More Neocon Excuses to Bomb Syria

Official Washington’s influential neocons continue to dream up new excuses for expanding U.S. military intervention in Syria, including why to bomb Syrian government forces and confront Russia, writes ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar.

By Paul R. Pillar

The complicated, multidimensional nature of the Syrian civil war continues to discourage clear thinking in debate about U.S. policy toward Syria. The involvement in the conflict of multiple protagonists who are each anathema to the American debaters but who are opposed to each other within Syria is a fundamental complication that too often gets ignored.

Basic questions of what U.S. interests are in Syria too often get overlooked. A recent example is an op-ed by Dennis Ross and Andrew Tabler of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy that argues for a bombing campaign against the Assad regime and expresses opposition to any cooperation with Russia in striking violent extremist groups such as ISIS and the Al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at a joint press conference regarding the Syrian crisis with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. (State Department photo)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at a joint press conference regarding the Syrian crisis with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. (State Department photo)

In trying to square the circle of intervening forcefully in the war against the Assad regime without undermining efforts against anti-Western terrorist groups against which that regime is also fighting, Ross and Tabler contend that any U.S. or Russian action against those groups “would push terrorist groups and refugees into neighboring Turkey,” bringing terrorists, “and the threat of militant violence, closer to the West.”

This is an inventive but odd reverse take on the old familiar “fight them over there or fight them at home” view of counterterrorism. That view was never valid in assuming a direct positive correlation between fighting overseas and homeland security, but neither is there the sort of direct negative correlation that Ross and Tabler are postulating.

Experience has indicated that negative correlations have had more to do with resentment over U.S. military action fomenting additional radicalism and anti-Western sentiment, and Ross and Tabler are arguing for more such action in Syria. They make the same mistake as the “fight there or at home” outlook in assuming a fixed number of bad guys who move across international borders but never multiply.

Moreover, as far as refugees are concerned, people can become refugees just as easily as a result of fighting against the Assad regime as they can from fighting against ISIS or Nusra. In the end, Ross and Tabler aren’t squaring any circle at all; they are just saying they want to go after Assad, and the counterterrorism part of U.S. policy on Syria ought not to have priority.

In criticizing the Obama administration’s approach of focusing on counterterrorism and in searching for common ground with the Russians in doing so, Ross and Tabler spin out scenarios as if they were consequences of what the administration is doing, even though they aren’t. They make an argument about how the Assad government lacks the manpower to hold rural Sunni areas, and thus must rely on Hezbollah and other Shiite militias to do so, and this will force Nusra et al. to Turkey with that greater proximity to the West.

But what does any of this have to do with what the Obama administration is doing or talking to the Russians about? Damascus and Hezbollah have their own reasons for doing whatever they are doing in Sunni areas of Syria.

Projecting Motives

Ross and Tabler attribute certain priorities to Russian President Vladimir Putin, asserting that Putin “is more interested in demonstrating that Russia and its friends are winning in Syria and the United States is losing” than in finding ways to limit Russia’s costs and involvement in the Syrian civil war.

Dennis Ross, who has served as a senior U.S. emissary in the Middle East.

Dennis Ross, who has served as a senior U.S. emissary in the Middle East.

But their subsequent appeal to use U.S. air power to inflict costs on Russia or its Syria ally seems to assume the opposite. If Putin really were more interested in playing winners and losers in Syria rather than limiting his country’s costs there, then cost-imposing escalation by the United States would be more likely to engender Russian counter-escalation than Russian retrenchment.

Perhaps it is to try to slip out of such illogic that Ross and Tabler say that the U.S. air strikes they want “would be conducted only if the Assad government was found to be violating the very truce that Russia says it is committed to.” But the implicit assumption that there would be anything approaching a common view of what is or is not a truce violation and who did or did not commit it is highly unrealistic, especially in a conflict as messy as, and with as many different combatants as, the one in Syria.

The Syrian regime would almost certainly describe any attacks by itself as a response to violations by the other side, and in at least some instances the regime might be right. Ross and Tabler write about persuading Russia “to make Mr. Assad behave” — as if Russia had that much control over Syria behavior, which it doesn’t. Who is going to make the highly fractured and extremist-infested opposition “behave”?

The op-ed makes the erroneous assumption that creating the conditions for a political settlement is all a matter of imposing sufficient costs on the Syrian regime and getting its Russian and Iranian backers to shed their presumed belief (another erroneous assumption by Ross and Tabler, for which they provide no evidence) that a purely military outcome of the conflict is possible.

But it takes more than one side to make a political settlement. There has been at least as much obduracy and unwillingness to compromise on the side of rebel elements. Weighing in on the side of those elements with U.S. air power would be likely only to increase that obduracy. Civil wars can get settled only when all sides, not just one side, see a continued war as a hurting stalemate. A cease-fire will be elusive if any side sees the war as going either too well or too poorly.

The biggest and most fundamental shortcoming in Ross and Tabler’s piece is that it fails to address exactly where U.S. interests do and don’t lie in Syria. Ill consequences emanating from Syria in the form of refugees, instability, or terrorism are consequences of the war itself, not of any particular political coloration of the government in Damascus.

The Assads, father and then son, have been in power there for 46 years. It would be hard to make a case that whether an Assad regime lives or dies is critical to U.S. interests. It would be all the harder when taking into account the current alternatives, or lack of alternatives.

The Syrian war will eventually end with some kind of exhaustion-inspired compromise, and maybe even just a shaky and essentially temporary one such as the Taif accord regarding Lebanon or the Dayton agreement concerning Bosnia. There probably is realization of that already in all of the capitals concerned.

Getting even to the point of a shaky agreement will not be a matter of simply pressuring or imposing costs on one side. And getting there will require the positive cooperation of Russia and Iran. Neither of those allies of Assad is going to be induced by U.S. air power to pin the label of “loser” on itself and slink away from Syria in embarrassment.

Paul R. Pillar, in his 28 years at the Central Intelligence Agency, rose to be one of the agency’s top analysts. He is author most recently of Why America Misunderstands the World. (This article first appeared as a blog post at The National Interest’s Web site. Reprinted with author’s permission.)

