The U.S. Role in the Destruction of Syria

By David Ray Griffin

(Excerpt from Chapter 6, "Global Chaos," of Bush and Cheney: How They Ruined America and the World [Interlink Books, 2017])

April 20, 2018 "Information Clearing House" - In Syria, the goal of creating chaos has succeeded in spades. Mnar Muhawesh wrote: [F]oreign powers have sunk the nation into a nightmare combination of civil war, foreign invasion and terrorism. Syrians are in the impossible position of having to choose between living in a warzone, being targeted by groups like ISIS and the Syrian government’s brutal crack- down, or faring dangerous waters with minimal safety equipment only to be denied food, water and safety by European governments if they reach shore.

Of course, many Syrians were unable, or chose not to try, to reach Europe. Continuing her discussion of the refugee crisis created by the destabilization of Syria, Muhawesh added:

Other Syrians seeing the chaos at home have turned to neighboring Arab Muslim countries. Jordan alone has absorbed over half a million Syrian refugees; Lebanon has accepted nearly 1.5 million; and Iraq and Egypt have taken in several hundred thousand. . . . Turkey has [by 2015] taken in nearly 2 million refugees.55

By the end of 2015, the conflict in Syria had “displaced 12 million people, creating the largest wave of refugees to hit Europe since World War II.”56

Planning to Destabilize Syria

Some neocons had come into office with preformed ideas about destabilizing Syria. As mentioned earlier, Richard Perle and other neocons had prepared a 1996 paper for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, en- titled “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm.” It suggested that Israel seek peace with some neighbors while beginning to topple the regimes of its enemies, especially Iraq, Iran, and Syria. Although regime change in Iraq would be the first goal, it would be achieved primarily for the sake of “weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria,” ultimately overthrowing Bashar al-Assad. In other words, the road to Damascus would run through Baghdad.57

When Bush and Cheney took control of the White House, a new largely neocon document, “Navigating through Turbulence: America and the Middle East in a New Century,” had the same message: “ e two main targets” of the new administration, the document said, “should be Syria and Iraq.”58 In 2001, a week after the 9/11 attacks, 40 members of the Project for the New American Century, led by Bill Kristol, wrote a letter to President Bush saying:

We believe the administration should demand that Syria and Iran immediately cease all military, financial and political support for Hizbollah [sic] and its operations. Should Iran and Syria refuse to comply, the Administration should consider appropriate measures of retaliation against these known state sponsors of terrorism.59

A few months later, Assistant Secretary of State John Bolton accused Syria of developing chemical and biological weapons and warned Damascus that it might be included in the “axis of evil.” Shortly thereafter, the State Department declared Syria to be a sponsor of terrorism, after which Congress made most US dealings with Syria illegal.60

The Bush-Cheney Hostility to Syria

The Bush-Cheney administration was hostile to Syria partly because Israel was hostile to Syria, and especially to its president, Bashar al-Assad. Syria had opposed Israel and especially Zionism; Syria had been aligned with Iran, which Israel considers its major threat.
More generally, Assad is an Alawite, which is a branch of Shiite Islam, and Assad has been viewed as, said Parry, the centerpiece of the “Shiite crescent” stretching from Iran through Iraq and Syria to Lebanon. Since Israeli leaders (and thus the American neocons) see Iran as Israel’s greatest enemy, the goal of collapsing the “Shiite crescent” has concentrated on bringing down Assad.61

More particularly, Israel has been hostile to Syria because it had sup- ported Lebanon’s paramilitary fighting force, Hezbollah, which defeated Israel militarily in 2006; and although Israel in the 1967 war took Syria’s Golan Heights—which now provides 15 percent of Israel’s water—Syria wants it back. More generally, Syria, with the assistance of Hezbollah, had prevented Israel from realizing its goal of taking control of land that, it claims, belongs to it by divine right.

There have been, in addition, several other reasons for the US hostility to Syria, Assad in particular. An overarching one is that Syria has remained independent of the US-dominated global order. For example, Syria has its own state-owned bank and has no IMF loans through which it could be ordered around. And Syria has refused to be included within the American empire. The document “Navigating through Turbulence” complained that “[m]aintaining a strong alliance with Israel” had not prevented “every state on Israel’s border, except Syria, from accepting America as their principal source of military aid and matériel.”62

As to why Syria did not want to be absorbed into the American empire: American politicians and media do not remind the world that four years before the CIA overthrew Iran’s elected government in 1953, it had over- thrown Syria’s government for the same reason—the price of oil.63

For a variety of reasons, “ousting the Assad dynasty,” said Parry, had been “a top neocon/Israeli goal since the 1990s,” so the Bush-Cheney administration was from the beginning intent on destabilizing Syria. In 2002, Under-Secretary of State John Bolton named Syria as one of the “rogue states” that “can expect to become our targets.”64

Knowing how he was regarded, Assad made many attempts to develop better relations. In 2004, Assad started secret peace talks in Turkey with Israel, offering what Israel’s leading newspaper called “a far reaching and equitable peace treaty that would provide for Israel’s security.”65

Although the talks were supported by a large number of senior Israelis, “the Bush administration nixed them”— not surprisingly, because Cheney was “an implacable opponent of engagement with Syria.”66 In 2007, the Bush-Cheney administration, discussing “a new strategic alignment in the Middle East,” distinguished between “reformers” and “extremists,” placing Syria, along with Iran and Hezbollah, in the latter category. According to Seymour Hersh’s 2007 article “The Redirection,” the US participated in clandestine operations aimed at Syria as well as Iran.67

Information about what went on behind the scenes in the Bush-Cheney administration has been provided by WikiLeaks, which had obtained the cables of William Roebuck, the political counselor for the US Embassy in Damascus. These cables are discussed by Robert Naiman in a chapter of Julian Assange’s The WikiLeaks Files, entitled “WikiLeaks Reveals How the US Aggressively Pursued Regime Change in Syria, Igniting a Bloodbath.” Roebuck’s cables show, according to Naiman, that regime change had been a long-standing goal of US policy; [and] that the US promoted sectarianism in support of its regime-change policy, thus helping lay the foundation for the sectarian civil war and massive bloodshed that we see in Syria today.68

Some commentators today suggest that the US hostility to Assad began with his brutal response to the Arab Spring protests in 2011. However, “as far back as 2006— five years before ‘Arab Spring’ protests in Syria,” reported Naiman, the cables show that “destabilizing the Syrian government was a central motivation of US policy,” and Roebuck’s cables suggested strategies for doing this. Accordingly, said Naiman:
We are told in the West that the current efforts to topple the Syrian government by force were a reaction to the Syrian government’s repression of dissent in 2011, but now we know that “regime change” was the policy of the US and its allies ve years earlier.

