Washington, DC is dealing with a lot of problems these days. Drama over the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into possible collusion between Trump campaign officials and Russian operatives is pretty much all that people seem to care about these days. Talks over keeping the government open after April 28 are proceeding apace. And the aftermath of the Obamacare repeal is still hovering above the capital city like a dark storm cloud. Outside of the first U.S. missile strikes on the Assad regime since the Syrian civil war began, it’s almost as if everything else in the world is unimportant.
And yet there are things going on in the world today that are even more consequential to America’s national security than how much money Paul Manafort may have made in Ukraine or whether the federal government runs out of money by the end of next month. The Israeli-Palestinian peace process, to name one major issue.
Trump’s envoy for international negotiations, Jason Greenblatt, has been flying in and out of the Middle East like so many peace negotiators before him. Greenblatt perhaps has the most thankless job in the foreign-policy community: trying to find just the right combination of honey and vinegar to convince Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas to come back to the table. The fact that he needs to do this at the same time as he must reassure Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Washington has Israel’s core interests in mind is the proverbial circling of the square. As former State Department negotiator Aaron David Miller has written for CNN, “The chances of the Trump administration waking the patient up, let alone facilitating a real road to recovery, are well . . . pretty close to zero.” This is coming from a man who spent most of his career trying to strike the ultimate bargain in the Holy Land, so he knows something about getting two intransigent parties in the same room.
It’s not going to be easy for Jason Greenblatt.
But for those who continue believe that the two-state solution is ultimately the only formula that will provide Israelis and Palestinians with the right mix of self-determination, security and peace, Greenblatt’s meetings with Israeli and Palestinian diplomats over the last two weeks are an encouraging sign that the Trump administration seems serious about putting out feelers.
The only thing predictable about Mideast peace negotiations is that Netanyahu and Abbas don’t particularly like or trust one another. Rightly or wrongly, Abbas sees Netanyahu as a right-wing extremist who views placating his domestic political base as more important to his personal legacy than risking his political future by providing the Palestinians with the concessions they seek. Netanyahu, in turn, sees in Abbas a weak politician who is past his prime, doesn’t have the power to get the Palestinian people behind him, and a figure who can’t guarantee that a Palestinian state wouldn’t deteriorate into another Gaza Strip. Rushing into talks, even if the Palestinians agreed to talks, is bound to fail and set back the peace process even further.
Greenblatt has chosen to take a more deliberative approach. He’s made the rounds in Israel, Ramallah, Washington and on the sidelines of the Arab League Summit this week, poking and prodding about what the stakeholders would like to see in any deal and whether there’s enough common ground that a more formal process can be launched. That’s the way to do it.
Again, we haven’t a clue as to whether the Trump administration will be anymore successful than the Clinton, Bush or Obama administrations before it. Mideast peace talks tend to have the effect of causing migraines, heart palpitations, ulcers and a general sense of psychologic daze (just as President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State John Kerry). Greenblatt and his superiors in the White House may get to that point as well.
But at least they are starting this painful but necessary endeavor with eyes wide open.
Daniel DePetris is a fellow at Defense Priorities.
Image: Old City of Jerusalem through barbed wire. Pixabay/Public domain
Frog-Marching Donald Trump entered military terra incognita on Thursday by launching an illegal Tomahawk missile strike on an air base in eastern Syria. Beyond the clear violation of international law, the practical results are likely to be disastrous, drawing the U.S. deeper into the Syrian quagmire.
But it would be a mistake to focus all the criticism on Trump. Not only are Democrats also at fault, but a good argument could be made that they bear even greater responsibility.
For years, near-total unanimity has reigned on Capitol Hill concerning America’s latest villains du jour, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. Congressmen, senators, think-tank strategists, and op-ed analysts all have agreed that Putin and Assad are the prime enemies of “peace,” by which is meant global American hegemony, and that therefore the U.S. must stop at nothing to weaken or neutralize them or force them to exit the world stage.
