Neocons’ Ukraine-Syria-Iran Gambit

Exclusive: The Ukraine crisis in part stirred up by U.S. neocons has damaged prospects for peace not only on Russia’s borders but in two Middle East hotspots, Syria and Iran, which may have been exactly the point, reports Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

You might think that policymakers with so many bloody fiascos on their résumés as the U.S. neocons, including the catastrophic Iraq War, would admit their incompetence and return home to sell insurance or maybe work in a fast-food restaurant. Anything but directing the geopolitical decisions of the world’s leading superpower.

But Official Washington’s neocons are nothing if not relentless and resilient. They are also well-funded and well-connected. So they won’t do the honorable thing and disappear. They keep hatching new schemes and strategies to keep the world stirred up and to keep their vision of world domination and particularly “regime change” in the Middle East alive.

Sen. John McCain appearing with Ukrainian rightists at a rally in Kiev.

Sen. John McCain appearing with Ukrainian rightists at a rally in Kiev.

Now, the neocons have stoked a confrontation over Ukraine, involving two nuclear-armed states, the United States and Russia. But even if nuclear weapons don’t come into play the neocons have succeeded in estranging U.S. President Barack Obama from Russian President Vladimir Putin and sabotaging the pair’s crucial cooperation on Iran and Syria, which may have been the point all along.

Though the Ukraine crisis has roots going back decades, the chronology of the recent uprising — and the neocon interest in it — meshes neatly with neocon fury over Obama and Putin working together to avert a U.S. military strike against Syria last summer and then brokering an interim nuclear agreement with Iran last fall that effectively took a U.S. bombing campaign against Iran off the table.

With those two top Israeli priorities U.S. military attacks on Syria and Iran sidetracked, the American neocons began activating their influential media and political networks to counteract the Obama-Putin teamwork. The neocon wedge to splinter Obama away from Putin was driven into Ukraine.

Operating out of neocon enclaves in the U.S. State Department and at U.S.-funded non-governmental organizations, led by the National Endowment for Democracy, neocon operatives targeted Ukraine even before the recent political unrest began shaking apart the country’s fragile ethnic and ideological cohesion.

Last September, as the prospects for a U.S. military strike against Syria were fading thanks to Putin, NED president Carl Gershman, who is something of a neocon paymaster controlling more than $100 million in congressionally approved funding each year, took to the pages of the neocon-flagship Washington Post and wrote that Ukraine was now “the biggest prize.”

But Gershman added that Ukraine was really only an interim step to an even bigger prize, the removal of the strong-willed and independent-minded Putin, who, Gershman added, “may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad [i.e. Ukraine] but within Russia itself.” In other words, the new hope was for “regime change” in Kiev and Moscow.

Putin had made himself a major annoyance in Neocon World, particularly with his diplomacy on Syria that defused a crisis over a Sarin attack outside Damascus on Aug. 21, 2013. Despite the attack’s mysterious origins and the absence of any clear evidence proving the Syrian government’s guilt the U.S. State Department and the U.S. news media rushed to the judgment that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad did it.

Politicians and pundits baited Obama with claims that Assad had brazenly crossed Obama’s “red line” by using chemical weapons and that U.S. “credibility” now demanded military retaliation. A longtime Israeli/neocon goal, “regime change” in Syria, seemed within reach.

But Putin brokered a deal in which Assad agreed to surrender Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal (even as he continued to deny any role in the Sarin attack). The arrangement was a huge letdown for the neocons and Israeli officials who had been drooling over the prospect that a U.S. bombing campaign would bring Assad to his knees and deliver a strategic blow against Iran, Israel’s current chief enemy.

Putin then further offended the neocons and the Israeli government by helping to facilitate an interim nuclear deal with Iran, making another neocon/Israeli priority, a U.S. war against Iran, less likely.

Putting Putin in Play

So, the troublesome Putin had to be put in play. And, NED’s Gershman was quick to note a key Russian vulnerability, neighboring Ukraine, where a democratically elected but corrupt president, Viktor Yanukovych, was struggling with a terrible economy and weighing whether to accept a European aid offer, which came with many austerity strings attached, or work out a more generous deal with Russia.

