Obama’s Dive into the Syrian Abyss

The bloody Syrian war got bloodier when President Obama allowed U.S. Mideast allies and hawkish U.S. officials to supply weapons to Sunni jihadists including those fighting alongside Al Qaeda’s affiliate, reports Gareth Porter.

By Gareth Porter

President Barack Obama has long been under fire from the U.S. national security elite and the media for failing to intervene aggressively against the Assad regime. But the real strategic blunder was not that Barack Obama didn’t launch yet another war in Syria, but that he decided to go along with the ambitions of America’s Sunni allies to create and arm a Syrian opposition army to overthrow the regime in the first place.

Now a former Obama administration official who is knowledgeable on the internal discussions on Syria policy, speaking to this writer on condition of anonymity, has shed new light on how and why that fateful decision was made.

President Obama and King Salman Arabia stand at attention during the U.S. national anthem as the First Lady stands in the background with other officials on Jan. 27, 2015, at the start of Obama’s State Visit to Saudi Arabia. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza). (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The former official revealed that when Obama made the first move toward supporting the arming of Syrian opposition forces, the President failed to foresee the risk of a direct Iranian or Russian intervention on behalf of the Syrian regime in response to an externally armed opposition – because his advisers had failed to take this likelihood into account themselves.

The story of this policy failure begins after military resistance to the Assad regime began in spring and summer 2011. In August 2011, national security officials began urging Obama to call on Assad to step down, according to the former official.

Obama did make a statement suggesting that Assad should step aside, but he made it clear privately that he had no intention of doing anything about it. “He viewed it as simply a suggestion, not a hard policy,” the ex-official said.

But soon after that, a bigger issue arose for the administration’s policy: how to respond to pressure from Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar for a U.S. commitment to help overthrow Assad. In September 2011, the Saudis and Turks not only wanted the U.S. to provide arms to the opposition. “They wanted the US to provide anti-aircraft missiles and anti-tank missiles,” recalled the ex-official.

Turkey even offered to send troops into Syria to overthrow Assad, but only if the U.S. and NATO agreed to create a “no-fly zone” to protect them. But Obama refused to provide U.S. arms to the Syrian rebels and also opposed the Sunni foes of Assad providing such heavy weapons.

“He wasn’t willing to go along with anything except small arms,” said the former official.

Apparently to assuage the dissatisfaction of the Sunni allies, then-CIA Director David Petraeus devised a plan, which Obama approved, to help move the small arms from Libyan government stocks in Benghazi to Turkey.

Confirming the 2014 story by Seymour Hersh, the ex- official, recalled, “It was highly secret but officials involved in the Middle East learned of the program by word of mouth.” The combination of those two policy decisions committed Obama – albeit half-heartedly – to the armed overthrow of the Assad regime.

The former administration official confirmed the recollections of both former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Pentagon official Derek Chollet that Obama’s advisers believed Assad’s fall was inevitable. Some of those advisers believed Assad lacked the “cunning and fortitude” to remain in power, as Chollet put it.

Underestimating Iran and Russia

More importantly, when Obama was making crucial Syria policy decisions in September 2011, no one on his national security team warned him that Iran had a very major national security interest in keeping the Assad regime in power that could draw the Iranians into the war, according to the former official.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Nov. 23, 2015 Tehran. (Photo from: http://en.kremlin.ru)

Obama’s advisers assumed instead that neither Iran nor Russia would do more than offer token assistance to keep Assad in power, so there was no risk of an endless, bloody sectarian war.

“Both Hezbollah and Iran had made noises that they were displeased with Assad’s handling of the crisis, and [Hezbollah leader Hassan] Nasrallah even said publicly he should take a softer approach,” the ex-official recalled, “so it was believed Iran would not intervene militarily to save him.”

In fact, however, Iran regarded Syria as crucial to its ability to resupply Hezbollah, whose large arsenal of missiles was in turn a necessary element in Iran’s deterrent to an Israeli attack.

“Syria had been Iran’s and Hezbollah’s security in depth,” the ex-official said, but Obama’s advisers “didn’t have a clue” about Iran’s overriding national security interest in preventing Assad’s overthrow by the overwhelmingly Sunni opposition backed by a Sunni international coalition with U.S. support.

That major error of omission become obvious as the war unfolded. After the city of Qusayr near the Lebanese border was taken over by the Free Syrian Army in July 2012, opposition forces in southern Syria were able to get military supplies from across the border in Lebanon.  It became clear in the months that followed that al-Nusra Front forces (Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate) were heavily involved in that front of the war.

Hezbollah Strikes Back

In May 2013, Hezbollah troops from the Bekaa Valley intervened in support of a regime counteroffensive to retake the city – obviously at Iranian urging. That Iranian-Hezbollah intervention resulted in the biggest defeat of rebel forces of the war up to that time.

U.S.-backed Syrian “moderate” rebels smile as they prepare to behead a 12-year-old boy (left), whose severed head is held aloft triumphantly in a later part of the video. [Screenshot from the YouTube video]

But instead of questioning the soundness of the original decision to cooperate with the Sunni coalition’s “regime change” strategy, Obama’s national security team doubled down on its bet. Secretary of State John Kerry put strong pressure on Obama to use military force against the Assad regime.

That resulted in a public commitment by the Obama administration in June 2013 to provide military support to the opposition for the first time. The deepening commitment nearly led to a new U.S. war against the Assad regime in September, after the chemical attack on the Damascus suburbs in August 2013.

The Obama administration even agreed to the Sunni states’ provision of anti-tank weapons to an armed opposition now openly dominated by al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front.

That culminated in a Nusra Front-led command’s conquest of Idlib province and the subsequent Russian intervention, which the administration’s national security team obviously had not anticipated either. Obama and his advisers blundered on Syria in thinking that they were not getting into a high-risk war situation.

