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Prem Shankar Jha is an eminent Indian journalist based in New Delhi. He is also the author of numerous books, including The Twilight of the Nation State: Globalisation, Chaos, and War (2006). In this two-part analysis, he puts the April nuclear framework agreement reached between the United States and Iran in context.
NEW DELHI, May 10 2015 (IPS) - In the following months, reports of the use of chemical weapons by Syrian forces multiplied. The most serious was an allegation that the Syrian army had used sarin gas on Mar. 19, 2013 at Khan al Assal, north of Aleppo, and in a suburb of Damascus against its opponents. This was followed by two more allegations of small attacks in April.
Seymour Hersh has reported that in May 2013, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdoğan visited Obama, accompanied by his intelligence chief, and pressed him to live up to his “red line” commitment to punish Syria if it used chemical weapons.
But by then U.S. intelligence knew, and had conveyed to Barack Obama, that it was Turkey’s secret service, MIT, that had been working with the Nusra front to set up facilities to manufacture sarin, and had obtained two kilograms of the deadly gas for it from Eastern Europe, with funds provided by Qatar. Obama therefore remained unmoved.
Israel’s role in the planned destruction of Syria was to feed false intelligence to the U.S. administration and lawmakers to persuade them that Syria deserved to be destroyed.
On May 13, 2013, Republican Senator John McCain paid a surprise visit to Idlib on the Syria-Turkey border to meet whom he believed were moderate leaders of the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
Photos and videos posted on the web after the visit and resurrected after the rise of the Islamic States (IS) showed that two of the five leaders whom he actually met were Mohammed Nour, the spokesman of ‘Northern Storm’ an offshoot of the brutal Jabhat Al Nusra, and Ammar al Dadhiki, aka Abu Ibrahim, a key member of the organisation. The third was Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, known as the ‘Caliph of the Islamic State’.
The visit had been organised by Salim Idris, self-styled Brigadier General of the FSA, and the Syrian Emergency Task Force (SETF), a U.S. not-for-profit organisation that is a passionate advocate for arming the ‘moderate’ FSA.
McCain probably did not know whom he was meeting , but the same could not be said of Idris and SETF, because when McCain met them, Nusra was already on the banned list and Baghdadi was on the U.S. State Department’s list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists, with a reward of 10 million dollars on his head. What is more, by then he had been the Emir of IS for the previous six weeks.
As for the SETF, investigations of its connections by journalists after the McCain videos went viral on the internet showed a deep connection to AIPAC. Until these exposure made it ‘correct’ its web page, one of its email addresses was “syriantaskforce.torahacademybr.org”.
The “torahacademybr.org” URL belongs to the Torah Academy of Boca Raton, Florida, whose academic goals notably include “inspiring a love and commitment to Eretz Yisroel [Land of Israel] .” SETF’s director was also closely associated with AIPC’s think tank, the Washington Institute of Near East Policy (WINEP).
When Obama ‘postponed’ the attack on Syria on the grounds that he had to obtain the approval of Congress first, Israel’s response was blind fury.
Obama had informed Netanyahu of his decision on Aug. 30, four hours before he referred it to Congress and bound him to secrecy. But Netanyahu’s housing minister, Uri Ariel, gave full vent to it the next morning in a radio interview, saying: “You don’t have to wait until tens of thousands more children die before intervening in Syria.”
Ariel went on to say; “When you throw gas at the population, it means you know you’re going to murder thousands of women, children indiscriminately. [Syrian President Bashar Assad] is a murderous coward. Take him out.”
Netanyahu reprimanded Ariel because he did not want Israel to be seen to be pushing the United States into war, but by then there was no room left for doubt that this is exactly what he and his government had been trying to do.
For, on Aug. 27, alongside U.S. foreign minister John Kerry’s denunciation of the Ghouta sarin gas attack, the right-wing daily, Tims of Israel, had published three stories quoting defence officials, titled ‘Israeli intelligence seen as central to US case against Syria’; ‘IDF intercepted Syrian regime chatter on chemical attack’; and, significantly, ‘For Israel US response on Syria may be a harbinger for Iran’.
The hard “information” that had tilted the balance was contained in the second story: a retired Mossad agent who refused to be named, told another German magazine, Focus, that a squad specialising in wire-tapping within the IDF’s elite ‘8200 intelliogence unit’ had intercepted a conversation between high-ranking officials discussing the sue of chemical agents at the time of the attack.
The similarity of method between this and the earlier leak to Der Spiegel makes it likely that it too was part of an Israeli disinformation campaign designed to trigger a fatal assault on Assad.
Obama gave his first hint that he intended to reverse the [George W.] Bush doctrine while talking to reporters on a tour of Asia in April 2014: “Why is it,” he observed, “that everybody is so eager to use military force after we’ve gone through a decade of war at enormous cost to our troops and our budget?”
He unveiled the change in a graduation day speech at West Point on May 28, 2014. “Here’s my bottom line”, he said. ”America must always lead on the world stage. If we don’t, no one else will. The military that you have joined is, and always will be, the backbone of that leadership.
“But U.S. military action cannot be the only – or even primary – component of our leadership in every instance. Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail.
“And because the costs associated with military action are so high, you should expect every civilian leader – and especially your Commander-in-Chief – to be clear about how that awesome power should be used.”
Obama’s choice of venue was not accidental, because it was here that Bush had announced the United States’ first strike security doctrine 12 years earlier.
Obama’s repudiation of the Bush doctrine sent a ripple of shock running through the U.S. political establishment. Republicans denounced him for revealing America’s weakness and emboldening its enemies. But a far more virulent denunciation came from Hilary Clinton, the front runner for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 2016.
“Great nations need strong organising principles”, she said in an interview with The Atlantic, “’Don’t do stupid stuff’ (Obama’s favourite phrase) is not an organising principle.”
Netanyahu got the message: he may have lost the U.S. president, but Israel’s, more specifically the Israeli right’s, constituency in the United States remained undented. No matter which party came to power in the next election, he could continue his tirade against Iran and be guaranteed a sympathetic hearing.
Since then he has barely bothered to hide his contempt for Obama and spared no effort to turn him, prematurely, into a lame duck President.
Edited by Phil Harris
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service.
* The first part of this two-part analysis can be accessed here.
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