A meeting of the US National Security Council took place on Friday, with some US officials telling the media anonymously that military options would again be discussed and presented to Obama for his consideration.
This was a completely empty claim since Obama had publicly rejected these same military options the previous week. The same US officials were therefore obliged to admit that it was “extremely unlikely” that Obama would approve these options, and he would probably “not make a decision”.
Meanwhile Boris Johnson, Britain’s hapless Foreign Secretary, appeared to float an idea for a “no bombing zone”, though typically he never did so clearly or openly and most of the details had to be provided in off the record conversations to the British media.
The idea behind this “no bombing zone” was that the US and the Western powers would unilaterally announce a prohibition on bombing by the Syrians and the Russians in any part of Syria. In the event that the Syrians or the Russians disregarded this announcement and continued bombing, the US and the Western powers would retaliate by launching strikes against Syrian bases and military facilities where no Russians were believed to be present.
It is not clear who was the originator of this plan but its half-baked nature suggests it was probably Boris Johnson himself.
The “no bombing zone” is simply a “no fly zone” without the aerial bombardment. The US has never imposed a “no fly zone” without an aerial bombardment. We have a detailed discussion of what a “no fly zone” involves and why an aerial bombardment is an integral part of it from no less a person than Hillary Clinton herself.
The US military would never agree to enforce a “no fly zone” (or a “no bombing zone”) without an aerial bombardment since by failing (in US parlance) to “degrade” the Syrian air defences through an aerial bombardment the US would be placing its aircraft and pilots enforcing the “no fly zone” (or “no bombing zone”) at risk.
In a situation where the air defences in question are not merely Syrian but Russian – and therefore far more capable of shooting down US aircraft – the whole idea of enforcing a “no bombing zone” without an aerial bombardment to “degrade” these defences is inconceivable. Only a complete civilian with no understanding of how the US military conducts operations would conceive of it, which is why its author is very likely to be Boris Johnson himself.
The “no bombing zone” would in fact depend for its enforcement on launching long range cruise missile strikes on Syrian bases from US warships, which for geographical and political reasons would have to be based in the eastern Mediterranean.
Some of the Russian air defence systems in Syria are probably capable of shooting down these cruise missiles. The S-300MV Antey-2500 recently deployed to Syria was designed for this very purpose.
The Russians say it is in Syria to protect Russia’s naval facility in Tartus. That suggests its units have been stationed along the Syrian coast, in other words precisely in the area where they would most effectively intercept US cruise missiles launched from US warships from the eastern Mediterranean.
That already puts the viability of enforcing the “no bombing zone” with cruise missiles from US warships in the eastern Mediterranean in question.
The key concern of the US would however be that the Russians have also warned that in case of US missile strikes on Syria killing Russian personnel they would retaliate with missile strikes of their own against facilities in Syria they know to be staffed by US personnel.
….One way or the other the “no bombing zone” faces the same insuperable problems that a fully fledged “no fly zone” does. An editorial in The London Times has now admitted as much.
Quite simply, what makes it impractical is that it risks a head on confrontation with the Russian military in Syria. That is something that neither the West’s political nor its military leadership is prepared to risk.
All this became entirely obvious at a meeting of Western foreign ministers in London on Sunday convened by Boris Johnson directly following Kerry’s meeting with Lavrov on Saturday in Lausanne.
It is clear that Kerry found Lavrov in Lausanne completely immoveable, with Lavrov sticking to the well-known Russian position that there can be no more unilateral ceasefires by the Syrian army, and that a precondition for a ceasefire is the separation of Syrian opposition fighters from Jabhat Al-Nusra – as the US has repeatedly promised and as has repeatedly failed to happen.
In the face of this, and with military options ruled out, the Western foreign ministers in London were left with nothing other than to accept the inevitable, which is that the Syrian government is going to recapture eastern Aleppo.
….With no military option available, and with all forms of pressure on the Russians having failed, there is nothing more the West can do.
That this is so was most clearly admitted by Boris Johnson. All he could come up with to save the Jihadi fighters in Aleppo was plead with the Russians for mercy
“And it is up to them (NB: the Russians – AM) to seize this moment to recognise the opportunity and, in my view, to show greatness and to show leadership…..it’s really up to them now to listen and to show mercy – show mercy to those people in that city, get a ceasefire going, get the negotiations going in Geneva, and let’s bring this slaughter to an end.”
When a Western foreign minister – even one as preposterous as Boris Johnson – is reduced to pleading with the Russians for mercy, then it is obvious that the game is over and the ‘Great Battle of Aleppo’ has been lost.
As for the candidate who will most likely become the next U.S. president, Syria is a thorn in the side of Israel since it has an alliance with Iran, which justified a regime change policy against it. This reflects a Neocon worldview as reflected in a recent article by Sharmine Narwani in which leaked emails from Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State and private speeches are quoted and discussed:
A 2012 email released by WikiLeaks last year shows that, behind the scenes, Clinton’s State Department was calculating its Syria policy using entirely different metrics than its publicly-stated narrative of supporting reforms and rejecting violence:
It is the strategic relationship between Iran and the regime of Bashar Assad in Syria that makes it possible for Iran to undermine Israel’s security — not through a direct attack, which in the thirty years of hostility between Iran and Israel has never occurred, but through its proxies in Lebanon, like Hezbollah, that are sustained, armed and trained by Iran via Syria. The end of the Assad regime would end this dangerous alliance. Israel’s leadership understands well why defeating Assad is now in its interests.
