Clinton and the Syrian Bloodbath
16, 2016 "Information
- In the
Milwaukee debate, Hillary Clinton took pride in
her role in a recent UN Security Council resolution
on a Syrian ceasefire:
would add this. You know, the Security Council
finally got around to adopting a resolution. At
the core of that resolution is an agreement I
negotiated in June of 2012 in Geneva, which set
forth a cease-fire and moving toward a political
resolution, trying to bring the parties at stake
in Syria together.
This is the
kind of compulsive misrepresentation that makes
Clinton unfit to be President. Clinton's role in
Syria has been to help instigate and prolong the
Syrian bloodbath, not to bring it to a close.
Clinton was the obstacle, not the solution, to a
ceasefire being negotiated by UN Special Envoy Kofi
Annan. It was US intransigence - Clinton's
intransigence - that led to the failure of Annan's
peace efforts in the spring of 2012, a point well
known among diplomats. Despite Clinton's insinuation
in the Milwaukee debate, there was (of course) no
2012 ceasefire, only escalating carnage. Clinton
bears heavy responsibility for that carnage, which
has by now displaced more than 10 million Syrians
and left more than 250,000 dead.
knowledgeable observer understands, the Syrian War
is not mostly about Bashar al-Assad, or even about
Syria itself. It is mostly a proxy war, about Iran.
And the bloodbath is doubly tragic and misguided for
Arabia and Turkey, the leading Sunni powers in the
Middle East, view Iran, the leading Shia power, as a
regional rival for power and influence. Right-wing
Israelis view Iran as an implacable foe that
controls Hezbollah, a Shi'a militant group operating
in Lebanon, a border state of Israel. Thus, Saudi
Arabia, Turkey, and Israel have all clamored to
remove Iran's influence in Syria.
is incredibly na´ve. Iran has been around as a
regional power for a long time--in fact, for about
2,700 years. And Shia Islam is not going away. There
is no way, and no reason, to "defeat" Iran. The
regional powers need to forge a geopolitical
equilibrium that recognizes the mutual and balancing
roles of the Gulf Arabs, Turkey, and Iran. And
Israeli right-wingers are na´ve, and deeply ignorant
of history, to regard Iran as their implacable foe,
especially when that mistaken view pushes Israel to
side with Sunni jihadists.
did not pursue that route. Instead she joined Saudi
Arabia, Turkey, and right-wing Israelis to try to
isolate, even defeat, Iran. In 2010, she supported
secret negotiations between Israel and Syria
to attempt to wrest Syria from Iran's influence.
Those talks failed. Then the CIA and Clinton pressed
successfully for Plan B: to overthrow Assad.
unrest of the Arab Spring broke out in early 2011,
the CIA and the anti-Iran front of Israel, Saudi
Arabia, and Turkey saw an opportunity to topple
Assad quickly and thereby to gain a geopolitical
victory. Clinton became the leading proponent of the
CIA-led effort at Syrian regime change.
2011, Turkey and Saudi Arabia leveraged local
protests against Assad to try to foment conditions
for his ouster. By the spring of 2011, the CIA and
the US allies were organizing an armed insurrection
against the regime. On August 18, 2011, the US
made public its position: "Assad must go."
and until the
recent fragile UN Security Council accord, the
US has refused to agree to any ceasefire unless
Assad is first deposed. The US policy--under Clinton
and until recently--has been: regime change first,
ceasefire after. After all, it's only Syrians who
are dying. Annan's peace efforts were sunk by the
United States' unbending insistence that U.S.-led
regime change must precede or at least accompany a
ceasefire. As the
Nation editors put it in August 2012:
demand that Assad be removed and sanctions be
imposed before negotiations could seriously
begin, along with the refusal to include Iran in
the process, doomed [Annan's] mission.
been much more than a bit player in the Syrian
crisis. Her diplomat Ambassador Christopher Stevens
in Benghazi was killed as he was running
a CIA operation to ship Libyan heavy weapons to
Syria. Clinton herself took the lead role in
organizing the so-called "Friends of Syria" to
back the CIA-led insurgency.
policy was a massive, horrific failure. Assad did
not go, and was not defeated. Russia came to his
support. Iran came to his support. The mercenaries
sent in to overthrow him were themselves radical
jihadists with their own agendas. The chaos opened
the way for the Islamic State, building on
disaffected Iraqi Army leaders (deposed by the US in
2003), on captured U.S. weaponry, and on the
considerable backing by Saudi funds. If the truth
were fully known, the multiple scandals involved
would surely rival Watergate in shaking the
foundations of the US establishment.
of the United States in this approach seems to know
no bounds. The tactic of CIA-led regime change is so
deeply enmeshed as a "normal" instrument of U.S.
foreign policy that it is hardly noticed by the U.S.
public or media. Overthrowing another government is
against the U.N. charter and international law. But
what are such niceties among friends?
instrument of U.S. foreign policy has not only been
in stark violation of international law but has also
been a massive and repeated failure. Rather than a
single, quick, and decisive coup d'Útat resolving a
US foreign policy problem, each CIA-led regime
change has been, almost inevitably, a prelude to a
bloodbath. How could it be otherwise? Other
societies don't like their countries to be
manipulated by U.S. covert operations.
leader, even if done "successfully," doesn't solve
any underlying geopolitical problems, much less
ecological, social, or economic ones. A coup d'etat
invites a civil war, the kind that now wracks
Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. It invites a
hostile international response, such as Russia's
backing of its Syrian ally in the face of the
CIA-led operations. The record of misery caused by
covert CIA operations literally fills volumes at
this point. What surprise, then, the Clinton
acknowledges Henry Kissinger as a mentor and guide?
is the establishment media in this debacle? The New
York Times finally covered a bit of this story last
describing the CIA-Saudi connection, in which
Saudi funds are used to pay for CIA operations in
order to make an end-run around Congress and the
American people. The story ran once and was dropped.
Yet the Saudi funding of CIA operations is the same
basic tactic used by Ronald Reagan and Oliver North
in the Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980s (with
Iranian arms sales used to fund CIA-led covert
operations in Central America without consent or
oversight by the American people).
herself has never shown the least reservation or
scruples in deploying this instrument of U.S.
foreign policy. Her record of avid support for
US-led regime change includes (but is not limited
to) the US bombing of Belgrade in 1999, the invasion
of Afghanistan in 2001, the Iraq War in 2003, the
Honduran coup in 2009, the killing of Libya's
Muammar Qaddafi in 2011, and the CIA-coordinated
insurrection against Assad from 2011 until today.
great presidential leadership to resist CIA
misadventures. Presidents get along by going along
with arms contractors, generals, and CIA operatives.
They thereby also protect themselves from political
attack by hardline right-wingers. They succeed by
exulting in U.S. military might, not restraining it.
Many historians believe that JFK was assassinated as
a result of his peace overtures to the Soviet Union,
overture he made against the objections of hardline
rightwing opposition in the CIA and other parts of
the U.S. government.
Clinton has never shown an iota of bravery, or even
of comprehension, in facing down the CIA. She has
been the CIA's relentless supporter, and has exulted
in showing her toughness by supporting every one of
its misguided operations. The failures, of course,
are relentlessly hidden from view. Clinton is a
danger to global peace. She has much to answer for
regarding the disaster in Syria.
Director, Earth Institute at Columbia University