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Explaining Syria, by Philip Giraldi – The Unz Review

Posted by M. C. on February 19, 2020

Jeffrey’s formula is just another recycling of the myth that the Syrian opposition consisted of good folks who wanted to establish democracy in the country. In reality, it incorporated terrorist elements right from the beginning and groups like ISIS and the al-Qaeda affiliates rapidly assumed control of the violence. That Jeffrey should be so ignorant or blinded by his own presumptions to be unaware of that is astonishing.

https://www.unz.com/pgiraldi/explaining-syria/

The first week in February was memorable for the failed impeachment of President Donald Trump, the “re-elect me” State of the Union address and the marketing of a new line of underwear by Kim Kardashian. Given all of the excitement, it was easy to miss a special State Department press briefing by Ambassador James Jeffrey held on February 5th regarding the current situation in Syria.

Jeffrey is the United States Special Representative for Syria Engagement and the Special Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIL. Jeffrey has had a distinguished career in government service, attaining senior level State Department positions under both Democratic and Republican presidents. He has served as U.S. Ambassador to both Turkey and Iraq. He is, generally speaking, a hardliner politically, closely aligned with Israel and regarding Iran as a hostile destabilizing force in the Middle East region. He was between 2013 and 2018 Philip Solondz distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), a think tank that is a spin-off of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). He is currently a WINEP “Outside Author” and go-to “expert.”

Professor John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt, academic dean at Harvard University ‘s Kennedy School of Government, describe WINEP as “part of the core” of the Israel Lobby in the U.S. They examined the group on pages 175-6 in their groundbreaking book The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy and concluded as follows:

“Although WINEP plays down its links to Israel and claims that it provides a ‘balanced and realistic’ perspective on Middle East issues, this is not the case. In fact, WINEP is funded and run by individuals who are deeply committed to advancing Israel’s agenda … Many of its personnel are genuine scholars or experienced former officials, but they are hardly neutral observers on most Middle East issues and there is little diversity of views within WINEP’s ranks.”

In early 2018 Jeffrey co-authored a WINEP special report on Syria which urged “…the Trump administration [to] couple a no-fly/no-drive zone and a small residual ground presence in the northeast with intensified sanctions against the Assad regime’s Iranian patron. In doing so, Washington can support local efforts to stabilize the area, encourage Gulf partners to ‘put skin in the game, drive a wedge between Moscow and Tehran, and help Israel avoid all-out war.”

Note the focus on Iran and Russia as threats and the referral to Assad and his government as a “regime.” And the U.S. presence is to “help Israel.” So we have Ambassador James Jeffrey leading the charge on Syria, from an Israeli perspective that is no doubt compatible with the White House view, which explains why he has become Special Representative for Syria Engagement.

Jeffrey set the tone for his term of office shortly after being appointed by President Trump back in August 2018 when he argued that the Syrian terrorists were “. . . not terrorists, but people fighting a civil war against a brutal dictator.” Jeffrey, who must have somehow missed a lot of the head chopping and rape going on, subsequently traveled to the Middle East and stopped off in Israel to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It has been suggested that Jeffrey received his marching orders during the visit.

Two months later James Jeffrey declared that he would like to see Russia maintain a “permissive approach” to allow the Israelis to attack Iranian targets inside Syria. Regarding Iran’s possible future role in Syria he observed that “Iranians are part of the problem not part of the solution.”

What Jeffrey meant was that because Israel had been “allowed” to carry out hundreds of air attacks in Syria ostensibly directed against Iran-linked targets, the practice should be permitted to continue. Israel had suspended nearly all of its airstrikes in the wake of the shoot down of a Russian aircraft in September 2018, an incident which was caused by a deliberate Israeli maneuver that brought down the plane even though the missile that struck the aircraft was fired by Syria. Fifteen Russian servicemen were killed. Israel reportedly was deliberately using the Russian plane to mask the presence of its own attacking aircraft.

Russia responded to the incident by deploying advanced S-300 anti-aircraft systems to Syria, which can cover most of the more heavily developed areas of the country. Jeffrey was unhappy with that decision, saying “We are concerned very much about the S-300 system being deployed to Syria. The issue is at the detail level. Who will control it? what role will it play?” And he defended his own patently absurd urging that Russia, Syria’s ally, permit Israel to continue its air attacks by saying “We understand the existential interest and we support Israel” because the Israeli government has an “existential interest in blocking Iran from deploying long-range power projection systems such as surface-to-surface missiles.”

