Settling for a No-Win in Syria

President Trump likes to talk about “winning” but some situations, like the Syrian war, offer only no-win outcomes, but that can be better than some alternatives, says ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar.

By Paul R. Pillar

Six years into one of the most complex, many-sided civil wars in modern times, Syria has almost no chance of being made whole any time in the foreseeable future. The Assad regime, aided by allies, has pushed back from the brink of what many had thought, just a couple of years ago, would be its extinction. But although the regime is not going to expire, neither can it — despite bravado assertions by President Bashir Assad — recapture the significant amount of territory held by diverse opposition elements.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Syria appears stuck with the variegated map that has become familiar to followers of the war, in which the regime controls the heavily populated western spine of the country, including its largest cities, while assorted others control the remainder.

The interests of the Syrian regime’s most important ally — Russia — are a key determinant of this stalemate. Russia has succeeded, at a cost acceptable to it, in achieving its objectives of shoring up its only client regime in the Middle East, securing its modest naval and air presence in the country, and demonstrating that it still is a player to be reckoned with in that part of the world.

Moscow has an interest in not having those accomplishments erased. To try to do more than that, with a sweeping rollback of remaining opposition positions in Syria, would start to entail unacceptable costs to the Russians. Attempting to own all of Syria, à la Afghanistan in the 1980s, is not in Russia’s interest.

Similar calculations apply to the Assad regime’s other external backer, Iran. The Iranian-Syrian alliance never was a marriage of love but instead began as a response to the antagonism of their mutual adversary in between: the Iraqi Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein. Iran’s interests in maintaining a position in this part of the Levant have outlasted Saddam’s regime, but those interests do not imply a need for an ally that controls all of Syria. As with Russia, the costs needed to sustain more of a rollback of the Syrian opposition would soon become unacceptably high.

From the perspective of the United States, there are no attractive players in this conflict, only degrees of unattractiveness. There never was any significant liberal democratic opposition in Syria, nor a basis for one. The notion that chances were lost for developing such an opposition is a myth of hypothetical history. The real history of many protracted, brutal internal wars demonstrates that the upper hand is gained by those with an appetite for brutality rather than moderation.

External Players

As for the external players, besides Russia and Iran those players include regimes that, although they may nominally be friends or allies of the United States, have involved themselves in the Syrian conflict for mostly unlaudable reasons. These include the sectarian prejudices and tolerance for Sunni extremism of the Saudi regime, and the paranoiac Kurd-bashing inclinations of the Erdogan government in Turkey.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Nov. 23, 2015 Tehran. (Photo from:

Recalcitrance that keeps this war going and has so far prevented a negotiated resolution of it is not to be found only on one side of the conflict. It is a mistake to assert that a key to resolution is to gain leverage over the Assad regime by punishing it further. Recalcitrance among internal opposition groups has been a match for recalcitrance on the part of the regime.

Nor does whatever can be described as destabilizing behavior exist only in one place, especially the place where discourse in the United States most likes to place it. Russia and Iran are supporting the incumbent regime — a regime that, counting Hafez as well as Bashir Assad, has been in power for 47 years. It is other players who have been attempting to upset a longstanding status quo.

Even if clearer identifications of good guys and bad could be made, the intersecting lines of conflict in Syria are so complex that it is almost impossible to pursue one objective without running afoul of another. The main quandary in this respect right now for the United States involves how to enlist the war-fighting prowess of a Kurdish militia to reduce further the territorial enclave of the so-called Islamic State or ISIS without worsening relations with Turkey, which regards that militia as an arm of an anti-Turkish terrorist group.

Reduction of the ISIS mini-state is where the familiar battle map of Syria is most likely to undergo change in the weeks ahead. The central focus has been capture of the de facto ISIS capital of Raqqa. But when — and it’s when, not if — Raqqa falls is less important than what is left behind after it falls. The importance of a distant territorial enclave to terrorist threats in the West has always been overstated, and ISIS, even before losing Raqqa, already appears to be placing greater emphasis on violent clandestine operations abroad that do not depend on possession of any such enclave.

How much unsettled conflict and chaos is left behind in that part of Syria after Raqqa falls will determine how fertile a field it will be for breeding additional extremism, whether under the ISIS label or some other label.

The makers of U.S. policy should bear in mind how little stake the United States has in specific outcomes in Syria, beyond the concern with exportable extremism and political violence (and they should remember that even ISIS was exported from Iraq, where it was born under a different name as a consequence of the U.S. invasion and occupation).