But there is a deeper level of explanation for the willingness of Obama and his advisers to go along with the inherent risk of another “regime change” policy – even if Obama was half-hearted about it at best and limited direct U.S. involvement in it.

The administration was unwilling to be at cross-purposes with its Sunni allies, the former official recalled, because of the direct U.S. military interests at stake in its alliances with those three states: the Saudis effectively controlled U.S. access to the naval base in Bahrain, Turkey controlled the airbase at Incirlik, and Qatar controlled land and air bases that had become central to U.S. military operations in the region.

What was a disastrous blunder in terms of the consequences for the Syrian people, therefore, was the only choice acceptable to the powerful national security institutions that constitute what has become the U.S. permanent war state. Their first concern was to ensure that existing military and intelligence arrangements and relationships were not jeopardized.

And Obama was not prepared to override that concern, despite his well-known skepticism about any arming of anti-Assad rebels in light of the blowback from America’s support for the Afghan Mujahedeen in the 1980s.

Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and winner of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for journalism. He is the author of the newly published Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare. [This article was originally published by Middle East Eye.]

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44 comments for “Obama’s Dive into the Syrian Abyss

  1. December 27, 2016 at 7:12 pm

    Mr. Porter

    Good article.

    “…….The former official revealed that when Obama made the first move toward supporting the arming of Syrian opposition forces, the President failed to foresee the risk of a direct Iranian or Russian intervention on behalf of the Syrian regime in response to an externally armed opposition – because his advisers had failed to take this likelihood into account themselves……”

    If the Obama administration completely missed that Russia, Hezbollah and Iran would intervene on behalf of Assad, then the Assad regime certainly miss-evaluated the ferocity of the response against his crack down on mostly peaceful protesters associated with the Arab Spring. Assad gambled with a military crack down on the protesters similar to the Hama massacre in 1982 where his father, Hafez al-Assad, fiercely put down a rebellion killing perhaps 10,000-20,000 people in the process. Bashar al-Assad was a strongman like his father. Assad chose to avoid the possibility of a similar outcome as the Egypt protests where Mubarak was ousted. Instead, he miscalculated using overwhelming military force against mostly peaceful demonstrators with the hope of destroying the rebellion at its roots. About 400,000 have died because of his “gamble”.

    Assad did not predict the arming of the opposition including jihadists by the US, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Iran and Saudi Arabia are in regional battle to claim dominance over the Middle East so the Saudis (etc.) used the “rebels” to attempt to oust Assad and undermine the reach and power of Iran. They may have failed to remove Assad, but they did decrease his power considerably in Syria – and the civil war is still far from over.

    • John
      December 27, 2016 at 8:56 pm

      How many have died because of the “Gamble” of all the presidents of the past in every country?……The United Stated has an agenda…..A financial agenda…… Is the United States the shinning beacon of light for the world ? How many innocent people in all the mid-eastern countries have died….Sickening really…..It’s only market share…….

    • Steve Abbott
      December 27, 2016 at 10:36 pm

      “…mostly peaceful protesters..”

      For those who were paying attention, it was clear that the shooting of security forces had started early on, and was proactive on the part of those clearly aiming to incite violent rebellion. There was even an early video clip, quickly taken down, of militants showing their shooting vantage point on a roof, that clearly showed line-of-sight to shoot not only security forces, but also to shoot directly into the protests. It was a perfect for-shadowing of the incitement on the Maidan in Ukraine. One has to wonder, having viewed several years, now, of blatant propaganda presented as news, why we should have been so blind to the manipulation of “journalism” at the outset of the proxy war.

      • jo6pac
        December 28, 2016 at 4:20 pm

        Yes, even over at Syrian comment there was talk of heavy armed men who spoke Arabic but weren’t.

        http://www.globalresearch.ca/unknown-snipers-and-western-backed-regime-change/27904.

        Ukraine anyone. Please stop calling this a civil war.

        Thanks Joe & Josh

        • December 28, 2016 at 7:21 pm

          GlobalReasearch.ca is a conspiracy sight and poor source for information.

          • backwardsevolution
            December 28, 2016 at 8:54 pm

            craigsummers – you need to read this very good article re color revolutions and hybrid wars:

            “This is post-modern warfare, the evolution of what everyone had unfortunately grown accustomed to ever since the end of the Cold War. This type of conflict is waged indirectly and via proxy, and in some cases, many people don’t even realize they’re in the middle of a warzone until it’s too late. Taking advantage of new information platforms like social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), the organizers are capable of luring thousands of unaware civilians into their “protest marches” for use as human shields against the authorities, all with the eventual intent of having professional provocateurs instigate violence so that as many causalities are caused as possible.

            The purpose behind this morbid manipulation of one’s countrymen is to engineer the conditions for a state crackdown against the “protest” movement, which will then have the ‘justifiable grounds’ to call for regime change and escalate their demands against the government. Filmed by cell phone cameras and immediately uploaded to YouTube, select scenes can be purposely presented out of context or outright edited in order to garner as much pro-“revolutionary” sympathy across the world as possible. Once the event has made global headlines (usually in preplanned cahoots between the organizers, their external patrons, and their affiliated friendly media entities like CNN), it can prompt foreign leaders to issue statements of condemnation or perhaps even sanctions against the affected country’s authorities. The point is to tactically initiate the conflict escalation ladder that foreign intelligence services had already prepared for in order to enact maximum pressure against the target state.

