Washington’s Syrian Worries

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Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses on 22 March 2012 the opening of the annual UEFA Congress meeting, in Istanbul. Washington is convinced that Turkey will have to be the mainstay of a plan to depose Assad. (Photo: AFP - Bulent Kilic)

By: Nicolas Nassif

Published Saturday, March 24, 2012

The US administration harbors deep misgivings about the situation in Syria which are not fully reflected in its public posture and statements, according to observers closely monitoring the Washington scene.

American officials continue to declare that the downfall of Syrian President Bashar Assad is inevitable while they continue to suggest vague time frames. They also continue to hold out hope of Russia gradually withdrawing its support for Assad. But the US is incapable of effecting fundamental change inside Syria itself.

The same applies to the Arab allies of the US. Some have been dissociating themselves from the hard-line camp which insists on Assad stepping down and arming the Syrian opposition as a prelude to foreign military intervention. These include Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Algeria, and Sudan.

Obama’s domestic critics in both the Democratic and Republican parties, including former presidential candidate John Kerry, are demanding that he do more to help the Syrian opposition by raising the pressure on the regime. But his administration has been stymied by a combination of Moscow’s support for the Syrian regime, and Assad’s determination to do whatever it takes to remain in power.

Since the Syrian army took control of the Baba Amr district of Homs, American pronouncements about the Syrian regime’s impending demise have become less zealous and less serious. Officials have been preoccupied with a succession of recent disappointments, which were compounded by the ongoing army operation, the retreat of opposition fighters, the collapse of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), and the growing splits in the political opposition.

Some in the administration, according to the observers, hold the controversial view that the US should hedge its bets by formulating Syria policy in accordance with how developments unfold on the ground.

These observers point out that Iran and Syria are the main focus of US attention in the region. But while Washington has a roadmap for exerting pressure on the Islamic Republic to force it to abandon its nuclear program, there is no clear US policy toward Syria. However, policy discussions among administration officials increasingly favor bringing additional US pressure to bear and strengthening international intervention in Syria.

Despite the perceived success of the approach pursued in Kosovo in 1999 – where direct US military intervention eventually ended up ridding the Serbian people of dictator Slobodan Milosevic – US officials do not believe this can be repeated in Syria. Regional and international conditions are not conducive to that. Moreover, it took the US a long time in Kosovo to get to the point at which it could intervene militarily with European backing.

The US does not have that time or that support in Syria, not for now at least, although the administration sees the goal as the same: to rid the Syrian people of a dictatorial regime.

The only specific measures the administration has in mind relate to providing political support to the Syrian opposition in order to force Assad to step down, in addition to providing military assistance and secret training to the FSA with Gulf funding. But these are little more than ideas that have not been turned into coherent policies with clear features, options, and objectives and – most importantly – with thought-out consequences.

Turkey’s retreat

The feeling in Washington is that there are at least three major obstacles to the implementation of a regime change scenario Syria.

The first is Turkey’s retreat from its once leading role in the Syrian crisis to one of providing humanitarian care for refugees. This is related to the health of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is being treated for a chronic medical condition. Until a few months ago, he had looked to play the role of “Sultan” in leading the regional confrontation with the Syrian regime.

Washington believes that none of Syria’s other neighbors – Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon – are suited for that role. Turkey remains by far the most effective regional player. Moreover, before his illness was revealed, Erdogan never dropped his demand that Assad step down, or stopped supporting the FSA, which operates across the Turkish-Syrian border.

Erdogan has also continues to directly sponsor the Syrian National Council (SNC), which was born in Turkey. But with the “Sultan” off the regional political stage, US hopes of achieving a breakthrough and decisively weakening Assad and deposing his regime have dimmed. Washington is convinced that Turkey will have to be the mainstay of a plan to depose Assad.

The Americans are no less concerned about a similar retreat in Saudi Arabia’s role, for similar reasons to Turkey’s – the illness of Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdel Aziz who also has a chronic ailment. He is currently being treated in New York, adding to the domestic and external difficulties faced by the aging King Abdallah.

Washington’s second concern is over the divided state of the Syrian opposition, which US officials believe is in even worse shape than the Libyan opposition under Gaddafi. The SNC has proven incapable of leading a political campaign to bring down the regime, yet at the same time expects to be installed in power by a foreign military intervention that deposes Assad’s regime.

This is not Washington’s position. It sees its role as helping the Syrian opposition, not taking its place. The Americans are not up for direct military intervention, nor for doing Assad’s opponents’ work for them.

A third factor is the fate of the Christian minorities in Syria. The Vatican has conveyed its concern and apprehension regarding Syrian Christians, and by extension Lebanese Christians – given their close connections and the common dangers they face, especially after the campaign of expulsion that targeted Iraq’s Christians.