Avoidance of situations that risk sucking the United States into a larger military clash will be important. A sample of the risks of such escalation recently occurred when U.S. forces attacked a pro-regime militia, said to be supported by Iran, when it got what the U.S. military regarded as uncomfortably close to an installation that U.S. forces use in southern Syria.

No Good Case 

There is no good case for U.S. escalation in Syria. It would increase the danger of further, unwanted, escalation. Given the nature of the current stalemate in the main part of the civil war, such escalation would be unlikely to move the needle regarding the shape of an eventual political settlement. And U.S. interests would be little affected even if the needle did move.

Map of Syria.

Right now, U.S. policy should focus more on post-Raqqa than on the capture of Raqqa. The minimization of chaos and conflict in the space vacated by ISIS is partly a matter of carefully shaping military activity on the ground and partly a matter of making full use of the available diplomatic channels, as disjointed as those channels may seem.

The U.N.-sponsored Geneva process has been unproductive so far in terms of yielding any agreements with lasting effect, but it is the forum where any real peace agreement will have to be signed. Russia, Turkey and Iran have had a parallel process at Astana that produced an agreement on “de-escalation zones,” which left many unanswered questions, especially regarding the posture of the internal Syrian opposition toward such zones. But it is worthwhile for the United States to explore, as it may already be doing with the Russians, how this plan might be used as a basis for further de-escalation.

The United States should accept a fractured Syria for an indefinite future. Frozen conflicts aren’t always bad, and in this case frozen would be better than unfrozen. Such a preliminary outcome could bring some relief from the suffering in Syria without the parties having to relinquish formally their farther-reaching aspirations. It also could be a way station to an eventual settlement that involves a highly decentralized Syria in which different communities would feel more confident about controlling their own affairs.

Meanwhile the Trump administration needs to discard its penchant for regarding every outcome in terms of wins and losses. So regarded, when you have a no-win situation such as Syria, that means the only possible outcome is a loss. And even when parties we don’t like suffer a loss, that does not necessarily help U.S. interests.

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.)

56 comments for “Settling for a No-Win in Syria

  1. UIA
    June 15, 2017 at 09:01

    We’re going no-wine on that.

    The Putin Crimea wine plan isn’t working for anybody now. They still think it’s working. VA threat is the no-shine plan, so get a bottle, jar, jug or a case. Hell, get a whole distillery. It’s better to trade with than cash. Set up a MASH unit and cook in tents.

  2. UIA
    June 14, 2017 at 15:44

    The whole air strike op was like the old Ben Buzzard comic. Millions to pound sand and junk. World leader pretend REM tune nails it.
    Fixed fortifications are monuments to the stupidity of man. We have a monument ready for them. Sanford and Son must be planning the missions. Comin’ to join you Lizabeth. Give Russia the details for future missions. Silence of The Press is going swimmingly.
    Comey is no lamb!

    I keep throwing them 7’s, playing with loaded dice. Makes playing with a loaded glass the best option. Take the fifth!

  3. Martin Miller
    June 12, 2017 at 12:11

    Assad and any near future Syrain head of state can work with the Kurds – will have to actually. But the Kurds aren’t liable to risk everything fighting the SAA one ISIS is eliminated. Their future post-US involvement is going to heavily depend on the neutral will of Syria and Iraq. Lacking a good reason to draw them in, the Kurds finally have a state of their own.

    The entire rest of the country will eventually be consolidated back under Damascus government – short of the US actively engaging the SAA on a large scale. The recent link up with the Iraqi border is a huge step toward containing US plans.

  4. jimbo
    June 11, 2017 at 02:48

    “The Russian General Staff said that the civil war in Syria has almost stopped. Political analyst Karine Gevorgyan suggested that this could pave the way for the constitutional process in the country.”

  5. June 10, 2017 at 19:58

    We don’t need to “WIN” in Syria. What the hell were we doing there in the first place.

  6. jimbo
    June 10, 2017 at 04:58

    Ideally the US should ally itself with Russia and aid the Syrian army to defeat ISIS. That done, Syria and Israel need to do a Camp David and work shit out.

    • June 11, 2017 at 01:18

      @ Jimbo: “That done, Syria and Israel need to do a Camp David and work shit out.”

      Since when did Israel ever work things out with anyone? What needs to happen is for Israel to obey international law and withdraw from the Golan. If it won’t, the U.N. Security Council needs to approve an Article VII resolution with teeth to force Israel out, by military force if necessary.

