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Is the Syrian War About to Experience a Major Escalation?

"The risk of a very serious escalation to the hostilities in Syria has increased materially in recent days."

We’re going to war — either hybrid in nature to break the Russian state back to its 1990s subordination, or a hot war (which will destroy our country). Our citizens should know this, but they don’t because our media is dumbed down in its “Pravda”-like support for our “respectable,” highly aggressive government. We are being led, as C. Wright Mills said in the 1950s, by a government full of “crackpot realists: in the name of realism they’ve constructed a paranoid reality all their own.” Our media has credited Hillary Clinton with wonderful foreign policy experience, unlike Trump, without really noting the results of her power-mongering. She’s comparable to Bill Clinton’s choice of Cold War crackpot Madeleine Albright as one of the worst Secretary of States we’ve had since … Condi Rice? Albright boasted, “If we have to use force it is because we are America; we are the indispensable nation. We stand tall and we see further than other countries into the future.”

Hillary’s record includes supporting the barbaric “contras” against the Nicaraguan people in the 1980s, supporting the NATO bombing of the former Yugoslavia, supporting the ongoing Bush-Iraq War, the ongoing Afghan mess, and as Secretary of State the destruction of the secular state of Libya, the military coup in Honduras, and the present attempt at “regime change” in Syria. Every one of these situations has resulted in more extremism, more chaos in the world, and more danger to our country. Next will be the borders of Russia, China, and Iran. Look at the viciousness of her recent AIPAC speech (don’t say you haven’t been warned). Can we really bear to watch as Clinton “takes our alliance [with Israel] to the next level”? Where is our sense of proportion? Cannot the media, at the least, call her out on this extremism? The problem, I think, is this political miasma of “correctness” that dominates American thinking (i.e. Trump is extreme, therefore Hillary is not).

– From the post: “We’re Going to War” – Oliver Stone Opines on the Dangerous Extremism of Neocon Hillary Clinton

The risk of a very serious escalation to the hostilities in Syria has increased materially in recent days. A huge concern to all Americans should be the insane cable in which 51 State Department war hawks recently urged President Obama to bomb government forces of Bashar al-Assad.

In case you aren’t aware of this disturbing recent development, theWall Street Journal reported:

BEIRUT—Dozens of State Department officials this week protested against U.S. policy in Syria, signing an internal document that calls for targeted military strikes against the Damascus government and urging regime change as the only way to defeat Islamic State.

The “dissent channel cable” was signed by 51 State Department officers involved with advising on Syria policy in various capacities, according to an official familiar with the document. The Wall Street Journal reviewed a copy of the cable, which repeatedly calls for “targeted military strikes” against the Syrian government in light of the near-collapse of the ceasefire brokered earlier this year.

Obama administration officials have expressed concern that attacking the Assad regime could lead to a direct conflict with Russia and Iran.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m actually grateful for Obama’s circumspection in this case.

“Failure to stem Assad’s flagrant abuses will only bolster the ideological appeal of groups such as Daesh, even as they endure tactical setbacks on the battlefield,” the cable reads, using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

This statement is complete and total nonsense, as we will find out later.

The cable also echoes the growing impatience among U.S. Gulf allies with the lack of military intervention targeted at the Damascus government to force Mr. Assad to resign and make way for a transitional government. Peace talks between Syria’s government and opposition collapsed in April over Mr. Assad’s fate, with the regime insisting he should stay in power, while the negotiated cease-fire continued to disintegrate.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have pressed the U.S. to provide more sophisticated weapons to rebels. But Washington has resisted.

Of course, it’s no surprise that the typical terrorist-supporting “allied” states in the region are pushing for more war.

Meanwhile, for some perspective on just how disastrous U.S. strikes against the Assad regime would be, and how utterly illogical the thought process of these State Department “dissenters” really is, let’s turn to Al-Monitor:

The Obama administration is so far holding the line on its Syria policy despite a “dissent” cable from 51 State Department officials calling for military strikes against the Syrian government.

In an initial response, the White House noted June 16 that the cessation of hostilities, despite violations, has allowed aid to reach 820,000 Syrians over the past four months.