53 comments for “More Neocon Excuses to Bomb Syria

  1. Abe
    August 9, 2016 at 17:45

    “Former acting director of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Michael Morell during a televised interview with American talk show host Charlie Rose, openly conspired to commit a raft of war crimes in Syria, suggesting that the US should take measures to ‘covertly’ kill Russians and Iranians through armed proxies on the ground. [click article below to watch video of Morell and the obsequious Rose]

    “He also suggested targeting Syria’s senior leadership through a series of terrorist attacks in and around Damascus, according to CBS News […]

    “Morell’s plan to kill Russians and Iranians, has not deterred Moscow or Tehran. Unlike the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, predicated on a premeditated lie as clearly exposed by the recent UK government-published Iraq Inquiry, Russia and Iran are engaged in Syria at the behest of the Syrian government.

    “Furthermore, their objective is not simply to project Russian and Iranian power beyond their borders, but to prevent the collapse of Syria into a NATO-induced Libya-style failed state that will serve as a staging ground for the spread of war back over their own borders. In other words, unlike the US’ intervention in Iraq seeking extraterritorial geopolitical gain, Russia and Iran’s intervention is based on very real and immediate existential concerns.

    “Thus, Morell’s plan to kill Russians and Iranians was an ill-conceived attempt to convince both nations to capitulate to US designs in Syria today, so that an even greater loss of Russian and Iranian lives could be embarked upon by wider proxy war in the near future.

    “In the process of organising this ill-conceived plan, the US has now further implicated itself as a state-sponsor of terrorism, further undermining its own pretext for intervention in Syria to allegedly ‘fight terrorism.'”

    Has CIA’s Plot to “Covertly” Kill Russians in Syria Come to Pass?
    The New Atlas

    • Zachary Smith
      August 9, 2016 at 23:49

      I just read about the Michael Morell story and was going to post it here.


  2. Abe
    August 9, 2016 at 17:26

    “The use of chemical weapons in Syria has absolutely no influence on the military situation on the ground. But it’s a good example of how propaganda wars are waged. Some Western media outlets seem to dance to the tune of terrorist groups […]

    “It should be noted that the chemical weapons used by extremists are produced in a high-tech lab in Mosul – the informal US area of responsibility.

    “Providing jihadists with weapons of mass destruction, the facility has been barely targeted by US airstrikes. It’s not a big thing to bomb it and stop the production, but it has not been done during two years since it was captured by extremists.

    “The Western mainstream outlets, including such well-known agencies as Reuters, waste no time or resources in distorting news pertaining to the war in Syria.

    “Whether it’s a success achieved by the Russia-supported Syrian army or another crime committed by terrorists, a humanitarian crisis or the use of weapons of mass destruction, Western mass media is always part of the battle against Damascus, particularly in a bid to shape public opinion with regards to the conflict.”

    Chemical Weapons in Syria: Methods of Waging Information Wars
    By Peter Korzun

  3. Abe
    August 9, 2016 at 14:56

    Blast from the past:

    “There are no coincidences when it comes to the CIA and our foreign policy black deeds. Whether it is CIA’s Graham Fuller’s intimate connections to the Boston Terror Attack, or, Syria-Russia, or the same-old Uber-Neocon architects’ foot-prints and work in the background, a declaration of ‘simple coincidences’ is nothing short of denial.”

    Uber-Neocons: The Main Architects of Post-Assad Syria at Work
    By Sibel Edmonds

  4. Abe
    August 9, 2016 at 14:48

    “Much has been written on the July 15 failed coup attempt in Turkey. The Erdogan government has pointed to the exiled Fethullah Gülen sitting in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, and formally requested his extradition to face charges in Turkish courts. Washington so far refuses. As a massive nationwide investigation by police and security forces continues inside Turkey, new damning details emerge almost daily that point to the key role of the CIA behind their Fethullah Gülen Movement (termed FETÖ for Fethullah Terrorist Organization in Turkish) and the US military. Now the Turkish media reports that none other than Gülen mentor, ‘former’ CIA man Graham E. Fuller, along with another ‘former’ CIA person and close Fuller associate, Henri J. Barkey, were at a luxury hotel on one of the Princes’ Islands in the Sea of Marmara, some twenty minutes from Istanbul, on the night of July 15.

    “While Washington adamantly continues do deny any and all involvement in the failed July 15 Turkish coup attempt, Turkish media is revealing detailed information of the involvement of key US figures as alleged coup organizers. They include the former NATO International Security Assistance Force (Afghanistan) Commander, Army General John F. Campbell. And now new revelations name Henri J. Barkey, a former CIA man, now based as Bernard L. and Bertha F. Cohen Professor at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, conveniently, a mere 26 miles or 30 minute drive via PA-33 from Saylorsburg, home of the exiled Fethullah Gülen.

    “According to the Istanbul Yeni Safak paper, on the July 15 night of the coup Henri Barkey and a group of seventeen others, mostly foreigners, met for hours in a locked room in the Splendid Palas hotel on the tourist Princes’ Island outside Istanbul and reportedly followed coup developments on TV amid their closed-door talks, according to testimony of hotel personnel. The paper cites a source from Istanbul Police’s Intelligence, Counter Terror, Cyber Crime and Criminal Units, who reported that Barkey was holding a meeting at the hotel with 17 top figures, most of them foreign nationals, on July 15, the day of the failed coup attempt in Turkey.

    “According to the hotel management, Barkey had held a “meeting that lasted hours until the morning on July 16 in a special room. They have been following the coup attempt over TV channels,” the hotel personnel told police.

    “Graham E. Fuller too?

    “Other reports from well-informed Turkish independent journalists say that among the members present with Barkey the night of the coup was former CIA senior officer and mentor of Fethullah Gülen, Graham E. Fuller, former CIA Station Chief in Turkey. That would be no surprise. Fuller and Barkey are both old Langley CIA associates. Both have long involvement with affairs Turkish. They even co-authored a book, Turkey’s Kurdish Question.

