Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
October 23, 2013

Syria: After CW Removal, Obama May Again Go For Regime Change

The NYT has a long piece on the development of Obama's policies towards Syria. While some on his staff pressed for outright open war on Syria others were going along the "let them kill each other" line. Their idea was and is to let both sides fight each other until no one is left standing. To this purpose the stream of weapons and ammunition to the mercenaries fighting the Syrian government was switched off when the mercenaries were in advantage and switched on again when the government seemed to win.

That position has somewhat changed after the agreement by Syria to get rid of its chemical weapons. The Obama administration had to give the preference to the Syrian government. But what happens after those chemical capabilities and weapons are dismantled, which is likely to be soon the case?

The world's chemical weapons watchdog says it is confident that Syria will meet an important early milestone in its disarmament, the 1 November deadline for destroying all equipment used in the production and mixing of poison gases and nerve agents.
With the equipment destroyed Syria will still have some mustard gas and the precursor chemicals for Sarin. But whoever will get hold of those will no longer have the capability to use them effectively in any serious fight.

If there is therefore no longer any fear that the dangerous stuff might fall into bad hands Obama's former strategy to "let them kill each other" may come back and U.S. support for the mercenaries may return. Dan Drezner for one sees this coming:

Once the chemical weapons infrastructure is removed -- and the evidence to date suggests that this is proceeding apace -- then I don't see what keeps the administration from ratcheting up pressure on the Syrian regime. If Assad can't secure his position over the next 3-6 months, then he's facing a potentially more precarious situation afterwards.
When the deal over the chemical weapon removal was done there was talk about a Russian security guarantee to Syria. We do not know if such a guarantee has indeed been given or what form it might take. But I, like Drezner, believe that it may well be needed as soon as Syria's chemical weapons are gone.

While - 30 years after the Marines barracks bombing in Beirut - the U.S. should have learned about such useless interventions and the danger of attacking Syrian forces it definitely has not done so. There is always the chance that it will commit another such blunder.

Posted by b on October 23, 2013 at 16:06 UTC | Permalink


"Obama May Again Go For Regime Change"

That has always been the goal. It has never changed.
The US has not strayed from that goal even once.

Quoting Kerry

“If he thinks he’s going to solve problems by running for re-election I can say to him, I think, with certainty this war will not end as long as that’s the case or he is there,” Mr. Kerry said, referring to Mr. Assad.

Article is linked at my place

As for SA actions pushing the US towards Iran?
(referencing previous post about Bandar Bush)

But Mr. Kerry said there was little reason to think Iran could play a helpful role at a Syria peace conference because the Iranian government had not formally agreed that the goal should be a transitional government that excludes Mr. Assad.

Russia has not agreed to that either.

Mr. Kerry noted that Iran had sent arms and personnel to Syria to assist Mr. Assad, as had Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group Iran supports.

“Hezbollah and Iran represent the two only outside organized forces in Syria fighting on behalf” of Mr. Assad, Mr. Kerry said. “So I think it’s time for the United Nations and for others to consider the appropriateness of their activity.”

Absurdities wrapped up in nonsense
Kerry frowns on Iran for sending forces in to fight on behalf of Syria
As opposed to the murdering, rapists baby killers Kerry and co have sent in?

Posted by: Penny | Oct 23 2013 17:17 utc | 1

I'll take the bet that Obama pursues regime change as soon as the CW are destroyed. That kind of duplicity is par for the course. The real question that needs to be asked is what happens to Putin's standing when the US is once again at it.

Posted by: ab initio | Oct 23 2013 17:25 utc | 2

If we're in the business of remembering history, shouldn't we remember that Gadaffi and Assad were both brought back into the 'international community' only a few years prior to the West (and its ME allies) launched attacks on their countries?

The apparent detente between Iran and USA can very easily be seen as simply laying the ground work for future kinetic military adventures.

Posted by: Cynthia | Oct 23 2013 17:32 utc | 3

But, if the White House would opt for an air campaign for regime change, it would have to be ready for an all-out regional war that would escalate beyond control. Have no doubt, a key reason for the walk down was the very real threat of a regional conflagration. There is no way in hell that Obama is going to go to war if it would also mean hellfire on Israel and chaos beyond that. Al Akhbar reported that HA was on full mobilization and was ready to strike Israel if the US began an air campaign. The same would happen if Obama tried to do it again. Also, the US military is in no way capable of dealing with such a scenario at this point in time, and the US public is fully fed up with military interventions in the Middle East. The US could keep the proxy war going for a while, but it will not engage in Libya V2 in Syria.