American officials tried hard, through mediators, to persuade Christian religious leaders or prominent Syrian Christian lay figures to turn against Assad and side with the opposition, as part of the process of piling up pressure on him to step down. But these efforts quickly came to nought.

Nicolas Nassif is a political analyst at Al-Akhbar.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

Comments

1)For anon the NATO leftist "Yes Brezinksi was right,", but anon it seems does NOT know a thing about Brezinksi role in the rape of Afghanistan. B was Carter's accomplice, so he was not and could not take active role in NATO/Saudi/Pakistan rape of Afghanistan aka "support for freedom fighters" "during the 80s" as anon says. Note, please, that I do NOT call anon a lair here, just an ignorant.

So, from horse mouth

http://www.marxists.org/history/afghanistan/archive/brzezinski/1998/inte...

(my source is Marxist, but there are a lot of others if anon does not believe me)

"Question: The former director of the CIA, Robert Gates, stated in his memoirs ["From the Shadows"], that American intelligence services began to aid the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan 6 months before the Soviet intervention. In this period you were the national security adviser to President Carter. You therefore played a role in this affair. Is that correct?

Brzezinski: Yes. According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec 1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise: Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.

Q: Despite this risk, you were an advocate of this covert action. But perhaps you yourself desired this Soviet entry into war and looked to provoke it?

B: It isn't quite that. We didn't push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would.

Q: When the Soviets justified their intervention by asserting that they intended to fight against a secret involvement of the United States in Afghanistan, people didn't believe them. However, there was a basis of truth. You don't regret anything today?

B: Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter: We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war. Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war unsupportable by the government, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire."

of course, if anon still thinks that "Yes Brezinksi was right", it means that for anon the 1st NATO rape of Afghanistan, which brought all next events, from the USSR help to Kabul against NATO-made freedom fighters, and second NATO rape as well, was OK. I just wonder, why anon is against the second NATO rape, but not the first? After all, both cases are the same - using the whole nation for imperialist goals, no matter the price for Afghan people.

2 ) I have not said that anon was NTC leftist, but NATO leftist anon is. Anon does not supports NATO Libyan lackeys, but supports NATO bombing of Libya. It is about the same as to not support South Lebanon Army while supporting their Zionist masters aggression.

3) Now, anon the NATO lover supports NATO rape of Afghanistan (at least one) and of Libya. I oppose them. I suppose it is enough to see who is who. I rest my case.

4) And Milocevic was NOT a dictator, never mind imperialist propaganda that anon the NATO leftist repeats. The same imperialists who raped Yugoslavia and turned it into killing fields.

2) You're dodging the issue once again (rather desperately I might add). If I'm against the NTC, then I'm also against the people who are responsible for bringing them to power, which is NATO. And NATO bombs have probably killed more people than Ghaddafi did, so I cannot support that.

^ Now that I've stated this, I expect you to lie compulsively about my position in your next comment as always.

3) No, you only don't like the rape of Afghanistan or Libya if it's done by western white people. But if it's done by Slavic white people, then you're perfectly ok with it. Spare me your fake sympathies. You're a state capitalist and a white supremacist, and you've made it abundantly clear with your comment history.

4) Milosevic was by all means a dictator. Are you trying to say there was no autocracy under his regime? You going to deny that he was the polar opposite of Tito? How was this racist, ethnic cleansing autocrat a progressive?

I am 100% against NATO and I'm 100% against demagogues who try to speak for the struggles of oppressed people they have no sympathy for. For those reading this, it's important to keep in mind that lidia is not a progressive. She's right wing by all means (like the current russian and syrian regimes)

First off, I read the interview. And it actually proves my point from earlier. Read very closely, where it says "Began aiding" the Mujahideen. They did not create them like you insist on lying about. As for ANY foreign presence in Afghanistan, I'm against it all like I've stated a million times before (and I will continue to restate this no matter how many times you lie about my positions). I'm against NATO interference in Afghanistan and I don't like any of the groups that were tainted by their aid. However, YOU continue to DENY the facts that Russian occupation left thousands raped and murdered (not to mention maimed by their landmines) because for you, Russian occupation = security/stability (terms that western liberals love to use). Lidia you cannot hide the overwhelming racism in your rhetoric. You always seem to dodge this issue when I bring it up. Afghanis HATED the Russian occupation, but you want to justify it regardless. Because you believe that screaming NATO enough times will help you deceive Muslims... Wrong.

You are lucky that my responses keep triggering Al-Akhbar's "spam filter".

