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Cynical US Policy on Syria Revealed: Block the Russians and Iranians, Destroy the Economy, to Hell with the People

Peter Ford
21st Century Wire

The Rambo of the State Department is leaving. James Jeffrey, the outgoing Syria envoy, boasts about his achievements in a recent candid interview with Al-Monitor which with no sense of shame opens up to public gaze the the cynicism, callousness and sheer power-crazedness of US policy on Syria, conducted as though it were a video game or a game of Monopoly.

You can read the Al-Monitor piece here: Outgoing Syria envoy reflects on Turkey, the Kurds and what everyone got wrong.


US Special Representative for Syria Engagement James Jeffrey at Syria-Turkish border (March 2020 Syriac Press)

Jeffrey makes no bones about it. It’s not about ending the Syrian conflict, it’s about prolonging it:

Basically, first and foremost is denial of the [Assad regime] getting military victory….And of course, we’ve ratcheted up the isolation and sanctions pressure on Assad, we’ve held the line on no reconstruction assistance, and the country’s desperate for it. You see what’s happened to the Syrian pound, you see what’s happened to the entire economy. So, it’s been a very effective strategy….

The point is, this [preserving the SDF] is our plan B. We have a plan A. Plan A doesn’t answer ‘how does this all end?’ Plan A’s whole purpose [is] to ensure that the Russians and Assad and the Iranians don’t have a happy answer to how this all ends, and maybe that will someday get them to accept Plan B. Meanwhile, they’re tied up in knots. They don’t see Syria as a victory.

So, we don’t care a jot if Syrian people are suffering greatly, that’s part of the plan. We are happy to prolong the suffering indefinitely as long as the Russians, Iranians and Assad can’t claim victory.

Plan B, by the way, requires implementation on US terms of UN resolution 2254, which would amount effectively to a suicide note for Assad as under those terms it would allow millions of Syrians outside Syria to vote and thus decide the fate of those still inside.

At no point in this lengthy interview does Jeffrey even mention the Syrian people. The only Syrians (condescendingly) mentioned are the Kurdish militia SDF:

The SDF, they’re clean kids. I’ve gotten to know them and their leadership very, very well. They really are phenomenal, by Middle Eastern standards. They’re a highly disciplined Marxist offshoot of the PKK.

So, let’s get this straight: the US is supporting a bunch of Marxists in North East Syria to stop Assad getting the much needed oil for the Syrian people and is indifferent to the fact that Idlib is controlled by a bunch of Islamist fanatics?

Jeffrey in fact does not say a single word about the character of the opposition to acknowledge their Islamist extremism, or about the likely consequences if Plan B were to succeed and deliver the keys of Damascus to Islamist radicals. In this game – and a game is clearly how callous power-crazed Washington policy makers see it – only preventing victory by the other side matters.

Trump emerges as relatively sensible, which is saying a lot.

The president was uncomfortable with our presence in Syria. He was very uncomfortable with what he saw as endless wars. … Trump kept asking, “Why do we have troops there?”

The reason that Trump pulled the troops out was I think because he was just tired of us having come up with all these explanations for why we’re in there.

We at the State Department never provided any troop numbers to the president. That’s not our job. We didn’t try to deceive him. He kept on publicly saying numbers that were way below what the actual numbers were, so in talking to the media and talking to Congress, we had to be very careful and dodge around. But the Syria mission is the gift that keeps on giving. We and the SDF are still the dominant force in [northeast] Syria.

‘Not our job?’ The deviousness of this is breathtaking. The US State Department deliberately withheld crucial information from the President in order to get their way on keeping their counters on the Monopoly board which for them is Syria.

It’s no surprise that someone of Jeffrey’s calibre boasts about helping Israel to pulverise Syria:

We then also had the Israeli air campaign. The US only began supporting that when I came on board. I went out there and we saw Prime Minister Netanyahu and others, and they thought that they were not being supported enough by the US military, and not by intelligence. And there was a big battle within the US government, and we won the battle.

The argument [against supporting Israel’s campaign] was, again, this obsession with the counterterrorism mission. People didn’t want to screw with it, either by worrying about Turkey or diverting resources to allow the Israelis to muck around in Syria, as maybe that will lead to some blow-back to our forces. It hasn’t.

All that matters is ‘stabilizing the situation’ to US advantage:

So that was how we put together an integrated Syria policy that nestled under the overall Iran policy. The result has been relative success because we — with a lot of help from the Turks in particular — have managed to stabilize the situation.

The only change on the ground to the benefit of Assad has been southern Idlib in two and a half years of attacks. They are highly unlikely to continue, given the strength of the Turkish army there and the magnitude of the defeat of the Syrian army by the Turks back in March.

It would be hard to disagree with that pessimistic analysis. As long as the US puts stymieing its adversaries ahead of any genuine concern for the suffering and prospects of the Syrian people, including the millions of refugees condemned by this policy to indefinite exile, no end is in sight.

It’s worth bearing in mind that Jeffrey worked with Obama long before he worked with Trump. Anybody who expects the Biden administration to follow a different path on Syria must be seriously deluded, unless by ‘different’ is meant an even more reckless, activist, interventionist policy that goes beyond ‘stabilising’.

And there is no Trump there now to apply the brakes.

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Author Peter Ford is the former British Ambassador to Syria (2003-2006) and Bahrain (1999-2002). This article originally appeared at Lobelog.

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