White House Reviews Military Plans Against Iran, in Echoes of Iraq War

By Eric Schmitt and Julian E. Barnes – NYT

At a meeting of President Trump’s top national security aides last Thursday, Acting War Secretary Patrick Shanahan presented an updated military plan that envisions sending as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East should Iran attack American forces or accelerate work on nuclear weapons, administration officials said.

The revisions were ordered by hard-liners led by John R. Bolton, Mr. Trump’s national security adviser. They do not call for a land invasion of Iran, which would require vastly more troops, officials said.

The development reflects the influence of Bolton, one of the administration’s most virulent Iran hawks, whose push for confrontation with Tehran was ignored more than a decade ago by President George W. Bush.

It is highly uncertain whether Trump, who has sought to disentangle the United States from Afghanistan and Syria, ultimately would send so many American forces back to the Middle East.

It is also unclear whether the president has been briefed on the number of troops or other details in the plans. On Monday, asked about if he was seeking regime change in Iran, Trump said: “We’ll see what happens with Iran. If they do anything, it would be a very bad mistake.”

There are sharp divisions in the administration over how to respond to Iran at a time when tensions are rising about Iran’s nuclear policy and its intentions in the Middle East.

Some senior American officials said the plans, even at a very preliminary stage, show how dangerous the threat from Iran has become. Others, who are urging a diplomatic resolution to the current tensions, said it amounts to a scare tactic to warn Iran against new aggressions.

European allies who met with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday said that they worry that tensions between Washington and Tehran could boil over, possibly inadvertently.

More than a half-dozen American national security officials who have been briefed on details of the updated plans agreed to discuss them with The New York Times on the condition of anonymity. Spokesmen for Shanahan and Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, declined to comment.

The size of the force involved has shocked some who have been briefed on them. The 120,000 troops would approach the size of the American force that invaded Iraq in 2003.

Deploying such a robust air, land and naval force would give Tehran more targets to strike, and potentially more reason to do so, risking entangling the United States in a drawn out conflict. It also would reverse years of retrenching by the American military in the Middle East that began with President Barack Obama’s withdrawal of troops from Iraq in 2011.

But two of the American national security officials said Trump’s announced drawdown in December of American forces in Syria, and the diminished naval presence in the region, appear to have emboldened some leaders in Tehran and convinced the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps that the United States has no appetite for a fight with Iran.

Several oil tankers were reportedly attacked or sabotaged off the coast of the United Arab Emirates over the weekend, raising fears that shipping lanes in the Persian Gulf could become flash points. “It’s going to be a bad problem for Iran if something happens,” Mr. Trump said on Monday, asked about the episode.

Emirati officials are investigating the apparent sabotage, and American officials suspect that Iran was involved. Several officials cautioned, however, that there is not yet any definitive evidence linking Iran or its proxies to the reported attacks. An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman called it a “regretful incident,” according to a state news agency.

In Brussels, Pompeo met with the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany, cosignatories of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, as well as with the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini. He did not speak to the media, but the European officials said they had urged restraint upon Washington, fearing accidental escalation that could lead to conflict with Iran.

“We are very worried about the risk of a conflict happening by accident, with an escalation that is unintended really on either side,” said Jeremy Hunt, the British foreign secretary.

The Iranian government has not threatened violence recently, but last week, President Hassan Rouhani said Iran would walk away from parts of the 2015 nuclear deal it reached with world powers. Trump withdrew the United States from the agreement a year ago, but European nations have urged Iran to stick with the deal and ignore Trump’s provocations.

The high-level review of the Pentagon’s plans was presented during a meeting about broader Iran policy. It was held days after what the Trump administration described, without evidence, as new intelligence indicating that Iran was mobilizing proxy groups in Iraq and Syria to attack American forces.

As a precaution, the Pentagon has moved an aircraft carrier, B-52 bombers, a Patriot missile interceptor battery and more naval firepower to the gulf region.

At last week’s meeting, Shanahan gave an overview of the Pentagon’s planning, then turned to General Dunford to detail various force options, officials said. The uppermost option called for deploying 120,000 troops, which would take weeks or months to complete.

Among those attending Thursday’s meeting were Shanahan; Bolton; General Dunford; Gina Haspel, the CIA director; and Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence.

“The president has been clear, the United States does not seek military conflict with Iran, and he is open to talks with Iranian leadership,” Garrett Marquis, a National Security Council spokesman, said Monday in an email. “However, Iran’s default option for 40 years has been violence, and we are ready to defend US personnel and interests in the region.”

The reduction of forces in the Middle East in recent years has been propelled by a new focus on China, Russia and a so-called Great Powers competition. The most recent National Military Strategy — released before Bolton joined the Trump administration — concluded that while the Middle East remains important, and Iran is a threat to American allies, the United States must do more to ensure a rising China does not upend the world order.

As recently as late April, an American intelligence analysis indicated that Iran had no short-term desire to provoke a conflict…

On May 5, Bolton announced the first of new deployments to the Persian Gulf, including bombers and an aircraft carrier.

It is not clear to American intelligence officials what changed Iran’s posture. But intelligence and War Department officials said American sanctions have been working better than originally expected, proving far more crippling to the Iranian economy — especially after a clampdown on all oil exports that was announced last month.

Also in April, the State Department designated the Revolutionary Guards a foreign ‘terrorist’ organization over objections from Pentagon and intelligence officials who feared reprisals from the Iranian military.

While much of the new intelligence appears to have focused on ‘Iran readying its proxy forces’, officials said they believed the most likely cause of a conflict will follow a provocative act, or outright attack, by the Revolutionary Guards’ navy. The Guards’ fleet of small boats has a history of approaching American Navy ships at high speed. Revolutionary Guards commanders have precarious control over their ill-disciplined naval forces.

Part of the updated planning appears to focus on what military action the United States might take if Iran resumes its nuclear fuel production, which has been frozen under the 2015 agreement. It would be difficult for the Trump administration to make a case that the United States was under imminent nuclear peril; Iran shipped 97 percent of its fuel out of the country in 2016, and currently does not have enough to make a bomb.

That could change if Iran resumes enriching uranium. But it would take a year or more to build up a significant quantity of material, and longer to fashion it into a weapon. That would allow, at least in theory, plenty of time for the United States to develop a response — like a further cutoff of oil revenues, covert action or military strikes.

The previous version of the Pentagon’s war plan included a classified subset code-named Nitro Zeus, a cyber operation that called for unplugging Iran’s major cities, its power grid and its military.

The idea was to use cyber weapons to paralyze Iran in the opening hours of any conflict, in hopes that it would obviate the need to drop any bombs or conduct a traditional attack. That plan required extensive presence inside Iran’s networks — called “implants” or “beacons” — that would pave the way for injecting destabilizing malware into Iranian systems.

Two officials said those plans have been constantly updated in recent years.

But even a cyberattack, without dropping bombs, carries significant risk. Iran has built up a major corps of its own, one that successfully attacked financial markets in 2012, a casino in Las Vegas and a range of military targets. American intelligence officials told Congress in January that Iranian hackers are now considered sophisticated operators who are increasingly capable of striking United States targets.

Since Bolton became national security adviser in April 2018, he has intensified the Trump administration’s policy of isolating and pressuring Iran. The animus against Iran’s leaders dates back at least to his days as an official in the George W. Bush administration. Later, as a private citizen, Bolton called for military strikes on Iran, as well as regime change.

The newly updated plans were not the first time during the Trump administration that Bolton has sought military options to strike Iran.

This year, War Department and senior American officials said Bolton sought similar guidance from the Pentagon last year, after militants fired three mortars or rockets into an empty lot on the grounds of the United States Embassy in Baghdad in September.

