Category Archives: Syria

Theresa May Blames ‘Tolerance of Extremism’ But UK Policies Help Terrorists

Aaron Mate speaks with investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed who says British government policies benefit extremists and endanger civilians. (The Real News)

Did $1 Billion Worth of Lost U.S. Weapons End Up in the Hands of ISIS?

Amy Goodman and Nermeen Sheikh speak with Patrick Wilcken, Amnesty International’s arms control and human rights researcher, about a newly declassified Pentagon audit which shows the U.S. Army failed to keep track of more than $1 billion worth of weapons and military equipment sent to Iraq and Kuwait, including tens of thousands of assault rifles and hundreds of armored vehicles. The audit found improper record-keeping, including duplicated spreadsheets, handwritten receipts and a lack of a central database to track the transfers. (Democracy Now!)

The Only Real Way to Stop Atrocities Like Manchester is to End the Wars Which Allow Extremism to Grow

Patrick Cockburn, author of The Rise of Islamic State, writes for The Independent:

trump-saudi.jpeg[…] The bombing in Manchester – and atrocities attributed to Isis influence in Paris, Brussels, Nice and Berlin – are similar to even worse slaughter of tens of thousands in Iraq and Syria. These get limited attention in the Western media, but they continually deepen the sectarian war in the Middle East.

The only feasible way to eliminate organisations capable of carrying out these attacks is to end the seven wars – Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia and north east Nigeria – that cross-infect each other and produce the anarchic conditions in which Isis and al-Qaeda and their clones can grow.

But to end these wars, there needs to be political compromise between main players like Iran and Saudi Arabia and Trump’s belligerent rhetoric makes this almost impossible to achieve.

Of course, the degree to which his bombast should be taken seriously is always uncertain and his declared policies change by the day.

On his return to the US, his attention is going to be fully focused on his own political survival, not leaving much time for new departures, good or bad, in the Middle East and elsewhere. His administration is certainly wounded, but that has not stopped doing as much harm as he could in the Middle East in a short space of time.

READ MORE…

Trump Expanding War From Syria to Afghanistan As Media Focuses on Comey

Paul Jay speaks with Vijay Prashad, Professor of International Studies at Trinity College and the author of around 20 books, who says while the media continues its frenzy over James Comey’s firing and the ‘Russia connection’, Trump is readying his ‘global war against Islamic Fascism’ to be fought ‘without restraint’, (The Real News)

America Is Dropping So Many Bombs That It’s Literally Running Out

Matt Novak reports for Gizmodo:

President Trump has said that America needs to rebuild its military, which is laughable in many ways. But he’s right in one respect. We need more bombs. Why? Because the US has dropped so many bombs in the fight against ISIS over the past two years that we’re running out.

As military news site Defense One reports, America is running short on the GPS-guided Small Diameter Bombs made by Boeing, newer models made by Raytheon, and even air-to-air missiles. Many of the existing stockpiles of bombs held by the US military are being diverted from the Pacific region to the Middle East and Africa, where the need is reportedly most urgent.

But this isn’t a new problem. There have been warnings from the Pentagon for almost a year that our intensive bombing of ISIS targets around the world could lead to a shortage. We ran into a similar problem near the end of 2015.

Since the beginning of Operation Inherent Resolve in August of 2014, the US has spent over $11.9 billion on military operations against ISIS. That includes over 19,607 strikes in Iraq and Syria alone, at a cost of roughly $12.8 million per day. And that doesn’t even count airstrikes in places like Afghanistan, Somalia, and Yemen.

READ MORE…

Syrian Girl: The Kardashian Look-Alike Trolling for Assad

Noah Shachtman and Michael Kennedy wrote for The Daily Beast in October 2014:

Image result for The Kardashian Look-Alike Trolling for AssadShe thinks that Ebola could be an American military bioweapon. She thinks that the Defense Department’s advanced research arm is covertly intervening in the GamerGate debate about feminism and video games. She’s fond of extremist groups like Hezbollah. She believes the Illuminati are leaving secret clues in, among other places, the viral Kony 2012 video. Oh, and she also says she’s in contact with the Syrian Electronic Army, the hacker group tied to the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.

