Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
May 08, 2013

Syria: The U.S. Has No Leverage

Secretary of State Kerry's talk with Putin and Lavrov yesterday brought back the Geneva consensus from last June which then Secretary of State Clinton had thrown out of the window immediately after she had agreed to it.

According to the Geneva plan the United States and Russia will convene a conference with the aim to find  some consensual new Syrian government with each side promising to bring its supported party to the table.

For Russia that will be easy to do. The Syrian government has always agreed to such talks and is willing to send a delegation that will be able to discuss the various issues and to compromise.

But the United States now has a huge problem. It itself has little leverage over the various parts of the Syrian opposition. How can it then deliver on the promises it made?

There are two identified groups the U.S. is interacting with. The Syrian National Coalition (or whatever its latest name is) and the Free Syrian Army through General Idriss. To these groups the U.S. can give money or withhold money. It can give arms or withhold arms.

Giving arms would intensify the conflict and the created the bigger problems that come with escalated fighting. Those problems can not be kept contained in Syria and there are good reasons for the U.S. to avoid such an escalation. Withholding arms does obviously not give leverage over the fighters on the ground. It condemns them to lose.

Giving money or non-military goods to the FSA does not help either. General Idriss himself admits that despite a recent $123 million the U.S. funneled through him he still has no leverage over any forces on the ground:

The defected Syrian general whom the United States has tapped as its conduit for aid to the rebels has acknowledged in an interview with McClatchy that his movement is badly fragmented and lacks the military skill needed to topple the government of President Bashar Assad.

Gen. Salim Idriss, who leads what’s known as the Supreme Military Command, also admitted that he faces difficulty in creating a chain of command in Syria’s highly localized rebellion ..
[Idriss] acknowledged that he has little influence over what the rebels do in Syria and no direct authority over some of the largest factions, including the Farouq Brigade, whose forces control key parts of the countryside from Homs to the Turkish border.

The U.S. can give or withhold money to the SNC but what is the SNC's leverage on the ground and who, except the Muslim Brotherhood, does it really represent? And if the U.S. withholds money from them will Qatar and other source do the same?

The view of the Syrian opposition on renewed Geneva terms has so far been negative. Without any leverage to change that view the U.S. will not be able to deliver on what Kerry promised in Moscow.

When the U.S. instigated the "Syrian revolution" it had planned for a short conflict and a fast fall of the Syrian government. When that did not happen it escalated by delivering communications equipment, intelligence and weapons to the insurgency and trained some of the insurgency forces.

It can now escalate again by throwing itself deeper into the fight but the risk is enormous. Countries next to Syria would likely be seriously effected and in the end the U.S. would be the one to hold the Syrian tar baby at great cost and with a severe loss of international standing.

The Obama administration has probably found that the Geneva consensus may be its only way out. But as that way will likely be blocked by a Syrian opposition over which the U.S. has little leverage the only other alternative may be a total retreat.

That still has not registered with the Obama administration.

Posted by b on May 8, 2013 at 16:19 UTC | Permalink


on a radio show the other day there were a couple of pundits discussing Syria. the argument was intervene or not. the guy who was against intervention said that it was enough just to cause continued instability.

that seems to be the goal. makes me mad that my government can throw yet another 123 million to killers and gangsters and not fund education programs for children in the US. makes me sad that none of the talking heads even mention that.

Posted by: dan of steele | May 8 2013 16:52 utc | 1

why would the US hesitate to put a jack-boot puppet=head on top of the "rebels" who can't even fight Assad with the help of Israel?
the US does not care if they car bomb Syria every day (like Iraq).
I do not believe the US bases any decision on what the rebel factions do or say. the US sees them as disposable and easily manipulated, and the "terrorist" label simplifies the forcing of a brutal regime onto Syria.

the US is not breaking a sweat over any of this.

Posted by: anon | May 8 2013 16:55 utc | 2

"To these groups the U.S. can give money or withhold money. It can give arms or withhold arms."

If we give these groups money, it's distribution must be administered, which is profitable. If we give them arms, there's lots of profit, and if that creates wider instability, well, in go the boots on the ground.
And then, we can blame Obama for the mess! Seems pretty obvious what the choice will be.

Posted by: Mooser | May 8 2013 16:58 utc | 3

As far as I'm concerned, the US is the opposition. Puppets like 'Prime Minister' Hitto and Idriss will do as they are told. So too will Qatar and Saudi - through fear that a "revolution" will be orchestrated on their soil. The US can end this as soon as they want to. The militants on the ground will last 6 weeks without foreign support.

Politics rules. Once political dialogue is seen to be taking place between the two sides, the men on the ground can be left high and dry, if that's what the US wants.

But leaving Syria to bleed some more seems more likely.

Posted by: Pat Bateman | May 8 2013 17:22 utc | 4

Saudi and Qatar have a big problem too. If they stop now they are going to have a lot of unhappy jihadis on their hands.

Posted by: dh | May 8 2013 17:28 utc | 5

"That still has not registered with the Obama administration."

What has not registered with the US government is that it no longer has any real international credibility: it has become a by-word for mendacity, special pleading, double standards and hypocrisy. This July 4th let us hope that it is given the gift to see itself as others see it.
On the other hand, the world probably benefits from the fact that the 800lb gorilla in the room can't see where it is going.

Dan: the criminal waste of money on evil pursuits, (killing, robbing, lying) while children starve, old people eke out their last days in misery and pain and the sick dare not seek the help that is monopolised by blackmailers, makes my heart ache.
But it has been the great error of critics of capitalism, for the past half a century, to expect the media owned by mankind's enemies to sponsor "talking heads" able to recognise or speak the truth. They won't, they hate the truth and live in fear of truthtellers.
The early socialists understood this and built parallel structures of schools, book publishing and news media, together with youth groups, clubs, meeting places and libraries.

Posted by: bevin | May 8 2013 17:28 utc | 6

I suspect there are MANY Americans that would prefer efforts to enhance the well being of more than just the top class. I doubt there will be much, if ANY, discussion that the well-being of the very TOP is enhanced by an unstable world, requiring large expenditures for security. The very essence of the "STATE" is to protect income inequality. Samuel Bowles has calculated that in 2007"

Roughly 1 in 4 Americans is employed to keep fellow citizens in line and protect private wealth from would-be Robin Hoods.

Thus in understanding "U.S. interests" from a political decisionmaker's perspective, better predictions are achieved when one substitutes "Top 1%" for "U.S. interests." This is especially applicable when analyzing military policy. As Josh Marshall wrote in 2003: Practice to Deceive"

Chaos in the Middle East is not the Bush hawks' nightmare scenario--it's their plan.

There are even those that argue conflicts on the international level are to a large extent theater, managed for a "STATE" that is essentially one defined by a common multinational elite, much as many now recognize is the case with domestic politics.

But yes, the inability to manage the situation (ie to create just the right amount of chaos)is a problem, but perhaps not as large as it might seem, and certainly not as much of a problem as a peaceful world would create.

Posted by: erichwwk | May 8 2013 17:35 utc | 7

How many innocent people had to die in the interim of accepting, rejecting, then reaccepting the original - clearly most moral - option.

I'm not religious but there sure ought to be a hell for thesr people.