Posted by: anon789 | Oct 23 2013 17:54 utc | 4

The US is reduced to hoping that Bandar's butchers can finish the job, even while it hypocritically tut-tuts about their methods. As in Iraq, in fact. The US is dependent upon forces it has to pretend are its greatest foes. Such an absurdity not only cannot succeed, it cannot even last for long. In my view, much of what has happened recently has been driven by a rather desperate push by the US to restore its deniability regarding AQ. It wouldn't be altogether surprising if the US staged another major AQ attack on itself, another 9/11, just to restore this deniability. It cannot under any circumstances allow the fact that it is reliant on AQ to wear down its (or rather, Israel's) enemies, to become obvious. It has to create a massive facade of enmity between itself and AQ, and another two or three thousand USAian civilians might not be too great a price for it to pay. Then, when everybody is once again certain that AQ is the US's most deadly enemy, it will be possible for covert cooperation with AQ against Syria, Iran, Russia and China to increase substantially without fear of the secret relationship becoming publicly perceived.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Oct 23 2013 18:16 utc | 5

I'm with anon789. There are too many barriers to a U.S. military campaign, which we saw in September. And even ramping up the CIA's Jordan-based covert war doesn't seem to offer much hope of anything.

Posted by: Mike Maloney | Oct 23 2013 18:22 utc | 6

I don't think the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons will change the military balance at all. The CW's have very little use militarily, and the Syrian rebels will be just as unable to win the battle on the ground, with or without CW's.

Posted by: lysias | Oct 23 2013 18:24 utc | 7

the chemical weapons were mostly defense against Israeli aggression.
the US does not care about Assad or Syria; it is only playing these games to please Israel who wants to neutralize Hezbollah and Iran and successfully ethnically cleanse Palestine - without getting its hands dirty.
so, if the US strikes Syria, there will be goals to destroy its defenses, or to initiate a war with Hezbollah, or something like that, but not strictly (or at all) to take down Assad.

Posted by: anon | Oct 23 2013 18:40 utc | 8

How sure are we that Syria declared all their CM? And if Obama really wants to ramp things up, it's too late.. The fsa/mercenary forces are already taking a massive beating over the past few months..

Never in recent history(since Afghanistan) have a mercenary army been defeated. Bandar Bush's cheap soldiers of fortune are being buried in Syria at a higher cost to the Syrian state, of course. But there'll be payback for sure.

Bandar Bush's "hissy fit", as b pointed out, is just an expression of his desperation and fear of what Assad might do to him and his little kingdom after he's dealt with his al-qaeda/nusra mercenaries.

Syria has enough conventional weapons to flatten any strategic place in Israel and actually bring that country to her knees. Obama will be foolish enough to reignite this deadly scenario again. This time round, the Russians won't give them a way out and will happily make Obama bleed in Syria. The ones that'll suffer are the civilians on both sides who have nothing to do with all this.

Posted by: Zico | Oct 23 2013 19:31 utc | 9

Voice of Russia reports: Explosion near airport in Damascus is followed by southern Syria blackout:

An attack by rebels near Damascus has caused a power outage across Syria, state news agency SANA quoted the electricity minister as saying.

0"A terrorist attack on a gas pipeline that feeds a power station in the south has led to a power outage in the provinces, and work to repair it is in progress," Emad Khamis said.

0"The whole city just went dark," said a resident who lives in the centre of the city and asked to remain anonymous. She said that she could see the "major glow of a fire" near the airport and the sound of heavy machinegun fire.

0The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based group that reports on abuses and battlefield developments using sources from both sides of Syria's civil war, said the explosion was caused by rebel artillery that hit a gas pipeline near the airport. It was not immediately clear why power was cut to the city.

0The Observatory said the rebel shelling was aimed at the town of Ghasula, a few miles (km) from the airport.

0Rebels have been trying to push into the capital, a stronghold of President Bashar al-Assad, whose family has ruled Syria for four decades.