Meet the Damascus regime’s biggest fangirl on social media—at least in English language social media. Her name is Maram Susli. Or Mimi al-Laham. Or Partisangirl. Or Syrian Girl. Or it would appear, or Syrian Sister. She goes by many handles.

As “Partisangirl,” Susli has emerged from the fever swamps of online conspiracy forums and onto social media to become a darling of truthers and state propaganda channels alike. Whenever there’s unpleasant news about the Syrian military or government, Susli (that’s her surname) seems to be there to interpret the false flag semaphore for her rapt audience. The chemical-weapons attack that killed hundreds in the Damascus suburbs? The rebels’ fault. The massacre of more than 100 men, women, and children in Houla? Oh, that was British intelligence. The U.S. bombing campaign against ISIS in Syria? Just an elaborate show, since American is taking it easy on ISIS. And the ghastly videos featuring the murder of Western aid workers? Many of them are fakes.

READ MORE…

Why Paul Wolfowitz Is Optimistic About Trump

Susan B. Glasser writes for Politico:

GP-wolfowitz-main.jpg[…] To liberals and other critics, Wolfowitz would be the last person they want Trump to listen to. Long a lightning rod because of the havoc unleashed by the Iraq invasion, Wolfowitz has never apologized for advocating the war, although he has said—and repeated in our conversation—that it was not carried out as he would have wanted it to be. In recent days he‘s jumped right back into the public debate, nudging President Trump from the pages of the Wall Street Journal to follow up his bombing strike in neighboring Syria with more aggressive action—and, he tells me, privately emailing with Trump Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and national security advisor H.R. McMaster, both longtime contacts since his Bush days, in hopes they will pursue a U.S. strategy of stepped-up engagement in the Middle East.

“I think there is a fantastic opportunity here. It’s only a first step, it’s only an opportunity,” he says of Trump’s surprise decision to unloose an American Tomahawk missile strike in Syria after President Bashar Assad’s regime again unleashed chemical weapons on civilians, a strike that turned Wolfowitz and many of his fellow neoconservatives into unlikely cheerleaders for the actions of an administration they had previously viewed as a threat. “If nothing is done to follow up on it, it will start to seem a little bit silly in retrospect; certainly the enthusiasm will seem silly. But more importantly it will look like a lost opportunity in retrospect.

READ MORE…

Jane’s Report Sees ISIS Benefiting From Assad Downfall

Tom O’Connor reports for Newweek:

RTSE5EJWith many in the U.S. foreign policy community backing both the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the defeat of the Islamic State group (ISIS), a new report could raise some cause for concern. The report says Assad’s military has been the most engaged faction against ISIS over the past year of Syria’s conflict, making it an extremely risky target for a U.S. foreign policy that is intended to stop the jihadists’ advances.

The report published Wednesday by the London-based IHS Jane Terrorism and Insurgency Centre, one of the world’s leading security analysis agencies, says 43 percent of ISIS’s battles between April 1, 2016 and March 31, 2017 were fought against the Syrian military and its allies, which include Russia, Iran and pro-government militias. Meanwhile, the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a majority-Kurd coalition of Arabs and ethnic minorities, accounted for 17 percent of the action against ISIS.

Under former President Barack Obama, Washington long maintained that Assad must be ousted, but U.S. support for rebels faded as ultraconservative Sunni Muslim groups like ISIS grew among the Syrian opposition and Washington then focused on battling jihadists. President Donald Trump further emphasized the need to defeat ISIS, and his administration last month abandoned the Obama-era regime change approach in Syria. However, more recently there have been suggestions that the U.S. may at some point pursue further action against Assad.

