Posts Tagged ‘Bashar al-Assad’

Obama Warned on Syrian Intel

Exclusive: Despite the Obama administration’s supposedly “high confidence” regarding Syrian government guilt over the Aug. 21 chemical attack near Damascus, a dozen former U.S. military and intelligence officials are telling President Obama that they are picking up information that undercuts the Official Story.
     
MEMORANDUM FOR: The President
     
FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)
     
SUBJECT: Is Syria a Trap?
   
Precedence: IMMEDIATE
     
We regret to inform you that some of our former co-workers are telling us, categorically, that contrary to the claims of your administration, the most reliable intelligence shows that Bashar al-Assad was NOT responsible for the chemical incident that killed and injured Syrian civilians on August 21, and that British intelligence officials also know this. In writing this brief report, we choose to assume that you have not been fully informed because your advisers decided to afford you the opportunity for what is commonly known as “plausible denial.”
     
We have been down this road before – with President George W. Bush, to whom we addressed our first VIPS memorandumimmediately after Colin Powell’s Feb. 5, 2003 U.N. speech, in which he peddled fraudulent “intelligence” to support attacking Iraq. Then, also, we chose to give President Bush the benefit of the doubt, thinking he was being misled – or, at the least, very poorly advised. The fraudulent nature of Powell’s speech was a no-brainer. And so, that very afternoon we strongly urged your predecessor to “widen the discussion beyond …  the circle of those advisers clearly bent on a war for which we see no compelling reason and from which we believe the unintended consequences are likely to be catastrophic.” We offer you the same advice today.
     
Our sources confirm that a chemical incident of some sort did cause fatalities and injuries on August 21 in a suburb of Damascus. They insist, however, that the incident was not the result of an attack by the Syrian Army using military-grade chemical weapons from its arsenal. That is the most salient fact, according to CIA officers working on the Syria issue. They tell us that CIA Director John Brennan is perpetrating a pre-Iraq-War-type fraud on members of Congress, the media, the public – and perhaps even you.
     
We have observed John Brennan closely over recent years and, sadly, we find what our former colleagues are now telling us easy to believe. Sadder still, this goes in spades for those of us who have worked with him personally; we give him zero credence. And that goes, as well, for his titular boss, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who has admitted he gave “clearly erroneous” sworn testimony to Congress denying NSA eavesdropping on Americans.
      
Intelligence Summary or Political Ploy?
     
That Secretary of State John Kerry would invoke Clapper’s name this week in Congressional testimony, in an apparent attempt to enhance the credibility of the four-page “Government Assessment” strikes us as odd. The more so, since it was, for some unexplained reason, not Clapper but the White House that released the “assessment.”
     
This is not a fine point. We know how these things are done. Although the “Government Assessment” is being sold to the media as an “intelligence summary,” it is a political, not an intelligence document. The drafters, massagers, and fixers avoided presenting essential detail. Moreover, they conceded upfront that, though they pinned “high confidence” on the assessment, it still fell “short of confirmation.”
Déjà Fraud: This brings a flashback to the famous Downing Street Minutes of July 23, 2002, on Iraq, The minutes record the Richard Dearlove, then head of British intelligence, reporting to Prime Minister Tony Blair and other senior officials that President Bush had decided to remove Saddam Hussein through military action that would be “justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD.” Dearlove had gotten the word from then-CIA Director George Tenet whom he visited at CIA headquarters on July 20.
     
The discussion that followed centered on the ephemeral nature of the evidence, prompting Dearlove to explain: “But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.” We are concerned that this is precisely what has happened with the “intelligence” on Syria.
     
The Intelligence
     
There is a growing body of evidence from numerous sources in the Middle East — mostly affiliated with the Syrian opposition and its supporters — providing a strong circumstantial case that the August 21 chemical incident was a pre-planned provocation by the Syrian opposition and its Saudi and Turkish supporters. The aim is reported to have been to create the kind of incident that would bring the United States into the war.
     
According to some reports, canisters containing chemical agent were brought into a suburb of Damascus, where they were then opened. Some people in the immediate vicinity died; others were injured.
We are unaware of any reliable evidence that a Syrian military rocket capable of carrying a chemical agent was fired into the area. In fact, we are aware of no reliable physical evidence to support the claim that this was a result of a strike by a Syrian military unit with expertise in chemical weapons.
     
