Trump Has Now Committed Himself to Reversing Obama’s Syria-Policy

Eric Zuesse, originally posted at

Right after the U.S. government shot down a Syrian government plane in Syria, the Russian government broke off the coordination of its operations along with the U.S. and America’s allied forces in Syria (otherwise known as “deconfliction of forces” there), and warned that:

“In areas where Russian aviation is conducting combat missions in the Syrian skies, any flying objects, including jets and unmanned aerial vehicles of the international coalition discovered west of the Euphrates River, will be followed by Russian air and ground defenses as air targets” — meaning ordered out, or else immediately shot down.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S. Marine Corps General Joseph F. Dunford, spoke at the National Press Club in Washington later that day. Only a video from the National Press Club is, as of yet, available of this important event (the first post-warning top U.S. government official public statement about it), no transcript yet; but here is what Dunford said (and the time he said it in the video), which struck this reporter as being important in his comments, at this historic moment when the likelihood of a nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia — World War III — was higher than it has been ever since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis between U.S. President John Fitzgerald Kennedy and U.S.S.R. Premier Nikita Khrushchev:

9:00- “prosecute the defeat-ISIS campaign in Syria, which is the reason why we are in Syria”

He said that to “defeat ISIS” is “the reason,” not “a reason,” we’re there. Very important word-choice. Profoundly meaningful in this context.

His stating that “the reason why we are in Syria” is to “prosecute the defeat-ISIS campaign in Syria,” means that we are not in Syria in order to overthrow and replace Syria’s government — that we are not there in order to conquer Syria. That’s not “the reason,” nor even “a reason,” we’re there. People who have been following the Syria-war matter closely over the past few years will find this a shocking assertion from the U.S. government, because it is such a stark contrast to U.S. President Barack Obama’s constant demands that “Assad must go.” And, it is being made not by Trump’s U.N. Ambassador, nor by any other mere mouthpiece, but instead by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff, who would not be saying it unless he had just previously communicated directly with the President after that extremely grave Russian warning. Trump, it now seems, knows that this is serious, and by allowing his CJCS to go public with this, he is overriding here the many neocons whom he has appointed to lead the Defense Department. Dunford represents the President, not merely the military of which the President is the Commander-In-Chief. (Dunford’s role, as CJCS, is purely advisory, both to the President and to the Secretary of Defense, but he is “the principal military advisor to the President, the National Security Council, the Homeland Security Council, and the Secretary of Defense.”) That clause in a sentence — and especially its “the” instead of an “a” — means more than most officials’ entire speeches do.

12:25- “Even as we support their [the anti-Assad Arabs’ and the Kurdish] efforts to seize Raqqa, there is an ongoing effort, led by the State Department [Trump’s least neocon people] to put together a governance body so that as soon as Raqqa is seized, there is effective local governance, that governance will leverage Arab leaders who are from Raqqa and it will also establish a local security force made up of local personnel.”

Those “Arab leaders who are from Raqqa” will be raging for revenge against ISIS and any other fundamentalist-Sunni group that had grabbed Raqqa away from the protection of those residents by Syria’s government and subjected them to such hell for so long; and, so, when they “establish a local security force made up of local personnel,” that “security force” will certainly not be favorable toward either the jihadists — all of whom are fundamentalist Sunnis — nor toward any Kurds who want to break up Syria, such as the formation of a Kurdish republic would necessarily entail.

He was then asked about a forthcoming September Kurdish referendum on establishing a Kurdistan, which would mean breaking up one or more of three nations: Syria, Turkey, and Iraq. His answer focused only on Iraq, but no Kurdistan which is in only one of those three nations would be acceptable to Kurds, and so his answer needs to be understood in that light:

13:05: “Our stated objective at this point is a stable secure and sovereign Iraq and we are supporting Iraqi security forces in defeating ISIS inside of Iraq, and I think that the issue of a Kurdish referendum is one that will have to be worked out between President Barzani and Prime Minister Abadi and the Iraqi people.”

This means that Trump respects the sovereignty of each individual nation. He is asserting this in specifically the case of Iraq. But its meaning reverberates clearly also in Damascus, and in Istanbul, just as well as it does in Baghdad. It means: no Kurdistan.

The CIA, and Israel, and DC’s think-tanks such as the Brookings Institution, are all neoconservatives who favor breaking up Syria, and as part of that, establishing an independent Kurdistan across all three countries.

Trump’s Pentagon, under the neocon James Mattis, had blatantly violated Syria’s sovereignty on Syrian soil. But now, in Dunford’s totally unhedged statements, immediately after the U.S. government had perpetrated that blatant violation, Trump’s own Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was, effectively, committing the man whom he directly advises on military-strategic matters, this President, against the neoconservatives whom this same President had brought in to run his Pentagon. On strategic matters, the Joint Chiefs Chairman stands even closer to the Commander-in-Chief than does the Secretary of Defense or, sometimes, even, than does the National Security Advisor (the neocon H.R. McMaster, who has thus-far been loudly silent on this matter).