There was already a strong U.S.-organized political/media apparatus in place for destabilizing Ukraine’s government. Gershman’s NED had 65 projects operating in the country training “activists,” supporting “journalists” and organizing business groups, according to its latest report. (NED was created in 1983 to do in relative openness what the CIA had long done in secret, nurture pro-U.S. operatives under the umbrella of “promoting democracy.”)

So, when Yanukovych opted for Russia’s more generous $15 billion aid package, the roof fell in on him. In a speech to Ukrainian business leaders last December, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, Victoria Nuland, a neocon holdover and the wife of prominent neocon Robert Kagan, reminded the group that the U.S. had invested $5 billion in Ukraine’s “European aspirations.”

Then, urged on by Nuland and neocon Sen. John McCain, protests in the capital of Kiev turned increasingly violent with neo-Nazi militias moving to the fore. Unidentified snipers opened fire on protesters and police, touching off fiery clashes that killed some 80 people (including about a dozen police officers).

On Feb. 21, in a desperate attempt to tamp down the violence, Yanukovych signed an agreement brokered by European countries. He agreed to surrender many of his powers, to hold early elections (so he could be voted out of office), and pull back the police. That last step, however, opened the way for the neo-Nazi militias to overrun government buildings and force Yanukovych to flee for his life.

With these modern-day storm troopers controlling key buildings and brutalizing Yanukovych supporters a  rump Ukrainian parliament voted, in an extra-constitutional fashion, to remove Yanukovych from office. This coup-installed regime, with far-right parties controlling four ministries including defense, received immediate U.S. and European Union recognition as Ukraine’s “legitimate” government.

As remarkable and newsworthy as it was that a government on the European continent included Nazis in the executive branch for the first time since World War II, the U.S. news media performed as it did before the Iraq War and during various other international crises. It essentially presented the neocon-preferred narrative and treated the presence of the neo-Nazis as some kind of urban legend.

Virtually across the board, from Fox News to MSNBC, from the Washington Post to the New York Times, the U.S. press corps fell in line, painting Yanukovych and Putin as the “black-hat” villains and the coup regime as the “white-hat” good guys, which required, of course, whiting out the neo-Nazi “brown shirts.”

Neocon Expediency

Some neocon defenders have challenged my reporting that U.S. neocons played a significant role in the Ukrainian putsch. One argument is that the neocons, who regard the U.S.-Israeli bond as inviolable, would not knowingly collaborate with neo-Nazis given the history of the Holocaust (and indeed the role of Ukrainian Nazi collaborators in extermination campaigns against Poles and Jews).

But the neocons have frequently struck alliances of convenience with some of the most unsavory and indeed anti-Semitic forces on earth, dating back to the Reagan administration and its collaboration with Latin American “death squad” regimes, including work with the World Anti-Communist League that included not only neo-Nazis but aging real Nazis.

More recently in Syria, U.S. neocons (and Israeli leaders) are so focused on ousting Assad, an ally of hated Iran, that they have cooperated with Saudi Arabia’s Sunni monarchy (known for its gross anti-Semitism). Israeli officials have even expressed a preference for Saudi-backed Sunni extremists winning in Syria if that is the only way to get rid of Assad and hurt his allies in Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

Last September, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren told the Jerusalem Post that Israel so wanted Assad out and his Iranian backers weakened, that Israel would accept al-Qaeda operatives taking power in Syria.

“The greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc,” Oren said in the interview. “We always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran.”

Oren said that was Israel’s view even if the other “bad guys” were affiliated with al-Qaeda.

Oren, who was Israel’s point man in dealing with Official Washington’s neocons, is considered very close to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and reflects his views. For decades, U.S. neocons have supported Netanyahu and his hardline Likud Party, including as strategists on his 1996 campaign for prime minister when neocons such as Richard Perle and Douglas Feith developed the original “regime change” strategy. [For details, see’s “The Mysterious Why of the Iraq War.”]

In other words, Israel and its U.S. neocon supporters have been willing to collaborate with extreme right-wing and even anti-Semitic forces if that advances their key geopolitical goals, such as maneuvering the U.S. government into military confrontations with Syria and Iran.

So, while it may be fair to assume that neocons like Nuland and McCain would have preferred that the Ukraine coup had been spearheaded by militants who weren’t neo-Nazis or, for that matter, that the Syrian rebels were not so dominated by al-Qaeda-affiliated extremists the neocons (and their Israeli allies) see these tactical collaborations as sometimes necessary to achieve overarching strategic priorities.