    “Indeed, it would seem something recently has stung the 78-year old wily CIA veteran, Fuller. He claims to have retired from the agency years ago, when he went over to the CIA-tied RAND Corporation. Yet he re-emerged from the shadows during the Boston Marathon bombing to try, feeling obviously on the spot, to deny links to the two Chechyn brothers accused of that event. Fuller had then to admit that the Tsarnaev brothers had an Uncle, ‘Uncle Ruslan’, aka Ruslan Tsarnaev, a former employee of Dick Cheney’s Halliburton in Central Asia, who had lived in Fuller’s home for a stint when Uncle Ruslan was married to Fuller’s daughter. Bizarre enough, just ‘coincidence’ for sure… Yet if Fuller had not wanted to draw the spotlight on himself, he would have done better had he just shut up and let it blow over. Not very professional for a veteran CIA spook.

    “Now Fuller again in his personal blog rushes to deny being behind Fethullah Gülen and the Turkish coup. His blog post is a rambling paean of praise for his protégé, Gülen, writing that ‘Gülen comes out of an apolitical, more Sufi, mystical and social tradition. Gülen is interested in slow, deep social change including secular higher education…looking at the dramatically failed coup attempt against Erdogan last week, I believe it is unlikely that Gülen was the mastermind behind it.’ Erdogan, never to my knowledge, called Gülen ‘mastermind behind the coup.’ He said the Gülen networks played the key roles carrying it out. Masterminds, charitably using the word, were elsewhere, sitting in Tampa, Florida Centcom headquarters and in Langley, Virginia.

    “Despite Fuller’s clumsy attempt to sheep-dip Gülen, it’s been documented that the same CIA-backed Gülen organization, after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990’s, rushed to establish Gülen schools across former Soviet Central Asia republics from Turkey into Chechnya and Dagestan in Russia, into Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and on into Xingiang, China.”

    Graham E. Fuller Where Were You on the Night of July 15?
    By F. William Engdahl

  5. TellTheTruth-2
    August 8, 2016 at 18:58

    Ziocons are like Pit Bulls when they decide to attack. How do you stop an attacking Pit Bull?

  6. Abe
    August 8, 2016 at 18:54

    “Since the onset of the war in Syria, corporate-financier funded think tanks engineering American and European foreign policy made it clear that establishing no-fly zones and ‘safe havens’ in Syria would be an incremental step toward achieving regime change and rendering the nation divided and destroyed as US policymakers had done to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya beforehand […]

    “It was warned for years that terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and the self-proclaimed ‘Islamic State’ served merely a pretext for direct US intervention – US intervention that would only feign its fight against ‘terrorism,’ and instead carve up Syrian territory ahead of efforts to topple the government and destroy the nation as was done in Libya.

    “Brookings and other centers churning out US policy may have succeeded in their plans, had it not been for Russia’s decision to directly aid the embattled government of Syria. The presence of Russian aircraft in the skies over Syria, the presence of Russian troops on the ground, and the expansion of Russian activities across the country mean little room is left for the US to carve out its ‘safe havens.’

    “As tragic as Russia’s losses have been in the face of US-armed terrorists utilizing anti-tank missiles to down helicopters, the vector sum of Russia’s operations in Syria still spell defeat for US aspirations of regime change as well as the goal of creating a failed state such regime change implies.”

    US Think Tank Admits US Carving Out “Safe Havens” in Syria
    By Tony Cartalucci

  7. Realist
    August 8, 2016 at 16:56

    Washington’s long term goals in Syria are never made clear. This is Iraq redux. Just shoot the place up and hope that a new equilibrium favorable to American interests evolves de novo.

    After Assad’s Syrian army, what is the most potent force, and likely successor to power in the country should Damascus ever fall? Jeffersonian democrats are going to be as rare in Syria as they were in Iraq. It will be the radical Islamic jihadists that come to power. How can the braintrust in DC possibly not know that? How can they possibly figure that will be a good thing?

    Then, what happens after that? Lebanon is overrun with head chopping maniacs? Without any allies left in the region, Iran becomes a target for total war with Israel and Saudi Arabia? How can it be a desired outcome to see Iran bombed back to the stone age, just so West Jerusalem and Riyadh can put more notches in their belts? To say nothing of the personal lives of tens of millions of people that would be ended or adversely affected, how does this help the agenda that the civilised world wants to see for the Middle East? Is it the goal to see Zionist settlers building walled kibutzes throughout the old Ottoman Empire? How does that serve my interests as an American citizen? How is that worth American blood and treasure?

    What further dominoes would fall? After Israel’s current enemies are defeated, do their faux friends in the Gulf states now become their targeted enemies once again? Obviously, with Russia’s military on the run after such an ominous scenario, the Army of the Neocon Empire would want to chase them beyond Ukraine and the Baltics to the gates of Moscow.

    Let’s say Washington succeeds at that and militarily subjugates Russia, how do the fools enforce an effective occupation of the vast swath of land they have laid waste and ethnic groups they have vanquished when they couldn’t keep order in Iraq or Afghanistan after trashing two backward countries with 21st century military technology? The ultimate scenario would be nothing short of anarchy, with loose nukes–those things we were so concerned about under Yeltsin–now floating around and freely available to true doomsday advocates, people with scores to settle and nothing left to lose. You too would want some payback if America were overrun by an outside enemy, you lost your family and job as a nuclear engineer. This is madness, not thought through past day one of the PNAC invasion plans.

    The world was under at least a semblance of order and equilibrium, which, yes, included strong men with authoritarian ways, until the American crazies decided they wanted it all and to get it they would have to destroy the current order in its entirety which would naturally and spontaneously reformulate under the peaceful auspices of a right wing America–the kind of deal the world could have had if Hitler had won back in the 1940’s and all those dirty commies would simply do the right thing for a change.

