Obama’s Risky ‘Mission Creep’ in Syria

Exclusive: President Obama’s plan to dispatch up to 50 Special Forces troops into northern Syria may be a bid to appease Official Washington’s war hawks but it presents a serious risk of “mission creep” if those soldiers and their trainees come under fire in the complicated proxy war, writes Daniel Lazare.

By Daniel Lazare

When Russian President Vladimir Putin opted in late September to intervene in Syria’s horrendous civil war, President Barack Obama seemed so taken aback that a few hopeful souls wondered if the shock might cause him to rethink his failed strategy of toppling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad while waging war on Al Qaeda’s Al Nusra and the Islamic State (also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh).

After all, attacking an enemy and its prime opponent never made much sense to begin with. So why not seize the opportunity to shore up Syria’s besieged government even pressing President Assad and his political opponents to work together while concentrating on defeating the terrorists? With more security, democratic elections might be possible, letting the Syrians take control of their own future.

Saudi King Salman meets with President Barack Obama at Erga Palace during a state visit to Saudi Arabia on Jan. 27, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Saudi King Salman meets with President Barack Obama at Erga Palace during a state visit to Saudi Arabia on Jan. 27, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

But last week’s decision to insert 50 Special Forces troops in northern Syria suggests President Obama is veering off in another direction altogether. Militarily, the operation makes no more sense than anything else the administration has done in Syria.

After years of supporting so-called “moderate” rebels who usually turn out to be allied with Al Qaeda, Al Nusra’s parent organization, or guilty of atrocities in their own right the Obama administration is now pinning its hopes on a group calling itself the Syrian Democratic Forces, a coalition of Kurdish militias plus Arab fighters formerly tied up with Al Nusra.

But after spending ten days with the group, The New York Times’s Ben Hubbard concluded that “so far it exists in name only,” lacking both a flag and an organized command structure. Kurdish members, he found, look down on their ill-disciplined Arab partners while the Arabs worry about the Kurds’ ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or P.K.K., which the U.S., Turkey and others designate as “terrorist.”

This is the rag-tag outfit that 50 lucky Special Ops troops have been given the task of whipping into a credible anti-ISIS force. But Obama’s micro-invasion is worth taking seriously as a form of mission creep that could all too easily lead to an even greater disaster.

Last week, über-hawk Sen. John McCain subjected Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter to a nasty tongue-lashing.  “Right now as we speak,” the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee declared, “Russian aircraft are bombing moderate Syrian forces in Syria, while we have de-conflicted. Do you believe we should be protecting those young people?”

The U.S. does indeed have “an obligation to protect,” Carter replied, but so far such groups “have not come under attack by either Assad’s forces or Russia’s forces.”

This is contradicted by media reports stating that Russia has, in fact, bombed groups supported by the United States. But right or wrong, Carter’s response begs an all-important question: what happens when not only such forces come under attack, but the American Special Ops soldiers with them? Under pressure from people like McCain, how can the administration resist firing back?

A Larger Commitment

On Nov. 4, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, whose views often reflect the opinions of the U.S. intelligence community, noted that the dispatch of fewer than 50 Special Forces troops may not sound like much but “this is a significant commitment. The U.S. troops will need air support not just to bomb the Islamic State, but for resupply, rescue if they get in trouble, and perhaps to enable the cycle of intelligence-driven ‘night raids’ that was so devastating in Iraq.” Exactly — that is just what mission creep is designed to do, i.e. to clear the way for further escalation.

To make matters even more complex and risky the warplanes of three countries are buzzing through Syrian air space, not counting the Syrians themselves. U.S. jets are bombing ISIS; Russian jets are bombing the rebels in general; Israeli jets recently pounded Hezbollah targets in the south. Meanwhile, Turkey has confirmed shelling Kurdish targets in the north.

This is crazy. So how did a sensible fellow like Obama get himself into such a mess?

There are a number of possible explanations. One is to hang it all on a president who is so compulsively middle-of-the-road that he can’t say no to pro-war foreign-policy “experts” intent on wreaking havoc across much of the globe. Another is to pin the blame on a foreign-policy establishment that has insisted on painting itself into a corner on this issue rather than searching for more fruitful alternatives.