Until recently, in fact, just about the only politically significant dissenter was Trump. Accusing reporters of twisting the news at a tumultuous press conference in late February, he told them,
“Now tomorrow, you’ll say, ‘Donald Trump wants to get along with Russia, this is terrible.’ It’s not terrible. It’s good.”
But since getting along with Russia was terrible for America’s perpetually bellicose foreign-policy establishment, Official Washington declared war on Trump, building on Hillary Clinton’s charge during the last presidential debate that he was Putin’s “puppet.” It became the conventional wisdom that Trump was a “Siberian candidate” being inserted in the White House by a satanic Kremlin determined to bend freedom-loving Americans to its will.
As Inauguration Day approached, President Obama’s intelligence chiefs pulled out all stops to persuade the public that (a) Russian intelligence had engineered Clinton’s defeat by hacking the Democratic National Committee’s computers and placing thousands of embarrassing emails in the hands of WikiLeaks and that (b) Trump was somehow complicit in the effort.
The campaign was highly effective. The alleged Putin-Trump relationship was a major feature at the anti-Trump protests surrounding his inauguration and the major U.S. news media pounded on the Russia “scandal” daily.
On Feb. 13, barely four weeks after taking office, Trump crumbled under a mounting barrage of political abuse and gave National Security Adviser Michael Flynn the boot after it was revealed that he had talked with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the transition, supposedly in violation of the 1799 Logan Act, an absurd piece of ancient legislation that even The New York Times referred to as “a dusty, old law” that should have been repealed generations ago.
Under Media Pressure
A day later, the administration reeled again when the Times charged in a front-page exposé that “members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election.”
The article provided no evidence and no names and said nothing about whether such contacts were knowing or unknowing, i.e., whether they involved a John le Carré-style midnight rendezvous or merely an exchange of pleasantries with someone who may or may not have been connected to the FSB, as Russia’s version of the CIA is known.
In a March 6 article entitled “Pause This Presidency,” Times columnist Charles M. Blow called for little less than a coup d’état:
“The American people must immediately demand a cessation of all consequential actions by this ‘president’ until we can be assured that Russian efforts to hack our election … did not also include collusion with or cover-up by anyone involved in the Trump campaign and now administration.”
How “the American people” would demand such a cessation or who would provide such assurances was not specified.
On March 31, CNN quoted an unnamed senior administration official saying that Trump’s hopes of a rapprochement with Russia were fading because he “believes in the current atmosphere – with so much media scrutiny and ongoing probes into Trump-Russia ties and election meddling – that it won’t be possible to ‘make a deal.’”
Thus, Trump found himself increasingly boxed in by hostile forces. But he still tried to fulfill his promise to concentrate on defeating terrorists in Syria and Iraq. On March 30, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley announced that the U.S. administration “priority is no longer to sit there and focus on getting Assad out,” but to concentrate on defeating Al Qaeda and ISIS instead.
But the more Trump contemplated his predicament in the following days, the more he realized how untenable it had come. Tuesday’s poison-gas incident in Idlib thus offered a way out regardless of who was actually responsible. The only way for Trump to make peace with the “deep state” in Washington was by waging war on Syria.
Finally, on Thursday, hours before Trump sent a volley of cruise missiles wafting towards Syria, Hillary Clinton taunted him by declaring that
America “should take out his [Assad’s] airfields and prevent him from being able to use them to bomb innocent people.”
The effect was to all but force Trump to show that he was every bit as macho as the former First Lady.
Trump is certainly a fool for going ahead with such an attack in clear contravention of international law and entangling the United States more deeply into the complicated Syrian conflict. But the blame also should go to the people who frog-marched him to the precipice and then all but commanded him to step over the edge.