A 3PM update on June 19th, the day of Russia’s warning — an update by this reporter to my news earlier that day which was headlined “Russia Announces No-Fly Zone in Syria — War Against U.S. There” — provided the earliest-published indications that Trump had turned away from the neocons whom he himself had appointed; and, here is that update, to provide broader context for Dunford’s remarks:


Al Masdar News, the go-to site for the latest news regarding the Syrian war, headlines, as of 3PM Eastern time, “Pentagon changes disposition of US-led coalition aircraft in Syria”, and reports, from several reliable sources, such as Joseph Dunford, the head of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, indicate a U.S. climb-down, and a desire to cooperate with Russia in Syria. If this is not a lie (as so much from the U.S. government has turned out to be), then the U.S. will stop protecting its jihadists in Syria; and, consequently, the war in Syria will end on terms which are suitable to Syria, Russia, and Iran, but which have not heretofore been acceptable to the U.S.-Saudi (and other fundamentalist Sunni) coalition.

The signs, at least as of 3PM, are that Trump will quit the war against the Syrian government, regardless of how much this might disappoint the Sauds (and the Israelis). Looking at the way the Western press are reporting on the matter, they’re going to allow him to withdraw as quietly as possible. So, as soon as Russia made clear that it’s willing to go all the way to defeat the U.S.-Saudi-Sunni-fundamentalist invasion, the West, apparently, will simply quit. All the jihadists in Syria will soon be scrambling to escape from there. Without U.S. protection, they can’t win. But will Russia, Iran, and Syria, simply kill them all, right there? If not, then those jihadists will end up going back ‘home’, wherever that might happen to be, and far more dangerous in those countries than they had been there before.

However, some in the U.S. press are still continuing on with beating the war-drums against Syria. An example is the hyper-neoconservative newspaper the Washington Post, owned by Jeff Bezos, the chief owner and founder of Amazon — that’s the company which supplies cloud computing services to the Pentagon. The WP has subsequently been beating the drums for WW III.

In an editorial on June 19th, “What happens after the Islamic State is defeated in Iraq and Syria?” Bezos’s hired editorial writers condemned “the drive by Iran and Russia, along with their Syrian and Iraqi Shiite clients, to dominate the space that will be left when the Islamic State is driven from its capital of Raqqa in eastern Syria,” as if Raqqa weren’t sovereign Syrian national government territory, but instead was just a spot of land that the U.S. has some kind of legal authority over — an authority to dictate to the sovereign Syrian government about that spot of land.

To back that editorial up by ‘news’, his hired team of ‘reporters’ headlined on June 21st, “U.S. on collision course with Syria and Iran once de facto Islamic State capital falls”, again as if Raqqa were U.S. instead of Syrian territory and Iran isn’t defending Syria and U.S. attacking it; and they went on to report (from unnamed “senior White House officials” who are obviously selected neocons in the Trump Administration): “Officials said Syrian government claims on the area would also undermine progress toward a political settlement in the long-separate rebel war against Assad, intended to stabilize the country by limiting his control and eventually driving him from power.” Here were ‘reporters’, for Bezos’s ‘news’paper, enabling unnamed U.S. officials to propagandize to the ’news’paper’s dupes or subscribers, that the Syrian government had only “claims on the area,” instead of sovereignty over the area and over the entirety of Syria.

Basically, what has happened is that the neoconservatives are still being allowed to allege through all their media, that the U.S. government has sovereignty over the entire world, even after Russia has finally told the U.S. regime: no further in Syria — if you dare, it will be war between Russia and the United States: WW III.

Trump speaks out of both sides of his mouth but Washington promotes only the neocon side; and, now that Russia has issued a warning that the Washington Post’s editorial called “bluffing,” and that CNBC’s ‘reporter’ called ‘bluster’, the world will see whether Trump is as stupid as America’s unfortunately now permanent neoconservative government thinks he is. If Trump’s Chairman of the joint Chiefs of Staff — who is neither an unnamed ‘senior White House official’ nor yet demonstrably a person who would lie for Trump — is to be believed, then Trump isn’t quite so stupid as that. The question right now is: Is the American public so stupid as to believe ‘news’media and ‘reporters’ such as that?


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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  • Zartan

    Total BS. Trumps Actions Speak louder than Words. Trump is Obama, Obama is Trump. The President is a Salesman. He is the Clown, elected to win -by any means- the support of the people.

