by Professor Arthur Noble
Syria has become a potent symbol of US President Trump’s move towards the Neocon policies he rejected when he sought election. In November 2016 he warned that by attacking President Assad the US would “end up fighting Russia”.1 Yet in April 2017 he did attack Assad.
In 2013 Trump repeatedly warned former President Obama not to attack Syria,2 even describing the plan as “foolish”; but in June 2017 he made a complete policy U-turn by launching 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the Syrian military airfield in Ash Sha’irat near Homs, calling the attack a response to the alleged use of chemical weapons in Idlib on 6 June which the US immediately blamed on the Syrian government without a shred of evidence.
The attack came despite Washington’s acknowledgement of the political reality that the democratically elected President Assad could no longer be removed after Russia’s intervention at Syria’s request had put an end to the illegal aims of the discredited Obama regime. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov rightly described the strike as “a violation of international law” and “an act of aggression against a sovereign state under a far-fetched pretext”, executed without UN or even US Congress approval and typically without any prior proof or even an investigation of the facts. Russian President Vladimir Putin similarly called the strike “an aggression against a sovereign nation”, carried out “in violation of international law” and “under an invented pretext”.4
Guilty without trial
It was a repetition of the disastrous US policy on Iraq, where no weapons of mass destruction were ever found, and which led to the devastation of that country, the creation of ISIS, and a string of Obama’s illegal (“liberal”) interventions across other nations of the Middle East and North Africa. Washington was, moreover, fully aware that Damascus did not possess any chemical weapons. On 23 June 2014 the head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Ahmet Üzümcü, announced in The Hague that the last of Syria’s chemical weapons had been shipped out of the country for destruction.5
Following the chemical attack in Ghouta in 2013 Syria had joined the UN Convention on Biological and Chemical Weapons (CBCW). Defence analyst Igor Nikulin, one of its former members, said that the US had acknowledged that Damascus had abandoned and destroyed all its chemical weapons in 2014.6 Obama claimed credit for this, and the OPCW, which was controlled by the CBCW, subsequently received the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of its role.
Furthermore, UN inspectors were present during the elimination process, which Nikulin said had been “fully observed”. In January 2016 the OPCW formally announced its completion of the disarmament of chemical weapons in Syria. This was acknowledged as absolute mathematical proof that all chemical weapons had been removed. Moreover, it was achieved on Russia’s, not America’s, initiative.
Incredibly, on 23 January 2017, the US again accused the Syrian government of a further chlorine gas attack on civilians in the exact same rebel enclave in Ghouta. The baseless charge of 2013 was again parroted by US Envoy to the UN, Nikki Haley – memorably described by American patriot Dr Paul Craig Roberts as a “moron”7 – and was repeated by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson – another US Administration leader who turned from Russophile to Russophobe.8
Subsequent to Washington’s ‘acknowledgement’ of the findings of the CBCW in 2016, Washington peddled the lie that it no longer intended to carry out a regime change in Syria. Haley clearly stated that although policymakers in the United States “still” viewed President Assad as “a hindrance” [i.e., to US policy], America’s priority was “no longer to […] focus on getting Assad out”; and Tillerson, in a seemingly major reversal of his original policy, said that Assad’s status would henceforth have to be “decided by the Syrian people”.9
Trump, however, had meanwhile become the obedient poodle of the warmongering Deep State of Clinton and Obama lurking in the background and scheming to destroy him. In his Presidential campaign he had promised to work for reconciliation with Russia and end America’s disastrous foreign policy of illegal global interventions and occupations conducted under the previous four Presidents; but it is often overlooked that at the same time he (inconsistently) criticised Obama’s decision to avoid military action in Syria after the 2013 chemical assault and described it as a sign of weakness that emboldened President Assad – which helps to explain why he made a complete U-turn on non-interventions worldwide and became the puppet of Washington’s campaign of propaganda and misinformation, repeating the failed politics of the past.
Most ominously, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev warned that the foolhardy US attack on Syria had been conducted “on the verge of a military clash” with Russia and added that Trump had been “broken by the US power machine in just two-and-a-half months”: “The missile strike in Syria has revealed that the current US administration lacks independence and hangs on the Washington establishment that Donald Trump used to criticize strongly during the presidential race and his inauguration speech.”10
Medvedev’s statement showed that the US has no consistent foreign policy strategy but instead merely stumbles on, entangled in its own confused geopolitical mess. It continues to use fascism (as in Ukraine), exploit religious divisions (as in North Africa and the Middle East) military manoeuvres in Europe and targeted assassinations11 in its quest for global dominance.