  7. Herman
    June 9, 2017 at 21:37

    “The United States should accept a fractured Syria for an indefinite future.” A fractured Syria was what most who supported the war against Assad were always after. Funny thing about language, how it shapes thinking and actions. Why did we begin calling it a civil war when Assad opposition was financed outside Syria and the most effective opposition is made up of mercenaries paid to overthrow Assad.

    Of course the United States should not accept things as they are but support efforts to create a united Syria. But it will not because we would prefer chaos if the only other option was a Syria united under Assad. In violation of our own principles, we refuse to allow the Syria people decide who their leaders shall be. We know who that would be.

  8. June 9, 2017 at 17:05


  9. Nazem Mahayni
    June 9, 2017 at 12:48

    I am so thrilled with this analysis . It is so realistic and handled the issues professionally and realistically.

  10. June 9, 2017 at 12:41

    A fractured Syria still satisfies Israel, which is what the neocons want, fractured ME nations.

  11. rosemerry
    June 9, 2017 at 11:21

    “The makers of U.S. policy should bear in mind how little stake the United States has in specific outcomes in Syria,”

    If only the USA would accept that this applies to so much of the destruction and misery it inflicts all over the globe.
    Do not interfere unless you really are in danger!!!!

  12. Bill Goldman
    June 9, 2017 at 06:32

    The US bombing of pro Assad forces near Raqqa ignores the “de-escalation zones” established at Astana by Russia, Turkey, and Iran and turned “deconfliction zones” into “no-fly zones”. Syrian sovereignty is meaningless to US battle plans.

  13. June 9, 2017 at 00:45

    This frozen war analysis seems to find and innocent end to matters – everyone swallows the bitter pill. But that is not the truth.

    Frozen wars are a win for the US. It wasn’t their first goal but it is their current goal. But the truth is that there is nothing they can do to ‘stabilize’ the Eastern desert of Syria any more than they are capable of ‘stabilizing’ Iraq. If the US stays, the Syrians lose. US allies and their proxies will not fold and go away if the US stays, but they will be driven out if the US leaves because they do not pose an unacceptable risk to the Russians and Iranians. Only the US can do that. If the US leaves, the Syrians get their country back.

  14. June 8, 2017 at 20:37

    Mr Pillar. I think you are trying to paint a picture which is not at all real. The pax-amaericana agenda was to do exactly what you re suggesting. Hence like some of my fellow commenters have alluded it appears you are with the neo-cons/Washington Consensus. Better yet the great Empire of Chaos that they have managed to instill around multiple fronts in the world.
    Hence plausible deniability comes to mind hence you have entered the beloved axiom of the liberal interventionist and co of many flavours.. If you would do some solid research you would discover where we are in Syria was always thei intention I would suggest you look at the Brookings Institute paper of the late 80 and 90’s and also AIPAC and all the other military industrial complex lobby firms around the Potomac .

  15. June 8, 2017 at 19:50

    We do know about the Oded Yinon plan, but how to stop those in power from implementing it?

  16. Bill
    June 8, 2017 at 19:33

    Why do they want so badly for Assad to be gone? They aren’t letting us on to their reasons.

    • BannanaBoat
      June 9, 2017 at 17:40

      Syria is on the list of seven nations the Pentagon and NeoCons planned to destroy, as revealed by General Wesley Clarke shortly after 9/11 ( see YouTube). Iraq , Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Iran, Syria, Lebanon . All independent, mosly secular and socialist, some Russian allies, most where greater Isreal wants to be and almost all having fossils the USA wishes to control.

  17. Dr. Ibrahim Soudy
    June 8, 2017 at 18:47

    As long as the destruction of Syria and Iraq continues, America is doing its job just fine as described by the Zionist Jewish Neocons who set the agenda and run America like a machine…………..Please educate yourself about the Oded Yinon Plan…… long will it take for some people to learn.

  18. June 8, 2017 at 17:35

    Just as in the Obama administration, the neocon Ashton Carter orchestrated the war decisions, now with Trump it’s the Pentagon again, Mad Dog Mattis, just recently saying to media the policy is “total annihilation” in Raqqa. Leaflets are being dropped that civilians should leave and then when they do, they risk being killed. Washington dominates only through war and how much is being done for Israel? They have no plan other than the chaotic madness of war. Scary that Mad Dog has declared Iran “largest sponsor of terrorism” and now this attack in Iran. Something is heating up and feels dreadful to me.

