Moon of Alabama — March 15, 2017
When the U.S. was confronted with an insurgency in Iraq it did not find fault with own behavior but identified Syria and Iran as the culprits. It decided to attack them too. As Seymour Hersh reported in 2007:
To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has cooperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.
Four years later the U.S. used the Sunni militants it created to first attack Libya and then Syria. With U.S. support the militants destroyed the independent Libyan state under Ghaddafi. The country is now in total chaos. In Syria the militants, with clandestine support from the U.S. and its allies, waged a six year long war to overthrow the government. Many of them joined the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, the Takfiri offsprings of the U.S. program and Saudi money that went (somewhat) rogue. These groups did not limit, as the U.S. wished, their attacks to U.S. enemies but committed several larger scale attacks against U.S. allied countries. Now the groups themselves are enemies.
The project of creating a controllable “Sunni Arab force” to destroy Syria had failed. The Pentagon made another attempts, spending tens of millions of dollars, to train a new Sunni Arab force in Syria to attack the Syrian government as well as the Takfiris. As soon as these new groups entered into Syria they joined the Takfiris and handed over the weapons the U.S. army had given them.
The U.S. is now engaging with Russia and local Kurdish forces in Syria to destroy the Takfiri groups on the ground. The Kurds are of various religions and denominations with a mostly secular outlook. That plan made some progress though an actual attack on Raqqa, the current center of the Islamic State, is still weeks off. The Syrian government is winning its part of the fight in the west of the country.
But that is not enough for the U.S. neoconservatives. Their task is to further Zionist plans by creating more chaos in the Middle East. Their partner and money source is the Sunni-Wahhabi Saudi Arabia. Having successfully arranged the destruction of Iraq, various failed “surges” as well as the attack on Syria, they cannot condone that the Syrian government survives the war.
Thus they set out to create a new (the third now) Sunni-Arab force to continue what their original war plan prescribed.
Frederick and Kimberly Kagan, luminaries of the neoconservative family, initiate their new campaign on the neoconned opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal: A New Strategy Against ISIS and al Qaeda – The U.S. has been relying too heavily on Shiites and Kurds. It needs to cultivate Sunni Arab partners.
The Kagan family – other well known members are Robert Kagan and Victoria Nuland – were also main instigators of the war on Iraq. Here they are in 2008 strolling (heavily guarded) through the occupied Basra, Iraq amusing themselves off the destruction they created.
The op-ed is a shorter version of a “study” written by the “think tank” the Kagan family runs to collect money.
It says in short: The U.S. shall shun the Kurds and not cooperate with Russian, Syrian or Iranian forces. It shall create another Sunni Arab proxy insurgency in Syria to fight ISIS and al-Qaeda and also the Syrian government. The first steps towards that are already premised on fiction:
The US and acceptable partners seize and secure a base in southeastern Syria, such as Abu Kamal, and create a de facto safe zone. They then recruit, train, equip, and partner with local Sunni Arab anti-ISIS forces to conduct an offensive against ISIS. This independent Sunni Arab force forms the basis of a movement to destroy ISIS and al Qaeda in Iraq and Syria over many years. Building a Sunni Arab anti-ISIS partner must be the rate-determining step in the advance along the Euphrates River Valley (ERV). American forces must fight alongside their partners to reduce the trust deficit between the US and potential Sunni allies. Potential partners must not support Salafi-jihadists, Iranian proxies, or Kurdish separatism.
The U.S. has already tried this since 2006 by clandestine means. Those forces morphed into al-Qaeda/ISIS. The Pentagon then tried the same concept by military means. That proxy force ran over to the enemy as soon as it could. Now a third try shall be made?
The fictitious plot continues:
* The US launches clearing operations along the Euphrates River Valley toward Raqqa, using US forces and the new Sunni Arab partner at Abu Kamal, and in Iraq’s Anbar Province.
* The US brokers a peace deal between Turkey and the Syrian-Kurdish “People’s Defense Forces” (YPG), focused on the contact line in Aleppo Province.
* The US implements a no-fly zone in Dera’a Province, demonstrating US commitment to addressing the grievances of populations under jihadist control and facilitating a local cessation of hostilities with Russia and between pro-Assad and US-backed anti-Assad forces. The US must also help partner forces in Dera’a destroy ISIS and al Qaeda, which would help facilitate a negotiated settlement of the Syrian war. The US should execute this step after the first phase and coincident with clearing operations in southeastern Syria.
* The US should try to stitch together the new force with existing US-backed fighters to create a single partner that can secure terrain from jihadists, defend against pro-Assad attacks, and uphold a settlement against the Assad regime.
These follow-on operations set conditions that favor broader US interests in Syria, but they do not achieve those interests. Subsequent phases will be necessary and will require a significant counter-Iranian component in Iraq and Syria.
I cannot imagine how much Kool-aid one must drink to come up with so much nonsense.
Let us start with those imaginary tribes in south-east Syria. The south-eastern desert of Syria is empty with little resources (besides some oil) and few people. These are rather small groups where the tribal leaders no longer have much say. The tribal members mostly live in the cities. They are members of the Syrian army or of its enemies. Some of the tribal members had joined ISIS, others fought it and were badly hurt with hundreds of casualties on their side. Most of these tribes lived quite well with the Syrian government and would be happy if it would return and control their area. Most of them have no sectarian grievances with Damascus. They have no inventive or wish to fight the Syrian state.
The Turkish president Erdogan is currently trying to hire the very same tribes to fight the Syrian Kurds. He will fail with that too.
The Kagans want their new grand force to also fight al-Qaeda. But al-Qaeda is in north-west Syria (and still supported by Turkey). The Kagans emphasize the use of local forces. How are south-eastern desert tribes “local” to the people in Idleb?
The real aim of the Kagans is of course in the last parts of their plan which I highlighted. They want to use these “Sunni Arab tribes” to make another attempt of destroying the Syrian state to then attack the Iranian “bridge” to Hizbullah in Lebanon.
Fortunately the Kagans are at least six month behind the realities on the ground in Syria. The Pentagon will laugh at any “Sunni Arab tribes” ideas. The U.S. military will try to take Raqqa from ISIS with the help of the Kurds and in coordination with Syrian government forces. The Syrian government forces will also destroy al-Qaeda in Idleb.
The chance that Trump will pick up on these neocon plans is practically zero. But who knows? The people who pay the Kagans also spend lots of money to “lobby” (i.e. bribe) the Washington establishment. They certainly hope that there is still a chance to get their ideas wormed into the minds of the White House.
Sam Heller has some critical comments on the Kagan nonsense. I collected his tweets on the issue here: “Bad Idea” – Sam Heller (@AbuJamajem) On The Kagan’s Syria Paper.