Later in November 2018 James Jeffrey was at it again, declaring that U.S. troops will not leave Syria before guaranteeing the “enduring defeated” of ISIS, but he perversely put the onus on Syria and Iran, saying that “We also think that you cannot have an enduring defeat of ISIS until you have fundamental change in the Syrian regime and fundamental change in Iran’s role in Syria, which contributed greatly to the rise of ISIS in the first place in 2013, 2014.”

As virtually no one but Jeffrey and the Israeli government actually believes that Damascus and Tehran were responsible for creating ISIS, the ambassador elaborated, blaming President Bashar al-Assad for the cycle of violence in Syria that, he claimed, allowed the development of the terrorist group in both Syria and neighboring Iraq.

He said “The Syrian regime produced ISIS. The elements of ISIS in the hundreds, probably, saw an opportunity in the total breakdown of civil society and of the upsurge of violence as the population rose up against the Assad regime, and the Assad regime, rather than try to negotiate or try to find any kind of solution, unleashed massive violence against its own population.”

Jeffrey’s formula is just another recycling of the myth that the Syrian opposition consisted of good folks who wanted to establish democracy in the country. In reality, it incorporated terrorist elements right from the beginning and groups like ISIS and the al-Qaeda affiliates rapidly assumed control of the violence. That Jeffrey should be so ignorant or blinded by his own presumptions to be unaware of that is astonishing. It is also interesting to note that he makes no mention of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, kneejerk support for Israel and the unrelenting pressure on Syria starting with the Syrian Accountability Act of 2003 and continuing with embrace of the so-called Arab Spring. Most observers believe that those actions were major contributors to the rise of ISIS.

Jeffrey’s unflinching embrace of the Israeli and hardline Washington assessment of the Syrian crisis comes as no surprise given his pedigree, but in the same interview where he pounded Iran and Syria he asserted oddly that “We’re not about regime change. We’re about a change in the behavior of a government and of a state.”

Some of James Jeffrey’s comments at last week’s press conference are similarly illuminating. Much of what he said concerned the mechanics of relationships with the Russians and Turks, but he also discussed some core issues relating to Washington’s perspective on the conflict. Many of his comments were very similar to what he said when he was appointed in 2018.

Jeffrey expressed concern over the thousands of al-Nusra terrorists holed up in besieged Idlib province, saying “We’re very, very worried about this. First of all, the significance of Idlib – that’s where we’ve had chemical weapons attacks in the past… And we’re seeing not just the Russians but the Iranians and Hizballah actively involved in supporting the Syrian offensive… You see the problems right now in Idlib. This is a dangerous conflict. It needs to be brought to an end. Russia needs to change its policies.”

He elaborated, “We’re not asking for regime change per se, we’re not asking for the Russians to leave, we’re asking…Syria to behave as a normal, decent country that doesn’t force half its population to flee, doesn’t use chemical weapons dozens of times against its own civilians, doesn’t drop barrel bombs, doesn’t create a refugee crisis that almost toppled governments in Europe, does not allow terrorists such as HTS and particularly Daesh/ISIS emerge and flourish in much of Syria. Those are the things that that regime has done, and the international community cannot accept that.”

Well, one has to conclude that James Jeffrey is possibly completely delusional. The core issue that the United States is in Syria illegally as a proxy for Israel and Saudi Arabia is not touched on, nor the criminal role in “protecting the oil fields” and stealing their production, which he mentions but does not explain. Nor the issue of the legitimate Syrian government seeking to recover its territory against groups that most everyone admits to be terrorists.

Virtually every bit of “evidence” that Jeffrey cites is either false or inflated, to include the claim of use of chemical weapons and the responsibility for the refugees. As for who actually created the terrorists, that honor goes to the United States, which accomplished that when it invaded Iraq and destroyed its government before following up by undermining Syria. And, by the way, someone should point out to Jeffrey that Russia and Iran are in Syria as allies of its legitimate government.

Ambassador James Jeffrey maintains that “Russia needs to change its policies.” That is not correct. It is the United States that must change its policies by getting out of Syria and Iraq for starters while also stopping the deference to feckless “allies” Israel and Saudi Arabia that has produced a debilitating cold war against both Iran and Russia. Another good first step to make the U.S. a “normal, decent country” would be to get rid of the advice of people like James Jeffrey.