"A third factor is the fate of the Christian minorities in Syria. The Vatican has conveyed its concern and apprehension regarding Syrian Christians, and by extension Lebanese Christians – given their close connections and the common dangers they face, especially after the campaign of expulsion that targeted Iraq’s Christians"

The iraqi christians were targeted by forces that are now helping the syrian regime.

Iraqi Christians, just like all Iraqis are victims of NATO criminals and their Saudi lackeys. Last time I checked NATO/GCC is NOT supporting Assad, on the contrary.

Erdogan is a Sultan. And what exactly is Khamey?. A Mullah.

"Some have been dissociating themselves from the hard-line camp which insists on Assad stepping down and arming the Syrian opposition as a prelude to foreign military intervention. These include Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Algeria, and Sudan."

Iraq stood once of the side of the syrian people????

Another attempt of changing history by this news paper. Algeria played the same games in 1990`s . Sudan is a failed state living on handouts from china and Iran, Jordan an opportunistic monarchy that can always be bribed by Iraq for example and egypt is ruled by a military dictatorship that threaten recently to put the elected MB in to prison by bringing the former secular junior partners into power to create a secular facade.

Nicolas Nassif is guilty of spreading gross falsehood when he says: "direct US military intervention in Kosovo in 1999 eventually ended up ridding the Serbian people of dictator Slobodan Milosevic."

Since WHEN it is OK to parrot NATO propaganda here even NOT in case of Syria? Milocevic was NOT a "dictator", no more than Obama is. Of course, he was not 100% lackey of USA, so he was toppled by CIA-made 'revolution" and left to die while in custody of a kangaroo court.

I get it when pro-NATO/GCC authors repeat their propaganda regarding Syria, but I thought they would at least have a bit of decency in other topics. Silly me.

Anyway, so-called FSA was NEVER supposed to win over real Syrian Army - only to make a pretext for NATO/GCC intervention ala Libya. If FSA was trashed, it is because they have NO mass support for their "noble" goal.

Wow you're going to justify the serbian massacres of Bosnians and the culprits behind that? You're no better than NATO. Btw, for your information, Arab leftists have no love for racist lunatics like Milosevic, Karadzic, or whatever. Take that dogmatic Qaddafi-esque rhetoric elsewhere.

It is funny how the anon, who is HAPPY when NATO use and abuse ME people for its imperialist goals (aka in Afghanistan) simple cannot read.
The main culprit in the civil war in Yugoslavia was the same NATO. And, by the way, Milocevic was NOT a dictator. Obama is a horrible mass-murderer, but till now he is NOT a dictator - at least not to USA people.

By the way, it is also funny that the keen supporter of NATO/GCC crimes saying things on behalf of "Arab leftists" I guess anon should be more precisely named "NATO leftist", as As'ad called NATO puppets in Libya "NATO rebels".

Oh I am leftist, and don't you forget it.

It's amusing how you invoke As'ad AbuKhalil's terminology on Libya in order to smear me, because your logic is completelly null and void. Since I am not a Salafi Jihadist, or a supporter of NATO, it must be hard for you to smear me because you've run out of tricks in your book.

Now it's time to turn the tables on you. You, who support russian hegemony (which is really just modern-day russian fascination with Empire from the Czar's days) in exchange for US hegemony. You, who support that regime which got rid of all the progressive social welfare programs from the soviet era in return for the crony capitalism of corrupt bourgeois. You, who support a regime like that in its sponsorship of the Assad dictatorship (which is equally as capitalist). And you, who supports serb genocidal criminals as opposed to the socialist anti-sectarian Tito.

I know very well that hypocrisy from people who use your rhetoric. So you can scream about nato all you want. It's really just a faux sense of entitlement. Even As'ad AbuKhalil (who you love to selectively quote for your own convenience) became disillusioned with that dogma a long time ago. Hence he is an Anarchist now, not a marxist-leninist.

:)

And before NATO went into Afghanistan, it was the russians. But both of them are gonna end up the same way thanks to the resistance, so I'm not worried.

Obama, Bush, all American presidents are murderers. America itself was founded on genocide. We know this. But I'm not going to excuse an animal like Milosevic because of that. He was the same like them. You support serb genocide, so you're also in the same camp. Stop trying to fool Arabs and Muslims with your racist dogma.

NO. BEFORE USSR came to Afghanistan there were NATO/Saudis puppet terrorists brought from all over the world exactly with the goal to snare USSR.
I cannot keep arguing with the person who is NOT going to tell the basic facts stright.

But, of course, all of it has NOTHING to do with Milocevic being "dictator" from whom good NATO "liberated" Serbs. It is NATO propaganda, which NATO leftists is happy to parrot.

