Pages

The NeoCon Propaganda Machine Pushing “Regime Change” in Syria



Jan 6, 2012  |  by AISLING BYRNE

“War with Iran is already here,” wrote a leading Israeli commentator recently, describing “the combination of covert warfare and international pressure” being applied to Iran.

Although not mentioned, the “strategic prize” of the first stage of this war on Iran is Syria; the first campaign in a much wider sectarian power-bid. “Other than the collapse of the Islamic Republic itself,” Saudi King Abdullah was reported to have said last summer, “nothing would weaken Iran more than losing Syria.”

By December, senior United States officials were explicit about their regime change agenda for Syria: Tom Donilon, the US National Security Adviser, explained that the “end of the [President Bashar al-] Assad regime would constitute Iran’s greatest setback in the region yet – a strategic blow that will further shift the balance of power in the region against Iran.”

Shortly before, a key official in terms of operationalizing this policy, Under Secretary of State for the Near East Jeffrey Feltman, had stated at a congressional hearing that the US would “relentlessly pursue our two-track strategy of supporting the opposition and diplomatically and financially strangling the [Syrian] regime until that outcome is achieved”.

What we are seeing in Syria is a deliberate and calculated campaign to bring down the Assad government so as to replace it with a regime “more compatible” with US interests in the region.

The blueprint for this project is essentially a report produced by the neo-conservative Brookings Institute for regime change in Iran in 2009. The report – “Which Path to Persia?” – continues to be the generic strategic approach for US-led regime change in the region.

A rereading of it, together with the more recent “Towards a Post-Assad Syria” (which adopts the same language and perspective, but focuses on Syria, and was recently produced by two US neo-conservative think-tanks) illustrates how developments in Syria have been shaped according to the step-by-step approach detailed in the “Paths to Persia” report with the same key objective: regime change.

The authors of these reports include, among others, John Hannah and Martin Indyk, both former senior neo-conservative officials from the George W Bush/Dick Cheney administration, and both advocates for regime change in Syria. Not for the first time are we seeing a close alliance between US/British neo-cons with Islamists (including, reports show, some with links to al-Qaeda) working together to bring about regime change in an “enemy” state.

Arguably, the most important component in this struggle for the “strategic prize” has been the deliberate construction of a largely false narrative that pits unarmed democracy demonstrators being killed in their hundreds and thousands as they protest peacefully against an oppressive, violent regime, a “killing machine” led by the “monster” Assad.

Whereas in Libya, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) claimed it had “no confirmed reports of civilian casualties” because, as the New York Times wrote recently, “the alliance had created its own definition for ‘confirmed’: only a death that NATO itself investigated and corroborated could be called confirmed”.

“But because the alliance declined to investigate allegations,” the Times wrote, “its casualty tally by definition could not budge – from zero”.

In Syria, we see the exact opposite: the majority of Western mainstream media outlets, along with the media of the US’s allies in the region, particularly al-Jazeera and the Saudi-owned al-Arabiya TV channels, are effectively collaborating with the “regime change” narrative and agenda with a near-complete lack of questioning or investigation of statistics and information put out by organizations and media outlets that are either funded or owned by the US/European/Gulf alliance – the very same countries instigating the regime change project in the first place.

Claims of “massacres”, “campaigns of rape targeting women and girls in predominantly Sunni towns” “torture” and even “child-rape” are reported by the international press based largely on two sources – the British-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights and the Local Co-ordination Committees (LCCs) – with minimal additional checking or verification.

Hiding behind the rubric – “we are not able to verify these statistics” – the lack of integrity in reporting by the Western mainstream media has been starkly apparent since the onset of events in Syria. A decade after the Iraq war, it would seem that no lessons from 2003 – from the demonization of Saddam Hussein and his purported weapons of mass destruction – have been learnt.

Of the three main sources for all data on numbers of protesters killed and numbers of people attending demonstrations – the pillars of the narrative – all are part of the “regime change” alliance.

The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, in particular, is reportedly funded through a Dubai-based fund with pooled (and therefore deniable) Western-Gulf money (Saudi Arabia alone has, according to Elliot Abrams allocated US$130 billion to “palliate the masses” of the Arab Spring).

What appears to be a nondescript British-based organization, the Observatory has been pivotal in sustaining the claims of the mass killing of thousands of peaceful protesters using inflated figures, “facts”, and often exaggerated claims of “massacres” and even recently “genocide”.

Although it claims to be based in its director’s house, the Observatory has been described as the “front office” of a large media propaganda set-up run by the Syrian opposition and its backers. The Russian Foreign Ministry stated starkly:

The agenda of the [Syrian] transitional council [is] composed in London by the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights … It is also there where pictures of ‘horror’ in Syria are made to stir up hatred towards Assad’s regime.

The Observatory is not legally registered either as a company or charity in the United Kingdom, but operates informally; it has no office, no staff and its director is reportedly awash with funding.

It receives its information, it says, from a network of “activists” inside Syria; its English-language website is a single page with al-Jazeera instead hosting a minute-by-minute live blog page for it since the outset of protests.

The second, the LCCs, are a more overt part of the opposition’s media infrastructure, and their figures and reporting is similarly encompassed only [16] within the context of this main narrative: in an analysis of their daily reports, I couldn’t find a single reference to any armed insurgents being killed: reported deaths are of “martyrs”, “defector soldiers”, people killed in “peaceful demonstrations” and similar descriptions.

The third is al-Jazeera, whose biased role in “reporting” the Awakenings has been well documented. Described by one seasoned media analyst as the “sophisticated mouthpiece of the state of Qatar and its ambitious emir”, al-Jazeera is integral to Qatar’s “foreign-policy aspirations”.

Al-Jazeera has, and continues, to provide technical support, equipment, hosting and “credibility” to Syrian opposition activists and organizations. Reports show that as early as March 2011, al-Jazeera was providing messaging and technical support to exiled Syrian opposition activists , who even by January 2010 were co-ordinating their messaging activities from Doha.

Nearly 10 months on, however, and despite the daily international media onslaught, the project isn’t exactly going to plan: a YouGov poll commissioned by the Qatar Foundation showed last week that 55 per cent of Syrians do not want Assad to resign and 68 per cent of Syrians disapprove of the Arab League sanctions imposed on their country.

According to the poll, Assad’s support has effectively increased since the onset of current events – 46 per cent of Syrians felt Assad was a “good” president for Syria prior to current events in the country – something that certainly doesn’t fit with the false narrative being peddled.

