Sep
10

Obama Blinks on Syria, Who Won and Lost?

Obama Blinks on Syria. Who Won and Lost?

This has been a wild afternoon, for a change in a good way. Obama has overruled John Kerry, Susan Rice, and Samantha Powers in their opposition earlier today to the Russian face-saving proposal, which had been accepted by Syria and endorsed by the Ban Ki-Moon and David Cameron, of having Syria destroy its chemical weapons. The State Department tried walking back Kerry’s remarks that Syria needed to give up its nasty WMD and Susan Rice said that only regime change would do.

But at the end of the afternoon, Obama said he was willing to pursue the Russian plan. From Politico:

President Barack Obama would put strikes against Syria on hold if Bashar Assad’s regime were to turn over control of its chemical weapons, he said Monday, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that he will wait to hear the president make his case to the nation Tuesday before holding an initial vote on military action.

The moves came at the tail end of a tumultuous day for a White House that appeared to be knocked off-message by Secretary of State John Kerry’s positive response to a question about whether the administration would consider a proposal that would allow Syria to avoid a military strike by turning over any stockpile of chemical weapons.

The president said his team will engage in talks with Russia and Syria. “We’re going to run this to ground,” he told CNN. “And John Kerry and the rest of my national security team will engage with the Russians and the international community to see can we arrive at something that is enforceable and serious.”

Not surprisingly for an Administration which is fond of taking unusually aggressive measures to rewrite history, the Politico write-up reveals that the Administration is trying to spin that this plan is moving forward due to, rather than despite, Kerry’s efforts.

But what appears instead to have occurred is that support for the AUMF collapsed in the Senate. And it apparently was not due to just to the wild card of the Russian proposal but also Kerry’s ineptitude. From Jane Hamsher:

Update 12:30 PM: Senate sources say that John Kerry’s comments this morning about an “unbelievably small” planned attack on Syria have “lost them every undecided Republican in the Senate,” and the vote may be pulled.

“Even Democratic loyalists like Barbara Boxer can’t afford to have a 35-65 vote on their record.”

Remarkably, during the Senate debate, AIPAC loyalist Diane Feinstein voiced support for the Russian idea.

And the Congresscritters were running from the AUMF sinking ship. Hamsher again:

5:14: Sent. Kelly Ayotte (R-NY) previously said “I am convinced we must take this limited military action against the Assad regime’s military capabilities.”, but tells the Hill today she’s undecided.

5:34: Ben Cardin (D-MD) tweets that although he voted for attacking Syria in committee but now “I have concerns about action, right now we need to deal with #Syria via diplomacy if possible.” Moving him to undecided because it sounds like he wouldn’t support a vote if it was taken this week.

6:02: Johnny Isakson (R-GA) goes from undecided to firm nay, per the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Everyone was watching the Senators from the defense contractor states as the canaries in the coal mine. If guys like Shelby, Isakson, Sessions et al started going against, it would be taken as a sign that it was all over.

6:26: Majority Leader Harry Reid did not file cloture today, which means there will not be a vote on Wednesday in the Senate.

Mind you, this national security team is capable of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. All we have at this juncture is an agreement in principle. This deal could still fall apart. Nevertheless, this is huge progress relative to where things stood 24 hours ago.

So who has won and lost? A starter list, readers invited to contribute in comments:

LOSERS

John Kerry, big time. One Beltway insider says that Kerry has proven to be so inept that he doesn’t see how Kerry survives. Obama needs to get rid of Kerry to preserve his credibility. The problem is you can also say the same of Samantha Powers and Susan Rice. But Politico also has a piece up on Kerry’s actions today, which it tries to frame charitably as, “Throughout his career, Kerry’s had a problem with words.” This piece reads like a PR plant to try to salvage Kerry and Rice. My Beltway sources think he’s become too toxic to be redeemed, but the Politico reporting may persuade people removed from the action otherwise. It could also have the nasty side effect of emboldening the national security team that can’t shoot straight at precisely the wrong moment.

AIPAC. I can’t recall AIPAC ever taking such a visible defeat. But the Israel lobby’s eventual decline is inevitable. Young Jews poll as not having much affinity for Israel, and many are firmly opposed to its policies in Palestine. Indeed, I’ve long suspected that Israel’s efforts to escalate against Iran aren’t driven as much by Iran’s projected timetable for nuclear development as by the recognition that demographic change in the US means its days of being able to rely on the US as a staunch ally are numbered.

The Saudis.

Al Quaeda.

The Syrian opposition. Lambert: “Where were the spokesmen? The exiled government? (And IIRC, check me, the video shown on Capitol Hill was a year old. WTF?)”

The War Party is a loser. Whoever propagated the phrase “The War Party” is a winner.