  19. June 8, 2017 at 17:07

    I believe Syria along with a number of other countries is a victim of the West and its terrorist “allies” and Western trained Terrorists. See Article: The Evil Terrorists and The “Good” Terrorists with much more at link below.

    • BannanaBoat
      June 8, 2017 at 17:14

      USA has again bombed regular Syrian troops to allow a terrorist operation to succeed , this time Da-esh. This is a clear War Against the Peace , a capital war crime.

      • Evangelista
        June 8, 2017 at 20:09

        It’s like the Spanish Civil War over again!

        Except the part of Germany in that movie is being played by the USA, with its EU ‘Coalition Ally’ playing Fascist Italy.

        The part of the Soviet Union, who divided and bled to death the Republican Defenders in the Spanish Civil War, they were apparently unable to cast in this modern twenty-first century Sequel.

        The Directors apparently thought (in their think tanks) first, to cast Turkey, and then the Kurds, to do the Soviet divide of the Coalition opposing, as it is called to avoid admitting to knowledge that the Syrian Army is Syrian (which would make the Coalition’s aggression a knowing international invasion, and not ‘defensible’ as ‘accidental’), “The Iran-Aligned National Opposition in Syria”.

        Both those efforts fell into confusion, however, when both candidates failed to understand what ‘nuances’ the Directors required of them. Instead, the Directors turned to the Saudis, more eager to please, with a substantial arms-sale incentive. The Saudis, however, despite their eagerness, seem to have misunderstood something. They decided maybe what was wanted was that they divide the GCC by turning on the smallest partner, Qatar (larger Yemen already having them stymied)…

        And now, just when it looked like the audience might be becoming bored with all the confusion, maybe in need of a shift and a lift, the USA has set up an interlude version of a Beaux Geste jest, a faux French Foreign Legion Outpost scene at al Tanff. Something that looks like a “Last Stand In The Desert”, or “An American Massada”. Perhaps they hope to tap some sympathy through reminiscing Middle-East Legends… To quote the USA Commander in Chief, Generalissimo Donaldo El Trumpo, “Being Brave American Fighters”, “Doing Brave Victorious Things”. Maintaining the famous twentieth Century American Military Tradition to “Do Anything Except What Would Be Intelligent To Do” into the Twenty-first Century…

        This follows the last Trumpian Triumph, when the Generalissimo fired a flight of 59 Tomahawks on a ‘Lost Patrol’ re-enactment foray across the Syrian desert. When 23 of teh “Brave American Tomahawks” accomplished their mission (the other 36 having apparently gone astray chasing mirages).

        Generalissimo Trump, while the Tomahawks were flying, was poeticising, paraphrasing the apocryphal ‘bon mot’ attributed to Marie Antoinette, to his Chinese Head of State dessert guest, saying, “Let us eat cake.”

        Clearly, in the USA’s Washington, DC, (and Trump’s ‘DC South’ in Florida) fantasy is off the Board, over the top, at an all-time high. ahead of Reality by lengths, but, although striving valiantly, failing miserably to narrow the lead held by the National Debt of the USA…

        [This post says, of course, the same every other has been saying, just in a little different way]

  20. Drew Hunkins
    June 8, 2017 at 17:04

    Random musing:

    John McCain’s a sick doddering old man who would’ve caused untold suffering and misery above and beyond what he’s already advocated for.

    The world dodged an apocalyptic bullet when he was defeated in 2008.

    A McCain victory nine years ago and we’re all probably not around anymore to do much of anything.

    • Bill Bodden
      June 8, 2017 at 19:03

      But, despite his terrible history a majority of Arizonans keep returning McCain to office where he can continue to do more harm. And, this deplorable conduct is replicated in all 50 states. Then, on November 8, 2016 around 120 million “citizens” said they would be OK with Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump as president.

      • Skip Scott
        June 10, 2017 at 07:18

        Being an Arizonan, I am ashamed for my state at the repeated McCain victories. His campaign is a well-oiled machine. The media will not touch the truth of The USS Forrestal disaster or his time in the Hanoi Hilton, where he was known by his fellow POW’s as “Songbird”. I think he is finally on his last legs though, as we are beginning to see signs of dementia. There is a special corner in hell reserved for him, no doubt.

    • cmack
      June 10, 2017 at 17:15

      mccain(most liberal republican in the congress) was no more meant to be president than bob dole(corpse) or michael dukakis(tank boy)

      they are put in specifically to LOSE.

      the hillary campaign understood the dynamics of presidential campaigns which is why they helped push trump in the media during the party nomination races because they thought he was SURE to lose….it’s in some of the wiki leaked emails.