As if trumpeting the success of their own propaganda campaign, the poll summary concludes:

“The majority of Arabs believe Syria’s President Basher al-Assad should resign in the wake of the regime’s brutal treatment of protesters … 81% of Arabs [want] President Assad to step down. They believe Syria would be better off if free democratic elections were held under the supervision of a transitional government.”

One is left wondering who exactly is Assad accountable to – the Syrian people or the Arab public? A blurring of lines that might perhaps be useful as two main Syrian opposition groups have just announced that while they are against foreign military intervention, they do not consider “Arab intervention” to be foreign.

Unsurprisingly, not a single mainstream major newspaper or news outlet reported the YouGov poll results – it doesn’t fit their line.

In the UK, the volunteer-run Muslim News was the only newspaper to report the findings; yet only two weeks before in the immediate aftermath of the suicide explosions in Damascus, both the Guardian, like other outlets, within hours of the explosions were publishing sensational, unsubstantiated reports from bloggers, including one who was “sure that some of the bodies … were those of demonstrators”.

“They have planted bodies before,” he said; “they took dead people from Dera’a [in the south] and showed the media bodies in Jisr al-Shughour [near the Turkish border.]”

Recent reports have cast serious doubt on the accuracy of the false scenario peddled daily by the mainstream international press, in particular information put out by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the LCCs.

In December, the mainstream US intelligence group Stratfor cautioned:


Most of the [Syrian] opposition’s more serious claims have turned out to be grossly exaggerated or simply untrue … revealing more about the opposition’s weaknesses than the level of instability inside the Syrian regime.

Throughout the nine-month uprising, Stratfor has advised caution on accuracy of the mainstream story on Syria: in September it commented that “with two sides to every war … the war of perceptions in Syria is no exception”.

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and LCC reports, “like those from the regime, should be viewed with skepticism”, argues Stratfor; “the opposition understands that it needs external support, specifically financial support, if it is to be a more robust movement than it is now. To that end, it has every reason to present the facts on the ground in a way that makes the case for foreign backing.”

As Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov observed: “It is clear that the purpose is to provoke a humanitarian catastrophe, to get a pretext to demand external interference into this conflict.” Similarly, in mid-December, American Conservative reported:


“CIA [Central Intelligence Agency] analysts are skeptical regarding the march to war. The frequently cited United Nations report that more than 3,500 civilians have been killed by Assad’s soldiers is based largely on rebel sources and is uncorroborated. The Agency has refused to sign off on the claims.

“Likewise, accounts of mass defections from the Syrian army and pitched battles between deserters and loyal soldiers appear to be a fabrication, with few defections being confirmed independently. Syrian government claims that it is being assaulted by rebels who are armed, trained and financed by foreign governments are more true than false.”

As recently as November, the Free Syria Army implied their numbers would be larger, but, as they explained to one analyst, they are “advising sympathizers to delay their defection” until regional conditions improve.

A guide to regime change

In relation to Syria, section three of the “Paths to Persia” report is particularly relevant – it is essentially a step-by-step guide detailing options for instigating and supporting a popular uprising, inspiring an insurgency and/or instigating a coup. The report comes complete with a “Pros and Cons” section:


“An insurgency is often easier to instigate and support from abroad … Insurgencies are famously cheap to support … covert support to an insurgency would provide the United States with “plausibility deniability” … [with less] diplomatic and political backlash … than if the United States were to mount a direct military action … Once the regime suffers some major setback [this] provides an opportunity to act.”

Military action, the report argues, would only be taken once other options had been tried and shown to have failed as the “international community” would then conclude of any attack that the government “brought it on themselves” by refusing a very good deal.

Key aspects for instigating a popular uprising and building a “full-fledged insurgency” are evident in relation to developments in Syria.

These include:


“Funding and helping organize domestic rivals of the regime” including using “unhappy” ethnic groups;

“Building the capacity of ‘effective oppositions’ with whom to work” in order to “create an alternative leadership to seize power”;

Provision of equipment and covert backing to groups, including arms – either directly or indirectly, as well as “fax machines … Internet access, funds” (on Iran the report noted that the “CIA could take care of most of the supplies and training for these groups, as it has for decades all over the world”);

Training and facilitation of messaging by opposition activists;

Constructing a narrative “with the support of US-backed media outlets could highlight regime shortcomings and make otherwise obscure critics more prominent” – “having the regime discredited among key ‘opinion shapers’ is critical to its collapse”;

The creation of a large funding budget to fund a wide array of civil-society-led initiatives (a so-called “$75 million fund” created under former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice-funded civil society groups, including “a handful of Beltway-based think-tanks and institutions [which] announced new Iran desks)” ;

The need for an adjacent land corridor in a neighboring country “to help develop an infrastructure to support operations”.

“Beyond this,” continues the report, “US economic pressure (and perhaps military pressure as well) can discredit the regime, making the population hungry for a rival leadership.” 

The US and its allies, particularly Britain and France, have funded and helped “shape” the opposition from the outset – building both on attempts started by the US in 2006 to construct a unified front against the Assad government, and the perceived “success” of the Libyan Transitional National Council model.

Despite months of attempts – predominately by the West – at cajoling the various groups into a unified, proficient opposition movement, they remain “a diverse group, representing the country’s ideological, sectarian and generational divides”. 

”There neither has been nor is [there] now any natural tendency towards unity between these groups, since they belong to totally different ideological backgrounds and have antagonistic political views,” one analyst concluded. 

At a recent meeting with the British foreign secretary, the different groups would not even meet with William Hague together, instead meeting him separately.

Nevertheless, despite a lack of cohesion, internal credibility and legitimacy, the opposition, predominately under the umbrella of the Syrian National Council (SNC), is being groomed for office. This includes capacity-building, as confirmed by the former Syrian ambassador to the US, Rafiq Juajati, now part of the opposition. 

At a closed briefing in Washington DC in mid-December 2011, he confirmed that the US State Department and the SWP-German Institute for International and Security Affairs (a think-tank that provides foreign policy analysis to the German government) were funding a project that is managed by the US Institute for Peace and SWP, working in partnership with the SNC, to prepare the SNC for the takeover and running of Syria.

In a recent interview, SNC leader Burhan Ghaliyoun disclosed (so as to “speed up the process” of Assad’s fall) the credentials expected of him: “There will be no special relationship with Iran,” he said. “Breaking the exceptional relationship means breaking the strategic, military alliance,” adding that “after the fall of the Syrian regime, [Hezbollah] won’t be the same.” 