Obama. As one political expert put it, “This was a wild and confused routine. Obama comes out looking stupid. But he would have lost ten times as much if the US had launched airstrikes.” A Congressional staffer said, “Obama ‘s been amazingly inept, but at least we now know he isn’t self-destructive. But he will no longer have any real influence on policy.”

David Cameron is a loser or more accurately, more of a loser.

WINNERS

Putin. The score so far is Putin 2, Obama 0. And Putin’s wins against the world’s only, and widely resented superpower has boosted his stature considerably.

Alan Grayson. Grayson was out early and aggressively against attacking Syria. He went toe-to-toe against the White House and won. Admittedly, the Russia move was a lucky break, but Grayson was also doing a good deal behind the scenes to whip opposition to the AUMF. He’s taken vocal stances on two major issues, financial services reform and US adventurism in the Middle East, which now gives him a considerable authority in the House.

Justin Amash. Amash was less visible on Syria than in the fight against the NSA, but he was still an important player and garnered more power and political good karma points.

Assad. He’ll be negotiated with as a ruling head of state.

Charlie Rose. Lambert: “Nice get on the Assad interview, and who was the genius PR shop that booked it?!”

Larry Summers. If Obama has pushed ahead on Syria, either with no Congressional vote or only Senate approval, the liberals and Republicans would be hopping mad and the widely-anticipated Summers nomination would be an obvious way to retaliate. That does not mean Summers is a shoe-in, but the revenge motive will at least be out of the picture.

Syrian civilians who would be collateral damage in the alternative future with war.

War-weary American voters and US soldiers.

Read more at http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2013/09/obama-blinks-on-syria-who-won-and-lost.html#QVuKKRgV7d1j2yEl.99

Sep
01

Middle East Experts Jeff Blankfort and Gilbert Mercier Part 4

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Co-Host Kathleen Wells

Sep
01

Middle East Experts Jeff Blankfort and Gilbert Mercier Part 3

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Co-Host Kathleen Wells

Sep
01

Middle East Experts Jeff Blankfort and Gilbert Mercier Part 2

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Co-Host Kathleen Wells

Sep
01

KCAA Radio Show Part 1 w/ Middle East Experts Jeff Blankfort and Gilbert Mercier

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Co-Host Kathleen Wells

Aug
28

From Wayne Madsen Reports

 

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August 28-29, 2013 – Obama’s Syrian chemical attack “proof” relies solely on Israeli intelligence

WMR’s sources inside the Washington Beltway report that President Obama relied solely on signals intelligence (SIGINT) provided by Israel’s version of the U.S. National Security Agency, Unit 8200, to conclude that Syria’s government ordered the August 21 chemical attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta.

Unit 8200 claimed it had intercepted a communication from a Syrian army unit operating near Ghouta on August 21. The Israelis concluded from the intercept that Syria’s army carried out the chemical attack on Ghouta, although there has been no independent confirmation from Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) or the UN weapons inspection team as to who carried out the attack and even what type of chenical weapons were used.

Obama claims that his pursuit of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden is intended to safeguard NSA’s most closely-guarded secrets that are used to combat terrorism. However, Obama, in his decision to accept the Israeli SIGINT as prima facie evidence of a Syrian chemical attack on civilians, has bypassed NSA’s own SIGINT product, which is flowing into the joint NSA/British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) interception facility in Cyprus, to push the notion that Syrian President Bashar al Assad carried out the attack. NSA’s and GCHQ’s intelligence do not conclusively prove Syrian government involvement.

The Unit 8200 intelligence was exclusively passed by the Israelis to the Obama administration, British Prime Minister David Cameron, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government. WMR has also learned that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, were opposed to taking military action against Syria based only on Israeli SIGINT. However, after Obama made his decision after deferring to National Security Adviser Susan Rice, UN ambassador Samantha Power, and political adviser Valerie Jarrett, both Hagel and Dempsey began plans on August 23 to carry out a unilateral military strike on Syria without the invocation of the War Powers Act or with the authorization of the UN Security Council.

Secretary of State John Kerry told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that U.S. forces would not target any Russian interests in Syria and that Russia tacitly agreed not to escalate the situation following a U.S. strike on Syrian targets.

Dec
27

As U.S. Limps Out, British-Saudi Salafists March into Afghanistan

 

As U.S. Limps Out, British-Saudi Salafists March into Afghanistan

 

December 26, 2012 • 8:17AM

Saudi Arabia announced during the third week of October, that it would build one of the world’s largest mosques/education centers on a hilltop in Kabul, Afghanistan, at a cost of $100 million, scheduled to open in 2014 or 2015. The Saudi “Islamic complex,” to be named after Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, is intended to contain a mosque and a university center, capable of housing and indoctrinating up to 5,000 Afghani students in jihadi Wahhabism.

