by William Skink
One of the persistent criticisms of this blog is that we utilize sources outside the mainstream when looking at US foreign policy. It was with this criticism in mind that I took a look at one of the claims uncritically passed along by ID, in another obsessive post about Ryan Zinke. The title of the post: Zinke’s Bizarre Love for Vladimir Putin and Aversion to the Truth.
Mostly this is just another throw-away attack on Zinke by a Democrat partisan, but since it uses foreign policy as the particular vehicle for this attack, it’s worth examining, especially the claim that Putin’s Russia is NOT fighting ISIS in Syria, but those mythical moderate freedom fighters trying to oust Assad.
Here is the claim, in the partisan’s words: As for Putin, Russia just started dropping bombs in the conflict, many of them not directed at ISIS, but at other groups opposing the Assad regime.
Upon closer examination of the Reuters article one discovers that it’s not just Zinke who displays an aversion to truth. It seems the West still clings to the fantasy that there are moderate opposition forces fighting under the banner of the Free Syrian Army worth supporting, and now Russia seems to be redefining this fictional western construct. From the link:
Putin told an annual meeting at the Russian defense ministry that on Friday Russian planes were assisting “in uniting the efforts of government troops and the Free Syrian Army”.
“Now several of its units numbering over 5,000 troops are engaged in offensive actions against terrorists, alongside regular forces, in the provinces of Homs, Hama, Aleppo and Raqqa,” he said, referring to the Free Syrian Army.
“We support it from the air, as well as the Syrian army, we assist them with weapons, ammunition and provide material support.”
If the US would have dispensed with the fiction of the Free Syrian Army months ago, Putin wouldn’t have this fiction to co-opt. This Independent article is from October 4th, while problematic in some regards, has this to say about the makeup of the FSA:
These men were originally military defectors to the FSA, which America and European countries regarded as a possible pro-Western force to be used against the Syrian government army. But the FSA fell to pieces, corrupted, and the “moderates” defected all over again, this time to the Islamist Nusrah Front or to Isis, selling their American-supplied weapons to the highest bidder or merely retiring quietly – and wisely – to the countryside where they maintained a few scattered checkpoints.
Washington admitted their disappearance, bemoaned their fate, concluded that new “moderates” were required, persuaded the CIA to arm and train 70 fighters, and this summer packed them off across the Turkish border to fight – whereupon all but 10 were captured by Nusrah and at least two of them were executed by their captors. Just two weeks ago, I heard in person one of the most senior ex-US officers in Iraq – David Petraeus’s former No 2 in Baghdad – announce that the “moderates” had collapsed long ago. Now you see them – now you don’t.
But within hours of Russia’s air assaults last weekend, Washington, The New York Times, CNN, the poor old BBC and just about every newspaper in the Western world resurrected these ghosts and told us that the Russkies were bombing the brave “moderates” fighting Bashar’s army in Syria – the very “moderates” who, according to the same storyline from the very same sources a few weeks earlier, no longer existed. Our finest commentators and experts – always a dodgy phrase – joined in the same chorus line.
Yesterday John Kerry met with his Russian counterparts. What was discussed? Mike Whitney thinks the topic of discussion may have included a mysterious airstrike on the Syrian military which just happened to coincided with an ISIS offensive. From the link:
When Kerry arrives in Moscow tomorrow he’ll be rushed to meeting room at the Kremlin where he’ll be joined by Lavrov, Putin, Minister of Defense Sergey Shoygu and high-ranking members from military intelligence. Then, following the initial introductions, Kerry will be shown the evidence Russian intelligence has gathered on last Sunday’s attack on a Syrian military base east of Raqqa that killed three Syrian soldiers and wounded thirteen others. The Syrian government immediately condemned the attack and accused US warplanes of conducting the operation. Later in the day, Putin delivered an uncharacteristically-harsh and threatening statement that left no doubt that he thought the attack was a grave violation of the accepted rules of engagement and, perhaps, a declaration of war.
Why would Putin be so pissed about this attack? Here’s Whitney with more context:
Why would an incident in the village of Ayyash in far-flung Deir Ezzor Province be so important that it would bring the two nuclear-armed adversaries to the brink of war?
I’ll tell you why: It’s because there were other incidents prior to the bombing in Ayyash that laid the groundwork for the current clash. There was the ISIS downing of the Russian airliner that killed 224 Russian civilians. Two weeks after that tragedy, Putin announced at the G-20 meetings that he had gathered intelligence proving that 40 countries –including some in the G-20 itself–were involved in the funding and supporting of ISIS. This story was completely blacked out in the western media and, so far, Russia has not revealed the names of any of the countries involved.
