November 12, 2013
Syria: U.S. Starts Seeing The Real Alternatives
This weekend there was another puppet show in Istanbul. Some Syrians, hand selected by foreign politicians, came together to play an opposition
to the Syrian government. Even while they have no support in the Syrian civil society nor any influence over the insurgents in Syria they are supposed to set up some government in exile to later replace the Syrian government.
The primary reason the Syrian National Council members were selected for their hostility towards the Syrian president Assad and the Syrian government. It was hoped that they would soon be able to replace them. But the foreign countries who selected these guys now have a problem. Assad and his government are going nowhere and the conflict brought up forces that are no longer under the foreign governments' control and that will constitute a danger to their former and current foreign sponsors.
The new situation necessitates a change of course but the SNC puppets, ironically selected for their stubbornness and hostility, now prove unwilling to compromise. It is therefore likely that they will lose all relevance and will soon be of no interest.
But what made the weekends meeting interesting is the expressed change of course in their sponsor's stand. The views of the U.S. ambassador who tried to influence the meeting seem to have moved quite a bit away from his earlier assertions that Assad will soon go:
Stoking tensions all around, Robert S. Ford, the United States ambassador to Syria, told the activists on the sidelines that the emerging reality presented them with unpalatable options: accept that the current government could continue in power longer than they would like, or face the continued rise of extremist jihadist groups that have terrified residents, clashed with rival insurgents and undermined Western support.
With Mr. Assad’s government holding on to power, the United States has begun saying Mr. Assad has “lost his legitimacy” rather than repeating earlier demands that he step down.
This is the first time we see the United States naming the obvious alternatives in Syria in such a clear language. It is either Assad or Jihadist anarchy. That does not yet mean that the U.S. would like to keep Assad in power but it is a significant step in that direction. The Syrian government and its supporters should think about ways that would let the U.S. "keep face" while making its way to the point where it can openly acknowledges that its campaign for regime change in Syria was a serious mistake.
Posted by b on November 12, 2013 at 10:53 AM | Permalink
Another good quote in the NYT piece referenced in b's post is from coalition hardliner Kamal Labwani. He pouts:
"Eventually, they will go to Geneva,” Mr. Labwani said of the coalition members. Once there, he said, international leaders “will make fun of them” and use a failed Geneva conference as an excuse “to put Syria under American and Russian control."
Posted by: Mike Maloney | Nov 12, 2013 12:01:39 PM | 1
One wonders how long it will be before their hotel bills stop getting paid.
Posted by: dh | Nov 12, 2013 12:18:45 PM | 2
Lost his legitimacy? In what sense?
John Kerry, Oct. 14th
"We believe that President Assad has lost the legitimacy necessary to be a cohesive force that could bring people together"
Ah, lost his legitimacy as a cohesive force..
So Assad has gone from being 'like Hitler' to not being to everyone's taste. He's political Marmite. You either love him or you hate him.
Concerning the SNC, my favourite quote of the week comes from Mr Lavrov, who commented on the rejection of talks in Moscow by the opposition:
“This intransigence and these demands are being asserted by the National Coalition, which claims to be the only representative of the Syrian people, but which doesn’t represent even a majority of the groups opposing Assad’s regime”
Consider yourself told.
3 days later, the SNC agrees to Geneva.
Posted by: Pat Bateman | Nov 12, 2013 12:42:53 PM | 3
You can always count on the SNC to damage itself more than Assad ever could.
During this meeting to create a government in exile, Ahmad Jarba (head of the SNC) got into a slapping fight with Free Syrian Army spokesman Lu'ay Muqdad. Muqdad then called Jarba a "shabbiah" and said the voting process was similar to the Baath Party. When one Western representitive noticed that no women were elected into this government in exile, the SNC picked a random woman sitting in the audience and named her "Minister for Families".
But anyway what does it matter what the SNC does? The Jihadists never recognised the SNC, now even the FSA is refusing to listen to them. The only thing the SNC controls is the buffet table in their Istanbul hotel.
Posted by: Colm O' Toole | Nov 12, 2013 12:51:50 PM | 4
There is one reason why the US policy is slowly changing as B and other commentators have pointed out: The Syrian Army is winning and it is winning big - much to the surprise and the dislikes of the US and its allies.
The battle of Aleppo is coming and the rebels in Aleppo issued yesterday an all out plea for help in face of the pending onslaught of the advancing Syrian Army.
Posted by: MikeA | Nov 12, 2013 3:06:45 PM | 5
hang on...there IS NO US embassy in Syria these days...and if Ford still thinks he is ambassador, the syrian govt should have his office terminated
Posted by: brian | Nov 12, 2013 3:43:57 PM | 6
'With Mr. Assad’s government holding on to power, the United States has begun saying Mr. Assad has “lost his legitimacy” rather than repeating earlier demands that he step down.
so can syrias govt say:
'With Mr. Obamas’s government holding on to power, Syria has begun saying Mr. Obama has “lost his legitimacy” rather than repeating earlier demands that he step down.'
after all ,...anyone can do it!
