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25 September 2015


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"The US should adopt a policy of containment in re ALL the jihadis (including the al- Saud) and then wait for the fire to burn low."



It is exceptionally frustrating to attempt a critique of the Obama policies re. Syria and Iraq (as well as the rest of the MiddleEast) for two reasons. First, there is no coherence - either among policies, among individual moves, or from one part of the government to another. Second, their attitude (which enables the former) is lackadaisical to a baffling degree. If there is any serious, concentrated thinking going on, it is invisible to the observer. The President looks to be sliding into his post-presidency,Cloud 9 role - troubling himself only as necessary to put the positive spin on the last chapters of his 2 volume memoirs. Everyone else has his or her personal agenda - be it careerist or ideological - that is diligently pursued (at various energy levels) to the disregard of what others are doing - much less in reference to some common design.
There is ample evidence in support of this admittedly radical hypothesis. One, there is the serial insertion of dollops of "moderate" fighters into an alien environment who immediately go native. This is beyond stupid. Two, there is the attempt o block Russian flights into Syria by putting the arm on Bulgaria and Greece while ignoring the rest of the regional map (the GPS generation at work). Three, there is the desultory employment of air power to the point of comedy. Four, there is the crackdown on Centcom Intelligence analysts for doing their jobs. Also, there is the obvious mindlessness of employing 1,500 Intelligence people in Tampa when it boggles the mind to imagine how even ten per cent might be occupying themselves other than playing Candy Crush. Five, there is the failure to consider the possibility of Russian intervention - and then to be shocked by the discovery that they had every right to do so.
Admittedly, it is hard to accept that the world's greatest power has become a SNL skit. There is the the persistent "delusion of adequacy." But I see no other explanation n for the sham that American actions in the Middle East have become.

Bill Herschel

Though I agree with all points, I am somewhat stunned by this: "The carefully worked out neocon/Zionist plot to trigger an anti-Sunni revolution across the ME that would bring on an imagined earthly paradise for Israel."

Saudi Arabia, than whom no one is more Sunni, has always been a staunch ally of Israel and the U.S. In fact, haven't we always backed Sunni's? Egypt is Sunni and a particularly strong ally of Israel and the U.S.

My hypothesis is that George The Younger had a thing about bettering his father, and the people around him said, "Well, Israel will love it if there are American troops in the ME and there's the oil."

A bottom line is that Israel definitely does NOT want to fight any more wars. It's not working for them. And it's so much easier to have American troops fight their battles. Bush's actions have *weakened* Israel by stirring up a hornet's nest and making the Israeli people reluctant to fight.

And it's not working for the Saudi's either as you have pointed out.

It will be a moment of change in history if Assad's troops, supported by Russia, can clean up ISIS in Syria. Cf. the wars between India and Pakistan. Our clients have a crappy track record. Russia's have done much better.

FB Ali

An excellent analysis, Michael.

I must confess I found that 1500 (intelligence analysts) figure mind-boggling. No wonder the whole enterprise is totally screwed up. (Not because of them, but because of what it says about the whole organization).

William R. Cumming

Many insights in this useful post!


A blend of analysis and poetry. Wonderful.


Bill Herschel

Neither Saudi Arabia nor Israel has ever been a "staunch ally" of the US. They have both sought continuously to use us for their own narrow purposes. We have never sided with Shia? Have you ever heard of Pahlavi Iran? We screwed Hashemite Jordan (overwhelmingly Sunni) on behalf of Israel for many decades. In Iraq the plot sought successfully to replace Sunni rule with that of the Shia. in Egypt, the plot sought to replace Mubarak (a Sunni) with the handful of highly acculturated seculars, The same thing in Tunisia. And then there was Bahrain. I think you are just another kind of troll. pl



There's a reason why I frequent SST. The wisdom and clear headed analysis you propound are not to be found in contemporary discourse. Our political and media elites are creating a wasteland of folly. We can only hope that voices as yours will be at the table of policymaking in the not too distant future.


mbrenner -

I think I have a simpler explanation. Both the Bush and Obama terms were similar in that both Presidents came into office without much foreign policy experience. They depended on their staff and the foreign policy establishment for recommendations and advice. In both cases the recommendations and advice were awful. In their second terms, they both moved away from their first term policies and acted largely in opposition to their own first term policies and the recommendations of the foreign policy establishment. They both did it pretty much on the qt without making a big public statement about it. Neither of them had the political capital in their second term to do much other than block stupid policies and get rid of a few of the worst people.

I think this applies to Clinton as well, and explains why we really haven't had any kind of strategic re-think of our cold war policies for over 20 years now - too many people in the foreign policy establishment benefit from the status quo, with personal responsibility for failure only rarely admitted or exercised.


Bill -

Having some personal experience with "George the Younger" in his younger days where he had to painfully recognize that he was clearly not matching his father's very large "legend", I have always thought his need to "better his father" was effectively exploited by Cheney & friends to lure him down the disastrous Iraq path.


Very interesting analysis. I do find it strange that we have consistently fought against the more secular governments in these countries over the past few decades.

As far as the Kurds, I just don't see any way forward for them without massive re-alignment in the area.


I would argue the Sunni area of Iraq under ISIL control is the part that is the rump state, while in certain ways the more consequential part of Iraq ruled by Baghdad has so much cross-political and social--that includes religious--ties, that the Baghdad and Tehran governments behave more like a single dynamic entity than two distinct sovereign states.