According to these cables, Naiman summarized, the top US diplomat in Syria believed that the goal of US policy in Syria should be to destabilize the Syrian government by any means available; that the US should work to increase Sunni-Shia sectarianism in Syria. . . ; the US should try to strain relations between the Syrian government and other Arab governments, and then blame Syria for the strain; that the US should seek to stoke Syrian government fears of coup plots in order to provoke the Syrian government to overreact. . . ; the US should work to undermine Syrian economic reforms and discourage foreign investment; that the US should seek to foster the belief that the Syrian government was not legitimate; that violent protests in Syria were praiseworthy.69

The 2011 Protests and the Obama Administration

The Obama administration publicly gave the same reason for hostility to Assad, namely, his excessive reaction to the 2011 uprising against him— a reaction that led to major protests, which soon turned into a civil war between Assad and rebel forces.
The Need for a Balanced View: However, that was a very limited understanding of the events: The conflict resulted from a complex interplay of factors, some of which were Assad’s fault, some of which were not. One of the factors that was not his fault was the beginning in 2006 of a drought in Syria, which some climate scientists said to be the worst in 900 years; other scientists even call it the worst since agricultural civilization began many thousands of years ago.70 Describing the context for the war, William Polk wrote:

In some areas, all agriculture ceased. In others crop failures reached 75%. And generally as much as 85% of livestock died of thirst or hunger. Hundreds of thousands of Syria’s farmers gave up, abandoned their farms and ed to the cities and towns in search of almost non-existent jobs and severely short food supplies. Outside observers including UN experts estimated that between 2 and 3 million of Syria’s 10 million rural inhabit- ants were reduced to “extreme poverty.”

Also, added Polk, “hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and Iraqis had in previous years taken refuge there, so that the new Syrian refugees had to compete with them for jobs, water, and food.”71

By 2008, the representative of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization had described the situation as “a perfect storm,” which threatened Syria with “social destruction.”72

However, Assad made the effects of the drought worse by poor governance. Central to this was what Francesco Femia and Caitlin Werrell called criminal mismanagement of Syria’s natural resources, which contributed to water shortages for farmers. Favoring the big farmers over the poor farming communities, Assad’s regime subsidized wheat and cotton, which are water-intensive, and it also allowed unsustainable farming and irrigation techniques. It even allowed the big farmers to take all the water they wanted from the aquifer (although this was illegal), while the government’s wasteful use of water also meant that rural people needed to drill for water, thereby emptying the aquifers. Moreover, Assad gave no aid to the increas- ingly poor farmers, and even raised their expenses: While subsidizing the wheat and cotton farmers, Assad damaged ordinary farmers by cutting subsidies for diesel and fertilizers.73

Because of the severe drought and Assad’s mismanagement, almost a million people, having lost their livelihoods by 2009, were forced to move to the slums, and many more were to follow. By 2011, about a million people had insufficient food. There is little room for doubt, therefore, that the beginnings of the Syrian opposition movement were originally rooted in Assad’s own destructive policies (in conjunction with the drought).74

An important factor in this insufficient food supply was another feature of criminal mismanagement: “Lured by the high price of wheat on the world market, it sold its reserves.” Accordingly, Polk said:

[T]ens of thousands of frightened, angry, hungry and impoverished former farmers constituted a ‘tinder’ that was ready to catch fire. The spark was struck on March 15, 2011, when a relatively small group gathered in the town of Dara’a to protest against government failure to help them.75

The protest in Dara’a began after a group of children had “painted some anti-government graffiti on a school wall” and then were arrested and tortured by city police. Some protesters were shot. This excessive response by the government led to protests in the city. Assad made several attempts to calm the situation: He fired government and security officials for their roles in the overreaction; he assured the residents that the shooters would be prosecuted; and he announced several national reforms. But his response did not satisfy the protestors and they continued destroying property and attacking police and soldiers. Dara’a was declared a “liberated zone.” And the protests spread to other towns.76 But why did the protests turn violent?

The Turn of Violence: The standard portrayal of the protest movement, summarized independent researcher Jonathan Marshall, was that “the protest movement in Syria was overwhelmingly peaceful until September 2011.”77 The Syria government rejected this view from the beginning, but its claim was long dismissed. But Marshall has provided evidence that the government’s view was essentially correct on this point. In an essay entitled “Hidden Origins of Syria’s Civil War,” Marshall said, “opposition to the government had turned violent almost from the start.” For example, unknown gunmen in Dara’a reportedly killed 19 Syrians; in addition “nine Syrian soldiers on their way to quell demonstrations in Banyas were ambushed and gunned down on the highway outside of town.”78

Professor Joshua Landis, the head of Center for the Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, reported that video footage of the fighting showed that the government account was correct: “the soldiers stationed in the town were overrun by armed and organized opposition.”79

The protests in other towns also involved armed men. In one city, about 140 members of the police and security forces were massacred. But media largely ignored this side of the story. After studying the protests and the press’s coverage of them, Landis concluded: “Western press and analysts did not want to recognize that armed elements were becoming active. They preferred to tell a simple story of good people fighting bad people.”80

It is important to recognize that this method of setting up a leader to be overthrown was an oft-repeated modus operandi by the US govern- ment. Besides being used in Libya as well as Syria, it was previously used in the 1990s, recalled William Engdahl, when the Bill Clinton administration wanted to split up Yugoslavia into its six republics. Making a deal with Bosnia to start a war with Serbia, the Washington propaganda machine began demonizing the Serbs as Nazis, and made up fake stories claiming that they not only bombed civilians and hospitals but also raped thousands of Muslim women.81

In any case, at some point the Syrian government cracked down ruth- lessly on the protestors, and several hundred protestors were reportedly killed. But even here it appears that the press, as well as giving a one-sided account, exaggerated. The private intelligence firm Stratfor, sometimes called the “Private CIA,” warned their clients not to be misled by opposition propaganda. “Although it is certain that protesters and civilians are being killed,” said Stratfor, “there is little evidence of massive brutality compared to . . . other state crackdowns in the region.”82
Some human rights organizations also, pointed out Jonathan Marshall, acknowledged that armed opposition forces had begun committing crimes against civilians.

