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The Tripartite Attack on Syria: “Mission Accomplished” or “A Tale Told by an Idiot, Full of Sound and Fury Signifying Nothing?”

April 27, 2018

Naples’ mayor Luigi de Magistris said the U.S.S. John Warner, a nuclear submarine, is not welcome in the city. Cruise missiles from this ship were fired at Syria in response to false flag claim that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons against civilians.

(note: This interview on KGNU Boulder dealt with the U.S.-U.K-French missile attack on Syria in response to an alleged use of a chemical weapon attack by the Assad government on Syrian civilians. All the evidence up until now suggests that the whole incident was fabricated. If this was the case, and more and more evidence suggests it is, then why bomb Syria? These are the issues that were dealt with in this hour-long program. Because of the length of the interview, it will be posted in chunks.)

The 103 missile attack in protest to the Syrian chemical weapons attack that didn’t happen 

…all the evidence suggests that there was no gas attack. (Robert) Fisk went there (to Douma, Syria) as well as three or four other groups of reports, both European and from Russia. All of them, independent news sources, have unanimously reported that, after having gone over there, interviewed different people, gone to the hospital where supposed the victims are recovering, all of these reporters clearly state that there was no chemical weapon or gas attack at Douma. The whole incident was contrived. It didn’t happen.

Ibrahim Kazerooni on KGNU, Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues.

KGNU – Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues. April 24, 2018 – Transcript, Part One.

Jim Nelson: So let’s move onto this evening’s topic which many of our listeners would have guessed we’d cover tonight. It concerns the bombing that happened last week, on Friday, April 13, Friday the 13th! against Syria. After it was finished, Trump proclaimed “mission accomplished.”

So gentlemen, you are going to explore whether “that mission was accomplished..or was it `sound and fury’ or what?” Meanwhile look at the awful situation in Syria, Yemen. And I think Rob is going to open up

Rob Prince: Yes, it’s the case that after the bombing that President Trump declared “mission accomplished” – a term we’ve heard in the past; George W. Bush used the same expression after the U.S. led invasion of Iraq.

Jim: The way that Trump tweeted “Hey, this mission has been accomplished” suggests he was referring to the Bush statement.

Rob Prince: Our question is “What was the mission? And what was accomplished/” but we’ll address these questions later in the program. Read more…

Syria and Trump’s Brinkmanship Foreign Policy: New Focus – Destroying the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (Iran Nuclear Deal)

April 27, 2018

John Kerry and Mohammad Javad Zarif named winners of the Chatham House Prize 2016 for the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (Iran Nuclear Deal)

Obama vs Trump on the Middle East. 

A serious, objective look at Obama’s Middle East policy is rather sobering: despite personal tensions between Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, some of the largest arms sales and grants in U.S. history to Israel. Obama did nothing to stem continued expansion of Israel’s illegal West Bank settlement program or lift the increasingly suffocating and inhumane Israeli (and Egyptian) stranglehold on Gaza. Obama ok’d (he says he later regretted it) the military campaign to overthrow Khadaffi in Libya – strongly encouraged by his then Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton – which has both destroyed Libya as a nation and spread instability throughout the northern half of Africa. During the Obama years Hillary Clinton’s major contribution to Middle East peace – or the lack of it – was gazillion dollar arms sales to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the emirates and calls to overthrow the Iranian government. All the above are facts, easily corroborated by anyone wanting to take the time to verify them.

There were two exceptions to this sorry and confused record for which Barack Obama deserves credit:

1. When pressed to attack Syria with cruise missiles after the rushed and unverified claims that the Assad Government had used chemical weapons against its own people, Obama refused to give into the war hysteria (as Trump just did on April 13) by bombing the country. Those allegations proved to be fabricated. Obama held the line despite outcries from neo-conservatives and the likes of AIPAC. A moment of political courage
2. Obama’s attempt to normalize U.S. relations with Iran, through the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, known in the U.S. – and mistakenly as simply “the Iran Nuclear deal.” It was an attempt, however brief to use diplomacy over military options and we should not be surprised that on the U.S. side it was engineered by a Secretary of State, John Kerry, who a half century prior, threw his military medals over the White House fence along with other members of Vietnam Veterans against the War, who opposed the U.S. war in Vietnam.

