Syria at a Crossroads

The Obama administration is finally making sounds about a reasonable peace deal for Syria accepting the principle that the Syrians should choose their own leaders but words are cheap and a Saudi official makes clear that “regime change” remains the obsession, as Nicolas J S Davies explains.

By Nicolas J S Davies

The Vienna Communique — issued on Friday by 17 countries, the United Nations and the European Union — provides a diplomatic framework for peace in Syria. In this document, the external powers who have poured weapons, fighters and money into a disastrous and failed “regime change” policy in Syria for more than four years have signed on to what could be a realistic basis for peace.

The agreement begins with a commitment to “Syria’s unity, independence, territorial integrity and secular character,” and then invites “the United Nations to convene representatives of the Government of Syria and the Syrian opposition for a political process leading to credible, inclusive, non-sectarian governance, followed by a new constitution and elections.” Critically, the agreement stipulates that, “This political process will be Syrian led and Syrian owned, and the people of Syria will decide the future of Syria.”

King Salman of Saudi Arabia and his entourage arrive to greet President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Jan. 27, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

King Salman of Saudi Arabia and his entourage arrive to greet President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Jan. 27, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

But of course, that is exactly what nearly all these countries already agreed to in the Geneva Communique of June 30, 2012, under the leadership of former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. That proved to be Annan’s final peace effort after the U.S. and its allies had rebuffed and undermined the peace plan he unveiled in April 2012 (see my October 2012 article).

Instead of pressuring their proxies in Syria to agree to the Annan peace plan, the U.S. and its allies organized what French officials called a “Plan B,” the Orwellian “Friends of Syria” meetings, where they pledged an unconditional flow of money, weapons and diplomatic support to their proxy forces in Syria.

Annan expected the Geneva Communique to be formalized in a UN Security Council resolution within weeks. Instead, when the parties reassembled in New York, the U.S. and its allies resurrected their demands for President Bashar al-Assad’s removal. In an echo of the Iraq debates in 2002-2003, they rejected a Russian resolution based on the Geneva Communique and drafted one of their own that included provisions designed to set the stage for a UN authorization for the use of force.

But after watching the destruction of Iraq and Libya, Russia and China would not let the authority of the UNSC be co-opted to give a veneer of legitimacy to yet another murderous and destabilizing U.S.-led regime change.

Annan resigned as UN envoy, and the war ground on to kill at least 250,000 people, destroy much of Syria and turn 11 million people into desperate and homeless refugees.

Haytham Manna is the Paris-based spokesman for Syria’s National Coordinating Body for Democratic Change (NCB), a coalition of the mainly leftist opposition groups who launched peaceful protests in Syria during the Arab Spring in 2011. The NCB opposes both the Assad regime and the foreign-backed rebels in Syria, and it has remained committed to three basic principles: non-violence; non-sectarianism; and opposition to foreign intervention.

Haytham Manna spoke to Le Vif, Belgium’s largest French-language news magazine, in 2013. “The Americans have cheated,” Manna told Le Vif. “Two or three times they have withdrawn at the very moment an agreement was in the works. … Everything is possible, but that will depend mainly on the Americans. The French are content to follow. A political solution is the only one that could save Syria.”

Despite conciliatory statements by Secretary of State John Kerry that President Assad need not be excluded from a political transition, it is not clear yet whether the U.S. and its allies have really changed their position since 2012.

On the morning of the Vienna meeting, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir reiterated the Saudi position on Assad to the BBC’s Lyse Doucet, “He will go. There is no doubt about it. He will go. He will go either through a political process or he will be removed by force. There is no doubt that he will go.”

Doucet suggested to Jubeir that the U.S. and U.K. were adopting a more conciliatory position, but Jubeir was adamant that he was expressing “the consensus among the allied countries”:

“I believe the position of the countries in the coalition is really a unanimous one. What we are saying is that, at the beginning of the process, it has to be clear to the Syrian people that Bashar Al-Assad will leave by a date certain. It can’t be probable, it can’t be possible, it has to be certain. And then that date will depend on how quickly one can transition power to the Governing Council and how quickly one can take over the security forces in Syria to ensure that the security forces don’t collapse and the civil institutions don’t collapse.”