For example:
Human Rights Watch sent an “open letter” to leaders of the Syrian opposition, decrying “crimes and other abuses committed by armed opposition elements,” including the kidnapping and detention of government supporters, the use of torture and the execution of security force members and civilians, and sectarian attacks against Shias and Alawites.83

Not incidentally, this same pattern—armed elements joining a largely peaceful protest and shooting police as well as civilians—would occur with the protest leading to the coup d’etat in Ukraine as discussed in Chapter 9. In fact, said Engdahl,
Washington’s Arab Spring protests often used secret CIA and mercenary snipers to enflame and anger the population against their government by creating innocent martyrs and blaming the killings on the regime.84

Accordingly, the beginning of the opposition was due not only to the drought, Assad’s mismanagement of the country’s natural resources, his foolish and immoral responses to the drought, and his neo-liberal economic policies. The 2011 violence did begin with the Assad regime’s brutal response to the protests, but this response was stimulated by armed elements. Accordingly, whereas Western propaganda has portrayed Assad as almost uniquely evil, said Marshall, “the deadly provocations against Syrian government forces put an entirely different cast on the origins of the conflict.”85

In sum, the Obama administration’s interpretation of the origins of the anti-Assad movement was one-sided to the point of being false.
US Contributions to the anti-Assad War: An adequate understanding of the war in Syria requires an expanded discussion of the role played by the United States. Some of this role was played by the Bush-Cheney administration.

In 2008, that administration withdrew its ambassador from Damascus as part of an effort to weaken and isolate Assad.86 It also played a role in the Assad regime’s failure to prevent the drought from resulting in so much social destruction. In November 2008, the representative of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in Syria appealed to USAID for assistance, noting that Syria’s minister of agriculture said that the economic and social fallout from the drought was “beyond our capacity as a country to deal with.” However, the Bush-Cheney USAID director said (in a cable that was later published by WikiLeaks), “we question whether limited USG resources should be directed toward this appeal at this time.”87

More generally, as pointed out above, the Bush-Cheney administration had begun talking about how to destabilize Syria, such as undermining its attempts at economic reform, toward the goal of bringing about regime change.

But the actual beginning of the war in Syria occurred during the Obama administration. His administration made part of its contribution to the war by its false interpretation of the origins of the anti-Assad movement—by saying that that the civil war arose out of a spontaneous and peaceful uprising against Assad. But like Marshall, Muhawesh said that it was not entirely spontaneous: Wikileaks cables “reveal CIA involvement on the grounds in Syria to instigate these very demonstrations as early as March 2011.”88 That is, of course, what should be expected, given Naiman’s report of the Wikileaks cables during the Bush-Cheney administration about ways to destabilize Syria.
Robert Parry also agreed with Marshall’s account of the instigation of violence: “Since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011,” wrote Parry,
the powerful role of Al Qaeda and its spinoff, the Islamic State, has been a hidden or downplayed element of the narrative that has been sold to the American people. at storyline holds that the war began when “peaceful” protesters were brutally repressed by Syria’s police and military, but that version deletes the fact that extremists, some linked to Al Qaeda, began killing police and soldiers almost from the outset.89

The Number of Protesters

Another issue raised by Muhawesh relates to the reports by major media outlets, such as the BBC and the Associated Press, that “the demonstrations that supposedly swept Syria were comprised of only hundreds of people.” Writing in 2015, she asked:
How did demonstrations held by “hundreds” of protesters demanding economic change in Syria four years ago devolve into a deadly sectarian civil war, fanning the flames of extremism haunting the world today and creating the world’s second largest refugee crisis?

She replied:
Just a few months into the demonstrations which now consisted of hundreds of armed protesters with CIA ties, demonstrations grew larger, armed non-Syrian rebel groups swarmed into Syria, and a severe government crackdown swept through the country to deter this foreign meddling. It became evident that the United States, United Kingdom, France, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey would be jumping on the opportunity to organize, arm and finance rebels to form the Free Syrian Army as outlined in the State Department plans to destabilize Syria.90
In other words, without the intervention of the United States and other countries, the protestations could have never turned into a civil war.
Regarding the Free Syrian Army, the BBC said that by 2013 there were “believed to be as many as 1,000 armed opposition groups in Syria, commanding an estimated 100,000 fighters.”91 The most powerful of these groups were ISIS and al-Qaeda’s al-Nusra Front (which had joined ISIS only briefly). Can anyone say that Assad did not have the right to defend his democratically-elected government against these outside forces?92

As for the United States in particular, its CIA started sending large shipments of weapons by 2012. “The CIA,” reported Seymour Hersh, “was responsible for getting arms from Gaddafi’s arsenals into Syria.”93 In fact, Chris Stevens, who had become the American ambassador in Libya, was killed in Benghazi after he had come there to negotiate a transfer of several hundred tons of Gaddafi’s weapons to Syria. In what Hersh called a “rat line,” these weapons were sent from Libya to Syria via southern Turkey, in an operation headed by General David Petraeus, the then-director of the CIA, under the supervision of Secretary Clinton. Indeed, the “consulate” where Stevens was killed was really only a mission, which existed merely “to provide cover for the moving of arms,” according to a former intelligence officer.94

In 2013, during a Congressional investigation of the Benghazi attack, Clinton swore under oath that she knew nothing about the weapons shipments to Syrian rebels prior to the attack. But in 2015, Judicial Watch obtained previously classified documents from the State Department and DOD that provided the first official confirmation that the US government knew about the shipments of arms from Benghazi to Syria.95

In 2016, moreover, Julian Assange reported that Clinton’s claim was disproven by 1,700 hacked emails about Libya in Wikileaks’ Hillary Clinton collection. These emails included, said Assange, proof that Clinton pushed for weapons to be sent to “jihadists within Syria, including ISIS.”96 This would seem to mean that she had lied under oath.

In any case, the CIA, beginning in 2012, spent $1 billion a year and trained some 10,000 “moderate” rebel forces.97 This was done in spite of the fact that then-DIA director Michael Flynn, reported Hersh, “had sent a constant stream of classified warnings to the civilian leadership about the dire consequences of toppling Assad. The jihadists, he said, were in control of the opposition.” His reports, Flynn told Hersh, “got enormous pushback” from the Obama administration. “I felt,” said Flynn, “that they did not want to hear the truth.” The Joint Chiefs of Staff likewise believed, reported one of their advisors, “that Assad should not be replaced by fundamentalists.”98

Indeed, the idea that the United States and its allies were funding only moderate rebels—ones who were fighting both against Assad and the al- Qaeda jihadists—was increasingly regarded as a myth. Many observers provided evidence that there were now no moderate rebels in Syria.99
In fact, Vice President Biden admitted this. Saying that America had been trying to identify a moderate middle for a long time, he added:
[T]he idea of identifying a moderate middle has been a chase America has been engaged in for a long time. The fact of the matter is . . . there was no moderate middle, because the moderate middle are made up of shopkeepers, not soldiers.100