Posted by: brian | Nov 12, 2013 3:45:30 PM | 7
'"We believe that President Assad has lost the legitimacy necessary to be a cohesive force that could bring people together"'
funny cause the syria people have come together on this issue...and in support of Assad...Obama meanwhile is losing what support HE had; so the question is what is Obamas legitimacy like these days?
that US regime can say what it does with no media or legal contradiction shows us the international system has failed and disappeared
Posted by: brian | Nov 12, 2013 3:47:51 PM | 8
I would sincerely recommend that US and rest of western powers release all intelligence demonstrating that the supposed chemical attacks by the syrian army were actually perpetrated by Saudi armed groups with saudi armed support. They have to have evidence of this...and at the least, they can pressure the saudis a bit to step in line after their bedu swashbuckling
Posted by: y | Nov 12, 2013 10:11:56 PM | 11
The Syrian Army is winning and it is winning big - much to the surprise and the dislikes of the US and its allies.
The battle in Syria is about infantry and tactics, it is pretty clear once Iran and it's sister arm Hezbollah entered the battle, the NATO/ZioNazis infantry were no match. NATO infantry is nothing without air superiority. I am surprised why so many who comment here should be a "surprise", or that America will enter the fray. The Americans know that is is suicidal for them and their allies.
Posted by: hans | Nov 13, 2013 4:32:37 AM | 12
off topic but:
whatever are they teaching kids these days? A Silly Joke On Jimmy Kimmel's Show Has Turned Into A Matter Of Geopolitical Importance
The joke occurred on October 16, when Kimmel held a “kids’ table” segment on the government shutdown. “America owes China a lot of money, $US1.3 trillion. How should we pay them back?” Kimmel asked.
One child suggested “killing everyone in China.”
Posted by: brian | Nov 13, 2013 4:59:30 AM | 13
Mint Press News
14 hours ago
Disturbing video: Rebels in Syria take over churches and turn them into torture chambers while spreading their extremist political ideologies in the name of Islam. Click on this link for video: http://bit.ly/19ZIOAn
Syrian Muslims and Christians can only defend themselves through graffiti against these foreign fighters that originate from Al-Qaeda Iraq vying for power.
Posted by: brian | Nov 13, 2013 5:13:46 AM | 14
Mint Press News
16 hours ago
Africa’s independence is at stake as the US and NATO meticulously penetrate the continent in order to secure economic interests http://ow.ly/qJLH2
This increasing involvement of the Western collective security alliance in Africa — which is outside its traditional sphere of intervention — raises questions. What are NATO’s short-term and long-term objectives in Africa? What legitimacy does it have to intervene in military operations on the continent, including civil wars?
Posted by: brian | Nov 13, 2013 5:41:42 AM | 15
Assad may be 'winning' the war but Barack the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Obama has destroyed Syria and he and his instruments are responsible for 100,000 Syrian deaths.
This just in ...
Syrian Refugees Sell Organs to Survive
The young man, who called himself Raïd, wasn't doing well. He climbed into the backseat of the car, in pain, careful not to touch any corners. He was exhausted and dizzy. A large bandage looped around his stomach, caked with blood. Despite that, the 19-year-old Syrian wanted to tell his story.
Seven months ago, he fled the embattled city of Aleppo, in Syria, to Lebanon with his parents and six siblings. The family quickly ran out of money in the capital, Beirut. Raïd heard from a relative that the solution could be to sell one of his kidneys, and then he spoke to a bull-necked man, now sitting in the passenger seat, smoking and drinking a beer.
His acquaintances call the man Abu Hussein. He said he's employed by a gang that works in the human organ trade - specializing in kidneys. The group's business is booming. About one million Syrians have fled into Lebanon because of the civil war in their home country and now many don't know how they can make a living. In their distress, they sell their organs. It's a dangerous and, of course, illegal business. That's why the gang has its operations performed in shady underground clinics.
Posted by: john francis lee | Nov 13, 2013 6:32:20 AM | 16
@ 13 Why do you think it was a silly joke, similar views are to be found in William Kristol's Weekly Standard or Commentary Magazine.
Posted by: harrylaw | Nov 13, 2013 7:28:57 AM | 17
@17 Why do you think it was a silly joke
Because it was a child who said it?
Posted by: Gareth | Nov 13, 2013 11:27:29 AM | 18
The Syrian government and its supporters should think about ways that would let the US "keep face"
They have done so - that's what Geneva II is all about. The face saving will certainly not be gratuitous. The US and its allies, as they are looking for a face saver, will have to come up with substantial financial support for the reconstruction Syria.
Posted by: alpino | Nov 13, 2013 12:44:46 PM | 19
"The Syrian government and its supporters should think about ways that would let the U.S. "keep face" while making its way to the point where it can openly acknowledges that its campaign for regime change in Syria was a serious mistake. "
seems the Iranians are trying to do something like that.
