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Quid pro quo deal being reached between POTUS Trump and the Deep State

Bad Moon: (Trouble) Rising

Alex Christoforou

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For daring to say that the US should work with Russia, Trump was punished by the Deep State with a “Russia” scandal. The Deep State however has suffered a tremendous blow…it has had to come out of the shadows and reveal itself to the world.

Now it looks like both sides are moving towards compromise.

Art of the Deal methodology: weigh up the elements of power in your hands, and match them against those of your business opponent.

Alastair Crooke via The Strategic Culture Foundation says to expect a diversion that either a now exposed and vulnerable Deep State, and a hobbled President, might welcome as the chance to stand erect in public esteem.

It seems that we are coming to the crux: President Trump, like Reagan before him, was elected by ‘the people’ rather than by (what Paul Craig Roberts calls the ‘ruling interest groups’): “As a high official in Reagan’s government who was aligned with Reagan’s goals to end stagflation and the Cold War, I experienced first-hand, the cost of going against the powerful interest groups that are accustomed to ruling. We took away part of their rule from them, but now they have taken it back. And, they are now stronger than before”. I too, experienced something of the panic that the end to the Cold War induced amongst the ‘ruling interest groups’ — after all, American policy in the Middle East (and western Europe) was entirely dominated by an unstoppable momentum to cleanse it of all Russian influence. And then – ‘pop’ – the Soviet enemy suddenly, was ‘enemy’ no more. Yet, the ‘ruling interest groups’ were, by then, fully committed to a globalized (i.e. a culturally non-nationalist, consumerist, life-style,) rules-based, political and financial, ‘world’, shaped by the US. Serendipitously, after 9/11, terrorism emerged served to underpin the perceived need for a common defence-based, NATO-esque, global ‘order’, as the glue to America’s unipolar moment.

President Obama lay very much in the globalist ‘struggle for a democratic-liberal world’ mould, (though he did try to make the ‘ruling interests’ understand that there were limits: that there had to be boundaries to US commitments). In other words, Obama accepted the globalist premise, though he tried to mitigate some of its military impulses. Notably however, he acquiesced to re-heating the Russia ‘threat’ (after Medvedev gave place to Mr Putin (thus ending Obama’s hope to seduce Russia into the embrace of the global economic order).

But then Donald Trump, elected President by his deplorables’ base, made clear that he wished for détente with Russia, and even disdained the claims made on ordinary Americans by the maintenance of America’s unipolar global ‘order’. For this heresy, he has been punished by the manufactured ‘Russiagate’ non-scandal. “Can a president, concerned that he might be removed from office by a special prosecutor or possibly assassinated, resist the march toward war?” – asks Paul Craig Roberts, who asserts that the President has been effectively caged, by a trifecta of Establishment generals, on the one hand; and by a Goldman Sachs posse, on the other.

That the ‘ruling interests’ have managed substantially to contain President Trump is undeniable, but what is new, and perhaps – or perhaps, not – alters the calculus, is that these ‘ruling interests’ have had to come out from the shadows into the open. The former Acting Director of the CIA, Mike Morrell, an early voice peddling the Russian collusion meme now publicly admits in a surprisingly frank interview with Politico, his leading role in the intelligence community waging political war against President Trump, describing his actions as something he didn’t “fully think through”, adding that maybe it wasn’t such a great idea to leak against, and bash a new president: “There was a significant downside”, Morrell acknowledges. Just to recall: Not only had Morell in an early NY Times op-ed piece asserted that he was committed to doing “everything I can to ensure that she [Hillary Clinton] is elected as our 45th president”, but he went so far as to call then candidate Trump “a threat to our national security”, while making the extraordinary claim that “in the intelligence business, we would say that Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.”

Now that Morrell has come clean, and the Robert Mueller investigation increasingly is publicly being revealed as a politicised hatchet operation, why then speak of a possible Bad Moon Rising? Well, simply because Morrell’s bout of candour does suggest that the Deep State now may be thinking compromise: It will give Trump some leeway, but will want its quid pro quo from him, too.