In addition, we have learned that on August 13-14, 2013, Western-sponsored opposition forces in Turkey started advance preparations for a major, irregular military surge. Initial meetings between senior opposition military commanders and Qatari, Turkish and U.S. intelligence officials took place at the converted Turkish military garrison in Antakya, Hatay Province, now used as the command center and headquarters of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and their foreign sponsors.
Senior opposition commanders who came from Istanbul pre-briefed the regional commanders on an imminent escalation in the fighting due to “a war-changing development,” which, in turn, would lead to a U.S.-led bombing of Syria.
     
At operations coordinating meetings at Antakya, attended by senior Turkish, Qatari and U.S. intelligence officials as well as senior commanders of the Syrian opposition, the Syrians were told that the bombing would start in a few days. Opposition leaders were ordered to prepare their forces quickly to exploit the U.S. bombing, march into Damascus, and remove the Bashar al-Assad government.
     
The Qatari and Turkish intelligence officials assured the Syrian regional commanders that they would be provided with plenty of weapons for the coming offensive. And they were. A weapons distribution operation unprecedented in scope began in all opposition camps on August 21-23. The weapons were distributed from storehouses controlled by Qatari and Turkish intelligence under the tight supervision of U.S. intelligence officers.
     
Cui bono?
      
That the various groups trying to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have ample incentive to get the U.S. more deeply involved in support of that effort is clear. Until now, it has not been quite as clear that the Netanyahu government in Israel has equally powerful incentive to get Washington more deeply engaged in yet another war in the area. But with outspoken urging coming from Israel and those Americans who lobby for Israeli interests, this priority Israeli objective is becoming crystal clear.
     
Reporter Judi Rudoren, writing from Jerusalem in an important article in Friday’s New York Times addresses Israeli motivation in an uncommonly candid way. Her article, titled “Israel Backs Limited Strike Against Syria,” notes that the Israelis have argued, quietly, that the best outcome for Syria’s two-and-a-half-year-old civil war, at least for the moment, is no outcome. Rudoren continues:
“For Jerusalem, the status quo, horrific as it may be from a humanitarian perspective, seems preferable to either a victory by Mr. Assad’s government and his Iranian backers or a strengthening of rebel groups, increasingly dominated by Sunni jihadis.
      
“‘This is a playoff situation in which you need both teams to lose, but at least you don’t want one to win — we’ll settle for a tie,’ said Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli consul general in New York. ‘Let them both bleed, hemorrhage to death: that’s the strategic thinking here. As long as this lingers, there’s no real threat from Syria.’”
      
We think this is the way Israel’s current leaders look at the situation in Syria, and that deeper U.S. involvement – albeit, initially, by “limited” military strikes – is likely to ensure that there is no early resolution of the conflict in Syria. The longer Sunni and Shia are at each other’s throats in Syria and in the wider region, the safer Israel calculates that it is.
      
That Syria’s main ally is Iran, with whom it has a mutual defense treaty, also plays a role in Israeli calculations. Iran’s leaders are not likely to be able to have much military impact in Syria, and Israel can highlight that as an embarrassment for Tehran.
      
Iran’s Role
       
Iran can readily be blamed by association and charged with all manner of provocation, real and imagined. Some have seen Israel’s hand in the provenance of the most damaging charges against Assad regarding chemical weapons and our experience suggests to us that such is supremely possible.
      
Possible also is a false-flag attack by an interested party resulting in the sinking or damaging, say, of one of the five U.S. destroyers now on patrol just west of Syria. Our mainstream media could be counted on to milk that for all it’s worth, and you would find yourself under still more pressure to widen U.S. military involvement in Syria – and perhaps beyond, against Iran.
       
Iran has joined those who blame the Syrian rebels for the August 21 chemical incident, and has been quick to warn the U.S. not to get more deeply involved. According to the Iranian English-channel Press TV, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javid Zarif has claimed: “The Syria crisis is a trap set by Zionist pressure groups for [the United States].”
     
