How Clinton Defeat Derailed Syrian War

Hawkish think tanks had laid plans for escalating the U.S. “regime change” war in Syria after Hillary Clinton’s expected election, but a different result has forced them to repackage their scheme, says Gareth Porter.

By Gareth Porter

A new coalition of US-based organizations is pushing for a more aggressive U.S. intervention against the Assad regime. But both the war in Syria and politics in the United States have shifted dramatically against this objective.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressing the AIPAC conference in Washington D.C. on March 21, 2016. (Photo credit: AIPAC)

When it was formed last July, the coalition hoped that a Hillary Clinton administration would pick up its proposals for a more forward stance in support of the anti-Assad armed groups. But with Donald Trump in office instead, the supporters of a U.S. war in Syria now have little or no chance of selling the idea.

One of the ways the group is adjusting to the new political reality is to package its proposal for deeper U.S. military engagement on behalf of U.S.-supported armed groups as part of a plan to counter Al Qaeda, now calling itself Jabhat Fateh al Sham.

But that rationale depends on a highly distorted presentation of the problematic relations between Syria’s supposedly “moderate” rebel groups and Al Qaeda’s Syrian offshoot.

The “Combating al-Qaeda in Syria Strategy Group” was formed last July by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), according to the policy paper distributed at an event at the Atlantic Council on Jan. 12.

The “Strategy Group” also includes Charles Lister of the Middle East Institute and Jennifer Cafarella of the Institute for the Study of War, both of whom have advocated direct U.S. military force against the Syrian regime in support of the armed opposition.

But it was CNAS that had the political clout to bring the coalition together under what appeared to be very favorable circumstances. Michele Flournoy, the founder and CEO of CNAS and a former third-ranking Pentagon official, was reported to be Clinton’s likely choice for Secretary of Defense during the 2016 presidential primaries. And the June 2016 report of a CNAS “study group” co-chaired by Flournoy was in line with Clinton’s openly declared support for a more muscular US intervention in Syria.

That report had called for a U.S.-declared “no bombing zone” to protect armed opposition groups, vetted by the CIA, from Syrian and Russian attacks. Flournoy had then described the policy in an interview as telling the Russian and Syrian governments: “If you bomb the folks we support, we will retaliate using standoff means to destroy [Russian] proxy forces, or, in this case, Syrian assets.”

Expecting a Clinton Victory

The new coalition of think tanks began meeting last summer when the politics in the United States seemed favorable for a political campaign for U.S. military intervention in Syria.

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]

On Sept. 30, Lister published a lengthy essay calling on the United States to provide shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles to ”moderate” opposition groups as well as to threaten attacks on the Syrian army if it violated the ceasefire. Lister was obviously hoping that President Clinton would adopt that policy option a few months later.

Now the new strategy group is trying to sell the same proposal to Trump, calling it “a holistic, preventative counter-terrorism policy that empowers moderate Syrians … to overcome extremists in Syria.” It argues that Al Qaeda is seeking to gain control over areas now controlled by “moderate” forces in order to establish “an enduring Sunni extremist order in Syria.”

But the argument that these armed groups, which the U.S. has supported in the past, would be prepared to resist Al Qaeda’s long-term caliphate with more money and arms and U.S. bombing of Assad’s air force, is too divorced from reality to have traction in Washington now. In fact, the so-called “moderate” armed groups have never been truly independent of Al Qaeda in Syria. They have depended on the highly disciplined troops of Al Qaeda and its closest allies and the military strategy devised by Al Qaeda commanders to pressure the Assad regime.

Lister himself has been clear on this point. Under his proposed plan for the United States to use the threat of military force against the regime, the CIA-vetted “moderate” armed opposition groups were not expected to end their military cooperation with Al Qaeda’s Fateh al-Sham or to separate themselves physically from its forces, as had been provided in both the February and September ceasefire agreements.

Lister stated explicitly his assumption that such cooperation was “unlikely to diminish significantly” – even if his proposal were to be carried out. Rather, the idea of Lister’s plan was to force negotiations on the Assad regime. That aim would still obviously have required the continued military power of Fateh al-Sham and its close ally, Ahrar al-Sham, to succeed.

Lister and his fellow coalition members are not likely to be able to sell the new administration on the idea that any of the Syrian armed groups the CIA has supported would even consider seriously resisting Fateh al-Sham under any remotely believable circumstances.