Some such signs of possible quid pro quo have been already apparent: Trump ate his campaign rhetoric on Afghanistan to allow the US military to persecute its (long and unsuccessful) war there. The Pentagon too, has announced that 2,000 US military, and an additional large number of contractors, will stay on in north-eastern Syria without specific time limit – after the end of anti-ISIS operations there. And fresh troops have been inserted into Iraq, and deployed to within 100 kms of the Iranian border. The ostensible justification is that with ISIS’ defeat – a void has opened, and into this ‘void’, Iran might penetrate. Only an aggressive US military presence might stop it, it is said. But American forces in Syria have been becoming ‘aggressive’ there too (against Russian Aerospace Forces, and not just Iranians) – as this report by RT makes clear:

(A US F-22 fighter was preventing two Russian Su-25 strike aircraft from bombing an ISIS base to the west of the Euphrates November 23, according to the Russian Defence ministry).

General Igor Konashenkov said: “The [USAF] F-22 launched decoy flares and used airbrakes while constantly maneuvering [near the Russian strike jets], imitating an air fight”. He added that the US jet “ceased its dangerous manoeuvres” only after a Russian Su-35S fighter jet joined the two strike planes, [chasing away the F22]. “Most close-mid-air encounters between Russian and US jets in the area around the Euphrates River have been linked to the attempts of US aircraft to get in the way [of the Russian warplanes] striking against Islamic State terrorists”, the general said.

The statement came as a response to the Pentagon’s claims about Russian or Syrian aircraft crossing “into our airspace on the east side of the Euphrates River,” Lt. Col. Damien Pickart, the spokesman for US Air Force Central Command, told CNN earlier on Saturday.

Konashenkov said that any claims made by US military officials concerning the fact that there is “any part of the airspace in Syria that belongs to the US” are “puzzling.” Konashenkov also said that “Syria is a sovereign state and a UN member. And that means that there… can be no US airspace ‘of its own’”.

All of this rather looks as though the US military wants to flex muscle and is ‘looking for trouble’ with someone. Operational military co-ordination in Syria between American and Russian militaries, deliberately is being allowed to wither (on the US side), I understand. President Putin it seems, has read the runes correctly, and is pre-empting this new US Deep State ‘purpose’ to protect the Middle Eastern (suddenly opening) ‘void’ – by announcing a part Russian military withdrawal from Syria. Putin is not ‘looking for trouble’ there. The job in Syria is done. He knows that the return of Russia to the Middle East stands as a ‘poke in the eye’ to decades of a neo-con doctrine of precisely trying to expel Russia from the region.

But … into this paradigm of US Establishment re-calibrated purpose: ‘to protect the Middle Eastern void’ from the likes of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Hash’d al-Sha’abi and Hizbullah, percolating their influence across the region, President Trump has tossed his bombshell of declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel. Trump had good domestic reasons for this act: the evangelical constituency within the Republican Party is significant (perhaps even fifty percent), and the Israeli Right (Sheldon Adelson has been a big Trump donor), and its powerful lobby, represents a ‘ruling interest’ that has a clout in DC that can match up to that of other components of the Deep State. It can, if it so chooses, cast an umbrella around an American politician.

In any case, ‘the act’ would have appealed to Trump’s delight in defying conventional wisdom (especially, if in so doing, he could snub his predecessor, too). It fits too, with his Art of the Deal methodology: weigh up the elements of power in your hands, and match them against those of your business opponent. And having done this analysis, where possible, remove or weaken your opponent’s components of strength – and build your own. From this optic, Palestinian ‘rejectionism’ in recognising Israel, and insisting on Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital, was the primordial element to any Palestinian negotiating hand. Indeed, it has been pretty much all of it. And Trump simply KO’d it (or, so it may have seemed to him). Without Jerusalem, and the withholding of recognition of Israel remaining as Palestinian negotiating cards, the negotiation becomes banal. It is then just about ‘real estate’, and the amount of money required to get to a Palestinian ‘yes’. It is a particularly western way of negotiating: the weighing and balancing of literal components of power. It is not however the Hizbullah ‘way’ (I speak with a modicum of experience). Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah (Secretary General of Hizbullah) simply recast Trump’s play: asymmetrically.

