“Primi attacchi aerei dell’aviazione russa in appoggio alle truppe turche ad Al-Bab”.
Chi l’avrebbe mai detto? “Secondo una fonte militare dell’aeroporto di Kuweires, una squadriglia di caccia Su-24 e Su-34 hanno sferrato attacchi aerei su Al-Bab, distruggendo vari mezzi appartenenti al cosiddetto Stato Islamico d’Irak e Al Sham”, che è sempre Daesh.
Secondo alcuni però, i colpi sarebbero diretti alle milizie curde anti-Assad. Erdogan ha accettato il principio della “integrità territoriale della Siria” (non certo di buona voglia) perché ciò comporta l’eliminazione dei sogni indipendentisti curdi?
La notizia (fonte Almasdar New, yemenita sciita) aggiunge che “nonostante l’appoggio aereo russo, l’armata turca non ha potuto mantenere il controllo dell’ospedale Al-Faruq e di Jabal al-Akil dopo che i terroristi dello stato islamico hanno assestato un colpo diretto con il loro ordigno esplosivo improvvisato”.
Il che rivela forse qualcosa sul temibile esercito turco, il secondo della NATO. Erdogan ha mandato oltre confine alcune centinaia di commandos; ma non osa impegnare l’esercito, che è fatto di coscritti, e che lui ha “purgato” di comandanti come veri e presunti complici di Gulen.
Secondo l’Osservatorio Siriano dei Diritti Umani (quello fatto da uno che sta a Londra), “Al Bab è stata giovedì oggetto di vari raid aerei turchi che hanno ucciso 72 civili, fra cui 21 bambini”. L’attacco aereo russo invece è di lunedì e non ha fatto vittime civili – o più probabilmente, sono adesso i turchi ad avere diritto alla loro quota di accuse di crimini di guerra. Infatti i media italiani hanno dato il dovuto rilievo.
Le atrocità? Le han fatte i “nostri ribelli”
Fosse comuni, civili trucidati
Su Aleppo, con molto disagio, la “narrativa” sta un po’ cambiando. Si osa dar notizia del fatto che ad Aleppo la gente festeggia i soldati dell’esercito nazionale, che i cristiani hanno celebrato il Natale nella gioia ed hanno ricevuto la visita di Assad e signora, e che si sono scoperte fosse comuni di civili giustiziati e mutilati dallo Stato Islamico, ossia dai protetti dalla coalizione internazionale. E’ già un progresso dopo cinque anni che “atrocità” e crimini di guerra, parecchi dei quali inventati (i gas nervini del 2012) venivano imputati esclusivamente ad Assad, e negli ultimi giorni prima della liberazione di Aleppo Est, a Mosca.
Parmi les “rebelles” d’Alep, des officiers de l’OTAN capturés ?
Selon des rapports concordants sortant d’Alep ce 16 décembre 2016, au moins 14 officiers militaires de la coalition de l’Empire anglo-sioniste ont été capturés par les forces spéciales syriennes ce matin dans un bunker terroriste d’Al-Qaïda/An-Nosra à Alep-Est.
Mais selon Veterans ToDay , le nombre d’officiers capturés serait supérieur à 110
En février 2012, une quarantaine d’officiers turcs et une vingtaine d’officiers français avaient été restitués à leur armée d’origine, soit par l’intermédiaire de Mikhaïl Fradkov (directeur des services de Renseignement russe), soit directement à l’amiral Edouard Guillaud (chef d’état-major français) à la frontière libanaise.
VT donne les chiffres suivants :
(US) Américains : 22
Français : 21
Israéliens : 7
Turcs : 62
Le nombre d’officiers arabes félons (Marocains, Qatariotes, Saoudiens, …) n’est pas indiqué. Selon le même site, les officiers non arabes ont été “libérés” avec les terroristes évacuant Alep, en contre partie de certaines concessions des agresseurs occidentaux et israéliens.
Les Israéliens auraient payé 3 millions $ par officier pour les racheter.
Par contre, les officiers arabes restent aux mains des Syriens.
Or, le site Voltaire.net, de son côté a annoncé : «Le Conseil de sécurité siège à huis clos, ce vendredi 16 décembre 2016 à 17h temps universel, alors que des officiers de l’Otan ont été arrêtés ce matin par les Forces spéciales syriennes dans un bunker à Alep-Est. ”
Il semble certain que cette réunion à huis clos du Conseil de Sécurité a pour but la négociation sur la libération des officiers non arabes capturés, moyennant certaines concessions (non connues pour le moment) de l’Empire anglo-sioniste
Fares Shehabi, un parlementaire syrien et le chef de la Chambre de commerce d’Alep a publié les noms des officiers de la Coalition sur sa page Facebook le 15 décembre :
Mutaz Kanoğlu – Turquie
David Scott Winer – États-Unis
David Shlomo Aram – Israël
Muhamad Tamimi – Qatar
Muhamad Ahmad Assabian – Saoudien
Abd-el-Menham Fahd al Harij – Saoudien
Islam Salam Ezzahran Al Hajlan – Saoudien
Ahmed Ben Naoufel Al Darij – Saoudien
Muhamad Hassan Al Sabihi – Saoudien
Hamad Fahad Al Dousri – Saoudien
Amjad Qassem Al Tiraoui – Jordanie
Qassem Saad Al Shamry – Saoudien
Ayman Qassem Al Thahalbi – Saoudien
Mohamed Ech-Chafihi El Idrissi – Marocain
En plus de Voltaire.net, l’autre rapport original a été fourni par le journaliste syrien basé à Damas, Said Hilal Alcharifi. Selon Alcharifi, les officiers de l’OTAN capturés appartenaient à un certain nombre d’États membres, dont les États-Unis, la France, l’Allemagne et la Turquie, ainsi qu’Israël.
Voici sa déclaration:
“Grâce aux informations reçues, les autorités syriennes ont découvert le siège d’officiers occidentaux / OTAN de haut rang dans le sous-sol d’une zone située à East Alep et les ont capturés vivants. Quelques noms ont déjà été donnés aux journalistes syriens, y compris à moi-même. Leurss nationalités sont USA, françaises, britanniques, allemandes, israéliennes, turques, saoudiennes, marocaines, qatariote, etc. A la lumière de leurs nationalités et de leur rang, je vous assure que le gouvernement syrien a fait une prise très importante qui devrait leur permettre de diriger les négociations avec les pays qui ont essayé de détruire la Syrie. “
Bien que ces rapports initiaux décrivent les individus en question comme des officiers de “l’OTAN”, il est peu probable qu’ils aient porté des couleurs de l’OTAN sur une opération secrète – et pourraient être étiquetés plus précisément comme officiers de coalition des USA.
Le site 21WIRE de son côté a également reçu des rapports non confirmés hier selon lequel des militants avaient tiré un missile dans la région de Ramousa et ont alors essayé, sans succès, d’obtenir des voitures pour partir d’Alep-Est. Il est possible que cet incident soit lié aux rapports d’aujourd’hui sur la capture d’officiers occidentaux.
Ce rapport de l’Agence de presse arabe syrienne (pas d’italique dans l’original) SANA:
“L’accord sur l’évacuation des militants et des armes des quartiers orientaux de la ville d’Alep a été suspendu après que des groupes terroristes l’aient violé”, ont indiqué des sources spéciales au correspondant de SANA à Alep.
Ces sources ont indiqué que la suspension de l’accord resterait en vigueur jusqu’à ce que des garanties obligent les groupes terroristes à se conformer à toutes les dispositions de l’accord, insistant sur le plein respect de l’accord par la Syrie et sa volonté de mettre fin à l’effusion de sang et de restaurer la sécurité et stabilité à toute la ville d’Alep.
Plus tôt, le journaliste de SANA a déclaré que les groupes terroristes avaient violé l’accord car ils faisaient passer clandestinement des armes lourdes, y compris des missiles TOW, des mitrailleuses lourdes et des personnes kidnappées, y compris des esclaves sexuelles, via les autobus et les voitures transportant des terroristes et leurs « familles » vers la campagne sud-ouest de la ville d’Alep.
Le journaliste a ajouté que les groupes terroristes avaient tiré des obus et des balles de sniper sur les autobus et les ambulances à la traversée d’Al-Ramousseh, notant que le Croissant-Rouge arabe syrien et le Comité international de la Croix-Rouge qui surveillent le processus d’évacuation a dû retirer tous les autobus et les voitures du passage.