Admitting that the jihadists had been armed by America’s allies, Biden went on to say that America’s “allies in the region were our largest problem in Syria.” Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, he explained, had “poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens, thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad.” The result, Biden added, was that “the people who were being supplied were Al Nusra and Al Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world.” Biden thereby contradicted the Obama administration’s public posture, according to which, in Secretary Kerry’s words, armed “legitimate opposition groups” exist separately from Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front.101 (Gareth Porter called this “Obama’s ‘Moderate’ Syrian Deception.”102)

The administration’s claim, that the Free Syrian Army (FSA) consisted of non-terrorist rebels, was contradicted by many facts. A 2016 story reported that al-Nusra (which had changed its name to Jabhat Fatah al-Sham [Conquest of Syria Front], claiming that it was breaking ties with the al- Qaeda network103) reportedly took orders from Israel. Alastair Crooke, who had been a senior figure in British intelligence, said that “the FSA is little more than a cover for the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra.”104

In any case, besides starting to fund so-called moderate anti-Assad rebels covertly, Obama declared that Assad needed to step down. After it was learned in 2012 that Assad had chemical weapons, Obama announced that using them would be a “red line,” to which America would respond militarily. Then in 2013, there was a chemical attack, using deadly sarin gas, which reportedly killed seven hundred civilians. Arguing that Assad was responsible, neocons and other hawks pressured Obama to carry through with his “red line” declaration, and he planned a major attack on Assad’s military.

At the last minute, however, Obama cancelled the attack order. There were evidently two reasons for this cancelation. On the one hand, President Vladimir Putin convinced Assad to destroy his chemical weapons, thereby giving Obama a face-saving out.105 On the other hand, Obama became convinced, according to Seymour Hersh, that there was insufficient evidence to claim that Assad had been responsible for the sarin gas. There seem to have been three reasons for Obama’s reevaluation of the evidence:

 James Clapper, he director of national intelligence, told Obama that the intelligence community lacked “slam dunk” evidence of Assad’s responsibility. 

A "vector" analysis, which supposedly showed that the rockets  carrying the sarin gas could have come only from Damascus, broke down, showing that they could have come from rebel territory. Relevant to this possibility is the fact that, Hersh reported, “the US and its allies knew from highly classified CIA and allied intelligence reporting throughout the spring and summer of 2013, that the jihadist opposition to Assad (primarily al-Nusra) had the ability to manufacture a crude form of sarin.”106 

A British laboratory showed that, it Hersh's words, "the gas used  didn’t match the batches known to exist in the Syrian army’s chemical weapons arsenal.” The sarin gas, Hersh concluded, was a false-flag attack launched by Turkey “to instigate an event that would force the US to cross the red line.”107 

It is good that Obama resisted the temptation to support an attack on Syria as a “humanitarian intervention.” But his decision not to start a war against Syria led to great pressure on him to reverse it. In 2015, for example, 51 members of the State Department—which Hillary Clinton had headed for four years, during which she gave important posts to neocons108— issued a “dissent,” saying against Obama’s policy that the US should bomb Syria until it agrees to our wishes. The dissent’s argument was based on an extremely superficial understanding of the reasons for the Syrian war. “The government’s barrel bombing of civilians,” the dissent said (according to a summary by the New York Times), “is the ‘root cause of the instability that continues to grip Syria and the broader region.’”109 
 This interpretation was rejected by Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, who said:

It’s true that the initial phase of the Syrian Spring seems to have been largely spontaneous. Facts show, however, that outside interveners—primarily the United States, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Israel and Saudi Arabia—cooperated in lighting the match that brought the inferno of civil war. Covert funding and provision of weapons and other material support to opposition groups for strikes against the Syrian Government 
 provoked a military reaction by Assad—which created a pretext for our enlarged support to the rebel groups.110

Besides evidently not understanding what had been going on in Syria in 2011, the State Department “dissenters” ignored the fact that they had suggested a policy that would be completely illegal under international law.111 Moreover, they also seemed to be unaware of how terribly unwise their proposed policy would have been.

In an article asking the question “Risking Nuclear War for Al Qaeda?” Parry pointed out that for Obama to have followed the urging of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Hillary Clinton to permit a full-out attack on Syria would have been insane. If these powers attacked Syria while Russia’s troops were there, Russia—having insufficient ground forces and conventional weapons to protect them—might have been tempted to resort to tactical nuclear weapons, and this response could easily have led to a nuclear showdown. The insanity is that “the United States [is] being urged to take on that existential risk for all humankind on behalf of preserving Al Qaeda’s hopes for raising its black flag over Damascus.”112 (An extensive discussion of the threat of nuclear war is reserved for Chapter 9.)

The Main Reason for Attacking Assad

If the US desire for regime change in Syria was not based on Assad’s crack-down on rebels, we must deal with the question about the real reason (aside from the desire of neocons in general and Hillary Clinton in particular to help Israel—see the section on Israel below). Mnar Muhawesh said that what has been driving the chaos is “control over gas, oil and resources.”113 Wesley Clark—in his report on the Bush administration’s plan to take out seven regimes, including Syria’s—indicated that this strategy was fundamentally about the region’s oil and gas.114

Chris Floyd likewise wrote:

Vast interests in oil and natural gas—both existing and potential—are in play. . . . Competing pipelines—one favoring the West, undercutting Russia, the other bolstering Moscow and Tehran—are in the mix.115
Dmitry Minin, an independent analyst, wrote:

A battle is raging over whether pipelines will go toward Europe from east to west, from Iran and Iraq to the Mediterranean coast of Syria, or take a more northbound route from Qatar and Saudi Arabia via Syria and Turkey.116

Minin based his ideas primarily upon “renowned researcher on energy issues F. William Engdahl.” Engdahl is, in fact, the researcher who—along with Pepe Escobar, the author of Empire of Chaos117—has over the years written the most about gas pipelines in relation to Syria.
F. William Engdahl on the Syrian Pipeline War

“In a fundamental sense the entirety of the five-year-long war over Syria,” Engdahl wrote in 2016, “has been about control of hydrocarbon resources— oil and natural gas—and of potential hydrocarbon pipelines to the promising markets of the European Union.”118 Political assessments, he had said in 2012, had not fully appreciated “the dramatically rising importance of the control of natural gas to the future.” This importance had been greatly enhanced in the European Union by its mandate to reduce CO2 emissions significantly by 2020, and natural gas has been considered far less polluting than coal (even if that is questionable119). The importance of this situation to the Middle East was enhanced still further by the discovery of huge natural-gas sources in Syria as well as Israel and Qatar.120

The movement toward the Syrian war as a pipeline war began in 2009, Engdahl said, after “it became clear to some geopolitical Washington strategists that Qatar could play a strategic role in pushing Russia out of the EU natural gas game and put a US-controlled supplier, Qatar, in the dominant role.” Accordingly, the Emir of Qatar, which owns the world’s largest gas field, went to Damascus in 2009 to propose to Bashar al Assad the construction of a natural gas pipeline that would begin in Qatar, cross Saudi Arabia and Syria, then end up in Turkey, where the gas would be sold to EU markets.

