Nel's New Day

April 10, 2018

Syria’s Past, Scary Possibilities

Filed under: Foreign policy — trp2011 @ 11:10 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

Fifteen years ago, George W. Bush followed the advice of his war hawks VP Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to attack Iraq on false pretenses. (I’m sure that the oil in the country had nothing to do with the preemptive war.) Since then, the thoughtless action of the Bush II administration has cost the U.S. people trillions of dollars and the Middle East hundreds of thousands of deaths and tens of millions of refugees. The United States will always suffer from the tragedies of veterans who managed to survive the physical and mental injuries that will always affect them and their descendants.

Syria is again the focus of attention in the Middle East after a disastrous chemical attack against Syrian civilians last Saturday and the possibility that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) would attack Syria in a diversion from his personal problems. Saturday’s attack killed at least 80 people, and an attack on a Syrian air base killed another 14. Syria first blamed the U.S. for the air base attack but then accused Israel. After the chemical attack, the rebels surrendered Douma. Yet any action looks like a lose-lose situation. “Syria is the most complex, complicated issue I have ever had to deal with,” then-CIA Director John Brennan said in 2016.

The current problem in Syria began during the Arab Spring of 2011 when protesters tries to take Middle Eastern countries from dictators. In Syria, Assad used the military to slaughter the protesters. When they fought back, Assad had his war against the Free Syrian Army, a militia formed to protect protesters.

The U.S. was concerned because of Iran’s alliance with Syria to move weapons and other resources to Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. The Shiite theocracy of Iran sent Hezbollah to fight for Assad in a threat to Sunni Arab states on the Persian Gulf, especially Saudi Arabia, that then sent arms to the Syrian rebels. Qatar alone gave $3 billion to the rebels in 2013, and Saudi Arabia sent a shipment of 500 TOW anti-tank missiles to the rebel in 2015. Thus the Syrian civil war became a fight between two Middle Eastern factions.

At the same time, Russia supported Assad and the Syrian military in a continuation of its half-century policy; Russia sells weapons, air defense systems, and MI-25 attack helicopters to Assad, partly to protect its naval base at Tartus on Syria’s Mediterranean coast. In 2011, Russia vetoed a UN Security Council resolution to condemn Assad’s attacks on protesters. Yesterday in the UN, Russia refused to cooperate with Western countries to investigate Syrian chemical attacks. Russian special forces are embedded with Syrian troops, their warplanes and helicopters conduct air attacks on the rebels, and their artillery bombards Assad’s enemies.

Seeing the civil war as a source of recruits and a safe haven, al-Qaeda started sending forces into Syria since 2011. Qatar paid Jabhat al-Nusra, an al-Qaeda leader, to destroy Assad.

President Obama refused to take out Assad despite advice from military and intelligence leaders such as David Petraeus who wanted to provide advanced weapons to the rebels. Even the killing of up to 1,423 people, mostly civilians, in Assad’s attack with sarin gas in 2013 didn’t push President Obama farther than a plan for airstrikes that Congress rejected. Russia made a deal with Assad to give up his chemical weapons in exchange for international inspections and no U.S. attacks. President Obama took the deal, and some people blamed him for Russia’s escalation in 2015. At the end of 2016, the civil war had killed at least 470,000 Syrian killed.

While actors in the Middle East used Syria in a tug of war, ISIS swept over northern Iraq in June 2014 and controlled land the size of Great Britain in Syria and Iraq. President Obama used airstrikes to support forces fighting ISIS. Busy fighting Assad, rebels could not fight ISIS; Assad had a ceasefire with ISIS so he fought the rebel as a larger threat to him. The U.S. picked Kurdish fighters in northern Syria near Turkey as their allies. The Kurds wanted their own state instead of overturning Assad and were intent on protecting their city Kobane from ISIS. The U.S. intended to cut ISIS’s supply lines between Syria and Iraq while backing Kurdish forces in their fight. The mission was a success by breaking the siege of Kobane and moving to take over ISIS’s capital, Raqqa. Yet Turkey, threatened by armed Kurdish fighters, threatened to increase military action against the Kurds who were fighting ISIS, and DDT stopped arming them.

Yet the U.S. would not support the rebels in fighting Assad. The U.S. agreement to not conflict with Russian flight to bomb Syrian civilians in 2015 led to atrocities such as chemical attacks. DDT campaigned with his past belief that the U.S. should support Assad and not attack Syria, but a chemical attack in spring 2017 killing over 80 people caused him to reverse his position because Assad had used chemical weapons. He ordered an attack on the airfield in Syria where the chemical attack was launched, possibly based on false information and after warning senior officials from foreign governments before the attack so that they could leave. Most chemical attacks in Syria are largely ignored by both DDT and the media, and DDT has don’t nothing about most of them. The map shows 11 attacks since DDT’s inauguration. [Thanks to Zack Beauchamp for the history of Syria’s civil war and involvement of other countries.]

After the chemical attack last Saturday, DDT’s air strike threats could be far more dangerous for the U.S. than his strike a year ago. Russia is already jamming U.S. drones over Syria and threatening disaster, possibly for a U.S. plane or ship, if DDT dares retaliate for the chemical attack. After protecting Putin for over a year, DDT is already in trouble for the sanctions against wealthy Russians that took billions of dollars from the Russian stock market this week. Now Russia claims that Assad did not use chemicals and blames the U.S. for a fake chemical attack in Syria as a pretext to strike Assad.

DDT cried crocodile tears at the deaths of children in chemical attacks but refuses to take Syrian refugees. In 2016, the Syrian atrocities led President Obama to increase the U.S. refugee resettlement cap from 70,000 to 110,000. DDT has capped the number at 45,000, and the U.S. has resettled 10,876 refugees this year, 44 of them Syrian. At this time last year, 5,935 Syrian had been resettled in the United States.

Ken Isaacs, DDT’s nominee to head the UN international migration assistance efforts believes that permitting Syrian refugees into the U.S. President Donald Trump’s new pick to lead the United Nation’s international migration assistance efforts is “foolish and delusional” because they are Muslims. He is the vice president of evangelist Rev. Franklin Graham’s Christian relief organization, Samaritan’s Purse. Isaacs also tweeted, “Austria and Switzerland should consider building a wall in the Alps to keep refugees out.”

This is Syria today:

  • Over half of Syria’s 20 million, pre-war population has been displaced.
  • 5.5 million Syrians have fled abroad with 95% of them in these five countries: Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt.
  • 400,000 civilians are trapped in opposition-held suburbs of Syria’s capital Damascus where Assad is relentlessly bombing.
  • Of Syria’s estimated 10 million children, 8.6 million are in dire need of assistance. Nearly 6 million children are displaced or living as refugees, and about 2.5 million are out of school.
  • About one-third of Syria’s housing and half of its educational and medical facilities have been destroyed, causing catastrophic public health crises.

The biggest question now is what DDT will do about Syria. Before the FBI used a search warrant to take records, a computer, and a phone from the office, home, and hotel room of Michael Cohen, DDT’s lawyer, DDT promised to be “very tough” because “everybody’s going to pay a price.” By the time that he met with his military people, however, he was raging about seizing the documents as “a disgraceful situation” and “an attack on our country.” His venom turned to the FBI and top DOJ officials in raids where agents “broke into” Cohen’s office. After cancelling a trip to the Summit of the Americas in Lima (Peru), DDT will be alone for the entire weekend to watch Fox, sent furious tweets, and possibly starting a war. He’s at a “high level of freak out,” according to one source, and another one said, “I am worried about his response.”

As should everyone in the United States.

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