Jubeir spoke in terms that U.S. officials would be careful not to use in public right now, but may well be using behind closed doors in discussions with allies like the Saudis. The picture he paints looks very much like post-invasion Iraq, complete with an unelected “Governing Council” and a plan to “take over” the security forces.

Such a plan, which Jubeir claims would prevent Syria’s collapse, reflects the self-serving and untested claims of U.S. neocons that the invasion of Iraq could have succeeded if only they hadn’t disbanded the Iraqi Army. A U.S.-Saudi attempt to “take over” the Syrian military, which has loyally defended Syria against their proxy forces for four years, weaves the neocons’ wishful thinking into a dangerous fantasy that could succeed only in igniting a further escalation of the war.

The apparent difference between the U.S. and Saudi positions raises difficult questions, ones on which the success or failure of the Vienna initiative may well depend. Veteran Middle East correspondent Charles Glass explained the analytical conundrum to Democracy Now last week,

“The U.S. seems to have lost some control over its allies in the region. On the surface, the United States is fighting against the Islamic State mainly because it went into Iraq. They didn’t seem to mind when they were just in Syria. But they’re still allowing Turkey to keep its border open for men and supplies to come into the Islamic State. And … they’re still allowing … the Islamic State and … other similar jihadist groups of al-Qaeda to receive weapons, including anti-tank weapons, from the Saudis. … (E)ither this is fine with American policy and consistent with it, or they’ve simply lost control over the course of events.”

So is this a case of the U.S. losing control over the course of events, or is the U.S. just playing “good cop” to the Saudis’ “bad cop” as part of a coordinated policy? Or are there elements of both at work? It is a U.S. priority to maintain its position as the leader of the Western and Arab royalist alliance in the Middle East, and that sometimes means positioning itself at the head of the parade rather than actually directing it.

But having staked its leadership on successfully removing President Assad from power, it has never before wavered on that ultimate goal, even as unanticipated events like the Islamic State’s move back into Iraq have made it much more complicated.

By fighting a “disguised, quiet, media-free” proxy war in Syria, U.S. officials have been able to invoke plausible deniability in the corrupt Western media. Many Americans see their government as guilty of inaction rather than of a murderous and destabilizing intervention in Syria.

Although over 250,000 war deaths in Syria have been spread among soldiers, rebels and civilians, (as of June 2013, an estimated 43 percent of the dead were Syrian soldiers and militiamen) U.S. domestic propaganda blames the Syrian government, or President Assad personally, for all the violence. Few Americans blame their own government or themselves, despite the well-documented U.S. role in supporting, prolonging and escalating the bloodshed.

While a political transition that led to free and fair elections would very likely bring new and different leaders to power in Syria, President Assad is not as unpopular as we have been led to believe. The Syrian army has fought loyally for four years, and a Qatari-funded YouGov opinion poll in December 2011 found that 55 percent of Syrians wanted Assad to remain in power, even as NATO planes were already flying in fighters and weapons from Libya to Turkey to overthrow his government.

So the U.S. and its allies may reasonably fear that a political transition which genuinely followed the roadmap laid down in Geneva and Vienna might leave important elements of the existing government in place.

On the other hand, when Le Vif asked Haytham Manna of the NCB about President Assad’s future in 2013, he replied, “He won’t stay. If the negotiations succeed, they will lead to a parliamentary regime. … But let me say this: when we are talking about massacres of minorities, and the president is a member of a minority, how can you ask him to resign or not to resign?

“Today, Western policy has reinforced his position as the defender of Syrian unity and of minorities. But having said that, nobody will be able to claim victory: the violence has become so blind that it will take an expanded front of the opposition and the regime to end it.”

If there are real differences between the U.S. and Saudi positions, the U.S. surely has leverage as the Saudi kingdom’s main weapons supplier and most important military ally to prevent it from derailing a diplomatic process that other countries support. But it seems more likely that the U.S. and the Saudis are still working together, as Jubeir implied, to take charge of a political transition in Syria and to try to ensure that their proxies end up in control of the country.