Au cours des dernières 24 heures, environ 8 079 terroristes et membres de leur famille ont été évacués par dix lots via des bus et des ambulances des quartiers de Salah-Eddin, al-Ansari, al-Mashhad et al-Zibdiyeh vers le sud-ouest de la ville d’Alep “
Cela pourrait expliquer le comportement hystérique du Département d’État US et des responsables occidentaux de l’ONU qui ont réclamé “un cessez-le-feu immédiat” – en dépit du fait que 99% de l’Est d’Alep a déjà été libéré par les forces gouvernementales syriennes.
Les réactions hystériques et les falsifications systématiques des informations en provenance d’Alep depuis le début du conflit de la part de l’Establishment occidental face à la défaite d’Al-Nosra à Alep ont inclus des affirmations selon lesquelles l’armée syrienne aurait «déchaîné des escadrons de la mort» contre ses propres concitoyens résidents à Alep Est et qu’ils exécutent ouvertement des femmes et des enfants dans la rue, brûlent des enfants dans la rue, etc », ce qui semble être des rapport fictifs émis par l’imagination de journalistes US, tels que Michael Weis du The Daily Beast via CNN, affirmant que l’armée syrienne commettait un« viol en masse » contre les résidents d’Alep-Est. Weiss affirme avoir obtenu ses informations de la part de pseudo ‘ONG’ financée et organisée par les États-Unis et le Royaume-Uni, connue sous le nom de White Helmets (Casques Blancs).
Depuis septembre, de nombreuses organisations suggéraient qu’un centre de commandement occidental situé derrière des lignes détenues par des terroristes avait été pris pour cible et détruit par une frappe de missiles russe .
Le Prof Michel Chossudovsky a écrit: «Les États-Unis et ses alliés avaient mis en place une salle d’opérations militaire sur le terrain, dans la région d’Alep, intégrée autour d’un personnel appartenant au service de renseignement. Jusqu’à ce qu’il soit visé par une attaque de missiles russes le 20 septembre, cet établissement «semi-secret» était exploité par des services de renseignement US, britanniques, israéliens, turcs, saoudiens et Qatariotes. »
Ce rapport n’a été ni démenti ni confirmé par les sources de la Coalition à l’époque. Cependant, une source israélienne, The Times of Israël, a rapporté l’incident.
Pour quiconque ayant accordé une attention particulière au conflit syrien, et aux forces spéciales de l’OTAN ou des «entrepreneurs» et “ONG” travaillant avec les rebelles, les mercenaires ou les combattants terroristes à l’intérieur de la Syrie, rien de tout cela n’est étonnant et inhabituel.
De nombreux rapports ont été émis par des soldats britanniques affectés à des groupes de combat pour aider à la formation, la stratégie et la logistique des rebelles armés. En juin 2016, The Telegraph a admis que des forces spéciales britanniques avaient aidé un groupe rebelle, «… avec la logistique, comme construire des défenses pour rendre les soutes en sécurité», a déclaré un combattant «rebelle». D’autres rapports, y compris provenant du Los Angeles Times L.A. Times qui détaillaient les opérations de la CIA utilisées pour armer ces militants, y compris le front AlnNosra (al-Qaïda en Syrie) qui constituait la force terroriste pivot en charge d’Alep-Est. D’autres révélations sur l’implication dissimulée des USA incluent le The New York Times, et également des informations sur les opérations secrètes américaines (l’OTAN par un autre nom seulement) fournies au Wall Street Journal.
South Front de son côté note également :
“Auparavant, en décembre, South Front avait déjà noté que les tentatives US de pousser à une “solution diplomatique” à Alep pouvaient indiquer que l’administration Obama manquait de temps pour libérer les mercenaires américains et les membres des services spéciaux de la poche d’Alep:
Considérant que les conseillers militaires de la coalition dirigée par les États-Unis ont largement opéré à travers toute la Syrie, qu’ils ont assuré la formation et l’assistance à la soi-disant «opposition modérée» ouvertement liée à Al-Qaïda, et que tous ces faits sont connus de plusieurs sources indépenantes ou neutres tant par rapport aux autorités de Damas que de ses alliés et de ses ennemis, les rapports récemment publiés sont probablement véridiques.
Par exemple, des conseillers militaires britanniques sont officiellement arrivés en Syrie pour rétablir la capacité de combat de l’opposition décrétée alors «modérée», et se sont ensuite retirés d’Alep »
On peut également rappeler que, pendant les combats dans le Donbass dans l’est de l’Ukraine, entre mai 2014 et aujourd’hui, de nombreux incidents ont été signalés où les soldats et les militaires de l’OTAN ont été repérés et capturés par les forces rebelles, selon les mêmes schémas qu’en Syrie ou en Libye auparavant. Dans la plupart des cas, ces rapports ont été muets, plus que probablement à cause du «commerce équestre» ayant lieu comme un prolongement de la diplomatie plus large, ou l’on échange des prisonniers de guerre et en particulier des agents secrets contre des concessions politiques ou militaires.
 mercredi 21 septembre 2016. Syrie. Moscou élimine des officiers israéliens
Naturalmente dicendo il meno possibile, nulla, sugli ufficiali della NATO catturati dall’armata siriana in una cantina di Aleppo Est, il cui numero – dato inizialmente a 14, sarebbe invece di 128. Colpevoli, nella loro qualità di comandanti dei tagliagole preferiti dalla UE e da Washington, dei crimini contro l’umanità che i russi coi siriani vanno scoprendo. Silenzio sui 100 cadaveri – risultati di soldati siriani catturati – che i ribelli hanno liquidato col classico colpo alla nuca prima di sloggiare (che ne dirà Stoltenberg?).
L’Esercito siriano ha sequestrato grandi quantità di armi e munizioni, recuperate dai propri uomini nei quartieri orientali della città di Aleppo.
Gli esperti militari hanno stimato il valore di ciò che è stato catturato in centinaia di milioni di dollari. Il filmato mostra le scene delle armi sequestrate diversità nel mondo del lavoro, dove li trovò anti-uomo di armi, armature e carri armati, così come fucili di precisione e fucili automatici con visore notturno.
Discrezione sui “sette immensi magazzini con munizioni sufficienti per armare diversi battaglioni di fanteria” documentati dal portavoce elle forze russe, generale Igor Konachenkov: “Molti di questi depositi si trovavano in ospedali e scuole”. Per delicatezza d’animo e per non impressionare la Mogherini, le tv non hanno dato i video che mostrano l’enorme quantità di queste armi. Che noi stessi, intesi come occidentali, abbiamo fornito loro perché instaurassero il Califfato.
Sono state trovate anche immani quantità di generi alimentari, ben nascoste; la dittatura jihadista lasciava la popolazione civile senza cibo, sequestrava gli “aiuti umanitari” per la sua sbirraglia, e vietava ai civili di nutrirsene. Su questo, persino l’Osservatorio dei Diritti Umani in Siria (quello di Londra) ha osato accusare i terroristi. Un altro segno della graduale modifica della narrativa.
Strano “suicidio” del funzionario NATO
Nessun tentativo mediatico di collegare la ‘caduta di Aleppo Est’ e la strana morte in Belgio del revisore generale della NATO, Yves Chandelon, suicidato con un colpo di pistola alla testa nella sua auto, vicino ad Andenne. L’uomo di pistole ne aveva tre, regolarmente denunciate; quella con cui “si è” ucciso è un’altra, non sua.
Chissà perché, la famiglia non crede al suicidio; sostiene che Yves, pochi giorni prima, aveva confidato di sentirsi minacciato da strane telefonate. Stava indagando sui finanziamenti del terrorismo islamico: cosa che, in fondo, è un segreto di Pulcinella. Il suo ‘suicidio’ apre interessanti questioni: è parte delle pulizie di fine stagione della presidenza Obama, oppure è il sintomo di una spaccatura fra due fazioni interne all’Alleanza Atlantica?
WikiLeaks Reveals How the US Aggressively Pursued Regime Change in Syria, Igniting a Bloodbath
Friday, October 09, 2015. Il documento è riportato qui, in calce, nella lingua inglese originale.
