Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity
On Friday, September 9th, America’s Secretary of State John Kerry, and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, came to an agreement on Syria, for the second time. (The previous agreement fell apart). Like the first ‘cease-fire’, this one concerns the ongoing occupation of many parts of Syria by foreign jihadists, who have been hired by America’s allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar, in order to overthrow Syria’s President, Bashar al-Assad. (It’s nothing like a democratic revolution there; it’s a war over pipelines.)
The main sticking-point in these negotiations has been much the same as it was the first time around: America’s insistence that Russia and Syria be prohibited from bombing Al Qaeda in Syria, which is the international group under the name of “Al Nusra” there. The United States has not tried to protect ISIS in Syria — only Al Nusra (and their subordinate groups), and it protects them because Nusra has provided crucial leadership to the jihadist groups that the United States finances in Syria for overthrowing and replacing Assad. Whereas the U.S. government doesn’t finance all of the jihadist groups in Syria (as the allied royal owners of Saudi Arabia and of Qatar do), the U.S. does designate some jihadist groups as ‘moderate rebels’, and this second round of cessation-of-hostilities will protect these groups (but this time not the Nusra fighters who lead them) from the bombings by Syria and by Russia. This new agreement is a complex sequence of sub-agreements laying out the means whereby Syria and Russia will, supposedly, continue to bomb Nusra while avoiding to bomb the U.S.-financed forces in Syria. Now that the U.S. has 300 of its own military advisors occupying the parts of Syria that the U.S.-sponsored jihadists control, Nusra will (presumably) no longer be quite so necessary to America’s overthrow-Assad campaign.
In the joint announcement on Friday night in Geneva, Secretary Kerry said, “Now, I want to be clear about one thing particularly on this, because I’ve seen reporting that somehow suggests otherwise: Going after Nusrah is not a concession to anybody. It is profoundly in the interests of the United States to target al-Qaida — to target al-Qaida’s affiliate in Syria, which is Nusrah.”
However, as the Washington Post had reported on February 19th regarding the impasse during the negotiations for the first round of cessation-of-hostilities: “Russia was said to have rejected a U.S. proposal to leave Jabhat al-Nusra off-limits to bombing.” The reason for this protection was that Nusra’s “forces are intermingled with moderate rebel groups.” However, the reporter there didn’t mention that Nusra was “intermingled” because it was providing essential military leadership for these ‘moderate rebel groups’. In other words: the U.S.-designated ’moderate rebel groups’ were providing cover for America’s support, actually, of Al Qaeda in Syria.
America’s main international ally in the Syrian conflict is the Saud family, and during the lead-up to the first round of cessation-of-hostilities, back on 8 December 2015, I had headlined “The Saud Family to Select West’s ‘Moderate’ Jihadists Who Will Take Over Syria”, and I reported that “The Saud family, Saudi Arabia’s royals, have called together a meeting on December 15th in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, of their fellow fundamentalist Sunnis who are fighting against the secular Assad government to take over Syria, and the Sauds will announce after the conference which groups will have the West’s blessings.” They selected Jaysh al-Islam, a group that’s committed to the same principles as Al Qaeda is, but that doesn’t have the same foreign-reputational problems; and, moreover, their leaders, the Alloush family, have agreed to present themselves to the West as posing no threat outside the Muslim world, so as not to scare off Western publics.
Then, on 25 January 2016, I headlined “U.S. & Allies Make bin Laden Admirer a Negotiator in Syria Peace Talks”, and I reported that “The Saud family actually required Alloush to head the anti-Assad delegation,” but that “Kerry and the rest of the West weren’t entirely comfortable with that demand. A ‘compromise’ was reached: there will be two heads: Alloush, and another figure supported by the Sauds: Asad al-Zoubi.” I closed by observing that “Lavrov faced a bad choice: either take the blame for preventing the peace talks, or else accept the Saud family’s ‘compromise’ position; and he chose the latter.”