And, since their current strategic necessity is to scuttle the fragile negotiations over Syria and Iran, which otherwise might negate the possibility of U.S. military strikes against those two countries, the Putin-Obama collaboration had to go.

By spurring on the violent overthrow of Ukraine’s elected president, the neocons helped touch off a cascade of events now including Crimea’s secession from Ukraine and its annexation by Russia that have raised tensions and provoked Western retaliation against Russia. The crisis also has made the continued Obama-Putin teamwork on Syria and Iran extremely difficult, if not impossible.

Like other neocon-engineered schemes, there will surely be much collateral damage in this latest one. For instance, if the tit-for-tat economic retaliations escalate and Russian gas supplies are disrupted Europe’s fragile recovery could be tipped back into recession, with harmful consequences for the U.S. economy, too.

There’s also the certainty that congressional war hawks and neocon pundits will press for increased U.S. military spending and aggressive tactics elsewhere in the world to punish Putin, meaning even less money and attention for domestic programs or deficit reduction. Obama’s “nation-building at home” will be forgotten.

But the neocons have long made it clear that their vision for the world one of America’s “full-spectrum dominance” and “regime change” in Middle Eastern countries opposed to Israel overrides all other national priorities. And as long as the neocons face no accountability for the havoc that they wreak, they will continue working Washington’s corridors of power, not selling insurance or flipping hamburgers.

[For more of’s exclusive coverage of the Ukraine crisis, see “Mainstream US Media is Lost in Ukraine”; “Corporate Interests Behind Ukraine Putsch”; “Can Obama Speak Strongly for Peace?”; “Neocons Have Weathered the Storm”; “Crimea’s Case for Leaving Ukraine”; “The ‘We-Hate-Putin’ Group Think”; “Putin or Kerry: Who’s Delusional?”; “America’s Staggering Hypocrisy”; “What Neocons Want from Ukraine Crisis”; “Ukraine: One ‘Regime Change’ Too Many?”; “A Shadow US Foreign Policy”; “Cheering a ‘Democratic’ Coup in Ukraine”; “Neocons and the Ukraine Coup.”]

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

21 comments for “Neocons’ Ukraine-Syria-Iran Gambit

  1. Man on the street
    March 22, 2014 at 22:01

    The neocon war mongers are in full force with the help of our presstitudes.

    False flag, or conspiracy; WHAT DIFFERENT DOES IT MAKE, a la next president!

    You guys are chasing your tails with democrat, republicans, abortion or not, welfare or not, global warming or not, gay marriage or not! As long as you are distracted looking around, the deviant magician will slip the trick right before your eyes.

    Here we are 13 years after 9/11, we are still unable to reflect on the theft that took place right in front of our eyes? As we know, it was Muslim terrorists who attacked us on 9/11; yet, we are hiring the same Muslim terrorists today to mess around with Syria, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Russia, Serbia, China, Myanmar, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, ….. Just to name a few areas. So the idea is not our so called enemy the terrorists? THE IDEA IS THE PROCESS OF WARS.

    What I mean by wars, is that our nation has a cabal called the Feds. Their business model is to loan money to us! That simple. If they don’t loan more money to us, they will not make more money!

    So, the Feds need for us to ask for loans to do things? Well do they have lobbyists that keep pressure on our government to ask for more debt? Damn right! What do you think of McCain, Graham, Rubio, and all the war mongers? They demand wars for whatever reason (the CIA will manufacture one), then we ask for a few trillion dollars! The Feds click on their computer, and VOILA, trillions goes out of our pockets into their pocket.

    This scam is the only thing that needs reform. Everything else, corruption, education, gay marriage, is simply distractions.

    If our government take over the printing of our currency, we will gain overnight 17 trillion dollars. We can buy Russia with this kind of cash infusion? Actually, every citizen in America can get a check of 1/4 million, if my math is correct!

    The continuos distraction with controversial issues is a manufactured scam to keep us at each other’s throat.

  2. paul
    March 21, 2014 at 22:12

    Parry continues to sell the raving fantasy that Obama is a secret peacenik, desperately staving off the war-mad neocons.

    • Edd
      March 22, 2014 at 09:58

      No, not at all. Parry refers to the undue influence exercised by neocons in and out of government.