A third involves the exigencies of U.S. imperialism. Napoleon once wrote that a retreat is the most difficult military maneuver, and Obama has spent much of his time in office seemingly proving him right. There is no question that Obama has worked hard at paring back U.S. military obligations.

Obama has cut troop levels in Afghanistan by 90 percent since the peak in September 2010 and has cut deployments in Iraq even more drastically from 150,000 to around 3,500. He has trimmed military spending by some 15 percent. To be sure, the U.S. still spends more than the ten next biggest powers combined. But Jane’s Defense forecasts that by 2020 it will only outspend the next five. That may not sound like much, but it represents a sea change in terms of power politics.

Particularly in the Middle East, the cuts have led to a power vacuum that the President has tried to fill through what might be called a Bernie Sanders policy of shifting the burden onto Saudi Arabia and the other Persian Gulf states. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Sanders’s Screwy Mideast Strategy”]

On one level, this appears to make sense. Since 2005, members of the Gulf Coordinating Council Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and the Saudis have been on a buying spree, in real terms doubling or even tripling military expenditures. Collectively, the GCC is now the third biggest military spender in the world, behind China but well ahead of France, Germany and the United Kingdom.  So why not take advantage of such prowess to fill the gap?

The temptation is all but irresistible. But there’s a price. The more dependent the U.S. grows on the Gulf states, the more beholden it becomes to their very different political agendas, which are both Sunni fundamentalist — and hence anti-Shi’ite — and deeply hostile to the few remaining secular regimes in the region as well.

Libya shows how this works.  Determined to limit American involvement, Obama leaned heavily on Qatar, the UAE and Bahrain to contribute to the effort to overthrow Gaddafi in 2011. The Gulf states were eager to comply.

Double Talk on Freedom

Welcoming Qatari leader Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani to the White House that April, a grateful Obama told the press: “We would not have been able I think to shape the kind of broad-based international coalition that includes not only our NATO members but also includes Arab states without the Emir’s leadership.  He is motivated by a belief that the Libyan people should have the rights and freedoms of all people.”

This was nonsense, of course. Al-Thani is an absolute autocrat with zero interest in freedom. Obama admitted as much just a few hours later at a Democratic fundraiser. “Pretty influential guy,” he said of the Emir. “Now, he himself is not reforming significantly. There’s no big move towards democracy in Qatar. But you know part of the reason is that the per capita income of Qatar is $145,000 a year. That will dampen a lot of conflict.”

It was an amazing comment, but soon Obama’s cynicism got the better of him. Within weeks of endorsing Qatar’s plans to supply the anti-Gaddafi forces with weapons, the White House began receiving reports that machine guns, automatic rifles and ammo were going to jihadis bent on undermining the country’s secular transitional government.

Mahmoud Jibril, the new prime minister, complained, but there was nothing the U.S. could do. “They march to their own drummer,” a former senior State Department official said of the Qataris. Libya quickly descended into anarchy as heavily armed militants rampaged across the country. Rather than a democracy, Qatar’s only interest was in installing an Islamist government much like its own.

This is why U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens would die in Benghazi in 2012 not because he didn’t have Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email address, but because she and others in the administration had sown the seeds of chaos by inviting a right-wing Sunni government to intervene in the overthrow of a secular regime.

Yemen is also an example. As early as 2009, American diplomats began firing off cables warning that Saudi Arabia was fueling growing sectarianism by funding militant Sunni Wahhabist clerics who were causing Houthi Shi‘ites to feel “increasing threatened” in their own country.

Ambassador Stephen Seche wrote that by foisting more military aid on the anti-Houthi government than it could handle, Riyadh was contributing to growing instability. Inevitably, the superabundance of guns would “find their way into Yemen’s thriving grey arms market,” he said. “From there, it is it is anyone’s guess as to where the weapons will surface, potentially even in the hands of extremist groups bent on attacking Western interests in Yemen and ironically, Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries in the Gulf.”  [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Climbing into Bed with Al-Qaeda.”]