READ MORE…

The Most Dangerous Moment in U.S.-Russian Relations Since Cuban Missile Crisis

Amy Goodman and Nermeen Sheikh speaks with Stephen Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies and politics at New York University and Princeton University, about U.S.-Russia relations after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s recent visit to Moscow. They are also joined by British journalist and author Jonathan Steele, a former Moscow correspondent for The Guardian, to discuss U.S.-Russia relations in reference to the situation in Syria. (Democracy Now!)

Pundits Who Helped Sell NATO’s Destruction of Libya Push for Trump to Lead Syria Regime Change

Ben Norton writes for AlterNet:

Pundits across the U.S. are amplifying the calls for further military intervention in Syria, as the Trump administration indicates regime change may be back on the agenda. The U.S. attacked the Syrian government on April 6, launching 59 Tomahawk missiles at a major air base, destroying 20 percent of its planes, according to the Pentagon.

Major media outlets, most politicians from both sides of the aisle and irascible war-hawk writers applauded the Trump administration’s strike with gusto. The uniformity with which the commentariat has embraced the attack hearkens back to six years ago, when many of these same people and publications cheered as NATO overthrew Libya’s government, plunging the oil-rich North African nation into chaos from which it is still reeling.

The 2011 war in Libya was justified in the name of supposed humanitarian intervention, but it was a war for regime change, plain and simple. A report released by the British House of Commons’ bipartisan Foreign Affairs Committee in 2016 acknowledged that the intervention was sold on lies — but by the time it was published, the damage was already done.

Today, Libya is in complete ruins. There is no functioning central authority for swaths of the country; multiple governments compete for control. The genocidal extremist group ISIS has, in Libya, carved out its largest so-called caliphate outside of Iraq and Syria.

READ MORE…

North Korea Says Syria Airstrikes Prove Its Nukes Justified

The Associated Press reports:

TV screen broadcasting a news report on North Korea's long range rocket launch on February 7, 2016.North Korea has vowed to bolster its defenses to protect itself against airstrikes like the ones President Donald Trump ordered against an air base in Syria.

The North called the airstrikes “absolutely unpardonable” and said they prove its nuclear weapons are justified to protect the country against Washington’s “evermore reckless moves for a war.”

The comments were made by a Foreign Ministry official and carried Sunday by North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency. The report did not name the official, which is common in KCNA reports.

The airstrikes, announced shortly after Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping wrapped up dinner at a two-day summit in Florida last week, were retaliation against Syrian President Bashar Assad for a chemical weapons attack against civilians caught up in his country’s long civil war.

READ MORE…

MSNBC Host’s Conspiracy Theory: What If Putin Planned the Syrian Chemical Attack to Help Trump?

Avi Selk reports for The Washington Post:

Image result for MSNBC Host’s Conspiracy Theory: What If Putin Planned the Syrian Chemical Attack to Help Trump?A volley of U.S. cruise missiles had barely been launched into Syria before the Internet filled up with fact-free theories about the real reason for an international crisis.

A popular one on the right-most fringes: The U.S. government actually carried out the chemical weapons massacre in Syria last week — a “false flag” to trick President Trump into retaliating, thus entangling himself in a foreign war.

A slightly more convoluted strain on the left: Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the chemical weapons massacre to help Trump — distracting Americans from an investigation into Trump’s campaign ties to Russia by provoking the missile strike.

That theory — evidence-free — was laid out on a small anti-Trump website shortly after the missile strike.

But it went mainstream Friday night, when Lawrence O’Donnell advanced similar speculation on his MSNBC show, “The Last Word.”

READ MORE…

How the Alt-Right Brought #SyriaHoax to America

Ben Nimmo reports for the Digital Forensic Research Lab:

US President Donald Trump’s decision to launch strikes against Syria in the wake of a major chemical weapons attack provoked outrage from the far-right groups who were his most aggressive supporters. As rumors of the impending strikes broke, they launched an online campaign claiming that the chemical attack had been a hoax.