In response to Bolton’s request, which alarmed Jim Mattis, then the war secretary, the Pentagon offered some general options, including a cross-border airstrike on an Iranian military facility that would have been mostly symbolic.

But Mattis and other military leaders adamantly opposed retaliation for the Baghdad attack, successfully arguing that it was insignificant.

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Pentagon Obsession: China, China, China

Pentagon Obsession: China, China, China

by Pepe Escobar (cross-posted with Strategic Culture) by special agreement with the author)

Chinese nuclear bombers. Chinese hypersonic missiles. Chinese carrier killer missiles. Chinese cyberattacks. Chinese anti-satellite weaponry. Chinese militarization of the South China Sea. Chinese Huawei spying.

So many Chinese “malign intentions”. And we’re not even talking about Russia.

Few people around the world are aware that the Pentagon for the moment is led by a mere “acting” Defense Secretary, Patrick Shanahan.

That did not prevent “acting” Secretary to shine in the red carpet when presenting the Trump administration’s 2020 Pentagon budget proposal – at $718 billion – to the Senate Armed Services Committee: the top US national security threat is, in his own (repeated) words, “China, China, China”.

“Acting” Shanahan has been in charge since Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis – the original butcher of Fallujah in 2004 – resigned last December. His former employer happened to be Boeing. The Pentagon’s inspector general is still investigating whether Shanahan was in fact acting as a no holds barred Boeing commercial asset whenever he met the Pentagon top brass.

That, of course, fits the classic Beltway “revolving door” pattern. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, a Washington-based group, actually filed a complaint around the fact that “acting” Shanahan blasted Lockheed Martin, Boeing’s competitor, in every top-level Pentagon meeting.

Shanahan told the Senate, “China is aggressively modernizing its military, systematically stealing science and technology, and seeking military advantage through a strategy of military-civil fusion.”

That includes Beijing’s development of a nuclear-capable long-range bomber that, according to Shanahan, will put it on the same level as the US and Russia as the only global powers controlling air-, sea- and land-based nuclear weapons.

It’s essential to remember that Mattis and Shanahan are the main authors of the National Defense Strategy adopted by the Trump administration which accuses China of striving for “Indo-Pacific regional hegemony in the near-term and displacement of the United States to achieve global pre-eminence in the future.”

Now compare it with

Col. Larry Wilkerson’s view; the whole Pentagon show is all about offense while Russia and China are always emphasizing defense.

Fighting the Trojan Horse

Even more enlightening is to directly compare the Pentagon approach with the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces under its chief, Gen. Valeriy Gerasimov.

Gerasimov identified “the US and its allies” as engaged in permanent war of all types, including “preparation for ‘global strike’, ‘multi-domain battle’, [and the] use of the technology of ‘color revolutions’ and ‘soft power’. Their goal is the elimination of the statehood of undesirable countries, undermining their sovereignty, changing the legitimately elected public authorities. Thus it was in Iraq, in Libya and in Ukraine. Now similar actions are observed in Venezuela.”

So there it is, graphically explained: Venezuela, geostrategically, is as important to Moscow as Syria and Ukraine.

Gerasimov also detailed how, “the Pentagon has begun to develop a fundamentally new strategy of warfare, which has been dubbed the ‘Trojan Horse’. Its essence lies in the active use of the ‘protest potential of the fifth column’ in order to destabilize the situation with simultaneous strikes by precision-guided weapons on the most important targets.”

Then the clincher; “The Russian Federation is ready to oppose every one of these strategies. In recent years, military scientists, together with the General Staff, have developed conceptual approaches to neutralize the aggressive actions of potential opponents. The field of research of military strategy is armed struggle, its strategic level. With the emergence of new areas of confrontation in modern conflicts, methods of struggle are increasingly shifting towards the integrated application of political, economic, information and other non-military measures, implemented with the support of military force.”

Call it Russia’s response to Made in USA Hybrid War. With the major incentive of being a value for money operation; after all the Russian General Staff, unlike the Pentagon, is not in the business, for all practical purposes, of stealing trillions of dollars from taxpayers for several decades.

There’s no question the Chinese leadership, not exactly adept at state of the art Hybrid War techniques, is studying the Russian military strategies in excruciating detail.

Of course this is all intrinsically linked to Putin’s leadership. Last month, in Moscow, Rostislav Ishchenko, arguably the top Russian analyst of the Ukraine saga, explained it to me in detail:

“Putin does not ‘take over the elites’ or ‘guide the nation.’ His genius lies in an acute intuitive sense of the strategic needs of the nation (which creates a strong feedback and causes absolute trust of the absolute majority of the people), but most importantly, he is a master of political compromise, understanding the importance of maintaining peace between different social, economic, and political groups within the country, to ensure its stability, prosperity, and international authority. Given that foreign policy is always a continuation of domestic policy, we can clearly trace his desire for compromise in Russian international activity.”

“Putin, Ishchenko added, “does not try to suppress the opponents even in those cases when Russia is unconditionally stronger and the result of the confrontation will clearly be in her favor. Putin understands that both the loser and the winner lose in the confrontation. Therefore, he always offers a compromise for a long time, almost to the last opportunity, even to those who clearly do not deserve it, moving to other solutions only after the opponent has clearly crossed all possible red lines and can pose a threat to the vital interests of Russia. An agreement based on consideration of each other’s interests is always stronger than any short-term ‘victories’, which tomorrow will result in the need to reaffirm their status of the winner again and again. It seems to me that Putin understands this well. Hence the effectiveness of his actions. You can also take a look at his team. These are professionals who adhere to a variety of ideological views (or do not adhere to any). The main thing is that they perform their work qualitatively. The ability to manage such a team is another of its undoubted advantages. After all, these are all ambitious people who are aware of their professionalism and are able to defend their opinion, which is not always the same for everyone. Nevertheless, they work as a single mechanism and achieve really great results.”

Watch out for Yoda’s hordes

To expect the same from the US industrial-military-surveillance complex would be idle.

In fact, “acting” Shanahan’s deputy, Under Secretary David Trachtenberg, doubled down when addressing the Senate Armed Services Committee; he said that Washington will not relinquish its self-attributed right for a nuclear first strike.

In his own words; “A ‘no-first use’ policy would erode US allies’ belief that they are protected.” As if all US allies were begging in unison to be “defended” by US nuclear bombs. In true “war is peace” mode, this Orwellian state of affairs is justified under the Pentagonese notion of “constructive ambiguity”.

The 2018 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) exhibits a long list of causes that may detonate a US nuclear first strike – including a worryingly vague attack on “allied or partner civilian infrastructure”. Even a clumsy false flag, for instance in the South China Sea, could lead to such a stand off.

All of the above is in fact directly linked to the death of Yoda.

Yoda is of course RAND asset Andrew Marshall, who was the director of the nefarious Office of Net Assessment at the Pentagon from 1973 to 2015.

Predictably, scores of Atlanticist think tanks are celebrating Yoda as the winner in devising the new rollback US “strategy” against China.

Yoda did groom scores of analysts across the whole spectrum of the industrial-military-surveilance complex – including think tanks, universities and mainstream media.

So in the end Yoda did body-slam Bismarckian Henry Kissinger – who remains alive, sort of (if Marshall was Yoda, would Kissinger be Darth Vader?) Kissinger always advised containment in relation to China, disguised as what he termed “co-evolution”.

Yoda finished off not only Kissinger but also the Obama administration’s wobbly and ill-defined “pivot to Asia”. Yoda preached hardcore confrontation with China. There’s no question that even beyond the grave, he’ll continue to rule over his warmongering Beltway hordes.