Syrian Army: The Only Alternative?

Washington Post columnist David Ignatius recently recalled meeting with leaders of Harakat al-Hazm, considered the most promising “moderate” armed group in Syria, at a safehouse in Turkey in late 2014. He found them “despondent” because the United States had just carried out a rare air strike on Al Qaeda operatives believed to be plotting a terrorist attack on the West.

Journalist James Foley shortly before he was executed by an Islamic State operative.

They told Ignatius that, because of the U.S. bombing what was then called the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda would no longer tolerate their own group’s operations. Soon after the meeting, the Nusra Front did indeed eliminate Harakat al-Hazm and appropriate all the TOW missiles and other military equipment the CIA had given them.

The Ignatius account reflects a fundamental reality throughout northern Syria, from 2013 onwards, that was simply ignored in media coverage: all of the opposition groups have been absorbed into an Al Qaeda-controlled political-military order. The idea that the “moderate” groups could be a bulwark against Al Qaeda, which is now being peddled by Lister, Cafarella and CNAS, no longer has any credibility even in those quarters in Washington that were once open to it.

A tell-tale sign of the shift in attitude toward those groups’ mood in Washington is the fact that Ignatius used the past tense in referring to the CIA’s program of arming the “moderate” groups in Syria in his article last month.

The U.S. military leadership was never on board with the policy of relying on those armed groups to advance U.S. interests in Syria in the first place. It recognized that, despite the serious faults of the Assad regime, the Syrian army was the only Syrian institution committed to resisting both Al Qaeda and Islamic State.

It seems likely that the Trump administration will now return to that point as it tries to rebuild a policy from the ashes of the failed policy of the Obama administration.

Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and winner of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for journalism. He is the author of Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare. [This article originally appeared at Middle East Eye at http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/syrian-army-only-option-us-if-it-wants-fight-terror-1775504124]

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40 comments for “How Clinton Defeat Derailed Syrian War

  1. D5-5
    January 22, 2017 at 12:29 pm

    This is the first I’ve seen on how the Syria conflict turned hopeful in East Aleppo, coinciding almost exactly with the election of Trump. Strong, valuable reporting.

  2. Tom Welsh
    January 22, 2017 at 1:15 pm

    “Rather, the idea of Lister’s plan was to force negotiations on the Assad regime”.

    I think you meant to say “…to force negotiations on the Syrian government”. Unless you are prepared to refer systematically to “the Obama regime”, “the Bush II regime”, “the Bush I regime”, “the Clinton regime”, etc.

    And why should the US government or anyone else force negotiations with vicious, merciless terrorists on the legitimately elected government of a sovereign nation? Maybe the US government should “be forced to negotiate” with the people who committed 9/11. That would be a similar proposition.

  3. Mark Thomason
    January 22, 2017 at 1:18 pm

    Well done report.

    It could also mention the way the Syria war was being spun up in anticipation of Hillary, and how that suddenly changed inside the Obama Admin after the election, within the first week or two.

  4. Joe L.
    January 22, 2017 at 1:30 pm

    What I find particularly scary is all of the behind the scenes, shadowy, think tanks that run or dramatically influence US Foreign Policy and I would be willing to bet that the average American probably has no idea that this happens regularly. The Project for a New American Century seems to have been particularly chilling especially when I heard US 4-star General Wesley Clark speak of the plan, in 2007, to attack 7 countries throughout the Middle East for regime change in the US’ geopolitical interests. Overall, I am not a fan of Trump, but I do hope that he makes a dramatic turn away from these military adventures in the world and instead uses diplomacy. At the same time, I am astonished that people look on Obama so glowingly considering he dramatically expanded the wars (and he won a “peace” prize?), he used draconian (outdated) laws to crack down on whistleblowers instead of the go after the people who did the crimes to begin with, he did not close Guantanamo Bay, he did not go after the people that caused the crash in 2007/2008 but instead catered to the richest meanwhile largely ignoring the rest of his citizens (Detroit, Flint?), and I also believe that he cracked down on immigrants etc. If history is fair then Obama will be written as a bad President, though if the US Government (and mainstream media) have their way then any criticisms will simply be “censored” as it seems they are attempting to do now. As for “Fake News”, the main source that I see is the US Government (and mainstream media) whom have a very LONG list of lies (Gulf of Tonkin anyone?) – how many Iraqis or Vietnamese etc. are now dead because of the FAKE NEWS from the United States? Personally, after the “cheerleading” for the Iraq War, I want to be able to look at all sources of news whether that be Telesur from South America, PressTV from Iran, RT from Russia, Democracy Now!, the Intercept, Consortium News along with the mainstream media to allow me to “make up my own mind” on how I choose to view this world and what is happening in it.

