Blurring lines & shifting strategies in Syria (Who said terror was not the end game?)

Catherine Shakdam
Catherine Shakdam is a political analyst, writer and commentator for the Middle East with a special focus on radical movements and Yemen. A regular pundit on RT and other networks her work has appeared in major publications: MintPress, the Foreign Policy Journal, Mehr News and many others.Director of Programs at the Shafaqna Institute for Middle Eastern Studies, Catherine is also the co-founder of Veritas Consulting. She is the author of Arabia’s Rising - Under The Banner Of The First Imam
The Syrian Army supported by popular defense groups conducts an offensive on the city of al-Qaryatayn controlled by militants. © Mikhail Voskresenskiy
In the words of Sun Tzu, ‘Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.’ Looking at Syria, it is evident the US failed to heed such words of wisdom. To soothe its pride Washington now wants all-out war.

Maybe not the whole of Washington, but enough of Washington to signal that a deep political rift now exists within the corridors of the US State Department. Not even Britain’s decision to leave the European Union could silence Washington’s ongoing political frenzy over Syria. As markets have crashed, and the Old Continent has faltered under the weight of its own political irrelevance, it is war, and more wars America’s true blue neocons argue still – as if an answer, and a justification to their collective sense of exceptionalism.

America wants to go to war - again! And here I was thinking that Washington was already at war with Damascus – or was it counter-terrorism? I can’t really tell those days. I’m not even sure America knows the difference anymore either. At war against terror, at war against sovereign nations … all in a day’s work for the United States.
Of course you might want to argue that terror is really a matter of political perspective, and that as far as Washington is concerned, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad stands as the greatest terrorist of them all.

Mirror, mirror on the wall...

But let me ask you this then, whose reflection will the mirror offer back? Whose terror does Syria suffer under? And more importantly whose terror is Syria fighting to defeat? That of ISIL, and its sisters in radicalism, or that of those who chose to empower the likes of ISIL in order to score immediate political gains?

Those questions of course hardly make it to prime-time debates… such questions would equate in America to political apostasy.

For five years America has worked to depose Syria’s seat of power. For five years Syria has pushed, clawed and fought to reclaim both its territorial and political sovereignty. For five years US officials have argued more weapons, more proxies, more, more and more hiding behind Terror to justify their stance. What a convenient smokescreen has Terror been! What a convenient companion indeed!

Interestingly enough, it is as Terror stands to be obliterated under the Syrian Army’s boots that Washington has cried war the loudest. Frustrated and angry to see its assets slip away, America’s neo-conservative complex wants its day under the sun; it wants to overtly enter the fray - a re-enactment of the Iraqi takeover.

Not even US Vice-President Joe Biden could contain that genie in its proverbial bottle. Speaking on Syria to CBS Charlie Rose, the US VP said: “At the same time, we’re continuing to work the international community to reach a negotiated settlement that gets Saddam out of power, have him leave.”

But why should President al-Assad leave? Why do Western powers so desperately want to see one democratically elected head of state ousted, when reason would dictate that Terror remains the absolute priority? Which Terror - it needs to be asked - has lost ground under the impetus of the Syrian Arab Army backed by Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah?

Military advances against Raqqa, ISIL's de facto capital, are testament that cooperation between foreign powers continue to be not only relevant within the framework of international law, but effective in defeating terrorism altogether.

The argument that President al-Assad is a tyrant onto his people does not hold. Not when he still entertains such obvious popularity among his people, not when Western powers have comfortably backed odious regimes and vindictive powers across the globe. Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria come to mind. Too many of America’s allies have proven to be serial human rights offenders for political righteousness to hold. Too many Western-made weapons have been fired at civilians for any Western capitals to claim the moral high ground here.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s departure remains relevant today in that it would usher a very American political takeover, and turn Syria into another US military client state/asset – the fate of Syria holds not a candle to America’s hegemonic hunger.

But Syria has proven a tough nut to crack! So tough indeed that it has led to a political fracture in the inner sanctum of America’s powerhouse.
This June, Washington has spoken dissent against its Commander in Chief. Frustrated, and angry neocons have called for direct military confrontation against Damascus, oblivious to the repercussions such a move would have across not the region, but the world.

America wants war – or at least its officials do. On June 17, The New York Times wrote: “In a draft version of a dissent memo filed with the State Department's senior leadership, dozens of diplomats and other mid-level officials called for military strikes against President Bashar al-Assad of Syria.”

“A more military posture under US leadership would underpin and propel a new and reinvigorated diplomatic initiative,” the so-called dissenters demanded.

Here is how Jeremy Lott from The Spectator summarized America’s political psychotic break: “The Obama administration’s foreign policy in Syria has been a failure by any non-sociopathic measure, a policy quite literally at war with itself. And yet, some high ranking State Department officials want not less but more of this.”

Beautifully written, indeed.

So what now? What now for Syria, and what now for Terror? Even if President Barack Obama is unlikely to change his position on Syria so close to the exit door, his successor might not feel the same way. With six months left on the clock, Damascus and its anti-terror alliance will need to hit full throttle against ISIL.

With this in mind, take a second look at this ongoing race for Raqqa, and recognize America’s exit strategy.

According to Semyon Bagdasarov, Director of the Moscow-based Center for Middle Eastern and Central Asian Studies, the US-backed SDF, comprising mostly Kurdish militants, is pursuing its own geostrategic goals in the region. The offensive on Manbij is part of a plan aimed at eventual division of Syria, the expert told Russia's Svobodnaya Pressa media outlet.

Like I said, Syria has become a political cesspit of covert dealings, and hidden agendas.

With ISIL gone, and Terror decimated, peace negotiations would take on a very different tone. Actually, it could well be by then that the world would finally be forced to pay attention to what the Syrian people want.

Remember them?

Has anyone bothered to ask Syrians how they envision their future? How about we start with that question and work our way back to sanity?

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.