If the involvement of Russia, China and Iran prevents the U.S. and its allies from hijacking a political transition in Syria, will our leaders simply opt for carrying on with the war, as they did in July 2012? To paraphrase Haytham Manna, will the Americans cheat again?

On the heels of the Iran nuclear agreement, we are entering the beginning of yet another historic and fateful showdown between war and diplomacy, with the future of Syria – and maybe the future of U.S. foreign policy – on the line.

Nicolas J S Davies is the author of Blood On Our Hands: the American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq.  He also wrote the chapters on “Obama at War” in Grading the 44th President: a Report Card on Barack Obama’s First Term as a Progressive Leader.

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15 comments for “Syria at a Crossroads

  1. econdemocracy
    November 4, 2015 at 11:49 pm

    Why is Consortium News adopting Washington-speak of the “corrupt Western media” you rightly criticize?

    Do you insist on the term “Regime” for the brutal U.S.-bashed Gulf states like Bahrain? No. Or the monstrously brutal Saudis, where Al Saud Regime” is far more appropriate? No. Many good elements to this article, and I strongly support completely and full rights and participation for non-violent political opposition in Syria, but say it after me: “Syrian Government”

    The head-chopping, decapitate-and-crucifying, women-can’t-drive (or vote), hand-chopping extreme dictatorship in Saudi Arabia makes Iran look like boy scouts, and Syria was better place to live especially for minorities, than Iran… let alone U.S.-backed “Regime” of the Al-Saud autocrats…But even the horrifically brutal Saudis, who I hope will be overthrown from within, by their own people, even the monsterous Saudis I do NOT support a “regime change” against of the kind the West has tried in Syria and done in other countries.

    By the way Bahrain KILLED peaceful protesters day 1 or day 2, why no “civil war” there? Because no externally funded “regime change” plan by West, plus Saudi tanks to CRUSH peaceful opposition. A third path was possible: neither U.S. tanks on the side of the Syrian government nor “let’s overthrow the Syrian government by violence”…but Washington can’t help itself.

    Say it again: “NCB opposes both the current SYRIAN GOVERNMENT [add, “Led by President Assad” if you wish] and the foreign-backed rebels”

    You remind me of left wingers who say “I oppose right to work laws” which is the right position while stupidly adopting the (highly distorting) language of their opponents, by agreeing to use “right to work”. See the problem? The media sticking to “regime” for Syria (and almost only for Syria) will stun future generations reading this – more monotone than North Korean radio…please continue good analysis but break out of the linguistic Party Line, it’s the Syrian Government or Syrian Government headed by President Assad (whose wife, and whose (female) Vice President Dr. Najaah Al-‘Attaar , and most of whose Syrian Army are Sunni, by the way, another lie being that it’s an Assad/Alawite. “100% control” ..the more I find out the facts in Syria the greater the number of light-years between reality and Western media coverage turns out to be)

  2. Abe
    November 4, 2015 at 12:12 pm

    Washington Post Confirms: ISIS Supplied Via Turkey, a US Excuse to Seize Syria
    By Tony Cartalucci
    http://landdestroyer.blogspot.ru/2015/11/washington-post-confirms-isis-supplied.html

    […] if ISIS is receiving the summation of its “foreign fighters, money, and material” from Turkey, and the US is operating all along the Turkish border, why isn’t it being interdicted before it reaches Syria? Washington Post answers that too, but in the way of a denial from an unnamed Pentagon official:

    ” This step is not to be considered “the start of a no-fly zone or a creeping no-fly zone. That’s just not the intent,” the Pentagon official said.”

    But of course it should be considered the start of a creeping no-fly-zone – because that is precisely why ISIS was created to justify in the first place, and that is precisely what is materializing before the world’s eyes. And the Washington Post elaborates on just what this no-fly-zone will lead to amid this feigned fight with ISIS:

    “Defeating the Islamic State in Syria, under Obama’s strategy, rests on enabling local Syrian forces not only to beat back Islamic State fighters but to hold freed territory until a new central government, established in Damascus, can take over.”