Within hours, all the usual suspects were congratulating one of the most scorned U.S. presidents in history for taking the leap.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said:
“Making sure Assad knows that when he commits such despicable atrocities he will pay a price is the right thing to do.” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi described Trump’s missile barrage as “a proportional response to the regime’s use of chemical weapons.”
Republican super-hawks Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, previously as anti-administration as any Democrat, issued a joint statement declaring that Trump “deserves the support of the American people,” while liberal heart-throb Sen. Elizabeth Warren also agreed that “the Syrian regime must be held accountable for this horrific act.”
The Guardian, as fiercely anti-Trump as it is anti-Putin and anti-Assad, conceded that “Donald Trump has made his point” and that the next step would be up to Russia. All in all, Trump had never gotten such good press. It’s clear that Official Washington was pleased with Trump’s handiwork and was eager to encourage him to do more.
But the missile barrage was not just an assault on Syria but on reason and good sense, too. Although the Washington Post’s Adam Taylor tried to make it seem that the only critics of the missile barrage are members of the alt-right “known for espousing racist, anti-Semitic and sexist points of view,” the fact is that criticism flowed in from other quarters.
At Alternet, Vijay Prashad pointed out that there were few independent observers in Khan Shaykhun, the farming town where the April 4 incident occurred, to provide an accurate account. Eyewitnesses “with the densest relationship to the armed opposition,” he wrote, “are the first to claim that this attack was done by the government.”
Consortiumnews’ Robert Parry pointed out that rather than dropping the gas themselves, Syrian or Russian warplanes could well have triggered an outbreak by bombing a facility containing “chemicals that the rebels were planning to use in some future attack.” Parry also noted that Al Qaeda, which controls Idlib province, could have “staged the incident to elicit precisely the international outrage directed at Assad as has occurred.”
[Previously, United Nations investigators have received eyewitness testimony from Syrians about rebels staging an alleged chlorine-bomb attack so it would be pinned on the Assad regime.]
Something similar may well have occurred in August 2013, a sarin-gas missile attack on the outskirts of Damascus that killed hundreds and that appears to have been launched from a rebel-controlled area two kilometers away. The two incidents are curiously parallel.
The August 2013 incident, which horrified the world and brought the Obama administration to the brink of its own attack on the Syrian government, occurred just days after a U.N. team had arrived in Damascus to investigate an alleged chemical attack by rebels against Syrian government troops some four months earlier.
It made little sense for the Assad regime to have invited U.N. investigators in and then launch a more horrific chemical-weapons attack just miles from the investigators’ hotel. It would be a bit like someone inviting a police inspector to dinner and then committing a murder in full view.
Not Making Sense
As one independent analysis noted in 2013, the Assad regime would have to have decided to carry out a large-scale attack “despite (a) making steady gains against rebel positions, (b) receiving a direct threat from the US that the use of chemical weapons would trigger intervention, (c) having constantly assured their Russian allies that they will not use such weapons, (d) prior to the attack, only using non-lethal chemicals and only against military targets.”
The Assad government would also have had to decide “to (a) send forces into rebel-held area, where they are exposed to sniper fire from multiple directions, (b) use locally manufactured short-range rockets, instead of any of the long-range high quality chemical weapons in their arsenal, and (c) use low quality sarin.”
All of which seems supremely unlikely, but much of the mainstream U.S. media still treats the 2013 sarin-gas attack as the undeniable case of Assad crossing Obama’s “red line” against using chemical weapons. And the highly dubious 2013 incident is cited as a key reason to believe that Assad has done it again. [Recently, The New York Times has quietly backed off the 2013 claims although not explicitly retracting its earlier reporting blaming the attack on the Assad regime.]
Assad would have possibly even stronger reasons not to deploy sarin gas on April 4, 2017. He would have to make a conscious decision to court world opprobrium at a time when the tide of the war was finally turning in his favor with the liberation of Aleppo last December and with most world leaders having concluded that the Assad regime was here to stay.