It was intelligent advice, but unfortunately it had no impact. Given its growing dependence on the Saudis, the U.S. was not inclined to second guess. If Riyadh said Sana’a needed more arms, then who were the Americans to say otherwise?

When the Houthis at last rose in revolt in January 2015 and the Saudis responded two months later by launching nightly bombing raids on Yemen, the United States was unable to say no. With four of the other five GCC members joining in the assault Oman was the lone holdout Obama felt he had no choice but to go along by providing technical backup and naval support.

With that, the Obama administration found itself party to a war by the richest countries in the Middle East against the very poorest. In his effort to reduce U.S. military commitments by relying more on the Saudis, Obama found the Saudis dragging him into yet another war. By joining in an anti-Shi’ite jihad, it also found itself helping “Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,” one of the network’s more dangerous affiliates, to extend its hold in Yemen.

The Syrian Catastrophe

But it is in Syria where this confused logic has gone to the greatest extremes. Syria is a highly fractured society in which the secular Baathist government has been engaged in an on-again, off-again war with the Muslim Brotherhood since the mid-1960s. The regime’s inability to overcome such fragmentation is its greatest failure. But if the United States was really intent on a positive outcome, it would call on all sides to put sectarianism aside and work on resolving their disputes democratically.

Instead, it has done the opposite. In 2006, with the Baathist regime clearly in the Bush/Cheney crosshairs, then-U.S. Ambassador William V. Roebuck fired off a memo, made public by Wikileaks, urging Washington to “play on Sunni fears of Iranian influence” even though reports of Iranian Shi‘ite proselytizing were “often exaggerated.”

Said Roebuck: “Both the local Egyptian and Saudi missions here (as well as prominent Syrian Sunni religious leaders) are giving increasing attention to the matter and we should coordinate more closely with their governments on ways to better publicize and focus regional attention on the issue.”

This strategy was pouring gasoline on the fire, but who cared? As then-Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz told General Wesley Clark, “We’ve got about five or ten years to clean up those old Soviet regimes Syria, Iran, Iraq before the next great superpower comes on to challenge us.” Bashar al-Assad would have to be overthrown by hook or by crook.

Once the Arab Spring struck Syria with gale-force winds in 2011, the U.S. responded by coordinating with its Gulf allies to support the anti-Assad forces. Amid a growing civil war, the New York Times revealed in June 2012 that the CIA was working with the Muslim Brotherhood to channel arms funded by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to deserving rebels.

Two months later, the Defense Intelligence Agency issued a report stating that Salafists, the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda all fiercely anti-Shi‘ite were the main driving force behind the anti-Assad uprising, that they were seeking to establish a “Salafist principality in eastern Syria,” and that they were attempting to drum up an anti-Shi‘ite jihad among “the rest of the Sunnis in the Arab world.”

The report added that this is “exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition” i.e. the West, Turkey and the Gulf states “want in order to isolate the Syrian regime” and counter influence from Iran.

In October 2014, Vice President Joe Biden told students at Harvard’s Kennedy School that “the Saudis, the emirates, etc. were so determined to take down Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war [that] they poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of military weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad except the people who were being supplied were Al Nusra and Al Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world.”

No doubt, the administration would have preferred that the Saudis fund secular forces instead. But by forcing Biden to telephone officials in Ankara, Abu Dhabi and Riyadh to apologize for letting the cat out of the bag, Obama made it clear that he would not push the dispute too far.

U.S. tolerance even applies to the Islamic State. In yet another diplomatic cable made public by Wikileaks, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton complained in December 2009 that “it has been an ongoing challenge to persuade Saudi officials to treat terrorist financing emanating from Saudi Arabia as a strategic priority” and that hence “donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.”

Deer-in-the-Headlights

Last month, a New York Times editorial complained that donations were continuing to flow, this time to the Islamic State, from the Saudis as well as from Qatar and Kuwait. If the administration really wanted to lean on the Saudis in the course of those half-dozen years, presumably it would have gotten them to shut down such conduits. But it needs the Saudis too much to make a fuss.

