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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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Bob Valdez
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Bob Valdez

Too bad the knuckleheads in the septic nation are not listening.

Raymond Comeau
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Raymond Comeau

Did everyone notice that the knuckleheads are dragging their knuckles?

Concerned Canuck
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Concerned Canuck

CORRECTION:

USA never had any legitimate cause to be involved in Syria.

So how can it be a lost cause?

Raymond Comeau
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Raymond Comeau

The USA never is concerned as to whether a cause is legitimate or not. So, they must be held responsible for their illegitimate causes.

Guy
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Guy

“Why ”
It started out being for a pipeline route and Israel .Today it is about Israel .All about Israel and their wet dreams of the Oded Yinon plan.

Martha
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Martha

“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).”

I THINK the author of this piece means “ISRAEL” when he writes “America.”

Hoyeru
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Hoyeru

many of the facts presented are not quite true. USA’s policy hasn’t ended in disaster. They couldn’t oust Assad but USA managed to divide Syria into 3 pieces, and USA/NATO/West now effectively controls all the land from beyond the river that’s the name. Turkey controls a lot of northern Syria, white Assad and Russia control the West site. Neither Assad nor Russia nor Iran can claim victory. The victory is far from won or secured. All USA/UK/France have to do i decide to invade Syria and neither Russia or Iran could stop them. And they could still do it. Maybe… Read more »

Shahna
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Shahna

“Candidate Donald Trump sounded different from his predecessors.” ——————- Did he? Seems to me he sounded just like his predecessors – and like them – after promises gave them more war. Just another lying Yankee official who promises A – until he gets into office and then he does – what America always does. Kill civilians in foreign countries. Every-single-day. That’s what America Does – Trump’s no different. Just another arrogant loud-mouth bigoted American cunt. Who loves Twitter. Wow – – – the self-styled “leader of the world.” I wonder if they’ve noticed they become more and more irrelevant every… Read more »

Shahna
Guest
Shahna

“The Obama administration originally labeled Assad a “reformer.” “ —————- He was a reformer – until he refused to bow to American demands regarding pipelines ‘n stuff then he became a vicious dictator and now an animal. It’s not rocket science – just thinking that what America “SAYS” has any relevance to what America DOES. Here’s how it works. When Americans speak – it’s just background noise. It has no intelligence and no relevance to anything. I mean, just listen to the Waffle Waitress – “Yakkity yakkity yakkity yak.” A monkey jabbering in the tree. … Monkey probably makes more… Read more »

Cheryl Brandon
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Cheryl Brandon

What Satanyahu of Occupied Palestine really think about USA; Here’s his own words in 2005;” Once we squeeze out of USA all that we need, It can blow away fro all I care”;This is the same man who gets billions in welfare from USA. So, you can imagine how they both want to illegally stay in Syria with no support apart from the KURDSish terrorists and EU members?

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European Court of Justice rules Britain free to revoke Brexit unilaterally

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that Britain can reverse Article 50.

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The UK is free to unilaterally revoke a notification to depart from the EU, the European Court has ruled. The judicial body said this could be done without changing the terms of London’s membership in the bloc.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) opined in a document issued on Monday that Britain can reverse Article 50, which stipulates the way a member state leaves the bloc. The potentially important ruling comes only one day before the House of Commons votes on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal with the EU.

“When a Member State has notified the European Council of its intention to withdraw from the European Union, as the UK has done, that Member State is free to revoke unilaterally that notification,” the court’s decision reads.

By doing so, the respective state “reflects a sovereign decision to retain its status as a Member State of the European Union.”

That said, this possibility remains in place “as long as a withdrawal agreement concluded between the EU and that Member State has not entered into force.” Another condition is: “If no such agreement has been concluded, for as long as the two-year period from the date of the notification of the intention to withdraw from the EU.”

The case was opened when a cross-party group of British politicians asked the court whether an EU member such as the UK can decide on its own to revoke the withdrawal process. It included Labour MEPs Catherine Stihler and David Martin, Scottish MPs Joanna Cherry Alyn Smith, along with Green MSPs Andy Wightman and Ross Greer.

They argued that unilateral revocation is possible and believe it could provide an opening to an alternative to Brexit, namely holding another popular vote to allow the UK to remain in the EU.

“If the UK chooses to change their minds on Brexit, then revoking Article 50 is an option and the European side should make every effort to welcome the UK back with open arms,” Smith, the SNP member, was quoted by Reuters.

However, May’s environment minister, Michael Gove, a staunch Brexit supporter, denounced the ECJ ruling, insisting the cabinet will not reverse its decision to leave. “We will leave on March 29, [2019]” he said, referring to the date set out in the UK-EU Brexit deal.

In the wake of the landmark vote on the Brexit deal, a group of senior ministers threatened to step down en masse if May does not try to negotiate a better deal in Brussels, according to the Telegraph. The ministers demanded that an alternative deal does not leave the UK trapped within the EU customs union indefinitely.