Perché comunque la si metta, quella di Obama, della UE e dei sauditi e israeliani è una disfatta di prima grandezza. Tanto più se si tien conto dell’ultima rivelazione di Wikileaks dove un documento del governo Usa datato 2006 mostra che Washington ha progettato il cambiamento di regime in Siria fin da 15 anni fa, scatenando deliberatamente il bagno di sangue cui abbiamo assistito, coi 250 mila morti e i sei milioni almeno di profughi e senzatetto. Progettato in tutti i particolari: dal “giocare le ansie sunnite sull’influenza iraniana”, all’attizzare “i curdi”, creare divisioni “in senso ai servizi di sicurezza e militari” del regime, fino alle denunce false al tribunale dell’Aja di aver fatto uccidere il capo libanese Hariri (probabilmente ucciso da Sion) e alla diffusione di falsità demonizzanti contro Assad eil “primo cerchio” del regime – il compito a cui i nostri media si sono così valorosamente dedicati diffondendo ogni sorta di fake news imbeccate.
Risultato: l’esclusione degli Usa
Il risultato è che Russia, Turchia e Iran si sono riunite – a Mosca – per discutere la sistemazione della Siria, senza invitare Washington.
E’ la disfatta morale, ma anche intellettuale, di Obama, della strategia neocon e della UE: il Nobel per la Pace è stato sconfitto politicamente dal “piccolo paese che non produce niente”, la Russia, e che ai tempi di Eltsin i cervelloni strategici americani avevano definito “un Alto Volta con i missili”. Ma proprio questo fa giganteggiare le figure degli indubbi vincitori, Putin e Lavrov: con quanti pochi mezzi hanno battuto la superpotenza e il suo codazzo di satelliti.
Come mai? I motivi ha cominciato a provare ad enumerarli il massimo analista strategico franco-svizzero, Guillaume Berlat .
“La definizione di un quadro concettuale globale” che Putin ha seguito coerentemente e con costanza, dall’inizio delle “primavere arabe” (laddove Obama le ha provocate con vacue speranze che i Fratelli Musulmani realizzassero una “democrazia”, mentre per i neocon la destabilizzazione è un fine in sè).
La declinazione del quadro concettuale attorno ad alcuni principi. “Stabilizzare il regime siriano per evitare la destabilizzazione anche regionale (ammaestrato dagli effetti dell’implosione della Libia sulle aree circostanti), scongiurare la diffusione del virus islamista nel Caucaso, mantenere la sua base militare in Mediterraneo – giocando gli Usa e ridicolizzando la UE”, per giunta apparendo come il difensore dei cristiani e delle altre minoranze perseguitate in Oriente.
Il sagace uso congiunto della forza militare e della diplomazia. “La diplomazia senza le armi è come la musica senza strumenti”, diceva Bismarck; ma gli Usa si son fatti dettare la politica dal loro super-armamento, credendo che la potenza degli strumenti esima dal comporre la musica, perché quelli la suonano da sé.
La psichiatrica follia di questo s’è vista nel settembre scorso, quando Ashton Carter (capo del Pentagono) ha bombardato le truppe siriane assediate a Der Ezzor (tra 60 e 100 soldati morti, con la partecipazione di caccia belgi e danesi (e australiani,ndr)) al solo scopo di mandare a monte un accordo stipulato fra John Kerry e Lavrov per condurre operazioni militari congiunte contro Daesh. Cosa riconosciuta da Kerry sospiroso: “Purtroppo abbiamo avuto divisioni nelle nostre file che hanno reso l’applicazione dell’accordo estremamente difficile…”.
Patetica figura Kerry, di fronte a Sergei Lavrov, sperimentato non solo dalla lunga permanenza come ministro, ma dalla precedente esperienza di diplomatico all’Onu, e assistito dal quadro concettuale” complessivo stilato con Vladimir Vladimirovic. Di lui rimarrà nella storia la limpida, chiaroveggente diplomazia inclusiva, così contraria a quella americana. Infaticabilmente, Lavrov parla con gli iraniani, ma anche con gli americani traditori e doppi, coi turchi dopo che Erdogan fa abbattere il caccia russo, parla coi sionisti, perfino coi sauditi, trattando come legittimi interlocutori le cricche più infide, da leale interlocutore, lui. Tratta coi “ribelli” siriani, cercando di metterli al tavolo di pace. E’ stato lui a sventare in extremis l’intervento occidentale contro Damasco nel 2013, facendo aderire la Siria alla convenzione di divieto delle armi chimiche.
Quanto alla forza militare, è quella necessaria e sufficiente che Putin usa in vista di obiettivi chiaramente definiti. Spero si ricorderà il totale “effetto sorpresa” ottenuto su Washington ed Ankara con il dispiegamento istantaneo e invisibile dei caccia bombardieri, l’esibizione delle migliori novità tecniche delle tre armi, abbastanza da impressionare gli americani e indurli a non rischiare troppo nello spazio aereo (Erdogan, Hollande volevano da Obama una no-fly zone in Siria), assumendo anche i necessari rischi ed azzardi – l’abbattimento del caccia da un rabbioso Erdogan, che oggi è costretto ad agire da “alleato” di Mosca. Con ciò ha mostrato ai regimi arabi che, lui, non abbandona gli alleati nelle peste, come hanno fatto altri.
Tutto ciò non sarebbe bastato al successo, nota Berlat, senza quarto fattore: e qui l’analista evoca un dato morale, di carattere: la forza di una volontà irremovibile. Non dimentichiamo che in Siria, Putin ha sfidato un paese dieci volte più armato, una superpotenza economicamente dieci volte superiore, che non si esenta da atti criminali e talora da sussulti irrazionali, da idrofobia.
L’inflessibilità della volontà s’è dimostrata nella assoluta impermeabilità, spesso ironica, al martellamento mediatico. “I cani occidentali abbaiano, la carovana russa passa”, il Cremlino non si fa deviare nemmeno d’un metro dalla traiettoria iniziale dalla guerra mediatica. Il sistema mediatico occidentale s’è coperto di vergogna diffondendo propaganda e menzogne plateali; i governanti si sono compromessi in interviste con asserzioni irresponsabili e minacce delinquenziali, dichiarazioni estemporanee, rivelazioni controproducenti (tipo “Al Qaeda, sul terreno, fa un buon lavoro”). Putin parla quanto basta; usa il potere di veto all’Onu quando occorre, senza farsi intimidire; Lavrov non si abbandona alle emozioni, entrambi si impegnano in incontri utili e riservati, come quello che ha restituito temporaneamente la ragione a Erdogan.
E’ una forza di volontà intelligente, sostenuta da realismo, pragmatismo e sangue freddo. Gli occidentali perdono vistosamente d’intelligenza, credono alle loro proprie menzogne, se ne fanno irretire: invocano “interventi umanitari” per rifornire tagliagole wahabiti resi folli dal captagon, di fronte ai quali Assad è fin troppo evidentemente più civile e preferibile; farneticano di una “opposizione democratica” che sanno benissimo non esistere, trattandosi di mercenari stranieri pagati dai sauditi; invocano “tregue” che hanno l’unico scopo di salvare i terroristi da loro armati, e ormai alle corde. E tutto ciò, nonostante gli sforzi mediatici, si vede ad occhio nudo. “Tutto, nel racconto occidentale su Aleppo, sa di truffa e inganno”, ha scritto Fulvio Scaglione su Famiglia Cristiana.
Mogherini, Hollande e Merkel intimano ai russi, che trattano da criminali di guerra, di aprire corridoi umanitari. Ma “i “corridoi” esistono già, i civili sono già stati evacuati dai quartieri orientali di Aleppo dalle forze governative siriane e soprattutto dai russi che hanno anche messo in campo (a differenza della Ue) una mole imponente di aiuti umanitari per gli sfollati, proporzionale al loro impegno bellico. Persino i ribelli vengono portati con i loro famigliari (e i pochi civili che intendono seguirli) in aree controllate dalle milizie a cui appartengono con la supervisione della Croce Rossa Internazionale”, scrive la NBQ, che titola opportunamente: “Ad Aleppo, la UE perde la faccia”.