    Will someone in government or media not start asking the hard questions and challenging this insanity in the U.S. government? I mean besides Donald Trump, whom the mainstream media conspirators have effectively demonised to the point of irrelevance. And how quickly and dirtily they have done it! It’s like America had its own Kristallnacht and no one was paying attention. These warmongering neocon maniacs have the entire world on the road to hell, the voters are oblivious to it all, the media fuels it, and the useful idiots in the government are complicit from top to bottom. Nobody asks what the endpoint is supposed to be because most don’t even realise we are on a one-way ride to perdition. Who, with any power and influence, is going to step up and challenge our oppressors? How do we stop this doomsday scenario?

    • Joe Tedesky
      August 9, 2016 at 00:23

      Realist, this geopolitical situation is unstoppable. The Hawks in our government are salivating and wringing their hands in waiting for their Queen of Chaos to take her throne. I don’t see much hope for statesmanship or diplomacy to take charge, so I’ll just hope for the best, and prepare for the worst. I’m hoping that whatever musical chairs are being played out in the Middle East that much could change, whereas Hillary won’t be able to wage war so easy. That would be one of my hopes. On the other hand will Killary & Co. go into over drive, and attack Iran, or literally get the battles going in the Baltic states? That may be the time to start preparing yourself, whether it be duct tape or prayers, but prepare yourself for something. For a country holding 21 trillion $ in debt it is sure amazing how there is always more than enough of money for war.

  8. August 8, 2016 at 16:34

    The coming catastrophic Hillary presidency will try to take her Exceptional Country into a shooting war in Syria, boots on the ground and overwhelming air power, the Russians be damned, because she has promised American big money Jewry, already immorally in control of virtually every elected representative throughout the USA, (and much of Canada) that Zionist ambitions: an Israeli Final Solution, if you like: will be realized under her direction. And what is the shape of that nightmare ? The irreversible destruction of the defenseless, impoverished, dehumanized, long term victims of Israeli aggression in Gaza and the refugee camps in Syria and Jordan; as well as the effective cleansing, disarming and division of the local neighbourhood, already well underway. An all conquering ‘Jewish State’ will then enjoy : Lebensraum, Resources, Pillaged Wealth and control of the land lanes between the Gulf and Europe. Canada will, of course, pile on in this appalling destruction of peoples and cultures as Israel’s other ‘Best Friend’. The simple pleasing of the ‘Exceptional Nation’ will, of course, figure highly in Canada’s essential reasons for joining their dance of death and destruction, even though she has no strategic interest in the region.
    The epic tragedy in all of this, is that there will never be peace in the region until the USA and Israel accept that all of the people of the region, independent of outside interference, have to forgo their individual selfish reasons to hate one another and come together in a single state where their common humanity and common history cannot help but make a uniquely successful human symphony of common understanding and uncommon progress. ….which, at this moment in history, is a project that sadly, only Israel can lead.
    Deeply ashamed both for my country and its ally, the Imperial power.
    Michael Fish,
    Longueuil, Canada

    • Sam F
      August 8, 2016 at 19:18

      True, but it would not be a possible Israel that engaged in a project for harmony in the Mideast. If “only Israel can lead” such a project, it is by abandoning Israel to the Palestinians. More likely they will continue their essentially fascist projects until wiped out by their victims, like the Nazis, and none too soon for democracy elsewhere.

  9. F. G. Sanford
    August 8, 2016 at 14:02

    If I were The Donald, I’d sure take the tank:
    The fight has been fixed, like the rates at the bank.
    As GDPs falter and birth rates explode,
    The rates can’t go lower, the markets are slowed,
    Demand is diminished, commodities fall,
    There’s a glut on the market, economies stall.
    All of the wealth since the crash of oh-eight
    Has gone to the coffers the banks compensate.
    Sixty elites now own half the world’s wealth,
    But we got Obamacare, guarding our health.
    Material exporters can’t pay their debt,
    The Baltic Dry Index is getting all wet,
    That big helicopter Bernanke once flew,
    Is grounded because of the scarce revenue-
    Hot money invested in emerging markets
    Now threatens the bankers with really short haircuts.
    Diamonds and artworks for fire-sale prices
    Now threaten the brokers with commission slices.
    Tax revenue oscillates on the scales,
    It’s immutably tied to what Wal-Mart retails-
    The industry’s gone, they can’t learn a new trick,
    Forgotten the days when we built a good Buick,
    Now they’re all built in some Asian slum sweatshop,
    And bankers invest in Afghanistan’s cash crop.
    They never worry, they’re too big to jail,
    They claim that they smoke but they never inhale!
    The chance of indictment is something quite spartan:
    The board of directors at Lockheed and Martin-
    Is host to the guy who gave Clinton a pass.
    The law doesn’t count if you fly in first class!
    All is explained by arithmetic easy-
    Depopulation makes many too queasy.
    Disease epidemics have proven erratic,
    Starvation works well but it isn’t pragmatic.
    Among all the choices, there’s one they adore-
    When the crash is at hand, they just take us to war!
    There isn’t a question about who will win,
    The margin will conquer, no matter how thin.
    Trump will have served two invaluable roles:
    So vote as you choose when you go to the polls,
    Because Hillary wins and there won’t be discussions,
    The only choice left will be war with the Russians!

    • Abe
      August 8, 2016 at 16:45

      With Babylon Hill crowned and sat stride the Beast,
      NATO resolves to enlarge to the East.
      “Germans will burn in one last Drang nach Osten.”
      Such Kabbalist claims prove they’re no idle boastin’.
      Their Final Solution: one great Euro roastin’.

    • Abbybwood
      August 9, 2016 at 12:48

      Nicely done!

  10. John
    August 8, 2016 at 13:50

    I’m sure there are plenty of US dollars to continue funding Israel and the many wars associated ……

  11. Bill Bodden
    August 8, 2016 at 13:46

    Experience has indicated that negative correlations have had more to do with resentment over U.S. military action fomenting additional radicalism and anti-Western sentiment, and Ross and Tabler are arguing for more such action in Syria.

    Given his record, there is much to be said for doing the opposite of what Dennis Ross proposes.

