By Pete Papherakles
With tensions escalating in Syria, United States Secretary of State John Kerry met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Paris on May 27 to discuss ways to keep the situation from exploding into what could potentially bring about WWIII. At the same time, warhawk Senator John McCain “slipped into” Syria through Turkey to meet with rebel leaders.
Peace talks have been scheduled for June in Geneva but may be postponed until later in the summer. Heavy rebel losses in the city of Qusair recently have caused Syrian National Coalition leader George Sabra to rule out talks.
“The Syrian Coalition will not participate in international conferences and will not support any efforts in light of Hezbollah and Iran’s militia’s invasion of Syria and the continuation of killing and attacks on civilians across Syria, in particular Qusair and Eastern Gouta,” Sabra said.
Kerry and Lavrov said they would do their utmost to bring Syria’s warring parties to the table, yet there are many obstacles that seem difficult to overcome as fighting intensified and new allegations of chemical weapons use surfaced.
Lavrov accused the U.S of “taking steps that are in essence aimed at undermining this proposal” and that holding a conference to end Syria’s civil war will be a “tall order.”
The European Union’s decision to end its arm embargo on Syrian rebels and a U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee decision to also send weapons to forces fighting the Syrian government while maintaining stiff economic sanctions against Assad’s regime has forced Russia to retaliate in kind.
The delivery of S-300 missiles, the first shipment of which has already arrived in Syria, gives Assad enough of a technical boost as to seriously raise the price of entry for any Western military intervention in the conflict. The S-300 platform is roughly analogous to U.S. Patriot missiles, and is seen as a “game-changer” by the Israeli Air Force. Russia has also sent much of its Pacific Fleet into the Eastern Mediterranean, and its only heavy aircraft carrier, Admiral Kuznetsov, is also on the way.
But a major factor that is undermining the peace process is McCain’s backdoor intervention.
In early June, McCain crossed into Syria from Turkey with General Salem Idris, who leads the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army. He stayed there for several hours before returning back. McCain met with assembled leaders of Free Syrian Army units in both Turkey and Syria.
While visiting Syria, McCain posed in a photo with a motley crew of rebels, two of whom were identified in the Lebanese press as Mohamed Nour and Abu Ibrahim, two of the kidnappers of 11 Lebanese Shi’ite pilgrims.
A McCain spokesman said that no one who met with McCain identified themselves by either of those names.
It remains unclear if McCain, an outspoken critic of Obama’s handling on Syria crisis had informed the White House about his plans to visit Syria. However, it is unlikely that the Obama administration was unaware of the McCain’s move.
Independent researcher and writer Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich told RT that “McCain’s trip was a dangerous provocation reminiscent of his warmongering actions on Iraq and Libya.
“McCain did the same thing for Iraq. He was a part of a Committee for the Liberation of Iraq and he met with the Iraqi opposition and we saw the war there. He was all for this Libyan opposition group.”
“I don’t think that Senator McCain would take it upon himself to go to Syria and meet with the opposition had he not had a nod from the government otherwise he would be locked up the minute he returns because he is acting against America’s interest if indeed that’s America’s interest.”
“We are seeing the government, the administration, Obama, trying to play the nice guy. But everything that is going on is what had led up to all the other wars in the region.”
“I don’t think they want peace—peace doesn’t serve them.”
Pete Papaherakles is a writer and political cartoonist for AFP and is also AFP’s outreach director. Pete is interested in getting AFP writers and editors on the podium at patriotic events. Call him at 202-544-5977 if you know of an event you think AFP should attend.