Posts Tagged ‘Syria strategy’

Britain (and the West) “got Syria wrong every step of the way”

December 23, 2016

For over 5 years the Western media has been complicit in pumping out skewed (if not entirely fake) news about Syria. Much of that has been in support of the US/NATO/EU strategy of achieving “regime change” by proxy. This strategy has ostensibly been about support for the “moderate opposition” to Bashar al-Assad only to find that the “moderates” were not so moderate after all.  The financial and weapons support they provided has effectively been used for the growth of ISIS, the Al Nusrah Front and Al Qaida. Only since the Russian intervention a little over a year ago have the terror organisations lost ground. The retaking of Aleppo, which was held by opposition groups directly supported by the West, has been accompanied by a huge media campaign about the atrocities being committed there by the Russians and Assad’s forces. The media are virtually silent about the atrocities in Mosul where US and Iraqi led forces are trying to retake the city.

But the failure of the Obama/Kerry non-strategy now stands ingloriously revealed and, for the first time, the main-stream Western media are prepared to present stark news without too much spin and without too much skew.

It would have been unthinkable – and politically incorrect – for this story to have been published by the BBC before now. Officially, however, the UK and the US and NATO are still continuing to follow the same old discredited policy – but they have become irrelevant as Iran, Turkey and Russia take the lead. If Trump goes along with them and supports the formation of safe havens for the “rebels” to withdraw to, there may be an end in sight for the troubles in Syria.

BBC: 

Britain “got Syria wrong every step of the way”

Britain’s policy on Syria has been “wrong every step of the way”, a former UK ambassador to the country has said. Peter Ford said the UK had made matters worse by not putting troops on the ground and instead encouraging rebel groups to mount a doomed campaign. The situation had led to hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties, which could have been foreseen, he added.

The Foreign Office said removing the Assad regime was the only way to end the suffering of the Syrian people. Mr Ford, who was the ambassador in Damascus from 2003 to 2006, said the UK should have put forces on to the battlefield or refrained from encouraging the launch of the opposition campaign.

Speaking on the Today programme: “We have made the situation worse. It was eminently foreseeable to anyone who was not intoxicated with wishful thinking. The British Foreign Office, to which I used to belong, I’m sorry to say has got Syria wrong every step of the way.”

On Thursday, the Syrian army regained full control of Aleppo – which has been a key battleground in the civil war between government forces and rebel groups. It is a notable victory for President Bashar al-Assad in the war which began when the uprising against him began in 2011.

Mr Ford said the president’s government should be given “a little credit” for a “relatively peaceful” end to the siege in Aleppo. He told the BBC government forces would now need to strengthen their hold on the city and defend it against possible counter-attacks.

The former diplomat criticised the Foreign Office for saying President Assad’s demise was imminent at the beginning of the war and for predicting he would lose power quickly. He said the department also said the opposition was dominated by “these so-called moderates, that proved not to be the case”.

He went on: “Now they are telling us another big lie, that Assad can’t control the rest of the country. Well, I’ve got news for them; he is well on the way to doing so.”

Mr Ford said the West has condemned the bombing in Aleppo, yet similar attacks were being carried out in the Iraqi city of Mosul and in Yemen without the same amount of criticism from Britain. He went on: “We don’t talk about atrocities; we don’t talk about war crimes, although they are indisputably being committed in both those theatres.”

The former ambassador said “We will be lucky” if those campaigns ended in the evacuation of civilians and rebel fighters on green buses, as was the case in Aleppo. 

The Foreign Office said a political solution and transition away from Assad were the “only way to end the suffering of the Syrian people”. A spokesman added: “The Assad regime has the blood of hundreds of thousands on its hands. There is no way it can unite and bring stability to Syria.


 

In Syria, the Obama non-strategy: US supported groups fight US supported groups

September 3, 2016

Eric Margolis has this post in The Unz Review and it only confirms for me that Obama’s lasting legacy will be of his “paralysis by analysis”. Obama’s actions are dominated by his fears. He has good intentions and then gets bogged down as soon as the risk analysis gets under way. His Iraq/ Syria/ Turkey/ Iran strategy – if it can be credited with the label of a “strategy” – has been one of avoiding risks as they appear. His actions are all short-term reactions to the appearance of new, perceived risks. His “red lines in the sand” have proven to be shifting lines. Obama’s misguided actions and his inactions allowed the ISIS expansion to flourish. The containing of ISIS expansion has only been made possible by the Russian intervention and the propping-up of Assad.