I just heard about this on RT.

Posted by: lysias | Oct 23 2013 20:05 utc | 10

You don't attack the argument, b, as to how Obama is going to re-energise the movement for an attack on Syria, when it has been so clearly beaten down once.

No-one doubts that the intra-Beltway circles will soon give way to the battering from Netanyahu and Bandar. But the hostility outside the Beltway remains. Another route would have to be found, which cannot be described as a US attack on Syria.

Frankly, the latest pronouncements from Kerry and Hague look weak. Difficult to see how they're going to get back to something believable.

Obviously they need an "event" in Syria, more difficult since Bashshar has abandoned chemical weapons. I'd be interested to see what they can come up with to provoke an attack. Myself, I think 21st August was the big effort. Like Samarra in 2006. You can't repeat it (second attack on Samarra in 2007 didn't work). A new idea will be necessary, but I don't know one.

Otherwise they will be stuck. That is the reason that Netanyahu and Bandar are so angry, I would have thought.

Posted by: alexno | Oct 23 2013 21:35 utc | 11

The Syrian government has not viewed its chemical arsenal as a critical deterrent for some time now. Before the US-Russian deal was struck, a Syrian official told me that his government was not in the least bit unhappy about developments, as CWs had become a "liability" and a "burden." One of the reasons for this shift was that several rebels groups were believed to be in possession of small amounts of chemical agents and the fear was that they would use them to provoke Israeli or even Turkish military strikes against the state.

The real deterrence game in the Levant right now is based on ballistic missiles - and that has been the case since at least the 2006 war when Hezbollah scared the pants off Israel with its demonstrations of medium-range capabilities. Hezb chief Hassan Nasrallah's promise to take the next "battle" into Israel and to match Israeli strikes on Lebanese cities in kind with counter-strikes on Israeli centers has struck a new military "balance" in the region. This is based heavily on ballistic missile arsenals, which is why you see Iran ratcheting up its missile production capabilities and why you see Hezb and Syria stockpiling them. It is also why both Iran and Syria are so keen to get their hands on Russian missile defense systems.

Chemical weapons? Who cares anymore? The Syrian stockpile was seriously dated, and nothing fundamentally changes if they are out of the picture - because the real threat has been in guided, longer-range ballistic missiles for many years now. The Americans are unlikely to be emboldened by a CW-free Syria, in my humble view.

Posted by: Sharmine | Oct 23 2013 22:33 utc | 12

Posted by: Sharmine | Oct 23, 2013 6:33:48 PM

It has been a while since I've seen you around here. Glad to see you back. Your articles in Al Akhbar are a must-read these days.

Posted by: [Name Redacted] | Oct 23 2013 22:56 utc | 13

Agree with Sharmine

The US refusal to attack Syria was not based on fear of CW's. It was a fear of the Russian and the Resistance Axis response, as well as a fear of the Jihadists they would be helping to power. The basic calculus hasn't changed with CW removal. The US is in a Lose-Lose situation, if Assad wins, its a win for the Resistance, if Assad loses, the US will be left dealing with an Islamic Emirate of Syria.

That's why the US took the chemical weapons fig leaf Lavrov offered.

Anyway if the US was planning to first get rid of CW, and then move forward with regime change anyway, why are the Saudis so pissed off. Obviously the Saudis have both detailed intelligence on how the rebels are doing and are talking behind the scenes with diplomats. Based on there response to the UNSC seat offer, they are not happy with what they are hearing from Saudi intelligence.

Posted by: Colm O' Toole | Oct 23 2013 23:06 utc | 14

There's no doubt that Obama will keep pretending to pursue regime change in Syria. And there's no doubt that Putin's still got him totally snookered. I'm interpreting the Greenpeace debacle as part of the plan to demonise Russia. The BBC World Service has been playing fast and loose with lots of tear-jerking bathos and bullshit about Assad, and Greenpeace, during the last couple of days.

Imo it's just TOO MUCH of a coincidence that Greenpeace has switched from Saving Whales to Provoking Gazprom. Greenpeace are either extraordinarily naiive and ignorant, extraordinarily stupid, or extraordinarily desperate to attract bonus payments. I'm quite certain that the USA is committing more, and worse, oil-related environmental crimes than Russia.
So, why Russia, Greenpeace?