Actually, he may be not far off the mark. But we think your advisers may be chary of entertaining this notion. Thus, we see as our continuing responsibility to try to get word to you so as to ensure that you and other decision makers are given the full picture.
      
Inevitable Retaliation
      
We hope your advisers have warned you that retaliation for attacks on Syrian are not a matter of IF, but rather WHERE and WHEN. Retaliation is inevitable. For example, terrorist strikes on U.S. embassies and other installations are likely to make what happened to the U.S. “Mission” in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, look like a minor dust-up by comparison. One of us addressed this key consideration directly a week ago in an article titled “Possible Consequences of a U.S. Military Attack on Syria – Remembering the U.S. Marine Barracks Destruction in Beirut, 1983.”
      
For the Steering Group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
      
Thomas Drake, Senior Executive, NSA (former)
Philip Giraldi, CIA, Operations Officer (ret.)
Matthew Hoh, former Capt., USMC, Iraq & Foreign Service Officer, Afghanistan
Larry Johnson, CIA & State Department (ret.)
W. Patrick Lang, Senior Executive and Defense Intelligence Officer, DIA (ret.)
David MacMichael, National Intelligence Council (ret.)
Ray McGovern, former US Army infantry/intelligence officer & CIA analyst (ret.)
Elizabeth Murray, Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Middle East (ret.)
Todd Pierce, US Army Judge Advocate General (ret.)
Sam Provance, former Sgt., US Army, Iraq
Coleen Rowley, Division Council & Special Agent, FBI (ret.)
Ann Wright, Col., US Army (ret); Foreign Service Officer (ret.)

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To download the mp3, right-click Punkonomics2013-9-2 and select “Save link as…”

We based our discussion on Sandy’s most recent article:

From Ohlendorf to Obama (September 2013 By Nicolas J.S. Davies)

It’s available for members only and I highly recommend joining Z-Magazine here: http://www.zcommunications.org/zmag

 

In the meantime, I recommend reading another of Sandy’s articles on Syria from almost a year ago to in order to understand how we got to where we are now…

Armed Rebels and Middle-Eastern Power Plays: How the U.S. Is Helping to Kill Peace in Syria

November 06, 2012
By Nicolas J.S. Davies (Nicolas J.S. Davies’s ZSpace Page)

A member of the Free Syrian Army with his face covered with the pre-Baath Syrian flag patrols with comrades in Idlib in northwestern Syria. Syrian security forces on Sunday flooded a tense neighbourhood where a mourner was shot dead in the largest anti-regime rally seen in Damascus, activists said, blunting calls for a “day of defiance.”

As President Obama confirmed in an interview with the Atlantic on March 2, 2012, one of the strategic goals of U.S. policy in Syria has been to weaken and isolate Iran by removing or helping to remove its strongest Arab ally. Asked what the U.S. could do to accelerate the removal of President Assad, Obama replied, laughing, “Well, nothing that I can tell you, because your classified clearance isn’t good enough.”

In practice, as President Obama implied, the U.S. government has played a “disguised, quiet, media-free” but nonetheless significant role in the escalation of violence in Syria. As early as last December, even as a Qatari-funded YouGov opinion poll found that 55% of Syrians still supported President Assad, former CIA officer Philip Giraldi reported that unmarked NATO planes were delivering weapons and militiamen from Libya to Turkish air-bases near the Free Syrian Army (FSA) headquarters in Iskanderum. British and French special forces were training FSA recruits, while CIA officers and U.S. special forces provided the FSA with communications equipment and intelligence. Turkey was already committed to attacking or invading Syria whenever the West gave the green light.

Obama didn’t bother to mention the new hope for a peaceful settlement of the crisis with the appointment of Kofi Annan as a U.N. Special Representative to Syria just a few days before this interview. In fact, just as Kofi Annan launched his last-ditch peace plan, the U.S. and its allies took critical steps to ensure that the forces they were supporting in Syria would keep fighting, instead of agreeing to the ceasefire that was the essential first step in Annan’s plan.