Pepe Escobar: Empire of Chaos in Hybrid War Overdrive

SourcePepe Escobar: Empire of Chaos in Hybrid War Overdrive

March 28, 2019

The Trump administration’s foreign policy may be easily deconstructed as a crossover between The Sopranos and late-night comedy, writes Pepe Escobar.

by Pepe Escobar (cross-posted with Consortium News ) by special agreement with the author)

Is this the Age of Anxiety? The Age of Stupidity? The Age of Hybrid War? Or all of the above?

As right populism learns to use algorithms, artificial intelligence (AI) and media convergence, the Empire of Chaos, in parallel, is unleashing all-out hybrid and semiotic war.

Dick Cheney’s Global War on Terror (GWOT) is back, metastasized as a hybrid mongrel.

But GWOT would not be GWOT without a Wild West scarecrow. Enter Hamza bin Laden, son of Osama. On the same day the State Department announced a $1 million bounty on his head, the so- called “UN Security Council IS and Al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee” declared Hamza the next al-Qaeda leader.

Since January 2017, Hamza has been a Specially Designated Global Terrorist by the State Department – on par with his deceased Dad, back in the early 2000s. The Beltway intel community “believes” Hamza resides “in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.”

Remember these are the same people who “believed” former Taliban leader Mullah Omar resided in Quetta, Baluchistan, when in fact he was safely ensconced only a few miles away from a massive U.S. military base in Zabul, Afghanistan.

Considering that Jabhat al-Nusra, or al-Qaeda in Syria, for all practical purposes, was defined as no more than “moderate rebels” by the Beltway intel community, it’s safe to infer that new scarecrow Hamza is also a “moderate”. And yet he’s more dangerous than vanished fake Caliph Abu Baqr al-Baghdadi. Talk about a masterful example of culture jamming.

Show Me The Big Picture

A hefty case can be made that the Empire of Chaos currently has no allies; it’s essentially surrounded by an assortment of vassals, puppets and comprador 5thcolumnist elites professing varied degrees of – sometimes reluctant – obedience.

The Trump administration’s foreign policy may be easily deconstructed as a crossover between The Sopranos and late-night comedy – as in the whole episode of designating State Department/CIA regime change, lab experiment Random Dude as President of Venezuela. Legendary cultural critic Walter Benjamin would have called it “the aestheticization of politics,” (turning politics into art), as he did about the Nazis, but this time it’s the Looney Tunes version.

To add to the conceptual confusion, despite countless “an offer you can’t refuse” antics unleashed by psychopaths of the John Bolton and Mike Pompeo variety, there’s this startling nugget. Former Iranian diplomat Amir Moussavi has revealed that Trump himself demanded to visit Tehran, and was duly rebuffed. “Two European states, two Arab countries and one Southeast Asian state” were mediating a series of messages relayed by Trump and his son-in-law Jared “of Arabia” Kushner, according to Moussavi.

Is there a method to this madness? An attempt at a Grand Narrative would go something like this: ISIS/Daesh may have been sidelined – for now; they are not useful anymore, so the U.S. must fight the larger “evil”: Tehran. GWOT has been revived, and though Hamza bin Laden has been designated the new Caliph, GWOT has shifted to Iran.

When we mix this with the recent India-Pakistan scuffle, a wider message emerges. There was absolutely no interest by Prime Minister Imran Kahn, the Pakistani Army and the Pakistani intelligence, ISI, to launch an attack on India in Kashmir. Pakistan was about to run out of money and about to be bolstered by the U.S., via Saudi Arabia with $20 billion and an IMF loan.

At the same time, there were two almost simultaneous terrorist attacks launched from Pakistan – against Iran and against India in mid-February. There’s no smoking gun yet, but these attacks may have been manipulated by a foreign intelligence agency. The Cui Bono riddle is which state would profit immensely from a war between Pakistan and Iran and/or a war between Pakistan and India.

The bottom line: hiding in the shadow of plausible deniability – according to which what we understand as reality is nothing but pure perception – the Empire of Chaos will resort to the chaos of no-holds-barred hybrid war to avoid “losing” the Eurasian heartland.

Show Me How Many Hybrid Plans You Got

What applies to the heartland of course also applies to the backyard.

The case of Venezuela shows that the “all options on the table” scenario has been de facto aborted by Russia, outlined in an astonishing briefing by Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman of the Russian Foreign Ministry, and then subsequently detailed by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Lavrov. (Wikimedia Commons)

Meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj at a crucial RIC (part of BRICS) summit in China,Lavrov said, “Russia keeps a close eye on brazen US attempts to create an artificial pretext for a military intervention in Venezuela… The actual implementation of these threats is pulling in military equipment and training [US] Special Forces.”

Lavrov explained how Washington was engaged in acquiring mortars and portable air defense systems “in an East European country, and mov(ing) them closer to Venezuela by an airline of a regime that is… rather absolutely obedient to Washington in the post-Soviet space.”

The U.S. attempt at regime change in Venezuela has been so far unsuccessful in several ways. Plan A – a classic color revolution -has miserably failed, in part because of a lack of decent local intelligence. Plan B was a soft version of humanitarian imperialism, with a resuscitation of the nefarious, Libya-tested responsibility to protect (R2P); it also failed, especially when the American tale that the Venezuelan government burnt humanitarian aid trucks at the border with Colombia was a lie, exposed by The New York Times, no less.

Plan C was a classic Hybrid War technique: a cyberattack, replete with a revival of Nitro Zeus, which shut down 80 percent of Venezuela’s electricity.

That plan had already been exposed by WikiLeaks, via a 2010 memo by a U.S.-funded, Belgrade-based color revolution scam that helped train self-proclaimed “President” Random Dude, when he was just known as Juan Guaidó. The leaked memo said that attacking the Venezuelan power grid would be a “watershed event” that “would likely have the impact of galvanizing public unrest in a way that no opposition group could ever hope to generate.”

But even that was not enough.

That leaves Plan D – which is essentially to try to starve the Venezuelan population to death via viciously lethal additional sanctions. Sanctioned Syria and sanctioned Iran didn’t collapse. Even boasting myriad comprador elites aggregated in the Lima group, exceptionalists may have to come to grips with the fact that deploying the Monroe doctrine essentially to contain China’s influence in the young 21stcentury is no “cakewalk.”

Plan E—for extreme—would be U.S. military action, which Bolton won’t take off the table.

Show Me the Way to the Next War Game

So where do all these myriad weaponizations of chaos theory leave us? Nowhere, if they don’t follow the money. Local comprador elites must be lavishly rewarded, otherwise you’re stuck in hybrid swamp territory. That was the case in Brazil – and that’s why the most sophisticated hybrid war case history so far has been a success.

In 2013, Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks revealed how the NSA was spying on Brazilian energy giant Petrobras and the Dilma Rousseff government beginning in 2010. Afterwards, a complex, rolling judicial-business-political-financial-media coup ended up reaching its two main objectives; in 2016, with the impeachment of Rousseff, and in 2018, with Lula thrown in jail.

Now comes arguably the juiciest piece of the puzzle. Petrobras was supposed to pay $853 million to the U.S. Department of Justice for not going to trial for crimes it was being accused of in America. But then a dodgy deal was struck according to which the fine will be transferred to a Brazilian fund as long as Petrobras commits to relay confidential information about its businesses to the United States government.

Mattis: Wrote on hybrid war in 2005.

Hybrid war against BRICS member Brazil worked like a charm, but trying it against nuclear superpower Russia is a completely different ball game. U.S. analysts, in another case of culture jamming, even accuse Russia itself of deploying hybrid war – a concept actually invented in the U.S. within a counter-terrorism context; applied during the occupation of Iraq and later metastasized across the color revolution spectrum; and featuring, among others, in an article co-authored by former Pentagon head James “Mad Dog” Mattis in 2005 when he was a mere lieutenant general.