The result of understandable frustration, the recommendation of military strikes against the Syrian government — no matter how well intentioned — is, in the end, escalatory, and would likely result in more war, killing, refugees, less humanitarian aid reaching civilians, the empowerment of jihadis and so on.

We admit to not following the logic of how such an escalation — which would probably risk US-Russia ties, UN-mediated talks, the International Syria Support Group, possible US-Iran understandings in Iraq and other conflict regions, and just about every other fragile bit of hard-earned and admittedly fragile diplomatic progress earned in the last eight months — would somehow be worth the numerous downsides in the hope it would “convince enough Syrian Sunni Arabs to fight the Islamic State,” as former US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford told Laura Rozen.

Perhaps what is actually meant is that military strikes would allow some form of deal with US partners in the region — which have been regularly called out by senior US officials for not doing their share in the anti-IS coalition, and which back Salafi and jihadi groups, such as Ahrar al-Sham and Jaish al-Islam, which have allied themselves with Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria — to, finally, step up against IS in return for the United States placing itself on the slippery slope of unintended consequences and another regime change endeavor in the Middle East, although the cable explicitly says that regime change is not the intended outcome of military action.

So as usual, America’s clueless State Department war hawks are taking marching orders from the U.S. government’s al-Qaeda supporting, ISIS funding Gulf “allies.”

By the way, the role of these Salafi groups — as well as their violations of the cessation of hostilities, their foreign backers and their relationship with Jabhat al-Nusra — is missing from the dissent cable. Indeed, there is no mention of Jabhat al-Nusra at all, nor is there acknowledgement of the growing international terrorist threat from IS, such as that referenced in the testimony of CIA Director John Brennan on June 16.

Of course there isn’t.

So count our strong dissent from this misguided dissent, especially because, perhaps unintentionally, in addition to probably blowing up the diplomatic framework and the thin reed of hope and aid it has offered the Syrian people, this sectarian-first thinking would further mainstream jihadi armed groups that ally with al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate. This column has documented how Ahrar al-Sham in particular, and other Salafi groups, have deepened coordination with Jabhat al-Nusra and violated the cessation of hostilities since February. Jaish al-Islam, it will be recalled, is being investigated for the use of chlorine gas in northern Aleppo. The Institute for the Study of War reports that last week the Jaish al-Fatah coalition, which includes Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham, attacked Khalasah, a Syrian government town.

We also share the Obama administration’s instinctual caution about the use of force in the Middle East, especially recalling the experiences in Iraq and Libya, which are ongoing, and, we believe, not worth emulating (and reference to which are also left out of the dissent cable).

These people never, ever learn from their mistakes no matter how many people they kill, terrorist groups they create, or countries they destroy.

Instead of chucking all of the hard-earned diplomatic gains to date, another alternative is that the United States could take up the Russian offer for increased coordination to target Jabhat al-Nusra, while keeping US-backed groups out of Russia’s line of fire. The United States and Russia may be closer to an agreement regarding coordination of military targeting. This approach would preserve the fragile diplomatic framework for the Syria talks and the cessation of hostilities, expand operations against al-Qaeda’s affiliates and hold Russia to account for hitting moderate opposition forces and civilians.

While this sounds all well and good, it seems the Russians, Syrians and and Iranians have had just about enough of U.S. foreign policy shadiness and are making their own moves.

To get a sense of what I mean, read the following excerpts from a different Al-Monitor article published Monday:

For Iran, the ongoing war in Syria is no longer a matter of regional security. The conflict now has direct effects and implications for Iran’s national security. This perspective is clear in the daily statements coming from Tehran, from the images of slain Iranian soldiers and high-ranking officers laid to rest in the Iranian capital and most recently the appointment of Rear Adm. Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, as military and security coordinator of the joint cooperation group on Syria with Moscow and Damascus.

