A chronicle of confusion: US policy toward Syria

TEHRAN, Oct. 29 (MNA) – When the US-led coalition hit Syrian forces late September, killing 62 soldiers and wounding 100 more, many observers inside Iran were not surprised.

The attack took place two days before the Russian-American arrangements were assumed to come into full force; immediately after the attack ISIS launched a major offensive. Following the attack, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova stated, “If previously we had suspicions that Al-Nusra Front is protected this way, now, after today's airstrikes on the Syrian army we come to a really terrifying conclusion for the entire world: The White House is defending IS [Islamic State, formerly ISIS/ISIL] .[1]” The strike triggered a war of words between Washington and Moscow, which further escalated after an alleged airstrike on an aid convoy on Monday.

While some commentators had welcomed the prospects of the US joining the fight against Daesh, others maintained that the US wants the status quo to be perpetuated: after having done much to undermine President Assad’s government, which led to the killing hundreds of thousands, injuring and displacing millions and obliterating the infrastructure and institutions of the country, the US is seeking to perpetuate the civil war in Syria by arming the opposition forces just enough to keep them fighting Assad, but not enough to overthrow the government.

Over the last decade, the US policy toward Syria followed ambiguous, confused and even contradictory objectives. Washington once considered and pursued the removal of Bashar al-Assad from power, thus backed and armed the terrorist groups; then it had to reconsider the previous stance and contemplate on dealing with Assad in power in order to harness the same terrorist groups it once supported (though it still arms the so called moderate opposition groups). Others argue that the US is after perpetuating stalemate in Syria.

2006:  Pursuing Regime Change in Syria  

Back in December 13, 2006, five years before the so-called “Arab Spring” William Roebuck, who at the time was chargé d'affaires at the US embassy in Damascus, sent a cable, which reveals that the US was following regime change policy in Syria[2]. The cable affirmed the stability of the Syrian government stating that, “The SARG ends 2006 in a much stronger position domestically and internationally than it did 2005[3]”. It continued by offering a number of vulnerabilities and potential actions that could increase the likelihood of destabilizing the Syrian government. Accordingly, the cable predicted opportunities in using “Islamic extremists”, “exploiting” Syria's relationship with Iran to “play on Sunni fears of Iranian influence” to escalate Sunni-Shia sectarianism.

For the sake of the Syrian people Assad Must Go

In August 18, 2011, a few months after the start of the conflict, in a written statement, Barack Obama asked Assad to step down, “For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside[4].” The leaders of France, Germany and Britain joined him in calling on Assad “to face the reality of the complete rejection of his regime by the Syrian people and to step aside[5].” For many observers Obama’s statement constituted a green light to terrorist groups including al-Qaeda in Iraq, which were sponsored by the US and their regional allies.

Moreover, a secret US intelligence report in 2012(declassified on June 2015) makes it clear that the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) had “predicted” and even “welcomed”, “the prospect of a ‘Salafist principality’ in eastern Syria and an al-Qaida-controlled Islamic state in Syria and Iraq to destabilize Syria[6]”. According to the report the Syrian “regime” was considered as “the strategic depth of the Shia expansion (Iraq and Iran)”.

In April 2013, Obama signed a secret order authorizing a C.I.A. plan to begin arming the Syrian rebels. While there was a debate on the failure of the past attempts by the CIA to arm foreign forces covertly, the proposed plan by the C.I.A. director, David H. Petraeus, was backed by Hillary Clinton, then the Secretary of State, who had reportedly said it was time for the United States to get “skin in the game[7]”

We don’t Want the Syrian Government to Collapse

In December 2015, when for four years a bloody war had raged in Syria, John Kerry claimed that the US and his partners are not seeking regime change in Syria. After meeting with Russian officials in Moscow Kerry said,

We focused on a process — on the political process — whereby Syrians will be making decisions for the future of Syria. But we do believe that nobody should be forced to choose between a dictator and being plagued by terrorists.  Our challenge remains creating the conditions on which an alternative can emerge[8].

He had emphasized that, “The United States and our partners are not seeking so-called regime change[9].”

Blaming Friends and Foes

When ISIS had turned into a real problem in 2014, Joe Biden, US vice president, lectured students at the Institute of Politics at Harvard University blaming US regional allies for destabilizing Syria. Not mentioning the US role in Syria’s catastrophic condition Biden pronounces:

Our allies in the region were our largest problem in Syria. The Turks…the Saudis, the Emiratis, etc. They were so determined to take down Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war, what did they do? They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens, thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad. The people who were being supplied were Al-Nusra and Al Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world[10].

Significantly more recently and in January 2016, in an attempt to explain why the United States is urged to enter into negotiations for a nationwide ceasefire and establishing a “path to a political transition” in Syria, John Kerry, US Secretary of State blamed Assad and his supporter for Syria’s unfolding humanitarian catastrophe,

 We must not forget what the Syrian people will always remember: Assad and his allies have, from the very beginning, been by far the primary source of killing, torture, and deprivation in this war; and the primary magnet drawing foreign fighters to Syria, giving cause to Daesh.[11]

In similar statements, U.N., and Syrian opposition groups have accused Assad of seeking to divide country along sectarian lines.[12]

Is the US Welcoming the Syrian Quagmire? 

With the failure of the new cease-fire in Syria, and the war of words as involved parties blame the other, many argue whether the US is after perpetuating the Syrian war by arming the opposition forces just enough to keep them fighting Assad, but not enough to overthrow the government. While the CIA Director John Brennan said the US should “make sure the moderate opposition continues to stay strong, puts the pressure on the regime” Brennan stated that, “We don’t want the Syrian government to collapse […]. That’s the last thing we want to do[13].”

The same stances was expressed by the White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough in 2013, when he had privately informed a number of Congressional officials that the US should favor keeping the status quo in Syria as it could keep Iran pinned down for years[14].

Recent attacks on the Syrian forces and the aid convoy seems to reveal the United States’ intention to perpetuating the war, as according to Jim Jatras, a former US diplomat, eastern Aleppo is of critical importance to the Obama administration whose priority is to prevent it from being retaken by government forces, “ if the jihad terrorists lose eastern Aleppo strategically this war is over.[15]”

[1] https://www.rt.com/news/359686-un-security-urgent-meeting/

[2] https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/06DAMASCUS5399_a.html

[3] https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/06DAMASCUS5399_a.html

[4] https://www.washingtonpost.com/politic ... /18/gIQAelheOJ_story.html

[5] https://www.washingtonpost.com/politic ... /18/gIQAelheOJ_story.html

[6] https://www.judicialwatch.org/wp-conte ... 04-10-final-version11.pdf

[7] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/23/wor ... syria-bloodshed.html?_r=1

[8] http://www.wsj.com/articles/john-kerr ... alks-on-course-1450183175

[9] http://www.wsj.com/articles/john-kerr ... alks-on-course-1450183175

[10] https://www.rt.com/news/192880-biden-isis-us-allies/

[11] http://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2016/01/251899.htm

[12] http://www.wsj.com/articles/syrian-go ... nni-population-1473809473

[13] http://english.alarabiya.net/en/persp ... A-chief-John-Brennan.html

[14] http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the- ... h-caricature-realism-9307

[15] https://www.rt.com/op-edge/360283-un-kerry-lavrov-syria/

The article was first publishe here.

News Code 120893


Your Comment

You are replying to: .
  • captcha