This conundrum is what gives Obama that deer-in-the-headlights look. He knows what he has to do in the Middle East stop trying to overthrow Assad and concentrate on defeating Al Nusra and ISIS instead but he is unable to do so for fear of alienating crucial “allies.” He knows what medicine he needs but is too weak to take it.

On Thursday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Russian intervention had “sparked a debate within the Obama administration” about whether to continue aiding the rebels. “Some Obama administration and military officials advocated abandoning the rebel units and using the Russian intervention as an opportunity to shift the U.S. mission entirely to fighting Islamic State, which they argued was the paramount threat,” reported Adam Entous, citing unnamed U.S. officials.

But opponents countered that “the U.S. had an obligation to support the Russian-targeted units, who fared better on the battlefield under Russian fire than Washington had expected.” The debate ended with the administration concluding that the rebels were “an asset instead of a liability.”

This means that military aid will continue to flow, as will cooperation with Turkey and the GCC and deference to Saudi priorities. It’s good news for ISIS and Al Nusra, but devastating for ordinary Syrians fleeing to Europe in order to escape the devastation that the U.S. has unleashed on their homeland.

In a perplexing and dangerous paradox, the empire is now at the mercy of its subaltern states.

Daniel Lazare is the author of several books including The Frozen Republic: How the Constitution Is Paralyzing Democracy (Harcourt Brace).

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19 comments for “Obama’s Risky ‘Mission Creep’ in Syria

  1. Abe
    November 6, 2015 at 4:32 pm

    The United States […] is based in Turkey. It is based at Incirlik Air Base, and has for several years now, operated along the Turkish-Syrian border – its Central Intelligence Agency providing weapons to terrorists, its special forces carrying out cross-border operations, and its military’s administration of training camps to prepare terrorists before they enter Syrian territory, thus perpetuating the conflict. The United States also holds significant leverage over Saudi Arabia, its political and military support being essential for the regime in Riyadh’s continued existence.

    At any moment, should the US truly be interested in extinguishing this fire, it can shut down the Turkish-Syrian border, end Saudi aid to terrorist groups operating in Syria, and end the conflict in weeks, if not days. That it refuses to do so, illustrates the key role it plays in creating and perpetuating it, and more specifically, the creation and perpetuation of the “Islamic State” itself.

    Syria and its allies must recognize this fact and formulate a realistic strategy to counter it. Negotiating with state-sponsors of the most appalling terrorist organization to have walked the Earth in recent memory does not seem like a viable option. Instead, Syria and Russia should seek the expansion of their coalition inside Syria, and in particular, in the regions the US seeks to carve out. An initial and overwhelming sized commitment of “peacekeeping troops” from various nations placed along the Turkish-Syrian border would effectively block all efforts by the US to perpetuate this conflict further.

    If that is not possible, Syria and Russia must attempt to expand their operations across all of Syria faster than the US can spread chaos.

    For now, the US has a handful of special forces serving as tenuous “human shields” for terrorists targeted by Russian and Syrian military operations. These are still vulnerable, and still capable of being turned back. The US, however, will undoubtedly continue to expand its presence in Syria, to a point where it may not be possible to turn them back.

    Calling the arsonists out, and removing them before the fire irreversibly takes over the entire structure that is the current nation-state of Syria, may be the only way to prevent Syria from becoming the Levant’s “Libya.” It will also stop a dangerous geopolitical “blitzkrieg” clearly aimed at Tehran, Moscow, and Beijing next.

    US in Syria: Stopping the “Arsonist-Firefighter”
    By Tony Cartalucci
    http://landdestroyer.blogspot.com/2015/11/us-in-syria-stopping-arsonist.html

  2. Selfie
    November 6, 2015 at 6:32 pm

    Sending 50 US soldiers into Syria in opposition of the Syrian government in order to promote a war against the Syrian government, and in order to pledge hostages or human shields for the benefit of anti government forces is not a good idea. We have no international legal standing or basis for doing so. The present policy reminds me of Ollie North type of nonsense, only much worse. The Turks and ISIS and the Saudis, etc., want to maintain a terrorist transit corridor into Syria, that is what this is all about. The US administration believes that they can generate cooperation between the parties, the Kurds, the so called moderates, and ISIS, by keeping such a corridor open and running illicit weapons through it, to benefit all parties. The US believes that ISIS took down a civilian airliner, and yet we continue to aid the group.The US, our Arab allies, and other radical islamist, are intent on destablizing the region and bringing about the military reduction of nation states, so that they are fractured and fragmented, divided and conquered, no matter what the toll in human suffering.

