PART I – A HUMANITARIAN WAR ON SYRIA?
Military Escalation Towards a Broader Middle East-Central Asian War
“As I went back through the Pentagon in November 2001, one of the senior military staff officers had time for a chat. Yes, we were still on track for going against Iraq, he said. But there was more. This was being discussed as part of a five-year campaign plan, he said, and there were a total of seven countries, beginning with Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Somalia, and Sudan.” ~ General Wesley Clark
An extended Middle East Central Asian war has been on the Pentagon’s drawing board since the mid-1990s.
As part of this extended war scenario, the US-NATO alliance plans to wage a military campaign against Syria under a UN sponsored “humanitarian mandate”.
Escalation is an integral part of the military agenda. Destabilization of sovereign states through “regime change” is closely coordinated with military planning.
There is a military roadmap characterised by a sequence of US-NATO war theaters.
War preparations to attack Syria and Iran have been in “an advanced state of readiness” for several years. The Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003 categorizes Syria as a “rogue state”, as a country which supports terrorism.
A war on Syria is viewed by the Pentagon as part of the broader war directed against Iran. President George W. Bush confirmed in his Memoirs that he had “ordered the Pentagon to plan an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities and [had] considered a covert attack on Syria” (George Bush’s memoirs reveal how he considered attacks on Iran and Syria, The Guardian, November 8, 2010)
This broader military agenda is intimately related to strategic oil reserves and pipeline routes. It is supported by the Anglo-American oil giants.
The July 2006 bombing of Lebanon was part of a carefully planned “military road map”. The extension of “The July War” on Lebanon into Syria had been contemplated by US and Israeli military planners. It was abandoned upon the defeat of Israeli ground forces by Hizbollah.
Israel’s July 2006 war on Lebanon also sought to establish Israeli control over the North Eastern Mediterranean coastline including offshore oil and gas reserves in Lebanese and Palestinian territorial waters.
The plans to invade both Lebanon and Syria have remained on the Pentagon’s drawing board despite Israel’s setback in the 2006 July War: “In November 2008, barely a month before Tel Aviv started its massacre in the Gaza Strip, the Israeli military held drills for a two-front war against Lebanon and Syria called Shiluv Zro’ot III (Crossing Arms III). The military exercise included a massive simulated invasion of both Syria and Lebanon” (See Mahdi Darius Nazemoraya, Israel’s Next War: Today the Gaza Strip, Tomorrow Lebanon?, Global Research, January 17, 2009)
The road to Tehran goes through Damascus. A US-NATO sponsored war on Iran would involve, as a first step, a destabilization campaign (“regime change”) including covert intelligence operations in support of rebel forces directed against the Syrian government.
A “humanitarian war” under the logo of “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) directed against Syria would also contribute to the ongoing destabilization of Lebanon.
Were a military campaign to be waged against Syria, Israel would be directly or indirectly involved in military and intelligence operations.
A war on Syria would lead to military escalation.
There are at present four distinct war theaters: Afghanistan-Pakistan, Iraq, Palestine and Libya.
An attack on Syria would lead to the integration of these separate war theaters, eventually leading towards a broader Middle East-Central Asian war, engulfing an entire region from North Africa and the Mediterranean to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The ongoing protest movement is intended to serve as a pretext and a justification to intervene militarily against Syria. The existence of an armed insurrection is denied. The Western media in chorus have described recent events in Syria as a “peaceful protest movement” directed against the government of Bashar Al Assad, when the evidence confirms the existence of an armed insurgency integrated by Islamic paramilitary groups.
From the outset of the protest movement in Daraa in mid-March, there has been an exchange of fire between the police and armed forces on the one hand and armed gunmen on the other. Acts of arson directed against government buildings have also been committed. In late July in Hama, public buildings including the Court House and the Agricultural Bank were set on fire. Israeli news sources, while dismissing the existence of an armed conflict, nonetheless, acknowledge that “protesters [were] armed with heavy machine guns.” (DEBKAfile August 1, 2001. Report on Hama, emphasis added)
“All Options on the Table”
In June, US Senator Lindsey Graham (who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee) hinted to the possibility of a “humanitarian” military intervention directed against Syria with a view to “saving the lives of civilians”. Graham suggested that the “option” applied to Libya under UN Secuirty Council resolution 1973 should be envisaged in the case of Syria:
“If it made sense to protect the Libyan people against Gadhafi, and it did because they were going to get slaughtered if we hadn’t sent NATO in when he was on the outskirts of Benghazi, the question for the world [is], have we gotten to that point in Syria, …
We may not be there yet, but we are getting very close, so if you really care about protecting the Syrian people from slaughter, now is the time to let Assad know that all options are on the table,” (CBS “Face The Nation”, June 12, 2011)
Following the adoption of the UN Security Council Statement pertaining to Syria (August 3, 2011), the White House called, in no uncertain terms, for “regime change” in Syria and the ouster of President Bashar Al Assad:
“We do not want to see him remain in Syria for stability’s sake, and rather, we view him as the cause of instability in Syria,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Wednesday.
“And we think, frankly, that it’s safe to say that Syria would be a better place without President Assad,” (quoted in Syria: US Call Closer to Calling for Regime Change, IPS, August 4, 2011)
Extended economic sanctions often constitute a leadup towards outright military intervention. A bill sponsored by Senator Lieberman was introduced in the US Senate with a view to authorizing sweeping economic sanctions against Syria. Moreover, in a letter to President Obama in early August, a group of more than sixty U.S. senators called for “implementing additional sanctions… while also making it clear to the Syrian regime that it will pay an increasing cost for its outrageous repression.”
These sanctions would require blocking bank and financial transactions as well as “ending purchases of Syrian oil, and cutting off investments in Syria’s oil and gas sectors.” (See Pressure on Obama to get tougher on Syria coming from all sides – Foreign Policy, August 3, 2011).