    • Realist
      January 22, 2017 at 9:22 pm

      Well said.

    • Joe Tedesky
      January 22, 2017 at 10:17 pm

      Joe L you said a mouth full. In fact I wish I had written your comment myself, so good on you. Joe

    • Regina Schulte
      January 23, 2017 at 1:26 pm

      Hear! Hear!

    • Abe
      January 23, 2017 at 10:54 pm

      Journalist Eva Bartlett notes that Democracy Now “gave prominent broadcasts supporting NATO’s intervention in Libya and justifying the criminal subversion of that country. Going by the latest coverage on Syria, Democracy Now is acting once again under a ‘progressive’ cloak as a propaganda tool for US-led imperialist intervention. Given the misplaced respect among many of the public seeking independent, alternative, accurate news and analysis, this insidious role of Democracy Now is reprehensible.”
      https://ingaza.wordpress.com/2015/05/31/cognitive-dissionance-on-democracy-now-read-this/

  5. Zachary Smith
    January 22, 2017 at 1:48 pm

    It seems likely that the Trump administration will now return to that point as it tries to rebuild a policy from the ashes of the failed policy of the Obama administration.

    I sincerely hope the author is correct with this conclusion, but since we’re into only the 3rd day of the Trump Administration I suggest we Wait And See.

    I’d also suggest that Trump begin correcting one of the Obama horrors – his bombing of the Syrian Army positions at Deir ez-Zor. At this point it doesn’t much matter whether Obama was a cynical murderer or a clueless & incompetent puppet of the warmongers – the damage was done and over 100,000 people are on the verge of falling victim to the ISIS head choppers.

    “As Encircled City Hangs by a Thread US Bombing Everything Except ISIS Fighters Attacking It “

    That Saint Obama was in one way or another responsible for this means to me the US ought to start using our Air Force to hit the ISIS attackers instead just pretending to do so. Call it an early test for Trump, for Holy Israel is sure going to want ISIS to win at Deir ez-Zor and everywhere else in Syria.

    http://russia-insider.com/en/usaf-busy-bombing-isis-oil-wells/ri18608

  6. GeorgyOrwell
    January 22, 2017 at 1:55 pm

    Included in this analysis is a photo of James Foley and Jihad John (the guy with the British accent….that should be your first clue, right there). This is the greatest example of staged phony fake propaganda, that a child should be able to see through.

    Before the so called execution, Jihad John gives a speech for the camera, explaining why he is going to cut this poor suckers head off. All the while Foley is silent, motionless and cooperative. He does not cry, plead, or in any way attempt to resist.

    After Jihad John gives his speech, amazingly Foley then gives his own speech (which follows my commentary).

    Let me ask you something? If you had a guy with a black hood standing over you, with a long knife, stating that he is about to cut your head off, your going to calmly give a speech?? Really?

    You’d be shitting in your pants, you’d be freaking out, begging, pleading, crying, thrashing around in an attempt to get away, or you’d be paralyzed and in a state of shock, one or the other. But you would certainly NOT be calmly giving a speech! How fake and phony and staged does this have to be?? And of course, in the speech he denounces his country.

    Foley’s fake phony speech: ask yourself if any of this has the ring of truth to it.

    The last words of James Foley:

    I call on my friends, family, and loved ones to rise up against my real killers, the US government. For what will happen to me is only a result of their complacency and criminality.

    My message to my beloved parents, save me some dignity, and don’t accept some meagre compensation, for my death, from the same people who effectively hit the last nail in my coffin with their recent aerial campaign in Iraq.

    I call on my brother John, who is a member of the US air force. Think about what you are doing, think about the lives you destroy, including those of your own family. I call on you John, think about who made the decision to bomb Iraq recently and kill those people, whoever they may have been. Think John, who did they really kill? And did they think about me, you, our family when they made that decision?

    I died that day John, when your colleagues dropped that bomb on those people they signed my death certificate. I wish I had more time. I wish I could have the hope of freedom and seeing my family once again. But that ship has sailed. I guess all in all I wish I wasn’t American.

