Who would have thought that the president elected on an anti-Iraq war stance and promises to represent the polar opposite of the Bush administration would love war so much? As horrendous as the Bush administration was, there is no point in using the “Obama has inherited Bush’s mess” rhetoric to counter the latter claim. In an interview with Democracy Now (and via various other forums) four-star General Wesley Clark exposed a memo with a 5 year plan that was to be adopted shortly after September 11th 2001. The plan involved toppling the governments of 7 countries: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran. The expectation that plans like these would come to an end when Obama was elected was a naïve yet hopeful aspiration that many shared.
And naïve it turned out to be. The Obama administration funded rebels in Libya with ties to al-Qaeda, bypassed congress and, together with NATO, misused a UN Security Council resolution to destabilize the country. Three years on, Libya is still a war zone and apparent failed state. Obama has widened the drone assassination program to Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan – resulting in thousands of civilian deaths. Since the early days of his presidency, Obama has actually extended the Afghanistan war both with an increased commitment of troopsand through withdrawal deadlines. For over two years, the administration has been funding, arming and training jihadist groups in Syria, creating the context for groups like ISIS to thrive in an attempt to topple Bashar al-Assad, not to mention Obama telling the Iranian regime directly that he will have no problem using military action against Iran.
Now, we have the new bombing campaign in Iraq which is being expected to extend into Syria. A few weeks ago, I wrote an article claiming that the war against ISIS is to be used as a pretext to conduct air strikes in Syria against the Syrian regime. This claim is largely due to the fact that the administration was trying to fabricate evidence in order to do so in 2013, but failed to gain the public and international permission it was looking for. Reactions to my article ranged from lamenting that US forces are just acting to prevent a potential genocide to the claim that everyone at Truthout was anti-Semitic because I briefly mentioned Israel’s assault on Gaza. So what is the best way to analyze whether my claim was correct or not?
Firstly, the idea that this is solely a humanitarian effort appears to be dubious. Barely a week after conducting the “humanitarian” effort into Iraq, Obama ended the humanitarian drops, but continued air strikes. Compared to other crises on the international stage, this intervention and the plans for this intervention occurred during Israel’s assault on a relatively defenseless civilian population trapped in what is widely regarded as an open air prison. Another example to put this into perspective is the fact that the brutal holocaust-like conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, resulting in millions of deaths, doesn’t exactly seem to be at the top of the president’s list of priorities either.
Secondly, the Obama administration has not made any secret about its intentions in Syria. In all honesty, it is surprising that more people are not talking about it. The best that one can find so far is a small article written by independent journalist Gwynne Dyer who admits that if the Obama administration’s goal was to truly eradicate ISIS, they would need to work with the Assad and Iranian regimes. Instead, Obama has stated publicly that he will not be working with the Syrian regime, calling it “illegitimate”, and announced that his plan would be to arm and train “moderate” rebels who would be used to fight the regime and ISIS at the same time (and to provide air cover for these rebels). Wasn’t it the covert training and arming of “moderate” rebels which led to this crisis in the first place?
This “illegitimate” Syrian regime just happened to win an election earlier this year as Assad waltzed to victory with almost 90 per cent of the votes. Considering that much of the country is a war zone, voter turnout was also high at 73 per cent (higher than in the recent Ukraine disaster) and international observers claimed no violations. Assad has a higher approval rating than Barack Obama. The Syrian president, like Muammar Gaddafi, also has a deep interest in seeing these fanatical jihadist groups eradicated, yet the Western powers and neighbouring countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey are refusing to work with him.
Why? Because Syria is one of the last remaining defiant states in the region, allied to Iran by a mutual defense pact (both of which were 2 of the countries listed in General Clark’s leaked memo above). Many speculators will claim that Obama is not interested in a war with Iran – but that’s what a war with Syria will be unless Iran backs down.
So far, Iran has not backed down and anyone who has been following this crisis can tell you that this will extend beyond Syria and Iran. As ruthless as Bashar al-Assad may be, international interference intended to destabilize the country creating the context for jihadists to further thrive might be worse – as we have seen in Libya.