Tuesday, 18 October 2016

A Howling Moral Vacuum: America’s Syrian Policy.

The Other Side Of The Story: A rebel fighter from the Jaish al-Fatah (or Army of Conquest) prepares to fire artillery during clashes with Syrian pro-government forces earlier this year. Why is it that the Western news media provides so little coverage of the Jihadists' artillery bombardment of West Aleppo? Perhaps it's because we might  start asking embarrassing questions about where these big guns come from.
 
AVID FANS of the US television series Homeland are already familiar with the drill. People in the White House, people in the Pentagon, people in the State Department let it be known to people working in the Central Intelligence Agency that certain things must be made to happen. None of these people will ever tell (or admit to) the world what it is that they want to make happen. That’s because what the US actually wants to happen is very often the opposite of what the US says it wants to happen. And that, of course, is the whole point of an outfit like the CIA. It allows the American Government to enjoy its diplomatic cake while blowing everybody else’s cake to Kingdom Come.
 
Take Syria, for example. In the earliest days of the uprising that became the Syrian Civil War the CIA was hard at work on the ground. It’s job was to build up the armed resistance to the regime of Bashar al-Assad as quickly as possible. Money and weapons flowed freely – even though the CIA’s knowledge of exactly who it was funding and equipping was, at best, sketchy. At worst, the CIA helped to funnel American aid to individuals and groups who had a much greater interest in Salafist Islam than they did in liberal secular democracy.
 
Of course the creation of a liberal secular democracy was not the real reason the CIA was in Syria. The real reason they were working so hard to make civil war inevitable was because they wanted to prevent Syria and its neighbours, Lebanon and Iraq, from getting any closer to the Islamic Republic of Iran.
 
In pursuing this objective the United States wasn’t only acting in its own interests, but also in the interests of the governments of Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Israel.
 
Turkey was paranoid that the quasi-autonomous Kurdish enclave in Northern Iraq might one day morph into an independent Kurdistan. Such a development would make the task of repressing its own Kurdish minority ten times harder.
 
Saudi Arabia was determined to free the Sunni Syrian majority from the tutelage of Assad’s Shi’a allies - thereby preventing the creation of a powerful and antagonistic crescent of Shi’a-dominated states stretching from the Pakistani border to the Mediterranean Sea.
 
Israel’s motives for fomenting an intractable civil war may have been no more reputable than preferring a Syria racked by the agonies of civil and religious strife, to a Syria peaceful and prosperous enough to once again attempt to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Once again? Oh yes, in the early 2000s the Assad regime, with help from the North Koreans, undertook the construction of its own nuclear reactor. In 2007, Israeli jets blew the reactor to smithereens before it could come on line.
 
The motives of the people in the White House, Pentagon and State Department were much the same as the Israelis. US strategic objectives in the Middle-East have remained remarkably consistent since the end of World War II. First and foremost there’s the region’s oil reserves. These must, at all costs, remain under the control of regimes friendly to the United States. Even the remotest possibility that the emergence of a dominant regional power, or combination of regional powers, might threaten US access to Middle eastern oil will cause the potential threat to be “terminated with extreme prejudice” (as they say in the CIA).
 
Whether the potential leader of such an emergent entity be a Persian (as in the case of the Iranian Prime Minister, Mossadegh) or Arab (as in the case of the Iraqi President, Saddam Hussein) the United States has demonstrated that it will stop at nothing to preserve its hegemony in the Middle East.
 
So, the next time you’re wincing at horrific images broadcast out of East Aleppo, ask yourself why the civilian population hasn’t left the war zone for somewhere safer. While you’re at it, you might also ask yourself how it is that the Jihadis dug into the rubble never seem to run out of arms and ammunition. And, why it is that only the Assad Government and its Russian allies are being ordered to stop the shelling and the bombing of civilian targets?
 
Could it be that the men, women and children under fire in East Aleppo are much too valuable to the Jihadis as human shields to be allowed to leave their shattered homes? Or is it simply their immense value as propaganda weapons? Especially East Aleppo’s children, whose tiny broken bodies are beamed into the living-rooms of Western households practically every night of the week. Absent from our news bulletins, however, are the images of the men, women and children being killed by the Jihadi artillery shells exploding every day in the streets of West Aleppo. Funny that.
 