Posted by: guest77 | May 8 2013 17:39 utc | 8

@2 Yes this is exactly what I thought! They dont really care what happens, as long as they can have fun! But, Im sure its not just the US warmongers who tilt this way. The Russians have their interests too. And it just happens, their interests are at odds. Thank god Russia is trying to prevent those islamicks to turn my counrty upside down. But, in the end, its not about a just cause or whatever, its about interests. I wonder what Lavrov and Kerry are talking about when they meet. Certainly ist not going to be a "How can we stop this bloodshed and and compromise for the benefit of the Syrian people". I guess theyre just trading intelligence and trying to softly threaten each other about what they could do if, and what they wont do if... Whatever I hope the USEUQatSaudTurkoIsraeli alliance breaks its teeth!

Posted by: Kal | May 8 2013 17:41 utc | 9

At this stage of the game, does anyone believe the empire and its' sycophants care anything
about international credibility? Destabilise and control, that's what they care about. By any means necessary. As stated in a previous thread, nationalism is the only cure for the corporate onslaught.

Posted by: ben | May 8 2013 17:50 utc | 10

At the peace conference why can't the Saudis and Qataris serve as proxies for the opposition that the US doesnt control? I mean, they arm the jihadists and give the jihadists money.

Posted by: ess emm | May 8 2013 17:58 utc | 11

WSj: Pentagon Plans for the Worst in Syria

Leaders in the region privately complained the U.S. wasn't being decisive enough and urged the U.S. to set a policy path that would corral Arab states that have often worked at cross-purposes, U.S. officials said—asking the U.S. to play a "midwife" role, as one of these people put it.

In recent weeks, Arab leaders have traveled to Washington to put their cases directly to President Barack Obama. Jordan's King Abdullah privately told top White House policy makers last month that Syria could become a new al Qaeda safe haven, according to senior U.S. officials.

In the Mideast, Mr. Hagel listened as Egyptian Defense Minister Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi told him Syria's breakup would be a "huge disaster" for all sides—not only for King Abdullah but for U.S. interests in the region, according to U.S. officials.

Mr. Hagel came away from the trip, which also included stops in Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, "seeing storm clouds on the horizon," one of Mr. Hagel's advisers said. Last week, he became the first U.S. official to say publicly that the administration was weighing arming the rebels.
Officials said it could be easier to win support for expanded American military involvement for efforts aimed at humanitarian relief. The growing refugee problem could also provide legal justification for intervening in Syria if the U.S. determines that key allies such as Jordan are seriously threatened, U.S. officials believe.

But how to create a buffer is controversial. Syria has repeatedly said that establishing such zones in the north or south of the country would be considered an act of "foreign aggression." A safe zone inside Jordan, meanwhile, could also end up drawing more refugees to the beleaguered kingdom.

Americans for now envision any buffer zone being set up on Jordanian soil, where U.S. troops could be stationed. Some Jordanian officials want it to be on Syrian territory, U.S. officials say, which would limit involvement of American personnel. The U.S. has so far ruled out putting troops on the ground inside Syria but could send intelligence officers.

Posted by: b | May 8 2013 18:34 utc | 12

"As stated in a previous thread, nationalism is the only cure for the corporate onslaught."

I have long argued similarly. But nationalist politics are not unrelated to the sleaziness of the connections between comprador elites and the empire.

Among the arguments which will bring the masses to support, for example, withdrawal from NATO (Labour Party policy in Britain in 1960), the re-direction of military expenditure to peaceful and socially beneficial programmes such as full employment, enhanced medical care and comfortable pensions, is the fact that alliance with imperialism is morally wrong as well as a mark of national degeneration.

NATO member governments are in the tradition of Quisling, Petain and Franco who sacrificed the blood, treasure and dignity of their countrymen because they were corrupted by fear or other sordid considerations into assisting a power maddened by the desire to dominate the world.

This is the particular importance of the question of Palestine: nobody in his right mind can deny the indefensibility of the stealing of Palestine from its people. Anyone who has the slightest acquaintance with the facts of the zionist enterprise is bound to be disgusted by what the Israeli government does. And governments depend upon their ability to convince their constituent populations that they are, if not always right then at least sincere, honourable and well intentioned, rather than double-dealing, dishonest and treacherous.

The fact that the US and most NATO governments align themselves with Israel makes them extraordinarily vulnerable because clearly they have no credibility. Which suggests that they may equally be lying about those other policies, concerning domestic and economic matters, which directly affect the lives of people in a way that events in Gaza do not.

Posted by: bevin | May 8 2013 19:21 utc | 13

b et al: Imagine my shock at seeing a fairly decent article from the BBC?
I put it up at my place

Apparently the internet is back up in Syria too

Posted by: Penny | May 8 2013 19:55 utc | 14

So, Secretary of State Kerry appears to be willing to take a more reasonable approach to the Syrian situation than his predecessor was. It will be interesting to see if, when the negotiations begin, he will break the FUKUS pattern of publicly avowing their main goal to be making peace and stopping the bloodshed, and then ignoring those goals and single-mindedly pursuing Assad's ouster.

Unfortunately, I think Obama has made changing this pattern more difficult by his ill-conceived statements in his press conference in S. Korea. He explicitly put Assad in line with Gadaffi and Osama Bin Laden. Two dead guys. He's practically promising to liquidate Assad. This just further locks him into a personal showdown with Assad. Obama needs to learn to keep his mouth shut:

"But I would just point out that there have been several instances during the course of my presidency where I said I was going to do something and it ended up getting done. And there were times when there were folks on the sidelines wondering why hasn't it happened yet and what's going on and why didn't it go on tomorrow? But in the end, whether it's bin Laden or Gadhafi, if we say we're taking a position, I would think at this point the international community has a pretty good sense that we typically follow through on our commitments."

( )

Posted by: JBradley | May 8 2013 20:25 utc | 15

"Without any leverage to change that view the U.S. will not be able to deliver on what Kerry promised in Moscow"

I find it hard to believe that Kerry was unaware of that when he went to Moscow

Posted by: Penny | May 8 2013 21:07 utc | 16

One way to rid Syria of the NATO Islamist army is to stop paying them.
SA and Qatar can do that But, I don't think they will especially not Qatar who has much to lose if if Syria remains intact and Assad at the helm

Posted by: Penny | May 8 2013 21:10 utc | 17


That works for me and may be Russia could pay them for a while to go home and cause trouble

Posted by: jo6pac | May 8 2013 21:22 utc | 18

I think the problem zusa is now concerned about isn't really Syria or any new government or even Assad. It's some 10.000 terrorists that were supposed to somehow "elegantly vanish", being given positions and/or land or being payed off and getting sent somewhere else (like Iran) by winning in Syria.

Unlike a proper army one can not simply pull out those terrorists, give them some money and a ticket home.

Don't forget that zusa is extremely depending on the dollar being the major currency, which again is extremely depending on oil and the near/mid-east.

If, for instance, the saudi arabia, and by extension others like bahrein, fell this could - and probably would - be in between very grave and fatal for zusa.
As zusas influence on the terrorists, other than being a paying client, is close to none and as many of those terorist might actually seek revenge against the zusa, one of the main pillars of zusa power is in real danger. zusa just *must* somehow channel those terrorists away in a controlled way - or have them killed.

