslim Brotherhood’s political interpretation of Islam unites such capitals as Riyadh, Doha and Ankara with those fighting for the Islamic caliphate, namely Al Nusra Front/Al Qaeda. US geopolitical ambitions have increased over the years through terrorist attacks and the consequent destabilization of nations opposed to Washington. The use of terrorism as a geopolitical weapon is not new for the United States when one remembers the stay-behind networks that operated in Europe during the Cold War.
This conglomerate of power has in the last 30 years guided American foreign policy, justifying interventions in foreign countries under the pretext of fighting terrorism (Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan), or by using terrorism as a tool of destabilization (Syria, Egypt, Yemen). Consequently, the Wahabi/Brotherhood component continues to play to this day a major role in the constant quest for global supremacy by the US deep state.
Clinton Foundation, Huma Abedin and US Deep State
The deep corruption that permeates the deep state has consistently enabled countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey to buy modern and advanced means of warfare produced in the US. A summary of the so-called pay-to-play scheme goes as follows: money comes into the coffers of the Clinton Foundation thanks to generous donations from Riyadh and Doha, and in return they are cleared by the State Department (headed for many years precisely by Clinton) for the sale of weapons. It is a simple mechanism that satisfies everyone: the foreign countries are able to get their hands on advanced weapons to be employed in future bloody wars; the weapons traders receive hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts; and the Clinton Foundation, as payment, receives millions of dollars in donations.
In a rather agreeable arrangement, the arms manufacturers earn back the money invested in election campaigns many times over, thanks to the resulting lucrative contracts closed with foreign countries. The consequences of such a wicked arrangement have been seen in wars of aggression by the Saudis against the Yemenis and the Turks against the Kurdish minority, all thanks to weapons sold by Washington. Another aspect of this arrangement relates to the sale of weapons to terrorists in the Middle East from the US thanks to the sponsorship of the Gulf nations. It is an evil system that in addition to enriching the producers of American weapons, as well as the Clinton Foundation together with satisfying the regional allies of the US, uses Gulf nations to provide cover to the US to directly provide advanced weaponry to terrorists. A typical example of this perverse arrangement is easily verifiable in the events in Benghazi, which still awaits truth and justice.
The drama around the emails contained on the computer of Huma Abedin and her ex-husband is probably attributable to the concrete risk that all this mess gets uncovered, including the unspeakable role of Clinton and her foundation in international terrorism. It remains to be seen in this complicated journey into the deep state what role the FBI and Donald Trump are playing. Although personally I have many doubts about the figure of Trump, one thing I am quite certain of is that a vast chasm separates him from the center of America’s deep-state establishment. While Clinton is a direct product of this tumor, Donald Trump comes from another set of circumstances, marshalling around him that patriotic feeling that many, even within the US government, are beginning to feel, particularly given that America’s international credibility, together with its confidence domestically, has collapsed dramatically.
Despite the constant efforts of the mainstream media to refute this representation of reality, the feeling is increasingly common in the minds of Americans that much of what ails the country today is this degenerate web of economic, political and strategic corruption. Many Americans are tired of seeing their nation fighting senseless wars far away from home without any real threat to their national security but with costs in the order of trillions of dollars.
The United States has been flirting immorally and illegally with organizations dedicated to terrorism, thanks to the many deep-state links. Such collusion existed before and after September 11, subsequently triggering the Arab Spring and destabilizing countries like Libya, Syria and Iraq. What we have seen in the last few days with Comey’s revelations may represent a veritable Pandora’s box. It is impossible to determine whether this scandal will eventually overwhelm Hillary Clinton. Perhaps the leaders of the deep state have decided to destroy the nomination of the Democratic nominee in favor of Donald Trump. Or maybe not; right now every hypothesis is valid. But if Trump wins on November 8, it may represent the triumph of the American people’s will to discard once and for all anything that even remotely smells of the ‘deep state’, the redolence of which hangs heavily over Clinton and her aide Huma Mahmood Abedin.
Imagine if a local business in your town invented a brand new tool that was intended to have an almost magical effect thousands of miles away. However, where the tool was kept and used locally became an area unsafe for children. Children who got near this tool tended to have increased blood pressure and increased stress hormones, lower reading skills, poorer memories, impaired auditory and speech perception, and impaired academic performance.