But whatever minor steps were taken by Barack Obama are now being swept away by a presidency in which all diplomacy carries with it the threat of military action. I suppose that is not so new – the threat of military action as a mechanism for diplomacy has long been a part of U.S. foreign policy – Henry Kissinger wrote a book about how the U.S. nuclear arsenal could be used to blackmail countries into towing an American line – but today such threats are being used more crudely than ever, dangerously so, and to such a degree that one could say that Washington has no other foreign policy than brinkmanship – the threat of military action.

Trumpty-Dumpty’s Global Brinkmanship and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (Iran Nuclear Deal) – Some Middle Eastern Critiques of the Agreements.

So…now Trumpty-Dumpty’s brinkmanship policy changes focus once again, from N. Korea, to Syria, now to Iran and supposed negotiations with N. Korea. The focus bounces blindly back and forth. Now there is a new twist…as Washington pursues peace talks with North Korea (however cynical) while at the same time threatening Iran. The peace talks with North Korea will overshadow the increasingly aggressive approach to Iran, at least in the U.S. media and of course, the generally brain dead U.S. Congress where bipartisan support for overthrowing the Iranian government remains significant. On May 12 of this year, the Trump Administration will decide whether to continue in the agreement or not.

Trumpty-Dumpty is milking the uncertainty of his decision for all its worth. My sense is that, despite the rhetoric, he’ll stay in the agreement but find other ways to undermine it or make it essentially moot, but we’ll see soon enough. Regardless a policy of gradual conciliation has been replaced with brinkmanship and threats…the usual U.S. policy towards its global adversaries.
Yesterday there was (for me) a fascinating exchange of views concerning the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (known in the US of A as the Iran Nuclear Deal). It was my impression that most of the comments came from people from the Middle East, many of them Iranian. I was surprised how many of them – as they virtually appeared to be “progressive” – whatever that might mean – were either critical or quite cynical about the deal. Many of their comments were insightful. These folks know what they are talking about and frankly, if not for these exchanges, I would not be on Facebook as I can always send family pictures, and bird photos to my relatives. I don’t need Facebook to do this.

As one who supports this agreement – did in the past and will continue to support its implementation – I had to think about the arguments presented…because they were not flakey in nature. Thought about it most of yesterday.

The main argument given was that in signing the accords, the Iranians gave up far more than they got. …ie, that it was not the U.S. that signed a bad agreement, but the Iranians themselves. They have a point. If you look at the agreement closely – it is not the U.S. that had to give ground, make major concessions but Iran. They have all but given up control of their nuclear energy policy, agreed to submit to inspections – there is nothing in the agreement that makes the other parties do so, forced to follow strict timelines, etc. etc. In fact, the more one looks at it, the more punitive against Iran that the agreement appears and one can understand why there was opposition to it in Iran – and not just from conservatives and the military.

Supporting the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in the Age of Trump.

Then why support it? Wouldn’t it be better for both sides if the agreement is scrapped and that some of Trumpty-Dumpty’s rhetoric actually rings true?

Scrapping this agreement would be a very dangerous move, both for Iran, for the Middle East and one that would only escalate the nuclear arms race. There are also indications that rather than isolating Iran by so doing, it would isolate the United States.

