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26 February 2013


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Three thoughts. First, obviously we have nothing to offer - or are prepared to offer. The planned meeting, like the two previous, is designed as a photo op to show that Washington is doing something and is "indispensable."

Second, if we are concerned about the progressively growing influence of various jihadi groups in Syria, doesn't logic suggest that we do whatever we can, short of direct involvement, to bring forward the opposition's vistory - especially since Assad's chances of surviving fade by the day?

Third, is it obvious that the House of Saud has a surrogate in this fight? After all, they are hyper-sensitive about a rival emerging that can challenge their claim to be the rightful guardian of the Holy Places by affirming an even purer version of Islam. Maybe they foresee a further radicalizing of the most dangerous groups (al-Qaida allied?) through a prolongation of the crisis.



IMO there is no chance that anything we could do would advance the chances of the supposedly secular elements among the rebels to emerge the masters of the situation. The Islamists are inherently stronger because of the depth of their devotion to their cause. iraq was different. The SOI were only partially secular nationalists. Included among them were many devout Muslims who simply did not like the AQ brand of Islam. Also, they had 100,000 US and coalition troops supporting them. If you are observing the situation there (as you are) the sunni Islamists were only temporarily defeated by JSOC and the SOI.

The Saudis have a long term project for the restoration of Sunni supremacy in the Levant. This rebellion is only the latest episode in that decades long campaign. The Wahhabi Saudi theocratic government has no fear of their client fanatics in Syria. They would find that idea amusing. They have always been prepared for rival Wahhabi factions and have dealt with them successfully. these days they have even less reason to be worried about that. the US is their principal support.

I do not accept the premise that assad's government is on its last legs. pl



"First, obviously we have nothing to offer - or are prepared to offer" If we were prepard to offer it, US air power would destroy Assad's forces easily. carrier air+USAF from Turkey+ US strategic air would finish his conventional forces quickly and then we could have Saudi satrapies in Syria and Lebanon. pl


Col: There goes another Christian community in the Middle East....

r whitman

PL- what is your assessment of the rebels actually winning both with and without US support??


r whitman

I think Saudi financial and materiel support plus the ever more evident dominance of Sunni Jihadis ensure that thewar will continue as stalemate. This is true because the non-Sunni forces realize that emigration or oppression would be their only alternatives. US active support for the rebels would insure their eventual victory one way or another. pl


In terms of actual US national interests aren't we backing the wrong side in this fight?



A rebel victory would eventually lead to mass Christian migration from both Lebanon and Syria. this has been underway in Lebanon for a long time and would commence in Syria. pl



If you mean the rebels, yes, but we have been intent on deposing Assad for a long, long time in spite of the Syrian Baath's efforts to engage with us. pl

Alba Etie

Col Lang
Off topic but Senator Hagel has been confirmed Secretary of Defense.

Medicine Man

Washington's policy regarding Syria is just one more thing Obama is disinclined to reform. This, coupled with his "status quo" approach to financial regulation, will produce the worst long-term consequences of his presidency, in my opinion. We're seeing the start of it in Egypt. I have no answers.

Somewhat off-topic -- Jennifer Rubin's column about Hagel's nomination to SecDef is interesting. Well, not so much the column (which is drek, as expected) but the comments to it are wonderful to behold: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/wp/2013/02/26/the-gop-27/

Lots of conservatives sick of the usual BS. A welcome sight.



Now the shoe is on the other foot. How much money does DoD spend in Arizona and South Carolina? pl


Wait a minute.
Assad's mentors.
Why would we align ourselves with an Iranian client?
Unless we could make him our client.
That would be a heavy bet;something I think beyond the boy king and his"royal" Sec. of State.



IMO we could easily have made Assad our client. pl

Babak Makkinejad

Is this "Saudi long term project" not a threat to Jordan - another US protectorate?

Has the United States, in effect, written Jordan off and handed her to various Wahabis and neo-Salafists?

Babak Makkinejad

Are the people of the United States oblivious to this because very many Arab Christians are Catholic or Orthodox?

Would Fly-over-America have cared if the displaced or soon-to-be-displaced were largely Baptists (for the sake of argument)?



Yes, it is a threat to Jordan. the US would happily sell out Jordan of the Israelis and Saudis wanted it. very likely sa widow. pl



Perhaps so. pl

Alba Etie

Col Lang
To paraphrase that old Irish saw "It takes a very long spoon to sup with the Devil " Its going to be very hard for Sen Graham & McCain to walk away from the Tea Party miscreants. Given Sen Cornyn & Cruz performances in this filibuster of Sen Hagel's nomination I wonder if Ft Bliss & Fort Hood might not also experience some draw down in their DOD largesse . We shall see - ..

Alba Etie

Col Lang
If memory serves wasn't Assad Sr assisting Western intelligence directly in monitoring active AQ cells in Europe-right after 911 ? And that Assad Sr wanted very much to normalize relations with US - but the neocons wanted to go to Damascus after we 'settled" Baghdad- all part of the "Clean Break " nonsense that Wolofiwtz & Cheney were peddling ?


"Are the people of the United States oblivious to this because very many Arab Christians are Catholic or Orthodox?"

That, or the folks down there in the Middle East are so dark skinned that the matter of their actual religion isn't conceived as a issue. Aren't they all Islamics down there?

If polls are any indication, American's have difficulties finding Syria on a map. It isn't in the least improbable that they just don't know that. Probably mere indifference.


I also read that. Kerry called for regime change in Syria.

Regime change has been America's primary political preoccupation for the last two decades.

