Syria: Has Obama forsaken the insurgency?

Current events surrounding the Syrian conflict appear to be on the brink of a partial agreement toward peace. Brokered by the United States and Russia, the new quick-fire round of talks in Geneva between US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov have been promoted as a bilateral effort to disarm Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile and move forward with talks to help end the crisis (Geneva II). Yet parallel to the alleged chemical weapons attack in eastern Ghouta – which subsequently led to the diplomatic breakthrough between Washington and Moscow – a chain of events largely ignored may provide equally justifiable explanations as to why the United States chose to renege on its threats of overt military intervention, and towards public diplomacy and reconciliation.

Analysing the sequence of events leading up to, and surrounding the alleged chemical weapons attack in Ghouta shows that Syria, and its ally Russia, have thwarted a determined attempt by the United States to overtly attack the Syrian Army, in what was a last-ditch effort to save the crumbling insurgency and avoid a regime victory.

The failure of the “Re-branded” insurgency.

Several reports leading up to the alleged chemical attack claim that the United States – in line with its covert policy of over two years – had prepared and deployed a “rebranded”, moderate, non-jihadist battalion of rebel fighters into Syria with the desired objective of creating a buffer-zone in the southern province of Da’raa (birthplace of the insurgency); from which the rebels would regroup and replenish supplies lost in consecutive defeats in preparation for a “Storm on Damascus”: a carbon-copy of the CIA’s strategy during the overthrow of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi – minus the crucial NATO airforce.

An article from August the 22nd, authored by Yossef Bodansky, an Israeli-American political scientist who served as Director of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare of the US House of Representatives from 1988 to 2004 claims:

Starting Aug. 17 and 18, nominally Free Syrian Army (FSA) units — in reality a separate Syrian and Arab army trained and equipped by the CIA as well as Jordanian and other intelligence services — attempted to penetrate southern Syria from northern Jordan and start a march on Damascus. Two units, one 250-strong and one 300-strong, crossed into Syria and began advancing parallel to the Golan Heights border. Their aim was to break east and reach Daraa quickly in order to prepare the ground for the declaration of Daraa as the capital of a “Free Syria”. However, the CIA’s FSA forces met fierce resistance by the unlikely coalition of the Syrian Army, local jihadist forces (mainly the locally-raised Yarmuk Brigades), and even tribal units who fear the encroachment by outside forces on their domain. By Aug. 19 and 20, the FSA units were surrounded in three villages not far from the Israeli border.

Bodansky’s article is corroborated by a report published on the 22nd of August in French daily Le Figaro, which also alleges that a similar sized US-trained force, accompanied by Israeli, Jordanian and US commandos, had infiltrated Syria’s borders on the 17th of August from Jordan with the objective of creating a buffer-zone in Da’raa. The Figaro report does not state the new commando-escorted units encountered any resistance along the way, the report also fails to explain their whereabouts or justify their now obvious lack of success. In contrast to Bodansky’s version of events; Le Figaro purports that the Assad regime may have resorted to the use of chemical weapons due to an increased threat the new rebel units posed on Damascus. Analysis of the previous months of fighting in the Ghouta region, and the continuous gains made by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) suggest there was zero threat to the Assad regime’s seat of power coming from eastern Ghouta – or Da’raa for that matter. The precise opposite was in fact occurring, the SAA had been engaged in a concerted offensive in the Damascus suburbs and countryside for months; leaving rebel units in eastern Ghouta completely surrounded and increasingly desperate for supplies and ammunition. Moreover, the situation for the rebels was similarly desperate in almost the entirety of Da’raa, which had been stalemated for months with no significant gains for either side; the SAA had consolidated and fortified the areas it held in Da’raa whilst opposition rebel commanders repeatedly expressed their dismay at the lack of supplies and ammunition reaching them from Jordan.

The alleged chemical weapons attack.

There is already a plethora of literature and credible analysis that debunks Washington’s allegations surrounding the alleged chemical weapons attack, the claims are most importantly coming from a lead belligerent and architect of the conflict, yet even if one were to wrongly judge Washington as a neutral actor, they are still unverified, circumstantial, questionably sourced (to say the least), and in the words of top CIA officials “no slam dunk”, which makes them even-less credible than what turned out to be outright lies emanating from US intelligence sources in the lead up to Iraq. Washington’s claims simply don’t stand up to any serious scrutiny. Yet contrary to the many outstanding, and growing, contradictions and scepticism of the allegations; many analysts have pushed the theory that the regimes motive to use chemical weapons lay in its desperation to avoid defeat at the hands of the rebels. Incidentally, this supposed regime motive formed the “analysis” propagated by recently outed fraud “Liz O’Bagy” – a rebel lobbyist paid by the State Department and neocon think-tank the Institute for the study of war; to provide “tailored analysis” in a months-long propaganda campaign to portray the extremist dominated rebels as “moderate” western-friendly secularists. Yet when viewed with the above context, the supposed motive of a Götterdämmerung act by a regime in its final moments becomes even-less credible than it first appeared. The regime was arguably in the strongest position it has been since it lost vast swathes of land during the height of the insurgency, not to mention the growing amount of anti-rebel sentiment within public opinion working in the regimes’ favour – both inside and outside of Syria.

Conversely, the rebels on the ground in Syria were becoming increasingly desperate, losing battles with the SAA consecutively for months on end, and increasingly turning to fighting between themselves over the spoils of war, or simply through ethnic intolerance, extremism and fundamentalism. The regime had long been planning a large military offensive in Ghouta to consolidate the gains it had made in recent months and secure its hold on the Damascus countryside. The few remaining pockets of rebel encampments were largely surrounded from all angles; reports from multiple outlets, including staunchly pro-rebel, spoke of a “siege” in Ghouta and rebels repeatedly being ambushed by the SAA trying to escape.  A Reuters report from August 7th read: “Adra.. in the Eastern Ghouta region,… has been besieged by the army for months.” Accordingly, the situation on the ground prior to the alleged chemical weapons attack was in no way a threat to Assad’s seat of power in Damascus, if any actor had the motive for a last-ditch attempt at saving their cause it was indeed the rebels, or their regional backers intent on exacerbating and continuing the conflict. 