Most of us would find this situation at least a little concerning, unless the new invention was designed to murder lots of people. Then it’d be just fine.
Now, imagine if this same new tool ruined neighborhoods because people couldn’t safely live near it. Imagine if the government had to not only compensate people but kick them out of living near the location of this tool. Again, I think, we might find that troubling if mass murder were not the mission.
Imagine also that this tool fairly frequently explodes, emitting highly toxic chemicals, particles, and fibers unsafe to breathe into the air for miles around. Normally, that’d be a problem. But if this tool is needed for killing lots of people, we’ll work with its flaws, won’t we?
Now, what if this new gadget was expected to cost at least $1,400,000,000,000 over 50 years? And what if that money had to be taken away from numerous other expenses more beneficial for the economy and the world? What if the $1.4 trillion was drained out of the economy causing a loss of jobs and a radical diminution of resources for education, healthcare, housing, environmental protection, or humanitarian aid? Wouldn’t that be a worry in some cases, I mean in those cases where the ability to kill tons of human beings wasn’t at stake?
What if this product, even when working perfectly, was a leading destroyer of the earth’s natural environment?
What if this high-tech toy wasn’t even designed to do what was expected of it and wasn’t even able to do what it was designed for?
Amazingly, even those shortcomings do not matter as long as the intention is massive murder and destruction. Then, all is forgiven.
The tool I’m describing is called the F-35. At RootsAction.org you can find a new petition launched by locally-minded people acting globally in places where the F-35 is intended to be based. Also at that link you’ll find explanations of how the tool I’ve been describing is the F-35.
The petition is directed to the United States Congress and the governments of Australia, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Turkey, the United Kingdom, Israel, Japan and South Korea from the world and from the people of Burlington, Vermont, and Fairbanks, Alaska, where the F-35 is to be based. This effort is being initiated by Vermont Stop the F35 Coalition, Save Our Skies Vermont, Western Maine Matters, Alaska Peace Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks Peace Club, North Star Chapter 146 Veterans For Peace, World Beyond War, RootsAction.org, Code Pink, and Ben Cohen.
The petition reads:
The F-35 is a weapon of offensive war, serving no defensive purpose. It is planned to cost the U.S. $1.4 trillion over 50 years. Because starvation on earth could be ended for $30 billion and the lack of clean drinking water for $11 billion per year, it is first and foremost through the wasting of resources that this airplane will kill. Military spending, contrary to popular misconception, also hurts the U.S. economy (see here) and other economies. The F-35 causes negative health impacts and cognitive impairment in children living near its bases. It renders housing near airports unsuitable for residential use. It has a high crash rate and horrible consequences to those living in the area of its crashes. Its emissions are a major environmental polluter.
Wars are endangering the United States and other participating nations rather than protecting them. Nonviolent tools of law, diplomacy, aid, crisis prevention, and verifiable nuclear disarmament should be substituted for continuing counterproductive wars. Therefore, we, the undersigned, call for the immediate cancellation of the F-35 program as a whole, and the immediate cancellation of plans to base any such dangerous and noisy jets near populated areas. We oppose replacing the F-35 with any other weapon or basing the F-35 in any other locations. We further demand redirection of the money for the F-35 back into taxpayers’ pockets, and into environmental and human needs in the U.S., other F-35 customer nations, and around the world, including to fight climate change, pay off student debt, rebuild crumbling infrastructure, and improve education, healthcare, and housing.
Turkish jets have reportedly not taken part in the Euphrates Shield operation in neighboring Syria for a week now over the fears of being shot down by local air defenses after Damascus promised to prevent any aerial incursions.
Ankara halted air support for its ground incursion into Syria on October 22, after Damascus vowed to shoot down Turkish Air Force planes over Syrian skies, a Turkish official told the Hürriyet Daily News on condition of anonymity. The official added that the coalition forces have also decreased the number of flights in northern Syria.
Syria’s air defense capabilities have been widely boosted after Russia deployed its mobile S-400 and S-300 missile batteries earlier this year to protect its personnel on the ground. Russian hardware has the ability to shoot down planes and cruise missiles over at least 250 miles (402km) in all directions from western Syria.
Two days before Turkey halted its military flights over Syria, Damascus, which called the Turkish invasion a violation of national sovereignty, warned that it would shoot down any Turkish warplanes.