Obama’s predecessor, Bush Jr., distinguished himself by not thinking anything through. He rushed to conclusions and to actions without too much thought or analysis. In my definitions of behaviour he comes across, not necessarily as without courage, but as foolhardy. Obama, on the other hand, will be remembered, no doubt, for being intelligent and analytical but without courage.

As Margolis points out, the actions from diverse groups within the US have been chaotic and often opposed to one another.

U.S. vs. U.S. in Syria

 

pentagon-cia

What a mess! In the crazy Syrian war, US-backed and armed groups are fighting other US-backed rebel groups. How can this be?

It is so because the Obama White House had stirred up the war in Syria but then lost control of the process. When the US has a strong president, he can usually keep the military and intelligence agencies on a tight leash.

But the Obama administration has had a weak secretary of defense and a bunch of lady strategists who are the worst military commanders since Louis XV, who put his mistress, Madame de Pompadour, in charge of French military forces during the Seven Year’s War. The French were routed by the Prussians. France’s foe, Frederick the Great of Prussia, named one of his dogs, “la Pompadour.”

As a result, the two arms of offensive US strategic power, the Pentagon, and CIA, went separate ways in Syria. Growing competition between the US military and militarized CIA broke into the open in Syria.

Fed up with the astounding incompetence of the White House, the US military launched and supported its own rebel groups in Syria, while CIA did the same.

Fighting soon after erupted in Syria and Iraq between the US-backed groups. US Special Forces joined the fighting in Syria, Iraq and most lately, Libya.

The well-publicized atrocities, like mass murders and decapitations, greatly embarrassed Washington, making it harder to portray their jihadi wildmen as liberators. The only thing exceptional about US policy in Syria was its astounding incompetence.

Few can keep track of the 1,000 groups of jihadis that keep changing their names and shifting alliances. Throw in Turkomans, Yazidis, Armenians, Nestorians, Druze, Circassians, Alawis, Assyrians and Palestinians. Oh yes, and the Alevis.

Meanwhile, ISIS was inflicting mayhem in Syria and Iraq. But who really is ISIS? A few thousand twenty-something hooligans with little knowledge of Islam but a burning desire to dynamite the existing order and a sharp media sense. The leadership of these turbaned anarchists appears to have formed in US prison camps in Afghanistan.

The US, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey armed and financed ISIS as a weapon to unleash on Syria, which was an ally of Iran that refused to take orders from the Western powers. The west bears a heavy responsibility for the deaths of 450,000 Syrians, at least half the nation of 23 million becoming refugees, and destruction of this once lovely country.

At some point, ISIS shook off its western tutors and literally ran amok. But the US has not yet made a concerted attempt to crush ISIS because of its continuing usefulness in Syria and in the US, where ISIS has become the favorite whipping boy of politicians.

Next, come the Kurds, an ancient Indo-European stateless people spread across Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria. They have been denied a national state by the western powers since WWI. Kurdish rebels in Iraq have been armed and financed by Israel since the 1970’s.

When America’s Arab jihadists proved militarily feeble, the US turned to the Kurds, who are renowned fighters, arming and financing the Kurdish Syrian YPG which is part of the well-known PKK rebel group that fights Turkey.

I covered the Turkish-Kurdish conflict in eastern Anatolia in the 1980’s in which some 40,000 died.

Turkey is now again battling a rising wave of Kurdish attacks that caused the Turks to probe into northern Syria to prevent a link-up of advancing Kurdish rebel forces.

So, Turkey, a key American ally, is now battling CIA-backed Kurdish groups in Syria. Eighty percent of Turks believe the recent failed coup in Turkey was mounted by the US – not the White House, but by the Pentagon which has always been joined at the hip to Turkey’s military.

This major Turkish-Kurdish crisis was perfectly predictable, but the obtuse junior warriors of the Obama administration failed to grasp this point.

Now the Russians have entered the fray in an effort to prevent their ally, Bashar Assad, from being overthrow by western powers. Also perfectly predictable. Russia claimed to be bombing ISIS but in fact, is targeting US-backed groups. Washington is outraged that the wicked Russians are doing in the Mideast what the US has done for decades.