Regardless of who actually committed the attack that occurred on August 21st in Ghouta, its desired outcome from Washington’s perspective (a casus belli – intentional or otherwise – to garner western intervention), did not play out how the administration would have hoped.

UK Parliament set the tone for Congress.

A major blow to Washington’s war-plans came at the hands of the UK general public and Parliament. Unfortunately for David Cameron, earlier this year UK MP’s forced the government to agree to a vote in the commons to determine any future military intervention in Syria. Now, with Cameron threatening immediate military “action” against Syria he recalled Parliament in an attempt to rush through the vote and kickstart the war alongside the United States. Cameron, in typical establishment arrogance presumed the massive public sentiment against military intervention would go unnoticed by the publics representatives and ministers would vote in favour of war. Cameron was sorely mistaken, the “shadow of Iraq” provided a platform for a resurgence of anti-war sentiment and low-level activism. MP’s were bombarded with mail and phone-calls from angry constituents demanding a no vote. Crucially, the immediate scepticism of US “intelligence” was brought out into the public realm in real-time and exposed as reminiscent of the fabrications that led to Iraq. Accordingly, on the 29th of August, Cameron lost his vote.

The Obama administration was deeply concerned by the result of the UK vote, their most loyal ally and partner in militarism would no longer be at their side, years of war-plans and covert logistics had fallen apart, and the illusion of the United States “leading the International Community from behind” was crumbling even quicker. Obama’s surprise decision to gain the approval of Congress for military intervention in Syria came just two days after Cameron’s equally surprising defeat. Yet alongside Obama’s apparent willingness to “have a debate” in Congress and hold a vote to authorise intervention; Obama and a number of his senior aides reiterated their intention to attack Syria with or without a successful result.

Following Cameron’s defeat in Parliament, and facing what looked to be a certain defeat in Congress, Obama’s proposed war on Syria was arguably more unpopular than any before it. Polls on both sides of the Atlantic regularly showed massive disapproval ratings for any intervention, with numbers only slightly higher even if the White House allegations were proven to be true. Alongside the usual uncritical repetition of US “intelligence assessments” and government stenography emanating from the majority of corporate media; the ever-growing alternative and independent outlets allowed the public to express their massive scepticism, and more importantly share independent and credible alternatives of information to a wider audience. Obama was facing a humiliating defeat, and was arguably by this point already searching for a way out of his self-imposed ultimatums. Yet factions within the US alliance have a very different agenda, there are several actors that would prefer the Syrian war to remain “hot” indefinitely. The hawks within Israel are the most obvious candidates to be upset by this turn of events, as has been evidenced by what the IDF have termed their “optimal scenario” of endless civil war and partition. No doubt Israel will continue to pursue this overarching policy of subversion and destabilization. There are other US clients that will undoubtedly be equally as miffed if the US has indeed reneged on its regime change policy (for now at least) in return for Assad’s CW stockpile. Saudi Arabia and Qatar have much invested in the “Syrian file”, but Washington calls the ultimate shots when it comes to matters of global affairs, if a deal has been brokered between Putin and Obama, “Prince Bandar Ibn Israel” will be put back to rest and the King will reluctantly oblige. Turkey, likewise, will also be unhappy at Obama’s apparent change of policy, but Erdogan may be under too much pressure of his own domestically to afford any serious solo effort at subverting Assad.

Last throw of the Dice: missiles in the Med.

On September the 3rd, two days prior to the G20 summit in St Petersburg, the world awoke to reports that Russia’s defensive radar systems had detected two ballistic “objects” launched from the central Mediterranean on a flight path toward Syria’s eastern coast, where Russian navy ships currently reside; the missiles post-launch had apparently “fell into the sea”. At the time the finger was immediately pointed to Israel – who have attacked Syria at least three times with impunity in the past year alone – or possibly the United States, whose large Naval presence in the Med seemed the obvious primary suspect. Curiously, both Israel and the United States denied responsibility when the Russian reports were first released, then, only a few hours later Israel claimed responsibility for an apparent joint “test” launch with the Pentagon of a defensive missile system. The sheer recklessness of such an act – even if the innocent explanation were true – is hard to explain in such a circumstance. The US eventually confirmed the Israeli line that it was indeed a “test” missile launch with US assistance; after having first denied any knowledge of the incident.

The most likely explanation is Israel or the US were attempting to test Syria’s coastal defenses prior to any possible attack, but to do this without giving any notice to Russia in such a tense scenario seems reckless to say the least. Russian diplomats have repeatedly hinted that Russia would “help” Syria militarily in the event of a missile strike. It is quite possible that this incident was indeed an Israeli/US provocation in an attempt to garner a response from Syria, and in turn instigate a wider campaign. A report from Lebanese daily As Safir takes it one step further:

A well-informed diplomatic source told As-Safir newspaper that “the US war on Syria had started and ended the moment those two ballistic missiles were fired,… The source further told the Lebanese daily that “the US forces fired these two rockets from a NATO base in Spain, and were instantly detected by the Russian radars and confronted by the Russian defense systems, so one of them exploded in the airspace and the second one diverted towards the sea.” In this context, the source pointed out that “the statement issued by the Russian Defense Ministry, which stated the detection of two ballistic missiles fired towards the Middle East, intended to neglect two points: the first was the location from which the two rockets were fired, and the second was their downing. Why? Because the moment the full military operation was launched, Head of the Russian Intelligence Service contacted the US intelligence and informed it that “hitting Damascus means hitting Moscow, and we have removed the term “downed the two missiles” from the statement to preserve the bilateral relations and to avoid escalation. Therefore, you must immediately reconsider your policies, approaches and intentions on the Syrian crisis, as you must be certain that you cannot eliminate our presence in the Mediterranean.”

Whether this account of events holds true or not, at the very least the missile launch appears to be an intentional provocation by either Israel or Washington, in a last-ditch attempt to incite retaliation and salvage the now broken strategy against Assad. Either way, Russia’s decision to quickly publicise the detection and subsequent flip-flop of denial and acceptance from Israel bolsters the theory in the As Safir report: why would Israel accept responsibility for this provocative “test”, yet deny responsibility for every other act of aggression they commit unimpeded? Could it have been to save the face of another defeated attempt to continue the war? It was following this incident, that Obama and Putin were due to meet at the G20 conference. With both leaders eager to go into any negotiations on Syria from a position of power at such a crucial stage, it also adds to the theory that Obama was in a rush to commence the war before opposition became too overbearing; as indeed it now evidently has.

