‘The US is arrogating to itself the right to bomb cities all over Syria and Iraq’
RT:Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has warned that “there are fears that these strikes may not only target the Islamic militants but also the Syrian army to weaken Assad’s position.” He said such strikes would amount to a “colossal escalation of the conflict” in the region. Is Russia right to be concerned here?
Brian Becker: Yes, Russia is completely right. The Obama administration said that they have the right to strike forces whomever they declare to be the enemy in Syria without the consent of the Syrian government and, in fact, they made it clear they will not work with the Syrian government. That is the violation of the international law. The US government has no right whatsoever to arrogate itself to use force in Syria, a country that is technically at peace with the US. I think what is even more here what we have seen is the dishonest presentation to the American people. The Obama administration is laying the basis for the re-intervention of the direct military forces by the US into Syria. And it has become quite clear in the recent years, that the Syrian opposition, the armed opposition, which includes the Islamic State, can't defeat the Assad government without the direct foreign military intervention. I think it is a great danger, one of the great dangers of Obama’s speech.
RT:Obama also says that he gives the authorization necessary for the action, but what about the Congressional approval? Doesn't he actually have to ask for it and get it?
BB: Well yes, and Congress actually does not want to have a vote because in spite of what you are hearing in US mass media the American people are really opposed to any new war in Syria or Iraq. As a matter of fact that is why Obama has to ridiculously promise that there won't be any boots on the ground. It is an existential threat to America but there won't be any troops in because he is telling the American people, “We won't have any bleeding done on our side, only Iraqis and Syrians will bleed.” But in Congress, the Congress people do not want a vote. Of course it is their Congressional obligation. The US constitution says and it should be clear that only Congress could declare war. And this is a declaration of war whether you call it that or not, when you bomb another country, kill its people – that is a declaration of war.
RT:What we heard from the President is that he is very firm with his intentions. He wants to go after the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria if necessary. Could US bomb IS positions without a UN resolution?
BB: The US is now conveniently ignoring the UN because they know that the UN both in the Security Council and the General Assembly will not accept the US right to do this again. The Obama administration has proclaimed itself the fourth straight US presidential administration to say, “I'm going to bomb Iraq.” They did it in the first Bush administration, then Clinton, then the next Bush Administration and now Obama. Each time the pretext is noble – to fight terrorism or to stop the weapons of mass destruction or to stop the Islamic extremism. The fact of the matter is that the world knows and the UN knows that we would not be in this crisis right now if the US had not fractured Iraq, had not fractured Libya and not fueled the civil war in Syria that gives rise to this type of jihadist extremism as exemplified by the Islamic State.
RT:Obama said that he is seeking permission of the Congress to train the so-called moderate rebels. Well, we've heard reports that a group of moderate rebels sold the American journalist who was later beheaded by the IS militants. Is it reasonable to train these people?
BB: Who is the moderate opposition? Did they give the social security numbers? Did they do a consumer credit report? What does it mean that they were the moderate opposition? These are just labels. The fact of the matter is that Turkey, Saudi Arabia with the US, with Britain have been funding all of the armed groups, giving them heavy weapons, fueling a civil war against Syria. And as you've said these Syrian armed moderate opposition, who knows who they are? They sold off [Steven] Sotloff to the ISIS and we also know that they have been committing crimes against the people in the towns that they have allegedly liberated, and that is why big parts of those populations have risen up against the Free Syrian Army or the other groups. The fact is that many of them have now joined the Islamic State – that is where the Islamic State got many of its weapons. Maybe they first went through the Free Syrian Army but today they are with IS. The US helped to create the Islamic State perhaps by unintended consequence of its actions in Syria and Iraq, and then uses IS as a pretext to carry out another war in Syria. But again as you can see by President Obama's speech it is really designed to overthrow the government he says is illegitimate even though it is a sovereign government of Syria and is recognized as such by the UN.
RT:Just on the human level here, what does Obama's plan to carry out strikes mean for Syrian civilians right now?
BB: I think for both Syrian civilians and Iraqi civilians, it is more death and destruction. Let’s face it: 5 million Iraqis have already been made refugees because of the US invasion, millions of Syrians are refugees, more than 150,000 are dead, again as a consequence of a foreign-fueled armed civil war. How can the Obama administration with a straight face say it is now coming to the rescue of Syrian civilians when in fact they did not give a damn about the Syrian civilians, as they've put as their top priority the toppling of an independent nationalist government that was targeted for destruction simply because it was an independent rather than a puppet government in this resource-rich part of the world.
RT:Obama stated that there will be no American combat troops fighting on foreign soil. Do you think the US is going to stick to this promise?
BB: No, there are already combat troops. There are more than 1,000 US combat troops. They are armed, they are in Iraq right now, they are functioning as advisers. And one step leads to another step. If the US does not succeed in its objectives either in Syria or Iraq, the fact that the Obama administration has made it nationally and internationally televised statement about its commitment to destroy the IS or, as you could see, the Assad government as well. If the US does not succeed militarily with the air campaign, it is very logical in order to avoid the defeat or perception of defeat to add more and more troops. That is the logic of this escalation.
RT:Experts say the war against the IS could last for several years. Does the West have resources to fund a prolonged campaign?
BB: If you think of it as an effort by the US to resume its supreme role in Iraq and to maintain a civil war in Syria, where all of the bleeding and suffering is done among Syrians and the American population is shielded from that kind of suffering, perhaps the US government can continue this kind of a prolonged conflict. The real issue will become whether or not when they are faced with a failure, and I think they will fail again as they have with other policies in Iraq and Syria, whether that would lead to escalation or whether it would lead to a broader, regional, I believe, catastrophic regional war. We don’t know where this stops. It is easy to start wars, it is hard to stop them. The US government is arrogating to itself the right to bomb cities and towns all over Syria, all over Iraq, all over anywhere, in fact, and of course we know where this has led before. A million Iraqis are dead who have not been dead otherwise, because the US invaded Iraq in 2003, because it fractured their country, because it destroyed it, tens of thousands of Libyans and 150,000 Syrians.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.