Described in Slate magazine as the “most liberal and Western-friendly of the Arab Spring uprisings”, Syrian opposition groups sound as compliant as their Libyan counterparts prior to the demise of Muammar Gaddafi, whom the New York Times described as “secular-minded professionals – lawyers, academics, businesspeople – who talk about democracy, transparency, human rights and the rule of law”; that was, until reality transitioned to former leader of the Libyan Islamist Fighting Group Abdulhakim Belhaj and his jihadi colleagues. 

The import of weapons, equipment, manpower (predominantly from Libya) and training by governments and other groups linked to the US, NATO and their regional allies began in April-May 2011, according to various reports and is co-ordinated out of the US air force base at Incirlik in southern Turkey. From Incirlik, an information warfare division also directs communications to Syria via the Free Syria Army. This covert support continues, as American Conservative reported in mid-December:


“Unmarked NATO warplanes are arriving at Turkish military bases close to Iskenderum on the Syrian border, delivering weapons … as well as volunteers from the Libyan Transitional National Council … Iskenderum is also the seat of the Free Syrian Army, the armed wing of the Syrian National Council. French and British special forces trainers are on the ground, assisting the Syrian rebels while the CIA and US Spec Ops are providing communications equipment and intelligence to assist the rebel cause, enabling the fighters to avoid concentrations of Syrian soldiers.”

The Washington Post exposed in April 2011 that recent WikiLeaks showed that the US State Department had been giving millions of dollars to various Syrian exile groups (including the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Movement for Justice and Development in London) and individuals since 2006 via its “Middle East Partnership Initiative” administered by a US foundation, the Democracy Council.

WikiLeaks cables confirmed that well into 2010, this funding was continuing, a trend that not only continues today but which has expanded in light of the shift to the “soft power” option aimed at regime change in Syria. 

As this neo-con-led call for regime change in Syria gains strength within the US administration, so too has this policy been institutionalized among leading US foreign policy think-tanks, many of whom have “Syria desks” or “Syria working groups” which collaborate closely with Syrian opposition groups and individuals (for example USIP and the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy) and which have published a range of policy documents making the case for regime change. 

In the UK, the similarly neo-con Henry Jackson Society (which “supports the maintenance of a strong military, by the United States, the countries of the European Union and other democratic powers, armed with expeditionary capabilities with a global reach” and which believes that “only modern liberal democratic states are truly legitimate”) is similarly pushing the agenda for regime change in Syria. This is in partnership with Syrian opposition figures including Ausama Monajed, a former leader of the Syrian exile group, the Movement for Justice & Development, linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, which was funded by the US State Department from 2006, as we know from WikiLeaks. 

Monajed, a member of the SNC, currently directs a public relations firm recently established in London and incidentally was the first to use the term “genocide” in relation to events in Syria in a recent SNC press release.

Since the outset, significant pressure has been brought to bear on Turkey to establish a “humanitarian corridor” along its southern border with Syria. The main aim of this, as the “Paths to Persia” report outlines, is to provide a base from which the externally-backed insurgency can be launched and based. 

The objective of this “humanitarian corridor” is about as humanitarian as the four-week NATO bombing of Sirte when NATO exercised its “responsibility to protect” mandate, as approved by the UN Security Council.

All this is not to say that there isn’t a genuine popular demand for change in Syria against the repressive security-dominated infrastructure that dominates every aspect of people’s lives, nor that gross human-rights violations have not been committed, both by the Syrian security forces, armed opposition insurgents, as well as mysterious third force characters operating since the onset of the crisis in Syria, including insurgents, mostly jihadis from neighboring Iraq and Lebanon, as well as more recently Libya, among others.

Such abuses are inevitable in low-intensity conflict. Leading critics of this US-France-UK-Gulf-led regime change project have, from the outset, called for full accountability and punishment for any security or other official “however senior”, found to have committed any human-rights abuses.

Ibrahim al-Amine writes that some in the regime have conceded “that the security remedy was damaging in many cases and regions [and] that the response to the popular protests was mistaken … it would have been possible to contain the situation via clear and firm practical measures – such as arresting those responsible for torturing children in Deraa”. And it argues that the demand for political pluralism and an end to the all-encompassing repression is both vital and urgent.

But what may have began as popular protests, initially focused on local issues and incidents (including the case of the torture of young boys in Dera’a by security forces) were rapidly hijacked by this wider strategic plan for regime change. Five years ago, I worked in northern Syria with the United Nations managing a large community development project.

After evening community meetings, it wasn’t uncommon to find the mukhabarat (military intelligence) waiting for us to vacate the room so they could scan flipcharts posted on the walls. That almost every aspect of people’s daily lives was regulated by a sclerotic dysfunctional Ba’ath party/security bureaucracy, devoid of any ideology apart from the inevitable corruption and nepotism that comes with authoritarian power, was apparent in every feature of people’s lives.

Tuesday, December 20 was reportedly the “deadliest day of the nine-month [Syrian] uprising “with the “organized massacre” of a “mass defection” of army deserters widely reported by the international press in Idlib, northern Syria. Claiming that areas of Syria were now “exposed to large-scale genocide”, the SNC lamented the “250 fallen heroes during a 48-hour period”, citing figures provided by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Quoting the same source, the Guardian reported that the Syrian army was:


“… hunt[ing] down deserters after troops … killed close to 150 men who had fled their base”. A picture has emerged … of a mass defection … that went badly wrong … with loyalist forces positioned to mow down large numbers of defectors as they fled a military base. Those who managed to escape were later hunted down in hideouts in nearby mountains, multiple sources have reported. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimated that 100 deserters were besieged, then killed or wounded. Regular troops allegedly also hunted down residents who had given shelter to the deserters.”

The Guardian’s live blog-quoted AVAAZ, the citizen political advocacy/public relations group, which “claimed 269 people had been killed in the clashes”, and cited AVAAZ’s precise breakdown of casualties: “163 armed revolutionaries, 97 government troops and 9 civilians”. They noted that AVAAZ “provided nothing to corroborate the claim.”

The Washington Post reported only that they had spoken to “an activist with the rights group AVAAZ [who] said he had spoken to local activists and medical groups who put the death toll in that area Tuesday at 269.”