However, Assad declined the offer, saying that he wanted “to protect the interests of [his] Russian ally, which is Europe’s top supplier of natural gas.” Engdahl continued: “This was the beginning of the NATO decision to militarily destroy the Assad regime.” That this decision was made in 2009—rather than after Assad’s 2011 response to the protesters—was made clear by Ronald Dumas, a former French Foreign Minister, who in 2009 “revealed that British military were preparing for invasion of Assad’s Syria.” Also, the previously mentioned intelligence firm, Stratfor, reported that by 2011, “US and UK special forces’ training of Syrian opposition forces was well underway.” 121

In any case, Syria chose a competing project, an Iran-Iraq-Syria pipe- line. Iran would get its natural gas from its part of the Pars field (Qatar gets its gas from its portion of the same field) then cross Iraq and end up in Syria. “ The deal was formally announced in July 2011,” pointed out Pepe Escobar, “when the Syrian tragedy was already in motion.”122

Then in July 2012, the three countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding to construct a pipeline from Iran through Iraq to Syria. This route, sometimes called the Shi’ite Pipeline, would leave Turkey and Qatar out in the cold, so they began doing everything they could to thwart the construction of that pipeline, including arming the anti-Assad rebels. The signing of this Memorandum was also, Engdahl added, “the precise point when the US gave the green light to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey to back regime change in Damascus—mad pipeline geopolitics.”123

Victory would open the door for the Qatar-Saudi Arabia-Turkey gas pipeline to Europe, with its huge natural gas import market. Besides bringing riches to Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, the war would intend, said Dmitry Minin, to accomplish three goals: “to break Russia’s gas monopoly in Europe; to free Turkey from its dependence on Iranian gas; and to give Israel the chance to export its gas to Europe by land at less cost.”124

The first of these goals

was most important to Washington. Whereas Russia had been filling 40 percent of the EU’s natural gas demand, Washington wanted it and her allies to control much of the gas to meet this demand. Here we find “the true agenda behind Washington’s five-year-long war for regime change in Damascus,” said Engdahl, “a war with terrorist groups such as ISIS or Al Nusra Front-Al Qaeda in Syria financed largely by money from Qatar.”125

In sum, from the perspective of Engdahl and the other researchers discussed in this section, the Syrian War has been primarily about energy and money (not good and bad people). Indeed, Escobar’s 2015 essay on the war in Syria as a pipeline war began by stating, “Syria is an energy war.”126

The Extreme Moral Charges against Assad
Contributed to Chaos

The claim that Assad was unbearably evil, like the claims about Saddam and Gaddafi, was used to get politicians and others in America and Europe to support the US drive, begun by the Bush-Cheney administration, to bring about regime change in Syria.
But even if he were as evil as he was portrayed by US officials, this would not have justified the attempt to depose him. Colin Powell, referring to his “old Pottery Barn rule,” cautioned:

I think you have to be extremely careful. We thought we knew what would happen in Libya. We thought we knew what would happen in Egypt. We thought we knew what would happen in Iraq, and we guessed wrong. In each one of these countries the thing we have to consider is that there is some structure . . . that’s holding the society together. And as we learned, especially in Libya, when you remove the top and the whole thing falls apart. . . you get chaos.127

This chaos has resulted in a tragedy for the Syrian people. In July 2016, international lawyer Franklin Lamb wrote:

The conflict here has, according to some NGO estimates, now claimed the lives of nearly half a million Syrians, out of a pre-war population of 22 million. More than 11 percent of the Syrian population is estimated to have been killed or injured. More than five million have fled the country while approximately 8 million are internally displaced. The UN estimates that nearly 12 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, more than six million being children ranging from infants to age 12.128

The Syrian chaos resulted primarily from the Bush-Cheney administration and its neocon attitudes, which continued significantly in the Obama administration. Robert Parry observed:

In Neocon Land, it goes without saying that once the United States judges some world leader guilty for having violated international law or human rights or whatever, it is fine for the US government to “take out” that leader. . . . In this view, the “exceptional” United States has the right to invade any country of its choosing and violently remove leaders not to its liking.129

Unless this neocon way of thinking can be overcome, there will be little hope that the United States will quit causing chaos in the Greater Middle East. When this book was first planned, it appeared that the Queen of Chaos herself would be the next US president. She made it clear, said Parry, that she was “eager to use military force to achieve ‘regime change’ in countries that get in the way of US desires.”130 Indeed, argued Andre Damon, “There is little doubt that talks were underway between the Clinton campaign and the Obama administration, and planning was well advanced, for a massive US military escalation in Syria to be launched after the expected election victory of the Democratic candidate.131

Evidently realizing that the United States under Obama and Clinton was going to continue its assault on Syria, rather than helping to achieve a tolerable resolution to the Syrian situation, Russia, Iran, and Turkey set up talks without inviting the United States.132 Excluding the United States, at least under the neocon-inspired Democrats, seemed necessary to begin bringing the ruination of Syria to an end.

Moreover, the ruination resulting from the neocon ideology of the Bush-Cheney administration, continued by Obama and Secretaries Clinton and Kerry, has not been limited to the Greater Middle East. As a 2016 Newsweek article said, “The Tide of Syrian Refugees Is Unraveling Europe”133—a problem to be explored after a discussion of ISIS and Russia. . . .

Russia, Syria, and ISIS

Near the end of 2015, Russia’s airforce intervened in Syria to protect Assad—at Assad’s invitation. This invitation made Russia’s intervention legal, according to international law, whereas any US intervention in Syria would be illegal. (Secretary Kerry has even admitted this in private.147)

Russia’s intervention allowed Assad to take the offensive against ISIS and the other jihadists. The success of this intervention led the Obama administration to drop its public insistence that Assad had to go, but it continued to try to protect al-Nusra and other jihadists.148

Russia tried to work out a plan in which it and the United States would join forces against ISIS and other jihadists, but it soon concluded that the US was not going to cooperate but instead wanted to use ISIS against Assad’s government. So Russia, along with Syria and Hezbollah, launched “a three-prong attack intended to dispose of the US-backed jihadists.”149

The effort to clean the jihadists out of Syria focused first on Aleppo—in particular, East Aleppo, which had been under the control of al-Nusra since 2012. Not appreciating the successful beginning of this effort, the United States used this as an opportunity to claim that Russia and Syria, having deliberately targeted children and hospitals, were guilty of war crimes. The US corporate press, being almost unanimous in repeating these charges, evidently convinced most Americans that these claims were true.