Philip M. Giraldi, Ph.D., is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, a 501(c)3 tax deductible educational foundation (Federal ID Number #52-1739023) that seeks a more interests-based U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Website is councilforthenationalinterest.org, address is P.O. Box 2157, Purcellville VA 20134 and its email is inform@cnionline.org.

 

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The Israel Lobby’s Hidden Hand in the Theft of Iraqi and Syrian Oil

Posted by M. C. on December 17, 2019

https://www.mintpressnews.com/israel-lobby-helped-stolen-oil-iraq-syria/263327/

By Agha Hussain Agha Hussain and
Whitney Webb Whitney Webb

KIRKUK, IRAQ — “We want to bring our soldiers home. But we did leave soldiers because we’re keeping the oil,” President Trump stated on November 3, before adding, “I like oil. We’re keeping the oil.”

Though he had promised a withdrawal of U.S. troops from their illegal occupation of Syria, Trump shocked many with his blunt admission that troops were being left behind to prevent Syrian oil resources from being developed by the Syrian government and, instead, kept in the hands of whomever the U.S. deemed fit to control them, in this case, the U.S.-backed Kurdish-majority militia known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Though Trump himself received all of the credit — and the scorn — for this controversial new policy, what has been left out of the media coverage is the fact that key players in the U.S.’ pro-Israel lobby played a major role in its creation with the purpose of selling Syrian oil to the state of Israel. While recent developments in the Syrian conflict may have hindered such a plan from becoming reality, it nonetheless offers a telling example of the covert role often played by the U.S.’ pro-Israel lobby in shaping key elements of U.S. foreign policy and closed-door deals with major regional implications.

Indeed, the Israel lobby-led effort to have the U.S. facilitate the sale of Syrian oil to Israel is not an isolated incident given that, just a few years ago, other individuals connected to the same pro-Israel lobby groups and Zionist neoconservatives manipulated both U.S. policy and Iraq’s Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in order to allow Iraqi oil to be sold to Israel without the approval of the Iraqi government. These designs, not unlike those that continue to unfold in Syria, were in service to longstanding neoconservative and Zionist efforts to balkanize Iraq by strengthening the KRG and weakening Baghdad.

After the occupation of Iraq’s Nineveh Governorate by ISIS (June 2014-October 2015), the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) took advantage of the Iraqi military’s retreat and, amidst the chaos, illegally seized Kirkuk on June 12. Their claim to the city was supported by both the U.S. and Israel and, later, the U.S.-led coalition targeting ISIS. This gave the KRG control, not only of Iraq’s export pipeline to Turkey’s Ceyhan port, but also to Iraq’s largest oil fields.

Israel imported massive amounts of oil from the Kurds during this period, all without the consent of Baghdad. Israel was also the largest customer of oil sold by ISIS, who used Kurdish-controlled Kirkuk to sell oil in areas of Iraq and Syria under its control. To do this in ISIS-controlled territories of Iraq, the oil was sent first to the Kurdish city of Zakho near the Turkey border and then into Turkey, deceptively labeled as oil that originated from Iraqi Kurdistan. ISIS did nothing to impede the KRG’s own oil exports even though they easily could have given that the Kirkuk-Ceyhan export pipeline passed through areas that ISIS had occupied for years.

In retrospect, and following revelations from Wikileaks and new information regarding the background of relevant actors, it has been revealed that much of the covert maneuvering behind the scenes that enabled this scenario intimately involved the United States’ powerful pro-Israel lobby. Now, with a similar scenario unfolding in Syria, efforts by the U.S.’ Israel lobby to manipulate U.S. foreign policy in order to shift the flow of hydrocarbons for Israel’s benefit can instead be seen as a pattern of behavior, not an isolated incident.

 

“Keep the oil” for Israel

After recent shifts in the Trump administration in its Syria policy, U.S. troops have controversially been kept in Syria to “keep the oil,” with U.S. military officials subsequently claiming that doing so was “a subset of the counter-ISIS mission.” However, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper later claimed that another factor behind U.S. insistence on guarding Syrian oil fields was to prevent the extraction and subsequent sale of Syrian oil by either the Syrian government or Russia.

One key, yet often overlooked, player behind the push to prevent a full U.S. troop withdrawal in Syria in order to “keep the oil” was current U.S. ambassador to Turkey, David Satterfield. Satterfield was previously the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, where he yielded great influence over U.S. policy in both Iraq and Syria and worked closely with Brett McGurk, the former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq and Iran and later special presidential envoy for the U.S.-led “anti-ISIS” coalition.