A day after initial reports of the massacre of fleeing deserters, however, the story had changed. On December 23, the Telegraph reported:


“At first they were said to be army deserters attempting to break into Turkey to join the FSA [Free Syrian Army], but they are now said to be unarmed civilians and activists attempting to escape the army’s attempts to bring the province back under control. They were surrounded by troops and tanks and gunned down until there were no survivors, according to reports.”

The New York Times had, on December 21, reported that the “massacre”, citing the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, was of “unarmed civilians and activists, with no armed military defectors among them, the rights groups said.”

It quoted the head of the Observatory who described it as “an organized massacre” and said his account corroborated a Kfar Owaid witness’ account: “The security forces had lists of names of those who organized massive anti-regime protests … the troops then opened fire with tanks, rockets and heavy machine guns [and], bombs filled with nails to increase the number of casualties.”

The LA Times quoted an activist it had spoken to via satellite connection who, from his position “sheltering in the woods” commented: “The word ‘massacre’ seems like too small a word to describe what happened.” Meanwhile, the Syrian government reported that on December 19 and 20, it had killed “tens” of members of “armed terrorist gangs” in both Homs and Idlib, and had arrested many wanted individuals.

The truth of these two “deadly” days will probably never be known – the figures cited above (between 10-163 armed insurgents, 9-111 unarmed civilians and 0-97 government forces) differ so significantly in both numbers reported killed and who they were, that the “truth” is impossible to establish.

In relation to an earlier purported “massacre” in Homs, a Stratfor investigation found “no signs of a massacre”, concluding that “opposition forces have an interest in portraying an impending massacre, hoping to mimic the conditions that propelled a foreign military intervention in Libya”.

Nevertheless, the “massacre” of December 19-20 in Idlib was reported as fact, and was etched into the narrative of Assad’s “killing machine.”

Both the recent UN Human Rights Commissioner’s report and a recent data blog report on reported deaths in “Syria’s bloody uprising” by the Guardian (published December 13) – two examples of attempts to establish the truth about numbers killed in the Syrian conflict – rely almost exclusively on opposition-provided data: interviews with 233 alleged “army defectors” in the case of the UN report, and on reports from the Syrian Human Rights Observatory, the LCCs and al-Jazeera in the case of the Guardian’s data blog.

The Guardian reports a total of 1,414.5 people (sic) killed – including 144 Syrian security personnel – between January and November 21, 2011. Based solely on press reports, the report contains a number of basic inaccuracies (eg sources not matching numbers killed with places cited in original sources): their total includes 23 Syrians killed by the Israeli army in June on the Golan Heights; 25 people reported “wounded” are included in total figures for those killed, as are many people reported shot.

The report makes no reference to any killings of armed insurgents during the entire 10-month period – all victims are “protesters”, “civilians” or “people” – apart from the 144 security personnel.

Seventy percent of the report’s data sources are from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the LCCs and “activists”; 38 per cent of press reports are from al-Jazeera, 3 per cent from Amnesty International and 1.5 per cent from official Syrian sources.

In response to the UN Commissioner’s report, Syria’s ambassador to the UN commented: “How could defectors give positive testimonies on the Syrian government? Of course they will give negative testimonies against the Syrian government. They are defectors.”

In the effort to inflate figures of casualties, the public relations-activist group AVAAZ has consistently outstripped even the UN. AVAAZ has publicly stated it is involved in “smuggling activists … out of the country”, running “secret safe houses to shelter … top activists from regime thugs” and that one “AVAAZ citizen journalist” “discover[ed] a mass grave”.

It states proudly that the BBC and CNN have said that AVAAZ data amounts to some 30 per cent of their news coverage of Syria. The Guardian reported AVAAZ’s latest claim to have “evidence” of killings of some 6,200 people (including security forces and including 400 children), claiming 617 of whom died under torture – their justification to have verified each single death with confirmation by three people, “including a relative and a cleric who handled the body” is improbable in the extreme.

The killing of one brigadier-general and his children in April last year in Homs illustrates how near impossible it is, particularly during sectarian conflict, to verify even one killing – in this case, a man and his children:

The general, believed to be Abdu Tallawi, was killed with his children and nephew while passing through an agitated neighborhood. There are two accounts of what happened to him and his family, and they differ about the victim’s sect.

Regime loyalists say that he was killed by takfiris – hardline Islamists who accuse other Muslims of apostasy – because he belonged to the Alawite sect. The protesters insist that he is a member of the Tallawi family from Homs and that he was killed by security forces to accuse the opposition and destroy their reputation. Some even claim that he was shot because he refused to fire at protesters.

The third account is ignored due to the extreme polarization of opinions in the city [Homs]. The brigadier-general was killed because he was in a military vehicle, even though he had his kids with him. Whoever killed him was not concerned with his sect but with directing a blow to the regime, thus provoking an even harsher crackdown, which, in turn, would drag the protest movement into a cycle of violence with the state.

City beneath city: RT films massive network of militant-built tunnels under Syria’s Douma (VIDEO)


Published time: 25 Apr, 2018

The Syrian military has been combing through a vast network of tunnels built by jihadists in Douma, not far from Damascus. RT Arabic filmed vehicles easily fitting in the passages and asked locals how the militants treated them.

Located 15 meters deep under the surface, the massive tunnels are supported by metal pillars and are paneled with some sort of liner plates, creating a subway look. They stretch for kilometers under the town, located in the area of eastern Ghouta, forming an entire city beneath the city.



To complete the set, the tunnels are equipped with electricity, parking lots and workshops. They are so big that a minivan could easily move through them, as seen in the footage. The military discovered that the tunnels were specifically used to stockpile machinery and vehicles.

The militants forced the locals to build the tunnels for them by starving the people, who refused to work, Douma residents told RT. “They starved us, they harassed us,” one man said, adding that the extremists also made captives and civilians work on the tunnels. “They [the militants] would not feed those, who refused to work,” he said.

The Russian military said they found a chemical laboratory operated by militants in central Douma soon after the city’s liberation. The facility, located in the basement of a residential building, had some sophisticated equipment, including an industrial chemical reactor, which the military said was used by the jihadists to create toxic agents. Vast stockpiles of various chemicals were also found in the laboratory.