An official source in Tehran told Al-Monitor:
“We can say there’s a genuine American will to end the conflict in Syria. At least, this is what our officials understood.” The source then looked at a paper to the side and read from it: “This is what we told everyone, including the Americans. Iran wants to see Syria without terrorists and the Syrian people deciding who they want to rule them. Very clear and concise.” Iranian officials, according to the source, explained to the Americans that there is no chance the rebels or anyone backing them can win on the battlefield. “From Damascus to Aleppo to Homs, the status quo is in favor of the regime, and wherever the regime is not in control, the ones who have the upper hand are al-Qaeda affiliates, so it’s not in anyone’s interest to see them winning. Geneva II is good for the opposition. It’s their chance to find themselves a real place in Syria, or it’s either the regime or the terrorists who will end them.”
Posted by: Some1 | Nov 13, 2013 12:56:28 PM | 20
' This weekend there was another puppet show in Istanbul. Some Syrians, hand selected by foreign politicians, came together to play an opposition to the Syrian government. Even while they have no support in the Syrian civil society nor any influence over the insurgents in Syria they are supposed to set up some government in exile to later replace the Syrian government. '
Riyadh earmarks $300m to so-called Syria ‘transitional govt.’
Syria has been gripped by deadly unrest since 2011. According to reports, the Western powers and their regional allies -- especially Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey -- are supporting the militants operating inside Syria.
Militants from countries including the United States, Canada, France, and Britain are fighting in the Arab country.
According to the United Nations, more than 100,000 people have been killed and millions displaced in the violence.
The UN has also warned against the humanitarian situation in Syria, saying that over nine million people are in need of urgent aid due to the crisis in the Middle Eastern country.
On October 7, the UN said over four million other Syrians will be forced out of their homes in 2014 due to the escalating conflict in the country.
Fifty million/month ought to be spent inside Syria on the Syrians these malefactors have all victimized, rather than on some front for further devastation and destruction.
Posted by: john francis lee | Nov 13, 2013 1:52:58 PM | 21
Posted by: john francis lee | Nov 13, 2013 6:32:20 AM | 16
US couldnt have accomplished this without the aid of international sunni islam with its millions of wannabe jihadis ready to attack anyone their imams aim them at
Posted by: brian | Nov 13, 2013 3:54:19 PM | 22
Actually the US WAS surprised by the resiliency of Assad and the Syrian military. Keep in mind that the efforts to destabilize Assad were not born in March of 2011. Training of rebels, arms smuggling, and the clandestine work of many NGO's operating within and around Syria have been going on for years prior to 2011.
All elements were being readied for the tipping point in Syria (Syria’s regime change is a US standing policy since 1978). That tipping point was supposed to be around the Hariri murder and the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon. It didn't happen. Then it was the 2006 Israeli relentless attacks on Lebanon and Hezbollah. Didn't happen then either.
Analysts, pundits, intelligence assets, and military experts were in fact confident that the demonstrations in Syria and mobilizations of rebels and insurgents in Syria were enough to yank Assad out of power relatively fast.
Why? Enter the expat Syrian-American "experts" who sold many policy-makers on how fragile Assad and his regime was. Does anyone remember Iraq's Chalabi? The prevailing argument was this: A minority ruling over a majority is unsustainable in the face of the Arab Spring wave. This is the tipping point of which everyone was dreaming. Assad was supposed to be a “dead man walking”. It was a nice, bite-sized piece of candy that no one thought twice about consuming it.
One needs to check the endless presentations by the Syrian-American experts (Muslim Brothers-turned-democracy-lovers) at the US Institute of Peace (USIP), Brookings, CFR, and many other policy-influencing think tanks. We were sold on the fragility, inexperience, and the overwhelming opposition to Assad’s rule in Syria.
Who remembers Robert Ford’s declarations that Assad’s days were numbered? Who remembers the sanctions that were supposed to turn the rich elite against Assad? Who remembers the news that Assad was actually living on a Russian ship off the coast of Syria and that it was a matter of days until the army turns against him?
So, yes, no pundit ever imagined that the Assad institution was that resilient and that much popular in Syria.
Assad’s survival (and his forthcoming win) is a case study of disruptive events that will shake the conventional wisdom of politicians, analysts, and Joshua Landis.
Posted by: MikeA | Nov 13, 2013 8:37:00 PM | 23
Agree with everything you said. But it's incomplete. You omitted Russia's role which was to persuade the Yankees that there would be a humiliating price (i.e. sacrificing their impunity) to pay if they intervened using direct military force.
There are now 2 ex-superpowers in the world and impunity is just a whimsical memory.
Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Nov 14, 2013 8:13:45 AM | 25
@23, yup, you got that right. Russia asserted itself and snapped out of its sabbatical leave.
And let's not forget that Obama's foreign policy in the Middle East is shaped by the US experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those of us who voted for him did so after being sold on two major issues: end the wars in the Middle East and pass the healthcare law.
I'm not saying he was a stellar success at either, but he is certainly better than Bush & Dick in not starting new wars.
Posted by: MikeA | Nov 14, 2013 3:01:59 PM | 26
"I'm not saying he was a stellar success at either, but he is certainly better than Bush & Dick in not starting new wars."
Do you mean not starting wars like...
Circa 8 or more in Africa?
If so, why don't they count?
Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Nov 14, 2013 10:56:46 PM | 28