To have produced and deployed a sarin bomb would have meant deliberately risking military intervention more than three years after Syria reached an agreement with the United Nations to destroy its entire chemical-weapons stockpile so as to avoid … military intervention.
All of which seems supremely unlikely as well. It would be an act of suicide – and after holding off a combined U.S., Saudi, Qatari, and Turkish assault for half a decade or more, one thing that Assad does not appear to be is suicidal.
Although Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said,
“there is no doubt in our mind that the Syrian regime under the leadership of Bashar al-Assad is responsible for this horrific attack,” in reality there is plenty of doubt.
Nevertheless, Trump decided to fire away before the facts were in because the enemy he is most worried about is not the one half a world away in Syria, but the Democratic-neocon alliance in his own backyard. The political warfare in Washington is now generating more agony from real wars in the Middle East.
Daniel Lazare is the author of several books including The Frozen Republic: How the Constitution Is Paralyzing Democracy (Harcourt Brace).
The Wall Street Journal is delighted to hear Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s tough words on North Korea and China.
“Let me be very clear: The policy of strategic patience has ended,” Mr. Tillerson said, referring to the Obama Administration policy of waiting for North Korea to give up its nuclear ambitions or collapse. A day earlier he criticized “20 years” of a “failed approach” to the North’s nuclear ambitions.
I, too, appreciate the secretary of state’s candor. But straight talk isn’t going to be enough. As the Journal concedes,
He and President Trump are trying to persuade China that the new Administration is serious about stopping the North before it could explode a nuclear weapon over U.S. territory. China has ignored U.S. pleas in the past, so the test will be getting Beijing to believe the new Administration isn’t bluffing.
How are we supposed to get the Chinese to change their minds? Words aren’t going to be good enough; the Chinese, and the North Koreans, will have to see real evidence of American resolve, which has been lacking for three decades.
The Trump administration’s national security policy was to have been much more muscular than Obama’s, as incarnate in the appointments of notoriously tough military leaders at the National Security Council (first General Flynn, then General McMaster) and the Department of Defense (General Mattis). So far at least, this has not happened; the enemy coalition has been more active, starting with North Korea, and continuing with China, Russia, and Iran.
You can see the enemy moving in and around Libya, now a major regional hot spot. Sub-Saharan African countries see a significant influx of radical Islamist terrorists across Libya’a southern border, and are urging the United States and Europe to take forceful action. Meanwhile, in the north, the Egyptians are turning to unlikely allies to fight Libyan-based terrorists. All of a sudden, Russian special forces have turned up in Egypt within range of Libya. “It is very concerning,” Marine General Thomas Waldhauser. U.S. Africom commander, said to Senator John McCain in recent testimony.
“General Haftar has visited, as you said, on the carrier with the Russians. He’s also visited in the country of Russia. Also, this week it’s reported in the open press, [Prime Minister Fayez al-] Sarraj from the Government of National Accord has also visited Russia.
This is doubly worrisome, both because the Russians are moving some of their best fighters onto the Libyan battleground, and because it shows that the Egyptian government is cooperating with Vladimir Putin. This shows, once again, that General el-Sisi does not feel entirely comfortable with his American allies, and is hedging his security bets. Not good news for the Trump administration.
The Chinese are also stepping up their Middle East activities, especially in Egypt.
Iran has gotten busier in Yemen, funneling weapons (including drones and MANPADS), money, and advisers to their Houthi proxies in the ongoing war against Saudi Arabia. And the Iranians are quite provocative in the main shipping lanes of the Persian Gulf, manning their weapons as they draw within a thousand yards of U.S. warships in the Strait of Hormuz. Yes, the Iranians are testing the intentions of President Trump and Defense Secretary James Mattis, and this sort of war game enables the Tehran regime to brag that they are the dominant force in those crucial waters.