  21. mike k
    June 8, 2017 at 16:20

    Mr. Pillar is going way too far in predicting the future of Syria. He acknowledges the impossible snarls of complexity in that region, but then blithely plunges in with his crystal ball. This is a situation where wait and see is all a wise person can really offer. If we discern and do the right things, then things will go better. Otherwise not.

    • Virginia
      June 8, 2017 at 18:23

      Russia, supporting Syria, should say, “I’m all fed up and I’m not going to take it anymore!” Then make sure that is understood one way or another — short of nuclear war. That’s the problem though, isn’t it? How far can the US push and get by with it? There’s got to be a limit.

    • David Smith
      June 9, 2017 at 00:14

      Virginia, don’t get spooked by Mr. Pillar’s disinformation. The Syrian Government has liberated the heavily populated west of the country. Win the west, win the war. Lose the west lose the war. In the lightly populated eastern desert the Syrian Government has bases that are not going away and in time will link with the west. The SDF in east Syria is on the record that they will hand over their territories to the Syrian Government. Rojava will return to Syria as Turkey will not tolerate anything but Syrian Kurds being part of Syria as they have never caused problems for Turkey, unlike in Iraq. It will take time, but Syria has won.

  22. mike k
    June 8, 2017 at 16:15

    Are the democrats disgusting in the Comey hearings today? Yes, but not any more so than the republicans, who are sitting there on the fence unwilling to defend their president, waiting to see whether to abandon him or stick a knife in his back if necessary. Do either of these cliques have any allegiance to America or truth or justice? Not a whiff of it – they are too busy covering their asses and trying to see how they can gain the most from the situation.

  23. mike k
    June 8, 2017 at 15:49

    Who is mostly responsible for the war and chaos in the Middle East? America and other outside powers. Blaming these victims of our evil policies is typical of all aggressors. Existence of the power addicted US Empire makes peace impossible anywhere in the world. We have met the cause of strife in the human world, and it is us. The glorification of war, power over others, vast wealth at other’s expense, lying and evil of every kind – is America’s contribution to the world. It is hard not to join in Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s “God damn America” and pray for our collapse.

    The nation that once could have led the world to a better future has betrayed that mission, and instead become the nation leading the world towards a final apocalypse. Our failure may well become the final failure of mankind to learn to live together in peace and love.

  24. mike k
    June 8, 2017 at 15:33

    It’s hard to have an open discussion without attracting some clueless trolls who choose to dump their meaningless garbage into a serious discussion of important issues. I apologize for being the last one to cease responding to your nonsense. From now on I will simply stop reading your posts. Don’t feed the trolls!

    • glitch
      June 8, 2017 at 16:51

      It looks like auto-generated word salad, a new and very cheap technique to disrupt, you may’ve just told off a bot.
      CN must be worthy of the attention, cheers!

  25. John Smith
    June 8, 2017 at 15:07

    “…its only client regime in the Middle East…”
    Seriously!!! So American of you!!!
    Let me know when you want to join the true Human Race!!!

  26. Bill Bodden
    June 8, 2017 at 15:03

    Six years into one of the most complex, many-sided civil wars in modern times, Syria has almost no chance of being made whole any time in the foreseeable future.

    Germany and much of eastern Europe were as devastated after World War Two as Syria today, but they were made whole because good will prevailed. Mr. Pillar’s pessimism regarding Syria is justified because evil prevails for the most part in the Middle East.

    • mike k
      June 8, 2017 at 15:34

      Evil prevails for the most part in America.

    • BannanaBoat
      June 8, 2017 at 17:06

      All University was free in Syria, with Medical school costing a total $100 D USA. Libyans received $50,000 upon marriage. Iraq had greatest percentage of women professors in moslem world. Their Secular independent Socialism is what earned them to be termed “evil” by the Imperialists.

    • June 8, 2017 at 17:43

      Bill Bodden
      What prevailed following WWII was the War Profiteer, the corporate politicians who ensure every new weapon idea is provided for in the budget, and the generals who swear up and down that “this weapon system is necessary.” Also the zionist movement got a Huge Boost.

      • Bill Bodden
        June 8, 2017 at 18:58

        What prevailed following WWII was the War Profiteer, …

        No doubt in some instances your negatives were part of the story, but good will was a factor in programs such as the Marshall Plan because it would be more effective to “win the hearts and minds” of European beneficiaries to achieve Anglo-American goals.