Accordingly "Assad must go" serves two purposes. First it's a target formulated early on and primitvely by zusa. zusa giving in in the matter itself they need at least a recognizable token to avoid losing face.
Secondly and more importantly though, this token can also be used as the "stop" token, the "you achieved your goal" for the terrorists.

There is an ugly problem though, and israel seems to have perfectly well understood - and actually played on it: If any third party puts gas and some matches into the theater, zusa plans are null and zilch because the terrorists, in particular those being religiously motivated in part, will not put down their weapons.

Short: If zusa wants to get out of that snakepit (they themselves created) they will have to bow to israel and pay their price. Now guess what israscum will demand ...

Posted by: Mr. Pragma | May 8 2013 21:49 utc | 19

follow the money .....all roads lead to saudi arabia and that is where the solution lies - centuries old arab expansion has finally come up to the borders of europe -armed with oil revenues and willing recruits this is a long war that israel has to prepare for now.
saudi arabia needs "change management" -the sooner the better-and syria is a good starting point.

Posted by: wes | May 8 2013 22:41 utc | 20

That UPI article, which quotes extensively from Obama's speech, is interesting. Obviously, his remarks reflect longstanding policy and pandering to familiar constituencies. But I also detect a response to some pressures Obama has recently felt from a new direction. For some time, he has been responding to heavy pressure from Zionist pundits and donors to ratchet up pressure on Syria. (Indeed, he inherited much of the US stance on Syria from longstanding policies put in place by hawkish congresscritters and the Bush administration.) But he has also been operating with the awareness that a silent majority of the American public does not support American troops or arms to the rebels in Syria. By making tough, but vague, statements and by outwardly supplying just logistical support he has been able to assuage both constituencies.

But in the past few weeks, the leftist critique from the grassroots/netroots has finally had some influence with a few liberal MSM talking heads. While that critique by folks like Stewart, Corn, Maddow, and Matthews has been limited to resisting the neocons' wardrums, it is changing the debate among the liberal press from "this whole this is complicated and there aren't really any good options (but we might have to bomb Syria anyway)" to "this looks too much like Iraq, which we were lied into, and we really shouldn't get involved." Obama is now having to push back against "we really shouldn't get involved:"

Obama said those dual concerns also come into play in "ensuring that we've got a stable Syria that is representative of all the Syrian people, and is not creating chaos for its neighbors."

He said to that end his administration has exerted pressure on Syrian President Bashar Assad to leave power, provided humanitarian aid to Syrian civilians, helped the rebel opposition and mobilized the international community to isolate Syria.

"That's why we are now providing non-lethal assistance to the opposition, and that's why we're going to continue to do the work that we need to do," Obama said.

"And in terms of the costs and the benefits, I think there would be severe costs in doing nothing. That's why we're not doing nothing. That's why we are actively invested in the process."

He said his administration is re-evaluating what actions to take "in conjunction with other international partners" on a regular basis.

"I think that, understandably, there is a desire for easy answers. That's not the situation there," Obama said. "And my job is to constantly measure our very real and legitimate humanitarian and national security interests in Syria, but measuring those against my bottom line, which is what's in the best interest of America's security and making sure that I'm making decisions not based on a hope and a prayer, but on hard-headed analysis in terms of what will actually make us safer and stabilize the region."

I should add that the number of liberal pundits saying "we shouldn't get involved" continues to grow -- with recent additions from Joshua Landis, Juan Cole, and even Thomas "suck on this" Friedman.

Posted by: Rusty Pipes | May 9 2013 0:07 utc | 21

@21 Good assessment Rusty. Maybe it's war fatigue. It worked with Saddam and Ghadafi but 'Assad the brutal dictator' just hasn't resonated in quite the same way.

Posted by: dh | May 9 2013 0:42 utc | 22


Even behind a paywall, it is evident that the WSJ's crackpot editorial staff has been degrading its reputed crack journalism for several years. Its poorly sourced neocon biases can be seen in:

Leaders in the region privately complained ...U.S. officials said ...privately told top White House policy makers ...according to senior U.S. officials. ...according to U.S. officials. of Mr. Hagel's advisers said. ...Officials said ...U.S. officials believe. ...Americans for now envision ...U.S. officials say ...The U.S. has so far ruled out putting troops on the ground inside Syria but could send intelligence officers.

If not one US official is willing to speak on the record, it could just as well be some Zionist political appointee (a la Dennis Ross or Elliot Abrams) trying to push their own agenda. But here's a telling spin on Hagel:

Mr. Hagel came away from the trip, which also included stops in Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, "seeing storm clouds on the horizon," one of Mr. Hagel's advisers said. Last week, he became the first U.S. official to say publicly that the administration was weighing arming the rebels.

Hagel said that we probably weren't going to arm the rebels. Hawkish senators
then sent a letter to Obama demanding a clarification. The White House sent back a letter basically saying that their position hadn't changed, "all options ..." Hagel reiterated the "all options ..." which was in the letter to the congressional hawks. The MSM touted his statement as saying Obama was on the verge of sending weapons.

Posted by: Rusty Pipes | May 9 2013 0:53 utc | 23

TIP: When you click on a link and get a paywall, as in #12, do this.
1. Copy the headline (from WSJ in this case)
2. google the headline with " in front of it.

In the #12 case, you will get "online WSJ' and will be able to actually read the article. This will also work with the NYTimes, but not with FT - Financial Times.

Good luck, and remember: Blog On!

Posted by: Don Bacon | May 9 2013 1:22 utc | 24

@23 'One of Mr. Hagel's advisers' could just as easily have said he saw nothing but 'clear blue sky' but that wouldn't fit the agenda. It would also have left Hagel out on a limb.

Posted by: dh | May 9 2013 1:27 utc | 25

@b #12
What we see here is merely the Pentagon response to those terrible peace movements advanced by their rival, the State Department. Reminds me of the Pentagon wargames to attack North Korea - just in case the DPRK falls apart. They wish. Here we go with "U.S. officials familiar with the discussion"- hah

WASHINGTON—The Pentagon is stepping up plans to deal with a dangerous regional spillover from Syria's possible collapse—a scenario it had recently seen as remote—drawing up proposals including a Jordanian buffer zone for refugees secured by Arab troops, said U.S. officials familiar with the discussion. The plans seek to minimize direct U.S. involvement, but they reflect a reassessment of the Pentagon's hands-off approach.

"they reflect a reassessment of the Pentagon's hands-off approach" --a candidate for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. I mean, those shy Pentagonians. Why can't they be more active? hah

But oddly enough in Syria that has been the case, as far as we know. Let's hope that General Dempsey's correct proclivity to stay the hell out of Syria is not jeopardized by the Pentagon warmongers who desperately resent the CIA's rise, and want to displace the CIA in Syria.

Footnote: Some people look at Washington as of one mind. Wrong. We have State vs. CIA vs. Pentagon vs. President vs. Security Council etc. This also applies within the Pentagon. Here the war-promotion sector of the Pentagon -- "U.S. officials familiar with the discussion" -- happens to have stenographic friends at the Wall Street Journal. Don't mean diddly.

Posted by: Don Bacon | May 9 2013 1:44 utc | 26

I have complete confidence in "U.S. officials familiar with the discussion". They are in constant contact with 'one of Hagel's advisors' and 'leaders in the region who privately complain'.