L’Unione Europea si è attenuta ad una rappresentazione della realtà “deforme in modo abissale” sulla Siria, per di più condita dal sentimento ingiustificato di non si sa quale superiorità civile e morale, che è un’imitazione dell’altrettanto ingiustificato senso della “eccezionalità” americana di cui Obama si riempie la bocca. “Noi” siamo l’Occidente, “noi” siamo la civiltà, l’umanitarismo e la democrazia, “Assad must go”,Putin è un dittatore…senza accorgersi della rozzezza e del semplicismo delle loro visioni che li ha portati ad una vera disfatta – intellettuale e morale.
E’ in nome di questa “superiorità” che Obama, prima di Natale, ha firmato il decreto per consegnare ai ribelli in Siria i missili anti-aerei a spalla; “un atto ostile” l’ha definito la portavoce di Lavrov, Maria Zakharova (Una follia che pagheremo cara, dico io. ndr).
E’ stato forse per suo ordine che il noto “incidente aereo” ha sterminato il coro dell’armata rossa. Non riesce proprio a capire che versare sangue non è un sostituto per l’intelligenza che gli manca, la malvagità e le vendette postume non bastano a rimpiazzare una strategia, una diplomazia, una politica estera impotente.
tratto da Blondet & Friends e con l’occasione, con gli auguri al nostro amico Maurizio Blondet
RUSSIA CALLS U.S. MOVE TO BETTER ARM SYRIAN REBELS A ‘HOSTILE ACT’
Free Syrian Army fighters fire an anti-aircraft weapon in a rebel-held area of Aleppo
Russia said on Tuesday that a U.S. decision to ease restrictions on arming Syrian rebels had opened the way for deliveries of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, a move it said would directly threaten Russian forces in Syria.
Moscow last year launched a campaign of air strikes in Syria to help President Bashar al-Assad and his forces retake territory lost to rebels, some of whom are supported by the United States.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the policy change easing restrictions on weapons supplies had been set out in a new U.S. defence spending bill and that Moscow regarded the step as a hostile act.
U.S. President Barack Obama, who has been sharply critical of Russia’s intervention in Syria, signed the annual defence policy bill into law last week.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner dismissed the Russian charges, saying the administration remains opposed to providing portable anti-aircraft missiles, or MANPADS, to Syrian opposition groups.
“Our position on MANPADS has not changed. We have a very deep concern about that kind of weaponry getting into Syria,” Toner said, referring to fears that portable anti-aircraft missiles could end up in the hands of Islamist militants and be used against civilian airliners.
The National Defense Authorization Act, signed into law by Obama on Dec. 23, appears designed to assuage the administration’s misgivings but imposes a new layer of congressional oversight on any presidential decision to provide them.
A provision bars the U.S. Defense Department from spending funds on MANPADS for Syrian rebel groups until the secretaries of state and defence submit a report to congressional committees explaining the decision to do so.
The report would have to include which groups would receive the weapons, intelligence analyses on the groups and the kinds and numbers of MANPADS to be supplied.
Moscow cast the bill as lifting restrictions on the provision of such weapons to Syrian rebels.
“Washington has placed its bets on supplying military aid to anti-government forces who don’t differ than much from blood thirsty head choppers. Now, the possibility of supplying them with weapons, including mobile anti-aircraft complexes, has been written into this new bill,” Zakharova said in a statement.
“In the administration of B. Obama they must understand that any weapons handed over will quickly end up in the hands of jihadists,” she added, saying that perhaps that was what the White House was counting on happening.
The U.S. decision was a direct threat to the Russian air force, to other Russian military personnel, and to Russia’s embassy in Damascus, said Zakharova.
“We therefore view the step as a hostile act.”
Zakharova accused the Obama administration of trying to “put a mine” under the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump by attempting to get it to continue what she called Washington’s “anti-Russian line.”
The Obama administration has in recent weeks expanded the list of Russians affected by U.S. sanctions imposed on Moscow over its actions in Ukraine.
Trump, during his election campaign, said he was keen to try to improve relations with Moscow and spoke positively about President Vladimir Putin’s leadership skills.
A back-and-forth exchange between Trump and Putin over nuclear weapons last week tested the Republican’s promises to improve relations with Russia however.
The Obama administration and U.S. intelligence officials have accused Russia of trying to interfere with the U.S. election by hacking Democratic Party accounts.
“The current occupants of the White House imagined that they could pressure Russia,” said Zakharova. “Let’s hope that those who replace them will be wiser.”
(Additional reporting by Peter Hobson in Moscow and Tom Perry in Beirut and Jonathan Landay and Lesley Wroughton in Washington; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Alan Crosby)
WikiLeaks Reveals How the US Aggressively Pursued Regime Change in Syria, Igniting a Bloodbath
Friday, October 09, 2015
By Robert Naiman, Verso Books | Book ExcerptIn 2010, WikiLeaks became a household name by releasing 251,287 classified State Department cables. Now, a new book collects in-depth analyses of what these cables tell us about the foreign policy of the United States, from authors including Truthout staff reporter Dahr Jamail and our regular contributors Gareth Porter, Robert Naiman, Phyllis Bennis and Stephen Zunes. “The essays that make up The WikiLeaks Files shed critical light on a once secret history,” says Edward Snowden. Click here to order your copy today with a donation to Truthout.
The following is Chapter 10 of The WikiLeaks Files:
On August 31, 2013, US president Barack Obama announced that he intended to launch a military attack on Syria in response to a chemical weapons attack in that country that the US blamed on the Syrian government. Obama assured the US public that this would be a limited action solely intended to punish the Assad government for using chemical weapons; the goal of US military action would not be to overthrow the Assad government, nor to change the balance of forces in Syria’s sectarian civil war.
History shows that public understanding of US foreign policy depends crucially on assessing the motivations of US officials. It is likely inevitable as a result that US officials will present themselves to the public as having more noble motivations than they share with each other in private, and therefore that if members of the public had access to the motivations shared in private, they might make different assessments of US policy. This is a key reason why WikiLeaks’ publishing of US diplomatic cables was so important.
The cables gave the public a recent window into the strategies and motivations of US officials as they expressed them to each other, not as they usually expressed them to the public. In the case of Syria, the cables show that regime change had been a long-standing goal of US policy; that the US promoted sectarianism in support of its regime-change policy, thus helping lay the foundation for the sectarian civil war and massive bloodshed that we see in Syria today; that key components of the Bush administration’s regime-change policy remained in place even as the Obama administration moved publicly toward a policy of engagement; and that the US government was much more interested in the Syrian government’s foreign policy, particularly its relationship with Iran, than in human rights inside Syria.
A December 13, 2006 cable, “Influencing the SARG [Syrian government] in the End of 2006,”1 indicates that, as far back as 2006 – five years before “Arab Spring” protests in Syria – destabilizing the Syrian government was a central motivation of US policy. The author of the cable was William Roebuck, at the time chargé d’affaires at the US embassy in Damascus. The cable outlines strategies for destabilizing the Syrian government. In his summary of the cable, Roebuck wrote:
We believe Bashar’s weaknesses are in how he chooses to react to looming issues, both perceived and real, such as the conflict between economic reform steps (however limited) and entrenched, corrupt forces, the Kurdish question, and the potential threat to the regime from the increasing presence of transiting Islamist extremists. This cable summarizes our assessment of these vulnerabilities and suggests that there may be actions, statements, and signals that the USG can send that will improve the likelihood of such opportunities arising.
This cable suggests that the US goal in December 2006 was to undermine the Syrian government by any available means, and that what mattered was whether US action would help destabilize the government, not what other impacts the action might have. In public the US was in favor of economic reform, but in private the US saw conflict between economic reform and “entrenched, corrupt forces” as an “opportunity.” In public, the US was opposed to “Islamist extremists” everywhere; but in private it saw the “potential threat to the regime from the increasing presence of transiting Islamist extremists” as an “opportunity” that the US should take action to try to increase.
Roebuck lists Syria’s relationship with Iran as a “vulnerability” that the US should try to “exploit.” His suggested means of doing so are instructive:
PLAY ON SUNNI FEARS OF IRANIAN INFLUENCE: There are fears in Syria that the Iranians are active in both Shia proselytizing and conversion of, mostly poor, Sunnis. Though often exaggerated, such fears reflect an element of the Sunni community in Syria that is increasingly upset by and focused on the spread of Iranian influence in their country through activities ranging from mosque construction to business.
Both the local Egyptian and Saudi missions here (as well as prominent Syrian Sunni religious leaders) are giving increasing attention to the matter and we should coordinate more closely with their governments on ways to better publicize and focus regional attention on the issue. [Emphasis added.]