On Sunday, Will Quince resigned as parliamentary private secretary in the Ministry of Defense, saying in a Telegraph editorial that “I do not want to be explaining to my constituents why Brexit is still not over and we are still obeying EU rules in the early 2020s or beyond.”

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Seven Days of Failures for the American Empire

The American-led world system is experiencing setbacks at every turn.

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


On November 25, two artillery boats of the Gyurza-M class, the Berdiansk and Nikopol, one tugboat, the Yany Kapu, as well as 24 crew members of the Ukrainian Navy, including two SBU counterintelligence officers, were detained by Russian border forces. In the incident, the Russian Federation employed Sobol-class patrol boats Izumrud and Don, as  well as two Ka-52, two Su-25 and one Su-30 aircraft.

Ukraine’s provocation follows the advice of several American think-tanks like the Atlantic Council, which have been calling for NATO involvement in the Sea of Azov for months. The area is strategically important for Moscow, which views its southern borders, above all the Sea of Azov, as a potential flash point for conflict due to the Kiev’s NATO-backed provocations.

To deter such adventurism, Moscow has deployed to the Kerch Strait and the surrounding coastal area S-400 batteries, modernized S-300s, anti-ship Bal missile systems, as well as numerous electronic-warfare systems, not to mention the Russian assets and personnel arrayed in the military districts abutting Ukraine. Such provocations, egged on by NATO and American policy makers, are meant to provide a pretext for further sanctions against Moscow and further sabotage Russia’s relations with European countries like Germany, France and Italy, as well as, quite naturally, to frustrate any personal interaction between Trump and Putin.

This last objective seems to have been achieved, with the planned meeting between Trump and Putin at the G20 in Buenos Aires being cancelled. As to the the other objectives, they seem to have failed miserably, with Berlin, Paris and Rome showing no intention of imposing additional sanctions against Russia, recognizing the Ukrainian provocation fow what it is. The intention to further isolate Moscow by the neocons, neoliberals and most of the Anglo-Saxon establishment seems to have failed, demonstrated in Buenos Aires with the meeting between the BRICS countries on the sidelines and the bilateral meetings between Putin and Merkel.

On November 30, following almost two-and-a-half months of silence, the Israeli air force bombed Syria with three waves of cruise missiles. The first and second waves were repulsed over southern Syria, and the third, composed of surface-to-surface missiles, were also downed. At the same time, a loud explosion was heard in al-Kiswah, resulting in the blackout of Israeli positions in the area.

The Israeli attack was fully repulsed, with possibly two IDF drones being downed as well. This effectiveness of Syria’s air defenses corresponds with Russia’s integration of Syria’s air defenses with its own systems, manifestly improving the Syrians’ kill ratios even without employing the new S-300 systems delivered to Damascus, let alone Russia’s own S-400s. The Pantsirs and S-200s are enough for the moment, confirming my hypothesis more than two months ago that the modernized S-300 in the hands of the Syrian army is a potentially lethal weapon even for the F-35, forbidding the Israelis from employing their F-35s.

With the failed Israeli attack testifying to effectiveness of Russian air-defense measures recently deployed to the country, even the United States is finding it difficult to operate in the country. As the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War confirms:

“Russia has finished an advanced anti-access/area denial (A2AD) network in Syria that combines its own air defense and electronic warfare systems with modernized equipment. Russia can use these capabilities to mount the long-term strategic challenge of the US and NATO in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea and the Middle East, significantly widen the geographic reach of Russia’s air defense network. Russia stands to gain a long-term strategic advantage over NATO through its new capabilities in Syria. The US and NATO must now account for the risk of a dangerous escalation in the Middle East amidst any confrontation with Russia in Eastern Europe.”

The final blow in a decidedly negative week for Washington’s ambitions came in Buenos Aires during the G20, where Xi Jinping was clearly the most awaited guest, bringing in his wake investments and opportunities for cooperation and mutual benefit, as opposed to Washington’s sanctions and tariffs for its own benefit to the detriment of others. The key event of the summit was the dinner between Xi Jinping and Donald Trump that signalled Washington’s defeat in the trade war with Beijing. Donald Trump fired the first shot of the economic war, only to succumb just 12 months later with GM closing five plants and leaving 14,000 unemployed at home as Trump tweeted about his economic achievements.

Trump was forced to suspend any new tariffs for a period of ninety days, with his Chinese counterpart intent on demonstrating how an economic war between the two greatest commercial powers had always been a pointless propagandistic exercise. Trump’s backtracking highlights Washington’s vulnerability to de-dollarization, the Achilles’ heel of US hegemony.