“Any attempt to once again breach Syrian airspace by Turkish warplanes will be dealt with and they will be brought down by all means available,” warned Damascus on October 20. The presence of Turkish troops in Syria is a “dangerous escalation and flagrant breach of Syria’s sovereignty”
The response from Damascus came after Turkish planes targeted Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), the fighting wing of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), near al-Bab in northern Aleppo the day before.
Turkish forces crossed into Syria on August 24, under the pretext of targeting Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) positions along the border. Turkey has been supporting the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) on the ground.
In addition to jihadist fighters, the Turkish troops involved in Operation Euphrates Shield also engaged the YPG militia, part of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). One of Turkey’s primary objectives in the operation is to block the path of Kurdish forces trying to form a link between their Afrin and Kobani cantons. Syrian rebels, with the help of the Turkish military, are slowly making their way across northern Aleppo province.
The source told the Turkish daily that the pace of the offensive has been largely impacted by the lack of air support. The FSA’s advance toward Al-Bab has faltered due to the lack of Turkish airstrikes, he said, pointing out that Turkish offensive only secured 5km in the last three days.
Earlier in the week Turkey’s military accused the Syrian government forces of attacking FSA fighters in the city of Marea in northern Aleppo province. Despite the attack which allegedly killed two rebels, Ankara promised to proceed with the operation.
“We will not stop fighting against the Daesh [Arabic pejorative term for IS] terrorist group due to the regime forces’ attacks. The Euphrates Shield operation will be continued until retaking of the city of al-Bab in order to create a security zone for the return of refugees,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Wednesday.
On Friday, Turkish General Staff said in a statement that the FSA had managed to capture around 164 residential districts since the beginning of the operation, which on Saturday entered its 67th day.
At the beginning of October, the Turkish parliament extended cross-border military operations into Syria and Iraq against Kurdish and IS forces for another year.
Since the collapse of the USSR, and the inception of the unipolar world order with the United States at its center, the term ‘benevolent hegemony’ has entered the lexicon of international relations and geopolitics. The full fleshing out of this idea was revealed in the 1996 essay by American neoconservatives Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan, ‘Toward a Neo-Reaganite Foreign Policy’. Its essence is an excuse for the United States to pursue whichever diplomatic and military means are believed to forward the goals of an American Empire, on the basis that unlike past empires, this one is not based on the prestige of the American people, or indeed any given leader, but instead on a set of ‘universal values and principles’ which are supposedly positive for all who live under them. One need only look at the neoconservatives themselves and come to the conclusion that they certainly do not represent the interests of the American people, as their international operations rarely have any positive impact for working men and women, and in fact very often engender negative consequences for them. Nor could it be said that neoconservatives aid the prestige of a given leader, as their legacy of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan destroyed the presidential legacy of George W. Bush, and notably his British ally Tony Blair.
This is excusable of course, because it has never been claimed by the neoconservative establishment that their policies are crafted with these people in mind. They are in aid of an ideology, and because most Westerners suffer under the delusion that this ideology is itself benevolent, then the means that America uses to propagate and expand its influence must also be benevolent. Slowly however, this facade is beginning to peel away.
Tom Rogan, a foreign policy analyst for the neoconservative publication National Review recently penned an article describing ‘Three Ways the US Can Save Syria‘. Obviously this is in response to the fact that America is being defeated in the country, the Syrian Army’s gradual recapture of Aleppo being just the latest blow to the terrorist rebel groups agitating against the legitimate government. If President Assad ends the insurgency of terrorists, then the American Empire loses not only in terms of its original geopolitical goals which spurred its meddling, but in terms of international prestige, especially among the nations of the Middle East. In light of this, Rogan’s urgent recommendations make sense, but in his zeal he gives the world a very clear picture of what ‘benevolent hegemony’ looks like.
The first recommendation concerns the oil market. Russia, the key counter-force to the United States in Syria, has been economically harmed by a dramatic dip in global oil prices, Russia is presently in talks with OPEC members about capping oil production, which would raise the price back up to reasonable levels. Rogan proposes diplomatic interference with this effort (mainly involving Saudi Arabia) in order to do as much economic damage to Russia as possible. The carrot he wishes to lead the Saudis with is the proposal for surface-to-air missiles given to allied rebel groups in Syria, but could just as easily be more rockets for Saudi aircraft to target funerals in Yemen.
