Independent journalists question U.S. motives in Syria

I am offering this collection of alternative reporting and opinion on the conflict in Syria because U.S. mainstream media tends to rely exclusively on government sources. By refusing to challenge the administration’s assertions about Syria, or question the motives and allegiances of elected and appointed officials, mainstream journalists fail the public.

MSNBC, the most “progressive” of our TV options, has, mostly, but not exclusively, become the mouthpiece of liberal hawks who rehash White House talking points. Taking their cues from Obama, they agree that the “humanitarian” war with Syria is necessary and inevitable. Few in the mainstream media will question U.S. policy in the Middle East (rooted in notions of American hegemony and access to oil) or investigate who used chemical weapons in Syria (the White House has not offered adequate proof that Assad deployed them), or challenge the false premise that we only have two choices: “we do nothing” or “we bomb.

There are many intelligent, serious journalists outside the mainstream who are not compromised by corporate agendas (often linked to war profits) or the need to maintain access to the White House press room. If you care to read further, please click on the titles for access to the complete articles.

The Syria Intervention Plan Is Being Pushed by Oil Interests, Not Concern About Chemical Weapons

“The 2011 uprisings, it would seem—triggered by  a confluence of domestic energy shortages and climate-induced droughts which led to massive food price hikes—came at an opportune moment that was quickly exploited. Leaked emails from the  private intelligence firm Stratfor including notes from  a meeting with Pentagon officials confirmed US-UK training of Syrian opposition forces since 2011 aimed at eliciting “collapse” of Assad’s regime “from within.”

So what was this unfolding strategy to undermine Syria and Iran all about? According to  retired NATO Secretary General Wesley Clark, a memo from the Office of the US Secretary of Defense just a few weeks after 9/11 revealed plans to “attack and destroy the governments in 7 countries in five years”, starting with Iraq and moving on to “Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran.” In a subsequent interview, Clark argues that this strategy is fundamentally about control of the region’s vast oil and gas resources.”

Dr. Nafeez Ahmed is a bestselling author, investigative journalist and international security scholar. He is executive director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development. He writes for The Guardian on the geopolitics of environmental, energy and economic crises.

Russia says it’s compiled 100-page report blaming Syrian rebels for a chemical weapons attack

The Russian statement warned the United States and its allies not to conduct a military strike against Syria until the United Nations had completed a similarly detailed scientific study into the Aug. 21 attack. It warned that what it called the current “hysteria” about a possible military strike in the West was similar to the false claims and poor intelligence that preceded the United States invasion of Iraq.

“The Russian report is specific,” the ministry statement said. “It is a scientific and technical document.”

The statement also noted that the attention paid to the Aug. 21 attack had diverted attention from the investigation into the March 19 incident, which was the reason U.N. investigators were in Syria when the more recent attack took place.

“Unfortunately, that investigation still essentially has not begun,” the statement said.

There was no immediate comment from the United States. Independent chemical weapons experts contacted by McClatchy said they had not had time to read the Russian document, which was released as Secretary of State John Kerry was appearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee to make the Obama administration’s case for a retaliatory strike on Syria as punishment for the attack.

Matthew Schofield  is a national security correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers, based in Washington, D.C..

Assad Baits Obama as the World Waits

“President Assad, in an interview with Paris’s Le Figaro newspaper, said: “The Middle East is a powder keg and the fuse is getting shorter. We shouldn’t just talk about a Syrian response, but what will happen after the first strike. Everyone will lose control of the situation when the powder keg explodes. Chaos and extremism will spread. The risk of a regional war exists.”

The interviewer asks, “Would Syria attack Israel?” The president replies, “You surely don’t expect me to tell you what our riposte would be?”

The question remains what the U.S. should do. Vali Masr, head of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, says in a New York Times op-ed that America’s strategic interest is to “mortally wound” the Assad regime, and then immediately “take decisive action” to assure that Syria does not “become a haven for Al Qaeda.” Unless he knows forms of decisive action the rest of us do not, that means occupation with ground troops and those military measures that have, in the past decade, proven so successful in pacifying and eliminating terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan. He says, though: “That is what the world needs.”

Another commentator at the Times, Ross Douthat, joins the multitude of American and foreign analysts who tell us that American military power must be used to create and sustain “a stable, rule-based, multilateral world order.” Thank you, Mr. Douthat.”

William Pfaff believes that the idea of total and redemptive transformation of human society through political means is ‘the most influential myth of modern political society from 1789 to the present days.’ Pfaff is especially wary of its naïve American version, which, ‘although rarely recognized as such, survives, consisting in the belief that generalizing American political principles and economic practices to the world at large will bring history (or at least historical progress) to its fulfillment.” This article appeared in Truthdig.

