Trump’s Middle East Policies – The Blind Leading The Blind; The Military Takes Over Foreign Policy, Diplomacy Out The Window: KGNU Hemispheres “Middle East Dialogues” with Ibrahim Kazerooni and Rob Prince Tuesday, March 28, 2017 – Part Two
KGNU – Interview, March 28. 2017 – Part Two
Now fast forward comes Iraq. After the initial honeymoon period after which the United States thought they were going to receive red roses and a red carpet welcome. Who pops up in Baghdad as U.S. ambassador to Iraq in 2004-2005, but the same John Negreponte accompanied, as in Central America with Robert Ford. When the Sunni resistance began to develop, they started – the first thing that was done under Negreponte – they started establishing death squads in Iraq. The idea was exactly the same (as in Central America): hit squads of Kurdish and Shi’a fighters to target leaders of what they called “the Iraqi Insurgency” in a strategic shift borrowed from the American struggle against the leftwing guerillas in South America twenty years or so earlier.
Rob Prince: With that said, let’s look at some of the developments taking place in the Middle East itself. Ibrahim where do we begin looking at how all this (unfolding Trump foreign and Middle East policy) is playing out on the ground in the Middle East?
Ibrahim Kazerooni: It’s a good question Rob. To answer it we have to make a few things crystal clear.
Remember during the Iraq War how everyone was talking about, searching for a single reason why the United States went to war against Iraq and occupied it. I believe that approach is limited in scope because to understand the dynamics of many of the “operators” in Washington one has to consider that each one has different objectives and goals. The military has different objectives from the oil industry or the supporters of different religions. The same goes for the politicians.
So when it comes to American foreign policy and how it unfolds. its effects and ramifications within the Middle East, I think we have to downplay whether there is a specific policy or goals. They vary. Rather, it is better to focus on the strategy and, quite rightly, Rob, you alluded to it.
The strategy has not changed.
General Wesley Clark, both in his book and in a number of presentations made it clear that he heard, both in the 1990s and in the early 2000s from the C.I.A. and others that there was a clear plan for destabilization and regime change in seven countries. These seven countries, are, incidentally, the same countries whose citizens Trump banned from travel to the United States without visas.
Leaving that issue aside, there was a clear plan for regime change and destabilization of Syria and Iraq. They started it. The policy really is exactly the same (today as it was twenty years ago). I decided to go back to the beginning of the Syrian uprising (in 2011). We all remember those days – I’m sure our listeners remember as well. The early part of the so-called uprising when the mercenaries were brought from Libya (and Tunisian and other places) into Syria under the auspices of the U.S. Ambassador, Robert Ford, with the help of a few other generals. They had one goal – that was to break down Syria, change its regime – regime change – and divide it into a number of enclaves.
Remember how Senator John McCain frequently went and met with the so-called opposition in Syria’s northern regions close to the Turkish border as well as in the south of Syria, close to the Jordanian border. The whole crisis started around Daraa (Syria), a small town close to the Jordanian border in the southern part of Syria.
Just keep that in mind because now its name – Daraa – has come out as a part of a totally different plan but with the same goal. Once again the plan focuses around Daraa. The idea was that these mercenaries were brought in to fight in order to destabilize the Syrian government.
Now to think about what the United States was planning for Syria it is necessary to go back a few decades to South America and the establishment of death squads in what is referred to as the Salvador Option, a terrorist model of mass killing by U.S. sponsored death squads in Central America. It was first applied in El Salvador in the heyday of resistance against the military dictatorship there. Who was the American ambassador at the time? It was John Negreponte, whom I believe was the ambassador to Honduras from 1981 to 1985 if my memory serves me correctly. During that Negreponte period, Robert Ford along with General James Steele visited that region. Steele was active as the head of that death squad.
Now fast forward comes Iraq.
After the initial honeymoon period after which the United States thought they were going to receive red roses and a red carpet welcome. Who pops up in Baghdad as U.S. ambassador to Iraq in 2004-2005, but the same John Negreponte accompanied, as in Central America with Robert Ford. When the Sunni resistance began to develop, they started – the first thing that was done under Negreponte – they started establishing death squads in Iraq. The idea was exactly the same (as in Central America): hit squads of Kurdish and Shi’a fighters to target leaders of what they called “the Iraqi Insurgency” in a strategic shift borrowed from the American struggle against the left-wing guerillas in South America twenty years or so earlier.