Meanwhile, the US State Department has also met with members of the Syrian opposition in exile. Covert support has also been channelled to the armed rebel groups.
Dangerous Crossroads: War on Syria. Beachhead for an Attack on Iran
Following the August 3 Statement by the Chairman of the UN Security Council directed against Syria, Moscow’s envoy to NATO Dmitry Rogozin warned of the dangers of military escalation:
“NATO is planning a military campaign against Syria to help overthrow the regime of President Bashar al-Assad with a long-reaching goal of preparing a beachhead for an attack on Iran,…
“[This statement] means that the planning [of the military campaign] is well underway. It could be a logical conclusion of those military and propaganda operations, which have been carried out by certain Western countries against North Africa,” Rogozin said in an interview with the Izvestia newspaper… The Russian diplomat pointed out at the fact that the alliance is aiming to interfere only with the regimes “whose views do not coincide with those of the West.”
Rogozin agreed with the opinion expressed by some experts that Syria and later Yemen could be NATO’s last steps on the way to launch an attack on Iran.
“The noose around Iran is tightening. Military planning against Iran is underway. And we are certainly concerned about an escalation of a large-scale war in this huge region,” Rogozin said.
Having learned the Libyan lesson, Russia “will continue to oppose a forcible resolution of the situation in Syria,” he said, adding that the consequences of a large-scale conflict in North Africa would be devastating for the whole world. “Beachhead for an Attack on Iran”: NATO is planning a Military Campaign against Syria, Novosti, August 5, 2011)
Military Blueprint for an Attack on Syria
A scenario of an attack on Syria is currently on the drawing board, involving French, British and Israeli military experts. According to former the Commander of the French Air Force (chef d’Etat-Major de l’Armée de l’air) General Jean Rannou, “a NATO strike to disable the Syrian army is technically feasible”:
“Nato member countries would begin by using satellite technology to spot Syrian air defences. A few days later, warplanes, in larger numbers than Libya, would take off from the UK base in Cyprus and spend some 48 hours destroying Syrian surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) and jets. Alliance aircraft would then start an open-ended bombardment of Syrian tanks and ground troops.
The scenario is based on analysts in the French military, from the specialist British publication Jane’s Defence Weekly and from Israel’s Channel 10 TV station.
The Syrian air force is said to pose little threat. It has around 60 Russian-made MiG-29s. But the rest – some 160 MiG-21s, 80 MiG-23s, 60 MiG-23BNs, 50 Su-22s and 20 Su-24MKs – is out of date.
….”I don’t see any purely military problems. Syria has no defence against Western systems … [But] it would be more risky than Libya. It would be a heavy military operation,” Jean Rannou, the former chief of the French air force, told EUobserver. He added that action is highly unlikely because Russia would veto a UN mandate, Nato assets are stretched in Afghanistan and Libya and Nato countries are in financial crisis. (Andrew Rettman, Blueprint For NATO Attack On Syria Revealed, Global Research, August 11, 2011)
The Broader Military Roadmap
While Libya, Syria and Iran are part of the military roadmap, this strategic deployment if it were to carried out would also threaten China and Russia. Both countries have investment, trade as well as military cooperation agreements with Syria and Iran. Iran has observer status in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
Escalation is part of the military agenda. Since 2005, the US and its allies, including America’s NATO partners and Israel, have been involved in the extensive deployment and stockpiling of advanced weapons systems. The air defense systems of the US, NATO member countries and Israel are fully integrated.
The Role of Israel and Turkey
Both Ankara and Tel Aviv are involved in supporting an armed insurgency. These endeavors are coordinated between the two governments and their intelligence agencies.
Israel’s Mossad, according to reports, has provided covert support to radical Salafi terrorist groups, which became active in Southern Syria at the outset of protest movement in Daraa in mid-March. Reports suggest that financing for the Salafi insurgency is coming from Saudi Arabia. (See Syrian army closes in on Damascus suburbs, The Irish Times, May 10, 2011).
The Turkish government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyib Erdogan is supporting Syrian opposition groups in exile while also backing the armed rebels of the Muslim Brotherhood in Northern Syria.
Both the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood (MB) (whose leadership is in exile in the UK) and the banned Hizb ut-Tahrir (the Party of Liberation) are behind the insurrection. Both organizations are supported by Britain’s MI6. The avowed objective of both MB and Hizb-ut Tahir is ultimately to destabilize Syria’s secular State. (See Michel Chossudovsky, SYRIA: Who is Behind The Protest Movement? Fabricating a Pretext for a US-NATO “Humanitarian Intervention”, Global Research, May 3, 2011).
In June, Turkish troops crossed the border into northern Syria, officially to come to the rescue of Syrian refugees. The government of Bashar Al Assad accused Turkey of directly supporting the incursion of rebel forces into northern Syria:
“A rebel force of up to 500 fighters attacked a Syrian Army position on June 4 in northern Syria. They said the target, a garrison of Military Intelligence, was captured in a 36-hour assault in which 72 soldiers were killed in Jisr Al Shoughour, near the border with Turkey.
“We found that the criminals [rebel fighters] were using weapons from Turkey, and this is very worrisome,” an official said.
