Tag Archive | "USA war in Syria"

Washington’s Devastating Next-stage of the War in Syria

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By Salman Rafi Sheikh

All the US has to offer to the people of Syria is not hope but destruction, not peace but war, a war that is no longer—and never was—just about Syria. With the passage of time, the actual nature of the war imposed on Syria has become self-evident. Therefore, what we are hearing from Washington these days is no longer sole emphasis on defeating terror outfits such as ISIS; it is rather an emphasis on extending the war beyond Syria to accomplish at least a regime change in Iran, the kind of which the US and its Arab and European allies have been seeking in Syria. ISIS has already attacked Iran once and there is no guarantee that such attacks wouldn’t take place in future in Iran or elsewhere beyond the Middle East. While the West is projecting ISIS’ extended reach to other regions as an outcome of the organization’s exit from Syria and Iraq, the chaos this extended reach would cause will then serve as an invitation, as it did in the case of both Iraq and Syria, to the US to extend its own military presence in the region. Already we have seen fresh deployment in Afghanistan and resumption of drone strikes in Pakistan, indicating the US’ intention of not leaving the region in the near or even distant future.

In this context, plans for an extended military stay in “Syraq” (Syria and Iraq) and even of extending the scope of the war are already being considered in the official US policy making circles. The Foreign Policy magazine reported in mind June that some policy makers in the White House were pushing for extending the Syrian front as a means to use the scenario to militarily confront Iran and finally settle score with the “nexus of evil.” According to the report,

“Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the senior director for intelligence on the National Security Council, and Derek Harvey, the NSC’s top Middle East advisor, want the United States to start going on the offensive in southern Syria, where, in recent weeks, the U.S. military has taken a handful of defensive actions against Iranian-backed forces fighting in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.”

While the report mentions that the idea hasn’t yet found much support in the Pentagon, there is no gainsaying that within the Pentagon’s Syria strategy, there is enough scope for extending the war to the extent of militarily confronting pro-Assad forces, especially Iran. Its recent glimpse came when the US forces shot down an Iranian drone in Syria few days ago. And as Washington Post recently revealed, the US was already making unprecedented strikes against Assad regime and Iranian-backed militia forces and sending warnings to them that “they will not be allowed to confront or impede the Americans and their local proxy forces.”

On the other hand, the fact that the US is willing to go to any extent to protect the anti-Assad forces fighting under its nose is also evident from the way the US is still opposed to seeing Assad in power as Syria’s legitimate ruler. Two thing clearly point to this fact.

First, Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, told House Foreign Affairs Committee on June 28 hearing that the US should decide on its role in Syria for the time when ISIS is driven out, “because a healthy Syria is not with Assad.” Ambassador Haley’s latest remarks at the hearing, titled “Advancing US Interests at the United Nations,” could indicate a possible change in America’s future objectives on Syria. She had previously said that Washington’s priorities in Syria had changed with the new administration, and the US would no longer focus on the removal of Assad.

Second thing that adds to this seeming policy shift is the way the White House is involved in propagating about yet another possible chemical attack in Syria by Assad. On June 26, the White House official stated that Syria was planning another chemical weapons attack and “would pay a heavy price” if it came to pass. Ambassador Nikki Haley quickly chimed in on Twitter saying that any further attack would “be blamed on Assad, but also on Russia and Iran who support him killing his own people.”

The above mentioned change in policy and the preparations being made for extending the war to Iran has also found some support within the Republican ranks. It was only few days ago when a Republican senator Tom Cotton was reported to have said that “the policy of the United States should be regime change in Iran.” The CIA has already expanded its Iranian covert operations (read: in the name of ISIS). The US secretary of state Rex Tillerson, in little noticed comments to the US Congress few days ago also called for “peaceful regime change” in Syria. It is, however, not sure what Tillerson meant by “peaceful”, for the history of US regime change interventions is filled with direct military interventions or covert operations.

Is then Iran the next overt target of the US and its allies? The answer to this intriguing development-in-the-making has to be in the affirmative. It is going to be the culmination of Trump’s policy of ‘isolation of Iran’ that he laid down during his recent visit to Saudi Arabia. There is no gainsaying that this extension of the Syrian war would find ready-made support among many Arab-Gulf states, who would see in this policy a ready-made opportunity to cordon off their only chief rival in the entire region. Not only would they jump on the American bandwagon but also willingly funnel billions of dollars, contributing to transforming the whole region into one living-hell, a hell that wouldn’t take much time to knock on their own doors.