            If this strategy doesn’t achieve its expected ends, then the US’ latest improvisation in warfare is to transition the ‘soft’ coup attempt into a ‘hard’ one, where the TV-presentable “protesters” morph into rugged guerrillas obsessed with regime change. It’s not to say that every Color Revolution will end in an Unconventional War or that every Unconventional War will begin as a Color Revolution from this point forward, but that for all their geographic and demographic differences, it’s this common thread of approach that most closely links the US’ Wars on Syria and Ukraine.”

            http://thesaker.is/andrew-korybkos-interview-with-serbias-geopolitica-magazine-english-exclusive/

            Read the whole article, craigsummers, and see if you don’t recognize a common pattern, that of using “mostly peaceful protesters” in among nefarious individuals (paid rabble-rousers), with the goal being to then force the government to act in a defensive manner against the “mostly peaceful protesters”, thereby causing chaos and anger.

          • backwardsevolution
            December 28, 2016 at 10:00 pm

            A little more from the article:

            “Still, the essence of using one’s own people against them as militant proxies on behalf of another power is unsettling and will always remain so, because somewhere in the mix of things the targeted authority will be faced with the uncomfortable decision of having to strike back at its own citizens out of self-defense, which is as unnatural for a country to do against “unarmed protesters” as it is for a sibling to strike their own “unprovoked”.

            The targeted authority doesn’t want to hurt his citizens, and these citizens (“human shields”) have no idea they are being used.

            Nefarious! It’s the new type of war, Craig, and it fools a lot of people into thinking that a mean dictator just chose to fire on unarmed civilians. It’s all a set-up to provoke.

            Welcome to the world of psychopaths.

  2. Josh Stern
    December 27, 2016 at 8:33 pm

    Syrian observers on all sides can point out that the Obama administration doesn’t provide a coherent narrative of its actions and statements related to Syria. At one time, it claimed there were rebel groups worth supporting. At other points, it provided arms and other support to jihadists linked to al Qaeda. At still other points, it claimed that ISIS was active in the Syrian fighting and therefore the US should stay out of the conflict. Are we allowed to ask about the basis for distinguishing among rebels worth supporting, rebels allied with al Qaeda, and ISIS? How are they distinguished when they all carry US made weapons and speak Arabic. Are ISIS forces distinguishable from the air because of their black masks and flags? In that case, one would expect that the US military would have been effective in targeting ISIS from the air, rather than claiming ISIS was a threat it couldn’t stop, overrunning large areas of Iraq and Syria. If, on the other hand, ISIS blends in with the local population, then how do we learn which areas they are controlling and which leaders are part of ISIS? After several years of this silliness, one comes to the conclusion that the US military isn’t even bothering with plausible lies about all of this anymore, while the US media happily parrots just about any stupidity coming from the Pentagon. By definition, whoever the US is arming are good rebels and whoever they are opposing is a terrorist, al Qaeda, or ISIS or whatever…it doesn’t matter…the de facto policy is that war in the Mideast is good unless either the US is being blamed or Russia is gaining market share for their arms exporters..

    • Helge
      December 28, 2016 at 6:52 am

      “By definition, whoever the US is arming are good rebels and whoever they are opposing is a terrorist, al Qaeda, or ISIS or whatever…it doesn’t matter…the de facto policy is that war in the Mideast is good unless either the US is being blamed or Russia is gaining market share for their arms exporters.” That is a good point, rivaly between the US and Russian military-industrial complex, it is probably just as simple as that!

  3. Bill Bodden
    December 27, 2016 at 9:24 pm

    The administration was unwilling to be at cross-purposes with its Sunni allies, the former official recalled, because of the direct U.S. military interests at stake in its alliances with those three states: the Saudis effectively controlled U.S. access to the naval base in Bahrain, Turkey controlled the airbase at Incirlik, and Qatar controlled land and air bases that had become central to U.S. military operations in the region.

    So, that now makes four tails wagging the American dog.

    • Tristan
      December 27, 2016 at 9:59 pm

      A sad tale. It’s only a question of money; if you can buy a tail or own one, you may wag the dog. As things are in the American Imperium, plenty of tails are for sale, so let the money flow and the dog will shake and wag just as a Labrador greets its master returning home from work.

  4. Joe Tedesky
    December 27, 2016 at 11:32 pm

    I’m leaving a link to an article written by Steven Sahiounie who points to the Syrian town of Deraa where in March of 2011 the Syrian uprising began. Mr Sahioune reports how Libyian CIA trained instigators were send into Deraa to make trouble. Read his article….

    http://ahtribune.com/world/north-africa-south-west-asia/syria-crisis/1135-day-before-deraa.html

    The one thing that has always bugged me, was why more wasn’t made of the role that David Petraeus may have played, both in Libya and Syria and as to the demise of each of these two sovereign nations. Screwy as this may sound, could CIA Director retired General David Petraeus have dropped a dime and leaked his own scandal? To be brought down with the Benghazi attack scandal would be seriously fatal to his career, whereas a sexual escapade scandal would get him a slap on the back in the locker room. Oh, and as we saw with Hillary the system doesn’t go down nearly that hard on high officials making security breaches…just ask Sandy Berger, and of course slap on the wrist Petraeus.

    Read the link, it is a pretty good account of what, and how this whole mess in Syria started.

    • Josh Stern
      December 28, 2016 at 3:37 am

      Good link…But be careful with “started”. CIA has a long history in Syria – c.f. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CIA_activities_in_Syria

    • exiled off mainstreet
      December 28, 2016 at 4:50 pm

      This is an excellent article by Mr. Porter with excellent comments. Considering the fact the yankee imperium was purportedly warring against “terror”, that is Sunni Jihadis called el qaeda or whatever, what the yankee regime did in supporting the Syria war amounted to treason according to its own definitions. The revelations of the barbarism in Aleppo reveals that the imperium and its acolytes, including its European satellites, are guilty of treason against civilization itself. The weapons and food caches reveal that the yankee deep state were amply providing these barbarian salafi hordes with plenty of victuals and war materiel while they were starving and murdering those under their control. The key leaders of the yankee regime and its abettors should face war crimes accountability for their actions in Syria as well as their actions in Libya.