Over the course of his long diplomatic career, Satterfield has been known to the U.S. government as an Israeli intelligence asset embedded in the U.S. State Department. Indeed, Satterfield was named as a major player in what is now known as the AIPAC espionage scandal, also known as the Lawrence Franklin espionage scandal, although he was oddly never charged for his role after the intervention of his superiors at the State Department in the George W. Bush administration.

In 2005, federal prosecutors cited a U.S. government official as having illegally passed classified information to Steve Rosen, then working for AIPAC, who then passed that information to the Israeli government. That classified information included intelligence on Iran and the nature of U.S.-Israeli intelligence sharing. Subsequent media reports from the New York Times and other outlets revealed that this government official was none other than David Satterfield, who was then serving as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near East Affairs.

Charges against Rosen, as well as his co-conspirator and fellow AIPAC employee Keith Weissman, were dropped in 2009 and no charges were levied against Satterfield after State Department officials shockingly claimed that Satterfield had “acted within his authority” in leaking classified information to an individual working to advance the interests of a foreign government. Richard Armitage, a neoconservative ally with a long history of ties to CIA covert operations in the Middle East and elsewhere, has since claimed that he was one of Satterfield’s main defenders in conversations with the FBI during this time when he was serving as Deputy Secretary of State.

The other government official named in the indictment, former Pentagon official Lawrence Franklin, was not so lucky and was charged under the Espionage Act in 2006. Satterfield, instead of being censured for his role in leaking sensitive information to a foreign government, was subsequently promoted in 2006 to serve as the Coordinator for Iraq and Senior Adviser to then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

In addition to his history of leaking classified information to AIPAC, Satterfield also has a longstanding relationship with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a controversial spin-off of AIPAC also known by its acronym WINEP. WINEP’s website has long listed Satterfield as one of its experts and Satterfield has spoken at several WINEP events and policy forums, including several after his involvement with the AIPAC espionage scandal became public knowledge. However, despite his longstanding and controversial ties to the U.S. pro-Israel lobby, Satterfield’s current relationship with some elements of that lobby, such as the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), is complicated at best.

While Satterfield’s role in yet another reversal of a promised withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria has largely escaped media scrutiny, another individual with deep ties to the Israel lobby and Syrian “rebel” groups has also been ignored by the media, despite his outsized role in taking advantage of this new U.S. policy for Israel’s benefit.

 

US Israel Lobby secures deal with Kurds

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US Should Support Israeli Land Grabs Say AIPAC Think-Tankers – Antiwar.com Original

Posted by M. C. on September 26, 2019

https://original.antiwar.com/smith-grant/2019/09/24/us-should-support-israeli-land-grabs-say-aipac-think-tankers/

It is always worthwhile to monitor – before it’s too late – policy recommendations emerging from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, AIPAC ecosystem. Since 1984 that ecosystem includes AIPAC’s associated think tank, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Two WINEP thought leaders are currently advancing a serious proposal for the US to help Israel avert the fate of becoming a “bi-national state.” It’s a two-step process. First the US would formally recognize Israeli sovereignty over large Israeli-annexed West Bank settlement blocs. Then the U.S. would use its powers of persuasion to win European, U.N. and Arab acceptance of the deal, all the while giving Israel billions more in foreign assistance.

All of these policy prescriptions appear in the new Dennis Ross/David Makovsky book, Be Strong and of Good Courage: How Israel’s Most Important Leaders Shaped its Destiny. Dennis Ross worked on the “peace process” within US government for decades. Though trying to maintain a pretense of impartiality, Israel partisans like Ross working within such teams always managed to make the US appear to operate as “Israel’s lawyer.” WINEP’s David Makovsky labored as a journalist and then executive editor of the Jerusalem Post reporting on the “peace process” before joining WINEP.

The rocket boosters for the new book’s delivery vehicles are lessons Makovsky and Ross reveal from decisions made by Israel’s “founding fathers.” According to the book, whenever Israel was at an existential inflection point, David Ben-Gurion, Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Rabin and Ariel Sharon made near-unilateral and controversial decisions necessary for Israel to prevail.

