U.S. Caves to Russia on Syria — Won’t Continue Protecting Al Qaeda

Eric Zuesse

On Friday, September 9th, America’s Secretary of State John Kerry, and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, came to an agreement on Syria, for the second time. (The previous agreement fell apart). Like the first ‘cease-fire’, this one concerns the ongoing occupation of many parts of Syria by foreign jihadists, who have been hired by America’s allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar, in order to overthrow Syria’s President, Bashar al-Assad. (It’s nothing like a democratic revolution there; it’s a war over pipelines.)

The main sticking-point in these negotiations has been much the same as it was the first time around: America’s insistence that Russia and Syria be prohibited from bombing Al Qaeda in Syria, which is the international group under the name of “Al Nusra” there. The United States has not tried to protect ISIS in Syria — only Al Nusra (and their subordinate groups), and it protects them because Nusra has provided crucial leadership to the jihadist groups that the United States finances in Syria for overthrowing and replacing Assad. Whereas the U.S. government doesn’t finance all of the jihadist groups in Syria (as the allied royal owners of Saudi Arabia and of Qatar do), the U.S. does designate some jihadist groups as ‘moderate rebels’, and this second round of cessation-of-hostilities will protect these groups (but this time not the Nusra fighters who lead them) from the bombings by Syria and by Russia. This new agreement is a complex sequence of sub-agreements laying out the means whereby Syria and Russia will, supposedly, continue to bomb Nusra while avoiding to bomb the U.S.-financed forces in Syria. Now that the U.S. has 300 of its own military advisors occupying the parts of Syria that the U.S.-sponsored jihadists control, Nusra will (presumably) no longer be quite so necessary to America’s overthrow-Assad campaign.

In the joint announcement on Friday night in Geneva, Secretary Kerry said, “Now, I want to be clear about one thing particularly on this, because I’ve seen reporting that somehow suggests otherwise: Going after Nusrah is not a concession to anybody. It is profoundly in the interests of the United States to target al-Qaida — to target al-Qaida’s affiliate in Syria, which is Nusrah.”

However, as the Washington Post had reported on February 19th regarding the impasse  during the negotiations for the first round of cessation-of-hostilities: “Russia was said to have rejected a U.S. proposal to leave Jabhat al-Nusra off-limits to bombing.” The reason for this protection was that Nusra’s “forces are intermingled with moderate rebel groups.” However, the reporter there didn’t mention that Nusra was “intermingled” because it was providing essential military leadership for these ‘moderate rebel groups’. In other words: the U.S.-designated ’moderate rebel groups’ were providing cover for America’s support, actually, of Al Qaeda in Syria.

America’s main international ally in the Syrian conflict is the Saud family, and during the lead-up to the first round of cessation-of-hostilities, back on 8 December 2015, I had headlined “The Saud Family to Select West’s ‘Moderate’ Jihadists Who Will Take Over Syria”, and I reported that “The Saud family, Saudi Arabia’s royals, have called together a meeting on December 15th in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, of their fellow fundamentalist Sunnis who are fighting against the secular Assad government to take over Syria, and the Sauds will announce after the conference which groups will have the West’s blessings.” They selected Jaysh al-Islam, a group that’s committed to the same principles as Al Qaeda is, but that doesn’t have the same foreign-reputational problems; and, moreover, their leaders, the Alloush family, have agreed to present themselves to the West as posing no threat outside the Muslim world, so as not to scare off Western publics.

Then, on 25 January 2016, I headlined “U.S. & Allies Make bin Laden Admirer a Negotiator in Syria Peace Talks”, and I reported that “The Saud family actually required Alloush to head the anti-Assad delegation,” but that “Kerry and the rest of the West weren’t entirely comfortable with that demand. A ‘compromise’ was reached: there will be two heads: Alloush, and another figure supported by the Sauds: Asad al-Zoubi.” I closed by observing that “Lavrov faced a bad choice: either take the blame for preventing the peace talks, or else accept the Saud family’s ‘compromise’ position; and he chose the latter.”

Gareth Porter bannered on February 16th, “Obama’s ‘Moderate’ Syrian Deception”, and he reported that, “Information from a wide range of sources, including some of those the United States has been explicitly supporting, makes it clear that every armed anti-Assad organization unit in those provinces is engaged in a military structure controlled by Nusra militants. All of these rebel groups fight alongside the Nusra Front and coordinate their military activities with it,” and he stated that “instead of breaking with the deception that the CIA’s hand-picked clients were independent of Nusra, the Obama administration continued to cling to it.” Porter was pretending that the U.S. leadership originated at the CIA, instead of at the White House — which was actually the case. The CIA was simply doing what the U.S. President wanted it to do there. Porter continued his upside-down attribution of leadership and responsibility in the matter, by adding that, “President Obama is under pressure from these domestic critics as well as from Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other GCC allies to oppose any gains by the Russians and the Assad regime as a loss for the United States.” In no way was/is it obligatory for the U.S. President to adhere to “domestic critics” and “GCC [royal Arabic] allies,” much less for him to be ordered-about by his own CIA — quite the contrary: “The buck stops at the President’s desk.” Obama isn’t forced to hire and promote neoconservatives to carry out his foreign policies — he chooses them and merely pretends to be blocked by opponents.

On February 20th, Reuters headlined “Syrian opposition says temporary truce possible, but deal seems far off”, and reported that, “A source close to peace talks earlier told Reuters [that] Syria’s opposition had agreed to the idea of a two- to three-week truce. The truce would be renewable and supported by all parties except Islamic State, the source said. It would be conditional on the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front no longer being attacked by Syrian government forces and their allies.” In other words: up till at least that time, the U.S. was still at one with the Sauds’ insistence upon protecting Al Qaeda in Syria.