Consider how benevolent this is; the stated aim being to wound a sovereign nation’s economy and by extension its people, the means being to arm dangerous groups within a sovereign nation in order that they can kill more civilian and government targets.
The second recommendation is perhaps the most alarming, as it can be perceived to be a direct terror threat against the nation of Turkey and its president, Tayyip Erdogan. Rogan acknowledges that after the failed July coup orchestrated against America’s own supposed NATO ally, the country does not trust the US, and is seeking to mend relations with Russia. For a long time, the relationship between Syria and Turkey was decidedly negative, but as the war has dragged on and millions of the displaced have flooded across borders with no checks on their movement, Ankara knows that stability in Syria is in fact vital to its own national security interests, and has thus moved away from its previous position on the conflict. In response to this setback, Rogan has the following proposition:
“Here America’s golden ticket is the Kurds — specifically, U.S. armament support to Kurdish militias such as the Syrian-based YPG. At present, the U.S. carefully qualifies its support to the YPG to mollify the Turks. Erdogan fears U.S. support will enable the YPG and other Kurdish forces to destabilize Turkey’s southern frontier. And to some degree he is right. But if Erdogan wants to play us, we should play him.”
In case the severity of this is not clear, the insinuation is that if Turkey does not end rapprochement with Russia and pursue an aggressively anti-Assad agenda, the American military should arm groups it knows may conduct violent attacks against the Turkish state. Is there any way this cannot be taken as blackmail via terror, and if so how benevolent is such a proposal?
The third recommendation is to supply “humanitarian airlifts” to rebel-held areas of Syria. Rogan recollects the Bush-era airlifts to Georgia during the 2008 crisis, but there is a key difference between the two scenarios. In 2008, Georgia was a sovereign nation undergoing an incredibly complex regional dispute with breakaway provinces, but nevertheless the government there invited American assistance. This is not the case in Syria, where the government has expressed no permission for America to even enter its airspace, an international norm which the American Air Force has been violating for over a year now. In fact, in the wake of the brutal air assault on Deir el-Zour which killed 62 Syrian soldiers, President Assad has been even more strident in making its long-held case that Western powers are working hand-in-glove with ISIS. This proposal more than the other two brings the world dangerously close to a conflict that nobody wants to even entertain, as Rogan recommends escorting these “humanitarian airlifts” with “fighter patrols” who would challenge Russian air superiority. Is laying the groundwork for WWIII benevolent?
Rogan finishes his essay by explaining that the goal of these dangerous pieces of foreign policy advice is to express “that America is unwilling to cede Syria to Russia”, apparently indulging in a fantasy that America ever possessed Syria, and indeed with a staggering sense of authority that the entire nation of Syria is something which can and should be possessed by America.
This is the not the first example of this kind of rhetoric coming from mainstream Western think-tanks and foreign policy journals which are intricately tied into the workings of the US State Department, however it is one of the less varnished ones. There is not even the mask of benevolence present in these proposals; they are dangerous, lawless, and cynical. If Hillary Clinton wins the presidency, she has made clear that this is the course she will take.
In a secret speech to Goldman Sachs which was revealed by Wikileaks, Clinton admitted the following regarding a no-fly zone in Syria:
“They’re getting more sophisticated thanks to Russian imports. To have a no-fly zone you have to take out all of the air defense, many of which are located in populated areas. So our missiles, even if they are standoff missiles so we’re not putting our pilots at risk—you’re going to kill a lot of Syrians”
And yet, even with this understanding, Hillary Clinton maintains support for the institution of a no-fly zone. Donald Trump of course represents the antithesis of such a hazardous foreign policy, abandoning the commitments of neoconservatives and their ideology, in order to focus on the various internal problems that his country faces. Even so we cannot rely on a Trump victory, for by now we are all aware of the Clinton campaign’s ability to martial all of her friends and colleagues in the Orwellian media, as well as stoop to even more subversive means to steal an election result. We must assume the worst, and thus we must assume and anticipate President Clinton and her craven approach to geopolitics. De-constructing the myth of ‘benevolent hegemony’ is an important part of this anticipation, and writers like Rogan help with this effort in their bungling inability to bejewel the ugly reality of the Atlanticist designs upon the Middle East and indeed the wider world.
