Issue 46 & 47 of American Free Presscontained this series of three articles about the U.S. role in Syria.
By Philip Giraldi
Recently The New York Times featured two op-eds by resident hacks Bret Stephens and Tom Friedman as well as a featured editorial, all on the subject of Syria and how the Trump administration has betrayed the American people. The pieces were published back-to-back over the course of three days, clearly an attempt on the part of the editorial page staff to establish the paper’s “message” on what the war in Syria was and is all about. All the pieces were riddled with inaccuracies and out-and-out fabrications to support the false assertion that the U.S. intervention in Syria was somehow based on a desire to “spread democracy” and freedom while also serving some vaguely defined American national security interests.
The New York Times is not unique in its defense of a hawkish and interventionist foreign policy, but it self-describes as the “newspaper of record” based on its long existence and its location in the media capital of the United States. That means that it reaches a larger audience than most other media and also that it is regarded generally as credible. Therein lies the danger, as Times reporting and opinion pages will definitely have a major impact on how the public and even policymakers will regard certain issues.
The Stephens op-ed and the Times editorial are worth examining, but the tone was set by the first piece to appear, by Friedman, entitled “Trump’s Syria Trifecta: A Win for Putin, a Loss for the Kurds, and Lots of Uncertainty for Our Allies: It’s pure genius!” Even bearing in mind that the Times’s reluctance to ever feature an article favorable to Donald Trump, the title of the piece is particularly scathing.
Friedman began, “On the eve of the Iraq war, in 2003, Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain addressed a joint session of Congress about America’s foreign policy mission: ‘In some small corner of this vast country, out in Nevada or Idaho or these places I’ve never been to but always wanted to go,’ said Blair, ‘there’s a guy getting on with his life, perfectly happy, minding his own business, saying to you, the political leaders of this country, “Why me, and why us, and why America?” And the only answer is, ‘Because destiny put you in this place in history, in this moment in time, and the task is yours to do.’ Blair is still right about the role that destiny has placed on America’s shoulders, but years later it is also clear that many Americans are exhausted with that role.”
Friedman goes on to claim that “the job of the president, though, is to balance the understandable desire of Americans to no longer bear every burden and oppose any foe to ensure the survival of freedom with the fact that U.S. interests and values still require us to remain engaged around the world in a sustainable way.” With that mission in mind, he then accuses the White House of having failed to “make fine distinctions, leverage allies, and amplify islands of decency.”
What does Friedman mean? First, that Washington’s use of military force against ISIS, a legitimate and possibly even necessary objective, failed to comprehend the fact that in Syria “ISIS was the enemy of multi-sectarian democracy, and so were Russia, Shiite Iran, Shiite Hezbollah, and the Shiite-Alawite Bashar al-Assad regime. And they and ISIS all deserved one another.” Per Friedman, defeating ISIS was actually counterintuitive, as it would “reduce the pressure on Assad, Iran, Russia, and Hezbollah and enable them to devote all their resources to crushing the last moderate rebels in Idlib, not sharing power with them. . . . I feel terrible for the Kurds, but at least America might get the last laugh on Putin. Trump let Putin win Syria—and the indefinite task of propping up al-Assad’s genocidal regime and managing Iran’s attempts to use Syria as a platform to attack Israel.”
The Times commentator also asserts, as do many in Congress, that removing the Syrian government was good policy because doing otherwise “sen[ds] a message to every U.S. ally: ‘You’d better start making plans to take care of yourselves, because if Russia, China, or Iran decides to come after you or bully you, America does not have your back—unless you’ve paid cash in advance.’ ” He also quotes a self-described and inevitably “expert” Michael Mandelbaum who makes the same point in his book The Rise and Fall of Peace on Earth: “When we suddenly withdraw our support for an ally in one place—with no warning—we call into question our credibility everywhere.” Mandelbaum, it should be noted, is a fixture at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, an institution that one might describe as a breeding ground of neoconservatives.
Friedman fancies himself an expert on the Middle East and, to be sure, he has carved a lucrative career out of that conceit. But his principal argument—that Russia and Iran are enemies of the U.S. that must be opposed wherever they pop up while American troops should also stay engaged worldwide for reasons of credibility—doesn’t really stack up. And he also falls for the “moderate rebels” and Assad as “genocidal” lines, which have been repeatedly debunked.