Posted by: dh | May 9 2013 1:53 utc | 27

Rusty @21

I hardly follow cable news at all, so I'm happy to hear some voices there are pouring cold water on the military intervention agenda. What's Anderson Cooper's current attitude on Syria? I know in the past he was playing up the rebels' narrative very intensely.

Obama is splitting the difference between the two points of view on Syria. But his version of Syrian intervention light is actually even more dangerous than a clear cut, full-on military intervention. He is slowly destroying Syria and destabilizing the region but in a way in which he has no control. It has led to a situation where the scenario of Syria's chem weapons falling into the hands of al-Qaeda is a possibility. So the Israelicons and interventionists can now argue that more intervention is needed to prevent this from happening. If he keeps doing what he is doing we are going to have to intervene to save the chemical weapons from the chaos caused by our intervention.

He needs to let Kerry find some way of implementing a negotiated settlement even if he has to eat the shit sandwich of Assad not resigning. That is a meal he deserves.

Intervention-light is intervention.

Posted by: JBradley | May 9 2013 2:13 utc | 28

@ dh
We need a new movement, anonymous bloggers against anonymous government officials. :-)

Just kidding. I have nothing against anonymous bloggers, I really don't. And I do have something against anonymous government officials.

The first are citizens (and others) expressing their honest thoughts without fear of retribution. The second should be expressing their positions which they are paid and expected to do as recognized servants of the citizens, and any anonymity is shirking and avoidance of that public service.

Posted by: Don Bacon | May 9 2013 3:51 utc | 29

you guys don't actually think that the US is desperately trying to:
1. save face
2. restore credibility
3. "secure" chemical weapons
4. clean up crazy Syrian rebel factions

or, that Israel actually was bombing weapons that Syria was trying to ship OUT of Syria so that someone ELSE might take a shot at Israel (who killed a LOT of Syrian troops?) really?

you guys aren't serious, right?

what's so complicated about the US wanting to destroy Syria, play the "terrorists" (again), feed the bloodshed with tax money, and conspire with other leaders to screw the masses of each and every country involved, including the Palestinians? what's with all the analysis of every move, and why do you guys think there's a chess game going on? it's simple, drunk-with-power, take it all, screw the masses, history of the planet...
Putin, Kerry, Obama, even Assad - they win, we lose.

Posted by: anon | May 9 2013 3:56 utc | 30

"It worked with Saddam and Ghadafi but 'Assad the brutal dictator' just hasn't resonated in quite the same way."

Well, its a good point. When ABC did the interview - and the teasers were literally "Barbara Walters interviews Syria's bloodthirsty dictator" and then you see this thin, gentle, bright, but also serious and sophisticated leader... even that was too cognitively dissonant for the American people.

The lack of personality - esp compared with Ghadaffi's flamboyancy and Saddam's forceful persona - really works in Assad's favor. He's far more like the former US allies in the region than our former "axis of evil" types.

With all their power, there's some shit you just can't make stick. Some things are just too apparent.

Posted by: guest77 | May 9 2013 4:35 utc | 31

by "their" I mean, clearly, the media.

Posted by: guest77 | May 9 2013 4:36 utc | 32

Rusty Pipes (21 et al.)

While your thoughts are probably quite correct I'd (once again) suggest to not concentrate too much on zusa internal trivia (because that's what most of it is).

Actually I think that this is a major reason for repeated zusa failures; to stay with (the often rather tight) zusa-american mindframe.

The answers to what's going on on the ground are not to be found in washington - yet it seems that that's pretty much what zusa-americans do, they ask themselves. Similarly concerning zusa-americans ask other zusa-americans for answers to other non-local important questions.
It sometimes looks like an insane merciless carouselle. zusa-americans asking - and telling - each other about the world.

What do the arabs (as if there was such a thing ...) think, feel, want, dislike, strive for, etc? juan cole et al will tell you.

Sometimes I can't help but remember a scene in a movie ("The last emperor" or sth. similar) where subordinates actually analysed the excrements of the emperor. zusa is in many cases similar.

Posted by: Mr. Pragma | May 9 2013 5:17 utc | 33

Russians, U.S. agree to Syria talks, but anti-Assad opposition may refuse to participate

Najib Ghadbian, the political representative to Washington of the U.S.-backed Syrian Opposition Coalition, told McClatchy that while his group awaits details of the new proposal, it remained opposed to talks with Assad or members of his inner circle.

“It seems like there’s nothing really new. We stand by our guidelines of any political settlement and that is: Assad and those with blood on their hands cannot be included,” Ghadbian said.

The Big Story
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — As a professor at the University of Arkansas, Syrian-born Najib Ghadbian is no stranger to educating Americans about the Middle East. Now, he's taking his knowledge beyond the classroom, stepping into a new role as the Syrian opposition coalition's representative in the United States.

As a sort of unofficial ambassador for a group President Barack Obama called the "legitimate representative" of Syria's people, Ghadbian faces the challenge not of motivating apathetic students, but of winning over wary politicians to aid the coalition's efforts to topple the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Ghadbian provides political analysis and commentary for Al-Jazeera, the Middle Eastern news agency. He has contributed political commentaries to several US, European, and Middle East media outlets. He’s been a frequent political commentator for al-Jazeera Satellite TV Channel since January 2000.

Posted by: Don Bacon | May 9 2013 6:18 utc | 34

Guardian propaganda: FSA fighters are going to Al-Nusra because Al-Nusra has weapons and ammunition. We need to arm the FSA!!!

Free Syrian Army rebels defect to Islamist group Jabhat al-Nusra

How come the Guardian never asks who gives weapons and ammunition to al-Nusra?


The National: U.S. is trying to recruit FSA groups to go after al-Nusra:

America's hidden agenda in Syria's war

Again no question asked of who is supporting al-Nusra.

Let me guess. The Pentagon wants to go after al-Nusra while the CIA is supplying them?

Posted by: b | May 9 2013 6:20 utc | 35

If we assume a good faith deal was reached between the USA and Russia:

The fighters on the ground will not accept it. They will not listen to anyone including the USA or prime minister Shitto. However, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar will be forced to accept any firm order from the USA. The only issue will be whether or not the USA actually orders Turkey to close the border and stop the flow of arms. As Penny mentioned, the Syrian army could at that point finish the work on the ground.

Really, nothing has changed.

Posted by: Hilmihakim | May 9 2013 6:22 utc | 36

It worked with Saddam and Ghadafi but 'Assad the brutal dictator' just hasn't resonated in quite the same way.

Posted by: dh | May 8, 2013 8:42:40 PM | 22
Gadafi was no 'brutal dictator'

"In the darkest moments of our struggle, when our backs were to the wall, #Gaddafi stood with us"
~ Nelson #Mandela leftistsforget

Posted by: brian | May 9 2013 7:26 utc | 37

The US has the leverage to not provide the insurgents with supplies. It also has the leverage to give them "stellar" information about where to attack, but with the result being a killing field. It also has the leverage to make Turkey and Qatar not help.

The idea that Qatar or Turkey would disobey the US is crazy. Without NATO support, why would you anger your superiors over something that wouldn't change? It makes much more sense to jockey over more relevant things, such as pipeline deals or promises for your own exports.

The real question is whether ZATO can find ways to harm the Syrian economy and prevent pipelines and gas development. If that isn't possible, who gets what deals?

