conflict zones, latest, Russia, Syria, United States, USA
Comments 13

The Syrian Test of Trump-Putin Accord

By Ray McGovern via Information Clearing House

The U.S. mainstream media remains obsessed over Russia’s alleged “meddling” in last fall’s election, but the real test of bilateral cooperation may come on the cease-fire in Syria, writes ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern.

July 09, 2017 “Information Clearing House” – The immediate prospect for significant improvement in U.S.-Russia relations now depends on something tangible: Will the forces that sabotaged previous ceasefire agreements in Syria succeed in doing so again, all the better to keep alive the “regime change” dreams of the neoconservatives and liberal interventionists?

Or will President Trump succeed where President Obama failed by bringing the U.S. military and intelligence bureaucracies into line behind a cease-fire rather than allowing insubordination to win out?

These are truly life-or-death questions for the Syrian people and could have profound repercussions across Europe, which has been destabilized by the flood of refugees fleeing the horrific violence in the six-year proxy war that has ripped Syria apart.

But you would have little inkling of this important priority from the large page-one headlines Saturday morning in the U.S. mainstream media, which continued its long obsession with the more ephemeral question of whether Russian President Vladimir Putin would confess to the sin of “interference” in the 2016 U.S. election and promise to repent.

Thus, the headlines: “Trump, Putin talk election interference” (Washington Post) and “Trump asks Putin About Meddling During Election” (New York Times). There was also the expected harrumphing from commentators on CNN and MSNBC when Putin dared to deny that Russia had interfered.

In both the big newspapers and on cable news shows, the potential for a ceasefire in southern Syria – set to go into effect on Sunday – got decidedly second billing.

Yet, the key to Putin’s assessment of Donald Trump is whether the U.S. President is strong enough to make the mutually agreed-upon ceasefire stick. As Putin is well aware, to do so Trump will have to take on the same “deep-state” forces that cheerily scuttled similar agreements in the past. In other words, the actuarial tables for this cease-fire are not good; long life for the agreement will take something just short of a miracle.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will have to face down hardliners in both the Pentagon and CIA. Tillerson probably expects that Defense Secretary James “Mad-Dog” Mattis and CIA Director Mike Pompeo will cooperate by ordering their troops and operatives inside Syria to restrain the U.S.-backed “moderate rebels.”

But it remains to be seen if Mattis and Pompeo can control the forces their agencies have unleashed in Syria. If recent history is any guide, it would be folly to rule out another “accidental” U.S. bombing of Syrian government troops or a well-publicized “chemical attack” or some other senseless “war crime” that social media and mainstream media will immediately blame on President Bashar al-Assad.

Bitter Experience

Last fall’s limited ceasefire in Syria, painstakingly worked out over 11 months by Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and approved personally by Presidents Obama and Putin, lasted only five days (from Sept. 12-17) before it was scuttled by “coalition” air strikes on well-known, fixed Syrian army positions, which killed between 64 and 84 Syrian troops and wounded about 100 others.

In public remarks bordering on the insubordinate, senior Pentagon officials a few days before the air attack on Sept. 17, showed unusually open skepticism regarding key aspects of the Kerry-Lavrov agreement – like sharing intelligence with the Russians (an important provision of the deal approved by both Obama and Putin).

The Pentagon’s resistance and the “accidental” bombing of Syrian troops brought these uncharacteristically blunt words from Foreign Minister Lavrov on Russian TV on Sept. 26:

My good friend John Kerry…is under fierce criticism from the U.S. military machine. Despite the fact that, as always, [they] made assurances that the U.S. 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 specifically criticized Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, Gen. Joseph Dunford for telling Congress that he opposed sharing intelligence with Russia despite the fact, as Lavrov put it, “the agreements concluded on direct orders of Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Barack Obama [who] stipulated that they would share intelligence.” Noting this resistance inside the U.S. military bureaucracy, Lavrov added, “It is difficult to work with such partners.”

Putin picked up on the theme of insubordination in an Oct. 27 speech at the Valdai International Discussion Club, in which he openly lamented:

My personal agreements with the President of the United States have not produced results…people in Washington are ready to do everything possible to prevent these agreements from being implemented in practice.”

