Cynical US policy on Syria revealed: to Hell with the people

“We don’t care a jot if Syrian people are suffering greatly, that’s part of the plan. We are happy to prolong the suffering indefinitely as long as the Russians, Iranians and Assad can’t claim victory.”

By former UK Ambassador to Syria, Peter Ford

The Rambo of the State Department is leaving. James Jeffreys, the outgoing Syria envoy, boasts about his achievements in a recent candid interview with Al Monitor which with no sense of shame opens up to public gaze the the cynicism, callousness and sheer power-crazedness of US policy on Syria, conducted as though it were a video game or a game of Monopoly. 

In a long-ranging interview with Al-Monitor, James Jeffrey looks back on his efforts to incorporate fragments of Obama-era initiatives into a cohesive Middle East policy. Al Monitor

Jeffreys makes no bones about it. It’s not about ending the Syrian conflict, it’s about prolonging it:

Basically, first and foremost is denial of the [Assad regime] getting military victory….And of course, we’ve ratcheted up the isolation and sanctions pressure on Assad, we’ve held the line on no reconstruction assistance, and the country’s desperate for it. You see what’s happened to the Syrian pound, you see what’s happened to the entire economy. So, it’s been a very effective strategy..

The point is, this [preserving the SDF] is our plan B. We have a plan A. Plan A doesn’t answer ‘how does this all end?’ Plan A’s whole purpose [is] to ensure that the Russians and Assad and the Iranians don’t have a happy answer to how this all ends, and maybe that will someday get them to accept Plan B. Meanwhile, they’re tied up in knots. They don’t see Syria as a victory.

So, we don’t care a jot if Syrian people are suffering greatly, that’s part of the plan. We are happy to prolong the suffering indefinitely as long as the Russians, Iranians and Assad can’t claim victory.

Plan B, by the way, requires implementation on US terms of UN resolution 2254, which would amount effectively to a suicide note for Assad as under those terms it would allow millions of Syrians outside Syria to vote and thus decide the fate of those still inside. 

At no point in this lengthy interview does Jeffreys even mention the Syrian people. The only Syrians (condescendingly) mentioned are the Kurdish militia SDF:

The SDF, they’re clean kids. I’ve gotten to know them and their leadership very, very well. They really are phenomenal, by Middle Eastern standards. They’re a highly disciplined Marxist offshoot of the PKK. 

So, let’s get this straight: the US is supporting a bunch of Marxists in North East Syria to stop Assad getting the much needed oil for the Syrian people and is indifferent to the fact that Idlib is controlled by a bunch of Islamist fanatics?

Jeffreys in fact does not say a single word about the character of the opposition to acknowledge their Islamist extremism, or about the likely consequences if Plan B were to succeed and deliver the keys of Damascus to Islamist radicals.

In this game – and a game is clearly how callous power-crazed Washington policy makers see it – only preventing victory by the other side matters. 

Trump emerges as relatively sensible, which is saying a lot.   

The president was uncomfortable with our presence in Syria. He was very uncomfortable with what he saw as endless wars. … Trump kept asking, “Why do we have troops there?”

The reason that Trump pulled the troops out was I think because he was just tired of us having come up with all these explanations for why we’re in there.

 We at the State Department never provided any troop numbers to the president. That’s not our job. We didn’t try to deceive him.

He kept on publicly saying numbers that were way below what the actual numbers were, so in talking to the media and talking to Congress, we had to be very careful and dodge around. .

But the Syria mission is the gift that keeps on giving. We and the SDF are still the dominant force in [northeast] Syria.

‘Not our job?’ The deviousness of this is breathtaking. The US State Department deliberately withheld crucial information from the President in order to get their way on keeping their counters on the Monopoly board which for them is Syria.

 It’s no surprise that someone of Jeffreys’ calibre boasts about helping Israel to pulverise Syria: 

We then also had the Israeli air campaign. The US only began supporting that when I came on board. I went out there and we saw Prime Minister Netanyahu and others, and they thought that they were not being supported enough by the US military, and not by intelligence.

And there was a big battle within the US government, and we won the battle.

The argument [against supporting Israel’s campaign] was, again, this obsession with the counterterrorism mission.

People didn’t want to screw with it, either by worrying about Turkey or diverting resources to allow the Israelis to muck around in Syria, as maybe that will lead to some blowback to our forces. It hasn’t.