  27. Realist
    June 8, 2017 at 14:56

    Isn’t what Pillar describing exactly what Washington decided to settle for long ago if it could not have all of Syria? So, he’s with the hegemonists who will Balkinize Syria into statelets they can control and use to build their accursed pipelines. Funny about that too, as Qatar was intended to be the chief beneficiary of that, but now will be Saudi Arabia if they are allowed (or encouraged?) by Washington to invade, conquer and steal Qatar’s resources, which seems to be the plan from what I read. No sympathy necessarily for the Qataris, but the Saudis need to be restrained, not encouraged in their quest for power.

    • Joe Tedesky
      June 8, 2017 at 16:10

      I’m almost in the same place it sounds like you are in Realist. What will happen with Qatar and Qatar’s GCC allies? Will we soon be witnessing an invasion of Iran? If there is an invasion of Iran, will our European allies be on board with us? Will attacking Iran reduce the Iranian effort in Syria? Would Russia just allow Iran to be attacked? How will Assad except Israel’s domination over the Golan? Could we expect Israel to just give up this oil rich land without a fight?

      Add to this dangerous nonsense of how we Americans are constantly being brainwashed into believing that Putin, Assad, and Rouhani are all evil dudes, and will this matter to us Americans as we rally behind the flag, as to end these leaderships role in the Middle East? I made note of it on another comment board here at CN of how this coming Sunday night National Geographic is airing a show which states how ‘Assad created ISIS’. With this and the constant drumbeat in our media of how ‘Russia has interfered with our U.S. elections’, plus we are always being reminded of how ‘Iran is the biggest sponsor of terrorist’, could we expect a big war with these sovereign nations?

      I always enjoy hearing what you have to say Realist, so if you can tell me what you think.

      • jo6pac
        June 8, 2017 at 16:19

        Yes thanks to both of you.

        “many-sided civil wars in modern times”

        This not a civil war now or when it began

        “Syrian regime’s”

        Syria has an elected govt. and elections were held today Assad would win hands down.

        • Dr. Ibrahim Soudy
          June 8, 2017 at 19:29

          elected government?! You must be kidding…..Do you have a real proof for that?! Do you know anything about how elections are made in those countries?! Saddam was elected by 100% in the last election he made!! Assad, the Father, took power in a military coup and remained president from the late sixties to the late nineties…………….Thanks for the laugh “6 pac”!!

          • Carol
            June 9, 2017 at 12:49

            Prior to the latest election, Assad had repeatedly requested elections that were _internationally monitored_. He said if the people of Syria wanted him gone he would respect that. Similar to the West’s refusal to participate in the monitoring of the election in Crimea (where 95% of the population are ethnic Russian) despite Crimea’s request for this monitoring, the United States and the West also refused to respect Assad’s request for internationally monitored elections. Why? Was the U.S. afraid their “moderate” rebels would not win? What other reason could there be? Assad continues to say that he would like to see internationally monitored elections in Syria to give the elections credibility and to stop the lies about the will of the Syrian people. I say the West needs to respect his request.

          • Skip Scott
            June 10, 2017 at 07:04

            I suggest you check out Eva Bartlett. In one of her interviews she mentions the last Syrian election that had a approx 70 percent participation, including Syrian refugees abroad through participating embassies. Assad got over 80 percent. The US didn’t like the results, and Kerry called it a sham.
            Most Syrians would rather have Assad (including his majority Sunni military) because they do not want to become the next Iraq or Libya. That is not to say they would not like some governmental reform.

      • Realist
        June 9, 2017 at 02:54

        You ask all the right questions, Joe. I’m sure that deep in the bunkers at Langley the spooks have a scenario all mapped out that will, of course, maximally benefit the interests of the “United States”–at any rate its Deep State and the moneyed elite who own that state. At least they believe they will control all events… just like they always do [sarcasm].

        I can see various ways all the potential combatants might align. Iran will be a key target of Washington, with designs upon Russia as its ultimate ally to be trapped. They expect to pick up Syria and Lebanon as collateral prizes. So, yes, this is one more pretext on which to start the long-planned war against Iran and, by extension, against Russia.

        The key to the outcome, and really to whether this conflagration actually gets kicked off is, in my mind, Turkey. Turkey can align with either the Qatar-Iran-Hamas (and by extension Russia, Syria, and Lebanon) alliance and against the Saudi-rest of the Gulf States-Egypt and USA axis, meaning it may abandon NATO. Turkey has already shut down its air base privileges to Germany. Putin’s first rebuking and then courting of Erdogan rather than warring on his country after the fighter jet shoot-down may make all the difference. Turkey still has its own agenda in Syria (no Kurdish autonomy) but it is acting cooperatively with Iran and Russia now in that conflict which has made Uncle Sam angry. I’m not sure that the alliance could defeat the axis, especially if Washington said damn America’s future and damn humanity’s future and went all in on total war between all mentioned factions, but the devastation would probably set new world records, making Hiroshima look like a garden party.

