The memo exhibits the recommendation Hillary Clinton was attending to plunge the U.S. deeper into the Syrian conflict. As Trump seeks to extricate the U.S. the memo has once more grow to be related, writes Daniel Lazare
By Daniel Lazare
Particular to Consortium Information
A memo despatched to Hillary Clinton that WikiLeaks made public in 2016 has not gotten the eye it deserves. Now’s the time. After President Donald Trump tweeted that he was pulling American troops out of Syria, Clinton joined his vociferous critics who need extra struggle in Syria.
“Actions have consequences, and whether we’re in Syria or not, the people who want to harm us are there & at war,” Clinton tweeted in response to Trump. “Isolationism is weakness. Empowering ISIS is dangerous. Playing into Russia & Iran’s hands is foolish. This President is putting our national security at grave risk.”
Actions certainly have penalties.
The memo exhibits the sort of recommendation Clinton was getting as secretary of state to plunge the U.S. deeper into the Syrian warfare. It takes us again to 2012 and the early part of the battle.
At that time, it was largely an inner affair, though Saudi arms shipments have been enjoying a larger and larger position in bolstering insurgent forces. However as soon as the President Barack Obama ultimately determined in favor of intervention, beneath strain from Clinton, the battle was shortly internationalized as hundreds of holy warriors flooded in from as distant as western China.
The 1,200-word memo written by James P. Rubin, a senior diplomat in Invoice Clinton’s State Division, to then-Secretary of State Clinton, which Clinton twice requested be printed out, begins with the topic of Iran, an essential patron of Syria.
The memo dismisses any notion that nuclear talks will cease Iran “from improving the crucial part of any nuclear weapons program—the capability to enrich uranium.” If it does get the bomb, it goes on, Israel will endure a strategic setback since it is going to not have the ability to “respond to provocations with conventional military strikes on Syria and Lebanon, as it can today.” Denied the power to bomb at will, Israel may depart off secondary targets and strike on the primary enemy as an alternative.
Consequently, the memo argues that the U.S. ought to topple the Assad regime in order to weaken Iran and allay the fears of Israel, which has lengthy regarded the Islamic republic as its main enemy. Because the memo places it:
“Bringing down Assad would not only be a massive boon to Israel’s security, it would also ease Israel’s understandable fear of losing its nuclear monopoly. Then, Israel and the United States might be able to develop a common view of when the Iranian program is so dangerous that military action could be warranted.”
This doc, making the case to arm Syrian rebels, might have been largely ignored due to confusion about its dates, which look like inaccurate.
The time stamp on the e-mail is “2001-01-01 03:00” although Clinton was nonetheless a New York senator-elect at that time. That date can also be out of synch with the timeline of nuclear diplomacy with Iran.
However the physique of the e-mail provides a State Division case and doc quantity with the date of 11/30/2015. However that’s incorrect as properly as a result of Clinton resigned as secretary of state on Feb. 1, 2013.
Central to the Nice Debate
Consequently, anybody stumbling throughout the memo in the Wikileaks archives could be confused about the way it figures in the good debate about whether or not to make use of drive to convey down Syrian President Bashir al-Assad. However textual clues present a solution. The second paragraph refers to nuclear talks with Iran “that began in Istanbul this April and will continue in Baghdad in May,” occasions that passed off in 2012. The sixth invokes an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour carried out with then-Israeli Protection Minister Ehud Barak “last week.” Because the interview passed off on April 19, 2012, the memo can subsequently be dated to the fourth week in April.
The memo syncs with Clinton’s considering on Syria, resembling calling for Assad’s overthrow and persevering with to push for a no-fly zone in her final debate with Donald Trump even after Gen. Joseph Dunford had testified to the Senate Armed Providers Committee that it might imply struggle with Russia.
The memo was despatched to her shortly earlier than Clinton joined forces with then-CIA Director David Petraeus to push for an aggressive program of insurgent army help.
For sure, the memo’s skepticism about negotiating with Iran proved to be unwarranted since Iran ultimately agreed to close down its nuclear program. The memo, which Clinton twice requested to be printed out for her, underscores the conviction that Israeli safety trumps all different issues even when it means setting hearth to a area that’s been burned over greater than as soon as.
However the memo illustrates a lot else in addition to: a recklessness, lack of realism and an virtually mystical perception that all the things will fall neatly into place as soon as america flexes its muscle. Overthrowing Assad can be nothing lower than “transformative,” the memo says.
“…Iran would be strategically isolated, unable to exert its influence in the Middle East. The resulting regime in Syria will see the United States as a friend, not an enemy. Washington would gain substantial recognition as fighting for the people in the Arab world, not the corrupt regimes. For Israel, the rationale for a bolt from the blue attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would be eased. And a new Syrian regime might well be open to early action on the frozen peace talks with Israel. Hezbollah in Lebanon would be cut off from its Iranian sponsor since Syria would no longer be a transit point for Iranian training, assistance and missiles.”
It was “a low-cost high-payoff approach,” the memo says, that might remove one enemy, weaken two extra, and generate such pleasure amongst odd Syrians that peace talks between Damascus and Tel Aviv will spring again to life. The dangers seemed to be nil. Since “the Libyan operation had no long-lasting consequences for the region,” the memo supposes, referring to the overthrow of strongman Muammer Gaddafi six months earlier, the Syrian operation wouldn’t both. In a passage which will have influenced Clinton’s coverage of a no-fly zone, regardless of Dunford’s warning, the memo says:
“Some argue that U.S. involvement risks a wider war with Russia. But the Kosovo example [in which NATO bombed Russian-ally Serbia] shows otherwise. In that case, Russia had genuine ethnic and political ties to the Serbs, which don’t exist between Russia and Syria, and even then Russia did little more than complain. Russian officials have already acknowledged they won’t stand in the way if intervention comes.”