    There already is a central government in Damascus, that should ISIS supply lines flooding out of NATO territory be cut, could easily reestablish control over this “freed territory” the Washington Post refers to. But the Post is careful to mention the term, “new central government,” or in other words, a government hand-selected by the US and its regional partners, affiliated with the terrorists that have laid waste to Syria since 2011.

    Invading Syria with US special forces-backed militants, and taking and holding Syrian territory is verbatim the plan laid out by US foreign policymakers from various corporate-financier funded policy think-tanks, and more specifically the Brookings Institution.

    As reported during the initial US announcement of “boots on the ground,” the plan to create “safe zones” to then expand further within Syria with the ultimate goal being the toppling of Damascus, has been ongoing since at least 2012.

  3. l. Green
    November 4, 2015 at 6:57 am
  4. Mortimer
    November 3, 2015 at 10:00 am
    • F. G. Sanford
      November 3, 2015 at 10:37 am

      I just wish she hadn’t let Woofie get away with the MSM’s favorite big lie: Bashar Assad has killed “maybe 300,000 of his own people with barrel bombs and so-forth”. Assad’s Syrian Arab Army has lost 85,000 soldiers fighting OUR enemy, Al Qaida. Americans should consider that in comparison to our losses in Vietnam: 58,000. I can imagine a day when we will pay a horrible price for the duplicity in which our government has engaged in order to further the interests of Israel and Saudi Arabia. Make no mistake, they would not take such risks for our sake.

    • Abe
      November 4, 2015 at 12:32 pm

      A major purpose of the Al-Qaeda brands, ISIS most recently and in particular, is to secure Israeli military hegemony in the Southern Levant by destroying the military capacities of Israel’s principal regional military rivals.

      This Project to Secure the Realm for a New Israeli Century, decades in development, now has reached a critical juncture with Russia’s belated military intervention in the Syrian conflict.

      Push has come to shove, ladies and gentlemen.

  5. Abe
    November 2, 2015 at 12:36 pm

    Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on U.S. strategy in the Middle East
    C-SPAN
    http://www.c-span.org/video/?328955-1/secretary-carter-general-dunford-testimony-middle-east-strategy

    Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair General Joseph Dunford testified at the hearing. Senators’ questions were focused primarily on U.S. operations in Syria and Iraq, and the Obama administration’s approach to balancing military operations against ISIL, and the political situation in Syria.

    Graham and McCain, they do entertain.

    • Mortimer
      November 3, 2015 at 9:23 am

      Escobar provides up-to-the-minute, on the ground reporting. The below excerpt is the mid section of this, his latest No-Nonsence briefing.
      .
      Beware the new Global Jihad

      The ideal solution is tempting; Russia dispatches the Spetsnaz and some extra commandos; beheads the ISIS/ISIL/Daesh goons from a C4i point of view; surrounds them; and wipes them out.

      Yet it won’t happen, as long as Sultan Erdogan in Turkey, petrodollar GCC minions and the CIA persist to “support” and/or weaponize assorted Salafi-jihadi goons, “moderate” or otherwise.

      The fake “Caliphate” will be a very tough nut to crack because they don’t – and won’t – care about their own mounting casualties. The “4+1” alliance – Russia, Syria, Iran, Iraq plus Hezbollah – already knows it, and has already experienced trouble in their ranks.

      Hezbollah took casualties. So did Iran’s Quds Force – as in reliable mid-level commanders. Iran has around 1,500 fighters on the ground – many of them Afghans – on the “4+1” side. On the opposite side we have the House of Saud funneling a lot of cash and TOW anti-tank missiles to the Army of Conquest, which is nothing but an al-Qaeda-led coalition of the willing displaying relatively overlapping agendas (first regime change, then Caliphate or Muslim Brotherhood reign).

      There’s no evidence – yet – that ISIS/ISIL/Daesh has been depleted of the bulk of their shoulder-fired anti-aircraft plus anti-tank guided missiles.

      So while Vienna talks, what is ISIS/ISIL/Daesh really up to?

      They are about to choose between two different strategies.