The US Secretary of State, John Kerry, just like his predecessor, Hillary Clinton, may say America wants peace in Syria. But if that was really the case, then the US Government would have ordered the CIA out of Syria, and stopped shipping arms to the rebel units dug into the rubble of East Aleppo. If ending the Syrian civil war was America’s true objective in the Middle East, then it would be making peace at the side of the Russian Federation – not casting it as the principal obstacle to a successful resolution of the conflict.
 
What makes the Homeland series so compelling is the howling moral vacuum at the heart of American foreign and defence policy. It sucks the characters into its emptiness and leaves them breathing dirt in the dark. They are expendable instruments who would like to do good, but can’t. Because doing good is not what serving a superpower is all about.
 
President Ronald Reagan may have presented America as “a shining city on a hill”, but it was Richard Nixon’s Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, who came closest to describing her true character. “America”, he said, “has no friends – only interests.”
 
Remember that next time you watch the news.
 
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Monday, 17 October 2016.

15 comments:

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Ah... But countries don't have ethics, only interests as someone once said. Israel is quite happy to have a Middle East at war with itself, rather than United against it. Sometimes I despair at the lack of long-term thought in the Israeli governing class.
And who knows what America actually wants. One would have thought it might have been some form of democracy in those Middle Eastern countries, but could anyone now say that looks at all likely? It may well be that they wanted to contain Iranian influence, but basically all they are doing is expanding it. And they now have a Middle East awash with weapons, and prepared to buy or produce WMD's at least of a chemical/biological nature. I see the beginning with Bush Junior and Gulf 2. The lack of planning for what was supposed to happen after the war was one was criminal.
I notice that the Doomsday clock is closer to Doomsday than it has been for some time now. Not surprising.
And while trillions of dollars are spent on wars, the US infrastructure is crumbling, and allegedly hurting their competitiveness. Funny you'd think capitalists would be all over this like a cheap suit. But they're probably making too much money producing weapons.

DevonportSpeculator said...

Chris; that's a fantastic article. When you read the crap the so-called liberal press (The Guardian [see Tisdall's risible article on Putin], The Independent, WP, NYT, CNN etc) publish you wonder if anyone out there is able to think outside of the pro-US propaganda.

In these discussions, I reckon it's always worth mentioning the overwhelming US "interest"; i.e. maintaining the $US as the world's reserve currency, and how this ties it inextricably to the evil Saudi regime and its equally evil policy of divide and rule in the Middle East. If there is one thing that will lead to WW3 it's this; the US has simply too much to lose to allow it to happen, and because of its utterly uncompromising strategy (The Bush Doctrine, deployed by the neo-con fanatics) in dealing with regional powers (Russia, China etc) it seems inevitable it will be prepared to take down the planet to protect its dominant position ("If we can't dominate, we'll leave nothing for our enemies to dominate.")

It always amazes me how may "senior" journalists can honestly believe the geopolitics is a battle between goodies and baddies.

Polly said...

Chris a very good piece of research and writing in fact it is the best and most succinct article I have ever read on the situation in Syria the jihadists factions and its border countries.
I am sure that Western interests are not just in oil reserves and the different families and regimes in command, I would hazard a viewpoint that the well-being of Western interests in steel and armament supplies are a leading portfolio of all Nations in the Capitalist world.
The worlds of Russia, China and North Korea would also have massive interests of the same nature.
The British parliament, 3-4 years ago refused to endorse an American air attack upon Damascus and the Assad government, I believe that the British government is now readying parliament to endorse such a strike. The British economy still gets support from the supplies to, and the armament's industry.
Russia of course wants to see Trump win the Presidency as they believe that they could reach an accommodation with Trump on Syria, but not so with Hillary Clinton who is well entrenched to the American( and its allies) needs of their military and support industries.
The American election is about 3 weeks away hence the Russian and Assard's
determination to capture Aleppo to perhaps avert an air war with America over the control of Aleppo.
Hillary looks like she will win the Presidency (though I do accept that anything could happen including an assassination).

Carry on and stay calm.

Andrew Nichols said...

These times are eerily like 1914 when the media are repeating the same unbalanced drumbeat for war

We are all royally screwed once Clinton takes over given her determination to start this war with Russia that will start when she tries a "No (Russia and Syria only) Fly Zone. Then all it will take is for one of those Russian anti aircraft missiles to take out a yank plane and it's all on. Let's hope the brutal Aleppo liberation is over ASAP and the Syrians and Russians facts on the ground can bring this lunacy to an end. However I'm not holding my breath.

David Stone said...