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Oct 24 2013 0:57 utc | 15

The Syrian rebellion is in flux. Their Air Support has disappeared. The USA will not strike at a later date. The Russian checkmate is permanent. The players are floundering around unsure what to do next. The civil war could die out with Sunni and Kurd secure areas outside of Assad’s control along the Turkish border. The House of Saud will retreat home and try to preserve its kingdom.

The wild card is Israel attacking Iran’s nuclear sites. This would blow up the Middle East.

Posted by: VietnamVet | Oct 24 2013 1:32 utc | 16

The wild card is Israel attacking Iran’s nuclear sites. This would blow up the Middle East.
... starting with "Israel"
I can tell you exactly when Iran will will be attacked.
The Twelfth of Never.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Oct 24 2013 1:57 utc | 17

The NYT article is an interesting piece of work. Other than Dennis Ross, I wonder which former White House officials were interviewed.

A close examination of how the Obama administration finds itself at this point — based on interviews with dozens of current and former members of the administration, foreign diplomats and Congressional officials — starts with a deeply ambivalent president who has presided over a far more contentious debate among his advisers than previously known. Those advisers reflected Mr. Obama’s own conflicting impulses on how to respond to the forces unleashed by the Arab Spring: whether to side with those battling authoritarian governments or to avoid the risk of becoming enmeshed in another messy war in the Middle East. ... But others are far more critical, saying that the administration’s paralysis left it unprepared for foreseeable events like the Aug. 21 gas attack. Decisive action by Washington, they argue, could have bolstered moderate forces battling Mr. Assad’s troops for more than two years, and helped stem the rising toll of civilian dead, blunt the influence of radical Islamist groups among the rebels and perhaps even deter the Syria government from using chemical weapons.

As one former senior White House official put it, “We spent so much damn time navel gazing, and that’s the tragedy of it.”

While it is no surprise that there has been difference of opinion among Obama's inner circle, the article paints a disturbing picture of McDonough being the only official strongly opposed to US intervention (and even more disturbing that his opposition is framed as based at least in part on the advantages of Hezbollah and AQ wearing each other out).

Of course, there is no context offered, as though the Arab "Spring" occurred in a vacuum. Nothing about the Syria Accountability Act, about Ambassador Ford's activities with Democracy promoting NGOs, and the wikileaks info about embassy staff's concerns about continuing that activity. Also, aside from the brief Netanyahu mention, no context of the Israel Lobby's and media's drumbeats for war, especially in the context of Democratic fundraisers and elections. Instead, we get ridiculous language about "plausible deniability" for our constitutional scholar in chief when he couldn't justify direct military intervention and instituted CIA training for a coup instead.

Posted by: Rusty Pipes | Oct 24 2013 2:35 utc | 18

Friends of Syria or Friends of Imperialism?
The Friends of Syria—an 11 country coalition ranged against the Syrian government—favors what it calls a “democratic” transition in Damascus. There are multiple problems with this.

The coalition says that the current president, Bashar al-Assad, must have “no role in Syria.” How odd that an ostensibly democracy-promoting coalition should dictate to Syrians who it is who can’t be president of their country, rather than democratically leaving the question up to Syrians themselves. Equally strange is that half of the coalition members do not support democracy in their own countries. Five of the 11—nearly one-half—are not, themselves, democracies, but are monarchies and emirates (Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates) and one, Egypt, is a military dictatorship.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Oct 24 2013 6:12 utc | 19


Missile systems are just about the only thing that matters now. The chemical weapons were not that important during the calculations of war a month ago, and nothing has changed.

Israel may provoke things in Iran and blackmail everyone in the US who hasn't already been threatened, but one imagines that they've already tried that.

Posted by: Ozawa | Oct 24 2013 8:39 utc | 20

Hi b, IMHO you misread the situation. You shouldn't take the mainstream bullshit too seriously.

First, the US (and its puppets) always wanted regime change. The current situation is a very reluctant recognition of the hard facts by the bigger imperialist camp, because the smaller imperialist camp (Russia+China) indicated that it would seriously confront the other camp.