What is accurate about the criticisms made is that the agreement IS lopsided; the Americans (the Obama Administration that signed it) get far more than they give; Iran gives far more than it gets. But………

1. This reflects the current balance of power in the world. Iran is not going to able to impose its conditions on the United States. The United States still has the power to impose – with limits – its will on Iran. So it is Iran that simply had to make the concessions. Still, the fact that the United States and its allies had to negotiate AT ALL with Iran, and give something back in return – which it then quickly took away (an end to sanctions) suggests a shifting balance of power in the world. By signing this treaty, the United States (and its allies) were forced to admit Iran as a legitimate force in the Middle East region. This is no small thing concession from Washington that has thought for seven decades that it could simply dictate policy. It can’t anymore. Washington had to negotiate its grievances…it could not just bomb them out of existence. By the way, this remains relevant today. It is not so simple for the U.S. – one way or another – to attack Iran.

2. More importantly, it gave Iran a certain amount of breathing time. If the economic fruits – the contracts Iran was able to sign after the deal was reached – were not as extensive as they had hoped – because of U.S. pressure to re-institute sanctions in violation of the agreement – still, they were considerable with many countries. Iran’s place on the Belt Road Project is pretty much assured and likelihood of growing cooperation with some of its neighbors (Turkey, Pakistan, even India) to say nothing of improved ties with Russia, China and to some extent Europe all fruits of the agreement.

3. Finally there is the historical perspective that needs to be remembered here. There are MANY examples – classic examples – of negotiations in which major concessions were made – based on the political realities of the time – to buy time. To mention just a few.

• After the Russian Revolution of 1917, Lenin immediately made peace with Germany. Russia made major territorial concessions, but it got breathing room – the space to consolidate the revolution.
• Likewise, to a certain extent, when, after Britain and France refused to enter into an alliance with the USSR to fight German fascism, Stalin signed the Hitler-Stalin pact – by which the USSR had to provide strategic war materials to Nazi Germany, Stalin, like Lenin was buying time. In that narrow window of two years prior to the onset of Operation Barbarossa the Soviet Union engaged in a massive industrial build up in the Ural Mountains, which was probably decisive in its herculean effort to defeat Nazism.
• Finally, there were Gorbachev’s concessions to the West in the late 1980s – unilateral disarmament and withdrawal from Eastern Europe leading to the collapse of communism in those countries. Again, the U.S. and its allies were in a much stronger position than the Soviet Union. Gorbachev understood that the economic and political reforms he saw necessary to modernize and democratize Russia required time – a great deal of time, probably decades. He was willing to make what were major strategic concessions – tone down the Cold war – to concentrate on remodeling the country. Yes, the reforms failed and the USSR collapsed, but from where I am sitting – that was the gamble that Gorbachev was willing to take and he took it. That took political courage and foresight.

For all its admitted limitations, from where I am sitting, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action fits into the same general category. Frankly it was a brilliant move on Iran’s part – nothing less, and the more I think about it, what were the other options – increasing regional tension? bringing the region to the brink of war? It was also a victory – or maybe a step forward is a better way to put it – for those in the United States concerned about a U.S. foreign policy based on unending Middle East war – that such a policy serves U.S. interests as poorly as it does the countries in the region. It was a brief step away from the long pattern of military intervention that has destabilized the region and done such harm. That this opening has been so brief – actually fleeting – cannot be laid at the doorstep of Teheran.

But now that good will has all but evaporated as the Supreme Court appears likely to approve Trumpty-Dumpty’s bigoted travel ban, targeting Middle Eastern countries, including Iran with a Congress almost foaming at the mouth to add sanction upon sanction against Iran – in violatioon of the agreement. In today’s hostile environment there is no better way today for opposing the drift towards war, no way of trying to throw a money wrench in what is a new and more dangerous round of a nuclear arms race than to preserve the Joint Comprehesive Plan of Action…despite its limitations.

Trump’s Bombing of Syria: “Mission Accomplished?” or “A Tale Told by an Idiot, Full of Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing?” Tuesday, April 24, 2018. KGNU, Boulder, Colorado. 88.5 FM; 1390 AM. 6 pm Mountain Time. Hemispheres: Middle East Dialogues.