The Salvador Option for Iraq led to a huge amount of killing, torture, mass murder, death squads, etc. Robert Ford worked in Iraq as a part of this group. I looked at a program that was produced by the BBC specifically on this issue. You’d be amazed with how similar what happened in Iraq was similar to what happened in Syria. Now fast forward again and with the issue in Syria, we begin to notice how close this Iraqi experience compares to what we can call “the Syrian contras.” Negreponte sets up the model, then Daish type mercenaries and others are imported in, the organic resistance is bypassed and then “the whole thing” (the killings) is started.
Rob Prince: Ibrahim, I was doing some research on the El Salvador Option too. What I found is that there was an earlier organization that applied the same model of targeted assassination of regime opponents. It was a French organization, tied to French intelligence, called in French “La Main Rouge” – otherwise known in English as “the Red Hand.” It literally worked out of the French embassy/consulate in Tunisia, Morocco, Cameroon and other places. It did exactly the same thing in the colonial period. It assassinated the leaders of the anti-colonial movements throughout Africa and the Middle East, – in Tunisia it assassinated Ferhat Hached, in Morocco several people, in Cameroon, Dr. Félix-Roland Moumié. So this mechanism of selected assassination of opposition leaders has a long history. It’s like a bouncing ball, from the French to the United States – the British did the same thing in Kenya –
Ibrahim Kazerooni: Yes, and the British also did the same thing in India.
If you look at the methods of torture, killing, mutilation, there is an exact parallel. Look at the picture in Algeria in particular and compare them to the way that bodies were dealt with in Iraq and in Syria. The so-called “Free Syrian Army” that was trained by the U.S., the Israelis and Jordan and were sent into southern Syria and from the north from Turkey going into Syria… If you return to early days, particularly a report that came out from Der Spiegel about the atrocities that these mercenaries committed. I don’t know if you remember members of the “Free Syrian Army” killing Syrian government soldiers, ripping open their chests and pulling out their hearts, and then chewing on them.
The atrocities committed were unbelievable.
Jim Nelson: I just want to cut in briefly. I am your host Jim Nelson and this is “The Middle East Dialogue.” Joining me in that conversation, Ibrahim Kazerooni and Rob Prince. You can join this conversation at 303-442-4242 with a question or a comment. We do have a caller, John, who has been waiting patiently. John from Boulder, Good evening.
Caller John from Boulder: Good evening. I just want to say that Mr. Kazerooni is right about (John) Negreponte. (General James) Steele also turns up a little later with Felix Rodriguez as well in the Iran-Contra situation. There is a long and sordid history. You guys also missed the Phoenix Program in Vietnam which was a very concerted assassination program.
I wanted to bring up the Third Ranger Battalion out of Ft. Benning, Georgia, Hunter Army Airfield. They are the ones up in Manbij (Northern Syria) and they are acting as an apparent “deterrent force.” The rangers are highly specialized, one regiment of 600 men. They come with custom Stryker vehicles that are very heavily outfitted. They are there ostensibly to keep the peace. The people who I think are much more dangerous are the marine artillery units who are coming in (to Syria) with a self-propelled Marine howitzer, called the M-Triple 7. I urge people to look it up on-line. It fires an excalibur howitzer shell (manufactured by Raytheon) which is a GPS-guided howitzer shell. It is 15.5 millimeters in diameter. It packs an incredible fiery punch. It is an awesome weapon.
I’ll shut up and let you guys continue.
Rob Prince: Thanks for the comments, John. They are fascinating. It’s true we neglected to talk about the Phoenix Program in Vietnam. Quite frankly John, if you think about what drone strikes are about, they are essentially remote air-based assassinations, nothing less. So they could have been and should have been included in our discussions given their extensive place in the U.S. military arsenal and plans. This policy of trying to eliminate, decapitate the leadership of the opposition, is based on the false premise that by eliminating the leadership the opposition movement can be snuffed out.