Contrary to Obama’s plans, he entered the G20 summit from a position of weakness, both globally and domestically, opposition to a unilateral US war on another Arab state was only ever-increasing. Obama – or US foreign policy in general – has long-lost the vote of confidence within the UK population, and the Parliamentary vote may indeed yet herald a new era of UK foreign policy. Obama was losing the confidence vote in Congress; his domestic population; and within world leaders at the G20 – the majority of which started to make clear their desire to move towards Russia’s longstanding position based on the Geneva communique. Despite the mass effort western media put into spinning support for Obama, he came out of the G20 further weakened, it is likely by that point Obama had already made his decision that lead to Kerry’s supposed “gaffe”.

John Kerry’s “gaffe” and the bargain.

In the two days following the G20, the US upheld its intransigent rhetoric in its attempts to rally support for war. John Kerry was scheduled to fly around Europe to pimp war on radio shows and TV interviews as any self-respecting humanitarian does – of course Willy Hague was more than eager to stand alongside Kerry to drum up support for a war the UK population has just stated clearly it wanted no part in. It was during this visit that Kerry made his now infamous “gaffe”, in which he flippantly offered Syria a way of avoiding imminent attack by giving up its chemical weapons stockpiles to international inspectors, Kerry said: “if Assad were to turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week,” there would be no US attack. It is indicative that once Russia had pounced on the deal the US chose to immediately play it down – for all of around two hours. The narrative then quickly shifted to what the US is now sticking to: the “deal” on CW was only implemented through the threat of US force. Yet the key point that both media and diplomats are avoiding is this: if the chemical weapons disarmament is due to run until “mid-2014” under the Assad regime and the Syrian Army’s cooperation, and is likely to run into considerable setbacks and require a concerted logistical and cooperative effort from the government; then that is surely a tacit admission from Washington that Assad will remain in power until at least the proposed operation is over.

In a revealing interview  on Sunday, Obama gave further sign of a shift in US policy and refused to be drawn on the future of Assad. Obama effectively announced the US intention of giving up on the insurgency, and said the “United States can’t get in the middle of somebody else’s civil war.” and reiterated previous statements that “We can’t enforce– militarily, a settlement there.” Has a deal to halt the US-led insurgency been done? Will the US stop arming jihadists now? Is Russia urging Syria to destroy its CW stockpile the carrot necessary to appease the angry donkey and the 800 pound gorilla (aka: the US military industrial complex & Israel)? In the remote scenario of a solid reconciliation between Russia and the US and a move toward peace; are Washington still able to control their autocratic clients in the Middle East? Will the White House apply the required amounts of pressure on Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Kuwait, to halt arms supplies and funding to the rebels? Can Obama rein in the apartheid Israeli regime, and its determination to incite and prolong conflict between its Arab neighbours? And will the Obama administration attempt to replicate the Iraq scenario, by infiltrating, obstructing, and subverting the mission of the UN inspectors or the OPCW to engineer a pretext to attack Syria at a later date?

These are questions only time can answer. Regardless of future events and subsequent geopolitical dynamics, there are still thousands of extremists, mercenaries, and outright criminals currently waging war upon Syria and its people. To regain any semblance of stability and peace it is the United States that ultimately holds the levers to end the arms flow and state-sponsorship of the rebels. Tellingly, in a recent interview President Assad revealed a critical precondition of his own on any future CW disarmament deal:

“It is a bilateral process aimed principally at making the US cease pursuing its policy of aggression against Syria and proceed in compliance with the Russian initiative. When we see the US genuinely working towards stability in the region and stop threatening, striving to attack, and delivering arms to terrorists then we will believe that the necessary processes can be finalised.”

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Syria: John Kerry’s “Big Lie” syndrome.

“Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidarity to pure wind.” – George Orwell.

US secretary of state John Kerry has just delivered what may turn out to be his most shameful moment in history. Kerry has been handed the baton of sabre-rattler-in-Chief by a President that has much vested interest in upholding his facade of “reluctant warmonger”. Since President Obama declared his now infamous “red-line” over the use of chemical weapons in Syria; it has invariably been White House underlings and members of the State Department who are given the task of misleading the public – Kerry is not doing a very good job of it.

In his most recent outing, Kerry reiterated – 22 times no-less – that the US administration – through its ever trustworthy “intelligence community” – “knows” with “high confidence” that Bashar al-Assad’s regime carried out chemical weapons attacks upon opposition areas in the suburbs of Ghouta, Damascus, on the morning of the 21st August. Kerry adamantly repeats what US intelligence “knows”, without actually providing any solid evidence to bolster his ever-increasing, outlandish claims – Kerry is on the path to Colin Powell stardom, one suspects this speech will be remembered for a long-time to come, and for all the wrong reasons.

Kerry frames his speech in a typically Orwellian fashion. Immediately discarding any semblance of honesty Kerry tells the world that his decades in Congress have taught him the valued lesson that the US must “ask the tough questions” prior to engaging in military attacks upon a sovereign nation, and in turn “get the tough answers before taking action, not just afterward”. It would take only a cursory glance at the United States’ foreign policy record form the last 2-3 years to realise that this opening gambit of attempting to portray American virtue and patience is an outright lie and the total reverse of decades-long aggressive US foreign policy. For example: did the United States “ask the tough questions” before it dropped nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki – killing hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians? Or did the United States “ask the tough questions” before it manufactured a casus belli to engage in an illegal war in Vietnam – again resulting in the murder of hundreds of thousands of innocents through the indiscriminate carpet bombing of civilian areas and chemical/biological weapons? How about Iraq? Did Kerry “ask the tough questions” prior to that particular murderous, genocidal rampage? One wonders if Kerry asked himself “the tough questions” before he made the decision to support the US’ illegal invasion and subsequent destruction of Iraq in 2002? Or even if he attempted to gain the “tough answers” after the decision had been taken. It seems even 18 months after the invasion of Iraq, at a time when the country was rapidly spiralling out of control, Kerry adamantly stood by his decision to support the war with the sole justification that he “would have done things very differently to Bush” – knowing full well by this point that Saddam Hussein’s alleged “WMD” and links to Al Qaeda were a figment of Dick Cheney and the US “intelligence community’s” imagination. The list of reckless US aggression is quite literally endless, these are but a few prominent examples.