April 23, 2018

Trump’s Bombing of Syria: “Mission Accomplished?” or “A Tale Told by an Idiot, Full of Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing?” Tuesday, April 24, 2018. KGNU, Boulder, Colorado. 88.5 FM; 1390 AM. 6 pm Mountain Time. Hemispheres: Middle East Dialogues.

Hear Ibrahim Kazerooni and Rob Prince discuss the motivation and results of the recent U.S.-U.K.- French missile attack on Syria. 103 missiles launched from the Eastern Mediterranean, Red Sea and Persian Gulf on Syria targets. What is known about the alleged chemical attack at Douma, Syria? What were the results of the attack in terms of changing the balance of power in the Syria conflict?

What seems to have been the thinking – if there was any – behind this show of force reminiscent of the famous Shakespeare quote that it was “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing.”

Cozad, Nebraska – The Hundred Meridian No Longer What It Used To Be

April 21, 2018

 

The 100th Meridian marker outside of Cozad, Nebraska. Summer, 2003

  1. Cozad, Nebraska

I’ve been there a number of times, stopping on my way to visit in-laws in eastern Nebraska by the Missouri River. Have stayed there twice in a motel just off of I-80, visited the Robert Henri Museum downtown and once went out to the 100th meridian marker just west of town, Cozad Nebraska and asked Nancy to take my picture there. The main east-west street splitting the town in half, of course, Meridian Ave. And, those lucky enough to be there on August 21, 2017 could have participated in the “Eclipse on the 100th Meridian” event in town, “with activities from 10 am to 2 pm, during the high point of the eclipse that day.

Cozad is a town of a bit less than 4000, farm country right in the path of the transcontinental railroad. It’s just east of North Platte where the largest train repair shop in North America, ney in the world is located. For a short moment, like Gothenburg just to its east, Cozad was a stop on the pony express route west. I wonder what the good people of Cozad are thinking about their current loss of longitudinal prestige. Read more…

Syria and the Brinkmanship Presidency – 3 – 103 Missiles to Destroy the Evidence

April 17, 2018

2013 U.K. demonstration opposing U.S. orchestrated war in Syria to partition the country. They chanted “USA Shame On You”

Writing with his usual insight, acumen and honesty, Jim Wall, in his latest column , argued that the U.S.-U.K.-French bombing of Syria was “designed to distract.” (1) While I believe Wall is on to something important, his article fails to elaborate: designed to distract from what? Still, he’s got a point and a big one. So let’s fill in a few blanks here. As usual, a military strike of this size – 131 missiles is no small attack – as a number of short goals – all of them short-term, none of them with any strategic or even much tactical value to speak of. So…let’s state some of the more obvious – already being raised in the media now here and there: Read more…

Syria and the Brinkmanship Presidency – 2 – The Mayaguez Phenomenon

April 14, 2018

Protesters shout slogans as they wave Iraqi and Syrian flags during a protest against the U.S.-led missile attack on Syria, in Tahrir Square, Baghdad, Iraq, on Sunday, April, 15, 2018. (Hadi Mizban/AP)

Jeffrey Sachs on Syria: “…I think we have to step back and not put this in partisan terms. This is a U.S. mistake that started seven years ago. And I remember the day on your show, when President Obama said, ‘Assad must go,’ and I looked at you and Joe and I said, ‘Huh. How’s he going to do that? Where’s the policy for that?’ And we know they sent in the CIA to overthrow Assad, the CIA and Saudi Arabia, together in covert operations tried to overthrow Assad, it was a disaster, eventually it brought in both ISIS as a splinter group to the jihadists that went in, it also brought in Russia. So we have been digging deeper and deeper and deeper. What we should do now is get out. And not continue to throw missiles, not have a confrontation with Russia. Seven years has been a disaster, under Obama, continuing under Trump. This is what I would call the permanent state, this is the CIA, this is the Pentagon, wanting to keep Iran and Russia out of Syria. But [there’s] no way to do that. And so we have made a proxy war in Syria, it’s killed 500,000 people, displaced ten million, and I’ll say: predictably so, because I predicted it seven years ago, that there was no way to do this, and that it would make a complete chaos, so what I would plead to President Trump, is: get out. Like his instinct told him…”