Going back as far as one wants – to the 1940s, 50s or 60s (or even earlier) there have been unending attempts to neutralize, eliminate the most organized, and in the colonial period, the most principled anti-colonial elements. In the more recent period, it is the more active nationalists who have been targeted – Lumumba, Nyobé, the Palestinian secular left – essentially.
Caller John from Boulder: The attack in Yemen shortly after Donald Trump was inaugurated, was apparently convened, or the decision was made to go ahead with it, around a dinner table. Somebody brought the proposal to the president. Jared Kushner was also there along with (General James) Mattis. The implication was that the (Navy) Seal Team Six that was dispatched, was in fact detected before they approached the target area. The Seal Team was in fact informed that they had been detected. When they (the team) checked back with their commanding JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command), JSOC told them to go ahead with the mission anyhow.
When they landed, the were in what is referred to as “a hot zone.” The Seal Team knew that they would be fired upon because they knew from picking up radio chatter on the ground ostensibly from the guards who were guarding the compound that they had been detected.
The report that the (Trump) Administration came out with, notably, that left out the downing of the “66,” the Osprey. It is an expensive vehicle, it took a hard landing because it was also being fired upon when it came in to evacuate wounded. That was a botched mission, any which way you cut it.
Rob Prince: But then this administration – and others before it – know how to spin it to minimize the bad publicity. The administration can do these sloppy, brutal missions, but then the way that it gets translated, interpreted, spun to the public minimizes the damage. There are going to be a lot of other operations like this one, just as sloppy, just as brutal as what you just described. It’s quite credible all that you have recounted. Thanks.
Caller John from Boulder: I think it tragic and were it not for his father – Owen’s father has voiced severe objections to the raid and has been clued in typically by other members of the raid. Notably these military teams are very, very tight-knit, but when things like this happen, they do have families and they do talk. This is apparently what has happened but yet there is a whitewash in the navy. In the court of inquiry so far they have determined that the mission was warranted. Anytime a seal unit is detected, the rangers and Delta Seals, Air Force S.O.G (Special Operations Group) will tell you that the mission should be aborted, and you come back another time
Jim Nelson: Thank you John. We have a couple of other callers on the line. Next up is Loren from Pine Colorado.
Caller Loren from Pine: Hey everybody! It’s snowing like heck over here in the high country. Gotta watch out for the cougars; they’re thick at my house.
Listen, you guys were talking earlier about all these forces, how they just snuck around and it all adds up to some big numbers. I read something last night, it was either late or early this morning. It was an unconfirmed report but what it said was this: U.S. forces, right now, are blocking the advance of the Syria Army towards Rakka because we are beginning the partition of Syria. This event will be the beginning of the partition. It will result in a greater Kurdistan being established by the United States and its minions where they will give the northern section of Syria, there along the Turkish border, to the Syrian Kurds in return for their help against ISIS, the very army that very army (ISIS) that we (the USA) created. The whole thing is just so crazy. We may now come head to head with the Russians; if this is happening, we’ll just have to see what Mr. Putin’s move is. He may just say, “we’re going to back our friends and you can either back up or you can stay. I mean we’ll have to stay.
Rob Prince: Ibrahim, would you like to comment?
Ibrahim Kazerooni: This was one of the issues that I had planned to address later in the program – once we get to it. For the time being, let’s dispense with the nitty-gritty part of how the whole situation unfolded, we need to go back to what Rob stated regarding the Doha Protocol in which under the supervision of American participants and a number of regional allies – Saudis, Qataris, Jordanians, Israelis, Turks and others – there was a plan agreed upon in 2012 in which the so-called opposition came to an agreement and the agreement was to literally dismantle Syria. Another version was presented in 2013 but after the Syrian Army was able to win some military battles on the ground, everyone stopped talking about it.
At the time we noticed that even the Syria opposition publicly announced that they were fooled by the United States; they (the U.S.) really didn’t want democracy and human rights in Syria; what they wanted was the partition of Syria, breaking it into pieces
That idea has not changed. That remains the policy of this administration as much as it was the policy of the previous administration.
Recently El Akbar newspaper in Lebanon reported that a high level security meeting took place in Jordan under the pressure of the United States to bring together Saudis, the Arab Emirates as well as the Israelis, the Jordanians and the Egyptians to create a united front to build a base for Islamic mercenaries in Daraa (Southern Syria). Daraa enters the picture again! Daraa in Syria again which is very close to the Jordanian border. But this time, since they will not be able now to partition the entire Syria, the goal is for these mercenaries to move eastward from Daraa towards the Iraqi border.
