Many Americans voted for Donald Trump because he vowed to end the foreign conflicts in which the US had become entangled. So far, they have been disappointed. But this week a light flashed at the end of the tunnel.
President Trump, according to numerous reliable Washington sources, has decided to end US arms supplies and logistics support to Syria’s jihadist rebels that have fuelled the bloody six-year conflict. Washington, and its allies Britain and France, have persistently denied arming Syria’s jihadist rebels fighting to bring down the Russian and Iranian-backed government of President Bashar Assad.
Former President George W. Bush actively considered invading Syria around 2008 in collusion with Israel. But the Israelis then pointed out that there were no Western-friendly groups to replace Assad, only extreme militant Sunni Muslim groups. Even the usually reckless Bush called off the invasion of Syria.
By contrast, Barack Obama gave a green light to the CIA to arm, train and logistically support anti-Assad jihadist rebels in Syria. Arms poured in from Lebanon and, later, Turkey, paid for by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates. Small numbers of US, British and French advisors went to Syria to teach the jihadists how to use mortars, explosives, and anti-tank weapons. The media’s claim that the fighting in Syria was due to a spontaneous popular uprising was false. The repressive Assad government was widely unpopular but the uprising was another CIA ‘color-style’ operation.
The object of this operation was to overthrow President Assad and his Shiite-leaning regime, which was supported by Iran, a bogeyman to all the US-backed feudal Arab oil monarchies. Syria was also to be punished because it refused Washington’s demands to sever ties with Iran and accept US tutelage.
Then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton championed the covert war against Syria, arranging massive shipments of arms and munitions to the rebels from Kadaffi-era arms stores in Libya, and from Egypt, Croatia, likely Serbia, Bulgaria and Azerbaijan. Once again, the Gulf Arabs paid the bill.
The offensive against Syria was accompanied by a powerful barrage of anti-Assad propaganda from the US and British media. From the background, Israel and its partisans beat the war drum against the Assad government.
The result of the western-engendered carnage in Syria was horrendous: at least 475,000 dead, 5 million Syrian refugees driven into exile in neighboring states (Turkey alone hosts three million), and another 6 million internally displaced. That is, some 11 million Syrians, or 61% of the population, driven from their homes into wretched living conditions and near famine.
Two of Syria’s greatest and oldest cities, Damascus and Aleppo, have been pounded into ruins. Jihadist massacres and Russian and American air strikes have ravaged once beautiful, relatively prosperous Syria. Its ancient Christian peoples are fleeing for their lives before US and Saudi takfiri religious fanatics.
Just when it appeared the jihadists were closing in on Damascus, limited but effective Russian military intervention abruptly changed the course of the war. The Syrian Army was able to regain the military initiative and push back the jihadists. Intermixed with so-called ‘takfiri’ rebels are some 3,000 ISIS jihadists who were originally armed and equipped by US advisors but have now run amok. They are under fierce western air attack in Syria and Iraq and are splintering.
Russia and the US have been inching toward a major war over Syria. In fact, US intervention has been far more extensive than generally believed, as this writer has been reporting for the past five years. Turkish media linked to the government in Ankara has just revealed that the US has at least ten small military bases in northern Syria being used to support rebel jihadist forces.
Meanwhile, the US is now relying almost entirely on Kurdish militias, know in Syria as YPG, to attack ISIS and act in US interests. This has outraged Turkey, which regards YPG as part of the hated Kurdish independence movement, PKK, against which Turkey has fought for two decades. During the 1980’s, I covered the Turkish-PKK conflict in eastern Anatolia.
If YPG/PKK emerges victorious from the Syrian conflict, Kurdish demands for an independent state in south eastern Turkey will intensify, threatening the breakup of the Turkish state. Kurds make up some 20% of Turkey’s population of 80 million.
For this very important reason, Turkey has been pulling away from US-run NATO, and warming relations with Moscow. Turkey has NATO’s second largest armed forces and key airbases that cover the Mideast.
Trump’s announced retreat from Syria – if it turns out to be real – will mark a major turning point in US-Russian relations. It could well avoid a clash between Russia and the US, both nuclear powers. The US has no real business in Syria and no strategic interests
America’s powerful neocons, who have been pressing for war against Russia, will be furious. Expect the media war against Trump to intensify. So too claims that Trump colluded with Moscow to get elected.
Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2017