All that matters is ‘stabilizing the situation’ to US advantage:

 So that was how we put together an integrated Syria policy that nestled under the overall Iran policy.

The result has been relative success because we — with a lot of help from the Turks in particular — have managed to stabilize the situation.

The only change on the ground to the benefit of Assad has been southern Idlib in two and a half years of attacks.

They are highly unlikely to continue, given the strength of the Turkish army there and the magnitude of the defeat of the Syrian army by the Turks back in March.

It would be hard to disagree with that pessimistic analysis.

As long as the US puts stymieing its adversaries ahead of any genuine concern for the suffering and prospects of the Syrian people, including the millions of refugees condemned by this policy to indefinite exile, no end is in sight. 

It’s worth bearing in mind that Jeffreys worked with Obama long before he worked with Trump.

Anybody who expects the Biden administration to follow a different path on Syria must be seriously deluded, unless by ‘different’ is meant an even more reckless, activist, interventionist policy that goes beyond ‘stabilising’. And there is no Trump there now to apply the brakes.  

No Respite for the Wicked, Pompeo Unleashed

Getting Bolton out didn’t help much. Or any of the other assholes, there’s always an equal replacement.

Tom Luongo is an independent political and economic analyst March 23, 2020

There are few things in this life that make me more sick to my stomach than watching Secretary of State Mike Pompeo talking. He truly is one of the evilest men I’ve ever had the displeasure of covering.

Into the insanity of the over-reaction to the COVID-19 outbreak, Pompeo wasted no time ramping up sanctions on firms doing any business with Iran, one of the countries worse-hit by this virus to date.

It’s a seemingly endless refrain, everyday, more sanctions on Chinese, Swiss and South African firms for having the temerity in these deflating times to buy oil from someone Pompeo and his gang of heartless psychopaths disapprove of.

This goes far beyond just the oil industry. Even though I’m well aware that Russia’s crashing the price of oil was itself a hybrid war attack on U.S. capital markets. One that has had, to date, devastating effect.

While Pompeo mouths the words publicly that humanitarian aid is exempted from sanctions on Iran, the U.S. is pursuing immense pressure on companies to not do so anyway while the State Dept. bureaucracy takes its sweet time processing waiver applications.

Pompeo and his ilk only think in terms of civilizational warfare. They have become so subsumed by their big war for the moral high ground to prove American exceptionalism that they have lost any shred of humanity they may have ever had.

Because for Pompeo in times like these to stick to his talking points and for his office to continue excising Iran from the global economy when we’re supposed to be coming together to fight a global pandemic is the height of soullessness.

And it speaks to the much bigger problem that infects all of our political thinking. There comes a moment when politics and gaining political advantage have to take a back seat to doing the right thing.

I’ve actually seen moments of that impulse from the Democratic leadership in the U.S. Will wonders never cease?!

Thinking only in Manichean terms of good vs. evil and dehumanizing your opponents is actually costlier than reversing course right now. Because honey is always better at attracting flies than vinegar.

But, unfortunately, that is not the character of the Trump administration.

It can only think in terms of direct leverage and opportunity to hold onto what they think they’ve achieved. So, until President Trump is no longer consumed with coordinating efforts to control COVID-19 Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper are in charge of foreign policy.

They will continue the playbook that has been well established.

Maximum pressure on Iran, hurt China any way they can, hold onto what they have in Syria, stay in Iraq.

To that end Iraqi President Barham Salei nominated Pompeo’s best choice to replace Prime Minister Adil Abdel Mahdi to throw Iraq’s future into complete turmoil. According to Elijah Magnier, Adnan al-Zarfi is a U.S. asset through and through.

And this looks like Pompeo’s Hail Mary to retain U.S. legal presence in Iraq after the Iraqi parliament adopted a measure to demand withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country.

Airstrikes against U.S. bases in Iraq continue on a near daily basis and there have been reports of U.S. base closures and redeployments at the same time.

This move looks like desperation by Pompeo et.al. to finally separate the Hashd al-Shaabi from Iraq’s official military. So that airstrikes against them can be carried out under the definition of ‘fighting Iranian terrorism.’

As Magnier points out in the article above if al-Zarfi puts a government together the war in Iraq will expand just as the U.S. is losing further control in Syria after Turkish President Erdogan’s disastrous attempt to remake the front in Idlib.