Posted by: Paul | May 9 2013 7:35 utc | 38

35) yep.

Posted by: somebody | May 9 2013 7:48 utc | 39

Interesting if true

Saudi Arabia takes over from Qatar to solve Syria's crisis

The news site quotes a source close to the Syrian opposition as saying that Qatar told Al Sabbagh “there was immense pressure from the United States and its allies to pull out of the Syrian dossier”. The members, who were flown in private airplane from and to Turkey, later announced since that they would appoint a new leader and announce a new government, according to Basma Atassi, a journalist with Al Jazeera English. It is worth noting that Hitto is a candidate, not actually an interim government PM, who was supposed to form a government that would then be approved by the National Coalition.

American media reported recently that there was a US-led regional and international effort to close the tap on financial support to extremist groups within the Syrian rebels, with Qatar being the focus of that effort. The Washington Post’s Karen DeYoung reported on April 22 that President Barack Obama would press on Qatar “to ensure that none of the weapons Qatar is sending to Syrian rebels end up with Jabhat al-Nusra ... and other Islamic extremist groups”.

Moreover, members of the “Friends of Syria” contact group in Istanbul during their latest meeting in Istanbul in April to channel support through the Free Syrian Army’s military command led by its chief of staff General Salim Idris.

Why is it significant that Saudi Arabia takes a leading role in dealing with the Syrian opposition? Saudi vehemently opposes the dominance of extremist Islamist groups over the opposition. Riyadh made it clear to the opposition members during the meeting in Riyadh that it rejects any role for extremist forces in any future plan in Syria. Riyadh specifically opposes the Brotherhood and jihadi, to be distinguished from Salafi, groups.

That does not mean that Qatar will step aside but the leading role will be taken by the Saudis. There is a consensus that Qatar’s role is essential but Doha needs to either refrain from supporting extremist forces or ensure that no financial support by private donors reach extremists.

Posted by: b | May 9 2013 9:04 utc | 40

Interesting yes B, but no one, not even the Saudi medieval child molesters, have had any luck keeping their hordes on the ground united or relatively at peace with each other and that Salim Idris quisling have no control of the various fractions of "fsa" either what so ever..

Posted by: mann | May 9 2013 10:00 utc | 41

What a joke of article. Salafi = Al Qaeda style jihadists. Qatar has backed the Muslim Brotherhood and Saudi Arabi the salafist. Meanwhile those actually fighting seems to be mostly Al Qaeda style extremists unaffiliated with either political group or ideology but who will take money and weapons from any side.

Obviously the CIA prefers to work with their old Saudi friends than with the newcomer (and not completely aligned or behold to western interests, see Libya and Mali).

This means that the consolidation of the Iraq-Syria-Lebanon 'anti-shiite' task force. More extremism, not less, is what we can expect if the article has any foundation.

Posted by: ThePaper | May 9 2013 10:28 utc | 42

40) oh well,

as I understood it up to now -

1) US, Iran and Qatar have been betting on the same political groups - i.e. Muslim Brotherhood related - which is a populist political Islamist movement not so much a movement representing religious factions - Sunni, Salafi, Alawi, Sufi whatever - and is opportunistic in practice.


2) Saudi Arabia and Qatar have a Wahhabi state religion that orders absolute obedience to rightful believing rulers at home and obliges to fight for Sharia law and elimination of unbelievers abroad. This state religion does sometimes backfire at home when religious people decide that their rulers are not true believers, it is also comparatively easy to manipulate depending on where religious fervour is directed to.

3) So Saudi Arabia is more afraid of the Muslim Brotherhood as a grassroot movement than of clandestine Salafi organisations controlled by secret services, organisations that readily recognize monarchs whereas the Muslim Brotherhood has a more democratic approach.

4) As in Iraq the US has found out they bet on the wrong horse and there is no horse left to switch to.

5) Switching to Saudi Arabia and asking them to reign in Al Nusra - which I suppose is their group and not Qatar's - would cause trouble for them at home - as people would not understand it.
I don't think Saudi luxury reintegration camps would do the trick.

As I understand it Al Nusrah/Al Qeida is not limited to Syria, it is fighting in Iraq, too. Closing the organization down presumably would mean handing the region over to Iranian influence. Is Saudi Arabia (or the US) going to do that?
What does the US get out of it - withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan?

Posted by: somebody | May 9 2013 10:33 utc | 43

DC; 'its true we don't have any idea of what we are doing anymore'

Posted by: heath | May 9 2013 11:49 utc | 44

Surely democracy is needed in Algeria or Baluchistan or ...

If the insurgents don't agree to what the US wants, they will be disposed of. Anyway, hasn't the US got more places to cleanly break? Say, Lebanon? There are plenty of governments over there that are big enough to challenge corporations, and that's a problem.

Posted by: Paul | May 9 2013 11:57 utc | 45

The Geneva Syria Transition plan (link 1 in F) or Kofi Annan Peace Plan for Syria (see wiki) was launched early 2012, agreed to in June 2012.

It rapidly disappeared from the MSM or was trumpeted to have ‘failed.’

I’m not clear, admittedly I’ve not spent much time - and perhaps no news reader is or can be - to what degree or with what intent or seriousness this new planned meet (Kerry, Lavrov, etc.) is based on the original Geneva / Annan plan. It appears that it is Russia that proposed, insisted. Talks have been going on for a long time, all this year. (see e.g. link 2.)

Annan gave up because both parties were rock-hard stubborn and intransigent.

Now world leaders backing sides is largely public, they will be responsible for delivering ‘their’ sides, allies, vassals, or projected sympathizers, to the table. The negotiations will proceed, the deals will be struck, in smoky corridors and heated phone calls. Not so much as to position / argument, but as to who will be present, willing to stand up in public as participating, even if only to state to the press the discussion was fruitful.

b: That still has not registered with the Obama administration.

Yes - maybe. Either Obama, as spokesman and no more, for the US rich, corps combined with Gvmt. role, is just fueling the internal conflict, in the line of the neo-con position paper, A Clean Break .., which paints the future ME cut up into powerless tiny statelets defined on ethnic/religious lines, guaranteeing local strife, domination by the USuk-isr + poodle EU; or he is caught between conflicting aims and pressures and therefore really hasn’t a clue as to how to proceed, while thus being indifferent to the outcome. The hegemon can deal with a fragile controlled Assad, a New Leader, and of course some ‘islam’-run Gov.

Posted by: Noirette | May 9 2013 13:31 utc | 47

Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it
and all its' failures

Done some reading on a 1916 agreement today...
Sykes Picot?

And some WP writer, David Ignatius has said, I feel some interesting things
He is promoting a new man on the ground, well not really so new, because i had read previously about him..
perhaps he is just getting greater exposure I don't know?
The way DI talks about him he is clearly the US man on the ground
Also DI hints at what I interpret as possible peacekeeping forces on the ground in Syria..

whatever this is all about, whatever will be the outcome... It is looking to be a smoldering fire waiting to spark at anytime

But, is not peace

Posted by: Penny | May 9 2013 14:09 utc | 48

this here is the BBC - I don't believe the hand wringing, but presumably the plan is that nothing can be done ...

Syria's protracted conflict shows no sign of abating

Firstly, the FSA - that you have been hearing so much about - does not exist.

