Pentagon Begins Low-Intensity, Stealth War in Syria

By Mike Whitney. Originally published at CounterPunch (republished with permission of the author).

“Last Wednesday, at a Deputies Committee meeting at the White House, officials from the State Department, the CIA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff discussed limited military strikes against the (Assad) regime … One proposed way to get around the White House’s long-standing objection to striking the Assad regime without a U.N. Security Council resolution would be to carry out the strikes covertly and without public acknowledgment.”

– Washington Post

Call it stealth warfare, call it poking the bear, call it whatever you’d like. The fact is, the Syrian war has entered a new and more dangerous phase increasing the chances of a catastrophic confrontation between the US and Russia.

This new chapter of the conflict is the brainchild of Pentagon warlord, Ash Carter, whose attack on a Syrian outpost at Deir Ezzor killed 62 Syrian regulars putting a swift end to the fragile ceasefire agreement. Carter and his generals opposed the Kerry-Lavrov ceasefire deal because it would have required “military and intelligence cooperation with the Russians”. In other words, the US would have had to get the greenlight from Moscow for its bombing targets which would have undermined its ability to assist its jihadist fighters on the ground. That was a real deal-breaker for the Pentagon. But bombing Deir Ezzor fixed all that. It got the Pentagon out of the jam it was in, it torpedoed the ceasefire, and it allowed Carter to launch his own private shooting match without presidential authorization. Mission accomplished.

So what sort of escalation does Carter have in mind, after all, most analysts assume that a direct confrontation between the United States and Russia will lead to a nuclear war. Is he really willing to take that risk?

Heck no, but not everyone agrees that more violence will lead to a nuclear exchange. Carter, for example, seems to think that he can raise the stakes considerably without any real danger, which is why he intends to conduct a low-intensity, stealth war on mainly Syrian assets that will force Putin to increase Russia’s military commitment. The larger Russia’s military commitment, the greater probability of a quagmire, which is the primary objective of Plan C, aka–Plan Carter. Take a look at this clip from an article in Tuesday’s Washington Post which helps to explain what’s going on:

“U.S. military strikes against the Assad regime will be back on the table Wednesday at the White House, when top national security officials in the Obama administration are set to discuss options for the way forward in Syria…

Inside the national security agencies, meetings have been going on for weeks to consider new options to recommend to the president to address the ongoing crisis in Aleppo,…A meeting of the National Security Council, which could include the president, could come as early as this weekend.

Last Wednesday, at a Deputies Committee meeting at the White House, officials from the State Department, the CIA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff discussed limited military strikes against the regime…

The options under consideration… include bombing Syrian air force runways using cruise missiles and other long-range weapons fired from coalition planes and ships… One proposed way to get around the White House’s long-standing objection to striking the Assad regime without a U.N. Security Council resolution would be to carry out the strikes covertly and without public acknowledgment, the official said.” (Obama administration considering strikes on Assad, again, Washington Post)

Don’t you think the Washington Post should have mentioned that Carter’s sordid-little enterprise is already underway?

Consider the bombing of Deir Ezzor, for example. Doesn’t that meet the Post’s standard of “U.S. military strikes against the Assad regime”?

Sure, it does.

And what about the two Syrian bridges US warplanes took out over the Euphrates last week? (making it more difficult to attack ISIS strongholds in the eastern quadrant of the country) Don’t they count?

Of course, they do.

And let’s not forget the fact that Carter’s jihadist buddies on the ground launched a mortar attack on the Russian embassy in Damascus on Tuesday. That’s another part of this low-intensity war that’s already underway. So all this rubbish about Obama mulling over these “new options” for “military strikes” is complete hogwash. Plan Carter is already in full swing, the train already left the station. The only thing missing is presidential authorization which probably isn’t necessary since Il Duce Carter decided that it was his turn to run the country.

Now check out this clip from a Memo to the President from a group of ex-U.S. intelligence agents who compelled to warn Obama about (among other things) “asserting White House civilian control over the Pentagon.” Here’s an excerpt:

“In public remarks bordering on the insubordinate, senior Pentagon officials showed unusually open skepticism regarding key aspects of the Kerry-Lavrov deal. We can assume that what Lavrov told his boss in private is close to his uncharacteristically blunt words on Russian NTV on Sept. 26:

“My good friend John Kerry … is under fierce criticism from the US military machine. Despite the fact that, as always, [they] made assurances that the US Commander in Chief, President Barack Obama, supported him in his contacts with Russia… apparently the military does not really listen to the Commander in Chief.”

Lavrov’s words are not mere rhetoric … Policy differences between the White House and the Pentagon are rarely as openly expressed as they are now over policy on Syria.”
(Obama Warned to Defuse Tensions with Russia, Consortium News)

How shocking is that? When was the last time you read a memo from retired Intel agents warning the president that the Pentagon was usurping his Constitutional authority? That sounds pretty serious, don’t you think?