This marked the first time that the Assad regime has accused Turkey of helping the revolt. … Officials said the rebels drove the Syrian Army from Jisr Al Shoughour and then took over the town. They said government buildings were looted and torched before another Assad force arrived. …
A Syrian officer who conducted the tour said the rebels in Jisr Al Shoughour consisted of Al Qaida-aligned fighters. He said the rebels employed a range of Turkish weapons and ammunition but did not accuse the Ankara government of supplying the equipment.” (Syria’s Assad accuses Turkey of arming rebels, TR Defence, Jun 25 2011)
Deined by the Western media, foreign support to Islamist insurgents, which have “infiltrated the protest movement”, is, nonetheless, confirmed by Western intelligence sources. According to former MI6 officer Alistair Crooke (and high level EU adviser): “two important forces behind events [in Syria] are Sunni radicals and Syrian exile groups in France and the US. He said the radicals follow the teaching of Abu Musab Zarqawi, a late Jordanian Islamist, who aimed to create a Sunni emirate in Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria called Bilad a-Sham. They are experienced urban guerillas who fought in Iraq and have outside finance. They infilitrate protests to attack Assad forces, as in Jisr al-Shagour in June, where they inflicted heavy casualties.” (Andrew Rettman, Blueprint For NATO Attack On Syria Revealed, Global Research, August 11, 2011, emphasis added).
The former MI6 official also confirms that Israel and the US are supporting and financing the terrorists: “Crooke said the exile groups aim to topple the anti-Israeli [Syrian] regime. They are funded and trained by the US and have links to Israel. They pay Sunni tribal chiefs to put people on the streets, work with NGOs to feed uncorroborated stories of atrocities to Western media and co-operate with radicals in the hope that escalating violence will justify Nato intervention. (Ibid, emphasis added)
The Israel-Turkey Military Cooperation Agreement
Israel and Turkey have a military cooperation agreement which pertains in a very direct way to Syria as well to the strategic Lebanese-Syrian Eastern Mediterranean coastline (including the gas reserves off the coast of Lebanon and pipeline routes).
Already during the Clinton Administration, a triangular military alliance between the US, Israel and Turkey had unfolded. This “triple alliance”, which is dominated by the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, integrates and coordinates military command decisions between the three countries pertaining to the broader Middle East. It is based on the close military ties respectively of Israel and Turkey with the US, coupled with a strong bilateral military relationship between Tel Aviv and Ankara. ….
The triple alliance is also coupled with a 2005 NATO-Israeli military cooperation agreement which includes “many areas of common interest, such as the fight against terrorism and joint military exercises. These military cooperation ties with NATO are viewed by the Israeli military as a means to “enhance Israel’s deterrence capability regarding potential enemies threatening it, mainly Iran and Syria.” (See Michel Chossudovsky,”Triple Alliance”: The US, Turkey, Israel and the War on Lebanon, August 6, 2006)
Meanwhile, the recent reshuffle within Turkey’s top brass has reinforced the pro-Islamist faction within the armed forces. In late July, The Commander in Chief of the Army and head of Turkey’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Isik Kosaner, resigned together with the commanders of the Navy and Air Force.
General Kosaner represented a broadly secular stance within the Armed Forces. General Necdet Ozel has been appointed as his replacement as commander of the Army the new army chief.
These developments are of crucial importance. They tend to support US interests. They also point to a potential shift within the military in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood including the armed insurrection in Northern Syria.
“New appointments have strengthened Erdogan and the ruling party in Turkey… [T]he military power is able to carry out more ambitious projects in the region. It is predicted that in case of using the Libyan scenario in Syria it is possible that Turkey will apply for military intervention.” ( New appointments have strengthened Erdogan and the ruling party in Turkey : Public Radio of Armenia, August 06, 2011)
The Extended NATO Military Alliance
Egypt, the Gulf states and Saudi Arabia (within the extended military alliance) are partners of NATO, whose forces could be deployed in a campaign directed against Syria.
Israel is a de facto member of NATO following an agreement signed in 2005.
The process of military planning within NATO’s extended alliance involves coordination between the Pentagon, NATO, Israel’s Defense Force (IDF), as well as the active military involvement of the frontline Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, Egypt: all in all ten Arab countries plus Israel are members of The Mediterranean Dialogue and the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative.
We are at a dangerous crossroads. The geopolitical implications are far-reaching.
Syria has borders with Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq. It spreads across the valley of the Euphrates, it is at the crossroads of major waterways and pipeline routes.
Syria is an ally of Iran. Russia has a naval base in North Western Syria (see map).
Establishment of a base in Tartus and rapid advancement of military technology cooperation with Damascus makes Syria Russia’s instrumental bridgehead and bulwark in the Middle East.
Damascus is an important ally of Iran and irreconcilable enemy of Israel. It goes without saying that appearance of the Russian military base in the region will certainly introduce corrections into the existing correlation of forces.
Russia is taking the Syrian regime under its protection. It will almost certainly sour Moscow’s relations with Israel. It may even encourage the Iranian regime nearby and make it even less tractable in the nuclear program talks.( Ivan Safronov, Russia to defend its principal Middle East ally: Moscow takes Syria under its protection, Global Research July 28, 2006)
World War III Scenario
For the last five years, the Middle East-Central Asian region has been on an active war footing.
Syria has significant air defense capabilities as well as ground forces.
Syria has been building up its air defense system with the delivery of Russian Pantsir S1 air-defense missiles. In 2010, Russia delivered a Yakhont missile system to Syria. The Yakhont operating out of Russia’s Tartus naval base “are designed for engagement of enemy’s ships at the range up to 300 km”. (Bastion missile systems to protect Russian naval base in Syria, Ria Novosti, September 21, 2010).
The structure of military alliances respectively on the US-NATO and Syria-Iran-SCO sides, not to mention the military involvement of Israel, the complex relationship between Syria and Lebanon, the pressures exerted by Turkey on Syria’s northern border, point indelibly to a dangerous process of escalation.
Any form of US-NATO sponsored military intervention directed against Syria would destabilize the entire region, potentially leading to escalation over a vast geographical area, extending from the Eastern to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border with Tajikistan and China.
In the short run, with the war in Libya, the US-NATO military alliance is overextended in terms of its capabilities. Whiel we do not forsee the implementation of a US-NATO military operation in the short-term, the process of political destabilization through the covert support of a rebel insurgency will in all likelihood continue.