A better title would be MWG, or men with guns, because having guns and firing them in the same direction is the only thing that unites them.

The word "army" suggests a cohesive force with a command structure. Almost two years after the FSA was created, that remains illusive.

The situation has been further complicated by the introduction into the arena of al-Qaeda-linked jihadists and armed criminal gangs.

Secondly, the Syrian opposition's political leadership - which wanders around international capitals attending conferences and making grand speeches - is not leading anyone. It barely has control of the delegates in the room with it, let alone the fighters in the field.

These two things can help explain why this crisis has so far shown no sign of being resolved politically.

America is not acting because it does not know what to do or whom to do it with.

Neither do the European countries.

Having spent the last few days in Beirut and Damascus, talking to the international community, Western diplomats, FSA activists and Syrian regime supporters, it is clear that nobody knows how to end this crisis.

That's just about the only thing all sides agree on.


Murders lead to revenge massacres.

When will the Syria crisis end? God knows.

God knows because this crisis is increasingly not about freedom but about religion.

The Syrian war is turning into a sectarian conflict whose influence will spill beyond the country's borders.

There was the chance at the beginning to stop that being the case. That chance has been lost.

Posted by: somebody | May 9 2013 15:18 utc | 49

As they say, you can't make this stuff up.
Yesterday at State, "it’s about operationalizing."

QUESTION: How do you view Foreign Minister Lavrov’s statement when he said yesterday that the departure of President Assad should not be a condition for peace talks? And do you view any changes – and they are still insisting that Assad should not be a condition or the future of Assad shouldn’t be a condition to come to peace talks?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, this is for the parties. This is for the Syrian opposition to decide. This is not – our position hasn’t changed. We’ve long said he has to go. And we’ll continue to say that, and he’s lost all legitimacy.
QUESTION: But based on this statement, do you view the Russian position has changed?
MR. VENTRELL: What we’ve seen is that the Russians are willing to work with us to get both parties to the table, and you know they have particular influence with the regime, and we’ve been clear about some of the assistance they’ve been giving stopping, and we’ve been clear that they should exert their influence the best they can to get the regime to the table.
QUESTION: Patrick, I don’t understand where the breakthrough is or what’s new. I mean, when the agreement was reached about the Geneva communique, the Russians backed it as well as the Americans, and that hasn’t changed.
MR. VENTRELL: It’s not that the – it’s about operationalizing. It’s about breaking the logjam where this was agreed to, and it’s a good framework, and it still is the basis. But what we didn’t achieve, in part because of where the conflict was, in part because of a number of factors, is getting these two parties to the table. And so for diplomacy --
QUESTION: Is this conference – you’re saying – is this conference going to be the beginning of creating a structure that will actually allow that to happen?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, that’s the goal, and we’re going to continue to push forward on – through our diplomacy for a political transition, because the stakes are very high in terms of saving the Syria that’s left to save. And there’s been vicious attacks and vicious brutality by this regime on its own people. Some of the state institutions still exist and can still provide services, and we want those to stay in place.

I can just picture the fat-ass emir of Qatar having a good laugh over the futile "operationalizing" in Washington.

Posted by: Don Bacon | May 9 2013 15:37 utc | 50

@ somebody
this crisis is increasingly not about freedom but about religion.
I disagree. It's about power. So I go more with Ayatollah Khamanei.

Propaganda campaigns of the West and dependent and mercenary media in the region pretend that the destructive war in Syria is a Shia-Sunni conflict and they create a safety margin for the Zionists and the enemies of resistance in Syria and Lebanon. This is while the two sides of the conflict in Syria are not Shia and Sunni, rather they are the supporters and opponents of anti-Zionist resistance.

That's because Syria is really about Iran, and Iran is about resistance to Zionism (which is not religion).

Posted by: Don Bacon | May 9 2013 15:53 utc | 51

51) All I am saying that that has been the intention, the strategy - to make the conflict about religion, and I believe the BBC reporter is correct in stating that Syrian society has been disintegrated, like it disintegrated in Iraq.
You are talking about the cause.

Posted by: somebody | May 9 2013 16:08 utc | 52

@52 I think the original strategy behind the Arab spring was to create Western style governments run by technocrats. Somehow the Islamists took over. My sense is that ordinary folk in Syria have seen enough jihadi nonsense.

Posted by: dh | May 9 2013 16:43 utc | 53

@53 you think so?

This here is Obama's Cairo speech 2009 - Mubarak still in power, no Arab spring yet - the "Arab Spring" started 1.5 years later ...

He addressed "Muslims", not Egyptians (approximately 10 percent - estimates range from 6 to 15 percent - are Christian) - he mentions Copts in his speech but talks about them, does not address them ...

Obviously in this speech he says all the politically correct things. However, as the leader of a secular government, he addresses a world religion .....

The fourth issue that I will address is democracy. (Applause.)
I know -- I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq. So let me be clear: No system of government can or should be imposed by one nation by any other.

That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people. Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. These are not just American ideas; they are human rights. And that is why we will support them everywhere. (Applause.)
Now, there is no straight line to realize this promise. But this much is clear: Governments that protect these rights are ultimately more stable, successful and secure. Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them. And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments -- provided they govern with respect for all their people.
This last point is important because there are some who advocate for democracy only when they're out of power; once in power, they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others. (Applause.) So no matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who would hold power: You must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise; you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party. Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Barack Obama, we love you!

Posted by: somebody | May 9 2013 17:30 utc | 54

@53 Well obviously Obama was addressing muslims in Cairo but I think the hope behind the speech was for some kind of fusion of Islam and democracy. This would be friendly to the West and Israel of course and perhaps even be acceptable to Iran. I don't think Obama was deliberately playing on the Sunni/Shia schism.

As I recall the Arab Spring started like the colour revolutions on twitter and facebook so I assume it was orchestrated by a Western-educated elite. The wild cards were Turkey and Qatar.....I've never understood what motivated them to get so involved.

Posted by: dh | May 9 2013 17:47 utc | 55

55) Yep, the hope is the fusion of Islam and western friendly democracy.

Turkey's motivation can be explained by the closeness of the AKP and the Gülen movement

Mr. Gulen lives in self-imposed exile on a 25-acre haven in the mountains of eastern Pennsylvania. In 1999, he fled Turkey amid accusations of plotting to overthrow the secular government. Around that time, a taped sermon emerged in the media in which Mr. Gulen was heard advising his followers to “move within the arteries of the system, without anyone noticing your existence, until you reach all the power centers.”

He has said his words were manipulated, and he was acquitted of all charges in 2008.

Mr. Gulen, who has preached openly against fundamentalism and terrorism, was embraced in Washington after Sept. 11, 2001, as a welcome face of moderate Islam, analysts say. His green card application shows that his request to remain in the United States was endorsed by a former official of the Central Intelligence Agency. His movement’s events have been attended by luminaries like former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and Kofi Annan, the former United Nations secretary general

Another typical Western attempt to control Islamist movements is the London based Quilliam foundation with people like Noman Benotman

Neither the Gülen movement nor the Quilliam foundation have a truly democratic agenda. However, they work with the west.