By the way, the caller (Loren from Pine) who spoke of the (U.S.) bombing to prevent Syrian government forces from advancing on mercenary positions – this is not the first time. I’m sure people remember that about a year ago under the Obama Administration, the U.S. Air Force bombed front Syrian government positions near Der Sor and Rakka because the government forces were very close to getting into the city and establishing a strong position for themselves where they could attack Da-ish and ISIS.
Jim Nelson: And we have Strider calling from Longmont.
Caller Strider from Longmont: Hello. I hope I’m not getting off tract but I want to bring in the whole “Russia thing.” Clearly Trump and his team have aligned with Putin on this. I don’t understand the geo-political issues involved.
Rob Prince: Ibrahim, do you want to respond:
Ibrahim Kazerooni: Yes. Leaving the issue as to what degree Russia is cooperating with Trump… What I’m beginning to see is that despite all the narratives during the election campaign that the Administration is going to negotiate (over Syria), respect the nationhood of the Syrian state, that the U.S. is not for regime change (in Syria) or anything such thing – this is what Trump, his political allies, advisors were talking about.
But for all that, nothing has changed in terms of U.S. policy towards Syria. This is why Russia is becoming reticent again about cooperating with the U.S. over Syria. A few days ago, (Russian Foreign Minister Sergey) Lavrov made a comment that the United States position of sending more troops to Syria is not helping the situation. On the contrary they are supporting ISIS and preventing the Syrian army from moving forward. By the way, what the previous caller (Loren from Pine) was referring to – the U.S. forces blocking the Syrian army – I believe it was reported by “Russia Today” – so I read references to this as well.
One thing we have to understand, that Russia and the United States do not see eye to eye when it comes to Syria.
The United States is operating within the old “regime change” mode, or at least attempting to divide, partition the country. This is in support of the Israeli position because they, in Washington, think that by doing that and paralyzing the regime in Syria that they would remove a major supporter of the Palestinians from the region (the Syrian government) and they would prevent weapons and other forms of support coming to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
This was a point that was raised in (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu’s visit to Moscow but (Soviet President Vladimir) Putin rejected that idea. He told Netanyahu to look at the region not in biblical terms but instead, to understand the geo-political reality around him. One has to operate within the region.
I don’t believe that Russia and the United States have the same goals and objectives. Russia wants the Syrian crisis to come to an end because as Bechar al Assad said – and I remember Rob that in 2011 already we said it here on KGNU – that once Syria collapses, it will be impossible to control the region once Syria is filled with mercenaries and terrorists, they cannot be contained into a limited geographical area. Sooner or later they will spill over and destabilize neighboring countries.
Russia does not want destabilization of its southern flank coming from Syria, plus it considers Syria as a major partner and essential for its own (Russian) security in the region. Russia is not going to negotiate with the United States regarding Syria. The United States has a totally different object from the Russians.
Jim Nelson: Ibrahim, we have more callers and we will have to move on. We have Gene, a former KGNU board member calling from Denver.
Caller Gene from Denver: Thank you gentlemen for dedicating this show to the Middle East but I would like you on a regular basis for somebody to monitor the position of Israel on all the facets of destabilizing conflict in the entire Middle East. I think it would be very informative for all of us Israel’s position vis-a-vis the entire region.
Rob Prince: So let’s talk about Israel. Certainly Israel is an integral part of U.S. strategy in the region. In terms of Syria, which we’ve concentrated up because of the seriousness of the crisis, Israel is one of the players. In terms of the partition plan that we continue to come back to as a result of the Doha Protocol, there are three regions that the plan intends slice off from Syria. One is the northern region of Syria which Turkey would control, then there is the eastern regions adjacent to Iraq where it looks like the United States is attempting to set up some kind of a “safe zone” for ISIS, Al Qaeda and the like” and the third area of destabilization is in the south of Syria. Here Israel is cooperating with Jordan in a zone that if they could control it, they would both co-manage it.
This would leave “Syria” little more than a rump state around Damascus.
