‘US withdrawal of Aleppo proposals shows disarray in Obama’s dysfunctional team’

US behavior during Aleppo talks has been something of a “mystery novel,” according to the Russian FM. However, former CIA officer Larry Johnson told RT that it also highlights serious disagreements within the Obama administration, part of which still has “vain hopes” of regime change in Syria.

RT: Russian FM Sergey Lavrov called the negotiations on Aleppo something of a “mystery novel.” What do you think is actually happening?

Larry Johnson: Number one, the Obama administration is in its death throes. There are only a few weeks, seven weeks, before [it] ... leave[s] office. Number two, there’s still disagreement within the Obama White House and the government. John Kerry’s positions are not backed up clearly by, apparently, Susan Rice (National Security Advisor), Ben Rhodes (Deputy National Security Advisor [for Strategic Communications]), and probably Samantha Powers, who’s at the UN. They’re still holding on [to] this sort of vain hope that somehow the rebels, which the United States has been backing, will manage to extricate themselves from the situation and triumph and put another feather in the cap of Barack Obama. He was on television earlier today, touting his great success in combating terrorism which is laughable. This is just one more piece of evidence of the disarray, that has come to be a sort of a calling card of Barack Obama and his dysfunctional team.

I have no doubt that Secretary Kerry, if he talked about it, I think he was sincere in trying this. The problem he faces is that he doesn’t really have the whole weight of President Obama behind him. There are others in the Obama administration who have opposed that kind of approach and see that as a sign of weakness. I think it just reflects the chaotic nature of Barack Obama’s presidency.

This goes to the point that Samantha Powers, who is close with Susan Rice and close with Ben Rhodes – they reflect ... one camp within the Obama administration; John Kerry reflects another camp ... they have a strong backing of my former organization, the CIA, in terms of wanting to continue to support the rebels. But the unfortunate reality is that those rebels tend, by and large, to be radical Islamists – the very terrorists that the entire War on Terror that started fifteen years ago was supposed to defeat.

RT: President-elect Trump said that he will do things quite differently in Syria. Is there a possibility there’s some influence coming from his side?

LJ: I’m hopeful that’s the case. I thought Trump is one of the very few in the entire field of presidential candidates to speak some sense about the need to work with Russia on this matter. I would add that even we need to work with China. This is the time that a few of the great powers all need to set aside their personal and petty differences and recognize that all have a shared interest in containing and destroying radical Islamic terrorism. It poses a threat to Russia, it poses a threat to China, it poses a threat to the United States and to western Europe. Something that we should all be able to sit down and agree upon. And the reason it has been able to sustain itself unfortunately, is because it has received the support of other states, particularly Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to a lesser extent.

That’s the way you stop this. You make it too painful for these other states to continue that activity. That doesn’t require putting troops on the ground. There’s a way you can defeat those folks militarily, but at first you have to strangle them economically.

RT: Russia’s been repeatedly calling for the separation of terrorists from “moderate” rebels. Why the US is so reluctant on the matter?

LJ: The moderate rebels are a fantasy. There’s a few probably hiding out in Paris or in London. But in terms of who is actually on the ground with weapons at hand you’re looking at radical Islamists. That’s the reality. That’s part of the reason they cannot separate them out, because the United States is not in a position to separate them out.

We’ve already seen within the US government itself a division between the Pentagon and the intelligence services, with the Pentagon complaining that the CIA was arming and training radical Islamists, and specifically Al-Nusra. And the pushback from the intelligence officials was that the Pentagon officials complaining about that, were simply mouthing Russian propaganda.That’s the kind of thing that if you even try to do objective analysis of this, you are immediately smeared in this country now for being some stooge of Vladimir Putin.

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