At a recent conference about Russia’s military strategy, Chief of General Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov stressed that the Russian armed forces must increase both their “classic” and “asymmetrical” potential. In the U.S. this is interpreted as subversion/propaganda hybrid war techniques as applied in Ukraine and in the largely debunked Russia-gate. Instead, Russian strategists refer to these techniques as “complex approach” and “new generation war”.

Santa Monica’s RAND Corporation still sticks to good ol’ hot war scenarios. They have been holding “Red on Blue” war games simulations since 1952 – modeling how the proverbial “existential threats” could use asymmetric strategies. The latest Red on Blue was not exactly swell. RAND analyst David Ochmanek famously said that with Blue representing the current U.S. military potential and Red representing Russia-China in a conventional war, “Blue gets its ass handed to it.”

None of this will convince Empire of Chaos functionary Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who recently told a Senate Armed Services Committee that the Pentagon will continue to refuse a “no first use” nuclear strategy. Aspiring Dr. Strangeloves actually believe the U.S. can start a nuclear war and get away with it.

Talk about the Age of Hybrid Stupidity going out with a bang.

Pepe Escobar, a veteran Brazilian journalist, is the correspondent-at-large for Hong Kong-based Asia Times. His latest book is “2030.” Follow him on Facebook.

Pussy John Bolton and His Codpiece Mustache: Examining the Freak Show

By Fred Reed

February 18, 2019 “Information Clearing House” –   American government has become a collection of sordid and dangerous clowns. It was not always thus. Until Bush II, those governing were never lunatics. Eisenhower, Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Obama, Clinton had their defects, were sometimes corrupt, and could be disagreed with on many grounds. They weren’t crazy. Today’s administration would seem unwholesome in a New York bus station at three in the morning. They are not normal American politicians. 

In particular they seem to be pushing for war with Iran, China, Russia, and Venezuela. And–this is important–their behavior is not a matter of liberals catfighting with conservatives. All former presidents carefully avoided war with the Soviet Union, which carefully avoided war with America. It was Reagan, a conservative and responsible president, who negotiated the INF  treaty, to eliminate short-fuse nuclear weapons from Europe. By contrast, Trump is scrapping it. Pat Buchanan, the most conservative man I have met, strongly opposes aggression against Russia. The problem with the current occupants of the White House is not that they are conservatives, if they are. It is that they are nuts.

Donald the Cockatoo

Start with the head cheese, Donald Trump, profoundly ignorant, narcissistic, a real-estate con man who danced just out of reach of the law. His supporters will explode in fury at this. All politics being herd politics, the population has coalesced into herds fanatically pro-Trump and fanatically anti-Trump. Yet Trump’s past is not a secret. Well-documented biographies describe his behavior in detail, but his supporters don’t read them. The following is a bit long, but worth reading.

From The Making of Donald Trump Johnston, David Cay. (p. 23). Melville House. Kindle Edition.

“I always get even,” Trump writes in the opening line of that chapter. He then launches into an attack on the same woman he had denounced in Colorado. Trump recruited the unnamed woman “from her government job where she was making peanuts,” her career going nowhere. “I decided to make her somebody. I gave her a great job at the Trump Organization, and over time she became powerful in real estate. She bought a beautiful home.

“When Trump was in financial trouble in the early nineties…..”I asked her to make a phone call to an extremely close friend of hers who held a powerful position at a big bank and would have done what she asked. She said, “Donald, I can’t do that.” Instead of accepting  that the woman felt that such a call would be inappropriate, Trump fired her. She started her own business. Trump writes that her business failed. “I was really happy when I found that out,” he says.

“She had turned on me after I did so much to help her. I had asked her to do me a favor in return, and she turned me down flat. She ended up losing her home. Her husband, who was only in it for the money, walked out on her and I was glad. Over the years many people have called me asking for a recommendation for her. I always gave her bad recommendation. I can’t stomach disloyalty. ..and now I go out of my way to make her life miserable.“

All that because (if she exists) she declined to engage in corruption for the Donald. That is your President. A draft dodger, a pampered rich kid, and Ivy brat (Penn, Wharton). This increasingly is a pattern at the top: Ivy, money, no military service.

Pussy John Bolton

A particularly  loathsome sort of politician is one who dodges his country’s wars when of military age, and then wants to send others to die in later wars. This is Pussy John, arch hawk, coward, amoral, bully, willing to kill any number while he prances  martially in Washington. Speaking as one who carried a rifle in Viet Nam, I would like to confine this fierce darling for life in the bottom of a public latrine in Uganda.

Pussy John, an Ivy flower (Yale) wrote in a reunion books that, during the 1969 Vietnam War draft lottery,  

“I confess I had no desire to die in a Southeast Asian rice paddy. I considered the war in Vietnam already lost.” In an interview, Bolton explained that he decided to avoid service in Vietnam because “by the time I was about to graduate in 1970, it was clear to me that opponents of the Vietnam War had made it certain we could not prevail, and that I had no great interest in going there to have Teddy Kennedy give it back to the people I might die to take it away from.”

This same Pussy John, unwilling to risk his valuable being in a war he could have attended, now wants war with Iran, Venezuela, Russia, Syria, and Afghanistan. In these wars millions would die while he waggled his silly lip broom in the West Wing. His truculence is pathological and dangerous.  

Here is  PJ on Iran: which has not harmed and does not threaten America: “We think the government is under real pressure and it’s our intention to squeeze them very hard,” Bolton said Tuesday in Singapore. “As the British say, ‘squeeze them until the pips squeak’.”

How very brave of him. He apparently feels sadistic delight at starving Venezuelans, inciting civil war, and ruining the lives of millions who have done nothing wrong. Whence the weird hostility of this empty jockstrap, the lack of humanity? Forgot his Midiol? Venezuela of course has done nothing to the US and couldn’t if it wanted to. America under the Freak Show is destroying another country simply because it doesn’t meekly obey. While PJ gloats.

Bush II

Another rich kid and Yalie, none too bright, amoral as the rest, another draft dodger, (he hid in the Air  National Guard.) who got to the White House on daddy’s name recognition. Not having the balls to fight in his own war, he presided over the destruction of Iraq and the killing of hundreds of thousands, for no reason. (Except oil, Israel, and Empire. Collectively, these amount to no reason.) He then had the effrontery to pose on the deck of an aircraft carrier and say, “Mission accomplished.” You know, just like Alexander the Great. Amoral. No empathy. What a man.

The striking pattern of the Ivy League avoiding the war confirmed then, as it does now, that our present rulers regard the rest of America as beings of a lower order. These armchair John Waynes might have called them “deplorables,” though Hillary, another Yalie bowwow hawk, had not yet made the contempt explicit. This was the attitude of Pussy John, Bushy-Bushy  Two, and Cockatoo Don. Compare this with the Falklands War in which Prince Andrew did what a country’s leadership should do, but ours doesn’t..

Wikipedia: “He (Prince Andrew) holds the rank of commander and the honorary rank of Vice Admiral (as of February 2015) in the Royal Navy, in which he served as an active-duty helicopter pilot and instructor and as the captain of a warship. He saw active service during the Falklands War, flying on multiple missions including anti-surface warfare, Exocet missile decoy, and casualty evacuation”

The Brits still have class. Compare Andrew with the contents of the Great Double-Wide on Pennsylvania Avernus.

Gina

A measure of the moral degradation of America: It is the only country that openly and proudly engages in torture. Many countries do it, of course. We admit it, and maintain torture prisons around the globe. Now we have a major government official, Gina Haspel, head of the CIA, a known sadist. “Bloody Gina.” Is this who represents us? Would any other country in the civilized world put a sadist publicly in office?  