The hashtag followed two days of reporting by the so-called “alt-right” — anti-Islam, anti-immigrant, socially conservative and, until the strikes, vociferously pro-Trump — that the chemical attack had been staged.

The DFRLab has traced the origins of the story, and found that the alt-right coverage was based on report in a propaganda outlet linked to the Assad regime.

READ MORE…

No Peace In Syria Until Assad Ousted, Says Nikki Haley

The Guardian reports:

Image result for No Peace In Syria Until Assad Ousted, Says Nikki HaleyNikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, has said that she sees regime change in Syria as one of the Trump administration’s priorities in the country wracked by civil war.

Defeating Islamic State, pushing Iranian influence out of Syria, and the ousting of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad are priorities for Washington, Haley said in an interview on CNN’s State of the Union, which will air in full on Sunday.

“There’s not any sort of option where a political solution is going to happen with Assad at the head of the regime,” Haley said, while reiterating that defeating Isis was still the number one policy goal. “If you look at his actions, if you look at the situation, it’s going to be hard to see a government that’s peaceful and stable with Assad.”

“Regime change is something that we think is going to happen.”

The comments represented a departure from what Haley said before the United States hit a Syrian air base with 59 Tomahawk missiles on Thursday in retaliation for what it said was a chemical weapons attack by Assad’s forces on Syrian civilians.

READ MORE…

Could Britain Have Sold Sarin Chemicals to Assad’s Regime?

Jamie Doward reports for The Guardian:

Image result for Sarin Chemicals Assad’s RegimeEvidence that the sarin nerve agent was used in the chemical attack that killed more than 80 and injured hundreds of others in Syria’s northern province of Idlib last week has triggered awkward questions for the government over the part played by the UK in the Assad regime’s development of a chemical weapons programme.

Human rights groups and arms control campaigners have highlighted the government’s own admission that in the 80s the UK exported the chemicals necessary to make sarin to the Syrian regime. The UK also sold specialist equipment after the millennium which it now appears was diverted to the chemical weapons programme.

Allegations that the UK supplied potentially deadly chemicals to Syria were investigated by the Committees on Arms Export Controls (CAEC) which in 2013 wrote to then business secretary, Vince Cable, asking him to disclose the names of companies given licence approval between 2004 and 2012 to export to Syria chemicals that could be used to manufacture chemical weapons. Cable was criticised by the committees for refusing to disclose the names of the companies.

READ MORE…

Chris Hedges: U.S. Media ‘Kneejerk Cheerleading’ After Syria Strike Nothing New

Anya Parampil speaks with award winning journalist Chris Hedges about the U.S. media’s selective use of facts to further their agenda. (RT America)

Five Top Papers Run 18 Opinion Pieces Praising Syria Strikes – Zero Are Critical

Adam Johnson writes for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting:

NYT: On Syria Attack, Trump's Heart Came FirstFive major US newspapers—the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Wall Street Journal and New York Daily News—offered no opinion space to anyone opposed to Donald Trump’s Thursday night airstrikes. By contrast, the five papers ran a total of 18 op-eds, columns or “news analysis” articles (dressed-up opinion pieces) that either praised the strikes or criticized them for not being harsh enough.

[…] Some, such as “The Riddle of Trump’s Syria Attack” (New York Times, 4/7/17) and “Was That Syria Attack Legal? Only Congress Can Say” (USA Today, 4/7/17) were value neutral—neither expressly in support of the attacks nor opposing them.

Cable news coverage was equally fawning. In the hours immediately following the attack, MSNBC had on a seemingly never-ending string of military brass and reporters who uncritically repeated the assertion the strikes were “proportional” and “limited.”  MSNBC didn’t give a platform to a single dissenting voice until four hours after the attacks began, when host Chris Hayes, according to his own account, had on two guests opposed to the airstrikes in the midnight slot.  MSNBC host Brian Williams got into a bit of hot water when he lovingly admired a slick video sent over by the Pentagon showing tomahawk missiles being fired from US navy vessels (FAIR.org, 4/7/17).