The Mayaguez Phenomenon

Several days after the United States, UK and France struck Syria with 103 missiles fired both from the air and ships in the Mediterranean, as the dust settles, a clearer picture of the event itself and what it was about has come into focus. It was an event of no strategic importance whatsoever in that it changed nothing on the ground. Even the Bloomsberg business magazine website admitted as much:

While the attack by the U.S., Britain and France destroyed military positions and research facilities linked to chemical weapons, it did little to degrade Assad’s capacity to wage war, or target the fighters from Russia, Iran and Hezbollah supporting him.

A military strike at this point against Syria is more an act of frustration than anything that changes the basic facts on the ground: the balance of power resulting from the defeat of ISIS/al Nusra, etc. has shifted. There is a new, emerging constellation of social forces coming into being to which Washington cannot dictate. Calling all the regional shots is no longer a Washington privilege. Power has somewhat shifted away from the U.S. Israel and Saudi Arabia. It will not be restored, if ever. Bombing Syria with 130 missiles didn’t change this one iota.

The only short-term advantage the U.S. got out of the bombing is that it destroyed the evidence of the alleged chemical attack. Washington was nervous that the UN inspectors would contradict their claims that the Assad government was responsible. Other than that, nothing was gained.

One could argue that even Washington knew the futility of these strikes beforehand. But they (the high level leadership in Washington) felt they had to “do something” and these days, “something” virtually always means a military strike rich in symbolism but with no political or strategic value whatsoever, a “show of force” to suggest that the United States is still a world power, that it matters. As American economic and diplomatic influence wanes, increasing Washington relies on raw military power, or its threat as the main instrument of foreign policy. It also gives confidence to regional allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia, both of which hesitate to use military action unless Washington its lesser minions (France, UK) are involved. Read more…

Syria and the Brinkmanship Presidency – 1

April 14, 2018

Damascus. 1981. The flag is still flying.

(Note: this past evening a combined U.S., UK. French missile attack on Syria took place, ratcheting up the danger of unleashing a regional conflict with the spectre of nuclear war lurking in the shadows. From the earliest reports coming in this is what we know: On the early morning of April 14, 2018 a combined air and sea attack from U.S., UK, France. 103 missiles was launched against targets in Syria. Initial reports state that  71 of these missiles were intercepted by 30-year-old Russian-made, but Syrian controlled and manned anti-aircraft missiles. Neither Russia nor Iran took the bait and struck back militarily, giving Washington and its allies (UK, France) a pretext to raise the military ante. Am still concerned about Israeli-Saudi.

As noted in social media: hours after the strike, people are dancing in the streets of Damascus: “This is the 1st time in history where a capital, Damascus, is hit by foreign power and people celebrate it in the street few hours later, challenging the attackers and expressing their solidarity with the government by dancing in the street: boosted today.”

Outside of the narrow confines of  U.S., UK and French ruling circles and their pliant media, it will provoke global, well deserved outrage. )

As noted in social media: hours after the strike, people are dancing in the streets of Damascus: “This is the 1st time in history where a capital, Damascus, is hit by foreign power and people celebrate it in the street few hours later, challenging the attackers and expressing their solidarity with the government by dancing in the street: boosted today.”

1. In Washington Diplomacy is Dead; Today it’s all about brinkmanship

Diplomacy, so to speak, has taken a back seat in U.S. foreign policy for sometime. Today it’s much more about brinkmanship, threatening war, including nuclear war, seeing if the other side (North Korea, Syria) will blink first and then exacting concessions, otherwise known as blackmail, from friends and adversaries alike. It is also, as in the case of Syria, a way to cover what has been a seven year military failure to overthrow the Assad government and partition the country. With the State Department increasingly gutted and led by jackasses appointed  with the expressed goal of undermining or destroying its diplomatic role, it’s the Defense Dept., ie., the military has become the main agent of U.S.foreign policy. 