Friedman does not understand that the United States would be far more respected—and credible—if it were to deal with the rest of the world fairly and honorably rather than blundering around using repeated threats of military intervention. In reality, neither Moscow nor Tehran actually threaten the United States, while it was Washington that was the destabilizing force in Syria by directly and indirectly supporting actual terrorist groups in a bid to overthrow Assad, an effort assisted by Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf States, which also were supporting the terrorist groups in a bid to maintain chaos. Iran and Russia were only brought in by the legitimate government in Damascus to help defeat ISIS and also al-Qaeda-linked groups like al-Nusra. In spite of Trump’s boasts that the United States defeated ISIS, it was really the hard and bloody work of the Syrian army and its allies who won the day.
Friedman’s belief that the United States must remain engaged worldwide because it is a force for all that is good “to sustain freedom” is, of course, palpable nonsense as the U.S. moves seemingly inexorably towards becoming a police state at home. Afghanistan has not been stabilized after 18 years of occupation, Iraq is experiencing demonstrations and rioting linked to the corruption that the U.S. introduced to the country, and a stable and non-threatening Libya was turned into a dysfunctional haven for terrorists and criminals through Barack Obama’s regime change for that country. And, all of the above taken together as part of the “global war on terror” have killed as many as four million civilians and unleashed a wave of millions more as refugees that the world is currently trying to cope with.
But perhaps the most laughable line in the Friedman piece is his citation of the need to prevent Iran’s using Syria to stage attacks on Israel. The fact is that Israel, which is not at war with Syria, has bombed that country scores of times in the past two years alone while Syria, and its ally Iran, have not even once attacked the Jewish state. To suggest that Friedman entertains a blind spot in a certain direction would be an understatement.
Philip Giraldi is a former CIA counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer and a columnist and television commentator. He is also the executive director of the Council for the National Interest. His other articles appear on the website of “The Unz Review.”
Is Pulling Troops Out of Syria a Serious Blunder by Trump?
By Richard Walker
When the U.S. military pivots to protecting Kurdish oil fields instead of the Kurds, who face an uncertain future as they are driven from their homes by Turkish militias, are we witnessing a strategic blunder?
Some retired generals seem to think so, though it is equally the case that their opinions are somewhat colored by the U.S. refusing to defend the Kurds from what appears to be a Turkish policy of ethnic cleansing. The Kurds were, after all, critical to the overthrow of the radical Islamic ISIS caliphate. Without the loss of 11,000 of their fighters and the 23,000 wounded, the ISIS collapse might have cost the United States a lot more blood and treasure.
President Donald Trump’s decision to move 1,000 mostly special forces troops out of Syria, while placing the fate of the Kurds in the hands of the Turks was roundly condemned at home and by U.S. allies. Trump appeared to have made that decision without consulting his generals on the ground. If that seemed odd to some, his latest decision to insert half an armored brigade of 30 Abrams tanks into Syria to protect an oil field in the northeast of the country has many people shaking their heads. While Syria is not a major oil producer, those oil fields, presently being guarded by Kurdish fighters, will effectively be under U.S. control for the foreseeable future.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and other Middle East hawks in Congress, under pressure from Israel, persuaded Trump to take control of the oil fields to keep them from going back under Syrian control or being taken by Turkey. The theory goes that the hawks did it as a ploy to persuade Trump to reestablish a U.S. military presence in Syria. It has meant that the pull-out has now morphed into an open-ended return of sorts to Syria. Therefore, while Russia and Turkey control a so-called safe zone that Turkey hopes to repopulate with 3 million Syrians living in Turkey by expelling the Kurds, the U.S. military will have a base of operations should hostilities resume with ISIS or others in years to come.
If all this appears confusing, it is. For example, Trump, in one of his many tweets about his rapidly evolving Syria policy, suggested that the Kurds move to the oil fields area. It was a ridiculous proposal given that the oil fields are in a desert in which Kurds have never lived. Second, why would millions of Kurds move to a barren region with no infrastructure that has been the home of Arab tribes for centuries? That would create a separate conflict.
