• Tag Archives Syria
  • Trump Is Right to Withdraw From Syria

    President Trump has ordered a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria. This is the right decision. The U.S. military presence in Syria has not been authorized by Congress, is illegal under international law, lacks a coherent strategy, and carries significant risks of entangling America in a broader quagmire in yet another Middle Eastern country.

    As I wrote in Axios:

    The Obama administration first deployed U.S. troops to Syria to complement its aerial bombing campaign against ISIS with special operations forces and coordinate with local anti-ISIS militias on the ground, gradually expanding from hundreds of troops to roughly 4,000.

    The mission expanded, too, from merely defeating ISIS (substantially accomplished some time ago) to ushering Syrian President Bashar al-Assad out of power, expelling Iranian forces, and edging out Russia.

    The bottom line: Absent achievable goals and a strong national security imperative backed up by congressional authorization, the U.S. presence in Syria is illegitimate and better off wound down.

    One prominent criticism of Trump’s decision is that it lacks a clear public explanation and evades the carefully planned and coordinated inter-agency process that enables such a withdrawal to be executed safely and responsibly. This is a fair criticism. Indeed, Trump seems not to have consulted the Defense Department, State Department, or really any of the national security principals in his administration before making this announcement.

    But the fault for evading process may lie more with the president’s hawkish advisors than with Trump himself. Trump has long expressed disapproval for the U.S. military presence in Syria, but his own officials—including National Security Advisor John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, and the current Special Representative for Syria Engagement James Jeffrey—either resisted or ignored the Commander-in-Chief’s clearly stated preferences on an ongoing military mission. That may have made the president feel he had no choice but to circumvent process and issue the order to withdraw on his own, via Twitter.

    That said, I do worry about an administration that is too deferential to Trump’s every whim. I was heartened, for example, that cabinet officials spent months pushing back on Trump’s call to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal. Likewise with the president’s request for military options against North Korea, which the Pentagon reportedly slow-walked in the months before Trump shifted from maximum pressure to diplomatic negotiations with Kim Jong-un. And when Trump reportedly asked Mattis to assassinate Assad, it was probably a good thing that the Secretary of Defense chose not to take the suggestion seriously.

    That withdrawal is the right decision does not mean Syria will flourish in peace and security. Several undesirable contingencies may occur in the aftermath of our exit. The Turks may engage in operations against the Kurds in Syria’s northeast. ISIS may make some gains here and there. But if these things materialize, they should not be cited as proof that withdrawal was unwise. That’s exactly the flawed argument hawks employed to criticize the 2011 withdrawal from Iraq. Sure, it left a vacuum in which ISIS emerged. But ISIS itself is a product of the US invasion of Iraq. And our presence in Syria could very well be creating comparable unintended consequences, instead of preventing them.=

    It can’t be America’s purpose to indefinitely forestall every plausible misfortune that may or may not bedevil this troubled region. In the near term, we can engage in diplomacy to try to curb Turkish plans to target the Kurds. And with regard to ISIS, it’s not at all clear that their permanent defeat depends on maintaining a U.S. ground presence in Syria. The extremist group is already decimated, and even without an indefinite U.S. presence, it is surrounded by enemies to whom we can pass the buck (should resurgence even occur, which is not a given).

    Anyone who favors a U.S. military presence in Syria should be calling for Congress to formally authorize it. That process will require making a strong public case that deployment is required to preempt an immediate threat to U.S. security and that the mission has coherent, achievable goals that clearly define what victory looks like. Otherwise, our presence in Syria is illegitimate.

    This article is reprinted from Cato At Liberty.

    Source: Trump Is Right to Withdraw From Syria – Foundation for Economic Education

  • These Are the Missing Facts about the Chemical Attack in Syria

    These Are the Missing Facts about the Chemical Attack in Syria

    On Tuesday, yet another chemical weapons attack occurred in Syria. This particular attack took place in the Idlib province, and dozens have reportedly died as a result.

    Syria is no stranger to chemical weapons attacks. In 2013, there were two notably devastating attacks, both of which the Obama administration used to try to justify a direct strike on the Assad government.

    The U.N. thoroughly investigated the first 2013 attack. The U.N Commission of Inquiry’s Carla Del Ponte ultimately said the evidence indicated the attack was carried out by the Syrian rebels – not the Syrian government. Despite this, support for the Syrian rebels from the U.S. and its allies only increased, raising serious questions about Obama’s sincerity when condemning chemical attacks.

    Biased Evidence

    Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh found the second major attack was committed in a similar manner. Hersh found that the U.S. quite deliberately attempted to frame the evidence to justify a strike on Assad without even considering al-Nusra, a terror group with access to nerve agents that should have been a prime suspect.