Ostensibly touted as an opportunity for the US to show the world its supposed “intelligence” to prove chemical weapons had been used by the Assad regime; Kerry made clear from the outset that his audience would not be privy to any information that may empirically prove the allegation. Instead, the administration chose to repeat unsubstantiated allegations and “intelligence assessments” that must remain confidential to protect “methods and sources”. Relying on slogans such as “NGO” and “Syrian officials” Kerry attempts to mask the fact that the vast majority of the allegations originate from a primary belligerent in the Syrian conflict; namely, the Syrian “opposition”; the “rebels” themselves; and the plethora of State Department-trained “activist” networks responsible for the reams of misinformation and propaganda repeated uncritically in western corporate-media. Kerry goes on to say that the release of the governments “estimate” is so important because its findings are as “clear as they are compelling”. How does one make a clear and compelling estimate? Surely an estimate would infer that there is a degree of doubt, how can one “know” anything from an “estimate”?

Kerry urges his audience to: “read for yourselves the evidence from thousands of sources, evidence that is already publicly available.” Yet neither Kerry, nor the “intelligence summary” provide any of these alleged “thousands” of sources that are “publicly available”. The US intelligence “assessment” does not hold a single link to any secondary or primary source material, or any empirical/scientific data, there is nothing in it other than a summary of previous allegations. So what is Kerry referring to? One can only assume Kerry, in his half-arsed attempt to bolster what is an evidence-free allegation is now relying on YouTube videos – and urging the world to take them as hard evidence to determine war-crimes and culpability.

In true authoritarian manner, Kerry moves swiftly into the “trust us” narrative, imploring his audience to read the administrations verdict – no longer a pretense of independent evidence to prove guilt; merely a self-appointed verdict. Of course, at every opportunity Kerry reminds his audience exactly what that verdict is: the Assad regime is responsible, our verdict is your evidence, nothing more, nothing less, “these are facts, this is evidence”.

In an effort to impersonate Donald Rumsfeld’s infamous “unknown unknowns”, Kerry tells us: “in order to protect sources and methods, some of what we know will only be released to members of Congress, the representatives of the American people. That means that some things we do know, we can’t talk about publicly. So, what do we really know that we can talk about?” Well, considering he has just told his audience he cannot disclose even the “estimated” information that forms what his intelligence community “knows”, it seems we can’t talk about very much; other than repeated unsubstantiated allegations we have now heard for over a week – but surely that is the administrations intention. It is reminiscent of a certain theory of an English political ploy that the leaders of the Nazi regime admired – and no doubt employed upon their own population. Goebbels wrote in 1941: “The essential English leadership secret does not depend on particular intelligence. Rather, it depends on a remarkably stupid thick-headedness. The English follow the principle that when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous.” Of course, Goebbels and Hitler were equally, if not more so, proponents of the “Big Lie”. It can only be reasonable to expect the empire of the age to adapt and expand such duplicitous policy to hoodwink its own citizens into yet more hegemonic militarism.

Repeatedly punctuating the word “know” so as to implant it in every vapid mind available, Kerry then starts to reel-off exactly what the administration “knows”: “Well, we know that the Assad regime has the largest chemical weapons programs in the entire Middle East. We know that the regime has used those weapons multiple times this year, and has used them on a smaller scale but still it has used them against its own people, including not very far from where last Wednesday’s attack happened.” Already, Kerry is telling some revealing porkies. Syria has by no means the largest chemical stockpile in the Middle East, that honour lies with the US’ number one ally in the region: Israel. As former US deputy assistant secretary of defense responsible for chemical and biological defense, Bill Richardson, said in 1998 “I have no doubt that Israel has worked on both chemical and biological offensive things for a long time… There’s no doubt they’ve had stuff for years.” Not to mention the fact Israel have a huge, illegal, nuclear warheads stockpile – the biggest obstacle to a nuclear-free middle east. Kerry says the administration “knows” the Assad regime has used chemical weapons on “multiple occasions” of a smaller scale in the past. Yet again, the United States, nor its allies and the Syrian opposition have provided any empirical, or objective, independent scientific evidence to back up these claims. It should be reiterated that in May this year, UN investigator Carla Del Ponte pointed the finger at the “rebels” for the use of chemical weapons, a fact that has been thoroughly whitewashed in both western media and from the duplicitous mouths of western diplomats such as John Kerry – who still claim that “rebels” don’t have the capability to launch such munitions. Contrary to western diplomats hollow claims; in late May militant cells with links to Jabhat al Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham were found in both Iraq and Turkey with sarin and other chemical weapons materiel in their possession – another fact that received only light attention in western media, and has been virtually ignored in any western diplomats talking points.

Furthermore, recent interviews with Doctors, Ghouta residents, “rebel” fighters and their families carried out by long-standing Associated Press contributor, Dale Ghavlak, allege that it was in fact extremist elements within the “rebels” that were directly responsible for the chemical attack; even alleging the chemical weapons were supplied by Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan:

“… from numerous interviews with doctors, Ghouta residents, rebel fighters and their families, a different picture emerges. Many believe that certain rebels received chemical weapons via the Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, and were responsible for carrying out the dealing gas attack… My son came to me two weeks ago asking what I thought the weapons were that he had been asked to carry,” said Abu Abdel-Moneim, the father of a rebel fighting to unseat Assad, who lives in Ghouta… Abdel-Moneim said his son and 12 other rebels were killed inside of a tunnel used to store weapons provided by a Saudi militant, known as Abu Ayesha, who was leading a fighting battalion. The father described the weapons as having a “tube-like structure” while others were like a “huge gas bottle.”

Are these interviews, and this report included within the administrations “high confidence” assessment that the regime carried out this alleged attack?