On March 1st, Steve Chovanec headlined, “Protecting al-Qaeda”, and he made clear that the group that Obama was backing, the Free Syrian Army (so named with assistance from their CIA minders), were almost as despised by the Syrian people as were ISIS itself. Citing a Western polling firm’s findings, he noted that, “According to a recent poll conducted by ORB, it was found that most Syrians more or less hold both ISIS and the FSA in equal disdain, 9% saying the FSA represents the Syrian people while 4% saying that ISIS does. The similarity in [Syrians’] opinion is reflective of the similarity in [those two groups of jihadists’] conduct.” Furthermore, as I have noted, both from that polling-firm and another Western-backed one, the vast majority (82%) of Syrians  blame the U.S. for the tens of thousands of foreign jihadists who have been imported into their country, and 55% of Syrians want Assad to be not only the current President but their next President, as a consequence of which the U.S. government refuses to allow Assad to run for the Presidency in the next election. (Indeed, that’s largely the reason why Obama has been trying to overthrow Assad and replace him with a jihadist government, like the Sauds.)

On March 3rd, results were summarized from a poll in the U.S., Germany, France, and UK, on the question, “Which country has played a leading role in the fight against ISIS?”

Each respondent was asked to list three countries. “About 80% of Americans believe that Washington is the main force in the fight against the terrorist organizations ISIS and ‘Jabhat al-Nusra’ in Syria. In second place, according to residents of the US, is France (36%), the third — Great Britain [percentage not mentioned].” But, “in the opinion of the citizens of Germany, Russia and the United States contribute almost equally to the fight against terrorists in Syria (36% and 38% respectively). In third place according to the survey is France (25%).” The article noted that, “according to the Pentagon, Russia, just in February 2016, inflicted 7725 airstrikes on ISIS positions in Syria, while the US conducted 3267.”

Clearly, the U.S. Government’s top objective in Syria is to overthrow Assad, whereas the Russian Government’s top objective there is to prevent America’s allies from seizing the country. As Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has well explained and documented, the U.S. CIA has been trying ever since 1949 to overthrow Syria’s government and replace it with one that the Sauds (and etc., including U.S. oil, gas, and pipeline companies) want. So, this is normal American foreign policy. This doesn’t mean that our Presidents have to behave this way — only that they do (even if the U.S. ‘news’ media don’t report it, and many U.S. ‘historians’ likewise ignore it decades later).


Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

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  • paul

    Thank you so much for calling out Gareth Porter. He’s not the only one. Robert Parry and Ray McGovern play the same duplicitous game, continuing to burnish that false idol, Obama The Secret Peacemaker. How can we continue to regard them as truth tellers? I think the truth that needs telling, the one they aren’t telling, is that the Syria war is even worse than the Iraq war and it’s as much Obama’s war as Iraq was Bush’s war.

    But I think you are 100% wrong about Russia and about who is caving to whom. Syria is to be essentially disarmed, in exchange for the promise that the US will cooperate with Russia in attacking terrorists and that the (fictional) ‘moderate’ rebels will cease fire. Even if the US followed through honestly on this deal it would be a sick joke. The ‘moderate’ rebels were always a fiction. Russia is agreeing to, at best, a Syria carve up in some form.

    I mean, it’s a little weird isn’t it? I mean, the way Assad has been basically excluded from negotiations at this point? I’d be crapping my pants if I were him. He’s depending on Putin’s kindness of heart and stalwartness at this point!

    But it’s much worse than that. For starters, this agreement means that Assad’s head is being fitted for a stake. Assad’s government is being put into a position where it is no longer able to defend itself against its enemies. This means that any move Assad makes, or any move made for Assad by the opposition (such as yet another faked chemical attack) will be the end for Assad. Russia is helping the US to set Assad up. This indicates that Russia will not defend Assad the next time,there is an accusation, no matter how transparently bogus the charges against Assad may be, no matter how obvious it may be that Assad has been put in an impossible situation.

    But it’s worse than that. The very notion that the US will stick to the letter or the spirit of this agreement is nonsense and everyone knows it. It’s ludicrous. Everyone knows that the US and its allies have been paying, supplying, reinforcing, running diplomatic interference for, planning for, etc., etc., the terrorists. The terrorists and the lite terrorists are the Hegemon’s proxy military force – now not so proxy with special forces on the ground and Nato planes above. Of course the US will continue to consolidate its Syria position in every possible way. Russia will find that it is at best the junior partner in any anti-terror pretense that does actually happen. Meanwhile the Hegemon will do what it has done before – reinforce and attack.

    It now looks like just a matter of time. Assad will fall and the ‘rebel’ forces will sweep over the country. Whatever deal Russia thinks it has made in exchange for kicking Assad and Syria under the bus? I doubt they will even get that. I think Putin will probably experience the same fate as the others who thought they could ‘make a deal’ with the Hegemon. Putin should have talked to John Perkins. The Hegemon comes to you and offers you a deal. You take it or you die. You don’t force the Hegemon into a better deal. Putin should also have listened to Carlin – ‘there’s a club, pal, and you ain’t in it’. Right now he seems to think he has finally been allowed into the elite club. My guess is that he has been marked for death. Some others who thought they had been let into the club: Saddam Hussein, Quaddafi – perhaps even Assad when he was helping the US with its ‘WOT’ in the early days.

    Unless Putin’s been an asset for the Hegemon all along…controlled opposition…

    • Eric Zuesse

      Please provide a link to document your allegations about the agreement that was reached. I am not aware of any such detailed description of it. I wasn’t able to find the documents, only the U.S. State Department’s publication of the joint U.S.-Russia press conference’s transcript.

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