    • backwardsevolution
      December 28, 2016 at 11:20 pm

      Joe – excellent link. Thanks for posting it. It was all set up, just like a half-time show at the Super Bowl. If you have the time, Joe, please also read this article re color revolutions/hybrid wars. Puts the link you provided into perspective.

      http://thesaker.is/andrew-korybkos-interview-with-serbias-geopolitica-magazine-english-exclusive/

      • Joe Tedesky
        December 29, 2016 at 2:32 am

        Thanks for the link. I didn’t read all of it though, but I promised myself to finish this long but exceptionally informative piece. What I did read reminded of JohnPerkins of ‘Economic Hitmen’ fame. I wish more Americans would expose themselves towards learning more about what is going on with our deep state, and for them to hear both sides of an issue before they make up their mine to how an issue should be handled.

        Read George Soros here…

        https://www.project-syndicate.org/onpoint/open-society-needs-defending-by-george-soros-2016-12

        • backwardsevolution
          December 29, 2016 at 3:53 am

          Joe – I am not a fan of George Soros at all, but I did force myself to read the piece. My conclusion: he ought to hang up his spurs and call it a day.

          “Democracy is now in crisis. Even the US, the world’s leading democracy, elected a con artist and would-be dictator as its president. Although Trump has toned down his rhetoric since he was elected, he has changed neither his behavior nor his advisers. His cabinet comprises incompetent extremists and retired generals.

          What lies ahead?

          I am confident that democracy will prove resilient in the US. Its Constitution and institutions, including the fourth estate, are strong enough to resist the excesses of the executive branch, thus preventing a would-be dictator from becoming an actual one.”

          Soros thinks that democracy is just NOW in crisis? Where has he been? He’s confident that the Constitution and the fourth estate is “strong enough to resist the excesses of the executive branch”? WHAT? Obama has been shredding the Constitution, and the fourth estate have been lying through their teeth. How are you supposed to have democracy when people are being lied to? Soros had a hand in Ukraine’s coup, and he was funneling money into Clinton’s campaign like crazy. He’s friends with a crook, yet he’s afraid of Putin? Go figure.

  5. Luther Blissett
    December 28, 2016 at 2:31 am

    It is less destructive to do a limited nuclear strike on a country than it is to flood it with ‘small arms’. Machine gun-armed bands of fundamentalists, criminal and militias are instruments of terror. The worst fate is to have your country become the battle-ground between super-power proxies.

    Afghanistan suffered all these nightmares because the USA wanted to give Russia “its own Vietnam”, now Syria suffers the same fate.

  6. Abe
    December 28, 2016 at 2:54 am

    On 1 October 2016, the Fourth report of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) – United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) revealed the extent to which the UN investigation of chemical weapons in Syria has been compromised by Western military agencies.

    UN Security Council document S/2016/888
    http://www.securitycouncilreport.org/atf/cf/%7B65BFCF9B-6D27-4E9C-8CD3-CF6E4FF96FF9%7D/s_2016_888.pdf

    The Fourth report revealed that significant “analysis” was supplied by “defence institutes”.

    Furthermore, the allegations of “barrel bomb” attacks are largely based on “eyewitness” accounts from civilian populations held captive by terrorist groups. Idlib governate is the headquarters of Western-backed Al-Qaeda terrorist forces in Syria.

  7. Junior
    December 28, 2016 at 9:26 am

    Israel is missing from this report. It’s part of a neocon program to remove all perceived threats to Israeli regional dominance. Remember PNAC documents? “7 countries in 5 years,” General W. Clark was told. This is not primarily about the US’s Sunni allies.

    Gareth is not going deep state enough.

    https://therulingclassobserver.com/2016/12/23/16402/

    • backwardsevolution
      December 28, 2016 at 8:40 pm

      Junior – “Israel is missing from this report.” That’s what I noticed too. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Lebanon, Hezbollah, Iran, U.S., Russia, and of course Syria are mentioned, but nothing about Israel. Oh where, oh where is little Israel in the quagmire? Something tells me they play a very important, if not the key, role in this mess, yet they are not mentioned.

      Gareth, include Israel to get the big picture. But good report, anyway.

      • backwardsevolution
        December 28, 2016 at 11:51 pm

        Assad wants the Golan Heights back from Israel, but Israel has stated that they’re not giving it back. Israel is probably hopeful that, with Assad gone, no one will ever question them further re Golan Heights.

        Israel needs to return this land to Syria. It is not their land.

  8. Brian
    December 28, 2016 at 10:19 am

    Nov 20, 2015 The One Thing You Need to Know About ISIS, ‘America please wake up!’

    https://youtu.be/vkxFT_hJCdQ

    The full document, released to Judicial Watch earlier this year via FOIA request

    http://www.judicialwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Pg.-291-Pgs.-287-293-JW-v-DOD-and-State-14-812-DOD-Release-2015-04-10-final-version11.pdf

    • Wobblie
      December 28, 2016 at 11:57 am

      Yes. Very good to point out.

    • Josh Stern
      December 28, 2016 at 4:56 pm

      In the Iran vs. Iraq Wars, the US was supplying arms to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_support_for_Iraq_during_the_Iran%E2%80%93Iraq_war Hussein was a secularist, but part of a Sunni minority that controlled the predominantly Shiite Iraq. One could argue that Reagan’s arming of Iraq was a counterbalance to his prior arming of Iran, both during the time of the Shah, and during the time of Khomeini via the Iran/Contra arms deals, which were partly about trading arms for hostages and partly about trading arms for black slush fund money.