Posted by: somebody | May 9 2013 18:50 utc | 56

The United States and its allies want to pull out of the Syrian dossier?
from Hassan Hassan (based in UAE), May 9

Saudi Arabia takes over from Qatar to solve Syria's crisis

There seem to be some important developments with regard to the Syrian opposition and regional patronage over the past few days. Saudi Arabia appears to have taken over from Qatar in dealing with the Syrian opposition, as great powers begin to agree on general principles for a solution in Syria.

According to my sources, 12 members of Syria’s National Coalition met yesterday in Riyadh with Saudi authorities to discuss the coalition and ways to coordinate with the kingdom. The members, including Mohammed Farouk Tayfour, the deputy leader of Syria's Brotherhood, agreed to let go of Ghassan Hitto, who was chosen as the head of the opposition’s interim government in March. His appointment was widely seen as orchestrated by the Brotherhood, leading several prominent members to suspend their membership at the coalition.

The opposition met with Saudi authorities for two days and discussed ways to improve communications between them. Riyadh, contrary to popular belief, has not been working closely with the Syrian opposition, especially the political bodies, as the kingdom believed they were dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood. . . .

The two-day meeting is significant in many ways but that is about all I could share. The meeting marks a shift in how the opposition operates, previously almost exclusively working closely with Qatar and Turkey. There is also an important report by London-based Al Arab newspaper that confirms this, citing sources from Istanbul. The report says that Qatar has told Mustafa Al Sabbagh -- the secretary general of the National Coalition who had been appointed by Qatar during the establishment of the coalition to steer the coalition towards Qatar’s policies – to deal with Riyadh as “the Syrian dossier is now in the hands of Saudi Arabia”. I believe the report is credible.

The news site quotes a source close to the Syrian opposition as saying that Qatar told Al Sabbagh “there was immense pressure from the United States and its allies to pull out of the Syrian dossier”.

Posted by: Don Bacon | May 9 2013 19:13 utc | 57

This is yet another example of why John Kerry is labeled "flip-flopper." First Assad's destiny is the Syrians' judgment, and then it's "our judgment."

Reuters, May 9

The United States still believes that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would not be part of transitional government in the country, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Thursday. Kerry made his comments to reporters on the sidelines of a meeting with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh in Rome, Italy. (SOUNDBITE) (English)

JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE SAYING: "The foreign minister will work with us, as they have, to try to bring all the parties to the table so that we can effect a transition government by mutual consent of both sides, which clearly means that in our judgment President Assad will not be a component of that transitional government."

Kerry's last position was that this would be a decision for Syrians to make.

RT, May 7

Russia and the US have been at odds over the fate of Syrian President Bashar Assad. While Washington insists that Assad must step down, Moscow maintains that only Syrian people should decide on that and the issue should be resolved without foreign interference.

“It is impossible for me as an individual to understand how Syria could possibly be governed in the future by the man who committed the things that we know have taken place,” Kerry said, admitting that it’s not up to him to decide as the Geneva Communiqué says that the transitional government has to be chosen by mutual consent of the parties.

“So what we are going to undertake to do is to try to get [the regime and the opposition] in a position where they, representing the people they represent in Syria, the interests they represent, put people into the transitional government by mutual consent.”

--Which led to this headline at The Cable:
Kerry retreats from U.S. stance that Assad must go

I'm looking forward to FM Lavrov's response.

Posted by: Don Bacon | May 9 2013 19:40 utc | 58

And how will UN envoy Brahimi respond to Kerry's flip-flop?
Brahimi's threatening to quit may have had an influence on bringing the US and Russia together, which resulted in Brahimi's reconsidering to leave. But now that Kerry has flipped on a key US/Russia difference?

This is a natural result of the US empty, opportunistic foreign policy which has been unsuccessful everywhere.

Posted by: Don Bacon | May 9 2013 19:51 utc | 59

Leverage isn't all the US is running short of.
Sanity and introspection are in painfully short supply, too. I was rummaging through my back-up CD's at the weekend and was reminded of this hair-raising little gem.

It's a 78 page PDF from 2008. It's still on the www and is called
Strategic Implications of American Millennialism
by Mjr Brian L Stuckert (US Army)

It examines the way America's unique dogs breakfast of religious fundamentalism has led a significant proportion of Americans to believe the unbelievable and helps to explain why it's in such a (worsening) mess.

If the link doesn't work, the article/thesis is Googlable.
It's worth reading/skimming even if it makes you throw up in your mouth...

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | May 9 2013 20:13 utc | 60

@Don Bacon#58&59
I don't see Kerry's recent statements as necessarily contradictory. He has backed away from Clinton's statement that the US demands that Assad must go. Instead, he is saying that the leadership must be agreeable to both sides in Syria -- since the opposition has a veto over who will lead Syria (and their stated position has been that Assad must go), Kerry thinks it next to impossible that Bashar could stay.

Posted by: Rusty Pipes | May 9 2013 20:15 utc | 61

Not really a flip flop just emphasizing different points of the agreement as the transitional government has to be formed by mutual consent and the opposition assumedly would not consent to Assad.

It is completely irrelevant anyway as the outcome will be decided on the ground. Nasrallah has just given a speech pledging that Hezbollah would liberate the Golan.

He seems also have kickstarted a recruitment drive.

Posted by: somebody | May 9 2013 20:17 utc | 62

Nope, a Kerry contradiction. First it was Syrians' judgment, then it was his.

And politics is never irrelevant as long as there is so much contested ground in Syria, with little hope of impending decisive military action.

Posted by: Don Bacon | May 9 2013 20:23 utc | 63


While I won't deny Kerry's vaunted ability to be for something before he was against it, I think it's just a matter of phrasing:

JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE SAYING: "The foreign minister will work with us, as they have, to try to bring all the parties to the table so that we can effect a transition government by mutual consent of both sides, which clearly means that in our judgment President Assad will not be a component of that transitional government."

...which clearly means that in Kerry's judgment there's not a snowball's chance in hell that the opposition will "mutally agree" to Assad's being in the transitional government.

Posted by: Rusty Pipes | May 9 2013 20:39 utc | 64


I think that Obama came into office wanting to get American troops out of Bush's wars, but open to the State Department's and CIA's ways of influencing regimes and "democracy building" -- both of which had such operations which had been percolating in the region for several years. Certainly, Hillary was familiar with Albright's track record with color revolutions during Bill's presidential years. So I think that democracy building groups, like the NED, had at least been monitoring or networking, if not outright providing personnel or designing slogans, with indigenous human rights groups in the Arab world before the Arab Spring. Obama's Cairo Speech would fit right in with that strategy.

For countries that are not our allies (indeed, like Libya and Syria, had been marked out by neocons and liberal hawks for regime change), I wouldn't be surprised if State and CIA gave more support than just training in PR and social networking. Just because Obama did not want to put new American boots on the ground doesn't mean he hasn't been open to other means of employing American leverage and military force.

Posted by: Rusty Pipes | May 10 2013 1:22 utc | 65

65) yep, the mantra is "I am not against wars, just stupid wars". Basically what we see in Syria (and saw in Libya) is doing war on the cheap, and part of that in Syria is, I argue, setting off cycles of blood vengeance, which I am sure clever anthropologists and sociologists have identified as Syrian society's Achilles heel.