    • Bill Bodden
      January 22, 2017 at 2:40 pm

      Let me ask you something? If you had a guy with a black hood standing over you, with a long knife, stating that he is about to cut your head off, your going to calmly give a speech?? Really?

      You’d be shitting in your pants, you’d be freaking out, begging, pleading, crying,

      That’s conventional wisdom, a convention that often gets it wrong. There are many examples of people retaining some dignity during their final moments before execution. Mary, Queen of Scots, reportedly admonished her axe-wielding executioner to do a clean job with one stroke. More recently, “On the morning of his execution on Monday, June 11th, 2001 Timothy McVeigh didn’t speak but instead communicated through a poem which was read aloud at the press conference after his death.” – http://www.orwelltoday.com/invictus.shtml

    • Joe Tedesky
      January 22, 2017 at 10:34 pm

      While I don’t have any proof that James Foley’s execution is fake or real, I do have reservations about the publicity that his brutal death received. Why was this video allowed to show? Don’t get me wrong I’m not at all for censorship, but where are the John McCain films, and his radio speeches, that were made while he was held captive by the Viet Cong? If showing such films, such as Foley’s was a way to rally the troops, and encourage civilian support, then why wasn’t John McCain on the evening news while he was held captive way back when. Also, since we don’t pay ransom fees, why give the enemy any of this free publicity? Correct me if I’m wrong on this, maybe I am overlooking something here. No doubt Jihad John used a CIA supplied knive to do his evil deed.

    • William Heron
      January 23, 2017 at 4:54 am

      This was not the first, second or third time the execution had been staged. The way IS kept people calm was to tell them it was a mock for propaganda purposes and do it many times. This kept the victim calm until the time they lopped his head off.

    • Emma Young
      January 24, 2017 at 1:26 am

      They brainwashed and taunted Foley and all of their captives. They would do fake video recordings, which got them relaxed to the point that when they actually did behead him, he thought it was another fake video. There was testimony to this from someone who had escaped from ISIS.

  7. James lake
    January 22, 2017 at 4:08 pm

    How on earth does Obamas reputation remain in tact?

    The policies described here should never have even crossed the minds of people who claim to believe in international law.

    Obama facilitated the rise of terrorists in Africa and the Middle East that went on to attack Europe.

    The media has been obamas greatest asset in covering up his disatrous legacy and demonising other government leaders to make obama look good.

    The women marching against Trump – who hasn’t even started yet/ are completely oblivious to the reality of the last 8 years.
    Those women children that have been killed don’t matter obviously.

    It truly is a crazy world we are living in. The media is a disgrace

    • Realist
      January 22, 2017 at 9:37 pm

      How? There are a million guys around the world working at “Memory Hole” stations just like Winston Smith did. The people only hear the “sanitized” version of the news from Wolf Blitzer, the Washington Post and the New York Times that serves the American Deep State. Apparently, the Deep State is not sure that President Trump is willing to play the game with them and so they have slandered him to the Moon and back, prepping the people for domestic regime change. We shall see.

      What I don’t understand is how the Deep State finds a world reduced to nuclear rubble preferable to the one we still have, or, short of that, a significant percentage of the world’s population under the despotic control of fanatical jihadist headchoppers with those maniacs making considerable inroads on colonizing the European land mass and displacing the local cultures, religions and value systems, because one can clearly see the trends and end results if the scenarios favored by these neocon “think” tanks play out.

      • Kiza
        January 23, 2017 at 12:07 am

        Well written as usual, Realist.

        Let me try to answer the rhetorical question you pose which perplexed me as well – “…how the Deep State finds a world reduced to nuclear rubble preferable to the one we still have…”

        I believe that the answer lies in two points:
        1) the majority of the Deep Staters are psychopaths who care only about having it their way, i.e. winning; the billions of our piddly little lives are a small price to pay to bring them to the top, even if the top is on a rubble hip, and
        2) the Deep Staters believe that the nuclear war is survivable, at least for them in the underground bunkers, that nuclear bombs are just very, very large bombs, but only just bombs, that nuclear radiation is something they can protect themselves against.