      They dig in in Raqqa – the former capital of the Abbasid Caliphate, before Baghdad – waiting for a Mother of All Battles. After all they can’t afford to lose it, as Raqqa, geostrategically, is the ultimate crossroads in Syria. Former Ba’athist military and a cluster of Arab nationalists are lobbying for this strategy.
      Forget about digging in. The best is to expand the frontline, into the deeper desert, to the max. This means no clusters of targets available to the Russian Air Force, with the added benefit of the “4+1” – as in the Syrian Arab Army (SAA)/Iran/Hezbollah ground units supported by the Russian Air Force — overextending their lines of communication/supply and being faced with extra logistical problems. Hardcore Turks, Chechens, Uyghurs and Uzbeks are lobbying for this strategy.
      Arguably the ISIS/ISIL/Daesh command is leaning towards option 2 – because of the Jihad Inc. component. At least 2,000 fake “Caliphate” goons – most of them from Chechnya, Turkey, Central Asia and Xinjiang – were killed in Kobani, which, unlike Raqqa, had no strategic value. The Jihad Inc. gang now wants to expand all the way to Central Asia, Xinjiang, Russia and, if they manage to find an opening, Europe and the US.

      Option 2 also carries the added benefit, for fighting purposes, of extra support for “moderate jihadis” (not “rebels”), which means more interaction with Ahrar al-Sham, Liwa al-Tawhid, a few Army of Conquest factions, the Islamic Front and a bunch of Turkmen Salafi groups. None of these, by the way, are “moderate rebels”.

      All these outfits would perfect mesh into an ISIS/ISIL/Daesh “expanding frontline” strategy, defended, among others, by one Muslim Shishani, Chechen commander of the Jund al-Sham, which is currently fighting around Latakia.

      Shishani, significantly, told al-Jazeera Turk, “Fronts [such] as Raqqa and Aleppo will have no significance in a ground war against the Russians. The real war will be on the Tartus-Latakia front line. Jihad must be moved to that area.”

      So imagine all of these outfits coalescing on an internal jihad plus global jihad platform, and still flush with cash. It’s no secret that Russian intel is alarmed by the high number of Chechens in the fake “Caliphate” ranks, not to mention Chinese intel regarding the Uyghurs. These may find very hard to return to Xinjiang; but the Chechens will be back in the Caucasus. That’s the famous “Aleppo is 900 km away from Grozny” syndrome.

      To add to the royal mess, FSB director Alexander Bortnikov has already warned about a concentration of Taliban – many of whom pledged allegiance to the fake “Caliphate” — at Afghanistan’s northern borders with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. For Putin and the Russian intel apparatus, the situation in Afghanistan is “close to critical”. A jihad spillover across Central Asia is all but certain.

      The bottom line, thus, is stark. Move over, al-Qaeda; ISIS/ISIL/Daesh is using the “4+1” offensive to forge its identity as the leader of a Global Jihad. Saudi imams anyway have already declared jihad against Russia. And the decrepit Al-Azhar in Cairo is about to do the same thing.

      Check the Iranian game:
      http://www.atimes.com/2015/10/the-caliph-at-the-gstes-of-vienna/

      Please read the entire report.. .

  6. Abe
    November 2, 2015 at 11:55 am

    The Final Solution

    Since 2011, the United States, NATO, and its regional allies have sought the toppling of the Syrian government through direct military intervention, just as it had done in Libya. The justification for such action has shifted multiple times over the past 4-5 years:

    — From a no-fly-zone created under the so-called “responsibility to protect” doctrine used in Libya to;
    — Supporting “pro-democracy freedom fighters” to;
    — Disarming Syria of its chemical weapons after a staged chemical attack near Damascus to;
    — A year-long fictitious war waged on the so-called “Islamic State” (ISIS) to;
    — Stopping “barrel bombs” and “chlorine gas attacks” to now;
    — Creating a “safe zone” Europe can send all the refugees back to.

    It is clear that many of the refugees are not even Syrian – but that has not stopped a growing chorus of pundits and politicians from claiming that the only way to solve the growing migrant crisis is to use Western military force to carve out and occupy a “safe zone” in Syria to send all the migrants back to.