The White Helmets

However, Finian Cunningham pointed out that these press claims should not be accepted at face value, because claims of Russian and Syrian “war crimes” made by Western reporters were based on “rebel sources,” not on interviews with ordinary citizens in Aleppo. Also, much of the “information” that got reported came from the so-called “volunteer aid” group known as the White Helmets, which made many false claims about itself.

For one thing, it called itself the Syria Civil Defense, but it is not Syrian. Rather, it was created by the U.K. and the USA; it was established in Turkey; and its “volunteers” were mainly trained in Turkey and Jordan. In addition, whereas the real Syria Civil Defense has existed since 1953, the White Helmets was formed in 2013 by James Le Mesurier, a former British intelligence officer who was involved in NATO’s interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo. He then “moved into the lucrative private mercenary industry,” where he became “a mercenary with the Olive Group, a private contracting organization that is now merged with Blackwater-Academi.”150

The real Syria Civil Defense, which was founded in 1953, is the only one. “The White Helmets,” said the International Civil Defense Organization, “are not even civil defense concretely. We are working . . . only with official governments... , not the White Helmets.”151

The real Syria Civil Defense no longer operated in East Aleppo. Journalist Vanessa Beeley, who probably wrote the most about the White Helmets, said that in an interview with the real Syrian Civil Defense, inside West Aleppo, she was told that, in 2012, when various militant factions infiltrated East Aleppo, they drove out the real Syria Civil Defense crew—they massacred many, they kidnapped others, they stole equipment, including all of the ambulances and three to five re engines.152

Another false claim by White Helmets was that it was composed of “volunteers” and that it is “fiercely independent and accepts no money from governments.” In truth, it received funding from various governments, especially the U.K. ($65 million) and the US ($23 million), which had collaborated with Le Mesurier in creating the White Helmets. In particular, calling themselves “impartial,” the White Helmets claimed, “We’re not being paid by anybody to pursue a particular line.”153 However, Abdulrahman Al Mawwas, the chief liaison officer of the White Helmets, confirmed that the group was sponsored by the Western governments.154

In any case, this organization did have a very particular, twofold purpose: First, to demonize Assad as a butcher, who killed his own people indiscriminately, so as to argue the need for a no-fly zone (which was, of course, how the attacks on Iraq and Libya began). In campaigning for a no-fly zone, the White Helmets were working together with the public relations organization Avaaz, which had delivered a petition with 1,203,000 signatures to the UN for the Libya no-fly zone. In 2015, Avaaz began trying for a million signatures for a “Safe Zone” petition for Syria.155

Second, although the White Helmets served as a terrorist support group, “in the sense of bringing equipment, arms, even funding, into Syria,” said Beeley, their “primary function is propaganda,” as investigative journal Rick Sterling explained.156

Whereas the US press willingly accepts such propaganda, which supports our government’s negative description of Assad and hence Putin, independent journalists who have spent time in Syria, where they have talked to ordinary Syrians, have presented views of Assad that disagree radically with the claims of White Helmets and the US press. See, for example, interviews of journalist Eva Bartlett, who said, “The Media Is Lying to You!” and Vanessa Beeley, who said, “Everything the US Media Says about Aleppo Is Wrong.”157

Similarly, the highly respected journalist Stephen Kinzer wrote a Boston Globe article entitled “The Media Are Misleading the Public on Syria.” Although the truth about Aleppo was being reported by “brave correspondents in the war zone,” Kinzer said, their reports do “not fit with Washington’s narrative. As a result, much of the American press is reporting the opposite of what is actually happening.”158

David Ray Griffin is a retired American professor of philosophy of religion and theology, and a political writer.


55  Mnar Muhawesh, “Refugee Crisis & Syria War Fueled by Competing Gas Pipelines,” MintPress News, 9 September 2015. 

56  Lydia Depillis et al., “A Visual Guide to 75 Years of Major Refugee Crises around the World,” Washington Post, 21 December 2015. 

57  Tyler Durden, “A Short History: The Neocon ‘Clean Break’ Grand Design & the ‘Regime Change’ Disasters It Has Fostered,” Zero Hedge, 1 July 2015. 

58  “Navigating through Turbulence: America and the Middle East in a New Century,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2001. 

59  William Kristol, “Lead the World to Victory,” Project for the New American Century, 20 September 2001. 

60  Charles Glass, “Is Syria Next?” London Review of Books, 3 July 2003. 

61  Robert Parry, “Risking Nuclear War for Al Qaeda?” Consortium News, 
18 February 2016. 

62  Adrian Salbuchi, “Why the US, UK, EU & Israel Hate Syria,” RT, 10 September, 2013; William Blum, “Why Does the Government of the United States Hate Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad,” Information Clearing House, 4 November 2015. 

63  Andrew Cockburn, “The United States Teams Up With Al Qaeda . . . Again,” Harper’s, 18 December 2015. 

64  Jonathan Marshall, “The US Hand in the Syrian Mess,” Consortium News, 20 July 2015. 

65  Robert Parry, “Democrats Are Now the Aggressive War Party,” Consortium News, 11 June 2016. 

66  Marshall, “The US Hand in the Syrian Mess.” 

67  Seymour M. Hersh, “The Redirection,” New Yorker, 5 March 2007. 

68  Robert Naiman, “WikiLeaks Reveals How the US Aggressively Pursued Regime Change in Syria, Igniting a Bloodbath,” The WikiLeaks Files: The World According to US Empire (Verso, 2015), Chapter 10. 