SOURCEhttps://www.rt.com/news/425149-douma-underground-militant-tunnels/

Mehdi Hasan, beautiful soul, and his diatribe against the consequential Left


April 21, 2018

By Stephen Gowans

If it wasn’t already clear, The Intercept’s Mehdi Hasan, wants us to know he’s a beautiful soul. In an April 19 diatribe against “Bashar al Assad apologists,” Hasan professes his distaste for war crimes, torture, and dictatorship, no matter the source, but devotes particular attention to the violence and restrictions on political and civil liberties attributable to the Syrian president. Assad, Hasan concludes, “is a war criminal even if he didn’t gas civilians,” and leftists should stop defending him. The journalist, who also works for the Qatari monarchy’s mouthpiece Al Jazeera, then proceeds to recite a litany of charges against Assad, some undeniable, some unproved or unprovable. One gets the impression that he’s peeved that the latest chemical weapons allegations against the Syrian government, ridiculously thin to begin with, and now largely demolished by Robert Fisk’s reporting, have failed to stick.

At one time, where one stood on the political spectrum depended on one’s position on the questions of political, social, and economic equality, on a national and international level. Leftists favored greater equality; conservatives liked the status quo; and reactionaries, including Qatari monarchs, agitated for a return to a world of ascriptive hierarchies based on class, gender and race. The methods political actors used to achieve their goals could be judged as acceptable or deplorable on moral or instrumental grounds, but it was understood that the methods used were not intrinsic to the goals sought.

It was also understood that the circumstances constrained the methods. The methods available to advance a struggle toward growing equality, for example, or in defense of it, differed depending on the strength of the opposition; the likelihood it would yield to violence versus moral suasion; the degree to which supporters could be galvanized to fight and their tolerance for sacrifice, and so on. One could find the methods disagreeable, but if so, there was an expectation that one would suggest realistic alternatives.

Hasan has turned the distinction between goals and methods on its head. In Hasan’s view, leftists are defined not by what they’re trying to achieve, but by the methods they use. Torture, dictatorship, abridgement of civil liberties, warfare that produces collateral civilian casualties—all these things, according to Hasan, are signs of a contra-left political orientation. Thus, he argues, with illogic, that “Bashar al-Assad is not an anti-imperialist of any kind, nor is he a secular bulwark against jihadism; he is a mass murderer, plain and simple.” The illogic is evident in the false dichotomy that lies at the center of his argument. Mass murderer (if indeed Assad can be so characterized) does not exclude anti-imperialist and secular bulwark against jihadism; but in Hasan’s world, mass murderer and secular anti-imperialist are mutually exclusive. They are so to Hasan, because he has transfigured Leftism into the concept of avoiding all choices that have potentially awful consequences.

The beautiful soul retreats from the political struggles of the real world into impotent moral posturing, where no choices are ever made, because the consequences of all choices are awful to one degree or another. Success, then, in any political struggle is transformed from acting on the world to change it into avoiding any step that might have terrible consequences—a recipe for impotence, paralysis and failure. To the beautiful soul, the only leftist political movement that is worthy of support is the one that fails, never the one that comes to power and implements its political program and fights to overcome opposition to it.

To Hasan, the Syrian State’s position on the political spectrum is unrelated to its goals: overcoming sectarian and other divisions in the Arab world, safeguarding Syria’s political independence, and achieving economic sovereignty. Nor does it matter that Damascus is engaged in a struggle against (to use Hasan’s own words) “rapacious U.S. foreign policy”, “Saudi-inspired extremism” and “Israeli opportunism”—in other words, the aggression of conservative and reactionary forces that are more powerful individually to say nothing of collectively than the Syrian State by many orders of magnitude. To the Mahatma, all of these considerations are irrelevant, and all that matters in the evaluation of Assad’s political orientation is whether the methods Damascus has used to defend the gains it has made in the direction of asserting its right to equality and sovereignty are methods that that are suitable to a State in periods of stability, normalcy and safety. It’s as if what Hasan deplores about a war cabinet, for example, is not the war that made the war cabinet necessary, but the very fact that a war cabinet was created in response to it, as if carrying on in the regular manner could somehow make the war go away.

Yet what alternatives might the Syrian government have adopted to face the crisis and emergency that rapacious US foreign policy, Saudi-inspired extremism, and Israeli opportunism inflicted upon it? Even the US constitution makes provision for concentration of authority in the executive branch and abridgement of political and civil liberties under conditions of internal rebellion and threatened invasion. From the mid-1960s forward, if not earlier, Syria has faced permanent crisis and emergency, including an ongoing official state of war with Israel, foreign occupation of its territory (now by the United States and Turkey in addition to Israel), and the fostering of internal rebellion by Western states with imperial ambitions—comparable conditions to those which the architects of the US constitution envisaged would require extraordinary powers for US presidents. Are not comparable powers required for a Syrian president? Any realistic assessment of the challenges Syria faces leads inevitably to the conclusion that harsh and quite disagreeable measures are called for if the Leftist project of defending the equality and sovereignty of Syria within the international network of States is to be achieved against the determined opposition of “rapacious U.S. foreign policy,” “Saudi-inspired extremism” and “Israeli opportunism.”

So, faced with these enormous challenges, what should Assad do? Whatever it is, Hasan can’t say. The best The Intercept writer can do is demand: “Is it the only way you know how to oppose” US, Saudi and Israeli aggression? Well, it does, indeed, appear to be the only way the Syrian government knows how to resist forces many times stronger than itself. But if not this way, then what way? “Should we shoot balloons at the opposition?” Assad once asked another beautiful soul.

In the war against the Axis states, the Allies used torture, summary executions, indiscriminate bombing, confinement of civilians to concentration camps, encroachments on civil liberties, concentration of power in the executive branch, and worse. These methods were clearly disagreeable. And yet, they were the methods chosen to overcome fascism.

It would be wrong to denounce the anti-fascist war as deplorable because some, or indeed many, of its methods, were distasteful–from the virtual dictatorships exercised in Britain and the United States, to the abuse, torture and summary executions of Axis prisoners of war, to sieges and the starving of civilians. And was the Allied countries’ refusal to guarantee the rights of assembly and free expression of Nazi and fascist supporters to be condemned as a human rights violation? Every accusation Hasan makes against Assad he can equally make against Roosevelt’s and Churchill’s conduct in WWII. Curiously (or predictably) he doesn’t, choosing instead to direct his venom at the duo’s ally, Stalin, the only one of the three whose goals were authentically leftist.