Oddly, the toughest American verbiage toward Iran thus far has come from our ambassador to the United States, Nikki Haley, who has actually called for the expulsion of Iranians and their proxies from Syria. You can safely assume that Ambassador Haley didn’t ad lib that language; the president, the relevant cabinet secretaries, and the national security adviser surely signed off on it.
Watch to see if our actions are in sync with these words. So far, it’s been the usual sanctions, with a high concentration of Russian targets. In recent days,
The U.S. sanctioned 30 individuals and entities from 10 countries, many of them Chinese and Russian, for transferring sensitive missile technology to Iran and flouting export controls on Iran, North Korea and Syria, the State Department said Friday.
The sanctions, imposed on Tuesday, include 11 companies and individuals that have provided materials to Iran’s ballistic missile program. The State Department is concerned in part because the U.S. has seen evidence that Iran is providing missile support to the Houthis in Yemen.
At the same time, we are dispatching fighters—mostly Marines, it seems– to Syria, in the anti-ISIS campaign, and we are still fighting alongside Iran forces in Iraq.
So what’s our policy? It’s a surprisingly difficult question to answer. We say we want Iran out of Syria, but we’re in league with the Iranians in some battles. We want a closer relationship with Egypt, but Sisi clearly has his doubts, and is taking out insurance by working with Putin. We are rhetorically tough against North Korea (an intimate of Iran), and slap sanctions against those who help them, but there is as yet no sign that we understand we’re in a world war, nor that we have a global strategy capable of winning it.
If we want to change the global battlefield, we are going to have to defeat the keystones of the enemy alliance. The best place to start is with Iran, and the best way to do it is politically, not military.
General McMaster does not seem to agree. His predecessor “put Iran on notice,” but McMaster avoids even the sort of verbal conflict with the Islamic Republic that many expected on the occasion of Nowruz, the Persian New Year, that just arrived. Instead of denouncing the Tehran regime, the official American statement was bland. Short version: “I hope you have a fine time, especially all my Iranian-American friends.” Not a word about Iranian-American hostages in Tehran, nor about the constant Iranian threats against the United States, nor about the calls to kill Americans.
So there’s some good words from Tillerson and Haley, and some weak words from the Oval Office. There is still no definition of our mission in the global war, and no strategy for victory.
We’ll see that—or not—soon enough.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declared Washington’s intention to keep troops deployed more or less indefinitely in the territories now occupied by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria in remarks delivered at the beginning of a two-day meeting of the US-organized anti-ISIS coalition in Washington.
“The military power of the coalition will remain where this fraudulent caliphate has existed in order to set the conditions for a full recovery from the tyranny of ISIS,” he told an audience that included Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. He gave no indication of when, if ever, US troops could be withdrawn from a war zone extending across Iraq and Syria, where there has been fighting of greater or lesser intensity throughout the 14 years since the US first invaded Iraq.
Tillerson also called for the establishment of “interim zones of stability” in Syria to which refugees from the US-instigated civil war that has raged throughout that country for the past six years could be forcibly returned. Areas will be deemed “safe” if they have been initially cleared of ISIS, an absurdly low standard given the deadly conflicts which continue to rage between different factions in the Syrian civil war.
He also stressed that these areas would come under the control of local governments installed by Washington, presumably drawn from the Kurds and Sunni Islamist opposition forces sponsored by the Pentagon and CIA as part of the US war for regime change against the Assad government in Damascus.
Trump’s secretary of state also demanded a greater commitment both militarily and financially from the 68 countries represented at the meeting. A State Department release prior to the meeting said a key goal would be to “accelerate international efforts to defeat ISIS.”
Tillerson emphasized that US troops would effectively be engaged in a permanent occupation of neighboring Iraq. Even after ISIS is defeated in Mosul, where hundreds of civilians have been killed by the US-backed offensive on the Iraq’s second-largest city, the US military would remain there, Tillerson insisted.