        Both are most dangerous delusions of sick minds deep in groupthink. A rational and sane mind would never come even close to considering a nuclear war. I can understand people wanting to develop nuclear weapons to dominate others, an old human desire, but the moment their opponents got them too, then the whole World should have immediately nuclear disarmed. When multiple parties have nuclear weapons, winning is not possible any more – winning becomes a totally irrational concept.

        I am sure somebody wrote this better than I just did.

      • Bepe
        January 24, 2017 at 5:21 pm

        “What I don’t understand is how the Deep State finds a world reduced to nuclear rubble preferable to the one we still have, …”.

        Yes, that is the ultimate question isn’t it? That sort of goes along with the Corporate question of if you have no jobs for the majority of people, who will buy your goods? They seem to go hand in hand and possibly that is the problem. If these people running the “Deep State” are incapable of distinguishing between success and failure and have developed some type of insensitivity to rational thought because they have so much control and money, why would they even care about using nuclear as an option if it would grant them more power in their minds? That added power would constitute success and more privilege in their minds and obfuscate any hope of sanity. These people are truly crazy and blinded by their power and narcissism, much like Trump! Sad and difficult times are ahead!

    • Fred Hewitt
      January 23, 2017 at 9:54 pm

      Terrorists in the Middle East! Would you include those of the Israeli State?

  8. Adrian Engler
    January 22, 2017 at 5:57 pm

    The position of organizations like CNAS that the United States should support “moderate rebels” and that this can be sold to the public as a measure for combatting Al Qaeda is obviously absurd, and if was followed by the US government, this would be detrimental both for people in Syria and for the credibility of the United States.
    What would be these “moderate rebels”? Perhaps radical Islamists like Nour al-Din al-Zenki, a group the United States has supported before?
    Even if we assume that in the future, they would not be directly allied with Al Qaeda (Jabhat Fateh al-Sham), even if we recognize that the Syrian government is autocratic and responsible for human rights violations (in the past, with “renditions” sometimes together with the CIA), if would be very hard to argue that Jihadist militias like Nour al-Din al-Zenki are more “moderate”, pro-democratic and in favor of human rights than the Syrian government. Furthermore, it is, of course, very likely that weapons given to groups like this would end up benefiting Al Qaeda – either because the additional weapons would lead these groups to stop adhering to the ceasefire and renew their alliance with Al Qaeda or because Al Qaeda could easily capture these weapons from them.
    What should be the goal? If these Islamist militias are supported to such a degree that they can topple the Syrian government (which seems less and less likely, Russia and Iran would attempt to prevent this), the most likely outcome is a terror regime by Wahhabi extremists or perhaps chaos like in Libya. Otherwise, if these groups have no chance of winning the war, the main effect of US support is to lessen their readiness to adhere to the ceasefire and prolonging the war – hardly something that can be in the interest of people in Syria.
    For the influence and respect of the United States in the Middle East, such policies probably would also be very detrimental. From what I know from some bloggers, public opinion in the Arab is much more divided as to the situation in Syria than Western mass media. While in Western mass media, it was quite difficult to find something else than strong rejection of Russia and the Syrian government, this is quite different in the Arab world – some also support the “rebels”, but many oppose them and the reaction to Russia is not as unequivocally negative as in Western mass media. If the United States went on attempting to sabotage the ceasefire in Syria and to support Islamist extremists, this would, of course be appreciated by the rulers in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, but it could be very bad for the reputation of the United States among moderates in the Arab world (which does not seem to be too good, anyway).

    • Realist
      January 23, 2017 at 3:23 am

      The quandary you present is, I think, why Pepe Escobar christened the United States the “Empire of Chaos.” It is willing to wage war indefinitely even if victory is not possible. If America would accept an end point of victory or defeat, there could eventually be stability in the world, if not controlled by America then controlled by the local inhabitants or some other powerful state to which they are a client. But, as things stand, if America cannot have total victory, the world cannot have stability and so carnage and chaos must continue.

      Moreover, it is essentially futile to try to make a deal with the United States, since it feels no compunction to keep its word. Did you not think, like everyone else in the world, that Obama had made a deal to finally normalize relations with Cuba after nearly sixty years of conflict and embargoes? Surprise, turns out there are still hoops that Cuba is expected to jump through to receive Washington’s grace. Is it not surprising that Iran is consternated about Washington abiding by the agreements made in the nuclear weapons treaty, especially since the USA has still not lifted the economic sanctions as promised? Not only does Washington want to remain untrustworthy and duplicitous on the battlefield, but in the diplomatic chambers as well. In short, they can never be trusted… because the people who rule it think “that’s what makes America great!” I wouldn’t trust the likes of Hillary Clinton or John Kerry to give me the correct time of day.