  3. Russell Webb
    November 6, 2015 at 8:16 pm

    “He knows what he has to do in the Middle East – stop trying to overthrow Assad and concentrate on defeating Al Nusra and ISIS instead – but he is unable to do so for fear of alienating crucial “allies.” ”

    And who might those allies be? Why not get to the real point here? Only one mention of Israel in this entire piece. Come on… why bid so timid about riling the chosen people?

    Is it possible that Lazare knows nothing of the Greater Israel Project? http://www.globalresearch.ca/greater-israel-the-zionist-plan-for-the-middle-east/5324815

    I’m not bashing Lazare – but lets be real about who is influencing who. According to Israel, Assad must go, and its been on the slate for years.

    Pull the US troops out of Syria pronto – let the Israeli chickenhawks fight their own battles…

    • November 8, 2015 at 1:00 pm

      This comment really grabs me as excellent. Thanks, Russell Webb! The Zionists have us coming and going — always “entangled” with their agenda. Sheesh — what an “alliance.” And my bottom line is always “Palestine Is Still The Issue.” Viva Palestine!

  4. Zachary Smith
    November 6, 2015 at 9:32 pm

    President Barack Obama seemed so taken aback…

    So how did a sensible fellow like Obama get himself into such a mess?

    Obama felt he had no choice but to go along…

    … Obama found the Saudis dragging him into yet another war.

    …but he is unable to do so for fear of alienating crucial “allies.”

    I fail to understand why so many authors here feel it necessary to make excuses for Obama. The man knows perfectly well what he is doing. Either he cannot escape his role as helpless puppet, or he’s doing what he wants and pretending not to like it.

    Directly beneath this essay is another one titled “Obama’s Criminal Drone War”. He uses his drones to casually kill people all over the world, and even makes jokes about it.

    On other fronts, he has been quite ruthless in prosecuting whistleblowers – no waffling around there. Likewise, he has enthusiastically worked to ram the TPP treaty down our collective throats.

    It’s my view that the time for the endless excuses is over.

    • Peter Loeb
      November 7, 2015 at 7:46 am

      RHETORIC AND PUBLIC PERSONA AS “SAVIOR” ARE OBAMA’S “COVER”

      I agree completely with Zachary Smith’s comment above.

      I always fail to comprehend the persistence with which so many
      “liberals” and those “on the left” (possibly) stretch all bounds
      of believability in trying to support Obama’s public declarations.
      Or is it simply that with the years I have become more sceptical?

      Representative Michael Capuano has written a letter on “mission
      creep” to Obama pointing out the grave dangers of “mission
      creep.” (Copy sent to Robert Parry at Consortium.)
      I doubt he will confront many of the significant points
      in Daniel Lazare’s excellent article. (Tried to forward the Lazare
      piece to Capuano and failed miserably. I did manage to
      email his office directly however.)

      —Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

    • Richard Steven Hack
      November 10, 2015 at 5:37 pm

      Right on! Obama is a self-regarding narcissistic lightweight who is essentially a pre-Emancipation South plantation foreman who takes order from the israel-First/military-industrial-complex masters in Chicago.

      Yet virtually every so-called “progressive” or “liberal” is STILL drinking the “Change We Can Believe In” Kool-Aid despite eight years of blatant lies and corrupt actions from Obama.

      It’s disgusting.

      Today alone he’s deciding to hand Netanyahu another FIFTY BILLION dollars over the next ten years to kill Palestinians and attack Syria and Lebanon.

      Actions count more than slick black hustler language.

  5. Naresh
    November 7, 2015 at 2:32 am

    Those whom gods want to destroy they make them mad first.