That ended with his effective surrender to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The more I watch these moves by Pompeo the more sympathetic I become to the most sinister theories about COVID-19, its origins and its launch around the world. Read Pepe Escobar’s latest to get an idea of how dark and twisted this tale could be.

Rep.MikePompeo | H.R. 4432, Rep. Mike Pompeo Monsanto Safe a… | Flickr
It is sad that, to me, I see no reason to doubt Pompeo and his ilk in the U.S. government wouldn’t do something like that to spark political and social upheaval in those places most targeted by U.S. hybrid war tactics.

But, at the same time, I can see the other side of it, a vicious strike back by China against its tormentors.

And China’s government does itself, in my mind, no favors threatening to withhold drug precursors and having officials run their mouths giving Americans the excuse they need to validate Trump and Pompeo’s divisive rhetoric.

Remaining on the fence about this issue isn’t my normal style. But everyone is dirty here and the reality may well be this is a natural event terrible people on both sides are exploiting.

And I can only go by what people do rather than what they say to assess the situation. Trump tries to buy exclusive right to a potential COVID-19 vaccine from a German firm and his administration slow-walks aid to Iran.

China sends aid to Iran and Italy by the container full. Is that to salve their conscience over its initial suppression of information about the virus? Good question.

But no one covers themselves in glory by using the confusion and distraction to attempt further regime change and step up war-footing during a public health crisis, manufactured or otherwise.

While Pompeo unctuously talks the talk of compassion and charity, he cannot bring himself to actually walk the walk.

Because he is a despicable, bile-filled man of uncommon depravity. His prosecuting a hybrid war during a public health crisis speaks to no other conclusion about him.

It’s clear to me that nothing has changed at the top of Trump’s administration. I expect COVID-19 will not be a disaster for Trump and the U.S.

It can handle this. But the lack of humanity shown by its diplomatic corps ensures that in the long run the U.S. will be left to fend for itself when the next crisis hits.

 

Trump’s Economic Sanctions Have Cost Venezuela About $6bn Since August 2017

The inescapable conclusion is that Trump’s policy is depraved. The US has deliberately made an economic catastrophe much worse in the hope that its Venezuelan allies can seize power through violence as they briefly did in April of 2002. But as it stands today, US puppet leader for Venezuela is in hiding from Maduro’s loyal army haha.*

Images and portrayals of Venezuelans rioting in the streets over high food costs, empty grocery stores, medicine shortages, and overflowing garbage bins are the headlines, and the reporting points to socialism as the cause.

Perversely, Maduro’s government has been widely accused of “using” the economic crisis to “buy” loyalty of the most vulnerable through the direct delivery of food and other basic products. Trump’s goal is clearly to starve the government of funds it uses to allegedly “buy support” (i.e. respond to the crisis). Maduro, like Chavez before him, regularly decries US interference in Latin America.

venezuelanalysis.com/analysis

Venezuelan economist Francisco Rodriguez, a longtime critic of the Venezuelan government, wrote a piece showing that after sanctions Trump introduced in August of 2017 Venezuela’s oil production dropped much faster than analysts had predicted it would. Rodriguez was the economic advisor to former presidential candidate Henri Falcon, who defied US threats to run in Venezuela’s presidential elections that were held in May despite the boycott of other opposition leaders.

Below is the key graph Rodriguez provides.

graph.png

Venezuelan and Colombian oil prices (OPEC)

Venezuelan and Colombian oil prices (OPEC)

Venezuelan oil production followed essentially the same pattern as Colombia’s during 2016 and most of 2017 –until August when Trump’s sanctions came into force. A decline in production was driven by the price of oil hitting its lowest point in about a decade at the start of 2016.

But in August of 2017 Trump’s sanctions made it illegal for the Venezuelan government to obtain financing from the US which was devastating for two reasons: all the Venezuelan governments’ outstanding foreign currency bonds are governed under New York state law; and one of the Venezuelan government’s major assets, the state-owned CITGO corporation, is based in Texas.

The sanctions also blocked CITGO from sending profits and dividends back to Venezuela (which had been averaging about $1 billion USD per year since 2015).