The beautiful soul is not of this world. The options available to people who achieve real gains in real world political struggles are rarely simple, and are often ugly and disagreeable to one degree or another. The beautiful soul removes himself from the real world of politics, like the monk retreating from the world into his cell, and thereby avoids having to make choices whose consequences may be regrettable. His politics revolve around denunciations of the choices made by people who act on the world to change it. Few would contest that Hitler’s Nazism, Mussolini’s fascism, and Tojo’s militarism, could have been overcome except by recourse to violence, with all its ugly outcomes, though we can imagine Hasan, the Mahatma, demanding of Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin: “Is war the only way you know how to oppose rapacious Nazism, or Japanese imperialism of Mussolini’s opportunism?” We can also imagine him thundering that “Roosevelt is not an anti-fascist of any kind; he is a mass murderer, plain and simple.”

Leftism is not turning the other cheek, an unqualified commitment to rights of free expression and assembly, or scrupulously observing the rules of war, anymore than it’s the opposite of these things. However much Hasan would have us believe that Assad’s shooting balloons at the opposition would make him an authentic anti-imperialist and genuine secular bulwark against jihadism, the truth of the matter is that that shooting balloons would only make Assad a spectacularly unsuccessful anti-imperialist and a secular sieve rather than secular bulwark against jihadist extremism. The Syrian president is unquestionably an anti-imperialist, a point Hasan, himself, concedes (though he doesn’t seem to know it) when he asks is there no other way to oppose US imperialism? What is an anti-imperialist but one who opposes imperialism? The Syrian president, then, in Hasan’s view is engaged in anti-imperialist opposition—he just doesn’t like Assad’s methods. He can’t, however, suggest any realistic alternatives.

What distinguishes Assad from leaders Hasan doesn’t demonize as mass murderers is that Assad has been forced by an internal rebellion and invasion to invoke police state powers and deploy force to meet the crisis and that other leaders, enjoying conditions of stability and normalcy, have not. Would any leader under comparable circumstances have acted differently? Hasan’s facile analysis inevitably condemns all leaders of any State or movement that has deployed force and killed, as mass murderers, unless they have met two sets of impossible standards: (1) they’ve guaranteed a politically open society in which the rights of free expression and assembly are guaranteed to all, including the opposition, which is thereby allowed to freely organize the government’s demise, and (2) they carry out all armed operations strictly in accordance with the rules of war.

The New York Times once observed that the US military adheres to all laws of war when it can but violates them under circumstances of military necessity, as, for example, in the capture of cities from insurgents who use the civilian population as shields. Hasan condemns the Syrian Arab Army (or rather Assad specifically) for siege and indiscriminate bombing, presumably in connection with the liberation of Aleppo and Eastern Ghouta, measures also employed by US forces in the capture of Raqqa and Mosul. US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis defended the US violations on the grounds that “Civilian casualties are a fact of life in this sort of situation.” (Hasan, predictably, didn’t include Mattis in his demonology; the beautiful soul reserves his most impassioned tirades for figures of the Left.) The only alternative to siege and bombing was to accept the capture of these cities by Islamist insurgents as a fait accompli–hence, to surrender to Saudi-inspired extremism and accept the disintegration of the secular Arab nationalist state and the leftist (i.e., anti-imperialist) values embedded in it.

The argument I’m making here is not one of “whataboutism”, but that the only realistic choices available to a military confronting insurgent forces which capture territory and refuse to allow the civilian population to flee are either (1) siege and bombing, with inevitable civilian casualties, or (2) capitulation. Hasan’s diatribe against Assad is in effect a plea for Syrian surrender, for there is no realistic way the Syrian government can meet the crisis and emergency produced by “rapacious U.S. foreign policy”, “Saudi-inspired extremism” and “Israeli opportunism” but to take measures Hasan and other beautiful souls will shudder at and condemn. Implicit in Hasan’s analysis is the view that the only real world struggles against inequality worthy of support are those that use quixotic methods that guarantee their failure, and hence, facilitate the triumph of movements of exclusion, inequality, oppression and exploitation.

Addendum

Hasan and his coreligionist Eric Draitser, profess not to take sides. Instead, they claim to hover neutrally above the field of battle, siding only with such abstractions as “humanity,” as if humanity does not include contending forces, or, in Draitser’s case, with “the Syrian people”, as if the Syrian people does not include government forces, Islamist insurgents, and Kurdish fighters. Through a verbal sleight of hand they hope to conjure an artificial construct free from competing forces to which they can claim fealty and thereby avoid taking a side. This is a deception, and the position of cowards.

The intellectual predecessors of Hasan, Draitser, and their ilk likewise adopted a position of neutrality in the struggle between slave owners and the slave rebellion, deploring the methods of struggle chosen by both sides, but particularly the violence of the slave rebellion, the necessary condition of the slaves’ emancipation. “If only they could work out their disagreements amicably,” they sighed.

In the 1930s, the neutralists, seeking to hover God-like above the fray, refused to side with either the Communists or Nazis, abhorring the deployment of defensive violence by Communists and Jews against the Nazis who would destroy them.


--
https://gowans.wordpress.com/2018/04/21/mehdi-hasan-beautiful-soul-and-his-diatribe-against-the-consequential-left/

The War in Syria Was a US Intervention Since “Day One″


By Tony Cartalucci
Global Research, April 15, 2018



In the aftermath of US-led missile strikes on Syria, the Western media has attempted to continue building the case for “US intervention.”

However, before the first agitators took to the streets in Syria in 2011, the US was already involved.

The New York Times in its 2011 article, “U.S. Groups Helped Nurture Arab Uprisings,” would admit (emphasis added):

A number of the groups and individuals directly involved in the revolts and reforms sweeping the region, including the April 6 Youth Movement in Egypt, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and grass-roots activists like Entsar Qadhi, a youth leader in Yemen, received training and financing from groups like the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute and Freedom House, a nonprofit human rights organization based in Washington, according to interviews in recent weeks and American diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks.

The work of these groups often provoked tensions between the United States and many Middle Eastern leaders, who frequently complained that their leadership was being undermined, according to the cables.


The financing of agitators from across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) before the so-called “Arab Spring” was meant to stampede targeted governments from power – paving the way for US client states to form. Nations that resisted faced – first, US-backed militants – and failing that, direct US military intervention – as seen in Libya in 2011.

After the US funded initial unrest in 2011 – the US has armed and funded militants fighting in Syria ever since.

