Question: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry recently visited Moscow. It is reported there were marathon talks on the situation in Syria. Later both sides admitted the talks amounted to nothing – a complete failure. You and others predicted this. So what was the point?
Answer: Nominally speaking the agenda centered on how Washington and Moscow could enhance cooperation to resolve the conflict in Syria. That was the official line. But in reality Kerry had a two-track ploy. First, try still again to convince the Russians to abandon the legal and legitimate government in Syria (“Assad must go”). This approach also included the Russians assuming a subordinate role – including militarily – to Washington’s efforts in Syria. Of course all this is a non-starter with Moscow. Syria’s Assad is on the offensive and winning ground. Second, Kerry was in Moscow to stall for time. Barack Obama and Kerry may or may not want to end the proxy war in Syria, but it is clear the Washington foreign policy establishment (read: neocons) and thinktankistan (read: neocons) have no interest in ending this conflict. Quite the contrary, the war in Syria serves a number of connected foreign policy goals – and this has everything to do with the U.S. presidential election.
Q.: You said Kerry is stalling for time. What is the plan? What is in play?
A.: Kerry’s interest in engaging Moscow on the diplomatic front has been to buy time to rebrand and re-equip Washington’s al-Qaeda related proxies in Syria for the sole purpose to topple the Assad government and not to fight the Islamic State. Kerry knows the Russians know the U.S. has pumped 3,000 tons of weapons into Syria since the so-called truce agreed to last February. Those arms were sent to arm jihadists fighting the Damascus government. With Turkey poised to re-asses its Syria policy and the fighting for Aleppo coming to an end, Washington is in a hurry to force a regime change in Damascus. The Russian side also took advantage of this stalling tactic – knowing full well Washington has been planning a new offensive against Assad. We will see which side benefitted the most from this stalling phase. From Washington’s perspective the overall objective at this point is to deny Russia a political/diplomatic victory. Washington cannot accept this.
Q.: What would a Russian political/diplomatic victory mean?
A.: First of all there are just too many in Washington who can’t stomach see a Syrian resolution not dictated by the U.S. Even a joint Washington-Moscow resolution is intolerable. In this case, the Russians would be seen as deserving Washington’s gratitude and respect. This would derail the entire anti-Russia campaign that blankets the west’s political discourse and endlessly repeated by the corporate mainstream media. Second, this is where the U.S. presidential campaign comes into play. The Democratic Party and the foreign policy establishment (again the neocons) have teamed up manufactured a deep and sinister Trump-Putin conspiracy plotting to undermine western security. Allowing any Russian victory in Syria or anywhere else (Ukraine, for example) would collapse this campaign strategy and America’s self-declared right to decide political outcomes of its choosing anywhere in the world.
Q.: So the stakes are high and this isn’t only about Syria?
A.: At stake is Washington’s hegemonic agenda. Hillary Clinton is the status quo candidate – protector of the national security state. The Democratic Party (Clinton machine) has absorbed many of the neocons and become America’s War Party. Claiming Russia is threat to America’s global security posture is the War Party’s legitimizing narrative. Claiming Russia is threat is at the center of an outlook that ensures the New Cold War will be maintained. A brokered Syria peace plan with Russian participation would cast doubt on the necessity of the New Cold War.
Q.: The corporate media has renewed calls for the unilateral bombing of Syria to destroy the Damascus government. How likely is this and would be the complications?
A.: Any bombing of Syria would be illegal under international law without a U.N. Security Council resolution. Of course Russia would veto any such resolution. I believe it is highly likely Washington and its pliant NATO partners are planning such a bombing campaign against Syria. There are two objectives: finally put into play the “Assad must go” trope. Second, to punish Russia for not towing Washington (failed) policies. For months Washington has hoped the Syrian conflict would become “Putin’s War” – something akin to another Afghanistan quagmire. The Russians didn’t take the bait. Now the Washington establishment may believe it can achieve many objectives simultaneously: Oust Assad, humiliate Russia, destroy Trump, and elect Clinton. Alas, when was the last time Washington got some right? Rested assured: Washington is determined to save the New Cold War.
Peter Lavelle is host of RT’s political discussion program CrossTalk. His views may or may not reflect those of his employer.