PART II – THE PENTAGON’S SALVADOR OPTION
The Deployment of Death Squads in Iraq and Syria
The program was implemented under the tenure of John D. Negroponte, who served as US ambassador to Iraq (June 2004-April 2005). The current ambassador to Syria, Robert S. Ford was part of Negroponte’s team in Baghdad in 2004-2005.
Syria: Overview and Recent Developments
The Western media has played a central role in obfuscating the nature of foreign interference in Syria including outside support to armed insurgents. In chorus they have described recent events in Syria as a “peaceful protest movement” directed against the government of Bashar Al Assad, when the evidence amply confirms that Islamic paramilitary groups have infiltrated the rallies.
Israel’s Debka Intelligence news, while avoiding the issue of an armed insurgency, tacitly acknowledges that Syrian forces are being confronted by an organized paramilitary:
“[Syrian forces] are now running into heavy resistance: Awaiting them are anti-tank traps and fortified barriers manned by protesters armed with heavy machine guns.” DEBKAfile,
Since when are peaceful civilian protesters armed with “heavy machine guns” and “anti-tank traps”?
Recent developments in Syria point to a full-fledged armed insurgency, integrated by Islamist “freedom fighters” supported, trained and equipped by NATO and Turkey’s High Command. According to Israeli intelligence sources:
NATO headquarters in Brussels and the Turkish high command are meanwhile drawing up plans for their first military step in Syria, which is to arm the rebels with weapons for combating the tanks and helicopters spearheading the Assad regime’s crackdown on dissent. Instead of repeating the Libyan model of air strikes, NATO strategists are thinking more in terms of pouring large quantities of anti-tank and anti-air rockets, mortars and heavy machine guns into the protest centers for beating back the government armored forces. (DEBKAfile, NATO to give rebels anti-tank weapons, August 14, 2011, emphasis added)
The delivery of weapons to the rebels is to be implemented “overland, namely through Turkey and under Turkish army protection….Alternatively, the arms would be trucked into Syria under Turkish military guard and transferred to rebel leaders at pre-arranged rendezvous.” (Ibid, emphasis added)
According to Israeli sources, which remain to be verified, NATO and the Turkish High command, also contemplate the development of a “jihad” involving the recruitment of thousands of Islamist “freedom fighters”, reminiscent of the enlistment of Mujahideen to wage the CIA’s jihad (holy war) in the heyday of the Soviet-Afghan war:
Also discussed in Brussels and Ankara, our sources report, is a campaign to enlist thousands of Muslim volunteers in Middle East countries and the Muslim world to fight alongside the Syrian rebels. The Turkish army would house these volunteers, train them and secure their passage into Syria. (Ibid, emphasis added)
These various developments point towards the possible involvement of Turkish troops inside Syria, which could potentially lead to a broader military confrontation between Syria and Turkey as well as a full-fledged “humanitarian” military intervention by NATO.
In recent developments, Islamist death squads have penetrated the port city of Latakia’s Ramleh district, which includes a Palestinian refugee camp of some 10,000 residents. These armed gunmen which include rooftop snipers are terrorizing the local population.
In a cynical twist, the Western media has presented the Islamist paramilitary groups in Latakia as “Palestinian dissidents” and “activists” defending themselves against Syrian armed forces. In this regard, the actions of armed gangs directed against the Palestinian community in Ramleh visibly seeks to foment political conflict between Palestine and Syria. Several Palestinian personalities have sided with the Syrian “protest movement”, while casually ignoring the fact that the “pro-democracy” death squads are covertly supported by Israel and Turkey.
Turkey’s foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu has intimated that Ankara could consider military action against Syria if the Al Assad government doesn’t cease “immediately and unconditionally” its actions against “protesters”. In a bitter irony, the Islamist fighters operating inside Syria who are terrorizing the civilian population, are trained and financed by the Turkish Erdogan government.
Meanwhile, US, NATO and Israeli military planners have outlined the contours of a humanitarian military campaign, in which Turkey (the second largest military force inside NATO) would play a central role.
On August 15, Tehran reacted to the unfolding crisis in Syria, stating that “events in Syria should be considered only as internal affairs of that country and accused the West and its allies with trying to destabilize Syria, in order to make the case for its eventual occupation”. (Iran Foreign minsitry Statement, quoted in Iran urges West to stay out of Syria’s ‘internal matters’ Todayszaman.com, August 15, 2011)
We are at dangerous crossroads: Were a military operation to be launched against Syria, the broader Middle East Central Asian region extending from North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border with China would be engulfed in the turmoil of an extended war. A war on Syria could evolve towards a US-NATO military campaign directed against Iran, in which Turkey and Israel would be directly involved.
It is crucial to spread the word and break the channels of media disinformation.
A critical and unbiased understanding of what is happening in Syria is of crucial importance in reversing the tide of military escalation towards a broader regional war.
Michel Chossudovsky, August 16, 2011
Background: America’s Ambassador Robert S. Ford Arrives in Damascus (January 2011)
US Ambassador Robert Ford arrived in Damascus in late January 2011 at the height of the protest movement in Egypt.
America’s previous Ambassador to Syria was recalled by Washington following the 2005 assassination of former Prime minister Rafick Hariri, which was blamed, without evidence, on the government of Bashar Al Assad.
The author was in Damascus on January 27, 2011 when Washington’s Envoy presented his credentials to the Al Assad government. (See photo below).
At the outset of my visit to Syria in January 2011, I reflected on the significance of this diplomatic appointment and the role it might play in a covert process of political destabilization. I did not, however, foresee that this process would be implemented within less than two months following the instatement of Robert S. Ford as US Ambassador to Syria.
The reinstatement of a US ambassador in Damascus, but more specifically the choice of Robert S. Ford as US ambassador, bears a direct relationship to the onset of the protest movement in mid-March against the government of Bashar al Assad.