“Local leaders and local governments will take on the process of restoring their communities in the wake of ISIS with our support,” he said. “The development of a rejuvenated civil society in these places will lead to a disenfranchisement of ISIS and the emergence of stability and peace where there was once chaos and suffering. But none of this will happen automatically. We all need to support this effort.”
Such bogus claims about bringing “democracy” and “freedom” to Iraq were employed by the Bush administration in 2003 to justify its illegal invasion, which led to the deaths of upwards of a million Iraqis and helped create the conditions under which ISIS could emerge.
Under Obama and now Trump, Washington has seized on the threat posed by ISIS to justify a bloody war in the Middle East which has already claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands. Behind the propaganda, US imperialism’s real goal is the consolidation of its control over the energy-rich region by bringing about regime change in Damascus and stabilizing the puppet government in Baghdad. In the process, the United States and its imperialist allies have laid waste to both countries, claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands and forced millions more to flee their homes.
In a remark that amounts to a blank check to the US to wage war wherever it sees fit, Tillerson ominously warned that ISIS could emerge anywhere after it is defeated in the current fighting. “As we stabilize areas encompassing ISIS’s physical caliphate in Iraq and Syria, we also must prevent their seeds of hatred from taking root elsewhere,” he said. “We must ensure ISIS cannot gain or maintain footholds in new regions of the world.”
Even as the secretary of state delivered his comments, a major operation has been launched in Syria by US special forces to provide support to the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in an assault behind ISIS lines. US troops and SDF militia were flown into a location close to a dam on the Euphrates River which they aim to take from ISIS so as to open up a new route into Raqqa, the Jihadi group’s de facto capital.
While reports sought to maintain the fiction that the US military personnel were there as “advisers,” they are to all intents and purposes engaged in a combat mission. Col. Joe Scrocca, spokesman for the US military intervention in Syria and Iraq, admitted as much when he noted that the mission behind enemy lines could take “weeks” to complete.
In preparation for the offensive, US aircraft intensified its ruthless bombardment of the Raqqa area. One of these strikes destroyed a school building Tuesday that was being used to house refugees forced to flee their homes from the fighting. According to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which described the attack as a “massacre,” 33 bodies were recovered from the rubble. The casualty figure could be much higher since activists reported up to 100 people were living there. The activist group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently said the whereabouts of 50 families living at the school remains unknown.
The news came just five days after US warplanes partially destroyed a mosque in Idlib Province, killing at least 42 civilians. The US military announced Tuesday it was conducting an official investigation into the incident. A statement from the US-led coalition denied striking the school near Raqqa.
An estimated 116 civilians have been killed in US-led air strikes in Syria since March 8, while in Mosul, the numbers of deaths have risen sharply as Iraqi forces and US aircraft have begun targeting the densely populated western part of the city. More than 1,000 civilians were killed or injured in February alone. In comments to the Intercept, journalist Anand Gopal described US air strikes in Mosul as “hitting pretty much everything in sight.” Gopal added, “It’s a real humanitarian disaster that’s unfolding as we speak.”
The blatant disregard for civilian lives is the direct product of Trump’s granting of expanded powers to the Pentagon and US military commanders in the region to launch attacks. This means that air strikes can be conducted without any oversight from the White House, insuring a more rapid and intensive pace than under Obama, when such oversight did not prevent frequent civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria.
Meanwhile, a collection of Al Qaeda affiliates and other Islamist groups continued to attack Damascus on Wednesday. Reports spoke of indiscriminate shelling by the Jihadis of the al-Mazraa district of the capital, where the Russian embassy is located. Syrian government sources reported that reinforcements had been sent to the eastern Damascus neighborhood of Jobar, as well as to the city of Hama where another Jihadi attack is under way.
The Trump administration’s intensification of the Syrian conflict takes place in a region which is increasingly destabilized and threatens to trigger a broader war with disastrous consequences. As well as the US, a number of European imperialist powers, including Britain, France and Germany, have forces deployed in the region to enforce their own great power ambitions.