So before the USSR invaded Afghanistan, western europeans magically planted a whole bunch of foreign fighters there right? You do realize that this myth you're promoting is totally baseless and ludicrous right? I dare you to ask any Afghan if they see things like that. You will be laughed out of that conversation.

But of course, invoking nato 24/7 isn't going to help you escape the fact that you support totalitarian hegemony (just different shades of it). White supremacism wrapped up in demagoguery is what you represent :)

very funny. Just ask Brzezinski and he will tell how CIA+Saudi king+Pakistan brought "analog of founding fathers" to Afghanistan. All are the stars of democracy and leftism, of course. They found some support from withing Afghanistan, of course, but without CIA/Saudi plot there would be NO USSR intervention, and it was exactly the goal of such plot.

In short, the NATO leftist is celebrating the CIA/Saudi plot to bring the most backward islamists into Afghanistan, to bring USSR army there and all the bloodletting that was the result. I could see why Brzezinski happy with the result - he saw the end of the USSR. He was NOT concerned even about terrorist threat for USA (it was said about 5 years before 9/11), much less he was concerned about the plight of Afghanistan. But it was a prime USA imperialist. so WHY anon the NATO leftist agrees with Brzezinski? Is anon happy with Afghanistan turned into pawn on "Eurasia chessboard"? Does anon agree that all dead Afghans were "worth it" - i.e. the ruination of the USSR?

It if also funny that the anon the NATO leftist (yes, it is anon who openly supports NATO/GCC rape of Libya) has a gall to talk about "invoking nato 24/7'. I t was NOT me to support NATO bombing of Libya, it was anon! It was NOT me supporting NATO/Saudi role in the ruination of Afghanistan - it was anon. Anon is quite shameless in this.

Since you Lidia, like to put words and false positions in people's mouth, then you also support the Iranian gov't and it and Hezbollah's allies who rode American tanks into power in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Arab "Sunni" regimes were confronted by thousands of Sunnis for their treachery. Is there a single coward from Hezbollah who condemned their allies for collaborating with the Americans?

Since you Lidia, like to put words and false positions in people's mouth, then you also support the Iranian gov't and it and Hezbollah's allies who rode American tanks into power in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Arab "Sunni" regimes were confronted by thousands of Sunnis for their treachery. Is there a single coward from Hezbollah who condemned their allies for collaborating with the Americans?

Yes Brezinksi was right, except the very convenient fact you DELIBERATELY lie about is that the Afghan resistance WAS NOT engineered by Nato. It was only during the 80s that US/Pakistani/Saudi influence and foreign fighters began infiltrating. So according to your fictional scenario:

1) The communist regime in Afghanistan had support from 100% of the country. Everything was a worker's utopia there, nobody could possible be against it.
2) But then NATO somehow planted thousands of resistance fighters into the country, because obviously only NATO disliked that government right?
3) So the USSR invades Afghanistan to protect its communist client BECAUSE of these thousands of NATO-invented foreign fighters right?

You do realize how kooky this theory is right? You've quoted Brezinski to back up your claims, but he actually never said this. So you're a white supremacist who uses imperialist footnotes to justify your occupation-loving conspiracy theories.

As for what happened after the USSR got humiliated by the Afghans, that's irrelevant. Stick to the subject, we're not talking about the ideology of the taliban or "terrorist threat". I'm purely exposing your racist obsession with soviet occupation of Afghans. I have zero tolerance for those who support occupation, of ANY KIND. Again I challenge you to ask any Afghani about their feelings regarding that occupation. You will not find a SINGLE person who supports it. But of course, you, being white and everything, think you know better than the natives right?

And there you go once again with your smearing attempts. I'm not pleased at all with NATO's role in Afghanistan. They've set the country back another 30 years due to their damage. But they are getting humiliated there just like previous invaders, so they're reaping what they've sown right now.

Lidia, seriously your compulsive lying is getting a little redundant. What is this, the 1001th time I've stated my opposition to NATO-backed NTC? I also stated that I support the overthrow of the NTC. Even you have never said this, so you probably secretly like this NATO-backed group don't you?

Anyways I await your next reply of white supremacist, dogmatic rhetoric.

it is clear that anon the NATO leftist has NOT idea of what "Yes Brezinksi was right" had done exactly, or anon would NOT write the post :)

When anon take pain and read interview (1998) with "Yes Brezinksi was right" about WHEN "Yes Brezinksi was right" started intervention into Afghanistan (with Saudis and Pakistan), anon would know better. Till then I rest my case.

Mind you, I am NOT calling anon the NATO lover a lair, just an ignorant.

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