      The CIA had also been involved in bringing Iraq’s Baath party to power, decades earlier. After militarily deposing the Iraqi govt. it had previously supported, the US ended up taking the side of the Shiite majority of Iraq in their ongoing civil war against the Sunni population. In Syria, the US has been backing Sunni jihadist rebels against the secular govt. that is allied with Shiite Iran and Hezbollah. As noted before, the CIA has a long history in Syria.

      The CIA was also famously involved in toppling the Democratic govt. of Iran in 1953 and installing the totalitarian police state Pahlavi family (really CIA) rule govt.

      Looking at the history, it’s clear that the CIA and other US military interventionists believe that ongoing Sunni vs. Shiite military conflicts are somehow in US interest. But history shows that the US population, the US taxpayer, and the US citizens who support Democracy as a means to long-term economic development and stability should be extremely skeptical about the reality of whether US covert/clandestine operations are actually operating in *their* interest. The US paramilitary state triggered lots of wars and sold lots of arms. Did that, expensive bloodshed help the people of the USA?? US political leaders take the attitude that the public should trust their foreign policy betters who continually commit and support heinous atrocities in secret while assuring the public that, counterfactually, the past would have been a lot worse with their bloody meddling. Really? Like Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia? Like El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Venezuela, Cuba, Chile, Nicaragua, Panama, etc. etc.?

  9. Drew Hunkins
    December 28, 2016 at 11:46 am

    It’s noteworthy that the “Free Syrian Army” from the beginning was at least two-thirds controlled and dominated by the ISIS/Al Nusra violent fanatics. What’s also important to remember is that if Assad’s neoliberal reforms were so awful prior to the 2011 (and I’m no fan of neoliberal austerity) why were there pro-gov’t and pro-Assad counter protesters — with just as many people as the anti-Assad activists — early on during the uprising? Moreover, never forget that it was the anti-gov’t/anti-Assad side that very, very early on started firing on gov’t officials and Syrian police forces.

    In other words, what you had in early 2011 in Damascus was essentially a violent velvet revolution from the outset.

    Thank god for the Russian Air Force, it actually carried out a genuine humanitarian intervention that kept the Saudi-Zionist terror network from eventually overrunning a Capitol of a major Middle Eastern nation-state.

  10. December 28, 2016 at 1:22 pm

    “Syria” is but one of a number of countries that the war criminals in power decided to attack.
    “There is overwhelming evidence that wars on a number of countries were planned. Yet, this evidence is censored and covered up by many of the so-called “searchers for truth,” in the “investigative media.” The TV “news” parrots propaganda daily and the “newspapers” do likewise.”…
    Read more at link below]
    http://graysinfo.blogspot.ca/2016/12/the-propaganda-peddlers-war-criminals.html

  11. Kalen
    December 28, 2016 at 2:03 pm

    A take on circumstances of Syrian Arab Spring 2011 and the ensuing Syrian War:

    In years leading to the events of 2011, the US created a minute civilian and armed opposition within Syria that was not there before. All those who opposed the Assad regime were exiled surviving on the Western payroll cut off from the Syrian society, imprisoned or killed or were economically enticed to support the regime.

    As a matter of fact small groups financed by the CIA protesting in 2011 in the city of Daara and Homs drew thousands, and in all Syria, tens of thousands of people demanding moderate democratic changes, long overdue, angry on Bashar al-Assad but not because of the lack of democracy [which was true but not a reason] but for his neoliberal reorientation, dramatically departing from his socialist father legacy that brought pride and prosperity to the Syrian people.

    Assad embraced western neoliberalism swayed by his western “friends” while he was living in London, to such a degree that even his wife aspired to become an investment banker and was going to start her MBA study in the West in fall 2011 predicting massive western investments in Syria in following years, or what the west let Assad to believe just in 2009 for his contribution to rendering terrorist suspects and torture them on behalf of the US.

    The anger of a significant part of Syrian population against Bashar al-Assad was somewhat instigated by the western propaganda of human rights peddled by usual suspects from DoS and Soros’s funded NGOs but in most part was inspired by his tolerance of rampant corruption with western money and enrichment of his Alawites minority cronies and the wider Syrian elites to detriment of the ordinary people.

    The more democracy they demanded was meant as just a political tool of reversing Assad’s infatuation with the western neoliberal economic policies that collapsed the Syrian high standard of living dramatically in 2008 and later.

    Despite continuous provocation by the US paid GCC stooges in Syria including killing of protesters and security agents in Daara, it was Assad’s duty and responsibility to heed the calling of his own people underneath all that mess and to constitute true economic reforms, kicking out exploitative foreign interests and stand on the side of people against the global capital instigated corruption. But he did not.

    He instead chose a pasture of national unity and put himself as indispensable, a symbol of the Syrian unity, playing nationalistic card i.e. he focused on saving his own skin first. The over three hundred thousands dead and injured, nine millions displaced Syrians is his responsibility as well but in much smaller part than the murderous US imperialism and its jihadi’ puppets like Saudis.

    Bashar al-Assad an ophthalmologist failed as a leader of his nation in this respect, as his father Hafez predicted when he decided on the power succession to his brother Bassel, military engineer, who unfortunately died in 1994.

    Another big mistake of Assad was not to grant Kurds the right to their own country (12% of territory) and to more support PKK right away with the weapons instead of thinking that more neutral stance would keep Turkey away from the conflict. He was wrong, Turkey is up to their sleeves in the Syrian conflict since 2011, playing with its national existence by attacking PKK, having 30% of population as Kurds on 40% of its territory.

    PKK made their own mistakes by trying to negotiate with Turkey from the position of weakness and finally abandoning Assad.Only now, after they were attacked by Turkish Army in Syria and Turkey they signal a reverse of their previous position.