Bottom line: The Pentagon is basically prosecuting their own little war in Syria and then chatting up the policy with Obama when they damn-well feel like it. Here’s more from the Washington Post:

“The CIA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff … expressed support for such “kinetic” options, the official said … That marked an increase of support for striking Assad compared with the last time such options were considered.” (Washington Post)

Of course they want to bomb Assad. They’re losing! Everyone wants to bomb someone when they’re losing. It’s human nature. But that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. It’s a very bad idea. Just like supporting Sunni extremists is a bad idea. Just like giving shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles (MANPADS) to fanatical crackpots is a bad idea. How crazy is that? And how long before one of these religious nutcases use their new toys to take down an Israeli or American jetliner?

Not very long, I’d wager. The idea of doubling-down on homicidal maniacs (By providing them with more lethal weapons) is really one of the dumbest ideas of all time, and yet, the Pentagon and CIA seem to think that it’s tip-top military strategy. Here’s one last blurb from the WA Post article:

“Kerry’s deputy, Antony Blinken, testified last week that the U.S. leverage in Russia comes from the notion that Russia will eventually become weary of the cost of its military intervention in Syria. “The leverage is the consequences for Russia of being stuck in a quagmire that is going to have a number of profoundly negative effects,” Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.” (Washington Post)

See? There it is in black and white. “Quagmire”. The new “Plan C” strategy is designed to create a quagmire for Putin by gradually ratcheting up the violence forcing him to prolong his stay and deepen his commitment. It’s a clever trap and it could work, too. The only hitch is that Putin and his allies appear to be making steady headway on the battlefield. That’s going to make a lot harder for Syria’s enemies to continue the provocations and incitements without triggering massive retaliation.

But maybe Carter hasn’t thought about that yet.

NOTE: Russia issues warning to Pentagon; Hostile aircraft that threatens Syrian troops will be shot down

This is from a Thursday report on Sputnik International:

“The Russian Minister of Defense said “that “Russian S-300, S-400 air defense systems deployed in Syria’s Hmeymim and Tartus have combat ranges that may surprise any unidentified airborne targets. Operators of Russian air defense systems won’t have time to identify the origin of airstrikes, and the response will be immediate. Any illusions about “invisible” jets will inevitably be crushed by disappointing reality.”

No More Deir ez-Zors

“I point out to all the ‘hotheads’ that following the September 17 coalition airstrike on the Syrian Army in Deir ez-Zor we took all necessary measures to exclude any similar ‘accidents’ happening to Russian forces in Syria,” Konashenkov said. (Sputnik)

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at

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  • Jr

    Obama going to get in a war with Russia. Such a great foreign policy we have…
    So it’s Russia, Syria, and Iran VS USA and Isis.

    Obama will not stop until the USA destroyed.

    • tom

      I prefer to think of it as “Eurasia minus the US poodles in the EU versus the USA and its terrorists”. Part of the ongoing agenda which also includes shutting the US out of Asia as far as possible, and gradually replacing the US dollar as the leading global currency.

    • tom

      Well, actually he will stop on or before January 20th 2017. (There is a lot of evidence he has already virtually retired and is concentrating on his golf game – such as the active insubordination and disobedience of the Pentagon, the State Department and the CIA).

  • Silverado

    These are the military adventurism loving neocon friends of Obama and crooked Hillary doing all this warmongering supporting their creation ISIS by bombing Syrian forces. The proper thing to do would be to arrest these criminals and malcontents creating all this mischief and mayhem in our name and then throw them into the deepest darkest dungeon we could find and throw the proverbial key away. Or better yet, we could make them fly the aircraft in so they could test the new Russian air defenses for their operational readiness and accuracy against enemy aircraft over the entire battle zone these psychopaths have made out of what used to be the sovereign country of Syria. Prosecute their creation & support of ISIS and jail these enemies-within home grown terrorists created and sponsored by rogue criminal elements within the dangerously bloated, perverse and violence prone US Govt and all this idiotic empire building goes away…

  • cityspeak

    In answer to this question:
    “How shocking is that? When was the last time you read a memo from retired Intel agents warning the president that the Pentagon was usurping his Constitutional authority?”

    it would have been back in 1963 when JFK woke up to the realization of the Military Industrial Complex was “running the show.
    Then he was executed in a public street by a “lone gunman” that didn’t have any motivation, had a lot of murky intelligence connections and had the ability to wander in and out of USSR at the height of the cold war. This lone gunman was dispatched a few days later, surrounded by Dallas’ finest, by a low level mobster that ran a strip club in Dallas to spare the first lady the “horror of a trial”
    This was thoroughly investigated by a government commission being co-headed by the “granddaddy” of the military industrial complex Alan Dulles. Dulles had a personal hatred for JFK as he was fired by him for doing in Cuba what the pentagon is currently doing in Syria. The commission executed its core mission which was to “assure the public that JFK was killed by a lone assassin and not a victim of a wider conspiracy”.