Hi Chris
Congratulations on dismissing the continuing propaganda narrative of all our local and all western MSM and calling it as it so obviously is. How long will it take before the penny drops for the mass of western public? I think we are like the Eloi of H G Well's "The Time Machine" living in a state of steadfast denial of the sinister forces that support our comfortable lifestyle.
On one of those naughty alternative news outlets that you must look at too sometimes, I recently read an opinion that the CIA began their work in Syria a few weeks after Assad turned down a US plan to route through Syria a gas pipeline from Qatar to supply Europe in competition with Russia. The article also described, though without ascribing the significance to it that I would ascribe , Assad's banking arrangements. It seems that since Afghanistan, Iraq , and Libya have been "liberated" Syria is one of a tiny handful of countries whose central bank is run and controlled by the government so as to serve the interests of the people of Syria rather than of Wall St bankers. It seems that while bringing his country into the modern mode of capitalism he forgot to invite the IMF and Wall St to the party and that's a sin that cannot be forgiven.
Apart from the pecuniary issues though, the desire to cement Israel's annexing of The Golan Heights and cauterising that wound . But who do they intend to leave in charge of Syria? Israel does apparently provide free medical services for damaged Isis militants, so maybe they are the choice.
Cheers David J S

Galeandra said...

For a longer more detailed version of this piece, Robert Kennedy Jnr's article (yes, son of that Robert Kennedy) is very useful-- http://www.ecowatch.com/syria-another-pipeline-war-1882180532.html

Wayne Mapp said...

Your photo is almost certainly a Soviet era M46 130 mm gun. They date back to the 1950's and 1960's.

I imagine the insurgents got if from a Syrian Army base that they had captured some years ago. That will also be the source of all the ammunition. The gun operators will have been trained in the Syrian Army

So, no the insurgents have not relied on the US for their artillery. They already had it.

Not everything can be laid at door of the (evil) US. The insurgents have their own capabilities.

The whole tone of your item is that Assad should simply be left to reconquer his country. That he is nowhere near as bad as the insurgents. Notwithstanding the vast amount of evidence to the contrary.

Does the Syrian civil war help or harm Israel? The Golan border has been stable for decades, although there is no peace treaty. Generally the Israelis prefer stable (even if hostile) governments on their borders. They are more certain and more predictable.

They certainly put to me when I was Minister of Defence, both in NZ and when visiting Israel, that they thought the West was reckless in supporting the Arab spring stating "You have no idea the forces you are supporting and no idea how this will turn out." Israel's view was (and probably still is) that the Egyptian and Syrian dictators were the safe bet, because they knew who they were dealing with. The alternative, being unpredictable, could only be worse.

Nick J said...

Oil. Oil. Oil. How blessed we are by our oil poor geology.

The (current) Tsar of all the Russias needs fear greatly for his nation produces as much oil as Saudi. And foes advancing to his borders.

DevonportSpeculator said...

In response to Wayne Mapp; thanks for that insight Wayne. I think the story you relate regarding your conversation with the Israelis answers the point that you make as to whether Assad should be allowed to re-conquer Syria. For stability, Israel would far prefer this, as would Russia; hence their involvement. No one (certainly neither me nor (I assume)) Chris are arguing for Assad, but more for that (relative) stability. A state actor can be held accountable for their actions (e.g. supporting terrorism); the likes of Al Qaeda and ISIS are a far more difficult prospect.

It's a bit like having to vote for either Clinton or Trump; which is the lesser of the two evils?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"The alternative, being unpredictable, could only be worse."

That is a good point. Hug it to your bosom Wayne, because I don't often admit this to National party politicians. But I do suspect that it's not so much that Israel wants all-out war between the various states in the Middle East, rather that they are quite happy with a level of aggro and sniping that keeps them busy with each other rather than united against Israel. They still lack long-term thinking, if they think they can go on the way they are forever. :)

Victor said...

A few thoughts....

Russia’s massive intervention in Syria might be justifiable post facto if it truly leads to an end to slaughter. But don’t hold your breath. The genie of sectarian strife is out of the bottle across the region and I doubt whether it will be put back in less than a generation.

I suspect that the best that can be hoped for is an exhausted lull. And it will probably be a very brief lull indeed, should Hezbollah use its new weaponry and political clout to provoke an Israeli reaction in either Lebanon or Syria.

BTW I’ve noticed that Israel tends to react particularly strenuously to provocation during the hiatus between a US presidential election and the subsequent inauguration. There was a war in Gaza eight years ago and, again, four years ago. The cynic in me does not see this as a coincidence.