Think of Gina waterboarding some guy, or standing around and getting off on it. You don’t torture people unless you like it. The guy is tied down, coughing, choking, screaming, begging, desperate, drowning, and Gina pours…more water. The poor bastard vomits, chokes. Gina adds a little more water….

What kind of woman would do this? Well, Gina’s kind obviously. Does she then run off to her office and lock the door for half an hour? Maybe it starts early. One imagines her as a little girl, playing with her dolls.  Cheerleader Barbie, Nurse Barbie, Klaus Barbie….

Michael Pompeo

Another pathologically aggressive chickenhawk. In a piece in Foreign Affairs he describes Iran as a “rogue state that America must eliminate for the sake of all that is good.  Note that Pompeo presides over a foreign policy seeking to destroy Venezuela’s economy and threatens military invasion, though Venezuela is no danger to the US and is not America’s business; embargoes Cuba, which  in no danger to the US and is not America’s business; seeks to destroy Iran’s economy, though Iran is no danger to the US and none of Americas business; sanctions Europe and meddles in its politics; sanctions Russia, which is not a danger to the United States, in an attempt to destroy its economy, pushes NATO up to Russia’s borders, abandons the INF arms-control treaty and establishes a Space Command which will mean nuclear weapons on hair trigger in orbit, starts another nuclear arms race; wages a trade war against  China intended to prevent its economic progress; sanctions North Korea; continues a seventeen-year policy of killing Afghans for no discernible purpose; wages a war against Syria; bombs Somalis; maintains unwanted occupation forces in Iraq; increasingly puts military forces in Africa; supports regimes with ghastly human-rights records such as Saudi Arabia and Israel; and looks for a war with China in the South China Sea, which is no more America’s business than the Gulf of Mexico is China’s.

But Pompeo is not a loon, oh no, and America is not a rogue state. Perish forfend.

Nikki Haley

A negligible twit–I choose my vowel carefully–but characterized, like Trump, PJ, and Pompeo, by loyalty to Israel and wild combativeness. She seemed less dangerous than just embarrassing. Like the rest of this administration, she threatened war and retribution against any countries that did not obey the United States–not that she would put her own rounded pink sit-down ion the line n a war. That is for deplorables.

“Mad Dog” Mattis

“After being promoted to lieutenant general, Mattis took command of Marine Corps Combat Development Command. On February 1, 2005, speaking at a forum in San Diego, he said “You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them. Actually, it’s a lot of fun to fight. You know, it’s a hell of a hoot. It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right upfront with you, I like brawling.”

Perhaps in air-to-air combat you want someone who regards killing as fun, or in an amphibious assault. But in a position to make policy? Can you image Dwight Eisenhower talking about the fun of squaring a man’s brains across the ground?  

The Upshot

We have until recently never had government as aggressive, reckless, or psychiatrically fascinating as now. Again, it is not a matter of Republicans and Democrats. No administration of any party, stripe, or ideology has ever pushed to aggressively toward war with so many countries. These people are not right in the head.

Fred, a keyboard mercenary with a disorganized past, has worked on staff for Army Times, The Washingtonian, Soldier of Fortune, Federal Computer Week, and The Washington Times.

He has been published in Playboy, Soldier of Fortune, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Harper’s, National Review, Signal, Air&Space, and suchlike. He has worked as a police writer, technology editor, military specialist, and authority on mercenary soldiers. He is by all accounts as looney as a tune. https://fredoneverything.org

Trump Ran Scared to Iraq, to Avert Coup Against Him

Trump Ran Scared to Iraq, to Avert Coup Against Him

FINIAN CUNNINGHAM | 30.12.2018 |

Trump Ran Scared to Iraq, to Avert Coup Against Him

Donald Trump’s visit this week to US forces in Iraq has to be seen as a highly peculiar move. Following his announcement to pull troops out of Syria and Afghanistan, which caused a split with senior Pentagon figures, it seems that Trump was making a desperate bid to reassure the military establishment. Perhaps even to forestall a feared coup against his presidency.

For nearly two years since his election, President Trump had not visited US troops in any active combat zone, unlike all his predecessors in the White House. His apparent indifference to overseas forces had engendered much consternation from political opponents and the media. In a recent editorial, the New York Times admonished: “Put Down the Golf Clubs, Visit the Troops”.

Recall, too, the US media scorn heaped on Trump when, during his trip to France in November to mark the centennial end of World War One, he declined to pay his respects at an American war cemetery “because it was raining”.

Trump is therefore not the sort of person to put himself in discomfort for others. That’s why it seems all the stranger that on Christmas Night, December 25, the president and his wife Melania left the comfort of the White House, and boarded Air Force One for a 6,000-kilometer overnight flight to Iraq.

The journey to Iraq was variously described in US media as a surprise and “shrouded in secrecy”. So secret indeed that the Iraqi government was not even informed in advance of Trump’s arrival. A hastily proposed meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi did not take place because the Iraqis were only given a couple hours notice when the US president landed.

In total, Trump and his delegation spent only three hours in Iraq and a reported 15 minutes talking to troops at Al-Asad Air Base, near the capital Baghdad. The president then flew back to Washington, making a brief refueling stop in Germany. Talk about a whirlwind spin halfway around the globe – and for what?

What this all suggests is that Trump’s visit was a hasty, ad hoc event that appears to have been done on the spur of the moment, in reaction to the news cycle over the past week.

As the New York Times put it: “The trip, shrouded in secrecy, came… less than a week after Mr Trump disrupted the military status quo and infuriated even some of his political allies by announcing plans to withdraw all troops from Syria and about half from Afghanistan. The president’s decision on Syria led to the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.”

Mattis’ resignation, followed by that of another senior Pentagon official, Brett McGurk, showed that there was serious pushback from the military establishment to Trump’s pullout order from Syria and Afghanistan.

Not only that but Trump’s political opponents within his own Republican party and the Democrats were given extensive media coverage for their protests against his order.

As CNN reported: “James Mattis’ resignation triggered an outpouring of anxiety and anger”.

Senators were lining up to condemn Trump for losing “the adult in the room” and a “voice of stability”. Mattis was hailed as “a national treasure” and praised for his “moral compass”. The eulogizing hardly squares with Mattis’ record of war crimes committed while serving as a Marines Corp general during the siege of Fallujah in Iraq in 2004, nor his psychopathic humor extolling the “fun of shooting people”.

Not for the first time, Trump was being denounced as a “traitor” by political enemies in Washington and the media. It was reminiscent of the way he was vilified after holding a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki earlier this year. Trump was again accused of “giving a gift to Putin” with his plan to withdraw US troops from Syria.

This time around, however, the political atmosphere was even more seditious.

By ignoring national security advisors and “the generals” over his Syria and Afghanistan announcements, Trump had crossed swords with the military-intelligence establishment. There was also a strong sense that the usual anti-Trump media were seizing on the opportunity to whip up Pentagon dissent against the president by lionizing Mattis as a “great leader” and whose absence would sap morale in the ranks.

The brooding political and military climate in Washington over Trump’s singlehanded decision-making may be the explanation for why the notorious couch-potato president felt compelled to get off his backside and head to Iraq in the middle of the night – on Christmas Night too.

Donning a bomber jacket and sounding jingoistic, Trump seemed to be grandstanding for militarism while in Iraq. “We like winning against terrorists, right,” he crowed to the troops. “We’re no longer the suckers of the world.”

Significantly, Trump added a new dimension to his pullout plan for Syria and Afghanistan. He pledged that US troops were not leaving Iraq – despite nearly 16 years being there after GW Bush first invaded the country in 2003. He also said that American forces would launch strikes into Syria from Iraq in the future, if and when needed. Presumably, this rapid-reaction force applies to all other Middle Eastern countries.