Robert S. Ford was the man for the job. As “Number Two” at the US embassy in Baghdad (2004-2005) under the helm of Ambassador John D. Negroponte, he played a key role in implementing the Pentagon’s “Iraq Salvador Option”. The latter consisted in supporting Iraqi death squadrons and paramilitary forces modelled on the experience of Central America.
The Western media has misled public opinion on the nature of the Arab protest movement by failing to address the support provided by the US State Department as well as US foundations (including the National Endowment for Democracy (NED)) to selected pro-US opposition groups. Known and documented, the U.S. State Department “has been been funding opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad, since 2006. (U.S. admits funding Syrian opposition – World – CBC News April 18, 2011)
The protest movement in Syria was upheld by the media as part of the “Arab Spring”, presented to public opinion as a pro-democracy protest movement which spread spontaneously from Egypt and the Maghreb to the Mashriq. The fact of the matter is that these various country initiatives were closely timed and coordinated. Michel Chossudovsky, The Protest Movement in Egypt: “Dictators” do not Dictate, They Obey Orders, Global Research, January 29, 2011)
There is reason to believe that events in Syria, however, were planned well in advance in coordination with the process of regime change in other Arab countries including Egypt and Tunisia.
The outbreak of the protest movement in the southern border city of Daraa was carefully timed to follow the events in Tunisia and Egypt.
It is worth noting that the US Embassy in various countries has played a central role in supporting opposition groups. In Egypt, for instance, the April 6 Youth Movement was supported directly by the US embassy in Cairo.
Who is Ambassador Robert Stephen Ford?
Since his arrival in Damascus in late January 2011, Ambassador Robert S. Ford played a central role in laying the groundwork as well as establishing contacts with opposition groups.
A functioning US embassy in Damascus was seen as a precondition for carrying out a process of political destabilization leading to “regime change”.
Ambassador Robert S., Ford is no ordinary diplomat. He was ambassador to Algeria before his appointment as U.S. representative in January 2004 to the Shiite city of Najaf in Iraq. Najaf was the stronghold of the Mahdi army
A few months later he was appointed “Number Two Man” (Minister Counsellor for Political Affairs), at the US embassy in Baghdad at the outset of John Negroponte’s tenure as US Ambassador to Iraq (June 2004- April 2005). Ford subsequently served under Negroponte’s successor Zalmay Khalilzad.
Negroponte’s mandate as US ambassador to Iraq (together with Robert S. Ford) was to coordinate out of the US embassy, the covert support to death squads and paramilitary groups in Iraq with a view to fomenting sectarian violence and weakening the resistance movement. Robert S. Ford as “Number Two” (Minister Counsellor for Political Affairs) at the US Embassy played a central role in this endeavor.
To understand Robert Ford’s mandate in both Baghdad and subsequently in Damascus, it is important to reflect briefly on the history of US covert operations and the central role played by John D. Negroponte.
Negroponte and the “Salvador Option”
John Negroponte had served as US ambassador to Honduras from 1981 to 1985. As Ambassador in Tegucigalpa, he played a key role in supporting and supervising the Nicaraguan Contra mercenaries who were based in Honduras. The cross border Contra attacks into Nicaragua claimed some 50 000 civilian lives.
During the same period, Negroponte was instrumental in setting up the Honduran military death squads, “operating with Washington support’s, [they] assassinated hundreds of opponents of the US-backed regime.” (See Bill Vann, Bush Nominee linked to Latin American Terrorism, by Bill Vann, Global Research, November 2001, http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/VAN111A.html)
“Under the rule of General Gustavo Alvarez Martnez, Honduras’s military government was both a close ally of the Reagan administration and was “disappearing” dozens of political opponents in classic death squad fashion.
In a 1982 letter to The Economist, Negroponte wrote that it was “simply untrue to state that death squads have made their appearance in Honduras.” The Country Report on Human Rights Practices that his embassy sent to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee took the same line, insisting that there were “no political prisoners in Honduras” and that the “Honduran government neither condones nor knowingly permits killings of a political or nonpolitical nature.”
Yet according to a four-part series in the Baltimore Sun in 1995, in 1982 alone the Honduran press ran 318 stories of murders and kidnappings by the Honduran military. The Sun described the activities of a secret CIA-trained Honduran army unit, Battalion 316, that used “shock and suffocation devices in interrogations. Prisoners often were kept naked and, when no longer useful, killed and buried in unmarked graves.”
On August 27, 1997, CIA Inspector General Frederick P. Hitz released a 211-page classified report entitled “Selected Issues Relating to CIA Activities in Honduras in the 1980’s.” This report was partly declassified on Oct. 22, 1998, in response to demands by the Honduran human rights ombudsman. Opponents of Negroponte are demanding that all Senators read the full report before voting on his nomination. to the position of US Permanent Representative to the UN}” (Peter Roff and James Chapin, Face-off: Bush’s Foreign Policy Warriors, Global Research November 2001, http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/ROF111A.html
John Negroponte- Robert S. Ford. The Iraq “Salvador Option”
In January 2005, following Negroponte’s appointment as US ambassador to Iraq, the Pentagon confirmed in a story leaked to Newsweek that it was “considering forming hit squads of Kurdish and Shia fighters to target leaders of the Iraqi insurgency in a strategic shift borrowed from the American struggle against left-wing guerrillas in Central America 20 years ago”. (El Salvador-style ‘death squads’ to be deployed by US against Iraq militants – Times Online, January 10, 2005)
John Negroponte and Robert S. Ford at the US Embassy worked closely together on the Pentagon’s project. Two other embassy officials, namely Henry Ensher (Ford’s Deputy) and a younger official in the political section, Jeffrey Beals, played an important role in the team “talking to a range of Iraqis, including extremists”. (See The New Yorker, March 26, 2007). Another key individual in Negroponte’s team was James Franklin Jeffrey, America’s ambassador to Albania (2002-2004). Jeffrey is currently the US Ambassador to Iraq.