    And far from a humanitarian concern, US Army General John Keane before the US Senate Committee on Armed Services openly proposed the use of these refugees to shield US-armed and backed militants from Russian airstrikes. General Keane would state:

    “If we establish free zones – you know, for moderate opposition forces – but also sanctuaries for refugees, that gets world opinion support rather dramatically. If Putin is going to attack that, then world opinion is definitely against him. You take this issue right off the table in terms of why he’s in Syria and if you’re doing that [attacking free zones] and contributing to the migration that’s taking place by your aggressive military actions, then world opinion will have some rather – I think – significant impact on him.”

    It is clear that the migrant crisis is being used to serve as impetus to justify further war abroad and greater state control at home. Evidence also suggests that the migrant crisis has been at the very least intentionally exasperated by Turkish efforts to empty out immense camps they appear to have built specifically to use as political bargaining chips. The crisis is also compounded by intentionally permissive immigration policies in Europe and organized Neo-Nazi fronts designed to maximize fear, panic, and hysteria regarding the predictable influx of migrants such policies are sure to invite.

    NATO hopes that the mess they have created is so convincing that the people of Europe and North America eventually beg them to carve up Syria to “send the migrants home.” Unfortunately for Europe, the migrants are not going home. Worse still, more are on their way – as NATO never planned to stop at Syria, just like it never planned to stop at Libya.

    Can Pan-European Hysteria Save NATO’s Syrian War?
    By Tony Cartalucci
    http://landdestroyer.blogspot.com/2015/11/can-pan-european-hysteria-save-natos.html

    • F. G. Sanford
      November 2, 2015 at 2:22 pm

      This will all work out. Samantha Power, Susan Rice and Valerie Jarret are busy organizing a new humanitarian effort called, “Ship’em Back to Syria Fund”. I understand they’ve lined up some big donors and Jerry Lewis has agreed to host a telethon…

  7. F. G. Sanford
    November 2, 2015 at 10:06 am

    There’s a big grim conundrum that none will concede
    Behind all the humdrum the Neocons blather
    The pundits all prattle in frank opposition
    Attempting to silk purse a sow’s ear position
    The experts remind it’s complex, we must heed-
    There must be transition to resolve the matter.

    The Syrian boonies are full of those fighters
    They’re mostly all Sunnis and loaded for bear-
    If this was like Georgia, perhaps Tennessee,
    They’d just gerrymander and then referee,
    A rigged up election that’s hard to refute
    Those Alawaite factions would not have a prayer!

    Minority rule is so undemocratic,
    Assad is so cruel it’s a cinch he would loose.
    It so happens this outcome would then bring about
    A consensus that favors a new pipeline route-
    Qataris and Saudis would then be ecstatic,
    Their only concern is that Syrians choose!

    Al-Jubeir is astute, he’s a fair-minded man
    But he’s quite resolute when it comes to Bahrain
    Democracy there would mean Sunni disaster
    Royal potentate heads couldn’t roll any faster
    Some questions are hurdles just too broad to span-
    Human rights are what monarchs disdain!

    The Kingdom is stable and so is the dollar
    They’ll come to the table to negotiate.
    Those rulers beloved are full of good will-
    Anguish consumes them when head-choppers kill.
    They only want peace and an end to the squalor
    If that means more bombing then why hesitate?

    The Houthis are trouble so talks are not slated.
    Yemen is rubble, there seems no solution.
    Bashar might team up with Iraq and Iran,
    Qatari pipe dreams would be killed by that plan-
    If dollar exchange for that gas is abated,
    Then benevolent forces would surely pursue retribution!

    With Sunnis in charge it would be a delight,
    With profits so large from a market that’s captured,
    The QST pipeline would make it worthwhile!
    Retaining the Golan makes Israelis smile-
    All of those things make those moderates fight,
    To top it all off, there are Christians that need to get raptured!