For example, just prior to Israel’s declaration of statehood in 1948, David Ben-Gurion had to overcome opposition from the venerable US Secretary of State George Marshall. Marshall famously argued for a US funded plan to rebuild post-WWII Europe. Less known is that Marshall wanted “Zionists to delay declaration of statehood” based on department views of how to best advance US policy toward the Soviet Union and Arab states.

In David Ben-Gurion’s estimation, according to the book, “a declaration of statehood, by contrast, would allow the Zionists to tap their greatest resource – supporters abroad – who could help smuggle weaponry into the nascent country…” Ben-Gurion convinced members of his cabinet, who preferred postponement and accepting a truce, that immediately declaring statehood was the proper strategy.

Key to Ben-Gurion’s success – according to the book – was cultivating “a mass US movement to pressure leaders in Washington…” Ben-Gurion believed that Western democracies would, whenever a crisis arose (whether precipitated by Israel or not) respond to well-organized public pressure campaigns. This is why Ben Gurion spent ten months in 1940-1941 “rallying American Jewish organizations, coaxing them toward realizing that Zionism did not threaten their identity as Americans.” The book omits the precise details – which are available thanks to the release of FBI investigation records and a handful of prosecutions – about precisely how the Jewish Agency American Section, which was under Ben-Gurion’s command, organized a massive illegal weapons procurement and smuggling network in the US. Ben-Gurion also reached out to churches and labor unions to build a broader lobby for Israel within the US. Although, again, the book does not mention known details about the public relations and lobbying campaigns of the Israel lobby’s umbrella group the American Zionist Council which became AIPAC, it acknowledges the key role of proto-Israeli leaders in their formation.

Today the US Israel lobby must help Israelis avoid the fate of becoming a binational state, where Palestinians have the right to vote and other accoutrements of citizenship, according to Makovsky and Ross. It’s only fair, since Israel has provided a rallying point for Jewish identity in the US, according to the pair.

“Jewish leaders, too, have a stake in Israel preserving its basic Zionist character; it is very much part of their ethos and belief system. In addition, they well know that Jewish identity in America has, at least in part, been influenced by the ability to identify with Israel. Should that become more difficult, it would certainly produce a critical loss of support for Israel in the Jewish community, especially among the younger Jewish demographic that embraces more progressive, liberal values.”

If the delivery vehicle of Be Strong and of Good Courage is a collection of enticing founding father bios, what is the payload? It appears in the final chapter. As to be expected, it is an appeal for additional withdrawals from the U.S. Treasury Department and already dangerously overdrawn bank account of US international standing.

The status quo drift toward a binational state is unsustainable and a “prescription for endless conflict.” The root cause of that problem, which the authors intensely fixate upon, is the high “Arab” birth rate in East Jerusalem, parts of Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. Israel can’t hang onto or annex everything. So, decisions must now be made.

Israel’s occupations, human rights violations and blockades vex European leaders, generate controversy on American college campuses and are now even being exposed by some elite opinion makers. While, according to the book, these diplomatic costs of militarily occupying and subjugating Palestinians to dire human rights conditions remain “manageable,” maintaining the pretense that there is a viable “peace process” that will lead inevitably to the “two state solution” the authors claim to prefer – is no longer feasible. And the Israelis are utterly oblivious to the true “demographic trends.” The book also cites a litany of supposed evidence that Palestinians “never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity” to obtain a state of their own. This has long been an Israel lobby canard, first deployed by Abba Eban, and no doubt plays well to Ross and Makovsky supporters.

The book proposes that in exchange for ending settlement construction east of the separation wall Israel built, much of it on Palestinian land, and a halt in Jewish real estate acquisition within Arab neighborhoods in occupied East Jerusalem, Israeli settlers would move to locations within Israel or to lands that will soon become part of Israel. Israel will of course maintain the right to conduct military operations east of the wall, but would abide Palestinian development of Dead Sea tourism and mineral industries.

The book recommends that the US Israel lobby, which partly owes its existence, identity and power to Israel, do what it does best: extract what Israel needs from America to realize Israel’s national ambitions. The US should provide “cash” to relocate settlers to areas within the Green Line or to newly annexed West Bank settlement blocs. The US should then block any UN resolutions opposed to unilateral Israeli annexations, and “work with the Europeans and others to gain their public support for Israel’s unilateral moves to ensure separation.” The US should also fight the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and publicly criticize European and Arab leaders who fail to wholeheartedly approve. Of course, Israel’s annexations will create new security challenges, so the US should also promptly increase Israel’s “qualitative military edge.”…

You get the idea

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