‘Yes’, he said: Jerusalem is indeed ‘the core, the axis and the essence of the Palestinian case’. But that is the half of it. For Jerusalem – the Holy City – represents the core, and the essence of Muslim and Christian cultural identity. It is their history, their meaning, their sanctities. President Trump cannot ‘confiscate’ that identity, that history, and meaning – and simply give it to Israel. Nasrallah has called for Israel to be diplomatically isolated, for an Intifada, and for all movements and components to the resistance (Shi’i and Sunni; Christian and Muslim) to join the struggle for Jerusalem – the Holy City – and for al-Aqsa, the holy shrine, which is now in grave peril, he claimed. Nasrallah turned President Trump’s play from a ‘real estate’ tussle into a war of religious symbols – paradigm. His rendering makes it hard for so-called Muslim ‘moderates’ to deny Nasrallah’s casting of the conflict as one of emotionally charged spiritual symbols. They cannot, and are not. (See here, Abdul Bari Atwan, for example).

In sum, Nasrallah, backed by Iran, and in parallel by Egypt’s Sunni religious leadership of al-Azar, by Turkey (taking the Caliph’s mantle) and many others, has redefined President Trump’s Art of the Deal ploy — not as one robbing the Palestinians of the heart of their cause, but as the re-ignition of the long struggle of all Muslims and Christians for Jerusalem, and all, for which it stands.

The American ‘ruling interests’ – after a long series of failures in the Middle East – will not abide yet more: they will retch at the thought of Israel challenged in this way; of Saudi Arabia humiliated and at Hizbullah and Iran in the vanguard of a regional campaign for Jerusalem, and for Palestine – and by implication, against those who have been seen willing to normalise with Israel.

A Bad Moon is rising: America is polarised at home; unitive government has splintered into departments at odds with each other, and with officials leaking on each other; with fake news abounding; with Congress gridlocked, and with American social and political fabric tearing apart. Against this background – can a president, concerned that he might be removed from office, and beset still by hitherto hidden ‘ruling interests’ now dragged out from the shadows into the public glare for their tawdry schemes, resist the march toward war – the original question posed by Paul Craig Roberts?

Either a war in North Korea (“the greatest threat facing America”, McMaster says), or an aggressive military show of force against ‘bad actor’ Iran – and in support of a failing Saudi Crown Prince. Is this the diversion that either a now exposed and vulnerable Deep State, and a hobbled President, might welcome as the chance to stand erect in public esteem? Both might share a common interest in escaping domestic problems to mount a show of American strength and military power. Very possibly they might, but oddly, the US military have chosen to leave American soldiers hostage and isolated in both cases: 30,000 US forces in the DMZ between the Koreas, and in smaller outposts in north-eastern Syria and in Iraq. This may turn out badly. Remember Beirut in 1983.

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Russia makes HUGE strides in drone technology

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The US and Israel are universally recognized leaders in the development and use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones. Thousands of American and Israeli UAVs are operating across the world daily.

The US military has recently successfully tested an air-to-air missile to turn its MQ-9 Reaper drone into an effective long-endurance, high-altitude surveillance unmanned spy aircraft capable of air-to-surface as well as air-to-air missions. This is a major breakthrough. It’s not a secret that Russia has been lagging behind in UAV development. Now its seems to be going to change with tangible progress made to narrow the gap.

Very few nations boast drones capable of high-altitude long endurance (HALE) missions. Russia is to enter the club of the chosen. In late 2017, the Russian Defense Ministry awarded a HALE UAV contract to the Kazan-based Simonov design bureau.

This month, Russian Zvezda military news TV channel showed a video (below) of Altair (Altius) heavy drone prototype aircraft number “03”, going through its first flight test.