      • Kiza
        January 26, 2017 at 2:55 am

        They create their own reality, Realist. Just like another gang member, Karl Rove, said. In their new reality facts do not matter, only their decisions and words do.

        Nice that you pointed out that US is still failing to abide by the Iran and Cuba deals it signed, whilst holding both countries to their side of the “bargain”. Most countries know this already: Never listen to US words or signatures, only its actions.

  9. MaDarby
    January 22, 2017 at 6:19 pm

    Can we please dispense with armed opposition in Syria which is “moderate” or anything of the kind? The armed groups in Syria which are trying to overthrow Assade are ISIS and other terrorists organizations which are fully supported by Saudi Arabia Qatar and especially the US which is funding and arming ISIS and protecting ISIS from Russia and those fighting terrorist groups.

    Want to know who the terrorists are? USA USA USA #1 in global terror.

    • Joe Tedesky
      January 22, 2017 at 10:50 pm

      Yeah, John Kerry’s commitment to enforce a ‘moderate rebel’ ceasefire didn’t go over so well, because there were no moderates to find. It’s all one big scripted lie, and making up stuff as they go.

      • Realist
        January 23, 2017 at 3:34 am

        At one point in the history of that conflict Obama himself said that it wasn’t possible to find as many as “five moderate rebels” in the entire country. That was after he made the deal with Putin and Assad and seemed to want to keep America out of yet another Middle Eastern armed conflict. That was before the neocons intimidated him into overtly supporting the headchoppers and rechristening them as “moderates,” after Russia came to the aid of Assad. We know now that they were always supported behind the scenes, in fact created, armed, trained and paid by the intelligence community which claims President Trump is naive and misguided to want peace. Yeah, Joe, it’s all ad hoc and reality can change from one day to the next, but, as a loyal American, you’re not supposed to be smart enough or well-informed enough to notice.

        • Joe Tedesky
          January 23, 2017 at 11:18 am

          Oh come on now Realist, duh..everyone knows the Mooslims are bad people, and that our CIA wouldn’t ever back such creeps…right??? Wait I need to replay my Lee Greenwood record again…okay, now let me tell you that if Rush says it, then it has to be true. Why even that stupid Rachel who looks like a boy says Putin is bad, so there you libtard. I’m red, white, and blue, what are you?

          I can’t go on, but I think I know what you mean about the poorly informed. Still we need to respect these types, and when possible try to get them better informed. With that last statement I will yield the comment board over to someone who may say something in much better way.

          Take care Realist Joe

    • Emma Young
      January 24, 2017 at 1:31 am

      You are exactly right MaDarby.
      .

  10. backwardsevolution
    January 22, 2017 at 6:22 pm

    Gareth – good article. Thank you. The only part I disagree with is this:

    “The U.S. military leadership was never on board with the policy of relying on those armed groups to advance U.S. interests in Syria in the first place. It recognized that, despite the serious faults of the Assad regime, the Syrian army was the only Syrian institution committed to resisting both Al Qaeda and Islamic State.”

    I think the U.S. military leadership was TOTALLY on board with using these groups to advance their interests in Syria. I have read article after article that has stated the U.S. did NOT bomb ISIS positions, but Syrian Army positions, thereby enabling ISIS to regroup. The U.S. has not bombed the ISIS tanker trucks filled with stolen oil that was heading to Turkey. The U.S. has gone out of its way to facilitate ISIS. As Tulsi Gabbard said, the U.S. has been training, funding and arming ISIS (or the so-called moderates).

    If the U.S. could have walked into Syria, grabbed Assad and strangled him to death, they would have. This has not been a civil war in Syria. This has been another Ukraine, Libya, another attempted overthrow of an elected government. As General Wesley Clark said, this is the U.S.’s attempt to “take out seven countries in five years”.

    So, no, the U.S. has not been helping the Syrian Army. They’ve been doing everything but. Look to Israel’s influence on the U.S. government here.

    Thanks, Gareth.