    In 2016, the U.N. concluded that the Syrian government had, indeed, used chemical weapons during the years-long conflict, but that ISIS had, too. This is in light of the fact that in 2013, the U.N. also declared that the regime no longer possessed chemical weapons.

    These facts are largely missing from any serious commentary on the most recent attack in Syria. Despite these reports being accessible and available, the world has instead decided to blatantly ignore them and rush to blame Assad once again. It is also worth noting that one of the sources blaming Syria and/or Russia for this attack is the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), an organization run by a single anti-Assad dissident in Coventry, England.

    Having these claims bolstered by the White Helmets does nothing to aid its credibility given the group’s leadership is reportedly driven by a “pro-interventionist agenda conceived by the Western governments and public relations groups that back them,” according to Alternet.

    Yet without directly confirming any of the intelligence, the media and politicians are out in full force condemning the Assad government. As of this article’s publication, the Guardian has three top headlines: one reporting on the attack and the next two condemning Assad directly (see here and here).

    News Molded to Fit Foreign Policy Agenda

    Even a New Zealand newspaper, the New Zealand Herald, ran an ambitious article entitled “Donald Trump is the only leader who can stop Syrian atrocities.” No – it is not the Onion.

    In the article, the writer ignores all of the aforementioned reports regarding attacks in 2013, claiming that in that year, “the Syrian regime used sarin.” She also claims “Obama did nothing” in response.

    The claim that Obama “did nothing” makes no sense. In 2016 alone, Obama dropped over 26,000 bombs – almost half of which landed in Syria. These bombs also rained on Syrian troops in direct violation of international law. As president, Obama also oversaw the CIA’s expenditures of about $1 billion a year training Syrian rebels.

    As fears of “fake news” perpetuated by both the mainstream media and the president threaten our democratic institutions, how else can we describe these biased reports on Syria, if not “fake news?” News should be based on evidence, not molded around a foreign policy agenda of regime change.

    Perhaps the Syrian government did use chemical weapons in a stupid move that would immediately attract international condemnation and calls for war just days after the U.S. openly acknowledged they would consider leaving Assad alone. But what if the Syrian government wasn’t responsible, and the attack was, once again, committed by the Syrian rebels? Will the world unite and join Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard in her calls to stop arming terror groups in Syria?

    Or is it that we only care about chemical weapons attacks if there is an indication that the Syrian government was behind it?

    One should bear in mind that if the rebels did commit the attack, the U.S. could actually do something about it considering America and its allies actively support them. Withdrawing support for groups that resort to these tactics would contribute to Syria’s safety and security. This is not a concern, however, because it appears the media’s ultimate focus on this story is to garner support for further war and bloodshed in the Middle East – not less of it.

    Reprinted from the Anti-Media.

    Darius Shahtahmasebi

    Darius Shahtahmasebi writes at theAntiMedia.org.

    This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

  • In Syria, militias armed by the Pentagon fight those armed by the CIA

    Syrian militias armed by different parts of the U.S. war machine have begun to fight each other on the plains between the besieged city of Aleppo and the Turkish border, highlighting how little control U.S. intelligence officers and military planners have over the groups they have financed and trained in the bitter five-year-old civil war.

    The fighting has intensified over the last two months, as CIA-armed units and Pentagon-armed ones have repeatedly shot at each other while maneuvering through contested territory on the northern outskirts of Aleppo, U.S. officials and rebel leaders have confirmed.

    In mid-February, a CIA-armed militia called Fursan al Haq, or Knights of Righteousness, was run out of the town of Marea, about 20 miles north of Aleppo, by Pentagon-backed Syrian Democratic Forces moving in from Kurdish-controlled areas to the east.

    “Any faction that attacks us, regardless from where it gets its support, we will fight it,” Maj. Fares Bayoush, a leader of Fursan al Haq, said in an interview.

    Rebel fighters described similar clashes in the town of Azaz, a key transit point for fighters and supplies between Aleppo and the Turkish border, and on March 3 in the Aleppo neighborhood of Sheikh Maqsud.

    The attacks by one U.S.-backed group against another come amid continued heavy fighting in Syria and illustrate the difficulty facing U.S. efforts to coordinate among dozens of armed groups that are trying to overthrow the government of President Bashar Assad, fight the Islamic State militant group and battle one another all at the same time.

    “It is an enormous challenge,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, who described the clashes between U.S.-supported groups as “a fairly new phenomenon.”

    “It is part of the three-dimensional chess that is the Syrian battlefield,” he said.

    Full article: In Syria, militias armed by the Pentagon fight those armed by the CIA – LA Times