So, there was nothing to fret about. Sixty-five years of Arab-Israeli battle would fall by the wayside whereas Russia stays safely marginalized.
The way it Turned Out
For sure, that’s not how issues turned out. At that second, Libya appeared underneath management. However three or 4 months later, it will explode as Western-backed Islamist militias blasted away at each other, imposing strict Sharia regulation, re-instituting slavery and rolling again many years of social progress. As soon as President Barack Obama permitted a modified model of the Clinton-Petraeus plan, Syria would plunge into the identical abyss as jihadis funded by Saudi Arabia and the opposite oil monarchies, lots of whom got here from Libya, unfold sectarian violence and worry.
The memo’s assumption that the U.S. might neatly and cleanly decapitate the Syrian authorities with out having to fret about broader penalties was little in need of deluded.
The notion that bizarre Syrians would fall to their knees in gratitude was ludicrous whereas Clinton’s disregard for the intricacies of Syrian politics was astonishing.
There’s additionally the memo’s blithe suggestion that Washington “work with regional allies like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar to organize, train, and arm Syrian rebel forces.”
In late 2009, Secretary of State Clinton despatched one other diplomatic memo made public by Wikileaks saying that “donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.” So what made her assume two years later that the dominion wouldn’t fund Syrian jihadis of exactly the identical ilk?
The 2009 memo slammed Qatar for permitting Al Qaeda, the Taliban and different terrorist teams to make use of the sheikdom “as a fundraising locale.” She was properly conscious then that a pro-Al Qaeda autocracy would now assist Syrians “fight for their freedom,” because the memo she despatched places it.
There’s a exceptional continuity between the Syria coverage that Clinton backed and earlier insurance policies in Afghanistan and Libya. Within the first, U.S. army help wound up flowing to the infamous warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a spiritual sectarian and raging anti-western xenophobe who nonetheless was “the most efficient at killing Soviets,” as Steve Coll put it in “Ghost Wars,” his bestselling 2004 account of the CIA’s love affair with jihad.
Hekmatyar’s cutthroats wound up with the lion’s share of American arms. Kind of the identical factor occurred in Libya as soon as Clinton persuaded Qatar to hitch the anti-Gaddafi coalition. The sheikdom seized the chance to distribute some $400 million to varied insurgent militias, lots of them excessive Islamist. The Obama administration stated nothing in response.
As soon as once more, U.S. arms and materiel flowed to probably the most reactionary parts. The similar would occur in Syria the place U.S. and Saudi arms went to the native Al Qaeda affiliate, generally known as Jabhat al-Nusra, and even to ISIS, as a meticulous report by Battle Armament Analysis, a Swiss and EU-funded research group in London, has proven. (See “Did Obama Arm Islamic State Killers?” Consortium Information, Dec. 21, 2017.)
By August 2012, a secret Protection Intelligence Company report discovered that Salafists, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Al Qaeda have been already “the major forces driving of the insurgency” and that the U.S. and Gulf states backed them regardless. The report warned that the U.S. and a few of its allies have been supporting the institution of a “Salafist principality” in japanese Syria to strain Assad that would flip into an “Islamic State”–two years earlier than the Islamic State was declared in 2014. Clinton was amongst senior Obama administration officers who needed to have seen the report because it was despatched to the State Division amongst a number of different businesses.
In 2016, then Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed this coverage in a leaked audio dialog, saying that the U.S., fairly than critically preventing the Islamic State in Syria, was prepared to make use of the rising power of the jihadists to strain Assad to resign, simply as outlined in the DIA doc.
“We know that this was growing, we were watching, we saw that Daesh [an Arabic name for Islamic State] was growing in strength, and we thought Assad was threatened,” Kerry stated. “We thought however we could probably manage that Assad might then negotiate, but instead of negotiating he got Putin to support him.”
Speechwriter Ben Rhodes summed up the issue of “moderate” rebels who have been indistinguishable from Al Qaeda, in his White Home memoir, “The World As It Is.” He writes:
“Al Nusra was probably the strongest fighting force within the opposition, and while there were extremist elements in the group, it was also clear that the more moderate opposition was fighting side by side with al Nusra. I argued that labeling al Nusra as terrorists would alienate the same people we want to help, while giving al Nusra less incentive to avoid extremist affiliations.”
The drawback was how one can separate the “good” Al Qaeda fighters from the “bad.” Rhodes later complained when Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that he and his fellow Obama officers have been “trying to climb a spruce tree naked without scratching our ass.” This was “smug,” Rhodes writes. However Putin was merely utilizing a colourful expression to say that the coverage made no sense; which it didn’t.
The value of the Clinton-backed coverage in Syria has been staggering. As many as 560,00zero individuals have died, and half the inhabitants has been displaced, whereas the World Financial institution has estimated complete conflict injury at $226 billion, roughly six years’ revenue for each Syrian man, lady, and youngster.
A cockeyed memo thus helped unleash a real-life disaster that refuses to go away. It’s a nightmare from which Trump is struggling to flee by making an attempt to withdraw U.S. troops in his confused and deluded approach. And it’s a nightmare that warmongers from arch-neocon John Bolton, Trump’s nationwide safety adviser, to “liberal” Home Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to Hillary Clinton are decided to maintain going.
Daniel Lazare is the writer of “The Frozen Republic: How the Constitution Is Paralyzing Democracy”(Harcourt Brace, 1996) and different books about American politics. He has written for a vast number of publications from The Nation to LeMonde Diplomatique and blogs concerning the Structure and associated issues at Daniellazare.com.
CORRECTION: The first memo mentioned in this text was written by U.S. diplomat James Rubin to Hillary Clinton and never by her, as an earlier model of this text stated.