On Syria, Putin decried the lack of a “common front against terrorism after such lengthy negotiations, enormous effort, and difficult compromises.”

Lavrov’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, meanwhile, even expressed sympathy for Kerry’s quixotic effort, giving him an “A” for effort.after then-Defense Secretary Ashton Carter dispatched U.S. warplanes to provide an early death to the cease-fire so painstakingly worked out by Kerry and Lavrov for almost a year.

For his part, Kerry expressed regret – in words reflecting the hapless hubris befitting the chief envoy of the world’s “only indispensible” country – conceding that he had been unable to “align” all the forces in play.

With the ceasefire in tatters, Kerry publicly complained on Sept. 29, 2016:

Syria is as complicated as anything I’ve ever seen in public life, in the sense that there are probably about six wars or so going on at the same time – Kurd against Kurd, Kurd against Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Sunni, Shia, everybody against ISIL, people against Assad, Nusra [Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate]. This is as mixed-up sectarian and civil war and strategic and proxies, so it’s very, very difficult to be able to align forces.”

Admitting Deep-State Pre-eminence

Only in December 2016, in an interview with Matt Viser of the Boston Globe, did Kerry admit that his efforts to deal with the Russians had been thwarted by then-Defense Secretary Ashton Carter – as well as all those forces he found so difficult to align.

“Unfortunately we had divisions within our own ranks that made the implementation [of the ceasefire agreement] extremely hard to accomplish,” Kerry said. “But it…could have worked…The fact is we had an agreement with Russia…a joint cooperative effort.

“Now we had people in our government who were bitterly opposed to doing that,” he said. “I regret that. I think that was a mistake. I think you’d have a different situation there conceivably now if we’d been able to do that.”

The Globe’s Viser described Kerry as frustrated. Indeed, it was a tough way for Kerry to end nearly 34 years in public office.

After Friday’s discussions with President Trump, Kremlin eyes will be focused on Secretary of State Tillerson, watching to see if he has better luck than Kerry did in getting Ashton Carter’s successor, James “Mad Dog” Mattis and CIA’s latest captive-director Pompeo into line behind what President Trump wants to do.

As the new U.S.-Russia agreed-upon ceasefire goes into effect on Sunday, Putin will be eager to see if this time Trump, unlike Obama, can make a ceasefire in Syria stick; or whether, like Obama, Trump will be unable to prevent it from being sabotaged by Washington’s deep-state actors.

The proof will be in the pudding and, clearly, much depends on what happens in the next few weeks. At this point, it will take a leap of faith on Putin’s part to have much confidence that the ceasefire will hold.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. As a CIA analyst for 27 years, he led the Soviet Foreign Policy Branch and, during President Ronald Reagan’s first term, conducted the early morning briefings with the President’s Daily Brief. He now serves on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).
This article was first published by Consortium News

13 Comments

  1. When McGovern quoted Kerry – who, I note, he never criticizes – talking about a “mixed-up sectarian and civil war,” I thought he was going to point out the error in Kerry’s establishment thinking. That he didn’t disappoints me greatly.

    Stephen Gowans, author of “Washington’s Long War On Syria” gives us some important background information on all of this. But even without the benefit of Gowan’s research and reportage, I thought we on the Left all agreed that there is no civil war in Syria. As for sectarian, If by sectarian Kerry means that different sects are as against Bashar al-Assad as he is against them, then it may be worth pointing out that there was an effort to manufacture that very idea. Gowan’s writes, on page 31:

    === =
    …the fact that many top-level positions in the state’s security apparatus were taken over by Assad’s closest friends and relatives proved to be a boon to the Muslim Brothers, and a great weakness for Assad’s government, for it allowed the Brothers to appeal to the Sunni majority by propagating the myth that the new government was an instrument of Alawite rule, guided by a sectarian agenda. Accusing the Ba’ath Party of being an instrument of the Alawite community was tantamount to accusing the mid-twentieth century U.S. Communist Party of pursuing a Jewish agenda because Jews were over-represented in the party relative to their numbers in the U.S. population.

