US treading water in Syria mired by Pentagon & White House rivalry
“The reality is that no one in the Obama administration really believes that there’s any major new undertaking that the administration could try that would really change the reality there,” Porter said, referring to the White House’s failure to enlist the Pentagon’s support and its inability to persuade the US military to “pursue the diplomatic track that the President had approved for September 9.”
Instead of following Obama’s lead on the Syria ceasefire deal, the Pentagon “put up very, very aggressive resistance to that agreement,” in particular, to setting up the Joint Implementation Centre (JIC), where Russian and American specialists were supposed to work side by side to coordinate military cooperation and share intelligence.
Porter argues that the eventual collapse of the ceasefire, which was triggered by a US air force strike on Syrian army positions in Deir ez-Zoir that left over 60 soldiers dead, was also a side-effect of an internal struggle within the US ruling elite.
“The administration backed off partially and then was confronted with this apparent situation of military refusal to carry out US policy in carrying out that airstrike in Deir ez-Zoir,” the journalist said, adding that while Washington continues to pretend it can put pressure on the “moderate” rebels in Syria and control the situation, in reality, it is at a loss.
“The United States does not have real leverage over either side in this war, and it seems to me, I think it’s pretty clear, that this administration is treading water, trying to maintain the pose of being a major power, if not the major power in the region, while at the same really unable to muster the unity within the administration itself,” he noted.
While the present strategy in Syria has proved ineffective, Washington has nothing more to offer, as it has no backup plan, Porter believes.
“There’s never really been a Plan B. John Kerry tried to manipulate the concept of a Plan B some months ago in order to try to gain some slight leverage diplomatically, and that wasn’t terribly successful,” he said, while arguing that Obama’s administration “does not really have any options except going back to the fundamentals and saying we have to try something totally different that has to do with our regional allies and telling them that they cannot continue this.”
However, President Obama is unlikely to do this, as he will have to deal with determined opposition from the military elite, which he will not be able to overcome.
“I don’t really see any realistic hope that President Obama is going to be capable of moving in a fundamentally different direction that is really contradictory to the fundamental interests of parts of the US national security bureaucracy.”
Having said that, there is also an apparent division within the administration itself, Porter argued, noting that Secretary of State John Kerry, a Russia-US ceasefire agreement negotiator, had previously been known as an ardent supporter of a military solution in Syria.
“He was in 2013, as soon as he became the secretary of state, very strongly pushing for some use of US force directly against the Assad regime, or at very least threatening to use that force,” Porter said, adding that at some moment the US President was likely considering this option too.
“But, I don’t think that President Obama was ever willing to do that.”
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.