READ MORE…

Trump’s Syria Strike Is Latest Sign of Steve Bannon’s Waning Influence

Gabriel Sherman reports for New York Magazine:

ImageDonald Trump’s surprise decision to launch missile strikes against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s forces in response to Tuesday’s horrific chemical attack represented a reversal from Trump’s noninterventionist campaign message. It’s also the most recent sign of the declining power of his chief strategist Stephen Bannon. Two sources close to Bannon told me the former Breitbart executive chairman argued against the strike — not because of its questionable constitutionality, but on the grounds that it doesn’t advance Trump’s America First doctrine. “Steve doesn’t think we belong there,” one Bannon ally told me. Bannon’s position lost out to those inside the White House, including Jared Kushner, who argued Trump needed to punish the Assad regime.

The debate over Syria is the latest fault line that has opened up in the once close Bannon-Kushner relationship. “During the campaign and transition, they had an almost uncle-nephew thing going,” one Bannon associate said. But in recent weeks, Kushner and Bannon have clashed over the direction of Trump’s agenda. While the press has covered it as a personality feud, Bannon allies say the rift is about policy differences. “The press is calling it fighting, we call it debating,” Bannon told an associate, according to a source. On a board in his West Wing office, Bannon keeps a list of promises Trump made to populist voters. Kushner, whose portfolio has ballooned in recent weeks, seems much less interested in keeping those promises.

READ MORE…

Trump’s Syria Strike Inspired by Dangerous Vision of ‘Cauldronising’ the Middle East

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Middle East Eye:

“I really believe that we should have and still should take out his airfields and prevent him from being able to use them to bomb innocent people and drop sarin gas on them.”

Those were Hillary Clinton’s words just hours before her nemesis, President Donald Trump, ordered air strikes launching 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the Shayrat airfield in the southeast of Homs, Syria.

The Trump administration described the strikes as a “one-off” and insisted there were no plans for escalation. But an escalation is rapidly underway. Russia, despite being given advanced warning of the bombing from the US, has suspended an agreement with the US to avoid mid-air collisions in Syrian airspace.

The US government’s goals for the Syria strike can be deduced from the background role of one the most powerful diplomats in American history: Henry Kissinger. The former secretary of state, once accused by the late Christopher Hitchens of complicity in US “war crimes” in Latin America and south-east Asia, has been a key advisor to Trump in negotiating US relations with Russia and China.

Kissinger was previously a secret national security consultant to President George W Bush, and under Obama was directly involved in the US National Security Council’s chain-of-command. He also frequently advised Hillary Clinton during her term as secretary of state.

His influence in the Trump administration is also visible through his former acolyte, KT McFarland, who is now Trump’s deputy national security advisor, and who previously served under Kissinger in the 1970s in his National Security Council.

READ MORE…

The Spoils of War: Trump Lavished With Media and Bipartisan Praise For Bombing Syria

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

In every type of government, nothing unites people behind the leader more quickly, reflexively or reliably than war. Donald Trump now sees how true that is, as the same establishment leaders in U.S. politics and media who have spent months denouncing him as a mentally unstable and inept authoritarian and unprecedented threat to democracy are standing and applauding him as he launches bombs at Syrian government targets.

Trump, on Thursday night, ordered an attack that the Pentagon said included the launching of 59 Tomahawk missiles which “targeted aircraft, hardened aircraft shelters, petroleum and logistical storage, ammunition supply bunkers, air defense systems, and radars.” The governor of Homs, the Syrian province where the attack occurred, said early this morning that the bombs killed seven civilians and wounded nine.

The Pentagon’s statement said the attack was “in retaliation for the regime of Bashar Assad using nerve agents to attack his own people.” Both Syria and Russia vehemently deny that the Syrian military used chemical weapons.

