Washington D.C. May 20th, 2019. President Donald Trump received a letter signed by nearly 400 members across both houses of congress urging him to remain in action in Syria. Far from being the anti-war representatives as it was with Vietnam during the 1960’s and 70’s, hundreds of signatures belonged to senior democrats and ranking committee members of both parties.
In December, Trump spoke from an Iraq military base saying: “America shouldn’t be doing the fighting for every nation on earth”. He announced that he would be pulling all troops out of Syria, but has since capitulated to pressure from his foreign policy and military advisers who want the United States to remain engaged.
Former Secretary of Defense James Mattis resigned following the announcement, citing policy differences.
This came after the declaration that ISIS forces in Syria had been defeated, a key reason for initial U.S. involvement in the country. However the war in Syria has been six-of-one, half-a-dozen of the other in terms of stated objectives and sworn enemies.
For example, under presidential authority, the Obama administration funneled weapons through their Sunni allies – Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the UAE, to help arm jihadists attempting to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, including Al Nusra, and more shockingly, the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks themselves, Al-Qaeda.
U.S. Congresswoman from Hawaii and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard, explained after visiting the country and meeting with Assad, that not only are we directly and indirectly supporting Al-Qaeda, but that the Obama administration are willing to continue doing so if it means maintaining regime-change plans.
Among the flurry of explanations for were perhaps more reasonable goals such as ending Assad’s persecution of civilians and defeating ISIS, to much-less related topics such as fighting against Russian and Iranian influence in the region, and outright regime-change.
The War Parties
Without recommending any significant policy decisions, the letter speaks in warnings about the U.S. leaving “pockets of ungoverned space,” where terrorist groups can launch attacks against “U.S. partners and interests”.
As normal, it cites the danger of leaving the door open for the fellow Shi’ite nation of Iran to pour influence over the war-ravaged country. “The region has been destabilized by Iran’s threatening behavior,” says the letter.
However, it would be difficult to argue that any policy pursued by Iran in Syria has been more destabilizing to the region than American attempts at overthrowing the standing government which have included direct airstrikes against the sovereign military of Syria, asking the CIA to arm half a dozen rebel groups while ordering American special forces to train them, waging an entirely separate conflict against ISIS, borne and equipped by the U.S. military in the wake of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, supporting the dissenting Kurdish populations, and encouraging Israel to take every possible measure to defend itself, even if it means outward aggression.
“At a time of grave uncertainty in the Middle-East, we are deeply concerned about the role terrorist and extremist groups and U.S. adversaries continue to play, particularly in Syria,” reads the letter’s opening statement. If ISIS has been defeated, who are the almost 400 congressmen and women worried about? Perhaps ironically, they talk of the Syrian rebels the United States has armed.
Finally the first page of the letter moves to the topic of Israel’s ever-expanding right to defend itself. It talks of attempts to build a cemented Iranian military presence in the country, and of an Iranian drone infiltrating Israeli airspace.
“Additionally, Iran continues to pursue its program to develop a direct overland route from Iran to Lebanon,” says the letter, concluding the first page with a condemnation and warning of Iran’s reckless destabilization of the region.
It seems difficult to use a “direct overland route,” that is to say, “a road,” as a casus belli, but perhaps such fears typify the murky waters of this conflict’s purpose and direction.
While previous allegations of chemical weapon attacks against civilians have gone unsubstantiated, a recent leak has shown that independent chemical engineers and weapons experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) who went to examine the Douma chemical attack of April 2018 came to a wildly-different conclusion than the official OPCW story.
The U.S. UK, and French air strikes against Syrian air capabilities was justified by the report that two cylinders of poison gas were dropped on Syrian air forces on the town of Douma.
“The dimensions, characteristics and appearance of the cylinders, and the surrounding scene of the incidents, were inconsistent with what would have been expected in the case of either cylinder being delivered from an aircraft,” states the report
“In each case the alternative hypothesis produced the only plausible explanation for observations at the scene.” “Taken together, these findings establish beyond reasonable doubt that the alleged chemical attack in Douma on 7 April 2018 was staged,” concluded the report.
In a sinister turn, this report was not destined to reach the light of day, and is only available to the public after it was leaked by an inside source. OPCW seemed quite content to conclude that Syrian air forces had in fact carried out the chemical weapon attacks, and snuff the independent report for good.