In other words, Trump is not signaling a peaceful scaling back of US militarism in the region, as some of his critics and supporters have perceived. Trump is simply rationalizing American imperialist power, making it leaner and meaner, to be operated out of stronghold bases like Iraq. Notice how the Iraqi government was not consulted on this Neo-colonial plan, which speaks of Washington’s arrogant hegemony, regardless of who resides in the White House.

Trump’s rushed visit to Iraq seems to have been made in an urgent attempt to let the Pentagon and the military-intelligence establishment know that he is not “going soft” on pursuing America’s self-ordained right to wage wars anywhere it wants for the cause of US capitalism.

In the immediate confusion over Trump’s announcement on December 19 of a troop drawdown in Syria and Afghanistan – and the media deification of “Mad Dog” Mattis – a dangerous period fleetingly opened up for his presidency.

Running scared, Trump dashed to Iraq to let the generals know that this president is still a reliable tool for American imperialism.

Photo: Flickr

دلالات الانسحاب الأميركي من شرق سورية

ديسمبر 27, 2018

زياد حافظ

أثار قرار الرئيس الأميركي دونالد ترامب بالانسحاب من سورية بعد إعلانه انتصار الولايات المتحدة على الدولة الإسلامية في بلاد العراق والشام سلسلة من التعليقات تراوحت بين النقد اللاذع والتشكيك المدروس والترحيب الصريح. فالنخب الأميركية منقسمة في كافة الملفّات المطروحة بما فيها العدوان الكوني على سورية التي قادته الولايات المتحدة بمؤازرة بلاد الحرمين وقطر ودولة الإمارات العربية، وطبعاً بترحيب الكيان الصهيوني. وفي سياق الانقسام بين النخب الأميركية هناك ثلاثة محاور تغطّي تلك الانقسامات.

المحور الأول يقوده المحافظون الجدد، والمتدخلّون الليبراليون الذين شنّوا العدوان على سورية منذ الولاية الأولى للرئيس السابق باراك أوباما بقيادة وزيرة الخارجية آنذاك هيلاري كلنتون، والإعلام المهيمن الذي يسيطر عليه بشكل عام ومطبق اللوبي الصهيوني. هذا المحور يندّد بشدّة بالانسحاب غير المدروس و«المتهور الذي سيخلف فراغاً في شرق سورية يستفيد منه الرئيس السوري بشّار الأسد!!! وكل من الجمهورية الإسلامية في إيران وروسيا! وبطبيعة الحال هناك اعتراض على القرار الرئاسي من اللوبي الصهيوني ورموزه داخل الكونغرس الأميركي. فينتقد الشيخ المتشدّد عن ولاية فلوريدا مارك روبيو المرشح للحزب الجمهوري الذي هزمه دونالد ترامب وليندسي غراهام شريك الشيخ الراحل جون ماكين قرار الرئيس الأميركي. غير أن رأيهما لا يمثّل بالضرورة رأي الحزب الجمهوري وبالتالي قد يشكّل فقط عنصر إزعاج لترامب دون إمكانية في الظرف الراهن للضغط عليه لتغيير قراره بالانسحاب.

المحور الثاني يشكّك بجدّية القرار وأهميته وتقوده مجموعة من المعلّقين كباتريك لورنس مراسل في صحيفة الإنترناشيونال هيرالد تريبون والكاتب في الشؤون السياسة الخارجية الأميركية. يعتبر لورنس أن القرار غير جدّي خاصة أن العدد المرتقب للقوّات الأميركية للانسحاب من سورية ليس 2000 بل هناك عديد يتراوح بين 4000 و7000 جندي و«مقاول أي مرتزقة من الشركات الأمنية الأميركية. إضافة إلى ذلك، يشير لورنس إلى التحصينات التي أقامتها القوّات الأميركية في مدينة الرقّة تحت السيطرة الاسمية لقوّات سورية الديمقراطية قسد والتي تدلّ على رغبة التخندق في سورية لفترة طويلة كما صرّح وما زال المسؤول الأميركي عن الملفّ السوري جيمس جيفري الذي فوجئ بالمناسبة بقرار الرئيس الأميركي . فقد استبعد المسؤول الأميركي أي انسحاب طالما لم تنسحب الجمهورية الإسلامية في إيران وطالما الرئيس الأسد لم يرحل! فهناك تناقض واضح بين قرار الرئيس الأميركي وبعض المسؤولين.

هناك طيف آخر من المشكّكين الذين يعتبرون القرار الرئاسي مزاجياً وقد يغيّر رأيه بعد موجة الاحتجاجات التي بدأت على ذلك القرار من قبل قوى وازنة في الكونغرس الأميركي والإعلام المهيمن والحلفاء كالكيان الصهيوني. إضافة إلى كل ذلك فهناك التباس في مدى الفترة التي ستنسحب القوّات الأميركية. فالمدّة تتراوح بين شهر وثلاثة أشهر والله أعلم!

المحور الثالث يدعم قرار ترامب بدون تحفّظ ويرحّب به. ويضمّ ذلك المحور مجموعة من الضباط والدبلوماسيين السابقين كروبرت فورد السفير الأميركي في سورية وعدد من الشيوخ والمحلّلين الجمهوريين كباتريك بيوكانان وعدد من ضباّط الاستخبارات كراي مكغوفرن وفيليب جيرالدي على سيبل المثال، ومواقع إلكترونية معادية للحرب كموقع انتي وار. كوم و«قمر الاباما . كما أن خبراء مرموقين كستيفن والط الذي شاركه جون ميرشهايمر في كتابة الكتاب عن دور اللوبي الصهيوني في أميركا يعتبر في مقال نشره على موقع مجلّة فورين بوليسي المحافظة والمملوكة من روبرت مردوك أن لا جدوى في البقاء في سورية. لذلك لا يمكن القول إن هناك إجماعاً على التنديد بقرار ترامب وخلافاً لما يُشاع فإن وزير الدفاع الأميركي الذي استقال بعد قرار ترامب لا يمثّل كل البنتاغون.

في رأينا نعتقد أن القرار الرئاسي جدّي ولم يكن مفاجئاً، كما يعتقد الكثيرون. فهو أوضح ذلك خلال حملته الانتخابية ولم يتراجع عن رأيه خلال السنتين الماضيتين من ولايته. كما أن ذلك القرار ليس جديداً ويعكس رغبة المؤسسة الحاكمة بالخروج من المستنقع في المشرق ووسط آسيا والتركيز على شرق آسيا، وذلك منذ أكثر من عشر سنوات. نتذكّر هنا لجنة باكير هاملتون عام 2006 والتي شكّلت توافقاً جمهورياً وديمقراطياً مدعومة من فعّاليات سياسية وفكرية أميركية بضرورة التوقّف عن التورّط المباشر في المنطقة بعد كارثة الاحتلال الأميركي للعراق من منظور أميركي. كما نذكّر أيضاً قرار الرئيس السابق أوباما الشهير بالتوجّه نحو آسيا بعد الانسحاب من العراق والمحاولة للانسحاب من أفغانستان. وتفيد المعلومات الأخيرة أن الرئيس ترامب يبحث جدّياً بتخفيض عدد القوّات في أفغانستان، إن لم يكن الانسحاب مع بقاء بعض القواعد العسكرية، وذلك بعد تصريح قائد القوّات الأميركية في أفغانستان بأنهم ليسوا في موقع الانتصار. ويشكّل ذلك التصريح تحوّلاً نحو الواقعية بأن الانتصار في أفغانستان وهم. من هنا نفهم مغزى التفاوض مع حركة الطالبان في كل من دولة الإمارات وسلطنة عمان.

