The previous posts, going back a little more than month, relate what I believe is a very significant shift in global geo-politics. I began writing as the Turks and Americans wrapped up a deal to establish a “buffer zone” in northern Syria. Though details had not been worked out, it was obvious that ground troops would be needed. It seemed the neo-cons and hardliners in the US (Gen Allen led the initiative) perhaps had won the day; that the feet-dragging of Obama and Gen Dempsey would be overridden; that an invasion was imminent. The aim was Assad.
It was already clear that neither Turkey nor the US, nor any member of the “ambivalent alliance” was seriously interested in fighting ISIS. This has been abundantly confirmed by Russia’s bombing campaigns, which did more in a week to undermine ISIS than the US managed in a year. This has greatly embarrassed the US and exposed their strategy of covert support for the terrorists.
If one ventured off the Western mainstream media, it long ago was obvious that the coalition of Turkey, the US, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and others, including the important but unofficial participation of Israel, was really bolstering all Syrian rebel factions and foreign extremists, including ISIS. Now, the label “moderates” has become a laughingstock and is rarely used in the US press anymore, but “Free Syrian Army” has re-emerged after disappearing for over a year. Putin has asked where these may be found so that he wouldn’t bomb them. The US refused to reply, or perhaps couldn’t find them either. Putin’s famous patience failed him at that point; this is when he called US policy makers “oatmeal-heads”.
Back to the story so far: This late summer US war tide was hampered from many angles, and not very practical: certainly Americans are averse to seeing US troops on the ground in Syria. (We’re generally OK with war if we don’t see it.) Neither do most Turks want an empire. Israel always meant for its involvement to be surreptitious. And Saudi Arabia, another key alliance member, has its hands full with a Yemen war which is neither popular with its own population nor with many in the ruling house.
Of course, hardliners are rarely deterred by popular opinion. Gearing up for a commitment of US ground troops to do the serious business, the US began to illustrate the poor results of proxies. They had played this card before. To US Sect’y of Defense Ash Carter, Iraqi army itself lacked the “will to fight”, as exemplified by the mysterious melting away of the army before a tenth their number of ISIS troops at Mosul and Ramadi.
(For former Iraqi PM al-Maliki, this was arranged in Ankara and Erbil, capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. The Russian bombing give weight to this theory. The Iraqi army and air force also are exhibiting quick successes when provided only with the indirect support of Russia’s Syria campaigns, and the benefits of a joint Iraqi-Russian-Iranian-Syrian anti-ISIS information center in Baghdad. The US, acting like a jilted adolescent, has turned up its nose at joining this as well, basically saying to Iraq, its us or them. Well, the US always liked ISIS over Baghdad anyway.)
Back to the past: The justification for US ground troops was prepared in a very public Congressional hearing. On September 17, General Austin appeared before warhawk chieftain John McCain’s Senate Armed Forces Committee to discuss the pitiful results of the Pentagon’s “train-and-equip” program for 5400 “Syrian” rebels. After spending 40 of the 500 million dollars earmarked, Gen Austin announced to Senator McCain’s committee that, after a year they only had “four or five” fighters on the ground. In a deft “gee, whiz” show that lasted a day or two, the US press made much of the pathetic results of the Pentagon program.
At the same time, they entirely neglected what a far more successful and far more expensive CIA program had already done. Indeed, this is still left unmentioned in the US press, but Adam Johnson’s report for FAIR brought to light this multi-year, billion-dollar-a-year program, which the CIA quite successfully used to put 10,000 fighters on the ground in Syria.
These are not vetted, they are not Free Syrian Army, rather they are the “good terrorists” evidently targeted first by Russia, as evinced by the sincerely anguished outcry of John McCain, their Daddy, when they were bombed in the opening days of the Russian air campaigns. These are mostly Jubhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham, cut from the same cloth as ISIS and the rest of these foreign mercenaries and takfiri Salafi extremists. They were the also the most obvious first targets from a strategic standpoint, so we should not overplay the Western hair-splitting that Russia is not attacking ISIS so much as “our” terrorists.
A quick Russian military buildup in Syria in mid-September alarmed the Western press. A flurry of contradictory reports floated through US, Turkish, Kurdish, Russian, Iranian, Lebanese, French, Arab and Israeli press. In fact, the Russians were beefing up their presence at their sole Mediterranean port of Tartus, and most importantly, they quickly constructed and enlarged airstrips at Bashar al-Assad airport outside Latakia and brought planes and pilots. Even before the airstrikes began, a new balance of power was presented to the world.