69  Ibid. 

70  Andrew Freedman, “The Worst Drought in 900 Years Helped Spark Syria’s Civil War,” Mashable, 2 March 2016; Elaisha Stokes, “The Drought that 
Preceded Syria’s Civil War Was Likely the Worst in 900 Years,” Vice News, 3 March 2016; Francesco Femia and Caitlin Werrell, “Syria: Climate Change, Drought and Social Unrest,” Think Progress, 3 March 2012.
71 James Fallows, “Your Labor Day Syria Reader, Part 2: William Polk,” Atlantic, 2 September 2013.
72 Femia and Werrell, “Syria.”
Ibid.; Jan Selby and Mike Hulme, “Is Climate Change Really to Blame for Syria’s Civil War?” Guardian, 29 November 2015.
73 Femia and Werrell, “Syria.”
74 Fallows, “Your Labor Day Syria Reader, Part 2: William Polk.”
76 Jonathan Marshall, “Hidden Origins of Syria’s Civil War,” Consortium News, 20 July 2015.
77 Ibid.
78 Ibid.
79 Joshua Landis, “The Armed Gangs Controversy,” Syria Comment, 3 August 2011.
80 Ibid.
81 F. William Engdahl, The Lost Hegemon: Whom the Gods Would Destroy (mine.Books, 2016).
82 Marshall, “Hidden Origins of Syria’s Civil War.”
83 Ibid.
84 Engdahl, The Lost Hegemon, 261.
85 Marshall, “Hidden Origins of Syria’s Civil War.”
86 Jim Lobe, “US Brief Talks with Syria Spur Speculation,” Inter Press Service, 30 September 2008.
87 Fallows, “Your Labor Day Syria Reader, Part 2: William Polk.
88 Muhawesh, “Refugee Crisis & Syria War Fueled by Competing Gas Pipelines.”
89 Robert Parry, “The NYT’s Neocon ‘Downward Spiral,’” Consortium News, 6 October 2016.
90 Muhawesh, “Refugee Crisis & Syria War Fueled by Competing Gas Pipelines.”
91 “Guide to the Syrian Rebels,” BBC News, 13 December 2013.
92 In June of [2014], wrote Steve MacMillan, “Assad won Syria’s Presidential election with 88.7 percent of the vote. . . . A group
of international observers emphasized that the election was a valid and democratic expression of the views of the Syrian people.” Steve MacMillan, “Bashar al-Assad: The Democratically Elected President of Syria,” Near Eastern Outlook, 20 December 2015.
93  Seymour M. Hersh, “The Red Line and the Rat Line,” London Review of Books, April 2014; see also Frederick Reese, “Seymour Hersh: Benghazi Attack a Consequence of Weapons ‘Rat-Line’ to Syria,” Mint Press News, 21 April 2014. 

94  Ibid.; Aaron Klein, “CIA Ops Finally Revealed: What the US Ambassador in Benghazi was Really Doing,” Global Research, 23 October 2015; Gareth Porter, “Why the US Owns the Rise of Islamic State and the Syria Disaster,” TruthDig, 8 October 2015. 

95  “Defense, State Department Documents Reveal Obama Administration Knew that al Qaeda Terrorists Had Planned Benghazi Attack 10 Days in Advance,” Judicial Watch, 18 May 2015. 

96  Alex Christoforou, “Julian Assange Says ‘1,700 Emails in Hillary Clinton’s Collection’ Proves She Sold Weapons to ISIS in Syria,” The Duran/Democracy Now; James Barrett, “WikiLeaks: Hacked Emails Prove Hillary Armed Jihadists In Syria—Including ISIS,” Daily Wire, 1 August 2016. 

97  Eric Schmitt, “C.I.A. Said to Aid in Steering Arms to Syrian Opposition,” New York Times, 21 June 2012; C.J. Chivers and Eric Schmitt,” Arms Airlift to Syria Rebels Expands, With Aid from C.I.A.,” International New York Times, 24 March 2013; Trevor Timm, “The 
US Decision to Send Weapons to Syria Repeats a Historical Mistake,” Guardian, 19 September 2015; Adam Johnson, “Down the Memory Hole: NYT Erases CIA’s Efforts to Overthrow Syria’s Government,” Common Dreams, 21 September 2015. 

98  “Military to Military—Seymour M. Hersh on US Intelligence Sharing in the Syrian War,” London Review of Books, January 2016. 

99  Ben Reynolds, “There Are No Moderate Syrian Rebels,” Counterpunch, 3 October 2014; Stephen Lendman, “No Moderate Syrian Rebels Exist,” Global Research, 6 November 2015. 

100  Quoted in Jonathan Marshall, “The US Hand in the Syrian Mess.” 

101  Ibid.; Parry, “Risking Nuclear War for Al Qaeda?” 

102  Gareth Porter, “Obama’s ‘Moderate’ Syrian Deception,” Consortium News, 16 February 2016. 

103  “Nusra Front’s Rebranding: Story of Rats Trying to Pass for Flurry White Rabbits” Sputnik International, 6 August 2016. 

104  “Syrian Militants in Tumult after Israel Moves to Restructure Fatah Al-Sham Command in Quneitra,” FARS News Agency, 28 September 2016; Alastair Crooke, “How the US Armed-Up Syrian Jihadists,” Consortium News, September 29, 2016. 

105  Mark Landler and Jonathan Weisman, “Obama Delays Syria Strike to Focus on a Russian Plan,” New York Times, 10 September 2013; Juan Cole, “How Putin Saved Obama, Congress and the European Union 
from Further Embarrassing Themselves on Syria,” Informed Comment, 10 September 2013.
106 Mark Karlin, “Seymour Hersh on White House Lies about bin Laden’s Death, Pakistan and the Syrian Civil War,” Truthout, 14 August 2016.
107 Robert Parry, “Will We Miss President Obama?” Consortium News, 19 March 2016; Parry, “ e Collapsing Syria-Sarin Case,” Consortium News, 7 April 2014; Seymour M. Hersh, “ e Red Line and the Rat Line,” London Review of Books, April 2014.
108 Robert Parry, “Neocons Have Weathered the Storm,” Consortium News, 15 March 2014.
109 Mark Landler, “51 US Diplomats Urge Strikes Against Assad in Syria,” New York Times, 16 June 2015.
110 Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, “Intel Vets Call ‘Dissent Memo’ on Syria ‘Reckless,’” Consortium News, 25 June 2016.
111 Center for Citizen Initiatives, “Seeking a Debate on ‘Regime Change’ Wars,” Consortium News, 20 June 2016; Marjorie Cohn, “US Bombing Syrian Troops Would Be Illegal,” Consortium News, 22 June 2016.
112 Parry, “Risking Nuclear War for Al Qaeda?”
113 Muhawesh, “Refugee Crisis & Syria War Fueled by Competing Gas Pipelines.”
114 James Huang, “Who Exclusive: Gen. Wesley Clark on Oil, War and Activism,” Who. What. Why., 24 September 2012.
115 Chris Floyd, “Seeing Ghosts: History’s Nightmares Return in Syria,” Empire Burlesque, 12 January 2016.
116 Dmitry Minin, “The Geopolitics of Gas and the Syrian Crisis,” Strategic Cultural Foundation, 31 May 2013.
117 Pepe Escobar, Empire of Chaos (Nimble Pluribus, 2014).
118 F. William Engdahl, “The Syrian Pipeline War: How Russia Trumped USA Energy War in the Mideast,” Russia Insider, 21 September 2016.
119 See David Ray Griffin, Unprecedented: Can Civilization Survive the CO2 Crisis? (Clarity Press, 2015), 369-72.
120 F. William Engdahl, “Syria, Turkey, Israel and the Greater Middle East Energy War,” Global Research, October 11, 2012
121 F. William Engdahl, “Silence of the Lambs-Refugees, EU and Syrian Energy Wars,” NEO, 10 November 2016.
122 Pepe Escobar, “Syria: Ultimate Pipelineistan War,” Strategic Culture, 7 December 2015.
123 Engdahl, “The Syrian Pipeline War.”