Again, omitting any specific evidence to bolster his clams Kerry has asserted that the administration “knows” that the Assad regime was preparing for chemical attacks with vague reference to the regime utilising gas masks, making precautions associated with chemical weapons, and “specific instructions”. Such specific instructions that Kerry is once again unable to produce any evidence of. How this speculation is supposed to determine what happened in Ghouta – let alone culpability – is left to the audiences’ imagination. Kerry states that the US “know” where and when the ordnance was launched from, but again the audience is left with words and zero physical evidence to back this up.

In what can only be described as a desperate attempt to bolster a weaker case for war than the lies and fabrications that justified the US’ invasion of Iraq, Kerry then turns to social media to outline what the administration “knows”. He clams that US intelligence has over 100 videos that show the symptoms of a chemical weapons attack. Moreover, the US does not believe that such an amount of videos could possibly be fabricated, or manipulated in any way, why would the fluffy “rebels” – that have been busy with ethnic cleansing; systematically killing religious clerics; indiscriminately targeting and killing civilians; and chopping off heads – bother to stage such an atrocity? Kerry forgets that for over two years social media has been the primary vehicle for “rebel” agitprop and fabrication. The “rebels” have been caught numerous times fabricating videos to further their agenda, but the “intelligence community knows”, in this case, that all of the videos surrounding Ghouta must be true. Kerry says the world has seen thousands of reports – yet not one of those “reports” is either independent nor verified by any independent agency. There is no elaboration or further evidence provided as to why YouTube videos, unverified “reports”, and social media should receive such credence, let-alone be used as a justification for war, only that they bolster the verdict the United States has already drawn.

The “evidence” supposedly weaned from YouTube is morphed into emotional agitprop. Kerry recalls images of dead women and children: “not a scratch, not a shrapnel wound, not a cut, not a gunshot sound. We saw rows of dead lined up in burial shrouds, the white linen unstained by a single drop of blood.” Yet Kerry has absolutely no way of determining how those people were killed, does Kerry assume that once a body is dead and covered in a burial shroud it will carry on bleeding? Such contradictions to the administrations simple narrative are gradually marginalised from the uncritical media and replaced with verbatim stenography; yet in the margins even US intelligence officials are purposefully leaking doubts. It should be noted that Kerry’s description is quite accurate, there was indeed no sign of trauma on the vast majority of victims present in videos on YouTube. But crucially; there is also no evidence within those videos that can scientifically determine how they died – let alone who killed them.

According to John Kerry, the United States also “knows” exactly how many people were killed in this alleged attack. Kerry puts the death toll at 1,429 people, including 426 children. A figure that has outstretched even the most inflated estimations, which have ranged from the “dozens” to up to 1,300. Yet contrary to the US figure, Doctors Without Borders, and the much-touted Syrian Observatory have put the death toll from the alleged Ghouta attack at 355 people. It is all the more perplexing that the United States has suddenly developed the ability to accrue such accurate death tolls and information in a country it supposedly has no personnel operating within; yet after ten years the United States still cannot – and will not – determine the amount of innocent Iraqis or Afghanis it has murdered during its illegal aggression upon each of those countries. The US can barely acknowledge – let alone tally – the thousands of innocents it has killed as a result of its extra-legal drone assassination program; we are supposed to now believe the US has developed the capability to count victims of atrocities in foreign countries? Moreover, Doctors Without Borders (DWB) represent the “credible medical” source that Washington allude to with regard to Ghouta, due to the fact they supplied field hospitals in the area. Astonishingly, and again cannily omitted by Kerry, Doctors Without Borders did not have a single member of their own personnel in the region, or at any field hospitals within Damascus; the medics that relayed information to Doctors Without Borders were “rebels” and people working directly with the Syrian opposition. The administration is attempting to lay credence to their allegations through the flimsy connection of Doctors Without Borders with opposition elements in the area, while simultaneously contradicting the death toll DWB provided.

In another attempt to lay credence to unfounded accusations, Kerry claims the Syrian regime attempted to block the UN inspectors from visiting the site in Ghouta by bombarding the area in unprecedented levels for four days straight. Again, the physical evidence to prove this accusation is omitted. It may just have slipped Kerry’s attention but the Syrian army has been on a concerted offensive in the suburbs of Damascus for months – and was indeed, winning its chosen battles. More importantly, the US made the accusation in attempts to portray the regime as unwilling to meet the demands of the UN because it “had something to hide”. Washington immediately backtracked this false narrative when it became apparent that it was the UN itself blocking any investigation and had not requested permission to visit the area until the following Saturday. It took the Syrian government a total of 24 hours to permit the UN’s request. When this became public knowledge, the administration changed its talking points; now alleging that the regime purposefully bombarded the area to “systematically destroy evidence”. The UN, alongside several chemical weapons experts have since debunked this theory, noting it can take months for Sarin and other military-grade CW to disperse, and assured that it was still possible for the team of experts to gather necessary evidence despite the time elapsed since the alleged attack.

Despite the numerous contradictions, and massive lack of physical evidence, Kerry again urges his audience to trust the intelligence community’s high confidence: “In all of these things that I have listed, in all of these things that we know — all of them — the American intelligence community has high confidence, high confidence. This is common sense. This is evidence. These are facts.” One can easily recall supposed “facts” the US intelligence community has had a “high confidence” of in the not-too-distant past, yet the popular refrain being bandied around establishment and corporate media circles to deter scepticism of such claims are the very same refrains that were thrown at sceptics ten years ago. “The shadow of Iraq” is being used as a rhetorical tool to attack sceptics of these allegations, yet in reality, the scepticism surrounding these renewed WMD allegations are of exactly the same nature and equally as justified as they were during the build-up to Iraq. Moreover, in a reference to the then-CIA Directors false claims of Iraqi WMD being a “slam dunk”, several US intelligence officials leaked to various media that White House allegations are anything but a “slam dunk”; rendering Kerry’s claims even-less credible than the outright lies that lead to the invasion of Iraq.

It is indicative of the glaring lack of physical evidence that the remainder of Kerry’s speech is spent avowing lofty claims of “US credibility”, and that countries must believe the United States when it says (threatens) something. What Kerry is actually saying is that the US cannot back down from its own reckless hubris without losing face, and the United States relies on that militaristic hubris – and will rely on it ever more so in the future – to uphold its own geopolitical and economic “interests”. Obama’s reckless “red-line” moment effectively backed the United States into a position itself and its allies knew they could engineer toward an overt intervention. That overt western intervention is now needed more than ever as the Syrian Army move toward a de-facto military victory.

