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The Train Wreck: US Middle East Policy: The Syrian Example – 1- Some General Comments –

November 28, 2015
While it is true that Syrian refugees are - along with Afghans, Malians, Somalis and others flooding Europe, in fact most of the refugees of the Syrian crisis are in the surrounding counries. Photo Credit: Le Monde Diplomatique

While it is true that Syrian refugees are – along with Afghans, Malians, Somalis and others flooding Europe, in fact most of the refugees of the Syrian crisis are in the surrounding countries. Photo Credit: Le Monde Diplomatique. While the map is in French, it is not that hard to understand.


First of a series…

Things are moving fast in Syria, on the ground there is a whole new constellation of forces. “balance of forces”, taking place. As it emerges, the possibilities of a political solution increase, this despite all of the tensions and violence unfolding. There is no military solution to the Syria crisis, but for various reasons of self-interest the different parties that can pressure the military forces on the ground to come to the negotiating table – including the United States – are not yet ready and willing to do so. Still..

  • In Vienna there is the beginning of what looks to be a positive yet tedious process – itself could be considered almost criminal given the suffering on the ground on all sides within Syria, the exploding refugee crisis – not just in Europe where it has gained worldwide attention but in the surrounding countries as well – in fact there are far more Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey than in Europe, despite the mounting crisis there.
  • Refugee populations by the way, for those who have forgotten, are by their very nature radicalized communities – they have nothing to lose and generally no one cares about their fate or hardly and so they are essentially forced to take matters into their own hands be they the Palestinians of 1948, the Iraqis post 2003, or the Syrian of today. Put another way, what happened to the Palestinians with the creation of Israel in 1948, happened as a result of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, but the latter was on a much larger scale and now the Syrian events of the civil war with all the proxy elements involved is even bigger than that. Blame takes place on many levels – regional and national.
  • The United States has let Israel get away with Occupation and expansionism. Western Allies – pretty much all of them – have been a group of two-bit thugs, and medieval tyrants – no example of this is better than Saudi Arabia, but there are many others (Mubarek, Ben Ali, etc) who have ruled corruptly and repressively. While progressive in some ways, Arab nationalism – the Ba’athist variety and others – has sacrificed democracy for development – such was the case of both Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Assad’s Syria.

Put it all together and one has – if you’ll excuse the language – one big mess. And who has stirred to stinking pot to its own ends – to secure and control oil, to “fight communism” (although in the Middle East it was hardly ever communism but Arab Nationalism) and now to fight that oxymoron “terrorism” (as Gore Vidal notes – one cannot fight terrorism – terrorism is a TACTIC, not a political system) – who is ultimately responsible for this regional collapse? In a word Washington. Yes there who bear some of the burden – the British and French who carved up the region with the Sykes Picot Treaty of 1916 (look it up) for their own ends. There are others, but for the past 70 years, since the end of World War 2, the general economic and political direction of the region has been largely in Washington’s hands – not Obama’s but Truman’s, Eisenhower’s, Kennedy’s, Johnson’s, Nixon’s, Ford’s, Carter’s, Reagan’s, Bush 1’s, Clinton’s, Bush 2’s, Obama’s foreign policy. It is true (as I understand it) Obama has made a tactical shift – a bit less military muscle (at least directly using large-scale military forces), but the overall policy of imperial domination, sometime directly, often through proxies (Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar) has not changed. Looking at this policy from its different aspects today, it is a failure on a colossal scale – a train wreck, nothing less.

  • Russia and Iran are more active in Syria not without something of a green light from Washington.

U.S. neo-conservatives, the likes of McCain and Brzezinksi are living in a fantasy land where they still believe that Washington can call the shots on events all over the world, the Middle East included and use the threat or actual use of military power to “put things in place” to their liking. The world has changed. The United States remains a global power militarily – but economically it is a weaker player and its power, its “hegemony” as Immanuel Wallerstein puts it, is fading. It cannot dictate world events as it did 30 or 40 years ago – nor can it even get its regional allies and proxies to do what Washington wants (at least as consistently as Washington wants). Washington still “runs the show” but “the show” is becoming increasingly unstable – more like herding cats than working in a coordinated effort. In the end, Washington’s allies “cooperate” – they have to – but with increasing petulance, even hostility, as is the case of Netanyahu’s Israel (or the royal family of Saudi Arabia).

All this is playing out in Syria where Washington wants the Saudis, Qataris and Turks to reign in their trained, funded and armed mercenary bands with little success so far. It is this paralysis of the United States to push its own allies around that has led to a new and for some startling development – an informal Russian-U.S alliance to rid Iraq and Syria of ISIS. Obama understood that in order for such an alliance to be successful, other than the fact that a military option against Iran was impossible, that Iran also had to be involved. The so-called Iranian nuclear deal – which is, easily – Obama’s “legacy” (or the positive part of it) in terms of shifting the geo-politics of the region – among other things, opened the door to an increasingly active alliance in support of the Syrian government – Assad and his allies. Put another way, the United States could neither get what it wanted in Syria (overthrow Assad – the neo-conservative wet dream) nor control events there.

The Syrian situation has been out of control for some time now.

Ironically enough, it is this completely failed U.S. Syria policy whose consequences (via the horrors of the war, the growing threat to oil routes, the refugee crisis) which first of all Obama clearly understood. My own thinking that the actual turning point in U.S. policy came in 2013 during the Syrian serin gas attack. Recall a few details: there WAS a serin gas attack in the neighborhood of Damascus although to this day, it is not clear who engineered it – but the preponderance of evidence suggests that it was the Islamic rebels, not the Assad government. That said, there was a rush, great pressure on Obama to 1. set up a no-fly zone over Syria as had been done in Iraq and Libya 2. put “boots on the ground” in the name of one of the most cynical (talk about cynical!!) pretexts “humanitarian interventionalism.” The pressure was coming from that crowd around George W. Bush that got us into the Iraq War in 2003 – Cheney, Rumsfeld, Woolsey and idiots like John Bolton – but it also came from Hillary and other Cold War Dems. Obama resisted (to is credit).

The most recent shooting down of a Russian jet fighter over what is more and more admitted to be Syria, not Turkey was essentially – from a political point of view, yet another pretext to set up a no-fly zone and to send boots on the ground. Once again, Obama understood this for what it was – a provocation to deepen even further the U.S. military commitment to Syria. The problem was that the Russians did not take the bait and respond by bombing Turkey (which would have escalated the military conflict considerably) and Moscow did or is doing something else – it exposed the whole incident as the fraud it is daily appearing to be). So rather than Russia being on the international hot seat, more and more it is Turkey as stories of how Turkey processes ISIS oil come to the surface of the news.

Concerning this recent incident, an article by Karzerooni and Prince is in the making. Should hit the press sometime early next week…Stay tuned. In the meantime I am going to post some of the more interesting comments I have seen on this incident…the full detail and meaning of which still lays mostly hidden from sight.

To be continued.

One Comment leave one →
  1. robert g. davis permalink
    November 30, 2015 1:32 pm

    thanks very much for sharing all of these”thoughtful real life current events.”

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