  12. Abe
    August 8, 2016 at 13:09

    The plan to secure Israel’s position of dominance in the Middle East was advanced in “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,” a policy document that was prepared in 1996 by a study group led by arch neoconservative Richard Perle for Benjamin Netanyahu, the then Prime Minister of Israel.

    The “Clean Break” report advocated a much more aggressive policy that included the removal of Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq, and the containment of Syria by engaging in proxy warfare and highlighting its possession of “weapons of mass destruction”.

    The report was written by the Study Group on a New Israeli Strategy Toward 2000, which was a part of the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies (IASPS), an Israel-based think tank with an affiliated office in Washington, D.C.

    Former United States Assistant Secretary of Defense Perle was the “Study Group Leader,” and the final report included ideas from Douglas Feith, James Colbert, Charles Fairbanks, Jr., Robert Loewenberg, David Wurmser, and Meyrav Wurmser.

    During the neocon-dominated administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, efforts to directly (via US and allied regular military and special forces operations) and indirectly (via proxy forces incorporating the al Qaeda network) “break” Iraq, Libya and Syria have met with varying degrees of “success”.

    In June 2007, it was reported that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had sent a secret message to Syrian President, Bashar Assad saying that Israel would concede the land in exchange for a comprehensive peace agreement and the severing of Syria’s ties with Iran and militant groups in the region. On the same day, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that the former Syrian President, Hafez Assad, had promised to let Israel retain Mount Hermon in any future agreement.

    In April 2008, Syrian media reported Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told President Bashar al-Assad that Israel would withdraw from the Golan Heights in return for peace. Israeli leaders of communities in the Golan Heights held a special meeting and stated: “all construction and development projects in the Golan are going ahead as planned, propelled by the certainty that any attempt to harm Israeli sovereignty in the Golan will cause severe damage to state security and thus is doomed to fail”. That year, a plenary session of the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution 161-1 in favour of a motion on the Golan Heights that reaffirmed Security Council resolution 497 and called on Israel to desist from “changing the physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure and legal status of the occupied Syrian Golan and, in particular, to desist from the establishment of settlements [and] from imposing Israeli citizenship and Israeli identity cards on the Syrian citizens in the occupied Syrian Golan and from its repressive measures against the population of the occupied Syrian Golan.” Israel was the only nation to vote against the resolution. Indirect talks broke down after the Gaza War began. Syria broke off the talks to protest Israeli military operations. Israel subsequently appealed to Turkey to resume mediation.

    In March 2009, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad claimed that indirect talks had failed after Israel did not commit to full withdrawal from the Golan Heights.

    During his first term (1996-1999) as Prime Minister, Netanyahu said in May 2009 that returning the Golan Heights would turn it into “Iran’s front lines which will threaten the whole state of Israel.” He said: “I remember the Golan Heights without Katzrin, and suddenly we see a thriving city in the Land of Israel, which having been a gem of the Second Temple era has been revived anew.”

    In August 2009, al-Assad said that the return of the entire Golan Heights was “non-negotiable,” it would remain “fully Arab,” and would be returned to Syria.

    In June 2009, Israeli President Shimon Peres said that Syrian President Assad would have to negotiate without preconditions, and that Syria would not win territorial concessions from Israel on a “silver platter” while it maintained ties with Iran and Hezbollah. Syrian President Assad claimed that there was “no real partner in Israel.”

    In 2010, Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman said: “We must make Syria recognize that just as it relinquished its dream of a greater Syria that controls Lebanon … it will have to relinquish its ultimate demand regarding the Golan Heights”.

    Unsuccessful that its efforts to efforts to secure regional hegemony were being thwarted by an “uncooperative” Syria, Israel recruited its “allies” and resorted to more drastic measures.

    Terrorist groups have been set loose on Syria since the US, UK and their western and Gulf State allies launched a covert war in early 2011, dressed up by the media as a “revolution”.

    The “protest movement” in Daraa on March 17-18, 2011 in Syria had all the appearances of a staged event involving covert support to terrorists. The strategy in Daraa (repeated in Kiev in February 2014) involved roof top snipers targeting both police and demonstrators.

    The war in Syria has never been a “civil war” and the anti-government forces almost entirely are terrorist mercenaries, not “rebels”.

    Examining the “patterns” it becomes rather obvious that Israel is trying to achieve through terror what it was unable to achieve through non-negotiation.

    According to the prevailing Western propaganda narrative, the hapless West now finds itself “stuck” in Syria.

    In reality, Western involvement in Syria is not due to some unfortunate series of accidents or diplomatic fumbles, but because of its well-established patterns of “cooperation” with Israel.

    When a nation fails to be “cooperative” with Israel’s hegemonic agenda, “Islamic terror” pays it a visit.

    Europe, notorious for limping in its “cooperation” with Israel, apparently requires frequent visits.

    Countless “analyses” of Middle Eastern affairs perpetually proclaim that peace would reign o’er the Holy Land if only certain “uncooperative dictators” found the “will” to make the right “decisions”.

    In reality, the uncooperative dictator is Netanyahu.

    For decades, Israel has worked tirelessly to ensure that it not surrounded by stable and economically prosperous states. Perpetual “threats” to Israel guarantee an unending supply of US military, economic and diplomatic aid.

    Israel’s support for terrorist forces in Syria was denied by officials until Defense Minister Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon, former Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces acknowledged Israeli aid for al-Nusra in 2015.

    After a terrorist-mediated “clean break” is executed in Syria, Lebanon and Iran are scheduled to “break” unless the US immediately ceases its support of the neoconservative project to secure the Middle East “realm” for Israel.

  13. Bob in Portland
    August 8, 2016 at 12:59

    Also, engaging the other great nuclear power in a hot war is probably not a good idea.

  14. August 8, 2016 at 12:45

    You are all far more versed on this than I am, or will ever be. I’m only a forest steward on a square mile of rolling hills in NE Washington State. I see my own rural county as microcosm of what’s right and wrong nationally and beyond, complete with marionette/big shots pulling the strings, useful nincompoops in leadership at the end of the tethers, tantrum throwing, behind the scenes mischief, heels dug-in spouting us-against-them rhetoric, collaboratively crafted rules protecting natural resources being bent or tossed altogether, bibles and the constitution held up by folks whose tunnel vision makes an ignored case of glaucoma look like a panorama, and no one respectfully talking truth, listening or being heard.