    • awb22

      That’s one perspective, albeit totally asinine. Another never Trumper.

      • Zartan

        Tea Party and OWS will never unite. The whole problem with mankind is that not even JESUS can unite them. Can I even get my Neighbor to Agree? NO.

        Why have faith in man? Trump installed a bunch of goldman sachs thugs, which is all I needed to see and Trump is Stark Naked.

        I can say with “absolute certainty” that every president will be a failure. The Book has been Written. I admit, that I have problems with the BOOK, but in totality, I accept the Truth.

        The People have the only chance, and in order for them to “win” they must topple wall street and break washingtons NECK by financial siege warfare. The American people do not have the Discipline or Warlike Qualities to achieve this victory.

        So … Technically, and Realistically, We are Stuck with HOPE and FAITH in God. I wish it were different, but I am sure GOD does too!

  • kimyo

    zuesse on sunday: Trump Has Been Continuing Obama’s Syria-Policy
    zuesse on monday: Trump Has Now Committed Himself to Reversing Obama’s Syria-Policy

    bonus quote of extreme silliness:

    This means that Trump respects the sovereignty of each individual nation.

    dunford said ‘x’, therefore trump means ‘y’ is astonishingly vapid, even given the usual, rock bottom zuesse standards.

    what’s really happening today? White House threatens Syria over possible chemical attack

    “The United States has identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime that would likely result in the mass murder of civilians, including innocent children,” Press Secretary Sean Spicer said in a brief statement issued late in the evening. “The activities are similar to preparations the regime made before its April 4, 2017 chemical weapons attack.”

    please, washington’s blog, i beg you, it’s way past time to revoke zuesse’s posting privileges here.

    • Army of Addicts

      Careful, you might pop a blood vessel.

      • kimyo

        you’ve been given the chance to talk about zuesse’s crap reporting and you’d prefer to discuss my blood pressure? stay on topic.

        q: why does zuesse keep ‘reporting’ about the orange personality?
        a: to maintain the fiction of electoral representation in the united states.

        the world according to zuesse:
        1) you MUST vote.
        2) you CANNOT vote 3rd party.
        3) the current resident of the oval office is IN CHARGE. (this is why he frequently banners things like ‘obama’s tpp’. as if obama wrote it. i highly doubt he’s even read it.)

        zuesse is pretending that the charade we participate in every november is valid. he does this in spite of massive evidence to the contrary, from diebold fractional vote totals to podesta/sanders ‘we have a deal’ and beyond.

        if you are observing what’s happening, it’s clear that trump is not even remotely in charge, in spite of all the breathless ‘reporting’ (‘now with 3pm updates direct from nyc’) by zuesse / maddow et al.

        zuesse should treat his position here with honor. this is not the daily mail. this is a place of truth, where people with functional attention spans gather daily.

  • cstahnke

    The obvious key to understanding Washington’s position on Syria and FP in general is to grasp that there are deep divisions within the National Security State. These divisions have been particularly intense in recent years and came out in the open last year. These divisions transcend ideology and are more than just a struggle between “realists” and “neocons.” we have to see that there is one requirement all sides agree on and that is that there have to be credible “threats” to U.S. national security or everyone is out of business. It is the job of a variety of entities to supply those tensions. Much depends, in my view, where the finance oligarchs stand on all this–their requirement is that tensions be maintained but not to the degree that it threatens general war which is why Syria has not blown up into more serious war. My guess is that part of the reason for gearing up to fight a bigger war in Afghanistan is to avoid a Syrian escalation–I believe the finance oligarchs may have signed off on that. But there are still major factions that are grouped around Israel and Saudi Arabia who are determined to keep the war going at all costs which is why any chance that ISIS collapses is being looked at with panic. This is why those elements are going to try and create another Syrian gas crisis to force Trump’s hand.

    • Taras77

      Nailed it:

      “we have to see that there is one requirement all sides agree on and that is that there have to be credible “threats” to U.S. national security or everyone is out of business. It is the job of a variety of entities to supply those tensions. “

  • PB

    And before the ink is dry on the screen…..

    “Sadd….I mean Assad is gassing his own people (again)”. I don’t think what Trump may or may not want is playing into any of this.

  • hyperbola

    This “analyst” continues to try to keep Americans dumb, distracted and divided. What is behind “syria” has been clear for a LONG time already.

    google( Hillary Clinton: Destroy Syria for Israel: “The Best Way to Help Israel” global research )
    A newly-released Hilary Clinton email confirmed that the Obama administration has deliberately provoked the civil war in Syria as the “best way to help Israel.”… The document was one of many unclassified by the US Department of State under case number F-2014-20439, Doc No. C05794498, following the uproar over Clinton’s private email server kept at her house while she served as Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013…..