When asked about this yesterday by the Globe and Mail’s Joanna Slater, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged an investigation to determine what actually happened before any action was contemplated, citing what he called “continuing questions about who is responsible”.

But U.S. war fever waits for nothing. Once the tidal wave of American war frenzy is unleashed, questioning the casus belli is impermissible. Wanting conclusive evidence before bombing commences is vilified as sympathy with and support for the foreign villain (the same way that asking for evidence of claims against Russia instantly converts one into a “Kremlin agent” or “stooge”).

READ MORE…

Lawrence Wilkerson: Trump Attack on Syria Driven by Domestic Politics

Paul Jay speaks with former Chief of Staff to Colin Powell, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, who says that the Syrian Government may not be responsible for the chemical attack and that Trump’s response was a violation of international law. (The Real News)

West ‘Ignored Russian Offer in 2012 to Have Syria’s Assad Step Aside’

Julian Borger and Bastien Inzaurralde reported in September 2015 for The Guardian:

Image result for West 'Ignored Russian Offer in 2012 to Have Syria's Assad Step Aside'[…] Former Finnish president and Nobel peace prize laureate Martti Ahtisaari said western powers failed to seize on the proposal. Since it was made, in 2012, tens of thousands of people have been killed and millions uprooted, causing the world’s gravest refugee crisis since the second world war.

Ahtisaari held talks with envoys from the five permanent members of the UN security council in February 2012. He said that during those discussions, the Russian ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, laid out a three-point plan, which included a proposal for Assad to cede power at some point after peace talks had started between the regime and the opposition.

But he said that the US, Britain and France were so convinced that the Syrian dictator was about to fall, they ignored the proposal.

“It was an opportunity lost in 2012,” Ahtisaari said in an interview.

READ MORE…

The Cold War Officially Gets Renewed For a Second Season

Matt Novak writes for Gizmodo:

The US military launched a missile attack on a Syrian airbase last night, and the President of the United States announced it by uncharacteristically invoking God three times in his three-minute speech. The baby known as Cold War II was conceived long ago. But last night, President Trump helped give birth. Congratulations! It’s a war!

There are a lot of things I don’t know. I don’t know how Trump personally feels about Russia; I don’t know what the US will do now that it launched 59 Tomahawk missiles against the Assad regime in Syria; I don’t know if a hypothetical President Hillary Clinton would’ve done things any differently. But I feel pretty confident that I know one thing: The history books will mark 2017 as the official start of the Second Cold War.

Now, this isn’t altogether fair to the concept of the Cold War. As I’ve argued before, the Cold War never really ended, it just got a bit colder during the past two decades. But history books demand dates. These books need coherent stories with a beginning, middle, and an end. They need characters, big and small—some good, others bad. These history books need valor and cowardice and heartbreak and redemption and money and piles of dead bodies. So many dead bodies.

And with all of that, it looks like 2017 is going to be our mark for the beginning of Cold War II.

READ MORE…

Use Latest Tragedy In Syria to End the War, Not Escalate It

Ann Wright and Medea Benjamin write for CounterPunch:

Image result for Use Latest Tragedy In Syria to End the War, Not Escalate It[…] This recent chemical attack is just the latest in a war that has taken the lives of over 400,000 Syrians. If the Trump administration decides to escalate US military involvement by bombing the Syrian government’s power centers of Damascus and Aleppo and pushing rebel fighters to hold territory for a new government, the carnage—and chaos—will increase.

Just look at recent U.S. experience in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. In Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban, various militia factions that the U.S. government had supported raced to Kabul for control of the capital and their fight for power in successive corrupt governments has led to the violence that continues 15 years later. In Iraq, the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) government-in-exile, led by Ahmed Chalabi, disintegrated and the U.S.-appointed Pro-Consul Paul Bremer so mismanaged the country that it provided the opportunity for ISIS to fester in American-operated prisons and develop plans to form its caliphate in Iraq and Syria. In Libya, the U.S./NATO bombing campaign “to protect Libyans” from Qaddafi resulted in a country split in three parts.