    Perhaps my take on this is too simplistic, but it seems to me that so long as we lead with threats, fall short of genuinely seeking common ground, pigeonhole our most frightening enemies with marginalizing lines “they hate democracy” or “they’re mentally unbalanced”, and until we come to more accurately grasp the motivations of our enemies, and concurrently own our own motives and misdeeds, this all seems a troubling treadmill.

    Probably best left to smarter folks than me.

    • Zachary Smith
      August 8, 2016 at 18:45

      Sometimes things are all messed up because of misunderstandings, but other times one side has the biggest armies and an attitude that *they* are the peak of human evolution. When Europeans rolled into North and South America, the natives had no chance at all against what Jared Diamond dubbed Guns, Germs, and Steel. Ditto for black people kidnapped from Africa and placed squarely into sub-human status – forever.

      This “sub-human” factor was seen again in the European colonization of Africa, the way the Germans behaved in the USSR, the way both Japan and the US regarded each other, and today again in Israel where the inhabitants are shamelessly repeating an old historical pattern. Define the locals as not-human, then treat them accordingly. With most of Europe and the United States supporting Israel, the Palestinians don’t have a ghost of a chance. There is nothing short of their disappearing into thin air which will satisfy the modern goons.

    • Joe L.
      August 8, 2016 at 22:51

      Rural Grass Roots… First of all, I am Canadian and living in British Columbia. Recently, I had a friend send me a spoof of Putin and Trump on a horse with their shirts off. I wrote him that I saw that as propaganda for Hillary Clinton. I also wrote to him that I refuse to let my government or media tell me whom I must hate. I pointed out that he is Chinese and that if I put so much faith in what the media reported that I would probably hate him as well. I just think that if we want a better world then first we have to stop seeing enemies in the world and learn to respect our differences (it probably also would not hurt to turn off the mainstream media and start thinking for ourselves). Cheers.

  15. August 8, 2016 at 12:23

    I believe War Criminals are in positions of power. If the evidence in the video links below is correct then, I believe we should be arresting and putting on trial a number of world leaders and those that support them.

    “General Wesley Clark: Wars Were Planned – Seven Countries In Five Years”

    “France’s Former Foreign Minister: UK Government Prepared War in Syria Two Years Before 2011 Protests”

  16. incontinent reader
    August 8, 2016 at 11:00

    Why not bomb the neocons (and the neo-liberals or ‘liberal interventionists’, or whatever the hell they’re called)?

    Wouldn’t that be a simpler and more permanent solution? A few drone strikes at their gated communities might give them the wakeup call they’ve never had, or, if not, would at least put them out of theirs and our misery.

    • anon
      August 8, 2016 at 19:31

      Truly no one would miss them, for as Stephen below notes, they are traitors, the greatest threat to the US since WWII. Maybe we’ll see a new kind of accidental deployment of US drones or nukes with lamentable collateral damage to ziocons. Wouldn’t hurt to take out the mass media while they’re making mistakes.

      August 8, 2016 at 23:03

      Russia knows quite well where Neocon Ground Zero is located.

      • Obrzezany Prac
        August 9, 2016 at 17:19

        so does Erdogan and the Dönmeh

  17. Steven M Zerbey
    August 8, 2016 at 10:48

    My guess, either Dennis Ross or Andrew Tabler or both are Jews. They want Assad to suffer the same fate as Hussain and Gaddafi, they are also hoping to see to as many Muslim Arabs die as possible. They want to destroy Syrian society like they wanted Iraq, Libya and Yemen destroyed. And then they want to move on and do the same in Iran.

    • jo6pac
      August 8, 2016 at 17:05
      • Kiza
        August 8, 2016 at 23:41

        With respect, you may be looking too much at who is Jewish. Not all Ziocons are Jewish, some goyim servants are much worse than the Jewish Ziocons, just because they have to prove themselves. In the global concentration camp of perceptions, maintained by the Ziocon controlled Western MSM, the capos are more often goyim than Jewish. Therefore, it would have made no difference if this pro-war NYT op-ed has been written by two non-Jews.

        There is also a fair number of Jews who are opposed to Ziocons, just consider their mortal enemy: Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Jewish movement.

        PS. My intention is not at all to be patronising.

        • Rikhard Ravindra Tanskanen
          August 16, 2016 at 16:22

          Western media controlled by Jews? Be anti-Semitic somewhere else, Trump-supporter.

    • Zachary Smith
      August 8, 2016 at 18:35

      I’m positive a lot of Christian Zionists also want Assad to be murdered. It’s not “religion” per se, but rather a person’s world view. IMO it’s much safer to use the terms “Zionists” or “Neocons” than to assume all Jews are monsters.

      I poke at “Fundamentalists” quite a lot, but of course not all of them are drooling on their King James Bible. I’ve known some smart and decent Fundies I’d trust to an unlimited degree.

      • b.grand
        August 8, 2016 at 18:48

        Hmmm, that would be interesting to parse out. Does anyone know what Va. Sen. Richard Black’s position is on Israel? Black cites insurgent violence from the beginning of Syrian protests, is a supporter of Assad, is opposed to US meddling, and is quite clear about his Christian motivation. IMO he’s heroic, and I wish more Americans would listen to him.. But notice in this interview with Jeff Steinberg of E.I.R., neither one of them (as with Pillar) even mention Israel.
        U.S. Policy in Syria: An Interview with VA Senator Richard Black

      • Abbybwood
        August 9, 2016 at 12:41

        Isn’t Syria a “secular” government that has protected its Christian community?

        Why would the United States want to overthrow a “secular” country?

        And I do believe it has been proven that it was the “rebels” who used the “barrel bombs”, not Assad.

        • b.grand
          August 9, 2016 at 17:32

          Abby, you seem to be confusing barrel bombs with chemical weapons.