It's not about CW. The US doesn't care whether they fall to jihadi hands, 'cos - regardless of whatever bullshit you read in the press - these jihadists are their puppets. Actually the US has already supplied these jihadists with CW for false flag attacks. CW is a strategic deterrent, and only works when you have a centralized and strong state. A failed state cannot do anything meaningful with CW.

And regarding US goals, they are quite clear. They want to finish this regime off, and install a puppet, but even Libya style anarchy is OK, because a "failed state" cannot put up any meaningful resistence. Remember, Libya was a serious obstacle for the US domination in Africa, and now that's gone.

Posted by: balu | Oct 24 2013 10:31 utc | 21

"Posted by: Sharmine | Oct 23, 2013 6:33:48 PM" - It has been a while since I've seen you around here. Glad to see you back. Your articles in Al Akhbar are a must-read these days. Posted by: [Name Redacted] | Oct 23, 2013 6:56:45 PM | 13
Goodness me, is this the Sharmine? Sharmine Narwani? That's terrific. It took me a long time to accept that Sharmine was, so to speak, real. I thought she was too good to be true. Indeed, I still think that the spooks at St Antony's college must be keeping a very close eye on her.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Oct 24 2013 10:54 utc | 22

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Oct 24, 2013 6:54:56 AM | 22

it sounds like can always confirm by going here

Posted by: brian | Oct 24 2013 12:00 utc | 23

I meant to post that yesterday (but the MoA/Android2 conflict...), sorry if some links have been posted in the meanwhile.
Parallel to KSA's refusal to give a speech at the annual general assembly and two weeks later of its refusal to hold a seat at the UNSC there has been an escalation on the ground that may bear KSA's signature. Check for Bab tuma, Jaramana,Qalamaun, and in Egypt Ismailiyya, al-Maadi and Tur(car bomb!). Add to it Volgograd.
In Egypt the pattern follows the Syrian script: demos after friday prayers, attacks on police stations and security buildings using modern explosives and either a suicide bomber or magnetic bomb placed under the car. Conveniently some spooky terrorist groups would have posted videos to claim the attack but these are fishy. Might be a way to reign in the generals' diplomatic support for Assad.
As for KSA's 'abstention', it's hard to imagine how a hardcore didctatorship (using theocratic caveats to achieve a family power) could deal with a concept which is simply too democratic for them such as a UNSC seat: all speeches or public communication of KSA are in the hands of a very few folks which for most of them have reached the age of senility. Just watch these recent public appearances ( for Saud al Faisal; for the king; not sure how old is this video.. there was another king at the AL recently who looked really like he should rather be placed in a house for elderlies.)
KSA cannot function democratically because it is a very personal power and therefore people are not interchangeable as in a functional democracy.
France is now the main ally in the "crusade against Iran" after the US commited the major sin of talking with Putin. Which does not mean that the UK and Qatar do not continue to play the same role, now that the Queen's decorum, in the shape of a holy-democratic vote in parliament, has been respected...

Posted by: Mina | Oct 24 2013 13:31 utc | 24

MSM are not interested in the Arab Spring recent developments in Tunisia?
Qatar's Le Monde presents it as "chaos"
Al Ahram explains that it is the opposition which has postponed the talks to friday and provides a timeline of the last three months
RT follows today's demos in 24 departments
مراسلتنا: مظاهرات في عدة محافظات تونسية تطالب بـ"رحيل الحكومة" والمرزوقي يجتمع بالمجلس الاعلى للأمن :روسيا اليوم

Posted by: Mina | Oct 24 2013 13:44 utc | 25

What a lovely welcome at MoA - one of my favorite blogs ever. Thanks, all. Yes, Rowan - I am real and not a spook. Have noted your speculations in several places, thank you very much. Do consider next time that accusations of spying can harm a well-intentioned girl in a place like the Middle East. For the record, neither St. Antony's nor Al Akhbar have ever intervened in my work, which is why I continue the affiliation. Both organizations also host a broad spectrum of viewpoints, not that people bother to notice. I am leaving St. Antony's at the end of the year, but for no reason other than I now live in another country. Not sure Brian Whitaker will be too happy about that - his blog content will likely shrink by a solid margin.

Pardon me for going off topic like this. Great comments/debates here, as always.