Would U.S. bombing in Syria lead us into a direct confrontation with Russia? And if the U.S. was successful in toppling Assad, who among the dozens of rebel groups would take his place and would they really be able to stabilize the country?

Instead of more bombing, the Trump administration should pressure the Russian government to support a UN investigation into the chemical attack and take bold steps to seek a resolution of this dreadful conflict. In 2013, the Russian government said it would bring President Assad to the negotiating table. That offer was ignored by the Obama administration, which felt it was still possible for rebels it supported to overthrow the Assad government. That was before the Russians came to the rescue of its ally Assad. Now is the time for President Trump to use his “Russia connection” to broker a negotiated solution.

READ MORE…

If Trump Wanted To Help Syrians, He Would Lift Refugee Ban and Fund Humanitarian Aid

Amy Goodman is joined by Alia Malek, journalist and former human rights lawyer, Yazan al-Saadi, a Syrian-Canadian writer, Medea Benjamin, cofounder of CodePink, and Phyllis Bennis, fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, to discuss Syria after the United States carried out a missile attack on a Syrian airfield, saying it was a response to a chemical weapons attack that killed 86 people. (Democracy Now!)

This Isn’t the Foreign Policy Trump Campaigned On

Robert W. Merry writes for The American Conservative:

It may be too early to tell for sure, but Donald Trump is looking more and more like a phony. He’s also looking like a weakling. And a political ingrate. All this is coming into stark relief with accelerating events involving Syria. The United States launched dozens of missiles against Syrian military installations to retaliate for the chemical attack on rebel-held territory. Thus did Trump demonstrate that, to the extent that his foreign policy differs from that of his predecessor, it is more aggressive and adventuresome than Obama’s. That’s the opposite of how he campaigned.

So let’s start with the crucial civic adhesive of political gratitude. This is the virtue that impels politicians to give special consideration to the people who put them in office. That can generate anger and frustration on the part of people on the other side of the major issues in play, but those people have to accept that they were on the losing side. The winning side sets the agenda, based on the political conversation of the last campaign. That’s how democratic politics works.

Thinking back to the political conversation of the last campaign, we recall that Trump attacked the Iraq War as a mindless foreign adventure with bitter and ongoing consequences, including ongoing Mideast chaos. He said he certainly wouldn’t make the same mistake in Syria and that joining the struggle against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would put the United States on the side of the Islamic State and other terrorist organizations in the region. He said that, if Assad were deposed, the country likely would fall to unsavory elements that hate the West—in other words, some of our worst enemies. He touted his oft-expressed desire to develop better relations with Russia, an Assad ally, and said he would work with Russia toward an end to the horrendous Syrian bloodshed.

READ MORE…

Will Washington’s Hawks Get the Syria War They’ve Always Wanted?

Ted Galen Carpenter writes for The National Interest:

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s comment that it must be up to the Syrian people to determine whether beleaguered President Bashar al-Assad stays in power signaled a significant change in Washington’s Syria policy. The Obama administration had consistently maintained that no settlement of the Syrian civil war was possible if Assad remained in power. Only the timing of his departure was deemed a pertinent issue for negotiation—and Obama’s foreign-policy team made even that concession grudgingly.

The apparent shift in policy has triggered outraged responses from the usual flock of hawks in the United States. Their fury intensified when just days after Tillerson’s comment, another chemical attack took place in Syria, killing dozens of civilians. As with the Sarin gas attack in 2013, Western officials and news media were quick to put the blame at the feet of Assad’s government. They did so even though the actual source of the 2013 attack remains uncertain, and even though some evidence pointed to a “false flag” operation by Islamist rebels with the covert assistance of Turkey’s government.