    The myth that the Assad governments, both those of Hafez and Bashar, were sectarian, persisted for decades, and the myth’s longevity was due in no small part to its political utility to Washington and its Sunni Islamist allies. The myth was insinuated into the journalism of North America and Western Europe where it was often used to frame the U.S. war on Bashar al-Assad’s Syria as a sectarian civil conflict pursued by a state captured by an Alawite minority to advance its sectarian interests at the expense of the Sunni majority.”
    = ===

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  2. Will we ever see a new site here? I posted a short comment, sans links and nada. When I tried again, on a different computer (which often works), I got a msg saying that it looks like a duplicate post. A duplicate of something not visible?

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    • 4th try, in two parts
      part 1:

      When McGovern quoted Kerry – who, I note, he never criticizes – talking about a “mixed-up sectarian and civil war,” I thought he was going to point out the error in Kerry’s establishment thinking. That he didn’t disappoints me greatly.

      Stephen Gowans, author of “Washington’s Long War O Syria” gives us some important background information on all of this. But even without the benefit of Gowan’s research and reportage, I thought we on the Left all agreed that there is no civil war in Syria. As for sectarian, If by sectarian Kerry means that different sects are as against Bashar al-Assad as he is against them, then it may be worth pointing out that there was an effort to manufacture that very idea. Gowan’s writes, on page 31:

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      • Well, two parts won’t work. Let’s try 3. Here’s 2 of 3:

        “…the fact that many top-level positions in the state’s security apparatus were taken over by Assad’s closest friends and relatives proved to be a boon to the Muslim Brothers, and a great weakness for Assad’s government, for it allowed the Brothers to appeal to the Sunni majority by propagating the myth that the new government was an instrument of Alawite rule, guided by a sectarian agenda. Accusing the Ba’ath Party of being an instrument of the Alawite community was tantamount to accusing the mid-twentieth century U.S. Communist Party of pursuing a Jewish agenda because Jews were over-represented in the party relative to their numbers in the U.S. population.”

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        • And the msg “awaiting moderation” (supposing it’s meaningful) needs to show before I make a mess posting all of this stuff, not after, which it did.

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  3. Alan says

    The US administration, it’s paid for mercenaries and it’s so called coalition are an invading force. An invader imposes peace, they don’t negotiate. The article implies the invader has some validity within a peace process. The big problem for Syria and the rest of us is once the US gets a foothold, you just can’t get rid of them.

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  4. Anonymous says

    There is no ceasefire. That is a typically deceptive US invention. Russia and the US agreed over a de-escalation zone – a subtly different thing altogether. Whilst the details are no published, based on the events leading up too it, I would imagime it went along the lines of – if the US keeps escalating in the south west, Russian troops assisting the SAA will be killed and then Russia will shot down US planes. Does the USAF want that? Subsequently, the US has pulled out and moved to al Sahdadi in the Kurdish zone. The SAA and allies are now sweeping up the area.

    Israel will do what it does – ignore all agreements and continue supporting its terrorists, but at they are strategically insignificant. They are just drama queens, who only strategy is to distract from the main event. They only win when people are suckered into doing what the ZIonists want.

    In the long term, unlike the women and child killing IDF, the SAA will be battle hardened and will have some form of S-300/S-400 export system, along with short range air defense systems. Then Israel can be dealt with.

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    • BigB says

      Funnily enough, Avigdor Lieberman just said the same. The thing is the SAA and partners are limited in resources. The so called ‘ceasefire’ allows them to make gains elsewhere – like in E Damascus. They need to get to Dier ez-Zor, just in case Daesh manage to take it for the US (which they haven’t been able to do for two years, but still they threaten.) Raqqa is being illegally occupied and turned into a Coalition Forward Operating Base as we speak. The IDF are playing a deliberate and tactical game of chicken over the Golan. The SAA could easily shoot down the IDF… which is EXACTLY what they want… So the SAA and allies refuse to be “suckered into doing what the ZIonists want.” Good for them, they’ve got enough to deal with without a full scale Israeli invasion. Or even WW3!

