The Republican Senator from South Carolina uttered his remarks following a series of curiously timed developments in Syria, including a terror attack in the northern city of Manbij that reportedly left four Americans dead, and ongoing Israeli attacks on Syrian territory.
Graham, an outspoken critic of Donald Trump’s plan to withdraw some 2,000 US troops from Syria, drew parallels between this move and America’s disastrous military campaign in Iraq, which culminated in the most unacceptable scenario for any neoconservative ‘hawk on steroids’ and that is a tail-between-the-legs withdrawal.
"So I told President Trump – if you withdraw and do not think this through, you're creating a nightmare for Turkey," Graham said from Ankara, the Turkish capital. “This is going to be Iraq on steroids.”
Considering that Washington has behaved as a lawless belligerent in Iraq, exactly as it has been in Syria and Libya, talk of a withdrawal that is “too early” is the height of arrogance and hubris. The fact is US forces had no right to be in any of those places, where their status is that of brute occupiers.
Meanwhile, Graham, who should be required to mention every time he opens his mouth that his two largest campaign donors are Lockheed Martin and General Electric, failed to mention who has been injecting those “steroids” into the Syria theater. Top honors in that category would have to go to the US military and Israel Defense Forces. At the time of this writing (Monday morning, Moscow time), the Russian Ministry of Defense confirmed that four Syrian servicemen were killed in yet another Israeli aerial strike. There was also damage sustained near Damascus International Airport.
Israel says it carried out the attack in response to Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards launching a missile over the Golan Heights, an area seized from Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War. The Israeli government said its Iron Dome aerial defense system repelled the alleged strike.
To add insult to injury, the IDF warned Syria not to respond to attacks on its own territory.
"During our strike, dozens of Syrian surface-to-air missiles were launched, despite clear warnings to avoid such fire. In response, we also targeted several of the Syrian Armed Forces' aerial defense batteries," the IDF wrote.
Accusing Iran of an attempted attack against Israel from Syria is an explosive development, not least of all because Syrian President Bashar Assad has already stated that Iran has no troop presence in his country, only advisors. Moreover, Israel’s uncorroborated accusation fails to take into account Russia’s influential role in Syria ever since it was invited into the country by Assad in order to help flush out Islamic State terrorists.
It is altogether inconceivable that Russia would allow Iran – in the highly unlikely event Tehran would be so rash as to carry out such an attack – to take any offensive measures against Israel from Syrian territory. Vladimir Putin has already pledged his commitment to help bolster security along the Israeli and Syrian border, so the last thing Tehran would want to do is violate this agreement.
Meanwhile, it should not be forgotten that Iran, to the extent that it is in Syria, is only there by invitation from President Assad. And since an attack on Israel from Syrian territory is the very last thing Damascus needs or wants, it is another reason Iran would never have committed itself to such a foolish move.
America’s self-fulfilling prophecy
The irony of Lindsey Graham warning that a US withdrawal from Syria could turn the country into “Iraq on steroids” is that US warmongering is what turned both Iraq and Syria into damaged goods. Graham apparently fails to appreciate the fact, or is not paid enough to admit it, that had Washington never launched an unprovoked attack against Saddam Hussein in 2003 there would never be an Islamic State in Syria today.
Like a stupid redneck who smashes up the Ford pickup during yet another late-night drinking binge, the United States will never admit it made a disastrous mistake by invading Iraq. It won’t enter a 12-step rehabilitation program for wayward superpowers. It won’t go to church and seek forgiveness on bloody knees. No, it will just keep digging deeper and deeper into the quagmire until something unholy emerges from the ooze and slime, something like Islamic State, the ultimate bogeyman.
Yet instead of the $700 billion US military knocking out this motley crew of malcontents in an afternoon with its omnipotent drone capabilities as ISIS was crossing wide open desert between Iraq and Syria in its menacing Toyota trucks, it allowed this group to metastasize to the ridiculous point that it was able to open a lucrative oil export business.
“The Syro-Arabian Desert is open territory,” wrote Michel Chossudovsky in Global Research. “With state of the art jet fighter aircraft (F15, F22 Raptor, F16) it would have been – from a military standpoint – a piece of cake, a rapid and expedient surgical operation, which would have decimated the Islamic State convoys in a matter of hours.”
I’m guessing Russia, certainly no slouch on military matters, understood this as well, and it was just around this time when it could watch the painful spectacle no more and entered the fray, largely annihilating the overrated band of common killers and street thugs in less than a week.
But now that Trump is threatening to hightail it out of Dodge, we are being treated to another bit of Islamic State Theater. Just weeks after Trump started the Deep State with his withdrawal threat, the Atlantic magazine introduced us to Zulfi Hoxha, the son of an Albanian-American pizza-shop owner from New Jersey, who worked his way up the terror ladder and is now “one of the very few Americans in the Islamic State’s upper ranks.”
Readers are even reminded of those gruesome beheadings that softened up Westerners for America’s illegal entry into Syria in the first place.
“If they are right about his identity, Hoxha is the first American Islamic State member known to be beheading individuals,” the magazine noted. “Hoxha is now known to have become a senior commander of Islamic State…”
Back to Lindsey Graham. His warning is reminiscent of Obama’s infamous “red line” comment where he said the thing that would “change my calculus” is for the “Assad regime” to carry out a chemical attack. That was no different from telling Assad’s enemies that if they dare ring this bell American forces will come storming to their defense. Never mind that Assad has no reason to resort to primitive weapons, but the ‘moderate’ rebels certainly do.
By Graham making such an announcement, he has awakened once again the anti-Assad forces, encouraging them to start rattling the cage to prevent Trump’s withdrawal from happening. We can already see how much the peacenik faction in Trump’s administration, made up of nice guys like John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, are anxious to stop the bloodshed in Syria.
Unfortunately, and potentially catastrophically, it appears that the United States and Israel will continue to find excuses for remaining in Syria, even if that means sparking a global conflagration of epic proportions. All that would take is a single spark.