Russia, which intervened in 2015 to prop up the Assad regime, is also strengthening its presence in the contested northwest of Syria, where its military personnel will carry out training of the Kurdish YPG militia, which is also receiving support from the US. This will further antagonize Turkey as Ankara is not prepared to tolerate the consolidation of a Kurdish-controlled autonomous region on its border. Ankara also views Iran with mounting hostility, accusing it of seeking to expand its influence in Syria.
Even within the US-led coalition, differences exist over Syrian policy. Speaking to the Washington Post, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault complained that he had been “hoping for more specifics” from the Trump administration. Ayrault stated Washington had to concentrate on “all aspects” of the Syrian conflict and not just military operations against ISIS, and demanded a “clear idea” on what Russia’s role would be.
The intensification of the Syrian war and the real prospect that it could trigger a far broader conflict underscores the urgent necessity for the construction of an international antiwar movement in the working class to oppose the reckless policies of the imperialist pyromaniacs, both in the Trump administration and the capitals of Europe.
According to the Military Times, the U.S. military has launched a “reassurance and deterrence” mission in the Syrian city of Manbij, which is set to become more complicated with the arrival of Russian troops and continued advances by Turkish-backed rebels.
The situation was already complex due to the presence of Syrian Kurdish forces on the ground, who are opposed by forces loyal to Turkey. The Kurds are considered to be the most effective fighting force against ISIS, yet Turkish-backed forces seem more concerned with fighting against them rather than fighting ISIS. The U.S. military has fewer than 100 elite Army Rangers stationed in Manbij, and Russian troops are there to provide security for humanitarian convoys.
According to Navy Captain Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, the U.S. and Russia have had no close interaction on the ground. For its part, Moscow has “kept [the U.S.] abreast of their operations” in Manbij, but the two militaries do not coordinate in Syria.
The Military Times noted that U.S. troops are on the ground primarily to assist local forces oust ISIS. However, as Anti-Media previously reported, ISIS has almost been defeated, and as a result, the likelihood of mission creep is possible. This is made clear by the U.S. military’s cooperation with Saudi Arabia, a country that also wants to deploy troops to Syria for the specific purpose of opposing pro-regime troops, as well as Iranian troops and Hezbollah fighters.
That being said, if the mainstream media were doing its job effectively, it would make a point of distinguishing between Russian and American roles in the region. The U.S. military has no legitimate excuse for invading Syria, whereas Russia’s military presence was formally requested by the Syrian government in 2015.
What should be clear, however, is that none of these parties view human rights as a motivating concern for engaging militarily in Syria. All parties have blood on their hands, and in light of the fact that two nuclear powers are now stationed in the same Syrian city with complete polar opposite interests, it’s possible they will make an incredibly dire situation into an international powder keg.
FIVE migrants allegedly gang raped a seven-year-old girl at a refugee centre in Germany, according to reports
Cops are probing a “serious sexual assault” at the Central Initial Reception Center (ZEA) for refugees in the Hamburg, reports say.
The alarm was reportedly raised on Tuesday evening shortly after 7pm.
A girl, aged seven, is thought to be the victim of the alleged group sex attack, German newspaper BILD reported.
Five Arabs have reportedly been accused of carrying out the alleged assault.
Public prosecutor Nana Frombach told BILD: “We have initiated a case against five persons.
“There had been no urgent need for action. The investigation will continue.”
Though a number of U.S. soldiers were previously deployed to Syria under the Obama administration, the U.S. government has just sent an additional 400 troops to Syrian territory without congressional approval, without approval from the Syrian government, and without approval from the U.N.
Given the illegality of the move, the real question regarding the operation must focus on the motive. Why is the United States military, under a president who ran on a campaign of focusing less on wars abroad, sending more troops to Syrian territory? Trump supporters often argue this is to fulfill his campaign promise to defeat ISIS.