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  5. BigB says

    Russian reset: or just buying time?

    In Syria, the US have talked of bi-lateral NFZs: whilst furtively stealing sovereign ground, blatantly mocking International Law, even making a fool of their own lapdog – the UN – to create illegal airstrips???

    The ceasefire in the SW has held since Sunday – but it does not include the Israelis [UK Column] The US view of a ceasefire is to consolidate, recuperate, and resupply. When the ‘Coalition Partners’ are ready, Al Qaeda’s airforce (the IDF) will start the re-engagement… Or are they just maintaining a buffer zone for the Golan?

    Heather Nauert has let the cat out of the bag that the legal government of Syria will not be allowed to re-occupy Raqqa. When asked did she think that terrorists would stage a possible chemical attack in response to the ‘red line’ gauntlet, thrown down by the West – she said “No.” So she’s a pathological liar then. Like her boss: whoever he or she may be.

    So the US are only going to cede ground to an illegal occupying force [SDF], but Assad can stay, and everything will be hunky dory??? How do you build trust on such exceptional arrogance? As they used to say in the movies: “[the] Orange Man speaks with forked tongue.” Still, he’s not the one in charge. In Syria at least, Putin is.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I totally agree.

      As Ray McGovern points out, “Last fall’s limited ceasefire in Syria, painstakingly worked out over 11 months by Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and approved personally by Presidents Obama and Putin, lasted only five days (from Sept. 12-17)” ..!

      I could not help but notice Lavrov’s face in the meeting with Trump and Putin, his expression of frustration.

      Yes, he’s been here so many times.

      As a general rule of thumb, I believe, if you make an agreement you might have to revisit it a second time to correct/iron out problems. If you have to revisit it a third time the other party is not serious, either they are not listening to you or they don’t have the authority to implement it.

      I guess Sergey Lavrov must be at that third point.

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      • BigB says

        Interesting point you pick up on… “Last fall’s limited ceasefire in Syria…” McGovern is understandably diplomatic with the truth – the ceasefire was deliberately shattered by a war crime – the US-UK-Denmark-Australian bombing of Dier ez-Zor. It’s worth noting that Lavrov blamed Joint Chiefs of Staff Dunceford – who is still in post.

        Interesting G20: I’m pretty sure I saw Putin and Lavrov wince at some of the things the Donald said – he shoots from the hip. Other than that, the Russians were very statesmanlike, as you would expect, and made all the right noises about about possible rapprochement. I couldn’t help but feel that Putin in particular, didn’t have his heart in it. He knows what NATO is up to – containment and probing for wedge issues – like North Korea and Iran…

        Liked by 1 person

  6. rehmat1 says

    I admire Ray McGovern for his courageous stand over the Freedom of Speech which is mostly non-exist if it’s something carries a message which the Jewish Lobby doesn’t agree. On February 15, 2011. Ray, was punched and thrown-out of a conference where Hillary Clinton was lecturing on Freedom of Speech. Ray told his experience in an interview he gave to Iran’s Press TV (read below).

    I agree with Ray that the said ceasefire like the previous ones, or peace in the region will never happen until the Zionist Mafia’s the doctrine of “regime change” doesn’t materialized in Damascus which is based on installing a pro-Israel regime in Damascus which take dictations from Washington and distance itself from the ‘Axis of Resistance’ (Syria-Iran-Iraq-Hizbullah).

    There is no denying of the fact that ‘Love of Israel’ bonds Trump and Putin together. The regime change is an ‘Israeli Project’ since July 2011 when a meeting was organized by La Regle du Jeu (The Rule of the Game) magazine and website which is headed by Zionist Jew Bernard-Henri Levy. The other Zionist Jews who attended the meeting included Bernard Kouchner, former French foreign minister, Frederik Ansel, a member of Israel’s ruling Likud Party, Alex Goldfarb, former Knesset member and adviser to Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak and Andre Glucksmann, an Islamophobe French writer.

    https://rehmat1.com/2011/02/19/freedom-of-speech-us-vs-iran/

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