Propelled by two RED A03/V12 500hp high fuel efficiency diesel engines, each producing a capacity of 500 hp on takeoff, the 5-ton heavy vehicle with a wingspan of 28.5 meters boasts a maximum altitude of 12km and a range of 10,000km at a cruising speed of 150-250km/h.

Wingspan: about 30 meters. Maximum speed: up to 950 km/h. Flight endurance: 48 hours. Payload: two tons, which allows the creation of a strike version. The vehicle is able to autonomously take off and land or be guided by an operator from the ground.

The UAV can carry the usual range of optical and thermal sensors as well as synthetic-aperture ground-surveillance radar with the resolution of .1 meter at the range of 35km and 1 meter at the range of 125km. The communications equipment allows real-time data exchange.

Russia’s UAV program currently underway includes the development of a range of large, small, and mid-sized drones. The Orion-E medium altitude long endurance (MALE) UAV was unveiled at the MAKS 2017 air show. Its developer, Kronstadt Technologies, claims it could be modified for strike missions. The one-ton drone is going through testing now. The Orion-E is capable of automatic takeoff and landing.

It can fly continuously for 24 hours, carrying a surveillance payload of up to 200 kg to include a forward looking infra-red (FLIR) turret, synthetic aperture radar and high resolution cameras. The drone can reach a maximum altitude of 7,500 m. Its range is 250 km.

The Sukhoi design bureau is currently developing the Okhotnik (Hunter) strike drone with a range of about 3,500km. The drone made its maiden flight this year. In its current capacity, it has an anti-radar coating, and will store missiles and precision-guided bombs internally to avoid radar detection.

The Kazan-based Eniks Design Bureau is working on the small T-16 weaponized aerial vehicle able to carry 6 kg of payload.

The new Russian Korsar (Corsair) tactical surveillance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) will be upgraded to receive an electronic warfare system. Its operational range will be increased from 150km to 250km. The drone was revealed at Victory Day military parade along with the Korsar unmanned combat helicopter version.

The rotary wing drone lacks the speed and altitude of the fixed wing variant, but has a great advantage of being able to operate without landing strips and can be sea-based. Both drones can carry guided and unguided munitions. The fixed-wing version can be armed with Ataka 9M120 missiles.

The first Russian helicopter-type unmanned aerial vehicle powered by hydrogen fuel cells was presented at the Army-2018 international forum. With the horizontal cruising speed of the drone up to 60 kph, the unmanned chopper can stay in the air at least 2.5 hours to conduct reconnaissance operations. Its payload is up to 5 kg.

Last November, the Kalashnikov Concern reported that it would start production of heavy unmanned aerial vehicles capable of carrying up to several tons of cargo and operating for several days at a time without needing to recharge.

All in all, the Russian military operate 1,900 drones on a daily basis. The multi-purpose Orlan-10 with a range of 600km has become a working horse that no military operation, including combat actions in Syria, can be conducted without. Maj. Gen. Alexander Novikov,
the head of the Russian General Staff’s Office for UAV Development, Russian drones performed over 23,000 flights, lasting 140,000 hours in total.

Russia’s State Armament Program for 2018-2027 puts the creation of armed UAVs at the top of priorities’ list. Looks like the effort begins to pay off. Russia is well on the way to become second to none in UAV capability.

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Via Strategic Culture

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Roman Catholic priest removed from parish for burning LGBT flag

Priest’s removal ordered by his bishop, alleging the priest was mentally ill.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Fox News reported that a Roman Catholic priest was removed from his post in a Chicago neighborhood by his cardinal (bishop) and sent away for “pastoral support” for burning an LGBT “rainbow flag”, after reciting a prayer of exorcism.

The original newspiece, by Mitchell Armentrout of The Chicago Sun-Timeshas this to say:

The priest who ignited controversy last week by burning an LGBTQ-friendly flag on church grounds against the orders of Cardinal Blase Cupich has been removed from his Avondale parish.

Cupich sent two of his top deputies to Resurrection Catholic Church on Friday to notify the Rev. Paul Kalchik that he was being removed as pastor, according to two sources close to the priest.