124 Minin, “The Geopolitics of Gas and the Syrian Crisis.
125 Engdahl, “The Syrian Pipeline War.”.
126  Escobar, “Syria: Ultimate Pipelineistan War.” 

127  Kathy Gilsinan, “The Pottery Barn Rule: Syria Edition,” Atlantic, 30 September 2015. 

128  Franklin Lamb, “Don’t Cry for Us Syria. . . . The Truth Is We Shall Never Leave You!” Counterpunch, 29 July 2016. 

129  Parry, “Delusional US ‘Group Think’ on Syria, Ukraine.” 

130  Parry, “Democrats Are Now the Aggressive War Party.” 

131  Andre Damon, “The Media Disinformation Campaign on Russian Hacking and the US Debacle in Syria,” Global Research, 9 January 2017. 

132  Ben Hubbard and David E. Sanger, “Russia, Iran and Turkey Meet for Syria Talks, Excluding US,” New York Times, 20 December 2016. 

133  Judy Dempsey, “The Tide of Syrian Refugees Is Unraveling Europe,” Newsweek, 25 February 2016. 

134  Karen Yourish et al., “Where ISIS Has Directed and Inspired Attacks around the World,” International New York Times, 22 March 2016; “List of Terrorist Incidents Linked to ISIL,” Wikipedia. 

135  Terrence McCoy, “How the Islamic State Evolved in an American Prison,” Washington Post, 4 November 2014. 

136  Bobby Ghosh, “ISIS: A Short History,” Atlantic, 14 August 2014; “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant,” Wikipedia. 

137  Bill Palmer, “Why President Obama’s Correct Usage of ‘ISIL’ vs ‘ISIS’ Drives Ignorant People Crazy,” Daily News Bin, 20 December 2015; Kathya, “Why Obama Says ‘ISIL’ instead of ‘ISIS’ — Conspiracy Theory v. Logic,” Liberal America, 11 December 2015. 

138  Stephen Zunes, “The US and the Rise of ISIS,” National Catholic Reporter, 10 December 2015. 

139  Lauren Boyer, “Former US Military Official Says George W. Bush Created ISIS,” US News, 1 December 2015. 

140  Andrew Bacevich, “ e George W. Bush Refugees,” Politico, 18 September 2015. 

141  Andrew Kirell, “4 Most Noteworthy Moments from Obama’s Interview with Vice News,” 16 March 2015. 

142  Savage, Power Wars, 684-86. 

143  Pamela Engel, “ e Air War against ISIS Is Costing the US about $11 
Million a Day,” Business Insider, 19 January 2016. 

144  David Swanson, “ e US Wants the Islamic State Group to Win in 
Syria,” TeleSUR, 29 March 2016. 

145  Chris Floyd, “Seeing Ghosts: History’s Nightmares Return in Syria,” Empire Burlesque, 12 January 2016. 

146 Eric Margolis, “US Fight against ‘Covert Western Asset’ ISIS Is a ‘Big Charade,’” Ron Paul Institute, 2 October 2015; “‘US Has Always Been Main Sponsor of Islamic State’—Former CIA Contractor to RT,” RT, 29 September 2016.
147 Anne Barnard, “Audio Reveals What John Kerry Told Syrians Behind Closed Doors,” New York Times, 30 September 2016.
148 Simon Tidsdall, “US Changes Its Tune on Syrian Regime Change as ISIS Threat Takes Top Priority,” Guardian, 25 January 2015.
149 Mike Whitney, “Putin Ups the Ante: Cease re Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo,” Smirking Chimp, 27 September 2016.
150 Vanessa Beeley, ‘’White Helmets Campaign for War Not Peace—RLA & Nobel Peace Prize Nomination should be Retracted,” 2 October 2016; Beeley, “ e REAL Syria Civil Defence Exposes Fake ‘White Helmets’ as Terrorist-Linked Imposters,” 21st Century Wire, 23 September 2016; Max Blumenthal, “How the ‘White Helmets’ Became Global Heroes While Pushing for US Military Intervention in Syria,” Alternet, 4 October, 2016; Tim Anderson, The Dirty War On Syria: Washington, Regime Change and Resistance (Global Research Publishers, 2016), 75.
151 “Syria’s White Helmets Are Multi-million Funded, ‘Can’t Be Independent,’” RT, 7 October 2016.
152 “Syrian White Helmets a ‘Terrorist Support Group & Western Propaganda Tool,’” RT, 25 October 2016.
153 Beeley, ‘’White Helmets Campaign for War Not Peace.”

154 “‘We Don’t Hide It’: White Helmets Openly Admit Being Funded by Western Govts,” RT, 19 October 2016.
155 Max Blumenthal, “Inside the Shadowy PR Firm That’s Lobbying for Regime Change in Syria,” Alternet, 3 October 2016.
156 “Syrian White Helmets a ‘Terrorist Support Group’”; Sterling, “Seven Steps of Highly Effective Manipulators.”
157 See “Journalist Eva Bartlett, ‘I’m Back from Syria. The Media Is Lying to You!’” The Event Chronicle, 13 February 2016; “Liberty Report Talks to Vanessa Beeley: ‘Everything the US Media Says about Aleppo Is Wrong,’” Liberty Report, 29 September 2016. She should not be described as an “Assad supporter,” Beeley said, because she has various criticisms of him. She simply disagrees with the view that Syria should be destroyed in order to save it.
158 Stephen Kinzer, “The Media Are Misleading the Public on Syria,” Boston Globe, 18 February 2016.
159 David W. Lesche and James Gelvin, “Assad Has Won in Syria. But Syria Hardly Exists,” New York Times, 11 January 2017.
160  “Audio Evidence: John Kerry Privately Confirms Supporting and Arming Daesh,” Voltaire Network, 13 January 2017; referring to “Absolutely Stunning—Leaked Audio of Secretary Kerry Reveals President Obama Intentionally Allowed Rise of ISIS,” The Last Refuge (The Conservative Tree House), 1 January 2017. 



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