        If Turkey sticks with Sam in this exciting new war that the Deep State has planned (they never get repulsed or even bored by carnage), I suspect that it is all over for Qatar, and by extension the other players if war is forced upon them and they don’t back down. The Saudis (a much larger force) will overrun it and will justify attacking Iran which is immediately adjacent to Qatar’s offshore gas fields (the two countries straddle the same gas field and share a common maritime border–hence the diplomatic cooperation shown). Analysts say that the Saudis want and need the riches of Qatar to compensate for their numerous wars, their obscene military spending, and their manipulation of the oil markets which has exploded in their face (in everybody’s faces, including destroying the US shale oil industry which we were not perspicacious enough to foresee when we asked the Saudis to game the market to destroy Russian petrol sales).

        Of course, there could be repercussions that the intelligence analysts do not or choose not to see that could end up destroying some of the states we think we control. Egypt has joined the Sunni pack against Qatar and Iran because they fear the support given to the Muslim Brotherhood by Qatar. The MB won the only democratic election ever held in Egypt, before that government was overthrown by the Egyptian military at the behest of the Obomber administration. During an actual war with the attendant chaos, the MB could well strike a successful rebellion against the military junta running the country. How pleased would the hegemons in DC be with that? They’d better take care on the wishes they make. Moreover, how stable is the Saudi monarchy? Millions of people worldwide routinely hope the answer is “not very.” I have no idea of Yemen’s ability to project military power on Saudi turf, but they certainly owe that extended family of sheikhs and princes some payback, it seems to me. Oman is also said to be populated by Arabs of a different mold (mountain rather than desert people) than the Saudis, and not so much their fans as their vassals. The Saudis may be foolishly giving their latent enemies an opportunity they might not otherwise take–a chance to ally against the ruthless arrogant bastards. The fall of the House of Saud would be change I could believe in. How hard would Washington fight to prevent that?

        • Carol
          June 9, 2017 at 13:42

          >>>The Muslim Brotherhood won the only democratic election ever held in Egypt, before that government was overthrown by the Egyptian military at the behest of the Obomber administration.

          This is where I get confused. Many believed (including Rand Paul) that Obama’s CIA overthrew Mubarak in order to have democratic elections in Egypt. ie. the Arab Spring was fomented in large part by the CIA and Soros’ front organizations (like the NED and Open Society). I personally believe this to be absolutely true with exception of Tunisia which i think took the U.S. by surprise (but I may be wrong). Egypt is the one country I’m not sure about though. At the time I thought the original uprisings against Mubarak were genuine but the U.S. eventually became involved also to overthrow Mubarak.

          That said, if the U.S. wanted Mubarak gone in favor of democratic elections, why on earth would they then be involved in the overthrow of the democratically elected candidate Mohammed Morsi? And even more perplexing, if the U.S. really didn’t want to continue supporting an Egyptian dictatorship under Mubarak, why after the coup on Morsi did the U.S. not only support the despot el-Sisi, but also continue U.S. taxpayer dollars in the $billions per year for Sisi’s junta (which our U.S. military also trains)?

          • Miranda Keefe
            June 9, 2017 at 15:39

            The US wants democracies, but only as long as the result of the democratic election are compliant, US friendly, Petro-Dollar using, open to the international corporations taking over the economy regimes.

            If the democracy doesn’t create a regime like this, the US instantly decides it wasn’t a really democracy and the regime is a dictator that must be overthrown. The US corporate media puts out the idea that these are dictatorship and the sheep dogged US populace accepts this so even people like Jared Leto will make absurd statements wen getting an Oscar that CIA funded color revolutions trying to overthrow the democratic elected leaders are actually “fighting for democracy.”

            The weird thing is that the US Imperial Project keeps thinking that if they can just overthrown the bad guy and have an election they’ll get compliant regimes even though experience (Iran, Palestine, Ukraine, Crimea, Egypt, Venezuela, Russia) should make them realize that they won’t. But they have bought their own propaganda and it controls their ability to think clearly. Oh well.