Roebuck thus argued that the US should try to destabilize the Syrian government by coordinating more closely with Egypt and Saudi Arabia to fan sectarian tensions between Sunni and Shia, including by the promotion of “exaggerated” fears of Shia proselytizing of Sunnis, and of concern about “the spread of Iranian influence” in Syria in the form of mosque construction and business activity.
By 2014, the sectarian Sunni-Shia character of the civil war in Syria was bemoaned in the United States as an unfortunate development. But in December 2006, the man heading the US embassy in Syria advocated in a cable to the secretary of state and the White House that the US government collaborate with Saudi Arabia and Egypt to promote sectarian conflict in Syria between Sunni and Shia as a means of destabilizing the Syrian government. At that time, no one in the US government could credibly have claimed innocence of the possible implications of such a policy. This cable was written at the height of the sectarian Sunni-Shia civil war in Iraq, which the US military was unsuccessfully trying to contain. US public disgust with the sectarian civil war in Iraq unleashed by the US invasion had just cost Republicans control of Congress in the November 2006 election. The election result immediately precipitated the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld as secretary of defense. No one working for the US government on foreign policy at the time could have been unaware of the implications of promoting Sunni-Shia sectarianism.
It was easy to predict then that, while a strategy of promoting sectarian conflict in Syria might indeed help undermine the Syrian government, it could also help destroy Syrian society. But this consideration does not appear in Roebuck’s memo at all, as he recommends that the US government cooperate with Saudi Arabia and Egypt to promote sectarian tensions.
Note that, while Roebuck was serving in the George W. Bush administration, he was a career Foreign Service officer, a permanent senior member in good standing of the US government’s foreign policy apparatus. He went on to serve in the US embassies in Iraq and Libya – in the latter as chargé d’affaires – in the Obama administration. There is no evidence that anyone in the US foreign policy apparatus found the views expressed by Roebuck in this cable particularly controversial; its publication did not cause scandal in US foreign policy circles.
So, while the sectarian character of the civil war in Syria is now publicly bemoaned in the West, it seems fair to say that in 2006 the US government foreign policy apparatus believed that promoting sectarianism in Syria was a good idea, which would foster “US interests” by destabilizing the Syrian government.
This view of US policy – happy to make common cause with Saudi Arabia in fostering Sunni-Shia sectarianism in Syria, and preoccupied with Syria’s relationship with Iran above all else – is buttressed by a March 22, 2009 cable from the US embassy in Saudi Arabia, “Saudi Intelligence Chief Talks Regional Security with Brennan Delegation.”2
This cable summarizes a March 15 meeting including then US counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan and US ambassador to Saudi Arabia Ford Fraker with Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, the head of Saudi Arabia’s external intelligence agency. Ambassador Fraker’s summary recounted:
7. (C) PERSIAN MEDDLING: Prince Muqrin described Iran as “all over the place now.” The “Shiite crescent is becoming a full moon,” encompassing Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Bahrain, Kuwait and
Yemen among Iran’s targets. In the Kingdom, he said “we have problems in Medina and Eastern Province.” When asked if he saw Iran’s hand in last month’s Medina Riots (reftels), he strongly affirmed his belief that they were “definitely” Iranian supported. (Comment: Muqrin’s view was not necessarily supported by post’s Saudi Shi’a shia sources.) Muqrin bluntly stated “Iran is becoming a pain in the …” and he expressed hope the President “can get them straight, or straighten them out.” [Emphasis added.]
Ambassador Fraker’s comment that “Muqrin’s view was not necessarily supported by post’s Saudi Shi’a sources” was a severe understatement. Indeed, in a February 24, 2009 cable, “Saudi Shia Clash With Police In Medina,”3
Ambassador Fraker had reported in detail on the February 20 clashes between Saudi security forces and Saudi Shia pilgrims in Medina, without any mention of Iran. Fraker’s February 24 cable primarily attributed the clashes to, first, Saudi police having denied the Saudi Shia pilgrims access to the Baqi’a cemetery opposite the Prophet’s Mosque, and second, the Saudi Shia community’s long-simmering anger over historical grievances.
This indicates that the US government knows perfectly well that the Saudi government blames Iran for things that the Iranian government has nothing to do with, and is unconcerned about this. For the US government’s own internal information, the ambassador wanted to make clear that, as far as the US embassy knew, the Medina clashes had nothing to do with Iran. But as the 2006 cable makes clear, the US was happy to make common cause with Saudi Arabia in blaming Iran for things happening in Syria with which Iran had no connection. The next paragraph in the cable is also instructive:
8. (C) WEANING SYRIA FROM IRAN: Brennan asked Muqrin if he believed the Syrians were interested in improving relations with the United States.
“I can’t say anything positive or negative,” he replied, declining to give an opinion. Muqrin observed that the Syrians would not detach from Iran without “a supplement.”
This suggests that, for the US government in March 2009, Syria’s interest in “improving relations with the United States” was equivalent to its being “weaned” from Iran. Thus, the thing that the US really cared about in Syria was not, for example, the Syrian government’s respect for human rights, but Syria’s relationship with Iran.
Another theme that recurred in the 2006 cable focusing on Syria’s “vulnerabilities” and how the US should try to exploit them was that the US should take actions to try to destabilize the Syrian government by provoking it to “overreact,” both internally and externally. One of the “vulnerabilities” of the Syrian government listed by Roebuck that the US should try to exploit was its “enormous irritation” with former Syrian vice president Abdul Halim Khaddam, leader of the opposition-in-exile National Salvation Front. Roebuck wrote:
THE KHADDAM FACTOR: Khaddam knows where the regime skeletons are hidden, which provokes enormous irritation from Bashar, vastly disproportionate to any support Khaddam has within Syria. Bashar Asad personally, and his regime in general, follow every news item involving Khaddam with tremendous emotional interest. The regime reacts with self-defeating anger whenever another Arab country hosts Khaddam or allows him to make a public statement through any of its media outlets.
Roebuck proposed a means of exploiting this vulnerability:
We should continue to encourage the Saudis and others to allow Khaddam access to their media outlets, providing him with venues for airing the SARG’s dirty laundry. We should anticipate an overreaction by the regime that will add to its isolation and alienation from its Arab neighbors.
Note that the goal of encouraging the Saudis and others to “allow Khaddam access to their media outlets” was not to promote democracy and human rights in Syria, but to provoke the Syrian government to do things that would “add to its isolation” from its Arab neighbors. Of course, if the Syrian government acted in ways that would “add to its isolation,” then the US could cite such actions as evidence that the Syrian government was a rogue government, unable or unwilling to conform to international norms, threatening to US allies in the region, and therefore that the US government had to take some action in response. But now we know that such actions by the Syrian government would not have been unfortunate developments to which the US would be reluctantly forced to respond, but the explicit goal of US policy.
For example, in August 2007 – eight months after the above cable – Khaddam told the Saudi daily Al-Watan that reported remarks of Syrian vice president Faruq al-Sharaa criticizing Saudi Arabia were “part of the policy pursued by the ruling clique, which aims at severing Syrian links with the Arab world and tying it further to Iran’s regional strategy,” the Beirut Daily Star reported.4 The newspaper noted that the Syrian government was actually trying to “calm the spat,” saying that statements attributed to Sharaa had been “distorted.” In the context of Roebuck’s cable, these developments make sense: it was the US and its ally Khaddam that were trying to inflame tensions between Syria and Saudi Arabia, not the Syrian government.
Whatever one thinks of Khaddam or the Syrian government, it is not surprising that the latter would have been provoked in 2006 by countries like Saudi Arabia giving Khaddam a media platform, given what Khaddam had used such platforms to say in the past. Note that there is no question that the Saudi government controls the country’s media for a purpose like this, exactly as Roebuck implied – indeed, the Riyadh embassy cable about the Medina clashes between Saudi police and Shia pilgrims noted that the Saudi government had successfully pressured Saudi media to suppress reports of the clashes.
Here is what Khaddam told the Saudi-owned newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat about his goals in an interview in Paris in January 2006:
Q: What are you[r] current priorities? Do you want to reform the regime, reform it, or topple it?
