September 2016 – DAMASCUS – Speaking to the US Senate, the Pentagon’s leaders blamed Russia for the Aleppo aid convoy attack, but admitted they “had no facts.” Only US coalition planes should be allowed over Syria, they said, though that would require war against both Syria and Russia. Defense Secretary Ash Carter and General Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, faced the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday to report on the ongoing military operations and “national security challenges” faced by the US. They also asked the senators for more reliable funding, saying the uncertainty was hurting the defense industry.
“Not only our people – our defense industry partners, too, need stability and longer-term plans to be as efficient and cutting-edge as we need them to be,” Carter told the senators. The lawmakers were far less interested in the war against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) than about the future of the Syrian government, Iran’s “malign influence,” and “aggression” by China and Russia – all ranked far ahead of terrorism on Carter and Dunford’s list of security challenges. The Pentagon had “no intention” of sharing intelligence with Russia when it came to Syria, Dunford told the lawmakers unequivocally. Secretary Carter explained that the joint implementation councils envisioned by the ceasefire proposal negotiated in Geneva wouldn’t share intelligence, just coordinate efforts – but that they were a moot point anyway, since the ceasefire was effectively dead.
Both the lawmakers and the Pentagon chiefs blamed that development on Russia, focusing on the alleged airstrike against the humanitarian convoy in east Aleppo while the US-led airstrike against the Syrian Army fighting IS in Deir ez-Zor went unmentioned. “I don’t have the facts,” Dunford said, when asked about the convoy attack by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut). “It was either the Russians or the regime,” he added. “There is no doubt in my mind that the Russians are responsible,” whether directly or because they backed the government in Damascus, Dunford said, describing the attack as “an unacceptable atrocity.” Carter explained Dunford’s logic in a response to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), saying that “the Russians are responsible for this strike whether they conducted it or not, because they took responsibility for the conduct of the Syrians by associating themselves with the Syrian regime.”
The latest proposal by Secretary of State John Kerry involves grounding only Syrian and Russian airplanes, Carter told Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire). “There can be no question of grounding US aircraft” over Syria, he said, adding that US jets conduct their strikes “with exceptional precision… that no other country can match.” Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi) asked about what it would take for the US to impose a no-fly zone over Syria, using the phrase “control the airspace. Right now… for us to control all of the airspace in Syria would require us to go to war against Syria and Russia,” Dunford replied, drawing a rebuke from committee chairman John McCain (R-Arizona), who argued a no-fly zone was possible without war. Asked about the video of US-backed Syrian rebels insulting US Special Forces in Al-Rai and running them out of the northern Syrian town, Carter and Dunford shrugged it off.
A “very small minority took verbal action” against US troops, said Dunford, who admitted he did not watch the video but had discussed it with US commanders. He said the incident was “irrelevant” because the US-backed forces and Turkey were making “great progress” along Syria’s northern border. In their exchange with Graham, Carter and Dunford confirmed there is a plan to arm the Kurdish militia in Syria, over Turkish objections, as a way of advancing on the IS stronghold of Raqqa. Once Raqqa is taken, however, an Arab force would be required to hold it. “We have a plan,” Dunford said, but described it as “not resourced.” Dunford agreed with Graham’s assertion that the US had two objectives – to destroy IS and to “remove Assad,” referring to the Syrian president – but admitted the Kurds were not interested in the latter. –RT News
Ending Syrian War “Almost Impossible” – The United States has accused Russia of “barbarism” in Syria as warplanes supporting Syrian government forces pounded Aleppo and Moscow said ending the civil war was almost “impossible.” A diplomatic solution to the fighting looked unlikely as US and Russian diplomats disagreed at a UN Security Council meeting called to discuss the violence, which has escalated since a ceasefire collapsed last week. Rebels, who are battling President Bashar al-Assad’s forces for control of Aleppo, said any peace process would be futile unless the “scorched earth bombing ” stopped immediately. –Otago Daily Times
Obama’s legacy of wars — President Obama came into office seven years ago pledging to end the wars of his predecessor, George W. Bush. On May 6, with eight months left before he vacates the White House, Mr. Obama passed a somber, little-noticed milestone: He has now been at war longer than Mr. Bush, or any other American president. If the United States remains in combat in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria until the end of Mr. Obama’s term — a near-certainty given the president’s recent announcement that he will send 250 additional Special Operations forces to Syria — he will leave behind an improbable legacy as the only president in American history to serve two complete terms with the nation at war.
Mr. Obama, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 and spent his years in the White House trying to fulfill the promises he made as an antiwar candidate, would have a longer tour of duty as a wartime president than Franklin D. Roosevelt, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon or his hero Abraham Lincoln. –NY Times
Commentary: Barack Obama may have won the Nobel Peace Prize, to everyone’s utter surprise (including himself), but he has done little in eight years to indicate that he even merits such an award of distinction. If only there was a way to rescind it or for him to even relinquish it, since he has virtually no chance of ever earning it by collective deed or action while in office. To even say that his record, as U.S. president, on reigning in peace in the world is dismal would be exaggerating the point. Not only has he failed to end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that George Bush ignited, he has expanded the so-called Democratic Wars (cloaked as Wars on Terror) via drones to such areas as Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, and even Syria. Obama’s military intervention and agitation in the Middle East has set off a flood of refugees swimming across the Mediterranean to Europe.
Obama’s own home city of Chicago is the murder capitol of the U.S. America is more polarized and racially divided then when he came into office. And to add insult to injury, he virtually ignited a political war within the Republican party by pushing for key Republicans to denounce and repudiate the very person (Donald Trump) that America has democratically elected as presidential candidate. Perhaps he’s not the Peace Maker at all the world thought he was. Maybe he is more the ominous shadow of a Darth Vader figure where everything he touches or everywhere he goes – perniciously bad karma follows in his wake.