    Having said that Bashar al-Assad did right thing not to resign and instead seeking a mandate from the Syrian people, since his resignation would mean the end of Syrian nation as we know it, threatening to unravel the post WWI colonial order set by the British purposefully to make Arab states weak, conflicted and dependent on the western interests after the collapse of Ottoman empire in 1918.

    He also seems to have learned the lesson of what means the true, based on authentic mutual interest and shared values, friendship with Russia, forged many decades ago between the partners in the war against western colonialism and aggression. It is thanks to his long gone father and the support from Russia and Iran that badly wounded and suffering Syria still exists.

    Now, against all odds, this is Bashar al-Assad duty to rebuild the nation, as only viable today Syrian national figure potentially capable of accomplishing it since no other internal or external party in this conflict has any mandate or interest of doing so. Even if it means his resignation after peace is achieved since there will be no wining. All the Syrians are already at loss. Is he up to the task? Nobody knows.

    The question is why all this mess? What was the point of all these massive deaths and suffering brought by the Arab Spring?

    Why after attacking Tunisia, Algeria (failed), Libya, Egypt and Yemen (and previously Iraq and Afghanistan but not Jordan, Morocco, Bahrain or Saudi Arabia) the West attacked Syria. The answer is clear if we examine what those “horrible”, deposed regimes in the Arab world had in common except for governing of the countries with highest standard of living in Africa and in the Middle East.

    What they had in common was a special, decades old, ideological, economic and military partnership with the Soviet block countries that supported Arab struggle of decolonization and independence in 1950-ties and sixties. Many of those killed or deposed leaders or their political predecessors were educated in Moscow many decades ago about the methods of anti-colonial struggle as a type of class struggle against the world oligarchic dominance.

    And there were those economic, ideological and historical connections with the Russians that West went after by instigating the Arab Spring in 2011 with all the deadly consequences of destruction and chaos.

    It is all about destruction of the social-democratic systems (civil society) and replacing them with the brutal neo-liberal corporatism as decades ago happened in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    It is about continuing, after the Eastern Europe in 1990 and the Western Europe in 2000s, eradication of the remnants of Soviet influenced social-democratic economic and political systems that worked so well for ordinary people all over the world and replacing them with the brutal unfettered corporatism. What the west called the brutal regimes of the Middle East and Africa were autocratic, socially focused political systems which somewhat exaggerated political brutality was an imperfect remedy for the injustice of the colonial arbitrary territorial divisions imposed deliberately by the west and the western colonial policies of stirring the antagonisms among the native people of the land.

    The political violence of the regimes was a direct consequence of their choice to remain in the colonial boundaries in the somewhat perverted bid to keep the unity of their “abstract” nations and the peace in the region and of course to preserve their own power.

    What’s interesting that Russia under Putin and Iran under theocracy in last 15 years moved into more the direction of soviet style social-democratic organization of the society focusing little more on the needs of the people than the profit or greed, and hence becoming a target of a globalist aggression as a part ever changing axis of “evil” based western propaganda.

    In wider political view if Assad fails, Middle East brewing soup will definitely explode and likely will blow up Israel and its people to kingdom come together with the whole region if they do not restrain themselves and begin promoting peace in the region instead of sheepishly following suicidal policies of the Tel-Aviv regime and Washigton D.C. neocons.

    Ironically, if Israel cease to exists it would be another country, founded on soviet style political and economic system of government run Kibbutzes in 1948, that would become, probably unintended, casualty of the US choreographed Arab spring adventure.

    • backwardsevolution
      December 29, 2016 at 5:03 am

      Kalen – good post. I suppose Assad tried to appease the West and the neoliberals too much. Of course, we all know what happens when you try to appease people – they end up just wanting more from you – and then the citizens are the ones who end up suffering. Assad probably thought that if he didn’t try to appease them, they’d just come after him. But they ended up coming after him, anyway. Assad couldn’t win. The writing was on the wall that they were going to come after him, no matter what.

      I think Assad loves his country. I truly believe he does. I hope Trump comes in and stops the U.S. involvement in Syria, and then Assad and his people can start to rebuild the country.

  12. December 28, 2016 at 3:17 pm

    Obama is like a fish out of water. First the Russians and Iran got the Iraqi army to encircle the US backed Salafist terrorist in Mosul
    http://wsenmw.blogspot.com/2016/12/the-aleppo-misdirection.html
    and then they were crushed in Aleppo. Can’t wait until he is out office honestly

  13. bobzz
    December 28, 2016 at 4:57 pm

    “the Saudis effectively controlled U.S. access to the naval base in Bahrain…and Qatar controlled land and air bases that had become central to U.S. military operations in the region.”

    Ok, let’s say the Saudis and the Qatarites considered kicking the US out of their country if the US did not go along with them. Who is going to protect them from the Iranians, if they should be goaded to attack? The US acts if they have no leverage against these pests. And to the matter of the death of Ambassador Stevens, why did the Republicans focus on Hillary’s lack of security? That was no embassy; it was a CIA compound funneling small arms to Syria, so why did we have a full ambassador there in the first place? My guess is that the Republicans could not bring it up for fear that angle would cause a public uproar (which would have lasted a couple of days).

  14. bobzz
    December 28, 2016 at 7:29 pm

    I had a comment for this article and “Obama’s Dive into the Syrian Abyss” (#comment-239215). Both have been deleted. Are these deletes permanent?

    • bobzz
      December 28, 2016 at 9:37 pm

      I should have been more patient.