  6. James lake
    November 7, 2015 at 3:01 am

    Excellent post Zachary
    I get fed up with the excuses made for obama.
    The free pass wore out a long time ago. But this blog is american so loyalty binds them.

  7. November 7, 2015 at 6:33 am

    The arrogance of the West appalls me. The idea that it is just nations beyond the U.S. and Europe that fragment is a very dangerous delusion.

    In Europe there are many countries that could fragment at any moment. Not only through sectarianism, but through deteriorating economic conditions, which could easily exaggerate differences and bring about discrimination. The conditions for fragmentation already exist.

    The Northern Ireland peace agreement, known as the Good Friday Agreement came into force in December 1999, bringing to an end decades of violent confrontation leading to sustained bombing campaigns on the British mainland, as well as in the province. Nevertheless, despite Good Friday, grievances still remain.

    There were several factors that caused the discontent, including discrimination on religious grounds with radical religious extremists on both sides of the divide. Perceived ethnic and historical differences were also strong components. The discrimnation and its resultant polarisation of the two sides became so marked over the years that people living on different sides of the same road developed distinct accents. Their children attended different schools, which were based on different interpretations of the same holy texts. Sound familiar?

    Despite the success of the peace process it would be wrong to think all those differences had been resolved. Beneath the surface discontent simmers, if only because the events are still too near for many families to forget.

    However, we would be wrong to think Northern Ireland is the only part of the U.K. with issues. Scotland has developed a very strong independence movement. It´s objective is to break away from a government based in London that appears to have forgotten the surrounding nation´s outer limbs. Not only that, all has not been at peace between the Catholic and Protestant communities of larger cities for many decades, Glasgow in particular. The matter is further complicated by Trident submarines being based in Scotland. Armed with nuclear weapons, ultimately, deployment of the weapons, doesn´t even fall under the control of David Cameron, let alone Scotland, but under Obama.

    There are growing movements favouring independence in Wales and Cornwall too. Though less conspicuous than in Scotland and Northern Ireland, the lengthy austerity being imposed on the most disadvantaged could bring confrontation between people and security forces out onto the streets.

    However remote the possibility may seem to most comfortably-off people in suburban Britain at the moment, the possibility is certainly being taken seriously by police forces and intelligence agencies throughout the U.K., as new crowd control techniques are being tested on the streets, turning peaceful demonstrations into violent battles on occasion.

    But the U.K. is just one example of tensions that exist all over Europe. Here in Spain, there are many movements calling for more autonomy in various provinces. Though uneasy calm has descended for the moment, Basques in Spain and France have been fighting for independence over generations. Meanwhile, the independence movement in Catalonia has flowered, becoming the most powerful political force in the region. There are also those in Valencia also clamouring for self-determination. Belgium has its own problems between its Walloon and Flemish populations. Italy´s rich north has its Northern League. These are just a handful of examples, there are many more, stretching from the shores of the Adriatic up to the North Sea.

    There is little doubt in my mind the U.S, has little or no real interest in the welfare of the ordinary citizens of Europe. The way it already treats its own needy, ill and poor more than demonstrates that. The continent is a buffer zone, where deluded U.S. neo-cons imagine a final Armagedon between East and West in which the East will be defeated.

    Though opinion is strongly divided I strongly believe many Europeans are starting to see that the United States is not only incapable of protecting Europe from terrorism and its effects – such as the recent refugee crisis – but it no longer has the will to. Even worse, creating chaos everywhere beyond the borders of North America, may now even be the new objective of the neo-cons, who have discovered the term divide and rule through the unintended consequence of the abject failure they are incapable of admitting to.

  8. george Archers
    November 7, 2015 at 8:25 am

    There is a good reason that America wants middle east destroyed. Greater Israel! No failure–all planned long time ago. Israel is laughing it self silly. (So is President Obimbo).