In a letter to parishioners and staff released Saturday evening by the Archdiocese of Chicago, Cupich wrote that he has “become increasingly concerned about a number of issues at Resurrection Parish.

“It has become clear to me that Fr. Kalchik must take time away from the parish to receive pastoral support so his needs can be assessed,” Cupich wrote.

Kalchik could not immediately be reached for comment.

According to the sources, Kalchik and his elderly parents have received death threats since he defied Cupich on Sept. 14 by burning the banner, which featured a cross superimposed over a rainbow. There also have been threats of vandalism to the church, the sources said.

Kalchik told the Sun-Times during an interview in his office on Tuesday that at least one person had forced their way into the church at 3043 N. Francisco Ave. last weekend, leaving a door open but not causing any damage.

The 56-year-old priest first announced in a Sept. 2 church bulletin that he planned to burn the flag, after he found it in storage where it apparently sat for more than a decade.

Cupich, who has shared Pope Francis’ more welcoming attitude toward gays in the church, told Kalchik not to burn the flag, but the priest said he did it anyway “in a quiet way” during a closed ceremony with seven parishioners, featuring a prayer of exorcism over the torched banner.

The flag-burning drew the ire of LGBTQ-equality activists, including Ald. Deb Mell (33rd), who led a small demonstration across the street from the church on Wednesday, calling on Pope Francis and Cupich “to send this hateful bigot packing.”

Kalchik — who has said he was sexually abused by a neighbor as a child, and again by a priest when he began working for the church at 19 — previously said the sex-abuse crisis plaguing the church is “definitely a gay thing.”

“What have we done wrong other than destroy a piece of propaganda that was used to put out a message other than what the church is about?” Kalchik said Tuesday.

Cupich wrote that he removed Kalchik “out of concern for Fr. Kalchik’s welfare and that of the people of Resurrection Parish.

“I have a responsibility to be supportive of our priests when they have difficulties, but I also have a duty to ensure that those who serve our faithful are fully able to minister to them in the way the Church expects,” Cupich wrote.

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This brings up some interesting questions:

  • While no one is supposed to hate sinners, Christianity strongly calls its supporters to hate sin. This priest’s flag-burning is very-clearly an example of taking this teaching to heart.
  • What kind of message is the Cardinal sending people about the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church?
  • Father Paul Kalchik was abused twice, and once by a priest, and his acknowledgment of the sex-abuse cases as a “gay thing” is well known in church circles. The Roman Catholic prohibition on married priests, which itself is not in line with Apostolic teachings, has contributed to the growing network of “gay” seminaries within that Church. Why does Rome go on hiding this?
  • All this comes down to the biggest question: Who is Rome serving? Homosexuality and its cousins are serious sins and they cause enormous and frightful trauma to those so impacted. If the Roman Church cannot call the truth out for what it is, then, what are they doing?

Further information about this situation, described on the Fox News website notes that Cardinal Blase Cupich had cautioned Kalchik not to burn the flag, but he reportedly went ahead with it and recited a prayer of exorcism before doing so.

The Archdiocese released a letter saying that “Father Kalchik needs to take time away from the parish to receive pastoral support,” amid a swirl of allegations that Cupich had threatened – through his vicars – for Kalchik to be forcibly committed to St. Luke’s Institute for further evaluation and treatment.

Kalchik had first announced that this flag, which was found in storage, would be burned in a church bulletin in early September. He was immediately warned by the Archdiocese of Chicago not to move forward with such an act. However, Kalchik did go ahead – later telling a local NBC reporter that the did so “in a quiet way” and that the flag, which also had a cross adorned over it, “was cut into seven pieces, so it was burned over stages in the same fire pit that we used for the Easter vigil Mass.”

The rainbow flag, set alight by parishioners earlier this month, once hung in the back of the sanctuary. Kalchik had reportedly spoken out in recent months, and even written to Pope Francis, about his own trauma as a victim of a predatory Roman Catholic priest.

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Syria is a Lost Cause and America Must Move On

America must realize it has no military role to play in Syria’s future.