In the remainder of the speech, and equally as vapid in the “intelligence assessment”, the secretary of state warns of various other “enemy” nations and political factions on the wrong side of Imperialism taking heed from a supposed lack of US “action”. Attempting to evoke fear and trepidation the Empire’s “boogeyemen” are rolled out one by one, from North Korea to Hezbollah. Kerry attempts to evoke the oft-repeated sentiment that the United States speaks for the entire world, he hastily casts aside the international allies of Syria. Yet, the populations of the western world itself are increasingly against the US-led drive to attack Syria. In the UK – before and after the recent defeat for David Cameron’s motion for UK involvement in a possible attack on Syria – up to 90% of the UK population were against any military intervention. That stance has only hardened as the conflict has dragged on. For once, and much to David Cameron’s dismay, this public sentiment was reflected in the vote, and the UK will not be taking part in any military action. The figures against intervention are reflected across the Atlantic; the American public, despite the massive propaganda campaign, and overt lies streaming from their supposed “diplomats” do not support US military intervention. But the lies and propaganda will continue unabated, and an uncritical corporate media will slavishly repeat and embellish on cue.

Kerry ended his speech with the doublethink-laden quote: “…the world’s most heinous weapons must never again be used against the world’s most vulnerable people.” This is a fact, but a fact that evidently does not apply to the millions of vulnerable people the United States murders unabated – with every kind of weapon known to man.

Syria: Qatar’s policy is hand in glove with the United States.

A recent report in the New York Times (NYT) claims, through trusted “sources”, that Qatar began weapons shipments to opposition militants in Syria at the same time they “increased” support for Al Qaeda-linked militants fighting Colonel Gaddafi in Libya in 2011. Gaddafi was ousted (murdered) in October 2011; one must assume that any “increase” in Qatari efforts to arm the militants in Libya were delivered long in advance of Gaddafi’s ouster, meaning the synonymous shipments to “rebels” in Syria also commenced well before October 2011.

This information again sheds further light on a timeline of events in Syria that have been purposefully obscured within mainstream media to suit certain actors agendas, and to enable the false and misleading narrative of “Assad killing peaceful protesters” to become dominant in the discourse surrounding the Syrian conflict. As was revealed earlier this year – known by many for much longer – it has been Qatar at the forefront of efforts to arm and fund the insurgency in Syria. As the resilience of the Assad government and the Syrian Army prolonged the conflict far beyond the timeframe the backers of the insurgency foresaw, more and more evidence has become available as to the exact nature of this US-led proxy-war, and the ideologies of the militants fighting it. In turn, timelines have constantly been altered, misinformed and manipulated to suit the desired narratives of actors who claim to be on the side of “freedom and democracy”.

In sum, previous to the aforementioned NYT article, there had been no reports – in mainstream press at least – of any arms shipments or covert state activity against Syria before “early 2012”. Now that timeline has once again been revised, to at least the same time of an “increase” of Qatari covert policy in Libya, which would have necessarily come before the fall of Gaddafi in October 2011.

The latest revelation in the NYT seems to be an intentional leak, designed to pass responsibility for the extremist dominated insurgency currently destroying Syria, onto Qatar’s doorstep. Considering the timing of this report, and several others in recent mainstream media that have pointed the finger at Qatar being the main sponsor of the Syrian insurgency, it also begs the question: was there more to the Qatari Emir’s, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani (and his trusted and longtime Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani’s) recent departure and handover of power to his son Tamim than meets the eye? A slap on the wrist from the US for Qatar’s reckless foreign policy maybe? Who knows, it seems most knowledgable Middle East analysts  really have no clue as to why the Emir chose to suddenly step down and relinquish power. If there is one message coming from this unprecedented handover in the Western press it is this: “what goes on in Qatar, stays in Qatar”.

The NYT cites a “Western diplomat” (anonymous of course) who states that Qatar: “punch immensely above their weight,… They keep everyone off-balance by not being in anyone’s pocket… Their influence comes partly from being unpredictable,” Again, this seems to be a desired caveat to remove culpability from Western actors, and is highly likely the same “source” that provided the leak on Qatar’s covert actions.

What is counterintuitive to the theory that Qatar acts of its own accord in such instance is the fact that Qatar’s military and intelligence apparatus is entirely built and run by the United States. Qatar and the US have held an intimate relationship on all things military since the early 90’s. Qatar is also the Forward Operations center of the US Central Command (CENTCOM), and the US Combined Air Operation Center (CAOC).  The US enjoys the luxury of the use of three airbases in the tiny nation of Qatar, one of which (Al Udeid) is the prime location of Qatari arms flights to Syria. Considering this close military relationship it would be foolish to believe the United States is unaware of Qatari covert activity, particularly when one also considers the broad and global spying and SIGINT powers we now all know the Pentagon, and US government have at their disposal. It should also be noted that Doha acts as a primary base in the region for US diplomacy, as the Taliban can happily attest to.

Furthermore – as covered extensively in a previous article – once Gulf covert arms shipments to Syrian “rebels” became public knowledge, the Obama administration made distinct efforts in the media to portray the CIA as the key “coordinator” and oversight of the shipments to allay concerns of weapons ending up in the “wrong hands”. The US, through the CIA has been using its logistic, diplomatic, and military power to bypass international laws and help to organise a multi-national covert arms supply chain to “rebels” in Syria. Furthermore, in a recent interview for The National Interest given by renowned former US National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski – a declared advocate of the US policy of arming Osama Bin-Laden and fellow ideologues in the Afghan-Soviet war of the 80’s – went as far as to openly admit the joint US-Saudi-Qatari policy of orchestrating the Syrian crisis, but refrained from revealing an explicit timeline: (my emphasis)

In late 2011 there are outbreaks in Syria produced by a drought and abetted by two well-known autocracies in the Middle East: Qatar and Saudi Arabia. He [Obama] all of a sudden announces that Assad has to go—without, apparently, any real preparation for making that happen. Then in the spring of 2012, the election year here, the CIA under General Petraeus, according to The New York Times of March 24th of this year, a very revealing article, mounts a large-scale effort to assist the Qataris and the Saudis and link them somehow with the Turks in that effort. Was this a strategic position?