President Sarkozy of France initiated a series of international meetings under the Orwellian rubric “Friends of Syria,” at which the U.S., its NATO allies and the absolute monarchs of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) publicly offered unconditional support to their Syrian proxies instead of pressing them to cooperate with the Annan plan. Saudi Arabia and Qatar pledged more weapons, backed by a U.S. commitment of $15 million in “non-lethal” aid, including satellite radio systems like the ones NATO’s proxy forces used in Libya in 2011. As the New York Times noted in June, “What has changed since March is an influx of weapons and ammunition to the rebels.” The same article described Turkish Army trucks delivering anti-tank weapons to the Syrian border, and CIA officers in southern Turkey controlling the flow of weapons into Syria.

The timing of the three “Friends of Syria” meetings could not have been worse for any hope that Western-backed forces would comply with the Annan plan. The first meeting was held in Tunisia the day after Annan’s appointment and the second was in Istanbul on April 1, nine days before the initial cease-fire was due to take effect. At that meeting, the Syrian National Council (SNC) declared it would use its newfound financial support to start paying salaries to FSA fighters, a timely move that discouraged rebels inside Syria from laying down their arms.

It’s no coincidence that the main “outside” players in Syria’s civil war are the same countries that led and supplied the “NATO rebels” in Libya in 2011, in a war that cost at least 25,000 lives and plunged Libya into a state of chaos with no clear end in sight a year later. U.S. officials pay lip-service to the obvious differences between Libya and Syria, but their actions and those of their allies reveal that the same forces are trying to adapt what they see as a successful regime-change strategy in Libya to achieve a similar goal in Syria, knowing full well that it will be even more bloody and destabilizing.

In Libya and Syria, Western powers and Arab monarchies turned the Arab Spring on its head. They diverted the world’s attention from their efforts to contain or repress nonviolent revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, and not least, U.S.-occupied Iraq, harnessing the hopes raised by the Arab Spring to their own interests. In Libya and Syria, as in Iraq, they have exploited sectarian and ethnic differences to divide and conquer with little regard for human life or for the integrity of these complex societies, sowing the seeds of long-term instability and future “blowback.”

The Western media have stoked fears of impending bloodbaths and cast the schemes of Persian Gulf emirs and Western policy-makers as reluctant “humanitarian interventions.” The resulting violence has been far greater than the violence it claims to be preventing, but this predictable cause and effect has been easily buried in the frenzied media coverage of escalating wars. Rwanda, where the West failed to intervene, is pulled out as a trump card to justify each new intervention, establishing a pattern in which the West has ensured maximum violence everywhere — on the one hand by failing to stop genocidal violence in Rwanda and the DRC and on the other hand by aggression and escalation everywhere else, from Kosovo to Syria.

The post-Cold War doctrine of “humanitarian intervention” or “R2P” (responsibility to protect) is an effort to carve out an exception to the U.N. Charter’s universal prohibition on the use of military force. R2P’s emotional appeal to the court of public opinion challenges the wisdom forged in the hell of two world wars that war is too terrible to be justified by such arguments. In practice, R2P has provided cover for a new U.S. doctrine of “information warfare” which Major Ralph Peters explored more honestly for military readers in a U.S. Army War College journal article in 1997:

One of the defining bifurcations of the future will be the conflict between information masters and information victims… [Information] seduces, betrays, yet remains invulnerable. How can you counterattack the information others have turned upon you?… Societies that fear or otherwise cannot manage the flow of information simply will not be competitive. They might master the technological wherewithal to watch the videos, but we will be writing the scripts, producing them, and collecting the royalties. Our creativity is devastating… The de facto role of the US armed forces will be to keep the world safe for our economy and open to our cultural assault. To those ends, we will do a fair amount of killing. We are building an information-based military to do that killing… We are already masters of information warfare.

And so, in Libya, the “information masters” ensured that the world saw only the rag-tag NATO rebels, never the British, French and Qatari special forces that armed, trained and ferried them along the coast on board NATO warships and led them to victory, even when Qatari special forces led the final assault on Libya’s Bab Al-Azizia military headquarters in Tripoli. U.S. forces were even more invisible, as they “led from behind” and conducted their share of 9,700 total air strikes in six months, the heaviest bombardment anywhere since Iraq in 2003.