The ritual, potentially deadly, has a pattern to it: threaten war in an increasingly vulgar and juvenile war of words in a sequence resembling an exchange of “pre-duel” insults in a Western shootout with Trump playing John Wayne. (which one was more stupid, less articulate?). More difficult to strike North Korea, it has nuclear weapons, easier to strike Syria, ravaged by war and with no nukes.

The pattern: threaten war as the Trumpty-Dumpty Administration did with North Korea last fall, heightening not just regional but global fears. Among other things, on a more profound level, Washington was testing China, knowing that there are genuine tensions between China and N. Korea. In such a crisis, the question emerges: how far will China go to defend its annoying ally? Can the pressure Washington is exerting create a split between the two. Washington is always trying to play divide and conquer, whether it’s in the Middle East or East Asia. In the case of Syria, similarly, the idea is to bait Iran and Russia to respond directly to a U.S.-led attack, providing the pretext to turn on either of them militarily.

Then weigh the consequences and see how many concessions bringing the world to the edge of world war can yield. But Trumpty Dumpty – not even a minor league player when it comes to foreign policy – found himself outmaneuvered from the outset by the Chinese. I wonder if Trump has a slogan on his desk that says something like: “Donny boy – don’t mess with the Chinese. Remember they are smarter and stronger than you; find a weaker opponent to bully.” And they are powerful and if there is one thing about bullies  – they only mess with nations that are weaker, not stronger or as strong. And so where it came to attacking North Korea, Trump was essentially forced to back down and he did, in search for weaker adversaries.

In the North Korean-Chinese case, given that the North Koreans have nuclear weapons and long-range missile systems,  Washington “wisely” (perhaps a poorly chosen word) – or at least “correctly” – understood that attacking North Korea would provoke a strong Chinese response, military, economic or both, to say nothing about how South Korea would respond. At a certain moment the Trump Administration understood it was not the China-North Korean alliance that would fracture but the U.S.-South Korean one that was on the verge of fracture. And so Washington found a pretext to back down (the Olympics) and the tense situation in East Asia cooled some, at least temporarily, and with it the war danger there, that most definitely included the threat of nuclear confrontation.

2. Some geo-political considerations about placing Syria in U.S. military cross-hairs.

But the brinkmanship continues, it’s only the target that changes from North Korea to …da da, da da…Syria. Would not have been all that hard to predict given the propensities of the prez himself and his stable of foreign policy Islamophobic wackos, Pompeo and Bolton, that the Middle East would be the next in line. Attacking Syria has several goals, none of which has any strategic value whatsoever in terms of changing the regional balance of power that has resulted from the U.S. defeat (yep that is the word) in Syria. If the brinkmanship towards N. Korea was a way to test a Chinese response, attacking Syria is meant to provoke Iran and Russia to respond militarily.

To date, to their credit, neither has taken the bait to their credit.

On another level the plan was – and there is a plan, referred to as the Doha Protocol – to partition Syria using proxies like ISIS, al Nusra and the like. It utterly failed. To strike Syria is a way of punishing it for not capitulating pure and simple. It “gives confidence” to U.S. main regional allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia to be more aggressive towards Iran and Syria.

There are, as usual, domestic considerations to any U.S. military actions – united the country behind the current maniac leader at a time when Trumpty-Dumpty’s polls are sagging and ne needs something to boost Republican chances for the mid-term elections this year. He might also fear the momentum towards impeachment, knowing that the Dems will probably support any strike against Syria, as they will.

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Links:

Syria and the Brinkmanship Presidency – 2

Syria and the Brinkmanship Presidency – 3