The table below shows my estimate of Venezuela’s oil revenues each month since Trump’s sanctions came into force. The price of WTI oil (which approximates the price of Venezuela’s) basically increased linearly since August of 2017 from $50 to about $70 per barrel.

The oil production volumes are taken from the estimates Rodriguez has provided. In the “no sanctions” case show below, it is assumed that Venezuela‘s oil production would have continued to fall at the same rate as in the 12 months before Trump’s sanctions.

Rodriguez cited a “worst case” prediction made by a prominent oil consultant that a 13% decline in production would take place in 2017 followed by a 6% decline in 2018. The “no sanctions” case shown below is close to that “worst case prediction”. It assumes an 11% decline would have taken place.

In reality (i.e. the “sanctions” case) production has fallen by 37% since the sanctions were imposed. The difference in total revenue between the “sanction” and “no sanctions” case over the twelve month period is about $6 billion.

table.png

Venezuelan oil revenues with and without the impact of sanctions (Joe Emersberger)

Venezuelan oil revenues with and without the impact of sanctions (Joe Emersberger)

That sum, $6 billion, is 133 times larger than what the UNHCR has appealed for in aid for Venezuelan migrants. It is also equal to about 6% of Venezuela’s GDP at present. Health care spending in Latin America and the Caribbean averages about 7% of GDP.

Perversely, Maduro’s government has been widely accused of “using” the economic crisis to “buy” loyalty of the most vulnerable through the direct delivery of food and other basic products. Trump’s goal is clearly to starve the government of funds it uses to allegedly “buy support” (i.e. respond to the crisis). 

Rodriguez pulls his punches and heavily qualifies his thesis, but the inescapable conclusion is that Trump’s policy is depraved. The US has deliberately made an economic catastrophe much worse in the hope that its Venezuelan allies can seize power through violence as they briefly did in April of 2002.

Rodriguez is correct to say that the “toxification” of dealing with Venezuela’s government, and the imposition of “reputational costs” on those who do so, is a huge factor in all this. The Western media has indeed demonized Venezuela‘s government for 17 years and has therefore reduced, almost to zero, the legal and moral constraints on the US and its allies.

The priority for decent people whose governments have collaborated with Trump in attacking Venezuela should be to strengthen those constraints. The attacks could easily become even more barbaric.

“We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it.”- George Orwell

US ready to starve another 500,000 babies in Iran, like they did in Iraq

Image result for john bolton

John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, predicted that “the Europeans will see that it’s in their interests to come along with us” rather than continue with the 2015 deal, under which major European corporations have signed billions of dollars of contracts in Iran.

“We will be instituting the highest level of economic sanctions,” Trump said. “Any nation that helps Iran in its quest for nuclear weapons could also be strongly sanctioned by the United States.”

In the aftermath of Washington’s pullout, Europeans are seeking ways to protect the interests of their firms doing business in Iran and help them escape the brunt of upcoming US bans.

Senior EU politicians recently threatened that the 28-nation bloc is ready to challenge any move that may harm their businesses in the Iranian market at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The White House has already began a fresh push to put pressure on Iran and Washington’s European allies.

In the past week, it has slapped a new series of sanctions against Iran.

On Sunday, US National Security Adviser John Bolton threatened the European allies that Washington is prepared to impose sanctions on European companies if their governments refuse to heed Trump’s demand to stop dealing with Iran.


Image result for madeline albirght meme

  • Amy Goodman to Madeline Albright:

    … many say that, although president Bush led this invasion, that president Clinton laid the groundwork with the sanctions and with the previous bombing of Iraq. You were president Clinton’s U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations…. the U.N. sanctions, for example … led to the deaths of more than a half a million children, not to mention more than a million Iraqis.


 

“Today we hope to see how we can with participation of European Troyka, China, Russia, Iran and European Union to use the mechanisms available not to allow undermining of this important document,”Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif stressed.

Lavrov also voiced support for Iran’s right to defend its “legitimate interests” as part of the agreement, which removed nuclear sanctions against Iran in early 2016 in exchange for certain limits on its civilian nuclear activities.

“I would like to point out that Russia and other participants in the deal – China and the European countries – also have their legitimate interests enshrined in this agreement,” he added. “This is why we need to cooperate in protecting our legitimate interests.”

Zarif arrived in Moscow following similar negotiations in China and will later head to Brussels for talks with the EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, and his counterparts from the three European parties.