Of course, even if the Russian strategy succeeds, it would be a case of ‘ubi solitudinem faciunt pacem appellant’( ‘where they make a desert and call it peace’).

That’s not to say that the CIA hasn’t been stoking the Syrian situation for many a long year or that pipeline politics aren’t part of the noxious mix that’s engendered this tragedy. But I think that Chris draws far too long a bow in suggesting that US support alone is what keeps the Sunni jihad going.

If that were true, then it will surely be a doddle for the US- backed forces in neighbouring Iraq to dislodge the Jihadis from Mosul. Again, I wouldn’t hold your breath, despite the recent rush of optimistic headlines.

Meanwhile, I find myself agreeing with Wayne that Israel tends to prefer centralised despotisms as neighbours, rather than militia-infested failed states. But that might not be much of a guide to how to deal with the Syrian conflict.

Whatever happens now, the country is unlikely to turn back into the secular, tightly-run, mid-century-style dictatorship of the Ba’ath. Either it will be a mass of warring cantons, controlled by brutally rival militias or it will become a “militia state” on the Iranian model, with licensed groups of fanatics exercising ill-defined but sweeping authority, particularly in matters of war and peace.

....more to come

Victor said...

...../continuing previous post

The former obviously raises the risk of Isis- style Sunni radicalism spreading on a significant level to Gaza and the West Bank, as it has already spread to Sinai. This would undoubtedly heighten the likelyhood of terror attack on Israel. But would it constitute an existential threat to a nation which takes a certain level of terrorism as a given?

In contrast, Hezbollah is both a more formidable military proposition in its own right and ever more closely enmeshed with Assad’s Iranian allies. And, agree with them or not, Israelis really do see Iran as an existential threat, particularly now that it’s relatively flush with funds released via the nuclear deal.

There are some signs that these considerations are causing Israel to take a harder line against Assad. But here’s where it gets interesting; a notable feature of the last few years has been an unprecedented warming of the relationship between Jerusalem and Moscow. Putin has actually said that he views Israel as the most Russian place on earth outside Russia, linked by personal ties and culture to the Motherland (thus ignoring the country’s huge Sephardi , Yemeni , Palestinian and other communities).

The Russian and Israeli airforces sedulously avoid interfering with each other in the skies over Syria and the two countries have also cooperated over supplying China with military technology. Both, moreover, have tragic histories that make them wary of vapid idealism. And both feel miffed by the United States.

Perhaps the tectonic plates of international relations are starting to shift. Would this be enough to prevent an Israeli assault compounding Syria’s misery? I certainly hope so.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Unfortunately, Hillary is a big Netanyahu fan. And Netanyahu actually doesn't want peace. He's been caught on film, boasting about sabotaging the peace accords. And he constantly allows the establishment of more illegal settlements, getting no more than token protests from the US, and a shit load of money. The 2 state solution is now ready much impossible, and no one in Israel seems to devote a great deal of time to trying to figure out what happens over the next 50 or 100 years. And they are sitting on a ticking time bomb, full of people who have very little to lose. Another reason to be glad you live at the other end of the world.

Victor said...

GS

Agreed, although I don't think the Asia Pacific region will be without its shocks and tensions in the months and years ahead.

Netanyahu has convinced his electors (with some help from their neighbours) that peace is impossible but that he can deliver security without peace. Short to medium term he can succeed. But long term is another matter.

I also agree that a two state solution may now be more or less impossible. But I can't envisage an alternative that doesn't involve many times more bloodshed than we have seen so far.

That's what's so mind-numbing about the Middle East. It's problems may actually be insoluble. The Syrian tragedy is another, even bloodier, example of this.

Anonymous said...

Chris, the thrust of this article sounds to me like you're still trying to re-litigate a cold war conflict that your side (the USSR) lost.

Some factual errors:

So far Israel has pointedly had nothing at all to do with this conflict and just as Wayne says, it prefers the stability of the despot Assad than the instability of a revolution.

The Assad family have been torturing and murdering their own citizens for decades now. They even assassinated the premier of Lebanon. They got away with it because Assad was on the Russian side of the Cold War border. The Syrian port of Tartus was and still is the only port where the Russian Black Sea Fleet can be maintained in the Med and beyond the natural choke point of the Dardanelles which Turkey controls. Geography hasn't changed and this is the reason the Russians are bombing innocent Syrians to this day.

The shame of the Americans, in particular Obama and Clinton, is that they're sitting on their hands and watching it happen.