Yet contrary to this long-revealed policy, the NYT claims: “The United States has little leverage over Qatar on the Syria issue because it needs the Qataris’ help on other fronts.” For the NYT to claim the US has no control of arms shipments from a key ally is disingenuous at best, outright propaganda at worst. Moreover, the CIA has been in direct “consultation” with Qatar on arms shipments, and who exactly those arms should be sent to, (vetted “moderates” of course!!) as Qatari officials stated in this Reuters article from May this year: (my emphasis)

“There’s an operations room in the Emir’s diwan (office complex), with representatives from every ministry sitting in that room, deciding how much money to allocate for Syria’s aid,” the Qatari official said. There’s a lot of consultation with the CIA, and they help Qatar with buying and moving the weapons into Syria, but just as consultants,”

Are we seriously supposed to believe that Qatar, a tiny resource-rich nation that is totally dependent on US militarism and diplomatic protection is acting of its own accord, without any US assistance, right under the US military’s nose? The NYT report goes on to state: (my emphasis)

Qatar’s covert efforts to back the Syrian rebels began at the same time that it was increasing its support for opposition fighters in Libya trying to overthrow the government of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi...The Obama administration quietly blessed the shipments to Libya of machine guns, automatic rifles, mortars and ammunition, but American officials later grew concerned as evidence grew that Qatar was giving the weapons to Islamic militants there.”

The Obama administration was fully aware of who Qatar were arming, and sending special forces to fight alongside in Libya. It was exactly the same variety of militants and extremist ideologues that are currently waging war upon the Syrian State. Islamic radicals had used Benghazi as a base since the very start of the Libyan “revolution”, and the US knew they formed the core of the militia Qatar were shipping arms to in efforts to oust Gaddafi. The Obama administration’s concern of MANPADS falling into the “wrong hands” (a la Afghanistan) is belied by Obama’s tacit approval of his Gulf allies’ policy of allowing tonnes of arms, explosives and military materiel to reach extremist dominated militia. A few MANPADS simply increases the likelihood of blowback upon a civilian target, and the consequent exposure – which is the Obama administration’s major concern. As the NYT report states, one of the shipments of MANPADS that has entered Syria came from the very same former Gaddafi stockpiles of Eastern bloc weapons looted by Qatari-backed militants in Libya.

In summary, the current media leaks on arms shipments to Syria can be construed as the Obama administration attempting to build plausible deniability. The constant revision of the Syrian timeline also points to the retroactive smoke-screen being applied to US-led covert policies that have already been exposed. Indeed, this tactic of using client states to gain deniability of US aggression is nothing new, such policy has provided the United States with the ultimate get-out-clause through decades of subversion and aggression upon sovereign nations.

If – as is the current trajectory in Syria – the militants that the United States and its clients foment, fund and arm, become an uncontrollable monster and fail to achieve the desired short-term objectives, the US can simply disassociate and point the finger to one of its lesser allies, on this occasion, that finger seems to point directly at the former Emir of Qatar.

One wonders if in twenty years time US “diplomats” will portray the same vacant regret for their role in the creation of Jabhat al Nusra and fellow ideologues; as they do now for their role in the creation of Al Qaeda itself. As the United States continues its divisive and destructive policies to desperately cling to imperialist hegemony in the Middle East the mantra of “lessons have been learned” becomes more hollow than ever.

Senator McCain’s illegal trip to Syria, and the NGO’s that made it happen.

The recent furore surrounding US senator John McCain’s illegal trip inside Syria, and the supposed ‘rebels’ he was seen posing with alongside Supreme Military Council (SMC) Chief Salim Idriss, have shed further light on what appears to be another corrupt ‘NGO’ enterprise.

After the worldwide publication of the photographs, McCain was quick to try to dispel rumours that the Syrian ‘rebels’ were the very people responsible for the kidnapping of 11 Lebanese pilgrims inside Syria, who still remain in captivity to this day. Contrary to McCain’s – and his media apologists – desperate attempts to refute the claims; many reports suggested it was indeed the kidnappers he was seen posing with. Furthermore, in one report in Lebanon’s Al Akhbar, it is claimed McCain even went so far as to ask the kidnappers to hold some of the captive pilgrims, as they are suspected members of Hezbollah. According to a source who had previously been in contact with the kidnappers, McCain was allegedly there to “to obstruct the efforts… to secure the release of the hostages.” Lebanon’s the Daily Star also reported on the “crossing of paths” between McCain, Mohammad Nour and Ammar Al-Dadikhi (a.k.a. Abu Ibrahim), who are members of ‘rebel’ group the Northern Storm; alleged to be holding the 11 Lebanese pilgrims.

In a report by Josh Rogin of the Daily Beast, it is claimed the ‘rebels’ McCain was seen posing with were not those responsible for the kidnapping, stating: (my emphasis)

The man said to be Nour by the Lebanese press never identified himself to McCain or to anyone else and that man was not inside McCain’s meeting with the rebels, two American NGO workers who were there on the scene told The Daily Beast on Thursday.

The first of these American ‘NGO’ workers responsible for setting up the McCain meeting and illegal trip into Syria is one Mouaz Moustafa, who is named as the Executive Director of ‘non-profit’ organisation the ‘Syrian Emergency Task Force.’ (SETF). Moustafa has previously worked as a staffer at the US House of Congress and Senate. He was also an ‘activist’ during the US/NATO- led illegal war in Libya and overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi. Moustafa is listed as an ‘expert’ at the Wasington Institute for Near East Policy, (WINEP), the sub-branch of the huge Israeli lobby: the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee AIPAC; which regularly lobbies for US militarism and ‘intervention’ in the Middle East to uphold Israeli ‘interests’. Moustafa, in his ‘expert’ role, has also recently addressed a WINEP conference on the Syrian conflict. (since these suspicious links were highlighted by an investigative reporter they have been removed from WINEP’s website.) Anyone with a passing knowledge of Israeli/Syrian relations and the power and influence these lobbying groups hold in Washington and within corporate US media, knows these affiliations are dubious to say the least. In a report by investigative journalist Maidhc Ó Cathail on the Passionate Attachment blog, it is also revealed:

Even more intriguingly, one of the web addresses for Moustafa’s nonprofit is “syriantaskforce.torahacademybr.org.” The “torahacademybr.org” URL belongs to the Torah Academy of Boca Raton, Florida whose academic goals notably include “inspiring a love and commitment to Eretz Yisroel.”