Posted by: Sharmine | Oct 24 2013 13:57 utc | 26

On a similar subject Bradrakumar has a piece on the diplomatic scene between Russia-Iran. The commander of the Russian airforce Victor Bondarev has just finished a 4 day visit to Iran to talk about expanding military cooperation in missile tech, electronics and radar systems.

DEBKAfile, which has links to Israeli intelligence, sums up that Bondarev’s visit “laid the groundwork for a series of agreements to upgrade their military ties to a level unprecedented in their past relations.” But the big question remains: What about the controversial S-300 deal?

According to a report by Iran’s Press TV quoting a senior Iranian commander, Bondarev’s talks in Tehran produced “good results” and the S-300 deal is back “on the right track.” Some amicable formula is probably being worked out.

On top of this there are rumours around that this is prepatory work for a Putin visit to Iran in the next few months.

Posted by: Colm O' Toole | Oct 24 2013 15:37 utc | 27

"they are not happy with what they are hearing from Saudi intelligence"

Posted by: Colm O' Toole | Oct 23, 2013 7:06:56 PM | 14

Now that is an interesting thought, explaining the Saudi temper tantrum
I had suspected a domestic issue might be one reason for the UN seat rejection.
But, bad news on the ground in Syria could also be sound enough reasons for the upset

Posted by: Penny | Oct 24 2013 15:46 utc | 28

The USA is in the business of betrayal. All concepts of honor, truth and integrity are lies & more lies. The dealing of the USgov with the First Nations of the continent provide the blueprint for foreign policy. Weaken, smash, destroy, homogenize, Americanize & leave them worse off than before, then finally a casino will be what is left of whatever culture previously existed. Raw capitalism at work. God bless America and save Syria.

Posted by: Fernando | Oct 24 2013 16:02 utc | 29

Of course, the regime change campaign against Syria will continue. The US is addicted to war, particularly to the sponsorship of terrorism. And many of the agencies of the government are beyond control, which is the other side of the coin of deniability, so, even if the government wanted to rein in its forces it would be difficult for it.

As to “deniability” it needs to be borne in mind that this no longer applies to anyone but the hoi-poloi, the media watchers who follow the line dictated by the state. So far as “Presidential deniability” is concerned the concept is totally obsolete. Reagan is dead and Obama is not suffering from Alzheimer's.
Such is the power of the Panopticon that there can be no real secrets to the White House. Obama understands precisely the relationship between Bandar, AQ, the Defense Department and the array of government contractors who supply, train, pay and promote “jihadists” in the war against shi’ism.
But the context in which the assault on Syria is taking place has greatly changed.

Firstly, the war has become much wider: the daily carnage in Iraq, directly attributable to imperialist power, is very serious. Then there is the war in Yemen, another Saudi sponsored affair which is unlikely to end well for the US and its friends. And the unrest in Bahrain and the neighbouring eastern province of Arabia is not disappearing in the face of repression. While Saudi mercenaries roam the world looking for targets the Kingdom itself is facing real instability in the form of a rising from below conjoined to a succession fight between factions in the Royal family. For years the Saudis and the kleptocratic emirs of the GCC have blamed Iran for any dissension in their medieaval Disneylands. Now the pressure on the shi’ites is such that for Syria or Iraq not to back opponents of the GCC is irrational. All the more so because the real victims of these regimes go far beyond the shi-ites including the Sunni masses, and the enormous numbers of semi-slave guest workers, many of whom are not even muslims, who are deprived of human rights and are helpless, often impoverished, witnesses to the wasting away of the wealth which ought to make them secure and comfortable.

Secondly the imperial structure is beginning to creak: the reconditioned British Empire (Under New Management for more than 70 years!) is returning to its isolationist anglo origins. France, Germany and other long time NATO allies are severely embarrassed by the crude and tactless provocations that Mr Snowden has revealed. And they are under pressure from local capitalists, angry at the way that the Five Eyes have used the war on terror as an excuse for espionage and financial manipulation. These governments will be looking for ways to show their independence and assert their sovereignty. It is not a good time for Libyan style adventures: leading from behind doesn’t work without useful idiots like Sarkozy, Berlusconi and Cameron happy to do the dirty work.