Dropping the pretense of benevolence, this is just hegemony, and when we look at its consequences not just for the suffering people of Syria, but also Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Ukraine, etc. then perhaps these outlets ought to be more accurate and deem such projects ‘malevolent hegemony’ instead.
The United States has called for trying Russia for committing war crimes in Syria. Secretary of state John Kerry said in Washington on Friday, “Russia and the (Syrian) regime owe the world more than an explanation… These are acts that beg for an appropriate investigation of war crimes. And those who commit these would and should be held accountable… We also need to keep the pressure up on Russia with respect to the implementation of the Minsk agreement (on Ukraine). And we… make it clear publicly that if we cannot implement Minsk in the next months or arrive at a clear plan as to exactly how it is going to be implemented… then it will be absolutely necessary to roll over the sanctions (against Russia).”
To be sure, the sub-zero temperature in US-Russia relations has dipped by another ten degrees centigrade. Even in the height of Cold War, when the former Soviet Union used to be an ‘evil empire’, Washington had never sought that the Kremlin officials should be tried for war crimes. Nor had the Soviet Union.
Even after killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqi, Libyan and Afghan civilians and the wanton destruction of those countries in the past decade or so, and even though the US is actively taking part in the war in Yemen, Moscow never demanded that George W. Bush or Barack Obama – or even Hillary Clinton – should be tried as war criminals.
What has come over Kerry? He sounds a frustrated man who’s lost his cool. He realizes that his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov outwitted him, whereas he’d thought he’s clever by half.
The US hoped to somehow preserve the al-Qaeda affiliate Nusra in order to spearhead one more final push for ‘regime change’ in Syria – if not under the Obama presidency, at least under the next president. Indeed, Lavrov saw through Kerry’s ploy – ultimately, Kerry, a clever politician with some experience in diplomacy, couldn’t be a match for the immensely experienced career diplomat and intellectual in Lavrov. So, Lavrov played along with a poker face and entrapped ‘John’ in a peace agreement that Pentagon would never approve, which actually aimed at making mincemeat out of Nusra.
On the other hand, Kerry feels frustrated that President Barack Obama was not willing to open a parallel track of military intervention in Syria, which, he thought, would have given a much-needed swagger to his diplomatic track. Kerry belongs to the old school of power brokers in Washington, who subscribe to the notion that the Marines lead the way for diplomats. (He was a Marine himself once.)
But Kerry did not realise that the ground beneath the American feet had shifted in the Middle East. The US’ relations with Turkey as well as Saudi Arabia, the two key regional powers who fuelled Syrian conflict, are today embittered to the point that Washington is playing solo in the amphitheatre although the orchestra has walked out on the conductor. (Sabah )
What intrigues me is why Kerry wants only the Russian and Syrian leaders to be tried for war crimes. Why not Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei as well, who commands the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps? But then, Kerry cannot utter that four-letter word – Iran – because the engagement with that country is supposed to be the finest legacy of Obama presidency. Yet, had it not been for the IRGC, which sacrificed so heavily in blood and treasure, the Syrian government could never have gained the upper hand in the fighting. (Times of Israel )
The third fascinating aspect of Kerry’s apocalyptic remark is that he seems to suggest that the US still intends to win the war in Syria. After all, it is a consistent trait of history that the winner dispatches the defeated to the war crimes tribunal – be it Slobodan Milosevic or Saddam Hussein.
Put differently, does Kerry mean that the US intends to defeat Russia in a war? Is it his prognosis that World War III is round the corner? Doesn’t he comprehend that the total annihilation of his own country in a nuclear showdown with Russia would make all this talk about war crimes irrelevant?
Kerry must be feeling frustrated that the Nobel went to the Columbian president! What a way to end a distinguished career in politics and diplomacy when there is no grand recognition for the good work done! Kerry leaves the stage of international diplomacy an embittered man.
Lavrov is unlikely to respond. What can he say, after all? Kerry overreached to reverse the tide of history and the result was fairly predictable. No matter his valiant attempts, he couldn’t erase the geopolitical reality that the US is a power in retreat. Not only in the Middle East, but also in Asia-Pacific.
The sight of a superpower walking into the sunset is never a pleasant sight. It was the case with Rome, Byzantines, Spain, Portugal, France, Britain. Look at the latest tiding from the South China Sea. (Wall Street Journal )