The second ‘NGO’ worker quoted in the Daily Beast is one Elizabeth Obagy, named as Political Director of the same ‘NGO’ the SETF. The name Elizabeth Obagy immediately rang alarm bell’s. Obagy is also a “Syria analyst” at the Institute for the Study of War (ISW). The ISW in its mission statement describes itself as: (my emphasis)

The Institute for the Study of War advances an informed understanding of military affairs through reliable research, trusted analysis, and innovative education. We are committed to improving the nation’s [the US] ability to execute military operations and respond to emerging threats in order to achieve U.S. strategic objectives. ISW is a non-partisan, non-profit, public policy research organization.

Upon reading ISW’s Board of Directors and donors from their 2011 annual report, it becomes rather obvious as to what the ISW is designed for and whose ‘objectives’ it is designed to propagate. A quick glance of the ISW’s main donors for 2011 is telling; the list of military (defense) contractor’s donors include:

General Dynamics, (General Dynamics is a market leader in business aviation; land and expeditionary combat vehicles and systems, armaments, and munitions; shipbuilding and marine systems; and mission-critical information systems and technology.)

CACI, (CACI provides information solutions and services in support of national security missions and government transformation for Intelligence, Defense, and Federal Civilian clients. A member of the Fortune 1000 Largest Companies and the Russell 2000 Index, CACI provides dynamic careers for approximately 15,000 employees working in over 120 offices worldwide.)

DynCorp International, (DynCorp International is a global government services provider in support of U.S. national security and foreign policy objectives, delivering support solutions for defense, diplomacy, and international development.)

Palantir,(Our products are built for real analysis with a focus on security, scalability, ease of use and collaboration. They are broadly deployed in the intelligence, defense, law enforcement and financial communities.)

Northrop Grumman, (Northrop Grumman is a leading global security company providing innovative systems, products and solutions in unmanned systems, cybersecurity, C4ISR, and logistics and modernization to government and commercial customers worldwide.)

These companies represent just a few of the huge US corporate military contractors, ranging from hardware and logistics, to telecommunications and intelligence software that are primary donors of the ISW. The ISW describes its Corporate affiliations as a “Corporate Council”: (my emphasis)

Many of America’s top corporations are members of ISW’s Corporate Council. Corporate Council members believe that an advanced understanding of military issues results in significantly better national security policy. They recognize the relevance, accuracy, and impact of ISW’s research and analysis. Corporate Council members receive a number of benefits, including exclusive briefings with ISW’s leadership, advance publications, access to our network, tailored analysis, increased corporate visibility, and invitations to exclusive events and discussions with national security leaders.

So the ISW is providing “tailored analysis” for its Corporate clients, and also provides “exclusive briefings with ISW leadership”. Does this sound like a  ‘non-profit’ organisation? Does providing “tailored analysis” for military contractors include raising the ‘need’ for such equipment and contracts? And do military contractors make money in any other way than profiting from war? One would find it difficult to put these things together and not see a conflict of interest from this alleged ‘objective’ research NGO.

The board of Directors at the ISW is also somewhat telling as to its political and corporate affiliations, some of the distinguished board members include such humanitarian adherents as founder of ISW Kimberly Kagan (Supported US ‘surge in Iraq, husband is resident scholar at Neo-Con ‘think-tank’ the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), brother is the husband to State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland) Liz Cheney, (daughter of war-criminal Dick) and leading Neo-Con mouthpiece and US militarist William Krystol, who all sit alongside many fellow US-militarism proponents, retired US Army Generals, and policy planners.

It seems that at least one of the organisers for McCains trip: Elizabeth Obagy, named as a “Political Director” of the Syrian Emergency Task Force, is also a “Syria specialist” at what appears to be a Neo-Con led US ‘NGO’ that propagates US militarism on behalf of huge military contractors and ‘defense’ corporations. So why would Liz Obagy be organising illegal trips for US Senator John McCain into Syria in her role as “political director” at the SETF, whilst also claiming to offer ‘balanced’, ‘neutral’ and ‘objective analysis’ on the Syrian conflict? One doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to realise there is a massive conflict of interest here. When approached on Twitter, Moustafa of the SETF, which is based in Washington DC, claimed their funding comes from American Syrian doctors and expatriate donors. The mission statement of the SETF is as follows: (my emphasis)

To organize, mobilize and empower the Syrian American community, and our partners in order to play a positive role in public policy regarding Syria and the Middle East, supporting the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people, improving the lives of average Syrian people, strengthening the rule of law, and helping in transitioning Syria into a viable, inclusive, diverse, democratic state.

Without delving too far into Moustafa’s ties to the US Government through his previous work experience and former ‘activist’ work; it becomes clear that his current duties are at the behest of the US State Department. In a recent press release the SETF personally thanked the State Department: (my emphasis)

Washington, DC–The Syrian Emergency Task Force would like to thank all those involved in making Senator McCain’s trip to Gaziantep and to Syria a success, particularly the U.S. Department of State….It was a pleasure working with the Department of State in ensuring that the Senator’s visit went safely and flawlessly,” said SETF Executive Director Mouaz Moustafa.

Employing “political Directors”, that are affiliated with Neo-Con, and military contractor funded ‘NGO’ the Institute for the Study of War, seems somewhat contradictory to “improving the lives of average Syrian people”, and “supporting democratic aspirations” in the Middle East. Has it occurred to Moustafa and Obagy, that the vast majority of Syrian people want nothing to do with war criminals and pushers of all things US/Israeli militarism under the guise of “freedom and democracy”? One thinks this is out of the equation, and Moustafa’s ‘Syrian Emergency Task Force’ outfit is nothing more than a State Department/Neo-Con/Israel lobby initiated, propaganda outfit.