Negroponte also brought into the team one of his former collaborators Colonel James Steele (ret) from his Honduras heyday:
Under the “Salvador Option,” “Negroponte had assistance from his colleague from his days in Central America during the 1980’s, Ret. Col James Steele. Steele, whose title in Baghdad was Counselor for Iraqi Security Forces supervised the selection and training of members of the Badr Organization and Mehdi Army, the two largest Shi’ite militias in Iraq, in order to target the leadership and support networks of a primarily Sunni resistance. Planned or not, these death squads promptly spiralled out of control to become the leading cause of death in Iraq.
Intentional or not, the scores of tortured, mutilated bodies which turn up on the streets of Baghdad each day are generated by the death squads whose impetus was John Negroponte. And it is this U.S.-backed sectarian violence which largely led to the hell-disaster that Iraq is today. (Dahr Jamail, Managing Escalation: Negroponte and Bush’s New Iraq Team,. Antiwar.com, January 7, 2007)
John Negroponte described Robert Ford while at the embassy in Baghdad, as “one of these very tireless people … who didn’t mind putting on his flak jacket and helmet and going out of the Green Zone to meet contacts.” Robert S. Ford is fluent in both Arabic and Turkish. He was dispatched by Negroponte to undertake strategic contacts:
[O]ne Pentagon proposal would send Special Forces teams to advise, support and possibly train Iraqi squads, most likely hand-picked Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and Shiite militiamen, to target Sunni insurgents and their sympathizers, even across the border into Syria, according to military insiders familiar with the discussions. It remains unclear, however, whether this would be a policy of assassination or so-called “snatch” operations, in which the targets are sent to secret facilities for interrogation. The current thinking is that while U.S. Special Forces would lead operations in, say, Syria, activities inside Iraq itself would be carried out by Iraqi paramilitaries. (Newsweek, January 8, 2005, emphasis added)
The plan had the support of the US appointed Iraqi government of Prime Minister Iyad Allawi:
The Pentagon declined to comment, but one insider told Newsweek: “What everyone agrees is that we can’t just go on as we are. We have to find a way to take the offensive against the insurgents. Right now, we are playing defence. And we are losing.”
Hit squads would be controversial and would probably be kept secret.
The experience of the so-called “death squads” in Central America remains raw for many even now and helped to sully the image of the United States in the region.
…. John Negroponte, the US Ambassador in Baghdad, had a front-row seat at the time as Ambassador to Honduras from 1981-85.
Death squads were a brutal feature of Latin American politics of the time. In Argentina in the 1970s and Guatemala in the 1980s, soldiers wore uniform by day but used unmarked cars by night to kidnap and kill those hostile to the regime or their suspected sympathisers.
In the early 1980s President Reagan’s Administration funded and helped to train Nicaraguan contras based in Honduras with the aim of ousting Nicaragua’s Sandinista regime. The Contras were equipped using money from illegal American arms sales to Iran, a scandal that could have toppled Mr Reagan.
It was in El Salvador that the United States trained small units of local forces specifically to target rebels.
The thrust of the Pentagon proposal in Iraq, according to Newsweek, is to follow that model and direct US special forces teams to advise, support and train Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and Shia militiamen to target leaders of the Sunni insurgency.
It is unclear whether the main aim of the missions would be to assassinate the rebels or kidnap them and take them away for interrogation. Any mission in Syria would probably be undertaken by US Special Forces.
Nor is it clear who would take responsibility for such a programme — the Pentagon or the Central Intelligence Agency. Such covert operations have traditionally been run by the CIA at arm’s length from the administration in power, giving US officials the ability to deny knowledge of it. (Times Online, op cit, emphasis added)
Under Negroponte’s helm at the US Embassy in Baghdad, a wave of covert civilian killings and targeted assassinations was unleashed. Engineers, medical doctors, scientists and intellectuals were also targeted. The objective was to create factional divisions between Sunni, Shiite, Kurds and Christians, as well as weed out civilian support for the Iraqi resistance. The Christian community was one of the main targets of the assassination program.
The Pentagon’s objective also consisted in training an Iraqi Army, Police and Security Forces, which would carry out a homegrown “counterinsurgency” program (unofficially) on behalf of the U.S.
The Role of General David Petraeus
A “Multi-National Security Transition Command Iraq” (MNSTC) was established under the command of General David Petraeus with the mandate to train and equip a local Iraqi Army, Police and Security forces. General David Petraeus’s (who was appointed by Obama to head the CIA in July 2011), assumed the command of the MNSTC in June 2004 at the very outset of Negroponte’s tenure as ambassador.
The MNSTC was an integral part of the Pentagon’s “Operation Salvador Iraq” under the helm of Ambassador John Negroponte. It was categorized as an exercise in counterinsurgency. At the end of Petraeus’ term, the MNSTC had trained some 100,000 Iraqi Security Forces, police, etc., which constituted a body of local military personnel to be used to target the Iraqi resistance as well as its civilian supporters.
From Baghdad to Damascus: The Syria “Salvador Option”
While conditions in Syria are markedly different to those in Iraq, Robert S. Ford’s stint as “Number Two Man” at the US Embassy in Baghdad has a direct bearing on the nature of his activities in Syria including his contacts with opposition groups.
In early July, US Ambassador Robert Ford travelled to Hama and had meetings with members of the protest movement (Low-key U.S. diplomat transforms Syria policy – The Washington Post, July 12, 2011). Reports confirm that Robert Ford had numerous contacts with opposition groups both before and after his July trip to Hama. In a recent statement (August 4), he confirmed that the embassy will continue “reaching out” to opposition groups in defiance of the Syrian authorities.