As for CIA assistance in Turkey adopting a govt. to our American preferences, Colonel I'm sure you remember that was done in the 1970s. I travelled through Turkey during that period and it was a state enduring a social period of fear.

Babak Makkinejad

I think you are not accurate.

Mr. Obama followed the best policy advise and the most popular one: "Wound Iran through Syria."

That was the foundations upon which everything else was built.

Mr. Donilon - former US National Security Advisor - announced that policy in the Summer of 2011 - if I recall correctly. And my memory does not fail me not a peep of protest came out of NATO states.

I go further and I say that the Nuclear Deal with Iran has a lot to do with the failure of US policy of regime change in Syria.

Who would have championed, in the United States, an alternative Iran policy which would have given Mr. Obama to chart a different course?

Who indeed among NATO state leaders had the backbone or the strategic foresight or the stature to argue against that policy that has left Syria a wreck?

He is a very smart politician and knows how to trim his sails and when...



I lived in Turkey in the early 70s. I wasn't afraid at all. It was the Islamists and leftists like Dev Genc and Dev Sol who were afraid. Societies are always ruled by fear. Murder would be a commonplace in the US if it were not for fear of punishment. pl


Opening cracks in the establishment regime change consensus, re: Syria:


By the recent Mid East policy coordinator in the White House.

FB Ali

Thanks for the link. It provides a glimpse of the debates that have been taking place within the top policymakers in the US. It is probable that the same issues are being debated today. It also explains the total dysfunction in the policy emanating from these debates.

Reading it one can understand why the goal of "Assad must go" has been so consistently advanced, and still is. It is code for a massive US (and allied) military intervention in Syria followed by military occupation (as in Iraq and Afghanistan). That this is pure insanity is not at all understood.

Another insight that this article provides is why the US so consistently ignores the danger of a jihadi Islamist takeover in Syria. The reason appears to be because US policymakers believe that IS and JaN etc are the creation of Saudi Arabia and the Gulfies, and can be controlled by them. All one can say is: insanity upon insanity!

The bottom line: Thank God for Putin! He has saved the US from its own folly - again.


re: "And then came the neocon domination of George W. Bush and the "Mission Accomplished" moment. The carefully worked out neocon/Zionist plot to trigger an anti-Sunni revolution across the ME, revolution designed to replace "difficult" Sunni governments with malleable minorities. "

Respectfully, I think you give G W Bush too much credit.

Zbigniev Brzezinski asserts that USA used the Iraq war against Iran to contain Communist Russia; Iran, US's bulwark against USSR, having gone AWOL. Saddam went to war against Iran at a moment when Iran was weakened from its revolution.
Brzezinski's most prominent characteristic (imo) is his animus toward Russia and his loyalty to the "glories of the Polish empire," loyalties and hatreds he absorbed in his youth as he watched his Polish diplomat-father struggle against Stalin and also NSDAP before emigrating to Canada. In my opinion it was/is a major mistake for a US leader to seek out and so slavishly follow the advice of someone who was more committed to vanquishing the Russian bogeyman of his childhood rather than to upholding the counsels conveyed to early Americans as in George Washington's Farewell Address.

As well, George H W Bush took advantage US position as newly minted sole superpower and also of Iraq's exhaustion post-war to, um, fail to discourage Iraq from invading Kuwait and further, to reject the pleas of Arab leaders to settle their own conflict. G H W Bush saw in the Iraq-Kuwait conflict an opportunity to establish US hegemony in the region, and he took it. One of G H W's closes advisors was Brent Scowcroft, former employee of Kissinger, whose views align closely with those of Brezezinski.

In other words, George Bush Jr. did not initiate the mess in Iraq, he merely brought it to a head and expanded the chaos. He shared many of his father's counselors, the same men who had the same hegemonic agenda as far back as Nixon and Carter. Nothing original about Bush 43, not even his criminality.


"Murder would be a commonplace in the US if it were not for fear of punishment. pl"

Robbery, maybe, would be commonplace but surely not murder, not if Dostoevsky's insights into human nature have any salience.


No. You have it wrong. My statement had nothing to do with the Iran-Iraq War. You are off by a decade or two. as for Zbig, how would he know anything about US support for Iraq. He was long gone from government. Who did you say you are? I was a participant in the Iran-Iraq War. we did what we did because the Saudis begged us to do it. pl



Dostoyevsky was an artist not a criminologist. If you think punishment is not a deterrent to murder you are on the wrong site. pl


which was Moses, artist or criminologist?



Moses of Exodus? What is the relevance? Actually, what is the relevance of that Moses to anything? But, as you know, we Catholics have only a primitive knowledge of the Old Testament except for a few of the more lyrical psalms. pl


I stated in an earlier clairvoyant post (years ago), The Kurds should ally with Iran....



All rise! pl

dilbert dogbert

Every time I read of the Kurds an old memory of childhood days pops into the pea brain. Back in the day when we went to the Sunday double feature and between features there would be News of the World. I don't know why but it sticks in my brain of a segment showing Kurdish fighters making war on someone or someone making war on the Kurds. I think it must have stuck in the brain because of the head gear and baggy pants worn by the Kurds. Must have been late 1940's. The more the world changes the more it stays the same.

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