  15. F. G. Sanford
    December 28, 2016 at 10:05 pm

    I note that there are a few Bellingcat wannabes still frantically pushing the “peaceful protestor” and “brutal crackdown” mythology. Craig Summers must be padding his resume in anticipation of funding from that new Congressionally approved measure to combat reality with “Stratcom” government approved propaganda. It’s kind of amazing to consider the cultural imperatives which inform “Thinktanklandia”. Practiced liars accomplished in the art of mendacity, and so many of them boast consensus credentials endowed by a small coterie of academics and pundits. Cooking up verbose, convoluted theoretical rationalizations to justify “guided” democratic and humanitarian reform by means of indiscriminate bombing must be tedious…unless inveterate lying is actually a cultural tradition. Some cultures rationalize cannibalism. Others rationalize human sacrifice, slavery, child brides or polygamy. I guess, though, it would be “politically incorrect” to identify cultural traditions which hold deceitfulness and mendacity in high regard, even elevating it to the status of a virtue. Our government now endorses financial compensation for these practitioners. Doesn’t that piss anybody off?

    When mythology and mendacity take the form of a suicidal millennial movement, as is the case with certain of our Middle Eastern allies, some “guided” democratic and humanitarian reform might be in order. Someone mentioned protecting their “hegemony”. I’d like to point out that their designs are not on hegemony, but rather unfettered “territorial expansion” and ethnic cleansing.

    Someone else mentioned “treason”. I fully agree. That word doesn’t get tossed around nearly enough. Taxpayer funded mass murder should constitute treason. Aiding and abetting an ideological legacy organization responsible for 9/11 certainly qualifies. And, I wonder when that strategic relationship actually began. Somehow, fear of being at “cross purposes” with Sunni allies does not strike me as sufficient incentive to hobble the lofty aspirations of “The Exceptional Nation”.

    If all this was “…the only choice acceptable to the powerful national security institutions…And Obama was not prepared to override that concern, despite his well-known skepticism…”, then one must wonder under what circumstances this thralldom is sustained by those “powerful national security institutions”? Blackmail and mendacity have enjoyed sporadic success in the arc of human history. But cultures and nations which institutionalize them do not last. The “exceptional” nation has become pharisaic, and the “pharisaic” nation has become suicidal. We are being led to the abyss by hypocrites and liars. We embrace their false moral certitude and have begun to emulate their self-deception. How can this not come to a bad end? Those once apocryphal words, “They brought it on themselves”, are awaiting tragic vindication.

    • December 29, 2016 at 2:01 pm

      @ “Someone else mentioned “treason”. I fully agree. That word doesn’t get tossed around nearly enough. Taxpayer funded mass murder should constitute treason.”

      Not if you care about legal accuracy. “Treason” is the only crime that is defined by the U.S. Constitution, in Article II section 3:

      “Treason against the United States, shall consist *only* in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.”

      (Emphasis added to the word “only.”)

      • F. G. Sanford
        December 29, 2016 at 6:15 pm

        “adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort” = “aiding and abetting”…at least according to the English language of which I am thoroughly familiar. “Legalese” may contain interpretational pitfalls, but The U.S. Constitution was written in the “plain English” of the day. Is there some other version of “English” of which I am unaware? I’d be curious to know.

      • b.grand
        December 29, 2016 at 11:54 pm

        TREASON OR FELONY, OBAMA IS GUILTY.

        Guess what, Paul E. Merrell, J.D.,
        The U.S. is officially engaged in “War on Terror” and Al Qaeda and affiliates are declared enemies of the U.S.. and President Obama has been “giving them Aid and Comfort” for the past 5 years.

        It’s also a felony under the Patriot Act.
        WHAT WE NEED IS A BILL OF IMPEACHMENT
        law Professor Francis A. Boyle writes,
        “… I am willing to serve as Counsel to any Member of the US House of Representatives willing to put in a Bill of Impeachment against Obama as soon as Congress reconvenes—just as I did to the late, great Congressman Henry B. Gonzalez on his Bill to Impeach Bush Sr. on the eve of Gulf War I. RIP. Just have the MOC get in touch with me as indicated below.”

        Francis A. Boyle
        Law Building
        504 E. Pennsylvania Ave.
        Champaign IL 61820 USA
        217-333-7954 (phone)
        217-244-1478 (fax)

    • Abe
      December 29, 2016 at 5:06 pm

      “Alas, alas for you,
      Lawyers and pharisees”
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DYuzuk8ApoU

  16. December 29, 2016 at 12:40 pm

    Obama hasn’t as clue and we are not stupid enough (at least some of us) to believe him regarding Syria especially Aleppo. http://wsenmw.blogspot.com/2016/12/the-aleppo-misdirection.html After all he has already F’d up Yemen: http://wsenmw.blogspot.com/2016/10/obama-done-fcked-up-yemen.html

  17. Abe
    December 29, 2016 at 4:35 pm

    World War II was the last of five wars in which the United States had formally declared war against foreign nations. The wars in Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003) were the latest of twelve extended military engagements authorized by Congress. The US military engagement in Libya (2011) was the latest of seven military engagements authorized by United Nations Security Council Resolutions and funded by appropriations from Congress.

    George P. Fletcher is the Cardozo Professor of Jurisprudence at Columbia University School of Law. An internationally recognized scholar of criminal law, torts, comparative law, and legal philosophy, Fletcher is one of the most cited experts in the United States on criminal law. Fletcher has been active in several high-profile legal disputes concerning both U.S. and iinternational law. His brief before the U.S. Supreme Court in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld argued that the customary law of war did not recognize the crime of conspiracy, and therefore the U.S. military commissions had no jurisdiction over a charge of conspiracy. This argument was adopted by Justice Stevens in his opinion for the majority.