  9. Louis Proyect
    November 7, 2015 at 10:18 am

    So interesting to see how the same documents keep getting recycled by “anti-imperialists” writing about Syria. Lazare, like 10,000 journalists before him, refers to the report posted on Judicial Watch that supposedly has the USA promoting an ISIS caliphate when in fact it was warning about such an outcome. Seumas Milne supported such a bogus theory before Lazare as did many others. In fact there is every possibility that Lazare plagiarized Milne since the same business about the Muslim Brotherhood being a key force in the Syrian revolt appeared there first. In reality the Muslim Brotherhood was and is overwhelmingly an exile-based organization. For a reality-based analysis of the Judicial Watch document, I recommend this:

    https://magpie68.wordpress.com/2015/06/05/who-are-the-real-godfathers-of-isis/

    • F. G. Sanford
      November 7, 2015 at 4:09 pm

      Louie, Louie, Louie. There are people who check the facts. That statement was made by Lieutenant General Michael Flynn. 10,000 reporters may have repeated what he said about it, but I think credibility goes to the guy who headed the agency which made it. Flynn apparently subscribes to the notion that, “the core ideology of al Qaida is perpetual Jihad”, and that all flavors, brands and editions of Jihadis have formed “an ideological connective tissue” which binds them, including the Muslim Brotherhood, to al Qaida. Flynn, the guy who I suspect knows more about these anti-civilizational psychopaths than any of us, would seem to agree with Putin: a terrorist is a terrorist is a terrorist. The sooner the civilized world stops making silly distinctions for the sake of duplicitous hidden geopolitical agendas – like “greater Israel” – and starts coordinating efforts to rid the planet of this vermin, the sooner we’ll all be better off.

  10. Fran
    November 7, 2015 at 4:06 pm

    Along with these 50 soldiers he is sending airplanes designed only for shooting down other airplanes…what do you think is going to happen with that move? Whose planes are we going to be shooting down? These are idiots leading our western nations including our own. Perhaps I should state it especially our own. And to think I voted for this jerk that cannot stand up to the neocons.

  11. November 8, 2015 at 3:31 am

    Brilliant and insightful comments to a mediocre article! I think in future I will check the comments first.

    One only has to read the first sentence of the article to get the picture: “When Russian President Vladimir Putin opted in late September to intervene in Syria’s horrendous civil war…”

    Islamic terrorists from all over the world herded to Turkey and Jordan, equipped, trained, payed by the US Gulf allies, and then let loose onto a population which according to surveys, insider expertise, and elections is rallying behind the government, how does that constitute a civil war in any respect?

    Every serious and logical thinking commentator would call this an invasion.

    The author should consider to expand his information sources beyond Rami Abdulrahman, Reuters, and the White House Press Room.

  12. November 8, 2015 at 7:10 am

    In addition to my first comment:

    I read the article a second time and in fairness, the author uses a variety of sources beyond Rami Abdulrahman and friends, though they are all Western propaganda outlets.

    The prime purpose seems to absolve President Obama and the US leadership in general from moral responsibility for the human catastrophe in the Middle East.

    One feels the genuine sorrow when the author writes: “So how did a sensible fellow like Obama get himself into such a mess?” Or; “There is no question that Obama has worked hard at paring back U.S. military obligations.”

    “Paring back” or shifting to private contractors, black ops, proxies (the more or less moderate Islamic terrorists)?

    “Military obligations” to whom? Big Oil? The Gulf Potentates? KBR/Haliburton?

    Or about the Yemen bombing campaign, blockade, and ground invasion by Saudi Arabia and UAE: “Obama felt he had no choice but to go along by providing technical backup and naval support.“

    Poor Obama, he had no choice than to support a war of aggression which until now has cost at least 6,000 lives, mostly civilians, and injured 30,000, a war which has led to famine and epidemic diseases.

    A civilized government would try to help the attacked Yemenis, break the blockade, provide food, water, medicines, and other humanitarian supplies to the suffering population!

    Concerning Syria, the USA is portrayed as an (at least initially) innocent bystander: “Once the Arab Spring struck Syria with gale-force winds in 2011, the U.S. responded by coordinating with its Gulf allies to support the anti-Assad forces.”

    Well, the gale-force winds were whipped up by countless US funded NGOs (NED, USAID, Avaaz, SOHR, HRW, AI). And US ambassador Ford crisscrossed Syria in order to organize opposition groups and create factional divisions between Sunni, Alawite, Shiite, Kurds, Druze, and Christians. He was contacting everybody who could be helpful in the planned destabilization campaign.