General David Petraeus: President Obama’s New Head of the CIA
Obama’s newly appointed CIA head, David Petraeus who led the MNSTC “Counterinsurgency” program in Baghdad in 2004 in coordination with Ambassador John Negroponte, is slated to play a key intelligence role in relation to Syria –including covert support to opposition forces and “freedom fighters”, the infiltration of Syrian intelligence and armed forces, etc. These tasks would be carried out in liaison with Ambassador Robert S. Ford. Both men worked together in Iraq; they were part of Negroponte’s extended team in Baghdad in 2004-2005.
PART III – THE AL QAEDA INSURGENCY IN SYRIA: RECRUITING JIHADISTS TO WAGE NATO’S HUMANITARIAN WARS
What triggered the crisis in Syria?
It was not the result of internal political cleavages, but rather the consequence of a deliberate plan by the US-NATO alliance to trigger social chaos, to discredit the Syrian government of Bashar Al Assad and ultimately destabilize Syria as a Nation State.
Since the middle of March 2011, Islamist armed groups covertly supported by Western and Israeli intelligence have conducted terrorist attacks on government buildings and acts of arson.
Amply documented, trained gunmen and snipers have targeted the police, the armed forces as well as unarmed civilians.
The objective of this armed insurrection is to trigger the response of the police and armed forces, including the deployment of tanks and armored vehicles with a view to eventually justifying a “humanitarian” military intervention, under NATO’s “responsibility to protect” mandate.
The Nature of the Syrian Political System
There is certainly cause for social unrest and mass protest in Syria: unemployment has increased in recent years, social conditions have deteriorated, particularly since the adoption in 2006 of sweeping economic reforms under IMF guidance. The later include austerity measures, a freeze on wages, the deregulation of the financial system, trade reform and privatization. (See IMF Syrian Arab Republic — IMF Article IV Consultation Mission’s Concluding Statement, http://www.imf.org/external/np/ms/2006/051406.htm, 2006).
Moreover, there are serious divisions within the government and the military. The populist policy framework of the Baath party has largely been eroded. A faction within the ruling political establishment has embraced the neoliberal agenda. In turn, the adoption of IMF “economic medicine” has served to enrich the ruling economic elite. Pro-US factions have also developed within the upper echelons of the Syrian military and intelligence.
But the “pro-democracy” movement integrated by Islamists and supported by NATO and the “international community” did not emanate from the mainstay of Syrian civil society.
The protests largely dominated by Islamists represent a very small fraction of Syrian public opinion. They are of a sectarian nature. They do no address the broader issues of social inequality, civil rights and unemployment.
The majority of Syria’s population (including the opponents of the Al Assad government) do not support the “protest movement” which is characterised by an armed insurgency. In fact quite the opposite.
Ironically, despite its authoritarian nature, there is considerable popular support for the government of President Bashar Al Assad, which is confirmed by the large pro-government rallies.
Syria constitutes the only (remaining) independent secular state in the Arab world. Its populist, anti-Imperialist and secular base is inherited from the dominant Baath party, which integrates Muslims, Christians and Druze. It supports the struggle of the Palestinian people.
The objective of the US-NATO alliance is to ultimately displace and destroy the Syrian secular State, displace or co-opt the national economic elites and eventually replace the Syrian government of Bashar Al Assad with an Arab sheikdom, a pro-US Islamic republic or a compliant pro-US “democracy”.
The role of the US-NATO- Israel military alliance in triggering an armed insurrection is not addressed by the Western media. Moreover, several “progressive voices” have accepted the “NATO consensus” at face value: “a peaceful protest” which is being “violently repressed by the Syrian police and armed forces”.
The Insurgency is integrated by Terrorists
Al Jazeera, the Israeli and Lebanese press confirm that “the protesters” had burned the headquarters of the Baath Party and the court house in Daraa in mid-March, while at the same time claiming that the demonstrations were “peaceful”.
Terrorists have infiltrated the civilian protest movement. Similar acts of arson were carried out in late July in Hama. Public buildings including the Court House and the Agricultural Bank were set on fire.
This insurgency is directed against the secular State. Its ultimate object is political destabilization and regime change. The hit squads of armed gunmen are involved in terrorist acts directed against both Syrian forces and civilians.
Civilians who support the government are the object of threats and intimidation. Pro-government civilians are also the object of targetted assassination by armed gunmen:
In Karak, a village near Dara’a, Salafis forced villagers to join anti-government protests and remove photos of President Assad from their homes. Witnesses reported that a young Muslim man who refused to remove a photo was found hanged on his front porch the next morning.
“People want to go out and peacefully ask for certain changes, but Muslim Salafi groups are sneaking in with their goal, which is not to make changes for the betterment of Syria, but to take over the country with their agenda,” (International Christian Concern (ICC), May 4, 2011, emphasis added)
In late July, terrorists attacked a train travelling between Aleppo and Damascus:
“The train was carrying 480 passengers… The terrorists dismantled the rails which caused the accident… The leading carriage was burnt… Other carriages were derailed and turned over onto their sides… (quoted in Terrorists attacked a train traveling from Aleppo to Damascus – YouTube, Truth Syria). Most of the passengers on the train “were children, women and patients who were traveling to undergo surgeries.”( Saboteurs Target a Train Traveling from Aleppo to Damascus, Driver Martyred – Local – jpnews-sy.com, July 24, 2011)
The Recruitment of Mujahideen: NATO and Turkey
This insurgency in Syria has similar features to that of Libya: it is integrated by paramilitary brigades affiliated to Al Qaeda. Recent developments point to a full-fledged armed insurgency, integrated by Islamist “freedom fighters” supported, trained and equipped by NATO and Turkey’s High Command.