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What’s really behind America’s rush to war in Syria?

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By John Wight 

Without any recourse to international law or the United Nations, the Trump administration has embarked on an act of international aggression against yet another sovereign state in the Middle East, confirming that neocons have reasserted their dominance over US foreign policy in Washington.

It is an act of aggression that ends any prospect of détente between Washington and Moscow in the foreseeable future, considerably increasing tensions between Russia and the US not only in the Middle East but also in Eastern Europe, where NATO troops have been conducting military exercises for some time in striking distance of Russian territory.

In the wake of the horrific images that emerged from Idlib after the alleged sarin gas attack, the clamor for regime change in Damascus has reached a crescendo in the West, with politicians and media outlets rushing to judgement in ascribing responsibility for the attack to the Syrian government. No one knows with any certainty what happened in Idlib, which is why an independent investigation should have been agreed and undertaken in pursuit of the truth and, with it, justice.

However only the most naïve among us could believe that this US airstrike against Syria was unleashed with justice in mind. How could it be when US bombs have been killing civilians, including children, in Mosul recently? And how could it be given the ineffable suffering of Yemeni children as a result of Saudi Arabia’s brutal military campaign there?

No, this US attack, reportedly involving 59 Tomahawk missiles being launched from ships in the eastern Mediterranean, was carried out with regime change in mind, setting a precedent that can only have serious ramifications for the entire region.

Regarding the attack in Idlib, what we can say with certainty is that a time when pro-government forces in Syria were in the ascendancy on the ground, and when the Syrian government was making significant progress on the diplomatic front, it would have constituted an act of ineffable self-harm to launch a chemical weapons attack of any kind, much less one of this magnitude. In fact it would have conformed to the actions of a government that was intent on bringing about its own demise. What also must be taken into consideration is the fact that the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), an organization supported by the US, confirmed back in June 2014 that the process to destroy Syria’s entire stock of chemical weapons had been completed.

Moreover, the horrific images and eyewitness testimony that have emanated from Idlib in the wake of the attack have come from pro-opposition sources. No Western journalist or news crew would dare set foot in Idlib, or indeed any other part of opposition-held territory in Syria, knowing that as soon as they did they would be abducted and slaughtered.

Trump has proved with this unilateral military intervention that he can easily be dragged into conflict. Just a few days after his administration confirmed that regime change in Syria was off the table, that its focus was on defeating terrorism, he unleashes an airstrike that will only have emboldened the very forces of terrorism whose defeat he had stressed was the focus of his foreign policy previously.

So what now? Clearly, this military action places Russia in a very difficult position. Since joining the conflict in Syria at the end of September 2015, at the behest of the country’s government, Moscow had been working tirelessly to bring about a negotiated settlement, one involving opposition forces and parties deemed moderate relative to the Salafi-jihadi fanatics of ISIS and Nusra, etc. It is a diplomatic process that has just been dealt a shattering blow, with the opposition now undoubtedly convinced that regime change is in the offing via Washington and therefore encouraged to work towards this end.

Meanwhile, as for Washington’s regional allies – Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey (with Erdogan guaranteed to hitch his wagon to whoever appears to be in the driving seat) – they will most likely begin calling for more military action against Damascus now, viewing the US airstrike as the catalyst for open season on the country’s sovereignty.

As for Trump himself, having been under inordinate pressure since assuming office in January from the Washington media, political, and intelligence establishment, this action will earn him some much needed approval and, with it, respite. The signs with regard to his administration had been ominous for some time, starting with the forced resignation of Mike Flynn as his National Security Adviser in February, and continuing recent departure of Steve Bannon from the President’s National Security Council. It comes as further evidence that neocons have reasserted their dominance over the White House after a short and intense power struggle.

On a wider note, the lack of short-term memory in Washington is staggering to behold. Fourteen years after the disastrous US invasion of Iraq, which only succeeded in opening the gates of hell out of which ISIS and other Salfi-jihadi groups emerged, and six years after turning Libya into a failed state, in the process sparking a refugees crisis of biblical proportions, here we have yet another act of aggression against a sovereign state in the Middle East by the US.

Destroying countries in order to save them is the story of every empire there has been. But as history reveals, every empire carries within itself the seeds of its own destruction. Donald Trump is now on course to end up going down in history as a leader who rather than save the US from itself, may only have helped speed it down the path to its ultimate demise.

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