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Candidate Donald Trump sounded different from his predecessors. He criticized endless war-making in the Middle East and wanted U.S. forces out of Syria. But U.S. administration officials recently said they are in no hurry to exit the Syrian civil war and threatened military strikes if the Assad government again used chemical weapons.

Why?

The seven-year conflict is in its endgame. Backed by Russian airpower and Iranian ground forces, the Assad government has steadily defeated various rebel groups across the country. Damascus is now secure, with rebels finally driven from nearby suburbs. Some neighborhoods in Homs and Aleppo lie in ruins, but fighting has ceased. The regime is in firm control over most of the country.

Only Idlib province remains under insurgent control, and President Bashar al-Assad’s forces are preparing what may be the final offensive. The region is crammed with refugees, sparking fears of a humanitarian disaster. But with Iran’s and Russia’s aid Damascus almost certainly will reestablish its control, destroying or displacing rebel forces that are now mostly Islamist radicals. At that point, only territories in the north and southeast—which have U.S. bases—lie outside the Assad regime’s control.

U.S. policy has been counterproductive, even irrational, throughout the extended conflict. The Obama administration originally labeled Assad a “reformer.” Then Washington demanded his ouster—reducing the incentive for both him and the opposition to negotiate. As the conflict developed the United States initiated combat operations against the Islamic State while pushing to oust Assad, who fielded the strongest forces opposing ISIS. American aid then went to so-called moderates even as they fell behind more radical groups, often surrendering to the latter.

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While targeting ISIS, Washington backed Islamists such as Jabhat al-Nusra, an Al Qaeda affiliate. Washington also sought to work with Turkey’s Erdogan government, even as the latter facilitated Islamic State operations in Syria. America turned to Kurdish forces to lead the ground attack on the Islamic State but refused to defend its allies when Ankara intervened militarily to expel Kurds from their homes near the Turkish-Syrian border. Furthermore, Washington encouraged the involvement of the Gulf States, which underwrote the most radical rebel factions. Although nominally arrayed against ISIS, Washington’s allies largely shifted their militaries away from America’s priority of fighting ISIS to Yemen.

While avoiding direct involvement in Syria’s conflict, the United States launched missile strikes in response to alleged Syrian use of chemical weapons. Yet the vast majority of the conflict’s casualties—with deaths estimated at around a half million—were the result of conventional military action by all sides. Bombs and bullets killed far more people than chemical weapons. Washington, however, preened morally while Syrians still died in by ever-increasing numbers.

Finally, the Obama administration steadily increased U.S. involvement in Syria, a distant conflict with no significant impact on American security, yet while also denouncing both Iran and Russia for intervening in support of their far greater interests. The administration introduced U.S. forces without congressional authorization while Tehran and Moscow, both long allied with Damascus, responded to the Assad government’s request for support.

Overall, U.S. policy was not just a failure, but a disaster. Washington managed to do little more than raise expectations among Assad’s opponents, prolonging the war and increasing its toll. American aid strengthened radical jihadists, which pose a far greater challenge to America than Damascus. Washington’s focus on ISIS allowed the governments most threatened—Syria, Turkey, and the Gulf States—to focus on other enemies (“moderate” insurgents, Kurds, and Yemenis, respectively).

Finally, Washington reinforced its well-earned reputation for being not just careless but irresponsible in attacking countries without considering what was likely to follow. Assad is a tribal leader with strong support, especially from Syrian minorities who saw the consequences of America’s invasion of Iraq and didn’t want a repeat. One Alawite told me that disagreements with Assad ended when the fighting started.

The latter was the only defense against “chaos and the jungle.” Washington officials might view that attitude as short-sighted. But somewhere between two hundred thousand and a million people died in the sectarian war unleashed by the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Why would anyone trust America?

It is this record which candidate Trump understandably criticized for good reason.

But President Trump’s Syria policy has turned into that of his predecessor. Although Washington gave up supporting insurgents, there aren’t many left to aid. The Islamic State is largely defeated, but America is unwilling to shift responsibility back to Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Jordan, and the Gulf States, all of which have interests in eradicating ISIS’s final elements.