According to Israeli intelligence sources:
NATO headquarters in Brussels and the Turkish high command are meanwhile drawing up plans for their first military step in Syria, which is to arm the rebels with weapons for combating the tanks and helicopters spearheading the Assad regime’s crackdown on dissent. Instead of repeating the Libyan model of air strikes, NATO strategists are thinking more in terms of pouring large quantities of anti-tank and anti-air rockets, mortars and heavy machine guns into the protest centers for beating back the government armored forces. (DEBKAfile, NATO to give rebels anti-tank weapons, August 14, 2011)
A NATO-led intervention is on the drawing board. According to military and intelligence sources, NATO, Turkey and Saudi Arabia have been discussing “the form this intervention would take”.
Shift in Turkey’s Military Command Structure
In late July, the Commander in Chief of the Army and head of Turkey’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Isik Kosaner, resigned together with the commanders of the Navy and Air Force. General Kosaner represented a broadly secular stance within the Armed Forces. General Necdet Ozel has been appointed as his replacement as commander of the Army and head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
These developments are of crucial importance. They point to a shift within Turkey’s military high command in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood including enhanced support to the armed insurrection in Northern Syria.
Military sources also confirm that Syrian rebels “have been training in the use of the new weapons with Turkish military officers at makeshift installations in Turkish bases near the Syrian border.” (DEBKAfile, NATO to give rebels anti-tank weapons, August 14, 2011)
The delivery of weapons to the rebels is to be implemented “overland, namely through Turkey and under Turkish army protection….Alternatively, the arms would be trucked into Syria under Turkish military guard and transferred to rebel leaders at pre-arranged rendez-vous.” (Ibid, emphasis added)
These various developments point towards the possibility of the direct involvement of Turkish troops in the conflict, which could potentially lead to a broader process of military confrontation between Syria and Turkey, as well as the direct involvement of Turkish troops inside Syria.
A ground war involving Turkish troops would involve sending troops into Northern Syria and “carving out a military pocket from which Syria’s rebels would be supplied with military, logistic and medical aid.”
(Assad may opt for war to escape Russian, Arab, European ultimatums, http://www.debka.com/article/21255/ Debkafile, August 31, 2011).
As in the case of Libya, financial support is being channelled to the Syrian rebel forces by Saudi Arabia. “Ankara and Riyadh will provide the anti-Assad movements with large quantities of weapons and funds to be smuggled in from outside Syria” (Ibid).
The deployment of Saudi and GCC troops is also contemplated in Southern Syria in coordination with Turkey (Ibid):
Recruiting Thousands of Jihadists
NATO and the Turkish High command, also contemplate the development of a jihad involving the recruitment of thousands of “freedom fighters”, reminiscent of the enlistment of Mujahideen to wage the CIA’s jihad (holy war) in the heyday of the Soviet-Afghan war:
Also discussed in Brussels and Ankara, our sources report, is a campaign to enlist thousands of Muslim volunteers in Middle East countries and the Muslim world to fight alongside the Syrian rebels. The Turkish army would house these volunteers, train them and secure their passage into Syria. (Ibid, emphasis added)
This recruitment of Mujahideen to fight NATO’s humanitarian wars (including Libay and Syria) is well underway. Some 1500 jihadists from Afghanistan trained by the CIA were dispatched to fight with the “pro-democracy” rebels under the helm of “former” Libya Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) Commander Abdel Hakim Belhadj:
“Most of the men have been recruited from Afghanistan. They are Uzbeks, Persians and Hazaras. According to the footage, these men attired in the Uzbek-style of shalwar and Hazara-Uzbek Kurta were found fighting in Libyan cities.” (The Nation, Pakistan,
The Libyan model of rebel forces integrated by the Islamic brigades together with NATO special forces is slated to be applied in Syria, where Islamist fighters supported by Western and Israeli intelligence have already been deployed.
The Triggering of Factional Divisions within Syrian Society
Syria is a secular state where Muslims and Christian have shared a common heritage from the early Christian period and have lived together for centuries.
Covert support is channelled to the jihadist fighters, who in turn are responsible for acts of sectarian violence directed against Alawite, Christians and Druze. In early May, as part of the anti-government “protest movement”, armed gunmen were reported to have attacked Christian homes in Daraa in Southern Syria:
In a Christian village outside of Dara’a, in southern Syria, eye witnesses reported that twenty masked men on motorcycles opened fire on a Christian home while shouting malicious remarks against Christians in the street. According to another ICC source in Syria, churches received threatening letters during the Easter holidays telling them to join Salafi protestors or leave.
Last week in Duma, a suburb of Damascus, Salafis chanted, “Alawites to the grave and Christians to Beirut!” according to an ICC source and Tayyar.org, a Lebanese news agency. Christians in Syria are concerned that the agenda of many hard-line Islamists in Syria, including the Salafis, is to take over the government and kick Christians out of the country. “If Muslim Salafis gain political influence, they will make sure that there will be no trace of Christianity in Syria,” a Syrian Christian leader told ICC.
“We want to improve life and rights in Syria under this president, but we do not want terrorism. Christians will be first to pay the price of terrorism. … What Christians are asking for is the realization that when changes are happening, it should happen not under certain agendas or for certain people, but for the people of Syria in a peaceful way under the current government.” Aidan Clay, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “Unlike in Egypt, where Christians predominantly supported the revolution that removed President Hosni Mubarak from power, Syrian Christians have desired peace while demanding greater freedoms under the current government. Christians anticipate that only chaos and bloodshed will follow if Salafi demands are met. We urge the U.S. government to act wisely and carefully when developing policies that have deep political ramifications for Syria’s minorities by not indirectly supporting a foothold to be used by Salafis to carry out their radical agenda.”
(Syrian Christians Threatened by Salafi Protestors, Persecution News, International Christian Concern (ICC), May 4, 2011)
The attacks on Christians in Syria are reminiscent of the death squadron killings directed against Chaldean Christians in Iraq.