Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Ghouta Redux and the Coming Western Invasion of Libya

There is little reason to expect that the "cessation of hostilities" in Syria, agreed to by the United States and Russia, which is to go into effect on Saturday, will be anymore successful than the Munich agreement of the week before last. The main reason is that both ceasefires are based on the fiction that there is a clear dividing line between the U.S./Saudi-backed forces on the one hand and those of Al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra on the other. The U.S.-Russian truce applies to neither Nusra nor ISIS; hence, the Syrian Arab Army and its Russian and Iranian allies can bomb both Salafist groups. And that is where the problem lies: U.S./Saudi forces are largely indistinguishable from Nusra on the battlefield. So while Russia and Syria can interpret bombing Nusra as in compliance with the truce, the Saudis and their neocon backers in the U.S. will cry foul. In other words, nothing will have changed.

There is an interesting story in today's paper by Celestine Bohlen, "A Turning Point for Syrian War, and U.S. Credibility." French foreign minister Laurent Faubius, having recently resigned his post, is blaming Obama for destroying the Pax Americana global order by failing to bomb Damascus to smithereens following the false flag Ghouta sarin attack of August 2013. Fabius blames everything that followed -- Russia's annexation of Crimea, the rise of ISIS, the refugee crisis in Europe -- on Obama's fecklessness.

This keening over the lost opportunity of Ghouta is nothing new. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth by the national security power elite when Obama decided to go to Congress to get authorization to illegally bomb Syria, a political exigency for the Noble laureate who owed his presidency to not having supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq. But Ghouta has recently reappeared as the key moment that destroyed the status quo, and it is hardening into settled opinion. As Bohlen explains,
Charges of American “passivity” have been a common theme of late at international conferences, where diplomats, foreign policy analysts and journalists play what the French newspaper Le Monde called the “blame game” for the catastrophic situation in Syria. 
For his part, Mr. Fabius, a former prime minister who left the Foreign Ministry to head the French Constitutional Council, hasn’t hesitated to point the finger at various targets. He has accused Mr. President Bashar al-Assad of Syria of “brutality,” Iran and Russia of “complicity,” and the United States of “ambiguity.” 
Criticism of Mr. Obama’s perceived lack of follow-through in Syria is oft-repeated in Paris; what’s new is that a former foreign minister, among others, is calling the United States’ decision in 2013 a world-changing event. 
Fran├žois Heisbourg, chairman of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a think tank based in London, compared the moment to the Austro-Hungarian annexation of Bosnia in 1908, an event seen in hindsight as helping to set the stage for World War I. 
Similarly, Mr. Obama’s reversal in 2013 “is one of those turning points in history where you see the power shift,” Mr. Heisbourg said in an interview. 
By refusing to enforce the red line, Mr. Obama did “enormous, perhaps irretrievable” damage to American credibility, Mr. Heisbourg said. 
“He did it because he didn’t want to do the strikes,” Mr. Heisbourg added. “He was caught in flagrante committing a supreme act of fecklessness.” 
According to both Mr. Heisbourg and, it seems, Mr. Fabius, there were global consequences to Mr. Obama’s inaction, most notably in Russia’s annexation of Crimea the following year, even though Moscow in its public rhetoric continues to accuse Washington of throwing its weight around in an imperial manner. 
Mr. Heisbourg said the “fecklessness” of 2013 had been recognized and interpreted in numerous capitals, not just Paris, as a low point for American power and influence.

“This is not just about the irritated French,” he said. “It goes much deeper.”
“The next U.S. president is going to have to demonstrate early on — in circumstances that he or she would have preferred to avoid — that this was an Obama moment, not an America moment,” he said. 
Although Mr. Fabius expressed regret that “the world didn’t follow France’s position” and punish Mr. Assad for using chemical weapons, others are unconvinced that intervention would have changed the course of the Syrian civil war. In fact, it has been noted in the press that Mr. Fabius’s parting shot at the United States may have been an attempt to deflect criticism of France’s own diplomatic failures in the region. 
Western intervention in Libya, led by France and Britain, has created only greater instability there, while the war in Yemen, waged by Middle Eastern proxies with no overt Western involvement, continues unabated, suggesting no easy answers anywhere in the region.
First, the mainstream press, following the six-month period when the issue of who was actually responsible for the sarin attack was hotly debated, a debate that was won by The London Review of Books when it published Seymour Hersh's "Whose Sarin?" -- evidence points to Nusra not the Syrian government -- blithely went about its business as a broadsheet for Western intelligence services and kept repeating the now-debunked claim that Assad was to blame for the chemical attack.

Next, there is no doubt, as the red-bold quote above makes clear, that the next U.S. president is going to have to atone for Obama's "passivity" by committing to yet another war theater. This will be Libya. Moves are already being made. Read Eric Schmitt's frontpager from yesterday, "U.S. Scrambles to Contain Growing ISIS Threat in Libya." Afghanistan is a lost cause. Russia is in Syria; so the U.S. can't throw down there. Iraq is a charnel house and a massive re-invasion would be politically unpopular in the homeland. Libya is ready-made; plus, it has huge oil reserves. Hillary will take us there for sure, as would Trump, and probably even Sanders. Perpetual war is here to stay. The new dispensation should be called Bellum Americana.


  1. I expect something happening in Ukraine to shut down those Russian gas lines with our next regime. Also, things have been bubbling in the Chechnya-Armenia-Dagestan neighborhood.

    I presume that you are familiar with Pepe Escobar's "Empire of Chaos" theory. Having Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria remain failed states gives western corporations a kind of control of those energy sources if only in the negative way of taking them out of the big global pool of oil and gas.

    By the way, the whole scary theory of the world running out of oil was an oil industry okeydoke. The west is hoping to shut off Russian and Shiite energy streams for their own benefit. I found it curious that for the last five years LNG terminals have been built along the eastern seaboard. Who needs natural gas across the Atlantic? Well, Western Europe will need it if Russian gas suddenly becomes scarce. I'm not sure if the Libyan gas fields are productive enough to replace Russian gas, but if the western corporations control it then all is fine with the world on Wall Street.

    1. The problem for the Caesars of the "Empire of Chaos," Bob, is the blow back. The EU, always an American project, is shatter(ed)ing. Without the EU, U.S. hegemony is not going to enjoy a 1,000-year Reich. A truly multi-polar world will result. In the meantime though life is going to be increasingly nasty, brutish and short.