Once the dust has settled on tens of thousands of graves, some latter-day Lawrences of Arabia will cut book and film deals to tell us the “inside” story of how they brought down and butchered Gaddafi. But the dramatic images they produce will still be subject to the careful manipulation of the information masters, who will by then have the benefit of hindsight as they decide how the heroic liberators of Libya should be remembered. As Winston Churchill cheerfully told his cabinet when British voters sent them packing in 1946: “Never fear, gentlemen. History will be kind to me, for I shall write it.

But one of the basic questions that historians will have to answer about the Arab Spring is this: why did revolutions against Western puppets in the Arab world remain mainly nonviolent, while those against independent governments turned into bloody civil wars? The initial response of the Libyan and Syrian governments to nonviolent protests was no more brutal than in Egypt, Iraq, Bahrain or Yemen. Every government killed peaceful protesters, disappeared and tortured dissidents and tried desperately to hold onto power, and the early death tolls were comparable.

The critical difference was the role of the U.S. and its allies: the “information masters.” In response to rebellions in Libya and Syria, Western politicians and media used pro-Western exile communities as critical tools in their regime-change strategies, shaping narratives that ensured Western public support for violent anti-government forces. They promoted exile groups as governments-in-waiting in a way that would have been unthinkable in Yemen, Bahrain or Iraq, where U.S. special forces instead continued to train and support regime forces as they committed atrocities that Western media consumers were only dimly aware of.

Western public perceptions of the new battlefield in Syria were shaped by a sophisticated “information warfare” operation that used Western media coverage to demonize the Syrian government, legitimize unsubstantiated reports of large numbers of civilian casualties, broadcast sometimes fabricated reports by “Syrian activists” directly into Western living-rooms, and present the Western public with the classic false choice between “doing something” and “doing nothing.”

From the outset, the U.S. and its allies selectively supported the Turkish-based Free Syrian Army and Syrian National Council (SNC) instead of the National Coordinating Body for Democratic Change (NCB)that was formed by the political opposition that took to the streets in Syria in March 2011. The Western “information warfare” narrative that peaceful protesters were forced to take up arms by the severe repression of the Syrian government ignores the clear distinction between the NCB and the FSA, and it fails to explain why this only appears to have happened in Libya and Syria.

The NCB was formed in June 2011 by 15 opposition groups and several independent figures who were leading anti-government protests. The three fundamental principles they have consistently agreed on are nonviolence, non-sectarianism and opposition to foreign intervention in Syria. Their detailed plan for a political transition in Syria has many common points with Kofi Annan’s peace plan, suggesting broad Syrian and international agreement on a way forward that belies Western claims that no political solution exists and that violent regime change is the only viable option. These common points include the release of political prisoners; withdrawal of the army from urban areas; allowing foreign journalists free access throughout the country; and a political transition leading to free and fair elections.

A review of the 15 parties that make up the NCB helps to explain why capitalist Western governments and their monarchist Arab allies do not support it. It is chaired by Hassan Abdul Azim, the leader of the Democratic Arab Socialist Union, and it includes the Arab Revolutionary Workers’ Party; the Communist Labor Party; the Democratic People’s Party; Together for a Free Democratic Syria; the Arab Socialist Movement; and the Syrian Union Party; along with four Kurdish parties and several regional parties.

The NCB has serious differences with the Turkish-based Syrian National Council (SNC), which the “Friends of Syria” meeting on April 1, 2012 recognized as “the umbrella group under which opposition groups are gathering.” Despite these differences, the NCB has tried to engage with the Western-backed opposition-in-exile. It has taken part in meetings with the SNC and other groups to try and develop a unified political opposition in Syria, and NCB delegations have travelled to Moscow, Beijing, Tehran, and Arab capitals, and met with Western ambassadors in Syria.

In an interview with the French newspaper L’Humanite on July 29, the NCB’s Haytham Manna was asked whether the peaceful and democratic popular movement that began the revolt in 2011 had now been dispossessed by the mainly Islamist armed groups. Here’s his reply (my translation):

The armed groups and the military solution adopted by the regime have eradicated civil resistance. So, whatever the strength and the number of peaceful demonstrations today, they are less than a tenth of what we saw a year ago. There’s a retreat from peaceful action. And today, if there’s a small demonstration in a village, nobody pays attention, as if it doesn’t make any difference. Military action has taken the upper hand over a political discourse that could regroup and create a peaceful solution in the short term in Syria.