This here is a description of the dynamics - it places government repression as cause first, but that is a moot academic point - if you succeed in sparking government repression everything else follows automatically

"Citizens responded to the excessive use of force to suppress demonstrators by security forces, the anny and shabiha by resorting to counter-violence . Some took anns to defend themselves or in revenge for victims. This has been the case particularly in areas with traditional Syrian social structures (clans and tribes) and where a culture based on the concept of tribalism and related values, such as blood vengeance, prevails."

Yes, that technique goes back to the breakup of Yougoslavia and Bill Clinton and is connected to the use of radical Muslims in Afghanistan and the breakup of the Soviet Union.

The US is on the one hand promoting "freedom and democracy" on the other hand it is actively promoting/running Muslim organisations of its choice - the Gulen movement is just one example - and Erdogan (and Qatar) is part of that strategy. Make no mistake, the scope of the Gulen enterprise is immense - and they target the young.

Turkey’s interest in Africa reflects more than just government initiatives and the efforts of individual business people. One key group is Tuskon, a business organisation that says it has more members than any other in Turkey. Many of its members are followers of Fethullah Gulen, a Pennsylvania-based Islamic preacher.

In March, Tuskon took some 70 Turkish companies to a west African business fair it held in Lagos, one of hundreds of delegations it organises each year.

The group has even organised the Africa trips of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister, and Abdullah Gul, the president.

“We were the only association working with Africa and therefore we can say that the majority of the [export] increase there is the result of Tuskon,” said Rizanur Meral, Tuskon’s president, in an interview this year.

The role of the Gulenist movement goes further still. Its supporters run schools in about 140 countries across the world, many of them in Africa, and the educational links can often facilitate business connections.

“Most of the Turks who arrived in the first place were with the schools – Gulenist schools – and then some switched to trade, mainly related to construction equipment,” says Umut Tekeli, a Turkish engineer working on a mass housing project in Tanzania.

He adds that many Turkish construction groups travelled to the south when the Arab revolutions rocked more traditional markets in north Africa. He himself worked in Tunisia and Libya before Tanzania.

Mostly, Mr Tekeli says, it is smaller Turkish groups, hungrier for profits wherever they can find them, that come to new markets in Africa.

Posted by: somebody | May 10 2013 5:06 utc | 66

on a radio show the other day there were a couple of pundits discussing Syria. the argument was intervene or not. the guy who was against intervention said that it was enough just to cause continued instability.

that seems to be the goal. makes me mad that my government can throw yet another 123 million to killers and gangsters and not fund education programs for children in the US. makes me sad that none of the talking heads even mention that.

Posted by: dan of steele | May 8, 2013 12:52:47 PM | 1

a rare bout of honesty: yes the goal is to cause chaos, and the way chosen is the use of stupid islamic fundamentalists, who believe

1. Assad is evil
2. Syria must be remade as an islamic state
3. Jihad is good

this way saves on US troops. political fallout and money

Posted by: brian | May 10 2013 5:40 utc | 67

If we give these groups money, it's distribution must be administered, which is profitable. If we give them arms, there's lots of profit, and if that creates wider instability, well, in go the boots on the ground.
And then, we can blame Obama for the mess! Seems pretty obvious what the choice will be.

Posted by: Mooser | May 8, 2013 12:58:41 PM | 3

'we'? what role do you have in all this, Mooser?

Posted by: brian | May 10 2013 5:42 utc | 68

65-66) on Washington's history with Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood

In the years after the September 11 attacks, the United States initially went after the Brotherhood, declaring many of its key members to be backers of terrorism. But by Bush’s second term, the US was losing two wars in the Muslim world and facing hostile Muslim minorities in Germany, France, and other European countries, where the Brotherhood had established an influential presence. The US quietly changed its position.

The Bush administration devised a strategy to establish close relations with Muslim groups in Europe that were ideologically close to the Brotherhood, figuring that it could be an interlocutor in dealing with more radical groups, such as the home-grown extremists in Paris, London and Hamburg. And, as in the 1950s, government officials wanted to project an image to the Muslim world that Washington was close to western-based Islamists. So starting in 2005, the State Department launched an effort to woo the Brotherhood. In 2006, for example, it organized a conference in Brussels between these European Muslim Brothers and American Muslims, such as the Islamic Society of North America, who are considered close to the Brotherhood. All of this was backed by CIA analyses, with one from 2006 saying the Brotherhood featured “impressive internal dynamism, organization, and media savvy.” Despite the concerns of western allies that supporting the Brotherhood in Europe was too risky, the CIA pushed for cooperation. As for the Obama administration, it carried over some of the people on the Bush team who had helped devise this strategy.

Posted by: somebody | May 10 2013 7:06 utc | 69

I think we shall see the US trying to spin the conflict out as long as possible. It would be advantageous to "bleed" all protagonists on the ground. Chaos is what they want and chaos is what they've got. I don't think the removal of Assad is of particular importance. What I see is a return to divide and rule but without the rule. Strongmen are too expensive to keep in power these days and somtimes they get too big for thier boots. Why bother replacing Assad?

Having said that. How will the GCC run pipelines through Syria to the west? Does the US even care? The US does not particularly rely on Middle Eastern energy. Lots of other "folks" do though. Chaos across the whole region could seriously weaken the Petro-Monarchies and, longer term, the countries buying the energy from them. No doubt US planners and Elites would like to re-live the halcyon days when they accounted for 50% of the worlds economy.

Posted by: Billy oy | May 10 2013 8:32 utc | 70

Sounds like the US has managed to split their camp

WASHINGTON—The U.S.'s closest Arab allies are jointly pressing President Barack Obama to take the lead in bridging the Middle East's divisions over Syria, traveling to Washington to personally drive home their fears that some of the region's other leaders are strengthening radicals and prolonging President Bashar al-Assad's rule.

The coordinated message was delivered to Mr. Obama during separate White House meetings in recent weeks with Jordan's King Abdullah II, the United Arab Emirates' Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan and Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, according to senior U.S. and Arab officials familiar with the discussions.

The three royals' message to Mr. Obama was a not-so-subtle slap at Qatar and Turkey—both of which, officials in these Arab countries believe, are funneling funds and possibly weapons to groups promoting political Islam and in particular to those aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood.

They are also concerned that aid from Qatar has bolstered the Al-Nusra Front, a powerful Syrian militia fighting Mr. Assad's forces, which the U.S. has designated as a terrorist organization.

"We need someone to manage the players" in the region, said a senior Arab official involved in the discussions. "The U.S. and the president are the only ones who can put Qatar in its place."

Qatari officials, who have publicly denied supporting the Al-Nusra Front, declined to comment Thursday. A Turkish official denied Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government was favoring Islamist parties in Syria or anywhere else in the region. "We just support the rights of the Syrian people," the official said.

Throughout Syria's conflict, the five Sunni lands have backed efforts to support the rebels. But they have largely broken into two camps when it comes to supporting specific rebel groups or leaders—which U.S., European and Arab leaders say has contributed to the fracturing of the opposition, both militarily and politically.

Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the U.A.E. are central players in American efforts to bring about an end to the civil war in Syria, contain Iran's nuclear program and kick-start a new round of Arab-Israeli peace talks. But the U.S. also relies heavily on Qatar and Turkey to advance a Syrian political transition and to restart the Mideast peace process.

Posted by: somebody | May 10 2013 9:42 utc | 71

The comments to this entry are closed.