  3. G. W. Markle
    March 21, 2014 at 11:23

    The Eurozone was touted as a means of uniting Europe in a shared prosperity. As it turns out, it’s been just another plot to conquer Europe, this time by financial predators, a plan to consume each and every country, all of its resources, its infrastructure, its industry, education, healthcare, and its pensions. The banks have deliberately encouraged debt, and now, as intended, and according to plan, they’ve created a debt crisis, a major step in the goal of achieving global financial control.

    Now it seems they want to share this debt with the rest of the world, and in the process, consume the resources of countries beyond the Eurozone. It seems inevitable that every nation will come under the control of these predators as debt loads increase and bailouts prompt a surrender to privatization.

    It’s the population of these countries that will suffer the most, now being left with an insurmountable debt, no social services, no employment, no resources, and no democratic recourse. It seems as though the world is now being held for ransom by these terrorists, under the guise of creating a global economy. The parasites want more and they’re pushing the world to the limit. The beast must be fed, or the markets will tumble.

    The European Union has its sights on the Ukraine. They want to flood the country with counterfeit wealth and debt, to have them sell off, and sell out the entire nation in a futile attempt to appease and insatiable beast. They’re prepared to incite dissent and violence through terrorist activities, up to the point of sacrificing the population to war.

    The world is not blind. We’re not buying the war mongering propaganda any longer.

  4. Michael Skoruppa
    March 20, 2014 at 10:07

    What strikes me very much is the total subservience of not only political leaders, but also most journalists in Germany, to the aims of the United States. It must be clear to everyone here that Europe will have to pay the most in this looming chaos. But this does not hinder German journalists to just not tell the truth, to withhold important information. The latest is the agreement between Kerry and Lavrow about the neutralisation of the Ukraine. Not a word about that in the German propaganda media. It’s very, very sad here. I am very glad that I can read English. Otherwise I would not know anything about the outside world. It started with Lybia and has now gone worse.
    Michael Skoruppa

  5. Linda J
    March 19, 2014 at 21:08

    “Last night CNN interviewed Michael Oren about Israel’s security concerns about this missing plane showing up in Israel.” Is this a joke? Or is Oren playing Israel as the victim yet again (and forever)? Victims are entitled to do ANYTHING! Watch out, Gaza.

  6. F. G. Sanford
    March 19, 2014 at 17:55

    It’s a pretty safe bet that Netanyahu and Putin, with their more than capable intelligence services, both know exactly what’s in those 28 redacted pages Senator Bob Graham has been grumbling about. When Bandhar Bush threatened Putin with an Olympic migraine courtesy of Chechnya, that topic may have come up. Bandhar backed off quick. The Saudis have been awfully supportive of Israel’s designs on Syria. A little blackmail might have done the trick. The proverbial wolf sheds its fur but not its vices. There must be more than a few ardent Wahabis who are less than thrilled at the recent proposal by their Jihadi lunatic fringe to cede Golan to Israel in exchange for assistance murdering fellow Muslims. The Jordanians can’t be happy about Syria, Egypt or Libya. Regime change, after all, could be just a heartbeat away. Speaking of heartbeats, old King Fartbag bin Sultan doesn’t have many left, which should make matters interesting. And don’t forget Erdogan, who looks nervous as “a cat shittin’ on a frozen pond”…

    Which brings us back to the ultimate Neocon hypocrisy: the rest of the world wonders why it’s illegal for Russia to annex a willing Crimea, but it’s legal for Israel to occupy Palestinian land against their wishes.

    Now that Lavrov has convinced Kerry to publicly endorse Finlandization of Ukraine and allowed him to pass it off as statesmanship sponsored by Kissinger and Brzezinski, Kerry will have to confront the ultimate reality. Netanyahu insists that Abbas must accept Israel as “The State of the Jewish People”, essentially rendering Palestinians non-citizens. Thus, the peace talks are doomed. Israel, with no other cards to play, may consider tossing a match on that gas station masquerading as a country. Not the one John McCain refers to, but the real one – Saudi Arabia.

    Crimea was an excellent distraction from the settlement expansion. But the Neocons didn’t expect Putin to resolve it so quickly. About the only way they can rekindle war fever in America now is to out the Saudis with those 28 pages. But don’t worry…Sheikh Brennan will claim it’s Russian propaganda courtesy of the Snowden Chronicles. Better lay in some cold beer and chips. This could get interesting. Speaking of cats and frozen ponds, anybody seen Victoria Nuland lately?