  18. Bob Van Noy
    August 8, 2016 at 09:09

    Recently I read two articles that focused my mind on US involvement in Syrian intervention and I will post those links for consideration. Let me say first that, while reading, “The Devil’s Chessboard,” by David Talbot, I was stunned by Talbot’s description of Alan Dulles’ CIA intervention in Iraq in 1953. I was aware of US complicity in that overthrow but as Mr. Talbot describes the first person actions of Alan Dulles, I was horrified by his indifference to what he was doing. Then, last week I read this article by Bobby Kennedy and realized the same cruelty and indifference in the Syrian attempted overthrow that I was totally unaware of. Please consider the two links in sequence and I think you will see the obvious pattern that I see that leads us to this very day…

    • b.grand
      August 8, 2016 at 18:35

      Typo? Iran in 1953, yes?

      • Bob Van Noy
        August 8, 2016 at 21:57

        Yes, thanks…

  19. Kiza
    August 8, 2016 at 08:40

    Is it possible to write an article about Syria, and not mention the elephant in the room, Israel? Well Mr Pillar has tried.

    If we set aside right and wrong and look purely from the stand-point of the interested parties which initiated this civil war, Obama simply stuffed up the Ziocon plans. Instead of doing shock and awe (sending waves after waves of Tomahawks and bombers) and then sending in the US troops for a quick and decisive cakewalk, or at least helping Assad to find the pointy end of a “moderate” rebel bayonet as Gaddafi did, Obama sought national approval for the war, funnily, as a US President should. Consulting the nation whether to wage war – so un-executive. On top of this, there was quite a bit of Israeli and Ziocon optimism that Assad would fall quickly or get scared by Gaddafi’s fate and run away. By now, Syria should have been a hell-hole even worse than Libya.

    Alas, all this vacillation gave an opportunity to Russia and Iran to consolidate and organise their resistance to regime change in Syria. Now Israel is in real predicament – they have Iran and Russia, plus an angry Assad, right on the doorstep thanks to the failed regime change in Syria. Remember that Libya is quite far away, whilst Assad could, after winning back his country, push into occupied and annexed Golan Heights (compare snatching of GH with Crimean referendum if you dare). US policy consistency, yeah!

    Therefore, Israel is now waiting for its Clintonite drone to clean up the Syrian situation, as usual, at cost to US blood and threasure. Clintonite drone will firstly smash up Syria and then move on to Iran, probably within the first two years of her presidency.

    All other talk and writing except this is just (ex-CIA) fog!

    • Zachary Smith
      August 8, 2016 at 10:58

      Therefore, Israel is now waiting for its Clintonite drone to clean up the Syrian situation, as usual, at cost to US blood and threasure. Clintonite drone will firstly smash up Syria and then move on to Iran, probably within the first two years of her presidency.

      Good catch about Israel, and a taut conclusion. I was dimly saying to myself “they’re stalling for President Hillary”, and nothing else registered. Not enough coffee….

      Now I do recall reading that Russia truly wants the mess in Syria under control before Hillary arrives, and Obama’s handlers have been desperately stalling – all the while trying to carve the place into small chunks.

      • Kiza
        August 8, 2016 at 23:22

        Nobody could dispute that Kerry has been doing the best delaying job possible, sacrificing maybe even a key former ally Turkey in the process. For the US Administration, the peace negotiations are always a strategic tool. Unless Israel gets what it wants, there will be no peace. But Syria has turned out to be a case study in blowback for Israel: Israel wanted more land, water, oil, and other resources, but instead got Iran right on the border and Hezbollah on the second border as well (Russians will pull back that pesky S400 some day). The challenge now is to find a modus by which Israel can keep expanding whilst allowing peace for the people in the region. I am sure that Israel would be quiet for a while if its annexation of Golan Heights would be recognised by US & Puppets, in return for peace in Syria. But such peace would last only until Israel devours Golan Heights and then the same expansionist policies would be re-started. The questions are only – who will do it for Israel (is Clinton ill?) and when, not whether it should be done. If Clinton is truly ill, I would not be surprised if Ziocons all of a sudden discover that Trump is not as bad as some were presenting him. What an MSM turn around that would be to laugh at.

        Unfortunately, now there are Sunni Extremists under the name ISIS all over the ME and Asia, nobody can put that horrible spirit back into the bottle any more. There is no solution once the crazies get in control, nobody can wipe them out now.

        • Kiza
          August 9, 2016 at 00:22

          Does this look like a Presidential material to you? How about this with nuclear launch codes in hands (to paraphrase Clinton’s propaganda against Trump)?

          It almost makes you feel sorry for the poor Ziocons. They will pull-out some Democratic replacement for the Clintonite drone, probably good ol’ Uncle Joe Biden (in return for Hunter Biden becoming the viceroy of Ukraine or similar), but Trump’s chances will be significantly brighter and they cannot risk antagonising him further.

          After Syria, they invested so much into Clinton and no-luck again. But let us wait for the Klingon to officially pull-out of the race.

    • Joe Tedesky
      August 8, 2016 at 11:48

      Israel’s name is hardly ever associated with any of America’s wars within the Middle East. At best Israel’s name may come up in a very narrow speculated way, if even mentioned at all when it comes to these 7 Middle East nations within 5 years conquest America has been on since 1991. In fact if you go by the American medias descriptions of these Mid East wars Israel looks to be an innocent by stander, at best. The one thing we Americans do know, is how besieged poor little Israel is with knife wielding Palestinians, and for this Israel gladly accepts America’s 3.5 billion dollars worth of aid every year.

      Someone please tell Dennis Ross and Andrew Tabler that Syria is a sovereign nation. The way I read their article in the NYT, Ross and Tabler make it sound as thought Syria belongs to the U.S.. I also think that these NeoNut authors are looking to scapegoat Obama for Russia’s success against the dreaded terrorist they and their Syrian/Iranian allies have dealt with in Syria. Okay I get it, Russia bad America good, but what’s the excuse for America’s failure and Russia’s winning when it comes to combating these terrorist. Could it be America was never really fighting these terrible rebels?