So, I ask you, dear reader, do you think the United States is on that list of ISIS supporters?
Then there was the downing of the Russian Su-24, a Russian bomber that was shot down by Turkish F-16s while it was carrying out its mission to exterminate terrorists in Syria. Many analysts do not believe that the Su-24 could have been destroyed without surveillance and logistical support provided by US AWACs or US satellites. Many others scoff at the idea that Turkey would engage in such a risky plan without the go-ahead from Washington. Either way, the belief that Washington was directly involved in the downing of a Russian warplane is widespread.
So, I ask you, dear reader, do you think Washington gave Turkey the greenlight?
Finally, we have the aerial attack on the Syrian military base in Deir Ezzor, an attack that was either executed by US warplanes or US-coalition warplanes. Not only does the attack constitute a direct assault on the Russian-led coalition (an act of war) but the bombing raid was also carried out in tandem with a “a full-scale ISIS offensive on the villages of Ayyash and Bgelia.” The coordination suggests that either the US or US allies were providing air-cover for ISIS terrorists to carry out their ground operations.
Cheap political points from a local partisan obscures an increasingly dangerous showdown between two nuclear armed states fighting a proxy war in Syria. Americans have been lied to about the nature of this conflict from the very beginning. Another important fact to consider is this: Russia’s military operation in Syria is in accordance with international law because they are there at the behest of the Syrian state. America and its NATO allies are in violation of international law. A pesky little fact, to be sure, but part of the reality Americans don’t seem to understand.
Maintaining that “Assad must go” virtually guarantees war with Russia. At Consortium News, this piece about Cornering Russia is worth reading. Here’s a bit of important insight from the article, specifically from Steven Cohen, worth highlighting:
“The chance for a durable Washington-Moscow strategic partnership was lost in the 1990 after the Soviet Union ended. Actually it began to be lost earlier, because it was [President Ronald] Reagan and [Soviet leader Mikhail] Gorbachev who gave us the opportunity for a strategic partnership between 1985-89.
“And it certainly ended under the Clinton Administration, and it didn’t end in Moscow. It ended in Washington — it was squandered and lost in Washington. And it was lost so badly that today, and for at least the last several years (and I would argue since the Georgian war in 2008), we have literally been in a new Cold War with Russia.
“Many people in politics and in the media don’t want to call it this, because if they admit, ‘Yes, we are in a Cold War,’ they would have to explain what they were doing during the past 20 years. So they instead say, ‘No, it is not a Cold War.’
“Here is my next point. This new Cold War has all of the potential to be even more dangerous than the preceding 40-year Cold War, for several reasons. First of all, think about it. The epicentre of the earlier Cold War was in Berlin, not close to Russia. There was a vast buffer zone between Russia and the West in Eastern Europe.
“Today, the epicentre is in Ukraine, literally on Russia’s borders. It was the Ukrainian conflict that set this off, and politically Ukraine remains a ticking time bomb. Today’s confrontation is not only on Russia’s borders, but it’s in the heart of Russian-Ukrainian ‘Slavic civilization.’ This is a civil war as profound in some ways as was America’s Civil War.”
Cohen continued: “My next point: and still worse – You will remember that after the Cuban Missile Crisis, Washington and Moscow developed certain rules-of-mutual conduct. They saw how dangerously close they had come to a nuclear war, so they adopted “No-Nos,’ whether they were encoded in treaties or in unofficial understandings. Each side knew where the other’s red line was. Both sides tripped over them on occasion but immediately pulled back because there was a mutual understanding that there were red lines.
“TODAY THERE ARE NO RED LINES. One of the things that Putin and his predecessor President Medvedev keep saying to Washington is: You are crossing our Red Lines! And Washington said, and continues to say, ‘You don’t have any red lines. We have red lines and we can have all the bases we want around your borders, but you can’t have bases in Canada or Mexico. Your red lines don’t exist.’ This clearly illustrates that today there are no mutual rules of conduct.
“Another important point: Today there is absolutely no organized anti-Cold War or Pro-Detente political force or movement in the United States at all –– not in our political parties, not in the White House, not in the State Department, not in the mainstream media, not in the universities or the think tanks. … None of this exists today. …
I find it incredibly discouraging to see a critical understanding of one of the most dangerous moments in world history sacrificed to stupid, short-sighted partisanship. There’s no intelligence applied, just cheap, opportunistic attacks further burying the reality of a conflict America has exploited from the start of the unrest.