So Israel is participating in the U.S. based plan to partition Syria in this way. Israel is an active participant
Ibrahim Kazerooni: And it has been by the way Rob and it has been all along, from the beginning of the Syrian crisis.
We have ample documentation of Israel, along with Jordan, training in Jordan under the supervision and active support of the United States. This included military training by the Israelis, not to mention the Qataris, the Saudis and others.
Right from the beginning, every time the Syrian government moved south the militarily neutralize one or another of these mercenary groups, the Israelis would respond by sending their air force in to bombard Syrian government positions. Then once the situation turned around and the mercenary elements suffered a huge number of casualties, these casualties were treated in Jordan, Occupied Territories, Occupied Golan or in Israel proper in hospitals. There are a huge number of photos documenting this.
There are ample documents clearly stating that Netanyahu and others, previous heads of Mossad, stating that “it is in our (Israel’s) interest” – quite clear and explicitly – for Syria to break down into small pieces.
Rob Prince: Think about this now. Israel tries its darndest to get the U.S. to attack Iran; Israel supports the U.S. led 2003 invasion of Iraq. What is all this about? Basically if these countries are weakened, then Israeli’s position in the region is strengthened. So when talking about Israel’s role in destabilization of the region, you are correct and we have talked about it, but perhaps not enough. It’s a good point that you make.
Ibrahim Kazerooni: The subject of Israel’s geo-political role is worthy of giving one whole program to it.
Jim Nelson: Gene, thank you for calling. We’re going to move on to Mae from Netherland
Caller Mae from Netherland: Hello, thank you for the program. I just had a comment and a question. My comment is: I lived in Brazil in the late 70s and 80s and traveled up through Central America. In Brazil and during those travels I got to witness the death squads and terrorist attacks throughout Central America and some of the smaller scale ones led by police vigilantes. I know that is a horrifying thing if you happen to be a resident of those countries. I want to encourage listeners to put it together that if this strategy works over and over again internationally, what might it mean here in our country.
My question is: What is the banking industry up to in the Middle East. I heard that Syria was one of the few holdouts on the international banking thing. Just want you to address that if you hadn’t already. Thanks so much.
Rob Prince: I’m not sure what the position is of international financial institutions.
Ibrahim Kazerooni: They were not prepared to borrow from the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and let any of the other major international donors to come in and dictate their (IMF’s) financial operations to them. They refused to participate in structural adjustment policies – as described in Confessions of an Economic Hitman by John Perkins. Countries that were not prepared to go along with such policies – that would be an added factor for the U.S. led campaign of regime change in Syria. This is why I say that the reason for going into Syria is not just one factor – this is another factor.
Switching over for a moment, to the case of Iraq, it was said that one of the reasons for the U.S. led 2003 invasion to overthrow the government there, that switching from the dollar to other currencies to act as reserve currencies was an added factor. In the case of Syria, it, its refusal to accept structural adjustment criteria to manage its economy, was one of those factors that led to the war.
As a matter of fact, if you go to the Doha Protocol, the economic policy that was envisaged for so-called “post transformation” into the new state that the U.S. and its allies would control, was “open market” economics, which means the IMF and the like coming in and controlling Syrian economic activity – as is happening currently in Iraq.
Rob Prince: Mae, the only thing I would add to this is where investment goes in the Middle East is overwhelmingly into oil and gas discovery, development, extraction and transportation systems. Pipelines and the like. In terms of anything else that might lead to regional development there is very little financing.
Between Ibrahim’s comments and that I hope that we have answered your question.
Jim Nelson: We have a minute and a half left. Would you two like to sum up?
Ibrahim Kazerooni: Starting with the issue of U.S. policy shifting away from diplomacy to military operations, there were a number of articles – I believe one was in Huffington Post – arguing that “the quagmire” is not just Syria, Iraq, Yemen and other places. This sinking, once again, into the soft sand of these countries, really is going to have huge ramifications regional as well as global policy.
The United States is going backwards, as if it hasn’t learned anything from history.
Rob Prince: Agreed. Same policy, more aggressively pursued, more tragedy on a human level, “head-in-the-sand” policy with the head being deeper in the sand than it even was before.
Jim Nelson: Another great show…