The same NYT would publish a 2013 article titled, “Arms Airlift to Syria Rebels Expands, With Aid From C.I.A.,” admitting (emphasis added):

With help from the C.I.A., Arab governments and Turkey have sharply increased their military aid to Syria’s opposition fighters in recent months, expanding a secret airlift of arms and equipment for the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, according to air traffic data, interviews with officials in several countries and the accounts of rebel commanders.

The airlift, which began on a small scale in early 2012 and continued intermittently through last fall, expanded into a steady and much heavier flow late last year, the data shows. It has grown to include more than 160 military cargo flights by Jordanian, Saudi and Qatari military-style cargo planes landing at Esenboga Airport near Ankara, and, to a lesser degree, at other Turkish and Jordanian airports.


As the proxy war the US waged against Damascus began to fail, multiple attempts were made to justify direct US military intervention in Syria as the US and its allies did in 2011 against the Libyan government.

This includes repeated attempts to enforce the “responsibility to protect” doctrine, multiple false-flag chemical attacks beginning with the Ghouta incident in 2013 and the emergence of the so-called “Islamic State” (ISIS) which helped the US justify the deployment of ground troops now currently occupying eastern Syria.

The notion of the US currently “contemplating intervention” in Syria attempts to sidestep the fact that the Syrian conflict itself – from its inception – has been a US intervention.

Long Before “Day 1″

Even before the most recent attempt at US-led regime change in Syria, the US has pursued campaigns of violent subversion aimed at Syria and its allies.

In 2007, veteran journalist Seymour Hersh would write in his article, “The Redirection: Is the Administration’s new policy benefitting our enemies in the war on terrorism?,” that (emphasis added):

To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coƶperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.

Hersh’s words would become prophetic when, in 2011, the US would begin arming and backing militants – many with overt affiliations to Al Qaeda – in a bid to destabilize Syria and overthrow the government in Damascus.

The article would also lay out preparations that – even in 2007 – were clearly aimed at organizing for and executing a wider conflict.

Yet, published CIA documents drawn from the US National Archives illustrate how this singular agenda seeking to overthrow the government of Syria stretches back even earlier – by decades.

A 1983 document signed by former CIA officer Graham Fuller titled, “Bringing Real Muscle to Bear Against Syria” (PDF), states (their emphasis):

Syria at present has a hammerlock on US interests both in Lebanon and in the Gulf — through closure of Iraq’s pipeline thereby threatening Iraqi internationalization of the [Iran-Iraq] war. The US should consider sharply escalating the pressures against Assad [Sr.] through covertly orchestrating simultaneous military threats against Syria from three border states hostile to Syria: Iraq, Israel and Turkey.

The report also states:

If Israel were to increase tensions against Syria simultaneously with an Iraqi initiative, the pressures on Assad would escalate rapidly. A Turkish move would psychologically press him further.

The document exposes both then and now, the amount of influence the US exerts across the Middle East and North Africa. It also undermines the perceived agency of states including Israel and NATO-member Turkey, revealing their subordination to US interests and that actions taken by these states are often done on behalf of Wall Street and Washington rather than on behalf of their own national interests.

Also mentioned in the document are a variety of manufactured pretexts listed to justify a unilateral military strike on northern Syria by Turkey. The document explains:

Turkey has considered undertaking a unilateral military strike against terrorist camps in northern Syria and would not hesitate from using menacing diplomatic language against Syria on these issues.

Comparing this signed and dated 1983 US CIA document to more recent US policy papers and revelations of US funding of so-called activists prior to 2011, reveals not only continuity of agenda – but that attempts to portray the 2011 “uprising” as spontaneous and as merely exploited by the US are disingenuous.

Breaking the Cycle

The current stalemate in Syria is owed to Russia’s involvement in the conflict. This began in 2013 when Moscow brokered a political deal preventing US military intervention then – and again in 2015 when the Russian military – upon Damascus’ request – built up a presence within the nation. Today, it is the threat of Russian retaliation that has hemmed in US options and plunged American special interests into increasing depths of desperation.

The recent missile strikes by the US and its tentative holdings in eastern Syria reflect geopolitical atrophy amid a conflict that was initially aimed at quickly stampeding the Syrian government from power back in 2011.

Washington’s inability to achieve its objectives leave it in an increasingly desperate position – attempting to reassert itself in the region or face the irreversible decline of its so-called “international order.” However, a desperate hegemon in decline is still dangerous.

*

Tony Cartalucci is a Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook” where this article was originally published. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.


Featured image is from the author.
The original source of this article is Global Research
Copyright © Tony Cartalucci, Global Research, 2018

WikiLeaks Secret Cable: "Overthrow The Syrian Regime, But Play Nice With Russia"


by Tyler Durden - 15 April, 2018

Hours after the overnight US-led missile strikes on Syria, WikiLeaks republished a crucially important diplomatic cable through its official media accounts confirming that Saudi Arabia's long term strategy in Syria has been to pursue regime change "by all means available." According to the leaked internal Saudi government document, this is the kingdom's proposed end-goal even should the United States at any point show "lack of desire" due to the threat of Russian response and possibility of a 'great power' confrontation.

With American lawmakers and media pundits already urging President Trump to escalate and sustain attacks against Syria, it must be remembered that close US allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia have long coordinated to create the conditions that might tip the US administration toward full military action resulting in regime change in Damascus. And more recently, fresh off his weeks-long tour of the US, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has both slammed previous proposals of US troop withdrawal in Syria and declared eagerness "to work with allies on any military response in Syria if needed."

It is also essential to recall that the al-Qaeda linked group which originated the claims of a government orchestrated chemical attack on civilians in the Damascus suburb of Douma, called Jaish al Islam (JAI), is and has always been state sponsored by the Saudi regime. The Guardian, among others, reported beginning in 2013 that Saudi Arabia founded and trained the group, spending millions
.

 
.
Secret Saudi cable produced by WikiLeaks: Saudi Arabia "must seek by all means available and all possible ways to overthrow the current regime in Syria" even should the United States at any point show "lack of desire."

Notably, as Russia as well as some Western counter-terror experts continue to point the finger at Jaish al Islam (and the "White Helmets") for staging the Douma "chemical attack" in order to provoke the US military response, it has emerged through past reporting that JAI itself had used chemical weapons against Kurdish militias in Aleppo’s Sheikh Maqsoud district in 2016 (and it appears that the Saudi-backed group openly admitted to carrying out prior chemical attacks according to The Daily Beast).