Gareth Porter bannered on February 16th, “Obama’s ‘Moderate’ Syrian Deception”, and he reported that, “Information from a wide range of sources, including some of those the United States has been explicitly supporting, makes it clear that every armed anti-Assad organization unit in those provinces is engaged in a military structure controlled by Nusra militants. All of these rebel groups fight alongside the Nusra Front and coordinate their military activities with it,” and he stated that “instead of breaking with the deception that the CIA’s hand-picked clients were independent of Nusra, the Obama administration continued to cling to it.” Porter was pretending that the U.S. leadership originated at the CIA, instead of at the White House — which was actually the case. The CIA was simply doing what the U.S. President wanted it to do there. Porter continued his upside-down attribution of leadership and responsibility in the matter, by adding that, “President Obama is under pressure from these domestic critics as well as from Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other GCC allies to oppose any gains by the Russians and the Assad regime as a loss for the United States.” In no way was/is it obligatory for the U.S. President to adhere to “domestic critics” and “GCC [royal Arabic] allies,” much less for him to be ordered-about by his own CIA — quite the contrary: “The buck stops at the President’s desk.” Obama isn’t forced to hire and promote neoconservatives to carry out his foreign policies — he chooses them and merely pretends to be blocked by opponents.
On February 20th, Reuters headlined “Syrian opposition says temporary truce possible, but deal seems far off”, and reported that, “A source close to peace talks earlier told Reuters [that] Syria’s opposition had agreed to the idea of a two- to three-week truce. The truce would be renewable and supported by all parties except Islamic State, the source said. It would be conditional on the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front no longer being attacked by Syrian government forces and their allies.” In other words: up till at leastthat time, the U.S. was still at one with the Sauds’ insistence upon protecting Al Qaeda in Syria.
On March 1st, Steve Chovanec headlined, “Protecting al-Qaeda”, and he made clear that the group that Obama was backing, the Free Syrian Army (so named with assistance from their CIA minders), were almost as despised by the Syrian people as were ISIS itself. Citing a Western polling firm’s findings, he noted that, “According to a recent poll conducted by ORB, it was found that most Syrians more or less hold both ISIS and the FSA in equal disdain, 9% saying the FSA represents the Syrian people while 4% saying that ISIS does. The similarity in [Syrians’] opinion is reflective of the similarity in [those two groups of jihadists’] conduct.” Furthermore, as I have noted, both from that polling-firm and another Western-backed one, the vast majority (82 %) of Syrians blame the U.S. for the tens of thousands of foreign jihadists who have been imported into their country, and 55 % of Syrians want Assad to be not only the current President but their next President, as a consequence of which the U.S. government refuses to allow Assad to run for the Presidency in the next election. (Indeed, that’s largely the reason why Obama has been trying to overthrow Assad and replace him with a jihadist government, like the Sauds.)
On March 3rd, results were summarized from a poll in the U.S., Germany, France, and UK, on the question, “Which country has played a leading role in the fight against ISIS?”
Each respondent was asked to list three countries. “About 80% of Americans believe that Washington is the main force in the fight against the terrorist organizations ISIS and ‘Jabhat al-Nusra’ in Syria. In second place, according to residents of the US, is France (36%), the third — Great Britain [percentage not mentioned].” But, “in the opinion of the citizens of Germany, Russia and the United States contribute almost equally to the fight against terrorists in Syria (36% and 38% respectively). In third place according to the survey is France (25%).” The article noted that, “according to the Pentagon, Russia, just in February 2016, inflicted 7725 airstrikes on ISIS positions in Syria, while the US conducted 3267.”
Clearly, the U.S. Government’s top objective in Syria is to overthrow Assad, whereas the Russian Government’s top objective there is to prevent America’s allies from seizing the country. As Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has well explained and documented, the U.S. CIA has been trying ever since 1949 to overthrow Syria’s government and replace it with one that the Sauds (and etc., including U.S. oil, gas, and pipeline companies) want. So, this is normal American foreign policy. This doesn’t mean that our Presidents have to behave this way — only that they do (even if the U.S. ‘news’ media don’t report it, and many U.S. ‘historians’ likewise ignore it decades later).