  11. Stefan
    January 22, 2017 at 6:56 pm

    ‘Think Tanks’ is just a euphemism for the Deep State – which is loyal to Tel Aviv

  12. MrK
    January 22, 2017 at 7:53 pm

    “It seems likely that the Trump administration will now return to that point as it tries to rebuild a policy from the ashes of the failed policy of the Obama administration.”

    Failed, or stalled? Remember that the voices of his Secretary of State and her backers were for a no-fly-zone, which he resisted. President Obama said no to a military escalation in the South China Sea against North Korea. And against outright arming of the illegal, fascist/nazi riddled government in Kiev, which Clinton and her Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, also supported.

    http://www.newyorker.com/news/john-cassidy/what-sort-of-foreign-policy-hawk-is-hillary-clinton

    “during the administration’s internal deliberations over Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, she consistently supported the most interventionist option that was on the table. Even in dealing with China, she favored a robust approach. In 2010, after the North Korean military sank a South Korean navy vessel, she supported a Pentagon proposal to send a U.S. aircraft carrier into the Yellow Sea, which lies between North Korea and China, telling her aides, “We’ve got to run it up the gut!””

    • Bill Bodden
      January 22, 2017 at 9:08 pm

      Good link. Thank you.

    • backwardsevolution
      January 23, 2017 at 2:37 am

      MrK – I think Obama did the best he could with what he had. He had the glow, but not the blow. That’s why TPTB chose him. The U.S. at this point needs someone who is hard-as-nails tough.

  13. exiled off mainstreet
    January 23, 2017 at 1:31 am

    They must think Trump is pretty stupid to keep this going. Tulsi Gabbard’s recent visit to Syria talking to Syrian government figures might help Trump if she reports back to him. She is the best Democratic candidate for 2020.

    • backwardsevolution
      January 23, 2017 at 2:31 am

      exiled – I like Tulsi Gabbard a lot. She is genuine. Part of me hopes she would run for President, but part of me hopes she never does because I think it would absolutely kill her, especially with the Deep State. She seems so fine a person, it would probably snap her in half.

  14. January 23, 2017 at 1:46 am

    While I certainly respect Gareth Porter and many of the thoughtful persons who have commented, I would like to throw in a consideration which seems to escape the attention of USA-centric writers and observers. That consideration is the deftness of Russian foreign policy under Foreign Minister Lavrov. Yes, the USA’s regime-change crusade was wrong on every level, and, yes, no one should underestimate the nefarious roles of Jerusalem and Riyadh, but there are many observers outside the USA (and I am one of them) who see Obama, Kerry et al as having been thoroughly out-thought and out-manoeuvred by Lavrov, Putin, and their Iranian allies.

    It started to go wrong for the USA as far back as the spring of 2011 when Obama and many others started to call on Assad to go. Without going into detail, the USA started out by rejecting the basic premises of the UN Charter and left the field clear for Russia later to claim the high moral (and international law) ground by coming to the aid of the legitimate government of Syria.

    It can be very instructive, for an open mind, to read Putin’s speech to the UN General Assembly in 2015. That speech was virtually ignored, or worse, by the MSM in the USA but I am guessing that it resonated well in most of the world.

  15. Hank
    January 23, 2017 at 11:34 am

    Great Article, but I fear the deep state is still in control and while plans are delayed the “hope” lies with the Trump “team” remaining objective in their views and not falling for faulty intelligence reports.

  16. rosemerry
    January 24, 2017 at 4:51 pm

    It is interesting with all the widespread hand-wringing about the future under the Trump, to remember what could have been, and it would not be good. The one thing some of us hoped if the Queen of Chaos actually lost was that perhaps WW3 would be averted.
    Seeing the women highly placed in the Obama peace administration (!) like Hillary, Susan Rice, Samantha Power, Victoria Nuland, Michele Flournoy makes me wonder about the loudly expressed desire for women to be treated equally and with respect. Are these typical of the vast strides that would have been made under a Clinton Administration?

  17. Stefan
    January 27, 2017 at 8:01 am

    Oh please, give it up already, it is getting boring.
    Like a broken record that never get the facts straight.
    It is nauseating.
    You probably know nothing about Assad. I speak fluent arabic, I have been to the country, and neighbouring countries. I know people who live there, I have talked to them in person. I have seen what the carnage and lies of the neocon does to countries firsthand.

    You should be ashamed of yourself of parroting war mongering propaganda. Either you know nothing of the facts, or you are willfully ignorant.
    Whichever is very bad.

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