American hawks who demonize Assad exhibited no uncertainty about the perpetrator of either incident. Sen. John McCain railed against the Syrian dictator. “As we once again bear witness to innocent people writhing on the ground and gasping for breath, we know Assad not only disregarded his chemical weapons commitments, but continues to carry on mass atrocities with impunity,” McCain said in a statement. “Unless and until Assad pays a price for his brutality, the slaughter and destruction in Syria will go on.” Instead of backing off on demanding Assad’s ouster, the Trump administration must “take action to address this strategic and humanitarian disaster, which has led to more than 400,000 Syrians killed and six million displaced,” McCain said. Sen. Marco Rubio asserted that it “was no coincidence” that the gas attack took place right after Secretary Tillerson and other administration officials indicated a softened policy toward Assad.

READ MORE…

Khan Sheikhoun Gas Attack: We Don’t Need Conspiracies to Oppose U.S. War in Syria

Joshua Frank writes for CounterPunch:

Photo by Beshr Abdulhadi | CC BY 2.0It was a false flag! Al Qaeda did it! Why would Assad use chemical weapons when he’s winning the war? It had to be those evil terrorists.

These are the petty cries by some on the conspiracy-minded left with regard to this week’s barbaric chemical attack in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun, which took the lives of at least 74 and injured another 350.

Of course the United States lays all the blame for the attack at the feet of President Bashar al-Assad, who has been implicated in many war crimes over the years. And unsurprisingly, the Russians, Assad’s chief allies, have countered, claiming the Syrians bombed a toxic weapons depot that unleashed the deadly nerve agent. So, in the end, according to Russia, these civilians were simply collateral damage in the War on Terror™ – an endless war, mind you, that the left once opposed.

READ MORE…

Is Assad to Blame for the Chemical Weapons Attack in Syria?

Matthias von Hein writes for DW:

Syrien Idlib Giftgasangriff (picture-alliance/Depo Photos/ZUMA Wire/F. Dervisoglu)More than 80 people were killed by suspected chemical weapons in Khan Sheikhoun. That is about the only thing certain about the attack. Western statements place blame at the feet of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, an accusation Damascus and Moscow contest.

The Syrian regime may not have had a compelling motive, believes Günther Meyer, the director of the Research Center for the Arab World at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz. “Only armed opposition groups could profit from an attack with chemical weapons,” he told DW. “With their backs against the wall, they have next to no chance of opposing the regime militarily. As President [Donald] Trump’s recent statements show, such actions make it possible for anti-Assad groups to receive further support.”

Former President Barack Obama famously drew a “red line” in 2012. “We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus,” he said at the time. Meyer views the statement as an “invitation for Assad’s opponents to use chemical weapons and make the Assad regime responsible for it.”

READ MORE…

Alt-Right Turns on ‘Neo-Con Puppet’ Trump After Bombing Syria

Ben Collins reports for The Daily Beast:

President Donald Trump’s most fervent far-right and alt-right supporters began to publicly turn on the administration on Thursday, angry or in denial at the administration’s apparent refusal to believe a Russian talking point that a chemical weapons attack in Syria was a “false flag”—or didn’t happen at all.

And after the president announced that the U.S. had launched 50 Tomahawk missiles at Syrian military targets Thursday night, many alt-right figureheads went a step further, publicly denouncing and pulling their support from the administration in statements on Twitter.

“I guess Trump wasn’t ‘Putin’s puppet’ after all, he was just another deep state/Neo-Con puppet,” wrote InfoWars editor Paul Joseph Watson. “I’m officially OFF the Trump train.”

White-nationalist agitator Richard Spencer, founder of the term “alt-right,” appeared to switch his support to Hawaii Democratic congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, who had met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in January. On Thursday night, he tweeted, “I absolutely condemn Washington’s military strike against Syria. #Syria #NoMoreWar,” then “Tulsi Gabbard 2020.”

READ MORE…