With the Idlib offensive soon to begin, the Trump administration is threatening military action if, but only if, the Assad government uses chemical weapons, a minor factor in the conflict.

Even worse, the administration apparently plans to reinforce the U.S. presence in the southeast near the Iraqi border to pressure Iranian supply lines. And Washington hopes American forces cooperating with Kurdish militias in the north can both inhibit Iranian access to the rest of Syria and force Assad’s ouster by denying the regime access to people and resources, especially oil deposits.

These operations are illegal under both U.S. and international law. Congress never authorized an American invasion of Syria to oust its legally legitimate (however hostile) government. Nor was any action authorized to prevent the operation of an alliance between Damascus and other legally legitimate governments, including Iran.

Nor is it obvious why Washington should want to do so. Syria does not threaten the United States, or Israel, which is more than capable of deterring Damascus. Brutal authoritarian governments are unpleasant, but common in the Middle East. Moreover, they are often allied with America (think Egypt, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Turkey).

Iran is a malign actor but is overstretched, and its alliance with Syria is defensive. Far more aggressive and dangerous is Washington’s “friend,” Saudi Arabia, which has invaded its neighbor Yemen. Saudi Arabia has used its troops to sustain a minority royal dictatorship in Bahrain, funded anti-Western radicals in Syria, and kidnapped the Lebanese prime minister.

In any case, it is hard to imagine how the administration can succeed. When visiting Syria at the end of August, I traveled widely, including to Homs and Aleppo. The reconstruction process will be painfully slow, but the war in these cities is over. The Assad regime is in firm control. He won’t leave because Washington wants him to.

Nor is there any chance that Moscow will oust its ally. Russia has paid heavily to sustain the Assad government; Putin will not risk his gains to please America, absent an unlikely offer of great value, such as lifting sanctions. Additionally, there is little Moscow can do to coerce Syria, other than halt support for military operations—but that won’t force out Assad.

The Russians have even less leverage over Iran, which is in Syria at the invitation of the Assad government. Nor are the Kurds, effectively abandoned by Washington when they were attacked by Turkey, likely to do the Trump administration’s dirty work. They are far more likely to strike a deal with Damascus.

America, with very little at stake in Syria, wants to dictate Syria’s future and limit or exclude countries with far greater interests at stake than America has. Washington policymakers are dreaming. Even if their objectives were realistic, the gain wouldn’t be worth the effort. Both the Obama and Trump administrations were living in a fantasy world when it came to Syria.

However, the greatest risk from American involvement is the possibility of triggering a military confrontation. For instance, when attacking Washington’s Kurdish allies, Turkey threatened to advance on areas containing American personnel. Also, should Washington order attacks on Syrian military units for whatever reason, Russia might respond by either defending its ally or targeting America’s regional friends.

As a sovereign state, Damascus might be willing to risk a confrontation to reassert its control. Iran, too, might be willing to play a dangerous game of chicken. The greatest danger likely is not an intentional war but accident and miscalculation. Given the dearth of serious American interests at stake in Syria, Washington would be risking much for little.

Syria was always beyond U.S. control. Of course, fans of intervention claim that if only America had done something earlier—criticized someone, supported someone, or attacked someone—the civil war would have ended, and a democratic, pro-Western Syria would have emerged.

This reminds one of Ronald Reagan’s doomed hopes when intervening in Lebanon’s bitter, horrid, confusing civil war. It also echoes the cakewalk promised by proponents of the Iraq invasion. But there are far too many contrary actors with far too many interests involved for Washington to have its way.

Whatever the United States hoped for in 2011 and 2012, that world disappeared long ago. Today the Trump administration looks desperate. It has neither leverage nor influence to change Syria and only hopes to affect events by risking a military confrontation with multiple hostile powers over minimal stakes. Candidate Donald Trump would never have agreed to such a policy. President Donald Trump needs to remember why he ran for president.

Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. A former special assistant to President Ronald Reagan, he is the author of Foreign Follies: America’s New Global Empire.

Via The National Interest

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