Given this current context and the continued rapid unfolding of the crisis, the previously leaked 'secret' Saudi memo published by WikiLeaks takes on new significance and meaning: did the Saudis finally trigger their "by any means available" scenario (a 'chemical incident') at a moment when their proxies were collapsing in the face of overwhelming Syrian Army victory?

The below article and translation was originally authored by Brad Hoff in 2016 for WikiLeaks and Foreign Policy Journal, and is used here with permission.

* * *

Secret Intel Memo: Overthrow the Regime “by all means available”


A WikiLeaks cable released as part of “The Saudi Cables” in the summer of 2015, now fully translated here for the first time, reveals what the Saudis feared most in the early years of the war: Russian military intervention and Syrian retaliation. These fears were such that the kingdom directed its media “not to oppose Russian figures and to avoid insulting them” at the time.

Saudi Cable: Overthrow the Syrian Regime, but Play Nice with Russia https://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2016/02/26/newly-translated-wikileaks-saudi-cable-overthrow-the-syrian-regime-but-play-nice-with-russia/ …



Newly Translated WikiLeaks Saudi Cable: Overthrow the Syrian Regime, but Play Nice with Russia |...

Saudi Arabia had further miscalculated that the “Russian position” of preserving the Assad government “will not persist in force.” In Saudi thinking, reflected in the leaked memo, Assad’s violent ouster (“by all means available”) could be pursued so long as Russia stayed on the sidelines.

The following section of the leaked cable is categorical in its emphasis on regime change at all cost, even should the U.S. vacillate for “lack of desire”:

“The fact must be stressed that in the case where the Syrian regime is able to pass through its current crisis in any shape or form, the primary goal that it will pursue is taking revenge on the countries that stood against it, with the Kingdom and some of the countries of the Gulf coming at the top of the list. If we take into account the extent of this regime’s brutality and viciousness and its lack of hesitancy to resort to any means to realize its aims, then the situation will reach a high degree of danger for the Kingdom, which must seek by all means available and all possible ways to overthrow the current regime in Syria. As regards the international position, it is clear that there is a lack of ‘desire’ and not a lack of ‘capability’ on the part of Western countries, chief among them the United States, to take firm steps…”

Amman-based Albawaba News—one of the largest online news providers in the Middle East—was the first to call attention to the WikiLeaks memo, which “reveals Saudi officials saying President Bashar al-Assad must be taken down before he exacts revenge on Saudi Arabia.” Albawaba offered a brief partial translation of the cable, which though undated, was likely produced in early 2012 (based on my best speculation using event references in the text; Russia began proposing informal Syrian peace talks in January 2012).

Russian Hardware, a Saudi Nightmare

Over the past weeks Saudi Arabia has ratcheted up its rhetoric on Syria, threatening direct military escalation and the insertion of special forces on the ground, ostensibly for humanitarian and stabilizing purposes as a willing partner in the “war on terror.” As many pundits are now observing, in reality the kingdom’s saber rattling stems not from confidence, but utter desperation as its proxy anti-Assad fighters face defeat by overwhelming Russian air power and Syrian ground forces, and as the Saudi military itself is increasingly bogged down in Yemen.

Even as the Saudi regime dresses its bellicose rhetoric in humanitarian terms, it ultimately desires to protect the flow of foreign fighters into Northern Syria, which is its still hoped-for “available means” of toppling the Syrian government (or at least, at this point, permanent sectarian partition of Syria).

U.S. State Department Confirmation

The U.S. State Department’s own 2014 Country Report on Terrorism confirms that the rate of foreign terrorist entry into Syria over the past few years is unprecedented among any conflict in history:


“The rate of foreign terrorist fighter travel to Syria–totaling more than 16,000 foreign terrorist fighters from more than 90 countries as of late December–exceeded the rate of foreign terrorist fighters who traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, or Somalia at any point in the last 20 years.”

According to Cinan Siddi, Director of the Institute for Turkish Studies at Georgetown’s prestigious School of Foreign Service, Russian military presence in Syria was born of genuine geopolitical interests. In a public lecture recently given at Baylor University, Siddi said that Russia is fundamentally trying to disrupt the “jihadi corridor” facilitated by Turkey and its allies in Northern Syria.

The below leaked document gives us a glimpse into Saudi motives and fears long before Russian hardware entered the equation, and the degree to which the kingdom utterly failed in assessing Russian red lines.

* * *

A full translation of the text

THE BELOW is an original and authenticated translation of the WikiLeaks file published as part of "The Saudi Cables." Note: the cable as published in the SaudiLeaks trove appears to be incomplete. Its accompanying pages have yet to be located within the massive trove of leaked Arabic documents.

[…] shared interest, and believes that the current Russian position only represents a movement to put pressure on him, its goals being evident, and that this position will not persist in force, given Russia’s ties to interests with Western countries and the countries of the Gulf.

If it pleases Your Highness, I support the idea of entering into a profound dialogue with Russia regarding its position towards Syria*, holding the Second Strategic Conference in Moscow, working to focus the discussion during it on the issue of Syria, and exerting whatever pressure is possible to dissuade it from its current position. I likewise see an opportunity to invite the head of the Committee for International Relations in the Duma to visit the Kingdom. Since it is better to remain in communication with Russia and to direct the media not to oppose Russian figures and to avoid insulting them, so that no harm may come to the interests of the Kingdom, it is possible that the new Russian president will change Russian policy toward Arab countries for the better. However, our position currently in practice, which is to criticize Russian policy toward Syria and its positions that are contrary to our declared principles, remains. It is also advantageous to increase pressure on the Russians by encouraging the Organization of Islamic States to exert some form of pressure by strongly brandishing Islamic public opinion, since Russia fears the Islamic dimension more than the Arab dimension.

In what pertains to the Syrian crisis, the Kingdom is resolute in its position and there is no longer any room to back down. The fact must be stressed that in the case where the Syrian regime is able to pass through its current crisis in any shape or form, the primary goal that it will pursue is taking revenge on the countries that stood against it, with the Kingdom and some of the countries of the Gulf coming at the top of the list. If we take into account the extent of this regime’s brutality and viciousness and its lack of hesitancy to resort to any means to realize its aims, then the situation will reach a high degree of danger for the Kingdom, which must seek by all means available and all possible ways to overthrow the current regime in Syria.

As regards the international position, it is clear that there is a lack of “desire” and not a lack of “capability” on the part of Western countries, chief among them the United States, to take firm steps […]

*[in the Arabic text: Russia, but this is a typo]