Shamkhani’s appointment came in the wake of the recent summit that brought together the defense ministers of Syria, Iran and Russia in Tehran. It was clear from the meeting that the three countries are keen to boost their cooperation after having suffered some major setbacks in past weeks. These losses have been blamed on a lack of coordination and major differences over objectives, according to a Syrian official who spoke to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. The Syrian official said, “Russia, as a major world power, was looking at the scene from its position … and thought that giving peace a chance should have saved a lot of lives. The other side — the United States, mainly — wasn’t serious about its commitments. Therefore, the attacks by militants were more brutal than before and this caused some losses in the field.”

The official indicated that Tehran supports every effort aimed at ending the Syrian conflict, saying, “In Geneva, Vienna or anywhere, seeing people sitting together around the table is the best thing. Yet sitting just to buy time doesn’t make sense. The Americans are buying time for their new president at the cost of lives in Syria. We can’t accept such hesitation amid people’s tragedies.” He added, “Our friends the Russians went to the end [of the road] with the Americans. We warned on several occasions that this is not right. We even lost several officers and observers because of Russia’s position, and now that they discovered that there’s no outcome, we are going to start a new level of cooperation.”

A Syrian field commander told Al-Monitor he expects that the coming weeks will see an escalation of the situations in north and east Syria, “The Iranians are sending more troops. … Some have already arrived. And the Russians informed us that new plans are going to be implemented in Syria and this might involve real changes in tactics. What we are sure of is that the more our allies are on the same track, the closer we are to victory.” The commander suggested that even on the Iranian side, there have been some differences in the way things are done on the ground, and said, “As time is passing, this is becoming part of the past and we hope from now on that things will assume a better direction.”

While a major portion of Aleppo is under the control of the Syrian army and its allies, battles are expected in districts that were lost to opposition groups and Jabhat al-Nusra. As for Idlib and Raqqa, a major attack by the Syrian government and its partners will mean the deployment of thousands of forces and aerial cover by Russia, a move that might sabotage the fragile cease-fire agreed on with the United States.

On June 6, a Russian official who spoke off the record in Moscow told a group of journalists, including Al-Monitor’s correspondent, that relations with Washington are surreal. “One day we agree on something, the second day they do the opposite. When we ask them, they blame it on others. There’s difficulty in building confidence with them. Even when they commit themselves to an agreement, it takes them months to implement it.” While the Russian official stated firmly that his country is committed to a peaceful solution in Syria, he suggested that some Persian Gulf countries are becoming more flexible about Syria. “They are ready to accept a provisional period with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in office, but in return they want guarantees that Iran will have no role: not in Syria alone, but in the whole region. This is not possible, for Iran is a main power in the region along with Saudi Arabia — and both have a role to play.” The official concluded, “We regard our forces, the Iranian forces and Hezbollah as the only legitimate foreign forces in Syria, and therefore we are coordinating together.”

Indeed, one Syrian official told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that visiting Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu informed the Syrian president in their June 18 meeting that “new Russian troops are to be deployed in Syria next week.”

What’s clear from the above is that the Russians, Iranians and Syrians no longer see the U.S. government as an honest partner in this conflict. You can’t really blame them considering the recent State Department cable, as well as U.S. government support of terrorist groups funded and/or controlled by America’s Gulf allies.

For evidence, see:

So Who’s Really Sponsoring ISIS? Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Other U.S. “Allies”

UK Inquiry Finds Gulf “Allies” Sustaining ISIS in the Face of Oil Price Collapse

All that is bad enough, but what really caught my attention was the following line from the anonymous Iranian official who said:

The Americans are buying time for their new president at the cost of lives in Syria.

What does this mean? One interpretation is it’s a recognition that once Hillary Clinton is ushered into power, her administration will ramp up aggression against the Syrian regime exponentially. After all, that’s what she does.

As the Wall Street Journal article referenced earlier notes:

The internal cable may be an attempt to shape the foreign policy outlook of the next administration, the official familiar with the document said. President Barack Obama has balked at taking military action against Mr. Assad, while Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has promised a more hawkish stance toward the Syrian leader. Republican candidate Donald Trump has said he would hit Islamic State hard but has also said he would be prepared to work with Russia in Syria.

Brace yourselves. If Hillary Clinton ever ends up in the Oval Office it’s a safe bet World War 3 will quickly follow.

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