تمرّد الرئيس الأميركي على مستشاريه في وزارة الدفاع والخارجية مايك بومبيو والأمن القومي جون بولتون دليل على أنه يملك أوراقاً سياسية داخلية، أي داخل المؤسسة الحاكمة، تسمح له بذلك التمرّد . لقد لفتت نظرنا تسمية الرئيس الأميركي لرئيس هيئة الأركان المشتركة الجنرال مارك ميلي قائد القوّات البريّة منذ بضعة أيام وذلك قبل نهاية ولاية رئيس هيئة الأركان الحالي جوزيف دانفورد، أي قبل الخريف عام 2019، الذي أبدى اعتراضه على العديد من قرارات ترامب العسكرية. وهناك تقدير أن دانفورد سيرحل قبل نهاية ولايته. أما رئيس هيئة الأركان المرتقب مارك ميلي فهو مقرّب من ترامب وقريب من أفكار الرئيس الأميركي. من جهة أخرى يبدو أن داخل القيادة العسكرية في البنتاغون انقسام بين القيادة الوسطى المسؤولة عن شرق الأوسط وقيادة أوروبا المسؤولة عن أوروبا والكيان الصهيوني. فالأخيرة تدعم الانسحاب من سورية حيث الجدوى من البقاء غير واضحة على الأقل بينما القيادة الوسطى تعارض ذلك. إضافة إلى ذلك أجرت صحيفة ميليتري تايمز استطلاعاً منذ فترة أظهرت أن حوالي 55 بالمئة من الضبّاط الذين خدموا في المناطق الساخنة كأفغانستان والعراق على سبيل المثال خلال سبع عشرة سنة الماضية لا يحبّذون مهمة بناء أمّة كما يريده المحافظون الجدد أو المتدخّلون الليبراليون. بمعنى آخر أن الانسحاب من سورية يحظى بتأييد أولئك الضبّاط. أضف إلى كل ذلك فإن كلفة التورّط العسكري الأميركي في المنطقة منذ 2001 تجاوز عتبة ستة تريليونات دولار دون مردود سياسي يذكر وفقاً لمات بربل الكاتب في مجلّة اميريكان كونسرفاتيف أي الأميركي المحافظ وهي من المجلاّت المرموقة المحافظة في الولايات المتحدة الخارجة عن نفوذ اللوبي الصهيوني.

بعض المعلومات المتداولة في بعض المواقع الإلكترونية تفيد أن وراء ترشيح دونالد ترامب للرئاسة عدد من القيادات العسكرية التي لا تشاطر رأي منافسته هيلاري كلنتون ولا تريد وجودها في البيت الأبيض. هذا يعني أن ترامب كان يحظى منذ البداية بدعم من بعض القيادات العسكرية الأميركية المتقاعدة أو التي لم تكن في الصفّ الأوّل. هناك توقّع أنه سيتم تبديل القيادات العسكرية التي تقدّمت في عهد الرئيس بوش الإبن والرئيس أوباما بقيادات عسكرية تفكّر بشكل مختلف عن القيادات الحالية والتي تتفهّم الوضع القائم لميزان القوّة في العالم، ولكن قبل أي شيء ليست مُستوعَبة حتى الآن من المجمّع العسكري الصناعي الذي يقود التوجّهات العسكرية في الولايات المتحدة. الأشهر المقبلة ستظهر ما إذا كانت هذه التوقّعات صحيحة أم مبالغاً بها إذا ما استطاع الرئيس الأميركي تجاوز العاصفة التي أثارها قراره بالانسحاب. وفي رأينا الاحتمال جدّي بتجاوزه للعاصفة، فإن الرئيس ترامب قد يكون بدأ هجومه المضاد على الدولة العميقة التي عرقلت العديد من توجّهاته، وذلك بدعم من قاعدة شعبية لم تتأثر بكل الحملات الدعائية وبدعم بعض الجهات داخل المؤسسة الحاكمة. أحد مؤشّرات ذلك الهجوم يكمن في شخصية مَن سيخلف جون ماتيس في وزارة الدفاع. فمن الواضح أن وزير الدفاع المقبل سيكون منسجماً مع تطلّعات ترامب وليس مع أجندات أخرى. هذا قد يعني في المدى المتوسّط أن السياسة الخارجية الأميركية ستأخذ منعطفاً مختلفاً عن السابق وأن الاهتمام الأميركي سيكون تجاه الداخل الأميركي. هذا لا يعني انعزالية جديدة بل اعترافاً بموازين قوّة لم تعد لصالح الولايات المتحدة وأن على الأخيرة إعادة بناء نفسها لتصبح أميركا مرّة أخرى عظيمة .

في ميزان الربح والخسارة يبدو أن الرئيس الأميركي انتصر على مستشاريه من المحافظين الجدد، وعلى اللوبي الصهيوني عبر تجاوزه لرئيس مجلس وزراء الكيان. فالكيان الصهيوني ليس له القوامة على المصالح الأميركية المباشرة كما يعتقد العديد من المحلّلين والمراقبين. إعلام الكيان كان واضحاً بإعلان القرار صفعة لبنيامين نتنياهو.

الرابح في المشرق العربي هو أولاّ الدولة السورية وشعبها وقيادتها وحلفاؤها في محور المقاومة الذين صمدوا في وجه العدوان الكوني، بل عدّلوا في ميزان القوّة الإقليمي والدولي وأجبروا الرئيس الأميركي على التراجع الاستراتيجي. أما الرابح الثاني فهو الرئيس التركي اردوغان الذي هزم سياسياً الطموحات غير الواقعية للأشقاء الأكراد. نأمل أن يأخذ الأشقاء الأكراد العبرة لعدم جدوى الاتكال على الولايات المتحدة، علماً أن درس إقليم كردستان في العراق لم يكن بعيداً في الزمن ولكن للأسف لم يعتبروا. والرابح الثالث على الصعيد الدولي فهو روسيا التي أصبحت الدولة التي لا يمكن تجاوزها في الإقليم.

أما الخاسر الأكبر فهو الكيان الصهيوني الذي سيواجه ارتدادات القرار الأميركي في الداخل وفي الوطن العربي. فالمجاهرة بالورقة الخليجية التطبيعية قد لا تلقى تجاوباً رسمياً عربياً بعد التراجع الأميركي. حتى الآن، المجاهرة بالتطبيع كانت من الجهة الصهيونية دون صدى رسمي من قبل حكومة الرياض أو أبو ظبي رغم وجود دلائل مادية في الدولتين تغذّي المقولة الصهيونية. فزيارة الرئيس السوداني إلى مطار دمشق والإعلان أن إضعاف سورية هو إضعاف لجبهة المقاومة ليس بالتصريح العابر بغض النظر عن التفسيرات التي أعطيت له. لسنا متأكدين أن مسيرة التطبيع ستستمر بالوتيرة نفسها التي شهدناها في الأشهر الماضية. بالمناسبة، تفيد بعض المعلومات أن الهجوم على ولي العهد في بلاد الحرمين في الكونغرس الأميركي والاعلام المهيمن لا يعود لمسؤوليته بجريمة مقتل الصحافي الخاشقجي بل لاستقلاليته في قراراته. والدليل على ذلك هو اتفاق حكومة الرياض مع روسيا على تخفيض الإنتاج النفطي للحفاظ أو لرفع سعر برميل النفط خلافاً لما كان يحثّ عليه الرئيس الأميركي. فالاستقلالية في القرارات النفطية من الممنوعات عند مراكز القرار في الولايات المتحدة. وبغضّ النظر عن دقّة تلك المعلومات فإن النتيجة ستنعكس على محاولات إنهاء الخلافات العربية وخاصة مع سورية. التضامن العربي أصبح ضرورة إقليمية ودولية ملحّة للتوازن مع صعود الدور التركي إذا ما تمّ إضعاف دور بلاد الحرمين. فمحور المقاومة وروسيا لا يحبّذان المساس ببلاد الحرمين إذا ما اتجهت السياسة الأميركية إلى ذبح البقرة الحلوب . فالعامل الأميركي في التوازن والتأثير لم يعد فاعلاً بالفعّالية نفسها، كما كان عليه قبل إعلان القرار بالانسحاب.