      And tell me again, why Assad must go. Why is Assad the worst of the worst? Is it because he uses barrel bombs? If the U.S. is on a humanitarian mission in Syria for Assad using barrel bombs, then why not attack Netanyahu’s Israel for Israel’s disproportionate use of bombing the Palestinians? It seems to me, to be a very uneven scale when it comes to determining who is bad, and who is good.

      The saddest part of all, is how most Americans are buffaloed to the highest degree of deception when it comes to their ever hearing about all of this. Instead, there are many of my fellow Americans who truly believe we are fighting them over there, so we won’t need to fight them here. This would not be so bad, if at least Americans were to honestly know who our country is fighting and who our country is backing. I’m constantly amazed to how many smart and supposedly well informed Americans believe what they are being told when it comes to our country’s involvement in the Middle East. Apparently it’s easy to sell Americans on the idea that we are fighting religious radicals and not mercenaries, and that Assad is a tyrant who must go. The bigger lie, is Israel is our ally, and it is the only democratic state in the Middle East. America’s media needs more Palestinian reporters to set the record straight, but that won’t happen any time soon, and certainly not within the Ziocon press.

      If America is to be an honest broker, then America must divorce itself from Israel in it’s current form it exist at this moment in time. There is nothing for America worth the effort of lives and the expense that has been required to continue this mad quest in the Middle East. Americans would do better to worry about the blow back which is sure to follow, but what the heck we are already gunning down bad guys in the streets just like our Israeli mentors gun down their knife wielding Palestinians. We are now all Israeli’s!

      • Realist
        August 8, 2016 at 17:47

        Love your plain-spoken application of logic, as always, Joe. It’s not really that difficult to distinguish right from wrong, or smart from stupid. None of these people, with power OR influence, ever level with us. There’s always an agenda they can’t reveal, or risk being run out of Washington on a rail and having to do real work for a living.

    • Nancy
      August 8, 2016 at 16:27

      Americans deserve a long public debate between these Neoconservatives and skeptical representatives. Hiding behind positions of power to move the People is criminal.

      • Enels
        August 9, 2016 at 14:25

        Telling lies in a time of war, using a big blowhorn to do it. When does Sedition start to be a viable counter measure to rectify weakoning America?

        Todesky above:
        “Someone please tell Dennis Ross and Andrew Tabler that Syria is a sovereign nation. The way I read their article in the NYT, Ross and Tabler make it sound as thought Syria belongs to the U.S.. I also think that these NeoNut authors are looking to scapegoat Obama for Russia’s success against the dreaded terrorist they and their Syrian/Iranian allies have dealt with in Syria. Okay I get it, Russia bad America good, but what’s the excuse for America’s failure and Russia’s winning when it comes to combating these terrorist. Could it be America was never really fighting these terrible rebels?”

        When the Megaphone takes over with a few powermad idiots who don’t have America first in mind, it’s time for somebody to start doing something to stop it.

    • Peter Loeb
      August 11, 2016 at 09:39


      Unrelated to “Kiza”‘s remarks, I would add that there is a Presidential
      election ongoing in the USA. It has always been the commanded duplicity
      of the Hillary Clinton campaign to claim her “experience” as former
      Secretary of State while failing absolutely to discuss the substance of
      that experience and its implications for future US policy. On the other
      hand, Clinton’s oppent, D. Trump, also prefers not to discuss anything
      of significance regarding foreign policy past, present or future.
      Perhaps that is because he has no experience in any of the
      relevant issues. Perhaps there are other reasons. In both cases, the
      American public will never get any meaningful discussion of war and peace.

      Most particularly neither Democrats nor Republicans will discuss any
      rople of Israel.

      (That issue is covered in the statement of the Green Party on request.)

      —-Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

  20. Sally Snyder
    August 8, 2016 at 08:13

    As shown in this article, like other world powers from the past, America has not yet learned that remaking the globe in its image is nearly impossible:

    The long history of imposing boundaries on the Middle East by outside powers has done nothing to make the region more stable or less prone to violence.

    • jdd
      August 8, 2016 at 19:04

      That is a false sense of current American objectives. Promotion of democracy or anything like it is not and has not been the goal of US Foreign Policy in the Mideast . Were that true, we would be supporting, rather than attempting to destroy, what was perhaps the most Western and democratic nations in the region, rather than allying ourselves with the ultra-reactionary head-chopping regime in Saudi Arabia, the perpetrators of 911, as well as the other Gulf Kingdoms. No, it is about Russia and the goal of the neo-con and liberal interventionist foreign policy is geopolitical maneuvering against Russia, or what the NY Times referred to as “a proxy war.” Now we have President Obama, Hillary Clinton and UN Rep. Samantha Power reach a new low over the decisive fight over Aleppo, The onholy trio have all come out publicly in support of Al-Qaeda taking control of Syria’s largest city, as the basis for destroying Syria’s government, in demanding an end to the siege of Aleppo by the Syrian forces and its Russian allies. Is the takeover of another nation by jihadists, a repeat of the Libya disaster, about remaking “the globe in America’s image?”

      • Ron Chandler
        August 9, 2016 at 05:11

        Amen. I cannot understand why Mr Pillar has not grasped the overweening thrust of US foreign policy — chaos. Division, partition, sectarianism, terrorism, mass dislocation, and war — every inch of the way these little Beltway demons cause the breakdown of societies, genocides, ethnic cleansing and violence.
        How can anyone look at Libya for two seconds, and not see it?
        There remains only one beneficiary — the Zionist Abomination. Tabler and Ross are long-time servants of it. Yet the wise know that even Occupied Palestine and its rusty Iron Dome is doomed. All else is collateral damage, including the future of the USA.

      • Galina
        August 9, 2016 at 14:50

        There is nothing about democracy in the neocons longing for a bombed-out Syria. It is Yinon Plan that has been the guiding star for the US neocons (mostly ziocons). Grabbing the Golan Heights is the immediate objective of Israel and hence of the US State Dept. war profiteers/chosen/exceptional half-wits that have been leading the world toward hot war.

Comments are closed.