A: This regime cannot be reformed so there is nothing left but to oust it.5
One imagines that if Iran had given a former Bahraini or Egyptian vice president a platform to say about the government of Bahrain or Egypt that “this regime cannot be reformed so there is nothing left but to oust it,” the US government would not have responded well. This was eleven months before Roebuck’s cable, and five years before the “Arab Spring” protests in Syria. We are told in the West that the current efforts to topple the Syrian government by force were a reaction to the Syrian government’s repression of dissent in 2011, but now we know that “regime change” was the policy of the US and its allies five years earlier.
Indeed, another of Roebuck’s proposed actions to exploit Syria’s “vulnerabilities” carried the same message:
ENCOURAGE RUMORS AND SIGNALS OF EXTERNAL PLOTTING:
The regime is intensely sensitive to rumors about coup-plotting and restlessness in the security services and military. Regional allies like Egypt and Saudi Arabia should be encouraged to meet with figures like Khaddam and Rif’at Asad as a way of sending such signals, with appropriate leaking of the meetings afterwards. This again touches on this insular regime’s paranoia and increases the possibility of a self-defeating over-reaction.
According to Roebuck, if Egypt and Saudi Arabia met with Khaddam and news of the meetings were “appropriately leaked,” that would send a signal to the Syrian government that these countries were plotting against Syria, perhaps trying to organize a coup.
It is revealing that Roebuck described the regime as “paranoid” for having fears that appear to have been quite rational – fears based in significant measure on the actions of the United States and its allies. The most powerful government in the world and its allies in the region aspired to overthrow the Syrian government. The US has a long track record6 of trying to overthrow governments around the world, including in the region – and, as Roebuck’s cable makes clear, far from trying to allay such fears, the US wanted to exacerbate them. In 2014, the US was arming insurgents who were trying to kill Syrian government officials. Was the Syrian government’s fear of the US government irrational, or was it rational?
Failure to acknowledge that US adversaries’ fears of the US are rational suggests a world-view in which US threats are normal, unremarkable, an inevitable part of the landscape, which only mentally unstable people would object to, their fears serving as proof of their irrationality. During the US-organized Contra war against Nicaragua in the 1980s, Alexander Cockburn recounted the view of a visiting US congressman toward Nicaragua: “Nicaraguans tell stories about these US fact-finders with a certain wry incredulity. One congressman listened to a commandante outlining the murderous rampages of the contras and then burst out, ‘Suppose 5,000 contras cross your border. Suppose you are invaded by the entire Honduran army, why should you worry. Are you that insecure?'”7
Listing resistance to economic reforms as a “vulnerability,” Roebuck wrote
REFORM FORCES VERSUS BAATHISTS – OTHER CORRUPT ELITES:
Bashar keeps unveiling a steady stream of initiatives on economic reform and it is certainly possible he believes this issue is his legacy to Syria. While limited and ineffectual, these steps have brought back Syrian expats to invest and have created at least the illusion of increasing openness. Finding ways to publicly call into question Bashar’s reform efforts – pointing, for example to the use of reform to disguise cronyism – would embarrass Bashar and undercut these efforts to shore up his legitimacy. [Emphasis added.]
Presumably, a key goal of economic reforms would have been to “[bring] back Syrian expats to invest,” so if they had that effect, then they were not ineffectual. This makes clear what Roebuck was and was not interested in. He was not interested in Syrian economic reforms succeeding in facilitating private investment, but in their failure. Even if they had some success, he wanted to present them as a failure and “undercut these efforts to shore up his legitimacy.”
The notion of “legitimacy” is a key one in US foreign policy toward adversary governments in countries that the US does not fear militarily (for example, because they have nuclear weapons). In the context of US foreign policy, the term “legitimacy” is a term of art that has a specific meaning. The usual notion of government “legitimacy” in international law and diplomacy, which the US applies to its allies without question, has nothing to do with whether we like the policies of the government in question or consider them just. Either you are the recognized government of the country, holding its seat at the United Nations, or you are not. Hardly anyone in Washington would suggest that the governments of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, or Israel are not “legitimate” because they were not elected by all of their subjects or because they engage in gross violations of human rights. Nor would many in Washington suggest that the governments of Russia or China are not “legitimate,” however one might dislike some of their policies, their lack of democracy, or their violations of human rights. These countries have nuclear weapons and a permanent seat and veto on the UN Security Council, so challenging their legitimacy could have dangerous consequences. The US may complain about their policies, but there is no chance that it will challenge their “legitimacy.”
Countries like Syria, Iraq before the 2003 US invasion, and Libya before the 2011 US-NATO military campaign to over-throw Qaddafi, on the other hand, belong to a different category. If the US government thinks that their governments can be overthrown, then it may declare them to be “illegitimate.” A US declaration that a government is “illegitimate” means that the United States is likely to try to overthrow it.
Roebuck underscored his point as follows:
DISCOURAGE FDI, ESPECIALLY FROM THE GULF: Syria has enjoyed a considerable uptick in foreign direct investment (FDI) in the last two years that appears to be picking up steam. The most important new FDI is undoubtedly from the Gulf.
Again, the increase in investment would seem to suggest that economic reforms were working to encourage investment. But Roebuck saw this as bad. If the most important FDI was from the Gulf, that suggested that, contrary to the US and Khaddam’s claims that Syria was trying to have bad relations with the Gulf countries, it was succeeding in projecting an image of a country that was trying to get along. But in Roebuck’s view, this was not a good thing; this was a bad thing, which the US should try to counteract.
Roebuck spoke glowingly of violent protests against the Syrian government:
THE KURDS: The most organized and daring
political opposition and civil society groups are among the ethnic minority Kurds, concentrated in Syria’s northeast, as well as in communities in Damascus and Aleppo. This group has been willing to protest violently in its home territory when others would dare not. [Emphasis added.]
The word “daring” in English usually connotes exemplary courage. US newspapers, for example, do not generally describe the Palestinian use of violence against the Israeli occupation as “daring,” because, while using violence in this instance obviously requires courage, it is not seen in the US as exemplary. This shows how US diplomats like Roebuck see the world: if you are protesting governments that are US allies, like Bahrain, Egypt, or Israel, then your protests should be nonviolent. But if you are protesting a government that the US would like to overthrow, then the use of violence demonstrates “daring.” Roebuck suggested a means of taking advantage of this “vulnerability”:
HIGHLIGHT KURDISH COMPLAINTS: Highlighting Kurdish complaints in public statements, including publicizing human rights abuses will exacerbate regime’s concerns about the Kurdish population. There is no pretense here that the goal of this action would be to encourage greater respect by the Syrian government for the human rights of Kurds – the goal would be to destabilize the Syrian government. Roebuck also made clear his attitude toward terrorism in Syria:
Extremist elements increasingly use Syria as
a base, while the SARG has taken some actions against groups stating links to Al-Qaeda. With the killing of the al-Qaida [sic] leader on the border with Lebanon in early December and the increasing terrorist attacks inside Syria culminating in the September 12 attack against the US embassy, the SARG’s policies in Iraq and support for terrorists elsewhere as well can be seen to be coming home to roost.
Publicize presence of transiting (or externally focused) extremist groups in Syria, not limited to mention of Hamas and PIJ. Publicize Syrian efforts against extremist groups in a way that suggests weakness, signs of instability, and uncontrolled blowback. The SARG’s argument (usually used after terror attacks in Syria) that it too is a victim of terrorism should be used against it to give greater prominence to increasing signs of instability within Syria. [Emphasis added.]
Note that, in private correspondence, Roebuck has no problem acknowledging that Syria is the victim of terrorism and that the Syrian government is trying to take action against terrorists. But if Syria is the victim of terrorism and is trying to do something about it, according to the view that Roebuck wants the US to present to the world, that is evidence that Syria is weak and unstable and is suffering “uncontrolled blowback” as its support for terrorists elsewhere “comes home to roost.”
Imagine if a diplomat from a country perceived to be a US adversary suggested that the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and US efforts to prevent such attacks in the future, were evidence that the US is weak and unstable, suffering from “uncontrolled blowback” as past US support for terrorists elsewhere “came home to roost.” How would this be perceived in the United States?