The American-led world system is experiencing setbacks at every turn. The struggle between the Western elites seems to be reaching a boil, with Frau Merkel ever more isolated and seeing her 14-year political dominance as chancellor petering out. Macron seems to be vying for the honor of being the most unpopular French leader in history, provoking violent protests that have lasted now for weeks, involving every sector of the population. Macron will probably be able to survive this political storm, but his political future looks dire.

The neocons/neoliberals have played one of the last cards available to them using the Ukrainian provocation, with Kiev only useful as the West’s cannon fodder against Russia. In Syria, with the conflict coming to a close and Turkey only able to look on even as it maintains a strong foothold in Idlib, Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United States are similarly unable to affect the course of the conflict. The latest Israeli aggression proved to be a humiliation for Tel Aviv and may have signalled a clear, possibly definitive warning from Moscow, Tehran and Damascus to all the forces in the region. The message seems to be that there is no longer any possibility of changing the course of the conflict in Syria, and every provocation from here on will be decisively slapped down. Idlib is going to be liberated and America’s illegal presence in the north of Syria will have to be dealt with at the right time.

Ukraine’s provocation has only strengthened Russia’s military footprint in Crimea and reinforced Russia’s sovereign control over the region. Israel’s recent failure in Syria only highlights how the various interventions of the US, the UK, France and Turkey over the years have only obliged the imposition of an almost unparalleled A2AD space that severely limits the range of options available to Damascus’s opponents.

The G20 also served to confirm Washington’s economic diminution commensurate with its military one in the face of an encroaching multipolar environment. The constant attempts to delegitimize the Trump administration by America’s elites, also declared an enemy by the European establishment, creates a picture of confusion in the West that benefits capitals like New Delhi, Moscow, Beijing and Tehran who offer instead stability, cooperation and dialogue.

As stated in previous articles, the confusion reigning amongst the Western elites only accelerates the transition to a multipolar world, progressively eroding the military and economic power of the US.

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Is Silicon Valley Morphing Into The Morality Police?

Who gets to define what words and phrases protected under the First Amendment constitute hate — a catchall word that is often ascribed to any offensive speech someone simply doesn’t like?

The Duran

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Authored by Adrian Cohen via Creators.com:


Silicon Valley used to be technology companies. But it has become the “morality police,” controlling free speech on its platforms.

What could go wrong?

In a speech Monday, Apple CEO Tim Cook said:

“Hate tries to make its headquarters in the digital world. At Apple, we believe that technology needs to have a clear point of view on this challenge. There is no time to get tied up in knots. That’s why we only have one message for those who seek to push hate, division and violence: You have no place on our platforms.”

Here’s the goliath problem:

Who gets to define what words and phrases protected under the First Amendment constitute hate — a catchall word that is often ascribed to any offensive speech someone simply doesn’t like?

Will Christians who don’t support abortion rights or having their tax dollars go toward Planned Parenthood be considered purveyors of hate for denying women the right to choose? Will millions of Americans who support legal immigration, as opposed to illegal immigration, be labeled xenophobes or racists and be banned from the digital world?

Yes and yes. How do we know? It’s already happening, as scores of conservatives nationwide are being shadow banned and/or censored on social media, YouTube, Google and beyond.

Their crime?

Running afoul of leftist Silicon Valley executives who demand conformity of thought and simply won’t tolerate any viewpoint that strays from their rigid political orthodoxy.

For context, consider that in oppressive Islamist regimes throughout the Middle East, the “morality police” take it upon themselves to judge women’s appearance, and if a woman doesn’t conform with their mandatory and highly restrictive dress code — e.g., wearing an identity-cloaking burqa — she could be publicly shamed, arrested or even stoned in the town square.

In modern-day America, powerful technology companies are actively taking the role of the de facto morality police — not when it comes to dress but when it comes to speech — affecting millions. Yes, to date, those affected are not getting stoned, but they are being blocked in the digital town square, where billions around the globe do their business, cultivate their livelihoods, connect with others and get news.

That is a powerful cudgel to levy against individuals and groups of people. Wouldn’t you say?

Right now, unelected tech billionaires living in a bubble in Palo Alto — when they’re not flying private to cushy climate summits in Davos — are deciding who gets to enjoy the freedom of speech enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and who does not based on whether they agree with people’s political views and opinions or not.

You see how dangerous this can get — real fast — as partisan liberal elites running Twitter, Facebook, Google (including YouTube), Apple and the like are now dictating to Americans what they can and cannot say online.

In communist regimes, these types of folks are known as central planners.

The election of Donald Trump was supposed to safeguard our freedoms, especially regarding speech — a foundational pillar of a democracy. It’s disappointing that hasn’t happened, as the censorship of conservative thought online has gotten so extreme and out of control many are simply logging off for good.

A failure to address this mammoth issue could cost Trump in 2020. If his supporters are blocked online — where most voters get their news — he’ll be a one-term president.

It’s time for Congress to act before the morality police use political correctness as a Trojan horse to decide our next election.

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