The Western military intel sites were as rich in disinformation and information as the mass media. In the midst of media alarmism and denial, Debkafiles, an Israeli military info/disinfo site, published a sober assessment of a changed Middle East and Mediterranean, with the Russians now top power, the US in decline, and Israeli ambitions effectively stymied and stepped-back.
The tide shifted yet more dramatically when John Kerry opened the door for Assad to remain temporarily in power while the ambivalent coalition engaged the extremists. Perhaps more significantly, he implicitly opened the door for Putin to pursue limited anti-ISIS military activity in Syria. While Kerry’s words may not have signaled in alteration in US policy to continue its proxy program and to continue to concentrate first on Assad, second on the terrorists, Russian facts soon occupied the ground opened up, and then some. It has to be assumed that the Obama administration knew this would happen, and that they would have to endure the neo-con rage which has followed.
In the midst of these activities the 70th UN General Assembly commenced. National differences were made clear and the events of these weeks and future months were solidly anticipated. Significant speeches by many world leaders were made, but all were neglected by the US press, which seems to regard the UN as a club of also-rans unless they can be made to do US bidding. Putin’s trenchant critiques of the US were dismissed as petty while his common-sensical proposals for partnership were ignored. In three posts, I examined the speeches of Putin and Obama. To the UN assembly Obama argued for the exceptional right to take unilateral action in the world as the US best sees fit for its own interests, which it generally identifies with the interests of the globe. Putin criticized US unilateralism and argued for a renewed role for international law and a restoration of national sovereignty. The latter has been systematically undermined by US unilateral military action, which has neither the approval of the US Congress or people, and which stands outside all recognized parameters of of international law or convention. National (and personal) sovereignty also stand in the way of the corporate-legal takeover of society as envisioned in Obama’s trade treaties.
Obama’s unilateralism and extra-legal (or corporate-legal) military actions contradict the original intent of the UN. Putin spoke for a multi-polar ethos of cooperation and coordination in the efforts against our stated universal enemy, “terrorism.” As he also did at last year’s Valdai speech, and reiterated this year, Putin envisioned a multi-polar and cooperative world, each with something unique to contribute.
Obama’s speech was not designed as a brash declaration of independence from the strictures of the UN, from global sentiment, or from international law. Nevertheless, said with a smile, that is what the speech effectively declared. One may applaud Obama’s openness to the world, but deplore his stated intent to unilaterally pursue US interest. Also we should deny his simple and expedient identification of US interest with a common global good, and his identification of corporate and banking interests with those of the US.
Putin too speaks in somewhat absolute terms, but he argues for a multi-polar and cooperative world with different individual voices. Terrorism is his absolute standard of evil that he considers ought to unite all legitimate nations in a common initiative to defeat it. But this is what the US continues to insist it will not do: cooperate with Russia in its attempts to take out ISIS and other Syrian and Iraqi terrorist organizations.
Obama in fact is not so honest as it appears. He lies to the American people and to the world, for quite plainly it is not US interest that he is defending, but the interests of the corporate oligarchy and banking elites of this and other countries. It is not a national agenda that he pursues, rather it is a corporatist, monopolist agenda.By and large, Democrats and Republicans alike support this agenda, though some sensible voices have emerged from the left rejecting the “fast-tracking” of TPP. Over the outcries of protestors in Germany and elsewhere, Obama seeks to push through the frightful troika of trade treaties, TPP, TISA, and TTIP that are effectively designed to further erode the sovereignty of nations and the people in them in the interests of corporate profits. It will allow corporations such as Monsanto to sue nation-states that have restricted the imports of GMO foods for instance, or to ban pesticides that have approved by corporate justice.
Obama and crew aim not at US domination of the globe, but of corporate governance of the globe. The US citizenry also will not be spared if the US, bearing carrots or sticks, gets its way. Its middle-class wealth has systematically been gutted for decades. If anyone believes that further neo-liberalization of our economy, even QE for the poor rather than for the rich, will re-create a middle class, they have been consuming too much mass media. When Obama speaks for Americans, when he speaks for Syrians, when he speaks for the world, he is really speaking for his donors. At the top of the list, at the top of every such list, is Goldman-Sachs, which now has mounted the head of Greece on the walls of its boardroom.