The first thing to note, however, is that ISIS has already been more or less defeated, with or without American assistance. ISIS currently has one major stronghold left in Iraq, which American air power is currently assisting various Iraqi militias on the ground to crush. The terror group also has one final remaining substantial stronghold in Syria.
If this is the case — and as ISIS soldiers flee Mosul in Iraq and head towards Syria — one is left to wonder why on earth the Trump administration is also sending 1,000 American troops to Kuwait, as well. According to one anonymous official, the Kuwaiti deployment is “about providing options,” whatever that means.
The second thing to note is that since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, Iranian influence has been spreading throughout the Middle East. The biggest winner of the Iraq war was Iran, namely because the United States and the United Kingdom ousted Saddam Hussein, a Sunni who spent years bombing and gassing Iranians. Shortly after, Hussein was replaced by a U.S.-backed, Shia-led government that was able to align itself with Tehran. In 2005, Iran formed a formal defense agreement with Syria, creating a three country-strong wedge between NATO and the Caucasus region, which was further strengthened with the addition of Lebanon, which is home to Iran’s proxy army, Hezbollah.
The most complicated aspect of this alliance is the fact that it may soon include Yemen, as a Houthi-led insurgency may create an Iranian-aligned government on Saudi Arabia’s border (contrary to what the mainstream media claims, Iran’s support for the Houthi movement is incredibly limited, but the possibility of an alliance with Tehran is very real).
The resistance to this Iranian-led alliance by the U.S.-Israel establishment can be seen in a variety of ways. For example, in 2013, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, told the Jerusalem Post:
“The initial message about the Syrian issue was that we always wanted [President] Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran.”
According to the Post, Oren said this was the case even if the other “bad guys” were affiliated with al-Qaeda.
In the case of Iraq and Syria, Iran’s influence has been integral in recent developments. Iranian militias have already done the bulk of anti-ISIS fighting on the ground in Iraq, yet the U.S. wants to swoop in at the final stages and claim a victory they have ultimately contributed very little towards.
On top of this, Saudi Arabia is also sending ground troops to Syria with the express purpose of preventing liberated areas of Syria from falling into the hands of Syria, Iran, and/or Hezbollah.
The United States and its allies are now illegally moving into Syrian territory for one main purpose: to shape the outcome of the battle. Even though Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the United States officially all have the same goal of defeating ISIS, in reality, they all disagree on what should follow.
“The upshot is that it’s still unclear who will take Raqqa when Mosul falls,” said one senior official involved in discussions, as reported by the Guardian. “The Americans are still hedging on the Kurds, even though the Turks are adamantly opposed. The Russians want the Syrian army and the rebels to do it, under their tutelage.”
The only question that matters now is to what extent Saudi Arabia and the U.S. will go to enforce their desired outcome on the Syrian regime. Will they fight off Iranian and Syrian troops, which will only further complicate the battle arena as Russia provides unquestionable air power to the aforementioned troops on the ground?
With the presidency of Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin has lost his monopoly on unpredictability and his ability to outmaneuver the United States’ foreign policy goals in the Middle East. This is because of how reckless Trump is proving himself to be.
In order to avoid a catastrophic war, the Americans and the Saudis may be relying on the fact that their presence there may act as a deterrence to the Syrians and Iranians. If possible, this would ensure that Syrian troops stay well clear of those areas occupied by American troops, and as such, avoid coming under fire. If that is the case, it is still unclear what international legal principle gives the United States the right to take territory from the Syrian government and hand it over to its allies on the ground, a move that may, in essence, be a deal-breaker for Syria, Iran and/or Russia.
One thing is clear, however. The Trump administration will not willingly allow an outright victory for Iran and Russia in Syria. Despite ramping up his anti-Iran rhetoric while claiming to be less concerned with the Assad government in Syria, Trump is evidently keeping open the Syrian military option laid out for him by Barack Obama as a means of directly targeting Iran.
How will this end?