The email, written by an unidentified person and included within the WikiLeaks ‘Clinton archive,’ lays out a plan:
Washington should start by expressing its willingness to work with regional allies like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar to organize, train and arm Syrian rebel forces. The announcement of such a decision would, by itself, likely cause substantial defections from the Syrian military. Then, using territory in Turkey and possibly Jordan, U.S. diplomats and Pentagon officials can start strengthening the opposition… Arming the Syrian rebels and using Western air power to ground Syrian helicopters and airplanes is a low-cost high payoff approach.
Arming a Syrian rebellion from outside the country was already a consideration “from the very beginning,” according to a recent WikiLeaks release of a June 2013 speech by Clinton:
So, the problem for the U.S. and the Europeans has been from the very beginning: What is it you – who is it you are going to try to arm. And you probably read in the papers my view was we should try to find some of the groups that were there that we thought we could build relationships with and develop some covert connections that might then at least give us some insight into what is going on inside Syria.
Certainly, we know that by early 2012, the Obama and Erdogan administrations had struck a deal to establish a rat-line transporting weapons and ammunition from Libya to Syria – via the CIA and MI6, and funded by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
The attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi which killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens was only a temporary setback. Weapons and financial assistance to militants in Syria, however, continued to flow from America’s regional allies without any U.S. pushback, even though Washington clearly knew arms were being siphoned to extremists.
A declassified DIA document from August 2012 circulated to Clinton’s State Department states plainly that “the Salafist, Muslim Brotherhood and AQI (Al-Qaeda in Iraq) are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria” and that “the West, Gulf countries and Turkey support the opposition.”
But if U.S. Special Forces were involved in driving arms and fighters into Syria in early 2012, the groundwork would have had to have begun many, many months before. The U.S. military’s unconventional warfare (UW) strategy requires that target-state population perceptions are first ‘groomed’ into accepting an armed insurrection, using “propaganda and political and psychological efforts to discredit the government”…creating “local and national ‘agitation’”…helping organize “boycotts, strikes and other efforts to suggest public discontent”…before beginning the “infiltration of foreign organizers and advisors and foreign propaganda, material, money, weapons and equipment.”
You get an idea of how this ‘propaganda’ and ‘grooming’ works in a June 2011 email from Clinton’s recently-departed Director of Policy Planning Anne-Marie Slaughter, who openly calls for fabricating sectarian narratives to incite Syrian protestors:
This suggests U.S. should be making much more of the ways in which Syrian regime is simulating violence. Can’t we call for a meeting of the UNSC where we do not call for action but simply present information along the lines of what is recounted below so as to ‘bring it to the attention of the Council’ in a way that then has greater credibility globally? Making the point repeatedly that the regime wants this to look like/turn into sectarian violence? At the very least that can be broadcast back into Syria in various ways that will encourage protestors. There is an information war going on; we can do much more to elevate and legitimate the truth.
This is business as usual for a U.S. State Department well-versed in sowing sectarian discord in the Middle East – all while publicly denouncing sectarian strife. A WikiLeaksemail from 2006 shows that this thinking was already well-entrenched in Foggy Bottom, with a focus on “exploiting vulnerabilities” – particularly “sectarian” ones – inside Syria.
As reported in The Intercept on October 11th, an FBI report from December of 2012 reveals that most homegrown Muslim terrorists are motivated largely by U.S. military operations overseas against national, ethnic or religious groups that they identify with.
A recent FBI study found that anger over U.S. military operations abroad was the most commonly cited motivation for individuals involved in cases of “homegrown” terrorism. The report also identified no coherent pattern to “radicalization,” concluding that it remained near impossible to predict future violent acts.
The study, reviewed by The Intercept, was conducted in 2012 by a unit in the FBI’s counterterrorism division and surveyed intelligence analysts and FBI special agents across the United States who were responsible for nearly 200 cases, both open and closed, involving “homegrown violent extremists.” The survey responses reinforced the FBI’s conclusion that such individuals “frequently believe the U.S. military is committing atrocities in Muslim countries, thereby justifying their violent aspirations.”
Online relationships and exposure to English-language militant propaganda and “ideologues” like Anwar al-Awlaki are also cited as “key factors” driving extremism. But grievances over U.S. military action ranked far above any other factor, turning up in 18 percent of all cases, with additional cases citing a “perceived war against Islam,” “perceived discrimination,” or other more specific incidents. The report notes that between 2009 and 2012, 10 out of 16 attempted or successful terrorist attacks in the United States targeted military facilities or personnel.
“Numerous individuals, activities, or experiences can contribute to an extremist’s radicalization,” the report says. “It can be difficult, if not impossible, to predict for any given individual what factor or combination of factors will prompt that individual’s radicalization or mobilization to violence.”
The report is titled “Homegrown Violent Extremists: Survey Confirms Key Assessments, Reveals New Insights about Radicalization.” It is dated December 20, 2012. An FBI unit called the “Americas Fusion Cell” surveyed agents responsible for 198 “current and disrupted [homegrown violent extremists],” which the report says represented a fraction of all “pending, U.S.-based Sunni extremist cases” at the time. The survey seems designed to look only at Muslim violent extremism. (The FBI declined to comment.)