The Conflict in Syria: Also A War of Words

Russia has continued its bombing runs coordinated with Syrian army ground attacks throughout the week. This has resulted in more significant degradation of ISIS and other terrorist forces in that time than the “ambivalent” coalition managed in a year. This has greatly embarrassed and angered the US leadership. The dovish wing of the American empire, those who prefer to lay waste to other countries through economic means such as the TPP, and embodied by Obama, Kerry, and Obama’s Special Envoy for Syria, Michael Ratney, temper their criticism of the Russian campaigns with realism. But the American hawks are incensed and engage in much the same bellicose rhetoric offered up by the jilted American allies in the area, Turkey, Israel, and Saudi Arabia.

Alarming analyses but probably impotent recommendations were made recently by Thomas Friedman and Zbigniew Brzezinski. Though usually associated with the Democrats, and opposed to the hardliners among the Obama administration, these ambivalent American warmongers are stark purveyors of Empire all the same. Thomas Friedman of the NYTimes offered an idiotic analysis of Putin’s motives: ” Putin stupidly went into Syria looking for a cheap sugar high to show his people that Russia is still a world power” and an equally idiotic evaluation of Syria’s social constitution and eventual fate. This is conceptualized on the basis of ontological sectarian divides that are belied by Syria’s millennial history of workable harmony between “sects”. Sectarianism has been both a tactic and an end-game for the US. It is exacerbated or even created by US intel agencies and is repeatedly stirred up in those countries that seem ripe for American takeover.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, former Carter administration National Security Advisor, Russophobe extraordinaire, and innovator of US use of radicalized Islam to counter the Big Bear composed an essay for Financial Times that exceeded Friedman’s column for its alarming tone and shrill war cries. It is true that Brzezinski has been an advocate of the Iran deal, but t seems likely that for the old Cold Warrior, as for others, Iran simply may have been put on a “back burner” while the US concentrated on easier targets.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, we may recall, was one of the deranged minds behind the development of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan several decades ago. This envisioned using Islamist insurgents to drive the Russians out. One of the founding fathers of “al-CIAda”, Brzezinski is still at the top of his blame game, an old and wrinkled warrior who takes terrific offense at Russia’s obliteration of “our assets”. In his Financial Times piece, he now urges the US to stave off a new war by pressuring Russia, and if necessary “disarming” them. He doesn’t bother to say how. Again we may recall Vietnam-era contradictions (“We had to destroy the village to save it.”) Brzezinski seems to be saying the only way to avoid war is to start it.

Friedman is actually correct that Obama’s ambivalence is better than the neo-cons “fire, ready, aim” approach to the crisis in Syria. Obama may have saved our collective derrieres from WW3 by dragging his feet when such hawks urged enlarging with US ground troops the American military component of the US-led anti-ISIS coalition (called the “American led-ISIS coalition”, in a hilarious Freudian slip by CNN).

Now the US is dragging its feet about helping the Russians take on ISIS and other terrorist groups in Syria. Russia has asked the allies several times for intelligence regarding ISIS positions, but ‘mum’s the word’ on the US side. On Thursday, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov responded to the lack of response, saying the refusal to share data:

” just confirms once more what we knew from the very start, that the US goals in Syria have little to do with creating the conditions for a political process and national reconciliation…. I would risk saying that by doing this the US and the countries that joined the US-led coalition are putting themselves in a politically dubious position. The question is: which side are you fighting for in this war?”

The US took offense, but replied in a manner that once again simply highlighted their own inconsistencies. State Department spokesman John Kirby rationalized, “I don’t know how you can share intelligence when you don’t share a basic, common objective inside Syria. We’re not at that – we’re nowhere near that point. There’s no shared, common objective here about going after ISIL.”

The US implies thereby that Russia continues to avoid hitting ISIS. This, of course, is quite contrary to fact, though it is true that Russia has concentrated on liberating the western corridors and relieving the siege of urban centers, rather than go after ISIS in its eastern, desert abodes. Still they have destroyed more command centers and killed top personnel in the ISIS ‘capital’ of al-Raqqa in a few days than the US managed in its year of ineffective bombing.

Backed into a corner, the US has picked up the pace of its own ISIS air raids. At least they say they have, but, contrary to Russian protocol, little or no real evidence about their targets or the effectiveness of the raids is released to the public. Given the highly dubious character of the stated US intent to fight terrorism rather than to enhance it, the Russians have been increasingly vocal about the contradictions between stated US policy and its actions.

The US Air Force and other parties has been conducting airstrikes for a year. We have reasons to believe that they don’t often hit terrorist targets, or rather do so very rarely,” said Igor Konashenkov, the spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry.

Still, the Russians have been attempting to set up a cooperative arrangement with the US and its alliance to avoid mishaps and encounters in the skies of Syria. This offer finally seems to have been taken up. Today Pentagon spokesperson Peter Cook said the US Department of Defense had received a formal response from Russia on the issue of ensuring safe air operations over Syria and was in the process of reviewing the response. According to Cook, Russia-US talks on the coordination of air operations in Syria “are likely to take place as soon as this weekend.”

The hyper-power has certainly lost ground in a part of the world where it has long meddled with inevitably disastrous results. This will actually prove a boon for America even though warhawks and neo-cons sulk in their corner.

However, those with most to lose, in terms of unattained ambitions, are Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Israel. In the upcoming posts, I will also address Russo-Turk and Russo-Saudi relations in light of recent events. Both the Saudis and the Turks are probably enhancing their support of al-Nusra and the terrrorist oppostion to Assad. Saudi Arabia has just gifted 500 American TOW anti-tank missiles, which have already proved highly effective against the Syrian army’s renewed attacks on their positions.

While the uptick of arms flowing into Syria may prolong the crisis, barring a major turn of events, the chess game seems to be over. The West ought to just knock over its “king” and accept that the new world order is not that envisioned by Poppy Bush. But in this game, kings may actually lose their heads, and so Kings Salman, Erdogan, and Netanyahu play on. Even though each of these countries is led by despots with dementia and delusions of grandeur, only one has so far been diagnosed in this way, and the situation is undeniably tense. All are brandishing fierce words to date, and it ain’t over till its over. Israel has turned its tough words into overt action, beating up on Palestinians as is its wont in moments of frustration. As earlier mentioned, Putin probably saw this coming and made a point of reaching out with ‘carrots’ to the three countries in the months leading up to the Russian military buildup and the commencement of attacks. This soothed their feelings only a little at the time, and since all three shrugged off the offered “carrots”, or at least have not owned up to their side of the bargain, prospects are looking bleak for their eventual fortunes.

About neithernoreithermore

i am an historian of the present and past
This entry was posted in ISIS, Russia, Syria, US Middle East Policy. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The Conflict in Syria: Also A War of Words

  1. Pingback: Putin Makes an Example of Turkey’s Back-Stabbing: Why the US and West Should Pay Close Attention | Caravansaray Posts

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