And then there is the real change in the world beyond the Empire, beyond Europe, beyond NATO. The two big stories here are China and Russia: China’s financial and commercial momentum is phenomenal, and it undermines the US position as international arbiter more with every passing day: its currency swaps constitute a great danger to the critically important reserve role of the dollar. US hubris has almost done for its domination of global finance, with Iranian sanctions not the least of the inconveniences a global economy in decline has to bear, just to please Uncle Sam and his mad Israeli client. Asia is pivoting rapidly away from the US and the old Cold War strategy of garrisons and bases only serves-ask an Okinawan- to enhance China’s attractions. While backing Abe’s neo-imperial Japan and its renunciation of pacifism is not calculated to improve the US image in south east Asia.

Russia is alive to the changes that have taken place to the extent that it has been the crucial catalyst this year. It was Russia which gave Snowden the platform he needed to present his case without the constant din of US threats which turned his pre-asylum period into a circus in which his message was lost in the clash between the terror warriors and the constitutionalists. It wasn’t long ago that the British government was smashing hard drives in the Guardian offices and Congressional leaders were calling for rendition attempts, while Evo Morales’s plane was actually grounded, boarded and searched at Obama’s insistence. Now, with Snowden safely living in the suburbs, there is calm and the vexed question of Frau Merkel's cell-phone can be discussed in all its aspects.

More importantly, it was Russia which defused the Syrian crisis. The real story is yet to be told but there has to have been more to it than Kerry’s “gaffe” and Lavrov’s agile diplomacy: the US does not care whether it looks hypocritical or criminal. If it did there would be a Palestinian state , but it doesn’t and the West Bank is quickly becoming integrated into Israel.
The real story seems to be that, indeed, Russia is ready to arm the forces resisting US proxies in the middle east. And fighting against people able to defend themselves with modern weapons is a habit that the US has never cultivated. nor, at this late stage, is it likely to do so.
So, though, no doubt, the warmongers, zionists, neo-cons and other antique cults will continue to push for war against Syria and while there is always a good chance, given their command over public opinion, that they will succeed in escalating the conflict, the big difference that, as Georgia found out when it attacked South Ossetia, the result is no longer pre-determined. War could be very dangerous not, in the short term to the US but to its creatures in the Gulf and Israel.
All of whom understand that, at the first suggestion of vulnerability, hitherto neutral or friendly forces, such as Egypt for example, and perhaps Turkey (possibly even Jordan's Hashemites) would move with lightning speed to “stabilize the situation “, plunder the kleptocrats and extract revenge for decades of humiliation from Tel Aviv, or Haifa as the old maps call it.

Posted by: bevin | Oct 24 2013 16:10 utc | 30

I never thought you were a spook, Sharmine. But I know what you are getting at, and I apologise. Al-Akhbar is an amazing entity, really. I have a lot of sympathy with it. It's the first thing I read in the morning, when I start my news collecting rounds for my blog (it's at the top of my alphabetical list of Bookmarks, you see). Much as I love Ibrahim al-Amin and the others, I do still maintain that an alliance between a national Left camp and a theocratic party is inherently nonsensical. My loyalty if I had one would be to the PFLP-GC. By the way, have you ever read a novel by the late Said Aburish called "One Day I Will Tell You"? At the end of that, his fictional hero (closely modelled on himself) got assassinated by his own brother, who in the novel was a PFLP-GC member. It was a family in-joke, because Said Aburish's brother actually was a PFLP-GC member. But anyway. I'm fairly horrible about everyone on my blog; but I know leaving cynical comments about spookery on al-Akhbar isn't very nice. I did put one there in the end saying I no longer believed you were being used by the spooks at St Antony's, but everybody knows they're there. It's real Le Carré territory. Not that the tutors and senior fellows themselves are spooks, but they're part of the network, as I'm sure you know. We English are terribly good at this, unfortunately for us. Having a tame Left makes it very easy.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Oct 24 2013 16:33 utc | 31

Maybe B and Sharmine will move to Brazil one day? or join the project?

Posted by: Mina | Oct 24 2013 18:10 utc | 32


It's great to see you here. I have appreciated many of your columns at AlAkhbar and enjoyed hearing your interview with Stephen Zunes on a Chinese station several weeks ago. Have you been getting many radio or TV interviews about Syria?