It is not hard to speculate. In May 2007, when Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul suggested that “blowback” from US foreign policy had helped cause the September 11 attacks,8 Republican frontrunner Rudy Giuliani denounced him as a conspiracy theorist.9 When in 2010, in a speech at the United Nations, the president of Iran noted the then widespread minority belief that the US government was behind the September 11 attacks, the US led a walkout and denounced the speech.10 So it seems reasonable to conclude that, if the US put forward the view that terrorism in Syria were Syria’s own fault, the Syrian government would be likely to perceive that as a very hostile act.
This cable shows that, in December 2006, the top US diplo mat in Syria believed that the goal of US policy in Syria should be to destabilize the Syrian government by any means available; that the US should work to increase Sunni-Shia sectarianism in Syria, including by aiding the dissemination of false fears about Shia proselytizing and stoking resentment about Iranian business activity and mosque construction; that the US should press Arab allies to give access in the media they control to a former Syrian official calling for the ouster of the Syrian government; that the US should try to strain relations between the Syrian government and other Arab governments, and then blame Syria for the strain; that the US should seek to stoke Syrian government fears of coup plots in order to provoke the Syrian government to overreact; that if the Syrian government reacted to external provocations, it proved that the regime was paranoid; that the US should work to undermine Syrian economic reforms and discourage foreign investment; that the US should seek to foster the belief that the Syrian government was not legitimate; that violent protests in Syria were praiseworthy and exemplary; that if Syria is the victim of terrorism and tries to do something about it, the US should exploit that to say that the Syrian government is weak and unstable, and is experiencing blowback for its foreign policy.
We also know that, in the eyes of the US embassy in Riyadh, Syria was interested in improving relations with the United States if and only if it was interested in being “weaned” from Iran.
From other cables, we know that the US was funding Syrian opposition groups. The US government acknowledged this funding after the cables were published by WikiLeaks.11 The US had previously announced funding to “promote democracy” in Syria, but what was not previously publicly known was the extent to which the US government was engaged in funding opposition groups and activities which it had internally conceded would be seen by the Syrian government as proof that the US was seeking to overthrow it. A February 21, 2006 cable noted:
Post contacts [i.e., US embassy contacts in Syria] have been quick to condemn the USG’s public statement announcing the designation of five million USD for support of the Syrian opposition, calling it “na[i]ve” and “harmful.” Contacts insist that the statement has already hurt the opposition, and that the SARG will use it in the coming months to further discredit its opponents as agents of the Americans.12
The cable also noted: “Several contacts insisted that the initiative indicated the US did not really care about the opposition, but merely wanted to use it as ‘a chip in the game.'” Judging from the December, 2006 “vulnerabilities and actions” cable, it is hard to dispute this conclusion of the embassy’s Syrian contacts.
The February 2006 cable elaborated:
Bassam Ishak, a Syrian-American activist who ran as an independent candidate for the People’s Assembly in 2003, said that the general consensus among his civil society and opposition colleagues had been that the USG is “not serious about us” and that the public announcement was “just to put pressure on the regime with no regard for the opposition.” “We are just a chip in the game,” he asserted.
Note that the view that there could be severe negative consequences from US funding of opposition groups, including by helping the government delegitimize opposition groups and individuals as agents of foreign powers, was shared by many of the embassy’s own contacts in the Syrian opposition. Some of the people who were delegitimized in this way might otherwise have been credible interlocutors in negotiations toward more inclusive governance; thus, the strategy of funding opposition groups could have the effect of foreclosing diplomatic and political options. Some of the criticism expressed of the US announcement was that it was made publicly; but, as the cables demonstrate, it was likely that the Syrian government would find out what the US was doing in the long run, and therefore that the distinction between secret and public was not meaningful.
Another critic noted that the US was already secretly funding the Syrian opposition:
MP Noumeir al-Ghanem, a nominal independent and chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Parliament, dismissed the funding plan as a stunt, saying the amount of money was small and that the US had already been funding the opposition secretly, without impact. The new initiative would make no real difference. In his view, the announcement angered most Syrians, who viewed it as interference in the internal affairs of Syria, something that the US always insisted that Syria should not do regarding Lebanon.
Al-Ghanem said the US should engage in dialogue with the Syrian regime and work for a stable, slowly democratizing country that could further US interests in the region, instead of putting up obstacles to such dialogue.
An April 28, 2009 cable, “Behavior Reform: Next Steps for a Human Rights Strategy” – from a period of “policy review” in which the new Obama administration was exploring a less confrontational policy toward Syria – outlining US government–funded “ongoing civil society programming” in Syria, acknowledged that “[s]ome programs may be perceived, were they made public, as an attempt to undermine the Asad regime, as opposed to encouraging behavior reform.” It also stated: “The SARG would undoubtedly view any US funds going to illegal political groups as tantamount to supporting regime change. This would inevitably include the various expatriate reform organizations operating in Europe and the US, most of which have little to no effect on civil society or human rights in Syria.”13 It noted that the State Department’s US-Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) had sponsored eight major Syria-specific initiatives, some dating back to 2005, that will have received approximately $12 million by September 2010.
One of those initiatives was described as follows: “Democracy Council of California, ‘Civil Society Strengthening Initiative (CSSI)’ (USD 6,300,562, September 1, 2006 – September 30, 2010). ‘CSSI is a discrete collaborative effort between the Democracy Council and local partners’ that has produced a secure Damascus Declaration website (www.nidaasyria.org) and ‘various broadcast concepts’ set to air in April.”
A February 7, 2010 cable, “Human Rights Updates – SARG Budges On TIP, But Little Else,” indicates that “various broadcast concepts” referred to Barada TV, a London-based Syrian opposition satellite television network. The February 2010 cable referred to Barada TV as “MEPI-supported” and said: “If the SARG establishes firmly that the US was continuing to fund Barada TV, however, it would view USG involvement as a covert and hostile gesture toward the regime.”14
But while the April 2009 cable had noted that the Syrian government “would undoubtedly view any US funds going to illegal political groups as tantamount to supporting regime change,” the February 2010 cable shows that such funding continued, even though the April 2009 cable had identified “how to bring our US-sponsored civil society and human rights programming into line [with] a less confrontational bilateral relationship” as a “core issue” facing a US human rights strategy for Syria. The April 2009 cable had argued:
The majority of DRL [the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Affairs] and MEPI programs have focused on activities and Syrians outside of Syria, which has further fed regime suspicions about US intentions. If our dialogue with Syria on human rights is to succeed, we need to express the desire to work in Syria to strengthen civil society in a non-threatening manner.
It appears, however, that the shift argued for in the April 2009 cable never occurred. This apparently remained true even as the US embassy became increasingly aware of evidence that the Syrian government knew about the activities funded by the US that the April 2009 cable had warned that the Syrian government would see, if they became aware of them, as evidence of a regime-change policy, and would thus be likely to undermine US efforts to engage the Syrian government.
A July 8, 2009 cable on rifts in the Syrian opposition, “Murky Alliances: Muslim Brotherhood, the Movement for Justice and Democracy, and the Damascus Declaration,” noted the “worrisome” fact of “recent information suggesting the SARG may already have penetrated the MJD [Movement for Justice and Development] and learned about sensitive USG programs in Syria.”15 The cable expanded on the issue as follows:
MJD: A Leaky Boat?
8. (C) [Damascus Declaration member Fawaz] Tello had told us in the past that the MJD … had been initially lax in its security, often speaking about highly sensitive material on open lines … The last point relates to a recent report from lawyer/journalist and human rights activist Razan Zeitunah (strictly protect) who met us separately on July 1 to discuss having been called in for questioning by security services on June 29.
9. (S/NF) Zeitunah told us security services had asked whether she had met with anyone from our “Foreign Ministry” and with anyone from the Democracy Council [recipient of the US grant
for the MJD to run Barada TV]. (Comment: State Department Foreign Affairs Officer Joseph Barghout had recently been in Syria and met with Zeitunah; we assume the SARG was fishing for information,
knowing Barghout had entered the country. Jim Prince was in Damascus on February 25, and it is our understanding he met with Zeitunah at that time, or had done so on a separate trip. End Comment.) She added that her interrogators did not ask about Barghout by name, but they did have Jim Prince’s. [Jim Prince is the head of the Democracy Council.]
11. (S/NF) Comment continued: Zeitunah’s report begs the question of how much and for how long the SARG has known about Democracy Council operations in Syria and, by extension, the MJD’s participation. Reporting in other channels suggest the Syrian Muhabarat may already have penetrated the MJD and is using MJD contacts to track US democracy programming.