    • Joe Tedesky
      March 19, 2014 at 19:24

      I believe Victoria is away learning all about Flight Management Systems ….hmmm FMS 9/11….na…that remote thing is to Hollywood…..sorry, but FG your thinking is sound!

  7. Joe Tedesky
    March 19, 2014 at 16:46

    Mr Parry makes a good point here. All the while Kerry and Obama slap wet noodle sanctions on Russia Netanyahu makes war claims against Iran. Read on this article; “Ukraine: Wet Noodle Sanctions And Pressure For Constitutional Reform”….this article is very interesting.

    What’s going on with the US news coverage of the missing flight MH370? Last night CNN interviewed Michael Oren about Israel’s security concerns about this missing plane showing up in Israel. Really? Ever since this story has broke I have thought how this story is getting way to much coverage for what it’s worth. Yes, it is a terrible event, especially for all the families it affects, but why is CNN, FOX, and MSNBC so 24/7 with it. Should we all be waiting for something to happen like Oren is?

  8. FoonTheElder
    March 19, 2014 at 16:35

    Just because the U.S. neo-cons and corporate military lackeys have gotten away with perpetual war, it doesn’t mean it is any better when Benito Mussolini Putin does it. Putin has his own military industrial complex to serve, just like the politicians in Washington.

    After all, three out of the top four countries in the GINI index of inequality are Russia, Ukraine and the United States. 110 people own 40% of Russia, thanks to Putin and his cronies.

    The U.S. is full of hypocrites, but so is Russia and the Ukraine. There are no ‘good guys’ in this fight.

    • Jay
      March 19, 2014 at 17:41

      Compare corruption in Russia under Putin to that back in the Yeltsin days.

      Also is there a large faction of Nazis in the current Russian parliament?

      Nobody is saying that Putin is not a strongman.

  9. jOHN
    March 19, 2014 at 16:27

    I love your work! finally a news source that makes sense. keep up the great work.

  10. March 19, 2014 at 15:26

    Once again Bob you’ve written one of the most insightful, connecting the dots, insider-Washington commentaries! Your astute analysis and hard work deserve considerable applause. Yesterday I wrote at reaching the same conclusions which you have explained far better and more extensively than I: “Some may conclude that the Neocons overplayed their hand in Ukraine and Obama has had to scramble to pick up a confrontation he wanted to avoid. But then the Neocon warriors may themselves conclude they have achieved their goals once again — reigniting the cold war, reinvigorating the military-industrial complex, and cornering Obama for the real challenges to come in how the end-games with Syria and Iran are going to play out… Furthermore — and this could prove key down the road — what is happening now with regard to Ukraine may cause Putin to feel he cannot risk being too confrontational elsewhere, just as Obama may conclude that he cannot risk being too non-confrontational when it comes to Syria and Iran.”

  11. March 19, 2014 at 15:14

    The Zionist world bankers know they can buy most of DC . McCain is bought and paid for. Most DC politicians come in middle class and 10 – 20 years later they are multi millionaires .
    AIPAC buys as many as they need with our dollars (debt) and our children pay .
    We can never pay our national debt and all federal lands have been hocked. The 2nd amendment is the only thing stopping them from total theft. = Only a fool would not keep and bear arms.
    Tyrants always disarm the people first.

    • Jay
      March 19, 2014 at 17:37

      Try not to go on the cliche rant.

      And McCain came into the senate with great wealth from this wife’s family–beer I believe.

    • borat
      March 21, 2014 at 10:49

      more Jewish banker anti-Semitic crap. The number of arab banks, financial entities, and their influence dwarfs any other. Brown Brothers Harriman which is affiliated with the Bush family has had financial ties with the Saudis for over 70 years.

  12. Donald Forbes
    March 19, 2014 at 15:03

    Obama is just as much at fault as our neo-cons for letting them get away with it.

    • Jay
      March 19, 2014 at 17:35

      Donald Forbes:

      Right, just the way that Obama said US medical insurance reform will include a public option to keep medical insurance companies “honest”.

      Right, yes of course Obama could fire John Kerry.

      • Edd
        March 22, 2014 at 09:54

        My view is that Obama is simply the new dog, infested with the same old neocon fleas as his predecessor.

        Until the neocons are exposed and routed from influence, it won’t make any difference who is elected to what office.

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