الأمين العام السابق للمؤتمر القومي العربي

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What Can Follow America’s Withdrawal From Syria

December 20, 2018

by Ghassan Kadi for The Saker Blog

Just before Trump announced that American troops are to leave Syria “immediately”, many compatriots, friends and analysts were wondering what could be the next event that might change the course of future events in northern and eastern Syria. The first reaction to the news of Trump ordering his troops to leave Syria took many by surprise. That said, we have to wait and see if Trump does not wake up tomorrow changing his mind. The reason behind Trump’s decision to withdraw is not very important and as far as this article is concerned, it is irrelevant. If he wants to believe that he is leaving victoriously, that’s fine, for as long as he does leave. That said, the sudden resignation of Mattis clearly indicates that the former top gun does not see it with the same spectacles. Either way, the withdrawal, if it happens, may end up to be a long and protracted process that could take weeks, months and perhaps years, and the manner in which it happens opens the doors for many possibilities and contingencies.

Before Trump’s decision, there were two serious nagging and unresolved problems in Syria standing in the way of ending the war and the commencement of rebuilding the war-ravaged nation; and they were the ongoing presence of the terrorists in Idlib and the presence of American troops in the North East.

Idlib has been the sink hole of Syria, a place where all terrorists ended up. In any major battles, all the way from the battle of Al-Qusayr in 2013 to the most recent battle of Daraa in 2018, all of which ended up with terrorists defeat, negotiations ended up with militants leaving the areas in secure buses and settling in Idlib. No one really knows how many of them are there at the present moment because the overall figure includes those who were bunkered there from the beginning. The estimates run from as low as 10,000 to a high 100,000. The truth is that we don’t know. The figure could well be outside those estimates; but they have to be huge nonetheless.

Regardless of the number, they are the only terrorists left who answer to Erdogan and/or who can be manipulated by him. If they don’t, they either have to fight to death or leave. But given that all of their supply lines come from Turkey, they don’t have much of a choice but to kowtow to the Sultan. The Sultan is using his loyal “troops” as a trump card for two reasons; first of all to continue to have a de-facto military presence in government-controlled areas in Syria, and secondly and most importantly perhaps, is because he regards the terrorists as his Muslim brothers, and it is his “duty” to protect them.

This was why when Russia and Syria were making preparations to go inside Idlib and clean it up, he told them that he could achieve the same objective with negotiations and that they can leave Idlib for him to deal with. A few months later, Russia and Syria are still waiting for him to come true to his word.

So what is Erdogan exactly trying to do in northern Syria and why are Putin and Assad putting up with him?

Before Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria, it was clear that Putin understands Erdogan too well. He knows that Erdogan has an Achilles Heel, two of them in fact; one in each foot. In many previous articles, I have reiterated that Erdogan is incurably both an Islamist and a Turkish nationalist; even though the ideologies are in total contradiction with each other. And even though he is cunning, calculating and prepared to wait for the right moment to act, when it comes to either nationalism or religion, he regresses into a programmed robot that is simply unable to think and act rationally; and Putin has been trying to use this weakness of Erdogan to serve his own objectives.

Erdogan wants to protect Al-Nusra in Idlib, and this is why Putin convinced Assad to leave the Idlib carrot in the hands of Erdogan, not necessarily because he believes that Erdogan will indeed deal with it in the manner that he should, but simply to present to him that Russia regards him like a credible partner.

On the other hand, the simmering tension between Ankara and Washington over the Kurdish issue has been coming to a head for a long time. Ever since America pledged support to Syrian Kurds, Erdogan, in blunt terms, has been clearly saying to his American “allies” that they must choose between Turkey and the Kurds. He has been making serious threats that he will attack Manbij and clean it up from Kurdish militants even if American troops do not leave.

Erdogan’s nationalist Achilles heel has left him in serious discord with his biggest NATO ally.

Given that the nationalist aspect of Erdogan is prepared to risk falling out with NATO and even fighting American troops in Syria just to prevent the creation of an independent Kurdish state south of his border, he was putting himself in the position of the former Afghani Mujahideen who were fighting their own war, and at the same time, serving another purpose for another group. With this stance, Erdogan presented that he was prepared to fight with America at any level, even militarily; because to him, the Kurdish issue was a redline that he was not prepared to see crossed.

For a while, a fair while in fact, Russia and Syria stood back and watched how the American-Turkish impasse morphed. It seemed that any potential fight would not only serve to prevent the creation of an independent Kurdish state, but would also end up with American withdrawal from Syria, and thus serving the objectives of both Syria and Russia.

And even though in theory it is the role and duty of Syria and her army to liberate the North-East from American presence, this course of action did not only risk a major confrontation with NATO and possible widespread bombing all over the country, but this option will also risk a direct confrontation between America and Russia on Syrian soil.

This was the only reason why Russia and Syria seemed prepared to put the resolution of the Idlib dilemma on hold. This is the only rational reason as to why they did not coerce Erdogan to rush into any quick action there before the problem of American presence has been resolved.

Knowingly or inadvertently, the American withdrawal from Syria, if it happens, will take a huge bargaining chip away from the hand of Erdogan in as far as his relationship with Russia is concerned. Erdogan will no longer be able to say to Russia that if Russia wants him to deal with America’s presence, then Russia must accept the deal with Idlib too.

In short and simple terms, the American withdrawal, if it happens, will take the decision of what happens in Idlib out of Erdogan’s hands.

The above sounds good, good for Syria, but the final outcome of this will depend on a number of factors, the most important of which is who is going to replace the American troops and how soon.

If America leaves behind a mercenary army as some speculate, fighting it will be logistically easier in the sense that it will not open the door for direct confrontation with United States army.

Depending on the pattern of withdrawal, the void generated by the retreating American troops can either be filled by the legal national Syrian Arab Army or by an invading Turkish army. But this depends on the location as well as the time table of withdrawal. If America for example leaves Deir Ezzor now, which is in the east and a couple of hundred kilometers south of Turkey’s border, the void will automatically be filled by the Syrian Army. However, if America leaves a northerly position such as Manbij, Turkey will move in before the Syrian Army will have a chance to do so. And such a scenario can spell more problems for Syria.

The problem here is more of a humanitarian nature than territorial, because sooner or later, Turkey will have to leave Syria. That said, if Turkish troops control any Syrian land, even for a short time, they will most likely declare open season on Syrian Kurds, and given Turkish history in dealing with such situations, this can be brutal.

On the other hand, if Erdogan tries to inflict a Kurdish massacre, then his Idlib carrot will turn into a stick lashing his own hide. For years, he had managed to juggle his contradictions of being a nationalist and an Islamist, but he will finally have to choose between his two alter egos. His nationalist ambition of annihilating Kurdish resistance in Syria can endanger his Muslim brothers in Idlib. His split-personality dilemma is finally coming to a head.

Would the man who was prepared to fight America if America supported a Kurdish state be also prepared to fight Russia if Russia attacked his Islamist brothers in Idlib?

Ideally, the best scenario possible for Syria and Russia, a resolution that will uphold Syria’s sovereignty and integrity all the while avert any Kurdish bloodshed, is for Syria and Russia to immediately fill in any gap created by retreating American forces. Erdogan must be kept out of Syria, and once his hands cannot reach Syrian Kurds any longer, he will no longer be able to have any say in Idlib.

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