A September 23, 2009 cable, “Show Us the Money! SARG Suspects ‘Illegal’ USG Funding,” gave further evidence that the Syrian authorities were increasingly aware of what the US was funding:
1. (S/NF) Summary: Over the past six months, SARG
security agents have increasingly questioned civil society and human rights activists about US programming in Syria and the region, including US Speaker and MEPI initiatives. In addition to reported interrogations of the Director of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression and employees of USG-supported Etana Press, new criminal charges against detained human rights lawyer Muhanad al-Hasani for illegally receiving USG funding reflect the seriousness with which the regime is pursuing these “investigations.”
2. (S/NF) Over the past six months, civil society and human rights activists questioned by SARG security have told us interrogators asked specifically about their connections to the US Embassy and the State Department. As previously reported, Razan Zeitunah (strictly protect) recounted a June interrogation during which she was questioned about MEPI-funded Democracy Council activities as well as visiting State Department officials. Kurdish Future Movement activist Herveen Ose (strictly protect), brought in for questioning in August, was also asked about funding from “foreign embassies.” MEPI grantee Maan Abdul Salam (strictly protect) recently reported one of his employees was called in on September 4, at which time security agents zeroed in on her participation in a MEPI- funded People In Need (PIN) seminar in Prague approximately eight months earlier.
4. (C) The ongoing case of human rights lawyer Muhanad al-Hasani took a turn for the worse on September 15 when, reportedly, the SARG introduced a new charge against him. According to a September 18 e-mail we received from his colleague Catherine al-Tali (strictly protect), the SARG accused Hasani of accepting USG funding that was routed to him through the Cairo-based Al-Andalus Center … Embassy Cairo also informed us that the Center was not currently receiving funding from either the Embassy or MEPI, though it had in the past.
8. (S/NF) Comment: It is unclear to what extent SARG intelligence services understand how USG money enters Syria and through which proxy organizations. What is clear, however, is that security agents are increasingly focused on this issue when they interrogate human rights and civil society activists. The information agents are able to frame their questions with more and more specific information and names. The charge that Hasani received USG funding vis-a-vis the Al-Andalus Center is especially worrying since it may suggest the SARG has keyed in on MEPI operations in particular.16
The February 7, 2010 cable cited earlier, “Human Rights Updates – SARG Budges On TIP, But Little Else,” gave further evidence that the Syrian government was pursuing the funding of Barada TV:
Barada TV: The Opposition in Klieg Lights?
9. (C) Damascus-based director of MEPI-supported Barada TV Suheir Attasi outlined the many challenges facing the channel in a December 23 meeting.
10. (C) Attasi confirmed reports we had heard from other contacts about the SARG’s interest in chasing down the financial and political support structure behind Barada. Security agents called her in for questioning in October and repeatedly asked her about her affiliations with the US Embassy and whether she knew Jim Prince … If the SARG establishes firmly that the US was continuing to fund Barada TV, however, it would view USG involvement as a covert and hostile gesture toward the regime. Just as SARG officials have used the US position on Operation Cast Lead and the Goldstone Report to shut down discussions on human rights, it could similarly try to use Barada TV to diminish our credibility on the issue.17
Note that, although the July 2009, September 2009, and February 2010 cables address exactly the situation that the April 2009 cable had warned about – that the Syrian government would find out what the US was funding – there was no further discussion or concern expressed about what the April 2009 cable had warned would be the likely consequence: that the Syrian government would conclude that the US government was pursuing a regime-change policy in Syria, which would undermine US efforts to engage the Syrian government. Nor was there any further discussion of what the April 2009 cable had suggested: that this funding be reviewed to bring it in line with the policy of engagement.
What emerges from these cables is that, while there was undoubtedly a shift between the policy of the Bush administration after 2005 and the policy of the Obama administration in 2009–10 with respect to the question of regime change versus engagement, the shift was substantially less than publicly advertised. The US continued to fund opposition activities that it believed would, if known to the Syrian government, cause it to believe that the US was not serious about shifting to an engagement policy; the US continued to fund these activities as it came increasingly to believe that the Syrian government was becoming more aware of them. When they became public, the US denied that they amounted to a regime-change policy,18 but we now know from the US government’s internal communication that the US did not think that the Syrian government would give credence to such a denial.
This leads us to question the extent to which the Obama administration really shifted to a policy of engagement, or how much, when Saudi Arabia and others pushed it to adopt an explicit regime-change policy in 2011 – a shift the administration eventually did make – these countries were pushing on an open door. The story that was presented to the US public was that its government had tried to engage Syria and failed, and that after the Syrian government cracked down on protests in 2011, the US had no choice but to abandon its efforts at engagement.
But reading the cables, it appears that the US was never really committed to a policy of engagement: it had one hand in the engagement policy, while keeping another hand in the regime-change policy. The Iranian government cracked down on protests in 2009, but the US did not completely abandon efforts to engage the Iranian government. Perhaps the danger of abandoning efforts at engagement with Iran were perceived to be higher, given Iran’s nuclear enrichment program and the political pressure on the Obama administration to use force against Iran if diplomacy failed; perhaps the belief among the US and its allies that the Syrian government could be toppled by force, and the Iranian government could not, also played a role.
Knowing that the US never really abandoned a regime-change policy in Syria informs our understanding of the question of US military intervention in Syria today. It shows us that the US is not an innocent victim of circumstance, having to consider the use of force because diplomacy has been exhausted; rather, the US faces a situation that it helped create, by pursuing regime change for years and never fully switching to diplomacy.
1. “Influencing the SARG in the End of 2006,” December 13, 2006, https://wikileaks.org/cable/2006/12/06DAMASCUS5399.html.
2. “Saudi Intelligence Chief Talks Regional Security with Brennan Delegation,” March 22, 2009, https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/09RIYADH445_a.html.
3. “Saudi Shia Clash with Police in Medina,” February 24, 2009, http://www.wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/09RIYADH346_a.html.
4. “Khaddam Slams Syria over Row with Saudi Arabia,” Beirut Daily Star, August 20, 2007, at dailystar.com.lb.
5. “Interview with Former Syrian Vice-President Abdul Halim Khaddam,” Asharq Al-Awsat, January 6, 2006, at aawsat.net.
6. See, for example, Stephen Kinzer, Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq (New York: Times Books, 2006).
7. Alexander Cockburn, “Fact Finding,” Village Voice, December 27, 1983, republished in Alexander Cockburn, Corruptions of Empire (London: Verso, 1987), p. 349.
8. Andy Sullivan, “Candidate Paul assigns reading to Giuliani,” Reuters, May 24, 2007, at reuters.com.
9. Nitya Venkataraman, “Ron Paul Recruits Anonymous to Attack Rudy’s Foreign Policy,” ABC News, May 22, 2007, at abcnews. go.com.
10. “US Walks Out on Ahmadinejad’s 9/11 Comment,” CBS News, September 23, 2010, at cbsnews.com.
11. “US admits funding Syrian opposition,” CBC News, April 18, 2011, at cbc.ca.
12. “Announcement to Fund Opposition Harshly Criticized by Anti-Regime Elements, Others,” February 21, 2006, https://wikileaks.org/ plusd/cables/06DAMASCUS701_a.html.
13. “Behavior Reform: Next Steps for a Human Rights Strategy,” April 28, 2009, https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/09DAMASCUS306_a. html.
14. “Human Rights Updates – SARG Budges on TIP, but Little Else,” February 7, 2010, https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/10DAMASCUS106_a.html.
15. “Murky Alliances: Muslim Brotherhood, the Movement for Justice and Democracy, and the Damascus Declaration,” July 8, 2009, https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/09DAMASCUS477_a.html.
16. “Show Us the Money! SARG Suspects ‘Illegal’ USG Funding,” September 23, 2009, https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/09DAMA SCUS692_a.html.
17. “Human Rights Updates – SARG Budges On TIP, But Little Else.”
18. Elise Labott, Brian Todd, and Dugald McConnell, “US Denies Support for Syrian Opposition Tantamount to Regime Change,” CNN, April 19, 2011, at cnn.com.
Copyright of (2015) of Robert Naiman. Not to be reposted without permission of the publisher, Verso Books.
Robert Naiman is policy director at Just Foreign Policy and president of Truthout’s board of directors.
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