Posted by: Rusty Pipes | Oct 24 2013 19:57 utc | 33

Neither Assad nor Putin are stupid. Of course they - as everyone else - knew that obama and generally zamericans can't be trusted more than a rattlesnake on cocaine. Putin in particular has learned the really hard way that zamericans word is worth less than nothing.

The chemical weapons had a clear reason, namely to somewhat balance israels nuclear aggression potential. Otherwise they are quite worthless and carry an extremely high price. About the only scenario where CWs could be employed is against israel; any other use would be considered inacceptable and detestable by the world.
So, giving them up actually carries quite little strategic significance. With modern Russian weapons Syria can defend herself better anyway.

obama is not in a position to f*ck Assad or Putin. For one, zamerica is bankrupt and simply can't afford a war against Syria. Second, and more importantly, Putin can at any time give Assad a knife to be at israels throat; the Iskander system would cripple israel without israel having the slightest chance to defend against it.

And there is another "insurance": Putins and Lawrows peace initiative had excellent worldwide visiblity and was welcome with overwhelming positive attitude by pretty everyone worldwide except some israeli criminals; even obama profitted from it.
Turning back would immensely harm zusa and for that matter israel.

Last but not least neither shitty little israel nor shitty large zusa are in any position to look for trouble. Neither of them nor zato has the muscles needed to survive a war with Russia and China.
In that context it should also be seen that zusa, besides having a loud bragging mouth, basically is but a bad debtor owing trillions and lacking the capability to pay in any reasonable amount of time. So, actually a war might look like not so unattractive an option, to collect the debt and, being at it, some trillions in compensation for the damage done by zusa throughout the world.

Ceterum censeo israel delendum esse.

Posted by: Mr. Pragma | Oct 24 2013 20:48 utc | 34

Democracynow demonising Russia?

Democracy Now Tags Indicted Multi-Millionaire Crook as a Whistleblower and Goes after Russia!

On October 15, 2013, Democracy Now! dedicated an entire hour to a segment titled Another U.S. Whistleblower Behind Bars? Investor Jailed After Exposing Corrupt Azerbaijani Oil Deal. The exclusive show presented the case of multimillionaire American businessman Rick Bourke, who supposedly blew the whistle on a fraudulent scheme by international criminals to gain control of the oil riches of Azerbaijan. Since May 2013 Rick Bourke has been held in a federal prison for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act for alleged knowledge of the bribery that allegedly took place in 1998. Other investors in the corrupt Azerbaijan scheme included former Democratic Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell and major institutions, including Columbia University and AIG. However, so far, no one has been jailed other than Bourke.
The case as narrated by Democracy Now and a few other US mainstream outlets reads like one of John le Carré’s famous spy and conspiracy thrillers turned into a Hollywood thriller:
The involvement of high-ranking former U.S. and British officials from the CIA and MI6 in Bourke’s court case High-profile politicians such as Senator George Mitchell and infamous mega corporations like AIG Key witnesses during the trial who were allegedly valued intelligence assets working for the U.S. government.
The nastily competing powers- USA and Russia, over Azerbaijan hydrocarbon; battles over oil and pipeline Shady characters such as Viktor Kozeny, known as the Pirate of Prague, who lives in the Bahamas, and a U.S. citizen named Tom Farrell, who lives in Saint Petersburg, Russia, where he runs a bar and acts like a double agent I can go on and list feature after feature of the case that entails numerous spy-novel characters, turns and twists, yet in the end leave the reader scratching his head confusedly due to not being able to make sense of this case and what it is really about. But I will not. If you are one of those confused readers don’t be hard on yourself, the story is designed to confuse and not make any sense. You are not alone. If you have the time and inclination (which I hope you do) read the transcript of this case, as presented by Democracy Now, and do so a couple of times. Make sure you highlight the points emphasized repeatedly during the show. And please check out the participants in the show, including the hosts and the outlet. Once you do that, join me to compare notes. Are you ready?

Posted by: brian | Oct 24 2013 20:49 utc | 35

With Bandar and Nethanyahoo around, there's nothing to be sanguine about.

Posted by: Gregg | Oct 25 2013 0:20 utc | 36

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