Asked whether the NCB’s divisions with the SNC and the FSA are weakening the opposition, Manna replied,

The idea that something had to be built from the outside weakened what was happening inside the country. They thought that a structure outside the Syrian people could represent it internationally. But it’s a structure that’s really not representative of Syrian society or political forces in the country and, what’s more, it depends on the will of three states: France, Turkey and Qatar. The SNC, despite the financial, diplomatic and media support it has obtained, has not achieved its goal. Now there’s a search for another formula to unify the opposition. Meanwhile, the armed groups have gained ground and become radicalized. Because the money came from Salafist groups all along. This “Salafization” of some of the military groups has plunged us into civil war. On one side, there is fear of extremism in a moderate society where 26 religious and ethnic groups coexist. Foreign intervention, whether it’s official or not, has favored an Islamist ideological trend to the detriment of democratic and secular forces. It’s also favored acts of vengeance and political assassination on a sectarian basis. These acts are manipulated and influenced by non-Syrian jihadist movements that are starting to find a place in the country and who coordinate with the Islamist armed groups. The power vacuum is a danger, because civil resistance is poorly organized or often absent because of the presence of the armed groups. The political solution for a transition period doesn’t exist. There’s no timetable agreed on among different opposition forces. This lack of coordination gives the advantage to the most extreme Islamist groups. Secular leaders were murdered by the regime in the first months, which opened the door to the Islamists. When you marginalize the political solution, you marginalize democratic forces.

Finally, L’Humanite asked Manna about the Annan plan. He said:

Annan’s proposals were a chance for a peaceful transition. Sadly, right from the start, Qatar buried the plan and opted to militarize the opposition. Western powers were also thinking of a “Plan B.” So, without regional and international support, a plan like this can’t succeed. They’re leaving arms to settle the issue, whether it’s the loyalist army or the dissident or Islamist armed groups. We will pay very dearly for this absence of a political solution. There are local conflicts breaking out. This is compost for a civil war that can lead to rule by militias, but certainly not to the creation of an army that can protect the population in a time of transition.

Clearly, Kofi Annan’s peace plan presented a problem for what Haytham Manna referred to as the West’s “Plan B.” Installing a pro-Western government in Syria as in Libya requires Western-backed forces to gain military control of Syria to dictate that outcome. As in Libya, there are Western-based exiles who could fit the bill, and the SNC could function as “the umbrella group under which opposition groups are gathering,” as the Friends of Syria declared. But the kind of peaceful political transition that Kofi Annan’s plan called for would not achieve that result — there is still too much support for the Baathist government, and the legitimate political opposition inside the country, as represented by the NCB, would not stand for a Western-Islamist takeover of Syria.

So, the West’s Plan B seems to require that Syria must first be torn apart by a bloody civil war that will kill hundreds of thousands of people, until Syrians become so desperate that the loss of their sovereignty will seem a small price to pay for a restoration of peace. On the other side, the Syrian government is equally determined to use as much force as necessary to prevent this from succeeding. Lakhdar Brahimi’s effort to revise and revive Annan’s peace plan is a final chance for the U.S. and its allies to rein in their proxies and step back from the brink. The Syrian government agreed to his call for a cease-fire during the three-day Eid al-Adha holiday, but once again, the Western-backed rebels rejected it. The stage is set for far greater bloodshed and chaos, and the U.S. government’s actions have been critical, maybe even decisive, in plunging the people of Syria into this crisis and preventing a peaceful resolution.

Nicolas J. S. Davies is author of Blood On Our Hands: The American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq. He wrote the chapter on “Obama At War” for the just released book, Grading the 44th President: A Report Card on Barack Obama’s First Term as a Progressive Leader.


From: Z Net – The Spirit Of Resistance Lives
URL: http://www.zcommunications.org/armed-rebels-and-middle-eastern-power-plays-how-the-u-s-is-helping-to-kill-peace-in-syria-by-nicolas-j-s-davies