    So we must insist that there’s no double standard-
    Elections consist of results that our think-tanks approved.
    They were not free and fair if Assad is still there,
    That explains why Jihadis wage civil warfare-
    Chechens and Uyghurs altruistically pandered,
    They knew that their Syrian brothers were slandered
    From Turkey and elsewhere Takfiris meandered
    Bashar Assad is a really bad guy – and that’s why he must be removed!

  8. Peter Loeb
    November 2, 2015 at 7:21 am

    OPPOSITION TO US WORLD HEGEMONY

    With many thanks and appreciation for Nicolas J.S. Davies
    analyses. Those of us who have read his work have come
    to expect his brilliance and no less.

    Russia has cited both international law and its own
    alliance with the current government of Syria (B. Assad)
    as justifications for its military action. Russia has pointed
    out that that al-Nusra formerly known as “the moderate
    opposition” have no right to invade another nation
    with the purpose of replacing its government. If they
    refuse to withdraw, they should be considered as
    unwelcome militant “terrorists” and attacked accordingly.

    The US and all its so-called “allies” should no longer
    receive any assistance whatsoever from the US or anywhere
    else that is not directed to the current Syrian government
    itself. To use a common UN phrase, “for self defense”
    and for Syria’s other security needs.

    In its most recent meetings, Russia and the US found
    this central issue non-negotiable.Russia is committed
    to the current government of Syria.

    The fact that there is PR from the Syrian government as well
    as from Russia should not come as any surprise
    to the US or to Israel both of whom are experts in the
    use of PR.That both nations have common self-interests
    as well should never shock the US which probably has
    more “self-interests” around the entire planet than anyone
    bar none.

    —Peter Loeb, Boston, MA

  9. Joe Tedesky
    November 2, 2015 at 2:45 am

    The U.S. Administration, along with the Pentagon, and the ever so infamous CIA, have spun such a web of deceit, it thinks it has won the war. More than likely, if Russia hadn’t intervened in Syria, the U.S. wouldn’t give a hoot about this Vienna Comunique. If Assad is to stand trail for war crimes, well then let’s not stop with him. I am sure we can add a few more global names to a list like that. This whole idea of conquering seven nations inside of five years, has been the worst of the worst, of ideas. Time, to change the plan. A good start would be, to quit with the creating our own realities, because this just leads us to believe our own lies. Oh, and for those worried about Putin, he’s beating you with your own lies.

  10. Robert Roth
    November 2, 2015 at 1:09 am

    This is a fine piece of work, very helpful in pulling together some facts and perspectives I hadn’t seen elsewhere into a framework for thinking about the mot recent developments. Isn’t it peculiarly outrageous that a monarchy, and one of the most repressive regimes in the world (the Saudis), are the ones expressing so adamantly their position that Assad must go? And as you note, in December 2011, 55 percent of Syrians wanted Assad to remain in power, but I saw earlier today some even more impressive details in another excellent article: “On March 29, 2011 (less than two weeks into the fantasy “revolution”) over 6 million people across Syria took to the streets in support of President al-Assad. … Mass demonstrations like this have occurred repeatedly since, including in June 2015…. In May 2013, it was reported that … data, relayed to NATO over the last month, asserted that 70 percent of Syrians support the Assad government.” But “The most telling barometer of Assad’s support base was the Presidential elections in June 2014, which saw 74 percent (11.6 million) of 15.8 million registered Syrian voters vote, with President al-Assad winning 88 percent of the votes.” Eva Bartlett, Deconstructing the NATO Narrative on Syria, http://www.syriasolidaritymovement.org/2015/10/17/deconstructing-the-nato-narrative-on-syria/.

    Against that background, the Saudi position — and any continued US support for regime change — appears to have zero legitimacy.

    As for the “good cop-bad cop” hypothesis, kidding aside, do you think the administration has the imagination to take such an approach? It seems more likely to me that the US is trying to make the best of a real disaster, but while the Saudis may rely on it for weapons, they do still have a certain amount of oil.

    Where this will go I have no idea, but I appreciate your throwing some very helpful light on the possibilities.

    • LJ
      November 2, 2015 at 2:36 pm

      Don’t forget that the US maneuvered to get the Saudis to head the UN Human Rights Council.

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