    The article also includes the usual Western claim against the Syrian government: “Syria is a highly fractured society in which the secular Baathist government has been engaged in an on-again, off-again war with the Muslim Brotherhood since the mid-1960s.”

    Wrong. The Syrian constitution guarantees religious freedom and sectarian tension were lower than in any other Middle Eastern country. The mentioned war with the Muslim Brotherhood appearently refers to a revolt in Hama in 1982, which culminated in a bloody battle with thousands of casualties on both sides. The estimates range from 7,000 to 40,000 deaths.

    Since then the Muslim Brotherhood was a minor opposition group in exile, it had no more practical influence in Syria than for instance the Black Panthers have in the USA.

    The Western media of course called this revolt “the Hama massacre,” blaming President Hafez al-Assad alone for the high death toll.

    The article is also misleading in some details, maybe not even intentionally, and it negates the US involvement in the creation of IS (Islamic State). The announced deployment of 50 Special Forces is of no importance, because the USA has most likely hundreds of operatives on the ground as members of NGOs (USAID, White Helmets) or embedded in UN agencies. The US Air Forces Central Command has stationed Pave Hawk helicopters and 300 airmen at Diyarbakir Air Base in southeast Turkey for search and rescue operations.

    The Syrian Democratic Forces are basically the Kurdish YPG/YPJ with the fig leaf of minor Arab militias. The USA has to downplay support of the Kurds because of Turkish resentments. The recent air drops of 112 pallets with small arms and ammunition clearly went to the Kurds, though US officials asseverated again and again, that it was intended for Arab groups.

    The author writes: “He [Obama] knows what he has to do in the Middle East – stop trying to overthrow Assad and concentrate on defeating Al Nusra and ISIS instead – but he is unable to do so for fear of alienating crucial allies.”

    US leaders never had any qualms to throw friends and allies under the bus whenever it was deemed necessary. The anti-IS campaign is tepid and ineffective not because of unease or disquiet about allies objections, but because of a hidden agenda which requires to toe a fine line.

    For the USA IS has three purposes. It first creates chaos in Syria and Iraq, it second opens the door for a military intervention (no fly zone), and third is an entrapment scheme, where Islamic radicals are gathered in certain places to be easily targeted and whipped out. The barren lands of Iraq and Syria are ideally suited for that purpose.

    For Turkey on the other hand the Islamic State is a pet project, IS is Erdogan’s baby which he wants to nurture and grow as long as possible.

    A significant strategic difference indeed which complicates the relations between Washington and Ankara a lot.

    It is a pity that this particular interpretation of US policy in Syria (an interpretation which is not new and was already brought up in comments) has not been included or at least mentioned in the text, it would have greatly enriched the article.

  13. maz hess
    November 8, 2015 at 3:42 pm

    1. The 50 Special Forces troops in the northern Syria are only there to prevent russian troops behind the enemy line.

    2. Obama closed all entry-zones for russian military attacks: Lituania, Estland, Ukraine etc. The only door he had let open was Syria. He wanted to have the Russians in Syria but for what reason? Probaby to make them lose their last friends (Turkey, Egypt, Israel, Iran etc.) and to keep Israel away from Turkey and Libanon.

  14. Richard Steven Hack
    November 10, 2015 at 5:31 pm

    “So how did a sensible fellow like Obama get himself into such a mess?”

    This sentence makes me vomit. Why is everyone continuing to drink the Obama Kool-Aid as if this asshole isn’t directly and deliberately doing what his pro-Israel/military-industrial-complex masters in Chicago have been ordering him to do since day one?

    It’s disgusting. Do not give Obama ANY benefit of the doubt. He doesn’t deserve it.

  15. William Rood
    November 11, 2015 at 1:06 am

    “On one level, this appears to make sense. Since 2005, members of the Gulf Coordinating Council – Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and the Saudis – have been on a buying spree, in real terms doubling or even tripling military expenditures.”

    So the policy is a smashing success when evaluated against the only criterion of any real importance, the sale of military hardware.

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