    In his 2002 article, “War and the Constitution,” Fletcher discussed the ambiguous legal ground under which President George W. Bush launched the international military campaign known as the “Global War on Terror”. Fletcher wrote “the administration has ably pursued its war aims. In this area of demonstrating respect for the Constitution and international law, however, it has failed miserably. Perhaps that is because the Bush team has been uncertain whether they are fighting a war or trying to arrest those who financed and organized the attacks of September 11. They cannot quite decide whether this was a collective crime of al-Qaeda and the Taliban, in which case war is the proper response, or the individual crime of Osama bin Laden and other as yet unidentified individuals, in which case a criminal prosecution is the correct action.” This legal ambiguity was exploited by both the Bush and Obama administrations to pursue their war aims in an ongoing succession of U.S. military engagements throughout the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region.

    In 2006, Al-Qaeda in Iraq re-formed as Islamic State of Iraq (ISI). Following the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War in 2011, the ISI under the leadership of Abu Omar al-Baghdadi delegated a mission into Syria, which under the name Jabhat an-Nurah (or al-Nusra Front) established a large presence in Al-Raqqah, Idlib, Deir ez-Zor, and Aleppo provinces.

    In March 2013, President Barack Obama announced that the United States was no longer pursuing a “Global War on Terror,” as the military focus should be on specific enemies rather than a tactic. He stated, “We must define our effort not as a boundless ‘Global War on Terror’, but rather as a series of persistent, targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists that threaten America.” Obama’s reorientation of the U.S. effort corresponded to a metastasis of terrorist activity in Syria and Iraq.

    Following Obama’s announcement, al-Baghdadi decreed the reunification of the Syrian al-Nusra Front with ISI to form the “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” (ISIL) in April 2013. After a supposed eight-month power struggle, it was announced in February 2014 that al-Qaeda had cut all ties with ISIL. But this was all window dressing to support Obama’s re-direction of U.S. military engagements in the MENA region.

    Under the auspices of “fighting terror” around the world, successive U.S. administrations have been “adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.”

    A recent analysis, “Why Did the West Help ISIS Spread Hysteria Post-Berlin Attack?” by Tony Cartalucci http://landdestroyer.blogspot.com/2016/12/why-did-west-help-isis-spread-hysteria.html illustrates the vast scope of unquestionably treasonous activity of state sponsored terrorism adhered to by Washington:

    “While the excuses made by newspapers like the Washington Post change with the wind on a daily basis to explain ISIS’ creation and actions, the West’s calculus – warned about by Seymour Hersh in 2007, documented in a 2012 US DIA memo, admitted to in a 2014 leaked e-mail, and evident amid ISIS’ current, wide scale operations in Syria only possible through substantial state sponsorship – has been singular in nature and evident for years – even before the Syrian conflict began.

    “As long as Washington and its allies believe it is geopolitically profitable to maintain the existence of ISIS – used as both a proxy mercenary force and as a pretext for direct Western military intervention anywhere the terrorist organization conveniently ‘appears,’ attacks like those in Brussels, Paris, Nice, and now apparently in Berlin will persist.

    “At any time of Washington and Brussels’ choosing, they could expose Saudi Arabia and Qatar’s role in sponsoring ISIS. At any time of Washington and Brussels’ choosing, they could also expose and dismantle the global network of madrases both nations – with the cooperation of Western intelligence agencies – use to fill the ranks of terrorist organizations like ISIS and Al Qaeda.

    “Instead, the West covertly assists Saudi Arabia and Qatar in expanding and directing these terrorist networks – using them as a proxy mercenary force and a ready-made pretext for military intervention abroad and as a constant means of dividing and distracting the public at home.

    “Were the state sponsors of terrorism fully exposed and removed from the equation, the United States and its European allies would find themselves deployed across the planet, engaged in regime change operations, invasions, and occupations without any credible casus belli.

    “With the US and its allies determined to reassert and maintain global hegemony everywhere from the Middle East and North Africa to Central and East Asia, the manufactured threat of state sponsored terrorism – sponsored by the West’s oldest and closest Arab allies and the West itself – will persist for years to come.”

  18. Abe
    December 29, 2016 at 9:08 pm

    Swedish conflict analyst and peace researcher Jan Oberg was recently in Aleppo’s Hanano district, its Old Town and in the Shaykh Najjar Industrial City during the liberation of Aleppo from four years of occupation by Al-Qaeda terrorist forces.

    Oberg is the co-founder of the Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research (TFF) based in Lund, Sweden. Established in 1986, TFF is an all-volunteer global network promoting conflict-mitigation and reconciliation through meticulous on-the-ground research, active listening, education and advocacy.

    Aleppo residents spoke of the horror under “rebel” rule, where civilians were prevented, sometimes killed, when trying to flee “rebel” controlled areas.

    Oberg vivid photographs and account of liberated Aleppo can be viewed at
    https://janoberg.exposure.co/humans-in-liberated-aleppo

    Oberg saw no massacres, no sign of the White Helmets that had been so celebrated in Western media, and no sign of Western aid convoys that Western governments had earlier insisted on:

    “Big resourceful Western media had left Aleppo – BBC for instance. Reuters reported about Aleppo from Beirut and Berlin.

    “The lack of compassion, of interest in the human story is mind-boggling. The people you have met above were not worth one percent of the attention – it was all paid to “the regime”, to the terrorists and to NATO countries and their allies.

    “They stayed away because the event, the liberation of Aleppo, could not be reported within the narrative they had uniformly built during five years by repeating monotonously the simplifying stories – if not propaganda – the large US/Western corporate news bureaus and media produced.”

  19. Brad Benson
    December 30, 2016 at 8:02 am

    Obama was always in over his head. The Neo-Cons and Neo-Liberal Interventionists made him look foolish. He was completely blind-sided when Victoria Nuland pulled off the Ukraine Coup and was also poorly informed in regard to what the CIA was doing in Syria. Along the way, he also authorized and conducted the extra-judicial murder of American Citizens, thus paving the way for such constitutionally unauthorized murders in the future.

    In the end, Obama was nothing more than another stinking WAR CRIMINAL and MASS MURDERER.

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