The ‘Neo-Con’ hawks are ecstatic that Trump appears to have joined their club. Infowars Editor Paul Joseph Watson tweeted the insight that Donald Trump “wasn’t Putin’s puppet after all”, as portrayed by the Western mainstream media, but was increasingly looking like “another deep state, Neo-Con puppet”.12
Humiliated by Russia’s success in defeating ISIS, Washington is now trying to save face by extending its illegal presence in Syria in an attempt to dismember the country. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accuses the US of being “seriously involved in creating alternative government bodies on a vast part of the Syrian territory”, which “absolutely contradicts” the obligations to which it committed itself on numerous occasions, including at the UN Security Council, on maintaining the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Syria.13
The plan has escalated into a new Turkish-Kurdish conflict after news of US plans to create a “border force” comprised of Kurds and the Kurdish-dominated YPG (People’s Protection Units), which Ankara considers as terrorists, conveniently forgetting that without the Kurds’ help ISIS would never have been defeated. Despite Washington’s backtracking on its statement acknowledging that Assad should stay, Ankara has now launched a military operation against the Syrian Kurdish enclave, escalating tensions between the US and NATO allies.
The US-instigated chaos is accelerating and spreading as Trump reverses his stance on a number of other key foreign policy issues, abandoning his vow to stop America’s overseas wars and instigate regime changes. Virginia state Senator Richard Black points out that the newly-released US national security strategy “drastically reverses” several of Trump’s campaign promises.14
In the presence of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Trump made an unequivocal reversal of his original judgement, declaring: “I said it [NATO] was obsolete. It’s no longer obsolete.”15
His vision of a rapprochement with Moscow soon turned to renewed criticism of President Putin, whom he formerly “respected” but now calls a “killer”.16
The escalating nuclear threat from North Korea has forced him to shift his criticism of China as a “currency manipulator”: he now promises Beijing a good trade deal in exchange for help with North Korea.
Refusing to certify the Iran nuclear agreement (the so-called ‘Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action’) negotiated by the US, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom and representatives of the EU and Iran itself, he now accuses Iran of “committing multiple violations of the agreement” – which contradicts the findings of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Early in his Presidency he angered the war hawks by foreshadowing the lifting of sanctions against Russia, but in January 2018, under the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act [CAATSA], he imposed yet more sanctions in response to the tired old concoction about Russia’s “occupation of Crimea” and the resurging crisis in Ukraine. Russian Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak pointed out that the sanctions are illegal, will have no negative impact, will counter US goals in Europe, and will merely increase tensions with Moscow.18
These and other numerous reversals of policy have signalled the unreliability of the US across the world and are symptomatic of its accelerating loss of global leadership in the increasingly “multi-polar” world.
New Eastern Outlook put the new geopolitical reality well: “Today, with Russia in Syria, and with China in the South China Sea, the United States has run out of time and finds the leading edge of its geopolitical ambitions chaffing against a re-emerging Russia and a rising China. […] The reality of America’s involvement in Syria boils down to the pursuit of the latest and most desperate leg of its rush to dominance before emerging world powers reintroduce balance and limits to American power.”19
. 1 https://www.rt.com/news/366647-trump-syria-isis-russia-relations/
. 2 http://ktla.com/2017/04/06/trump-repeatedly-told-obama-not-to-attack-syria-in-2013/
. 3 http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/russia-claims-u-s-attack-syria-violates-international-law-article- 1.3028095
. 4 https://www.rt.com/news/383895-us-airstrike-syria-reactions/; emphasis mine
. 5 https://www.opcw.org/news/article/announcement-to-media-on-last-consignment-of-chemicals-leaving-syria/
. 6 http://www.caribflame.com/2017/04/washington-knows-damascus-has-no-chemical-weapons-but-still-blames-assad/
. 7 https://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2017/12/22/americas-collapsing-prestige/
. 8 https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/23/world/middleeast/syria-chemical-weapons-ghouta.html
. 9 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/afp/article-4364592/Tillerson-says-Assads-long-term-status-Syrian-people.html
. 10 http://www.raga.org/news/trump-defects-to-the-warmongers
. 11 “Assassination Nation: Fifty years of targeted US kill lists”: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article31925.htm
. 12 http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/04/after-trumps-syria-air-strikes-alt-right-is-not-alright.html
. 13 https://www.rt.com/news/416442-us-alternative-syria-lavrov/
. 14 https://www.rt.com/usa/413614-trump-promises-reversed-strategy/
. 15 https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2017/04/12/trump-on-nato-i-said-it-was-obsolete-its-no-