Meanwhile, the Syrian government is happy to see the Kurds on the run, and so, too, are the Iranians, who watched the Kurds fighting alongside the U.S. military against ISIS in huge numbers, in Iraq and Syria. Turkey has what it wants and is using militias dominated by al Qaeda and al-Nusra elements to force Kurds from their homes. Russia and Turkey have established an alliance to jointly run the area of Syria from which the Kurds are being expelled. At the same time, Russia remains a close ally of Assad’s government, and of Iran, which has military personnel advising and supporting Assad’s armed forces.
A highly significant element in the unfolding Syria story that has been ignored by the mainstream media is the stark realization that the NATO alliance is crumbling. NATO was a prime mover in arming and training the Kurds in the battle with ISIS. It has had to take a back seat as two of its members, the U.S. and Turkey, abandoned an ally. At the same time, Trump has refused to sanction Turkey for buying a Russian missile shield instead of the U.S. missile shield used by all NATO members.
As the focus has remained on Syria, several thousand more U.S. troops, armor, and fighter jets have been moved to Saudi Arabia, with Trump remarking that the Saudis pay well. The positioning of more U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia raises the specter of a new conflict in the region.
There are many who question why Trump should commit so many troops and materiel to the Saudis, given his professed desire to get out of foreign wars and bring our troops home. His Saudi policy stands in stark contrast to his promises. The answer is that he appears to have a special bond with the Saudi royals, made tighter by the closeness of his son-in-law Jared Kushner to Saudi leader Mohammed bin Salman, who is generally regarded as an impetuous figure.
The role of the U.S. military in Saudi Arabia should be a matter for Congress to explore, given the fact that the Saudis have been roundly condemned for a war they continue to run in Yemen and for their efforts to persuade the U.S. to bomb Iran.
Richard Walker is the nom de plume of a former New York mainstream news producer who grew tired of seeing his articles censored by his bosses.
President Flip-Flops on Syria; U.S. Occupation is Not Legal
By Dr. Ron Paul
President Donald Trump is reversing his foreign policy decisions so quickly these days that it almost seems like he overturns himself before making the decision in the first place.
In early October, he was very clear that the U.S. was pulling its troops out of Syria. “Bringing soldiers home,” he said. “Let someone else fight over this long-bloodstained sand.”
But then he overturned himself later in the same speech.
He said: “We’ve secured the oil and therefore a small number of U.S. troops will remain in the area where they have the oil. And we’re going to be protecting it and we’ll be deciding what we’re going to do with it in the future.”
Where does Trump think he gets the legal or moral authority to send U.S. troops to illegally occupy foreign territory and determine what that foreign country can or cannot do with its resources? After eight years of Obama’s disastrous “Assad must go” policy, during which the U.S. provided weapons and training to radicals and terrorists with a half-million people killed as a result, Trump had the opportunity to finally close that dark chapter of U.S. foreign policy so the Syrian people could rebuild their country.
Instead he sat down on with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who has been wrong in every foreign policy position he’s ever taken, and decided to follow Graham’s advice to take Syria’s oil. Even though Trump himself has said many times that ISIS is 100% defeated, he claims we must take Syria’s oil to keep it from ISIS.
The real reason the neocons want the U.S. military to occupy Syria’s oil fields is they are still convinced they can overthrow Assad by carving out eastern Syria for the Kurds. They don’t want to keep the oil from ISIS; they want to keep it from the Syrian government. They don’t want the oil revenue to be used to help rebuild the country because they still want to make life more unbearable for the population through sanctions so they can overthrow Assad. They don’t care how many innocent civilians die.
So instead of bringing the troops home like he promised, Trump has allowed himself to be convinced to actually expand the U.S. presence in eastern Syria. Instead of ending a foolish mission, he’s giving them an even more foolish mission—and sending in more troops and weapons. Instead of removing the approximately 200 troops in that region as promised, Trump is going to add more troops to equal about a thousand. He’s also sending in tanks and other armored vehicles, according to the Pentagon.
If Trump believes following neocon advice on Syria is going to produce results different than the past eight years of following neocon advice on Syria, he’s naïve or worse. This new mission is going to cost tens of millions of dollars per month and will only serve to inspire the next generation of radicals.
Trump is right that the people of the region, including Russia, Iran, Syria, and Turkey, have all the incentive to keep ISIS at bay. So why does he fold like a cheap suit every time the neocons strong-arm him into another dumb foreign policy position?
Ron Paul, a former U.S. representative from Texas and medical doctor, continues to write his weekly column for the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, online at www.ronpaulinstitute.org.