In the US there is a foreign policy consensus on regime change - at the very least for Syria and Iran and likely also for Lebanon - and in that respect it matters little who is in power at any given time.

The difference is gradual, from the neocon position to lavishly bomb everything at sight, to the somewhat more restrained hegemonist position that bombing be conducted with drones and with limited tonnage while intervening covertly. Except for that, it is the same approach really.

Realism is 'to the left' of all of that, and while they too cling to US dominance, at least they are addressing the reality of the world as it is, and not as it should be.

I see a great deal of political continuity in the policies Obama and Bush have pursued abroad (and not only there). Their approach towards regime change candidates is limited to directing ultimatums at them, and since these ultimatums regularly amount to variations of the constructive theme 'Drop dead', it is rather unsurprising to me that they don't find approval on the other side.

The worst thing about regime change as a policy is that it precludes diplomacy as a tool to actually solve political differences. Instead, it makes diplomacy a handmaiden of eventual and inevitable war, that is to say, it is as an approach essentially militarist. Escalation is a built in feature of that approach.

All 'diplomacy' towards regime change candidates is not about solving the actual political issues, but merely about going through the motions - manoeuvring the other side into a political or at least PR disadvantage - mere steps towards regime change. In the end it probably suffices that it generates in the US the public perception that the country in question is a hobgoblin and must be bombed.

Once manifest, that image is rather solid and hard to reverse. It takes a man like Nixon to do such a thing. I can't see anyone with the ruthlessness and vision to pull something like that off today.

Sanctions are also mere steps on the escalation ladder, and aim on hurting the other side economically, while trying to coax them into violations and acts of open defiance, which then can be used against the other side.

The other classic approach is designing negotiations to fail, in order to pin the failure on the other side's asserted obstructionism. IMO, the US negotiations with Iran can be characterised that way. Towards regime change candidates, US diplomacy hasn't been conducted in good faith over the last three decades.

Vis a vis Syria, I also think that, since Assad isn't going to be defeated any time soon, when power relations in the fight don't change on their own, Kerry will opt for direct intervention as a 'game changer'. That is inevitable.

Since regime change policy is a fixture, yet doesn't work to produce the desired result, but must not be called into question anyway, there is no other option to continue the policy without losing face (US domestic considerations play in here, with R's reliably and habitually if inanely accusing D's of losing China, Iran or Iraq or whatever else comes to their ever opportunistic minds) but to double down and bomb the countries in question into submission already. To these people, neocons and Democrat Hegemonists alike, US military force is that game changer, their silver bullet.

Since regime change doesn't work really, 'changing the game', is the only way to maintain the fiction that the goal of regime change is a feasible policy in the first place. Escalation and eventual war is a built in feature of that approach.


Re the US (and Israli) obsession with 'Gamechangers', here's a very current and quite typical example of such a proposal: Evelyn Gordon writing for JINSA's newsletter "U.S. Push Could End Hezbollah's Domination of Lebanon" - through toppling Assad in Syria.

"... Now, an opportunity has finally arisen to finish what the Cedar Revolution began - and also to seriously weaken an organization that some U.S. officials have dubbed "the greatest threat to American national security."Hezbollah's dominance depends on a constant supply of arms and money. But the collapse of Syria's Assad regime could significantly reduce the first ...

Yet without American help ... [this] ... may fail to materialize"

Yes ... change the game ... opportunities must be pounced at ... windows of opportunity are closing ... we must act now! No time to deliberate! Onwards ... to victory, and everyone lived happily ever after.

Regime change is sloganeering made policy. Feasibility is a quite secondary concern.

The result is carnage, for which the instigators, the lunatics who can't accept anything but regime change, refuse any responsibility (and if they 'misspeak', 'the price is worth it').

In Iraq, the sanctions that killed half a million children, or the 2003 war induced 'excess deaths', were all Saddam's fault (for him not dropping dead when the US demanded him to), and in Syria, the carnage will be Assad's fault (probably that will include the beheadings by the Jihadi opposition also).

Alas, it is America's burden to always be unfairly blamed when carnage occurs where they put their heavy hand, the work of a Hegemon is a thankless task ... it is that, or maybe it is just so that people die when you bomb them, plunge their country into economic mayhem, civil war or outright war, destroy their currency, or deny them water purification equipment when they live in a desert climate. Oh, perish the thought ...

Clifford Kiracofe

Yes indeed, new messenger, same old policy.

Celebrity globetrotter Hillary had no memorable diplomatic "success." Should we expect anything different under the new messenger of Senatorial rank in the Middle East or anywhere else?

The issue is the deeply flawed policy of the imperial foreign policy establishment the results of which are before us daily.

Kissinger seemed to be able to work with the senior Assad. Presumably the junior Assad would have wished to strike a deal also.

The Syrian "contagion" is spreading and seems likely to spread more throughout the region as the Saudi Levant Wahhabization program moves along with US and Anglo-French support.

Is it wise to feed Jordan to the dogs as appears the case?

Patriot batteries in place, Syria destabilized, so next stop Tehran this Spring?


What I wonder about - how is the relationship between the Israelis and the Saudis? Cooperative? Competitive? Confrontative?

Could the Israelis live with such Saudi Satraps next door? Would the Saudis accept Israeli dominion over Al Aqsa? Would they see that as temporary, analogous to the view that 'like the crusader states, Israel will disappear from the page of time'.

Also, I read Israel Shahak mentioning an Israeli Diplomat talking about an Israeli Nuclear umbrella for the Middle East?! Is that for real?

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