          • Realist
            June 9, 2017 at 17:15

            The US intelligence community could have wanted Mubarak out, but did not foresee that Morsi would win or became disenchanted with Morsi once he came to power. Sometimes I’m sure the US is simply being opportunistic. They sow so much chaos they cannot predict which of multiple possibilities will be the ultimate outcome. They may not have instigated the coup against Mubarak, but tried to manage events to their liking once it started. Maybe the US wanted Mubarak to graciously step down to be replaced by an American puppet, but he chose to do it the hard way resulting in his overthrow and an election that the US never really wanted. The US Deep State trusting the people? They don’t trust the American people to elect the “proper” leader, and, apparently, sometimes we need a coup even here–or so they think.

      • Realist
        June 9, 2017 at 06:02

        Joe, this article pins everything on the CIA:

        It makes a pretty tightly knit narrative the gist of which is: “It was only logical that the Saudis would ally with the American CIA to create the world’s first international jihadist network to overthrow a secular leftist government in Afghanistan in the late 1970s, thus bringing forth al Qaida and its many offspring.”

        The Saudis and other GCC states derive their power from Islam through Wahabist clerics. To please the clerics those governments must call for jihad against Shia and other apostate sects and against secular governments as existed in Iraq, Libya and Syria. Hence the real or rhetorical wars against those countries and Iran. The Muslim Brotherhood is a secular movement, anathema to the Saudi and other Gulf State royals. It governed briefly in Egypt but was overthrow with the help of Saudi Arabia and the CIA. In spite of this, Qatar has still been supportive of the MB, and has dealt rationally with Iran and the Palestinians (through Hamas). Hence the major disapproval of not only Saudi Arabia, but also the CIA which teamed with the Saudis to create this existential clash of Islamic cultures. As the article says, whatever the hapless Donald Trump may know or believe about the situation, the CIA is not going to give up the chance to win another perfectly exciting war in the Middle East.

        • Joe Tedesky
          June 9, 2017 at 09:34

          Thanks Realist for the linked article, it was very informative.

      • Peter Loeb
        June 9, 2017 at 06:50


        Thanks to “Realist” and Joe Tedesky (commenters above). Mr.
        Pillar doth protest way too much but in fact takes the basic assumptions
        and goals of the hegemonists. Pillar also gives little attention
        to the US invasion of Syria, the central Israeli role, the
        support for Saudi Arabia, the support of militant forces affiliated with
        al Queda—all documented and summarized in Consortium news.

        While “everyone” in the nation and world(?) is distracted by the
        very idea that another country might favor one US Presidentiaql
        candidate over another little attention is given to the
        yearly forays of the US into neighboring countries. Russia is
        an example (but US and West are silent on that), the Ukraine
        with former undersecretary of state under the Obama administration
        saying “Fuck Ejurope!” and engineering the 2014 c0up with troops
        bearing swastika insignias (Vicoria Nuland), with almost annual efforts to control
        Latin American nations (eg project Mongoose under Bobby Kennedy
        complete with assasination attempts, secret agreements with the
        Soviet Union and a fabricated narrative of “American heroism” in
        the Cuban missile crisis and on and on.

        (Americans themselves never could control US elections. The most
        effective means indeed was the buying of votes by Americans themselves
        in times past. See Gabriel Kolko, MAIN CURRENTS OF MODERN

        Pillar’s article creates a fantasy world of American innocence and
        purity and superiority.

        Bunk. (expletive deleted)!

        By the way, there is no reason why Russia, Turkey, Iran, Hezbollah
        should agree to anything whatsoever with nations who refuse to
        recognize the sanctity and sovereignty of Syria, including the
        Golan Heights which has been annnested by Israel.

        —-Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

        • Joe Tedesky
          June 9, 2017 at 09:43

          Peter along with everything you wrote, your end comment makes a good point. More should be made of the illegality of the U.S. involvement in Syria. Although in a very technical way Libya, and Iraq, were invaded illegally as well. If it were not for the U.S. and it’s military might, combined with it’s big money interest, the U.S. would be brought down by a combined coalition of fair minded nations in order to bring this madness to a end. In any regard we should expect to see more of what the U.S. has been up to so far this new century, and with that we all lose.

  28. Sally Snyder
    June 8, 2017 at 13:59

    Here is an article that looks at how Hillary Clinton sent a veiled message to Syria’s current president about what could happen to him if he stayed in power:

    The U.S. Department of State was attempting to force Assad’s hand by providing him with another fine example of what happens to the deposed leaders of countries that fall on the wrong side of America’s agenda for global hegemony.

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