Lessons from Today’s Senate Hearing on Syria

Lesson #1: We’re going to war so we don’t lose some friends

“John Kerry twice said that if we don’t bomb Assad we’ll lose friends and/or allies. ”If we fail to act we’ll have fewer allies.”

That admitted something that has been acknowledged — usually not in print — in DC. We’re doing this not to retain our general credibility, but to retain “credibility” with Saudi Arabia and Israel. Credibility with Saudi Arabia is important, I presume, because they continue to sell oil in dollars and buy lots of military toys — including $640 million of cluster bombs that undermine everything the Administration says about humanity.

Credibility is important with Israel because if they don’t believe we’ll attack Iran if they need us to, they’ll just attack on their own. Here’s confirmation of something that had already been confirmed but somehow is getting trotted out again today: the US had to stop Israel from unilaterally attacking Iran last year. (Update: As Max Blumenthal notes, AIPAC’s statement in favor of war mentions Iran more than Syria.)”

Emptywheel (a.k.a. Marcy Wheeler). Her reputation as a blogger stems from her analysis of the outing of the covert CIA identity of Valerie E. Wilson, also known as Valerie Plame, and the Bush administration’s justification for 2003 invasion of Iraq and the Iraq War. Wheeler contributed to Jane Hamsher’s FireDogLake, between early December 2007 and July 2011. In July 2011, she established an independent blog,

Defending the indefensible in Syria: There is neither any justification for the West’s imminent military intervention nor any substance to its claim that the assault will be limited and short-lived.

“Unilateral intervention predicated on the use of WMDs by a regime finds no backing in international law. Whether the West likes it or not, there is no alternative to legitimizing the use of force in Syria but through express sanction from the UN Security Council. The Obama administration’s attempts to circumvent the UN Charter in this regard represent one of the greatest threats to the comity of nations since the Second World War. As Ian Hurd, a political scientist at Northwestern University, notes, the United States has always been careful to justify its aggression under the Article 2(4) of the Charter, which generally prohibits unauthorized intervention. . . .

Hans Blix, head of the 2003 UN inspection team in Iraq, rightly suggested in an interview to Huffington Post recently, “political dynamics are running ahead of due process.” Those who assert the United States and its allies have been reluctant to intervene in this conflict perhaps suffer from selective memory loss. As early as October 2011, and in July 2012, the West put forth draft resolutions in the Security Council that invoked Chapter VII measures under the UN Charter – their passing would have effectively allowed for military intervention in Syria.”

Arun Mohan Sukumar works on the editorial board of The Hindu as Assistant Editor, and writes for the newspaper on law and foreign policy, broadly defined. He is a lawyer and attended graduate school as a Douglas Dillon Fellow at the Fletcher School, Tufts University. He has worked as a law clerk for India’s Supreme Court.

Syria and the Waning of American Hegemony

“Since conflict started [in Syria] two and a half years ago, Washington has had openings for a negotiated resolution. This, though, would entail power sharing between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and oppositionists and cooperation with Russia, Iran, and China to fix a settlement. Instead, Obama doubled down on reasserting American hegemony.

When unrest began in Syria in March 2011, Obama and his team were desperate to show—after the loss of pro-Western regimes in Tunisia and Egypt, and near misses in Bahrain and Yemen—that the Arab Awakening did not just threaten authoritarian orders that subordinated their foreign policy to Washington. They wanted to show that leaders committed to foreign policy independence—like Assad—were vulnerable, too. They also calculated that Assad’s ouster would tilt the regional balance against Tehran, generating leverage to force Iran’s surrender of its right to an internationally safeguarded but indigenous nuclear fuel cycle. . . .

What Obama’s strike will achieve:

Obama’s strike will further accelerate erosion of America’s position in the Middle East. Assad will emerge with greater political support, not less; Russian and Chinese influence will be enhanced. While backing Assad has cost Iran and Hezbollah some of the popularity they accrued with Sunni Arab publics from their long records of “resistance” to Israel and America, both judge that, if either America or Israel becomes militarily involved in Syria, this will undercut Saudi-sponsored narratives depicting the conflict in sectarian terms, transforming it into more Iranian-led resistance. Obama is about to oblige them—ushering in a regional balance increasingly tilted against the United States.”

Flynt Leverett. From 1992 to 2003, he served as Senior Director for Middle East Affairs at the National Security Council, on the Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Staff, and as a CIA Senior Analyst. This article appeared in The Huffington Post

Hillary Leverett. In the George W. Bush Administration, she worked as Director for Iran, Afghanistan and Persian Gulf Affairs at the National Security Council, Middle East expert on the Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Staff, and Political Advisor for Middle East, Central Asian and African issues at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. In the Clinton Administration, Leverett served in the same capacity and was, in addition, Associate Director for Near Eastern Affairs at the National Security Council, and Special Assistant to the Ambassador at the U.S. embassy in Cairo.