The US and Russia now both claim to have killed a senior ISIS commander in an air strike. Their warplanes are dodging one another, creating a perfect scenario for a head-on clash at a time when neocons in the US are agitating for war with Russia.

Does anyone think poor, demolished Syria is worth the price? Hatred for the US is now seething in Turkey and across the Mideast. Hundreds of millions of US tax dollars have been wasted in this cruel, pointless war.

Time for the US to stop stirring this witch’s brew.

Six months of Russian intervention shows up 5 years of Obama’s ineptitude in Syria

March 13, 2016

Russia began its current intervention in Syria on September 30th last year, whereas the US began its anti-Assad campaign in 2011:

……… with the financing, training and encouragement of selected “moderate rebels”. They have no doubt weakened Assad but have also been instrumental in creating ISIS.

The Russian intervention has had a focus and an end-game in mind, both of which were missing from the US/NATO “strategy”. The “ceasefire” that is currently in place allows Russia (and Assad) to continue operating against the “terrorists” (ISIS, Al Nusra…) who are not party to the ceasefire. The US is now just following Russia’s lead much to the chagrin of the many Sunni opposition groups and of Saudi Arabia.

The only objective which Obama and Kerry ever had in Syria was to remove Assad but they had no strategy either for that or for what would follow. In Syria, Vladimir Putin has highlighted Obama’s ineptitude.

Canada Free Press:

On February 27, 2016, a ceasefire went into effect in Syria between the forces of the Assad regime and the opposition. The ceasefire was achieved after the United States and Russia reached understandings regarding the terms of the agreement; Bashar al-Assad and the representatives of the opposition who took part in the contacts accepted its terms; and the ceasefire was grounded in a UN Security Council resolution.

The Islamic State, Jabhat al-Nusra, and other jihadist rebel groups are not party to the ceasefire, and Russia and the United States have agreed that they would continue fighting them in cooperation with one another. In actuality, the ceasefire was reached as a result of the combined efforts of the two superpowers currently engaged in leading the campaign for a political solution to the Syrian crisis. All the other actors are dependent on the assistance of these two powers and are subject to their influence.

In order to translate its military achievements in the Syrian arena into achievements in the realm of international politics, Russia worked intensively to advance the ceasefire along two parallel channels. The first channel was operational – specifically, a joint air and ground offensive against rebel forces aimed at exhausting them, carried out by a pro-Assad coalition including Iran, Syrian military forces that are loyal to Assad, Hezbollah, and Shiite militias. The severe damage sustained by the rebel forces is what brought them to the negotiating table. The second channel focused on advancing a political process, primarily vis-à-vis the United States, but also Saudi Arabia.

Moscow sought to promote the political dialogue while it enjoyed the upper hand on the military battlefield and was able to dictate the outcome of the process. Russia translated its achievements on the ground into a political roadmap for a cessation of hostilities and the establishment of a transitional period toward a solution to the conflict within 18 months. Russian policy with regard to the Syrian crisis was also motivated by Russia’s aspiration to promote its standing within the international arena and reduce the Western foreign and economic pressure leveled against it following its actions in Ukraine. In this context, Moscow led the joint offensive of the forces of the pro-Assad coalition in an effort to demonstrate its determination and to create pressure on the West and on Turkey by means of a massive flight of refugees toward Turkey from the embattled areas. It is unclear whether Russia received anything in return from the contacts that took place behind the scenes between Washington and Moscow, such as an easing of the Western sanctions.

Syria conflict map 13th March 2016 Carter Center

Syria conflict map 13th March 2016 Carter Center

The Russian intervention has seen the ISIS expansion halted and reversed. They have secured breathing space for the Assad regime though they expect to have him replaced in an orderly manner in time. ISIS will shift (is already shifting) to Libya which is in chaos (for which Obama passes the buck to Cameron and Sarkozy). The EU with its shambles of a refugee policy is providing the sink which swallows the bulk of those displaced.

The real Middle East end-game is a very long way away but Russia is reaching its immediate objectives of supporting the Syrian regime, halting the march of Sunni- groups, restraining the ambitions of Saudi Arabia and of getting in the good books of Iran.

The US and Europe will still have to handle ISIS in Libya but here they will not have the Russians to rescue them.


 


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