2014 is the date that U.S.-ISAF forces are due to depart from Afghanistan, after a 13-year-long ulcerating war, that has sucked out America’s moral and physical capacity, costing thousands of lives, hundreds of billions of dollars, and the explosion of the Afghan drug trade. There will be an exchange: in reality, as the U.S. limps out of Afghanistan, the British-Saudi monarchies, which induced the U.S. into Afghanistan through the orchestrated September 11, 2001 attack, will take over. America’s occupation is a lost episode.

Catriona Luke, a columnist for the Guardian newspaper, commenting Dec. 13 on the planned Saudi madrassa in Kabul, noted that “The AfPak [Afghanistan-Pakistan] region has been defined by a Saudi proxy war since the 1970s…. Reuters recently produced an excellent report on how banned terrorist outfits in Pakistan are, and have long been, funded from Saudi Arabia. WikiLeaks cables described the Gulf states as a ‘cash-point for [Wahhabi] terrorism’…. A report commissioned by the UN Security Council in 2003 described how in the decade leading to 9/11 Saudi Arabia transferred over 4500 million to al-Qaeda via Islamic charities….” Luke added that the “Bush administration is said to have redacted 28 pages of a Congress report that documented Saudi government ties with the 9/11 hijackers.”

While Luke does not mention that same network as running 9/11/2012, she is otherwise accurate.

Now, as the U.S. has been weakened by its wasting occupation, as in the repeat of the “Great Game” of the past, the British-Saudi empire, if U.S. policy is not changed, is poised to pick up the pieces.

Dec
27

Bertrand Russell’s Last Message

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Bertrand Russell’s Last Message

By Bertrand Russell

This statement on the Middle East was dated 31st January, 1970, and was read on 3rd February, the day after Bertrand Russell’s death, to an International Conference of Parliamentarians meeting in Cairo.
The latest phase of the undeclared war in the Middle East is based upon a profound miscalculation. The bombing raids deep into Egyptian territory will not persuade the civilian population to surrender, but will stiffen their resolve to resist. This is the lesson of all aerial bombardment.

The Vietnamese who have endured years of American heavy bombing have responded not by capitulation but by shooting down more enemy aircraft. In 1940 my own fellow countrymen resisted Hitler’s bombing raids with unprecedented unity and determination. For this reason, the present Israeli attacks will fail in their essential purpose, but at the same time they must be condemned vigorously throughout the world.

The development of the crisis in the Middle East is both dangerous and instructive. For over 20 years Israel has expanded by force of arms. After every stage in this expansion Israel has appealed to “reason” and has suggested “negotiations”. This is the traditional role of the imperial power, because it wishes to consolidate with the least difficulty what it has already taken by violence. Every new conquest becomes the new basis of the proposed negotiation from strength, which ignores the injustice of the previous aggression. The aggression committed by Israel must be condemned, not only because no state has the right to annexe foreign territory, but because every expansion is an experiment to discover how much more aggression the world will tolerate.

The refugees who surround Palestine in their hundreds of thousands were described recently by the Washington journalist I.F. Stone as “the moral millstone around the neck of world Jewry.” Many of the refugees are now well into the third decade of their precarious existence in temporary settlements. The tragedy of the people of Palestine is that their country was “given” by a foreign Power to another people for the creation of a new State. The result was that many hundreds of thousands of innocent people were made permanently homeless. With every new conflict their number have increased. How much longer is the world willing to endure this spectacle of wanton cruelty? It is abundantly clear that the refugees have every right to the homeland from which they were driven, and the denial of this right is at the heart of the continuing conflict. No people anywhere in the world would accept being expelled en masse from their own country; how can anyone require the people of Palestine to accept a punishment which nobody else would tolerate? A permanent just settlement of the refugees in their homeland is an essential ingredient of any genuine settlement in the Middle East.

We are frequently told that we must sympathize with Israel because of the suffering of the Jews in Europe at the hands of the Nazis. I see in this suggestion no reason to perpetuate any suffering. What Israel is doing today cannot be condoned, and to invoke the horrors of the past to justify those of the present is gross hypocrisy. Not only does Israel condemn a vast number. of refugees to misery; not only are many Arabs under occupation condemned to military rule; but also Israel condemns the Arab nations only recently emerging from colonial status, to continued impoverishment as military demands take precedence over national development.

All who want to see an end to bloodshed in the Middle East must ensure that any settlement does not contain the seeds of future conflict. Justice requires that the first step towards a settlement must be an Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied in June, 1967. A new world campaign is needed to help bring justice to the long-suffering people of the Middle East.