US Syria Policy in Doldrums: Letting Emotions Loose Won’t Help

US Syria Policy in Doldrums: Letting Emotions Loose Won’t Help

The United States administration appears to be in panic mode. A number of emotional statements were made by US officials on September 28 to reflect the growing unease with the way the events unfold in Syria and the stance taken by Russia. State Secretary John Kerry threatened to pull out of Russia-US talks on Syria over the situation on Aleppo.

In a phone conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the State Secretary said the US was preparing to suspend its engagement with Moscow on Syria if Russia didn’t take «immediate steps» to halt the Aleppo offensive.

Citing US officials, The Wall Street Journal reported the administration has renewed an internal debate over giving rebels more firepower to fend off a stepped-up Russian and Syrian assault on their Aleppo stronghold.

The renewed debate centers on what is known as Plan B, authorizing the Central Intelligence Agency and its partners in the region to supply US-supported rebels in Syria with weapons systems to strike Syrian and Russian forces from longer distances, including anti-aircraft missiles.

The package has been on the table for months, but was temporarily shelved after the cessation of hostilities agreement was concluded in February.

John Kirby, the State Department spokesperson, said in his press briefing that, «that extremists and extremists groups will continue to exploit the vacuums that are there in Syria to expand their operations, which will include, no question, attacks against Russian interests, perhaps even Russian cities, and Russia will continue to send troops home in body bags, and they will continue to lose resources – even, perhaps, more aircraft».

This is an unusually hostile and emotional statement that has nothing to do with diplomacy. It sounds more like an invitation for terrorists to attack Russia.

Meanwhile lawmakers are considering legislation to beef up US sanctions against the Syrian government and its «backers».

The bill submitted for consideration by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R., Calif.) and Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, the panel’s top Democrat, is designed to increase pressure on the military supply chain in Syria by sanctioning the country’s energy industry and penalizing anyone doing business with its telecommunication or transportation sectors. The legislation also would require the White House to submit reports to Congress on risks of establishing and maintaining a no-fly zone or a safe zone in Syria. The calls to establish a «no-fly zone» in Syria are tantamount to advocating an open military confrontation with Russia.

John Kerry has been reported to hold talks with European foreign ministers about stepping up punitive measures.

The US verbal attacks against Russia are made at the very same time extremist forces launch an offensive near the central city of Hama in an attempt to relieve pressure on rebels fighting in Aleppo.

And wasn’t it a coincidence that exactly on September 28 – the date all the «emotional statements» were made - Reuters reported that foreign states had given Syrian rebels surface-to-surface Grad rockets of a type not previously supplied to them?

The Grad rockets with a range of 22 km and 40 km will be used on battlefronts in Aleppo, Hama and the coastal region.

Rebel groups fighting under the Free Syrian Army banner have received military aid from states opposed to President Bashar al-Assad via a US-backed coordination center in Turkey. It means the United States is well aware of the shipments and responsible for implications.

To prevent the fall of Aleppo the US is preparing to allow its Gulf allies - Qatar and Saudi Arabia - to flood the city with shoulder-fired, surface-to-air missiles. Rebels are being told only to target Syrian aircraft, not Russian - but it's not clear they will abide by this. One needs training to distinguish the types and national identity of air targets - something the rebels definitely lack. «The US won't let Aleppo fall. We can expect to see Syrian helicopters falling from the sky within weeks», a source said.

Actually, this is nothing else but an open declaration of war by the United States on the Russia-supported Syrian government. The weapons fired in Aleppo will be used to support the Jabhat al Nusra (recently renamed into Jabhat Fateh al-Sham) group, an al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate and the main fighting force on the ground in Aleppo province. Russia and the United States have agreed to fight it together.

Thus, the US is responsible for providing aid to terrorists while blaming Russia for each and everything that goes awry in Syria. Somehow, these activities were omitted in the texts of the statements made by US officials. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told US Secretary of State John Kerry during a phone conversation that Fateh al-Sham Front had been receiving foreign support and American weapons. 

In an interview with German-language daily Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger earlier this week, a Jabhat Fateh al-Sham commander identified only as Abu al-Ezz confirmed that the US is supporting the terror group, saying, «The Americans are on our side».

A very indicative statement to corroborate what Mr. Lavrov said!

The use of military force is also on the table. The options under consideration include a US air strike on a Syrian air base at the distance from the fighting between Syrian government troops and rebel forces in the north.

Actually, having failed to separate the «moderate» rebels from the al Nusra group, America is taking the side of those it vowed to resolutely fight after 9/11. In Syria, it will benefit the Islamic State group as it won’t have to face a united front of forces opposing it.

Other options include sending more Special Operations Forces ((SOF) to «train and advise» Kurdish and Syrian rebel groups and deploying additional American and allied naval and airpower to the eastern Mediterranean, where the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle is already en route.

A military intervention to rescue the «rebels», which amounts to a war to save, the al Nusra Front, could quickly get the US and its allies into the quagmire of prolonged conflict. An incident could spark a real war with Russia. Is it worth it?

The US is in a blind alley in Syria. The administration is evidently at a loss and on the brink of emotional break down. A negotiated settlement the US is trying to back away from is the only viable pathway out of the Syrian crisis, but the United States appears to be more prone to take sides and support terrorist groups. It could admit its failure to live up to the commitments stipulated by the agreement with Russia and separate other groups from al Nusra. It could make a lot more to enhance the coordination of military activities and be more frank and transparent at the talks with Russia.

It could but it didn’t. But there is no escape from reality: Aleppo is doomed to fall. The Syrian government will establish its control over it soon. It will change the military situation into its favor. It’ll strengthen its and Russia’s position for a negotiated settlement of the crisis. And talks will start again as there is no alternative to them.

Despite all the failures of Obama’s policy on Syria, there is a big chance Russia and the United States will join together in the fight against terror. Republican nominee Donald Trump has stated that if elected US president he would weigh an alliance with Russia against Islamic State militants. «When you think about it, wouldn't it be nice if we got along with Russia?» Trump said.

«Wouldn't it be nice if we got together with Russia and knocked the hell out of ISIS (Islamic State)?» he asked.

It gives the world a hope. A hope that the United States will have a president with clear vision of national interests and goals to achieve. A hope that the US will no longer openly side with terrorists putting the blame on others for its own mistakes and failures. And a hope that America will have a leader able to convert his words into deeds, even if he won’t be a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

Tags: Al Qaeda  CIA  Syria