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What are Washington's Objectives in Syria?

January 3, 2014
Dennis Lamb , Dysart Reporter

On June 23, 1941, the day after the Germans invaded Russia, Harry Truman stated on the floor of the Senate: "If we see that Germany is winning, we ought to help Russia, and if Russia is winning we ought to help Germany, and that way let them kill as many as possible."

We entered the war against Germany because Hitler declared war on the United States on December 11, 1941. Our D-Day invasion of Normandy didn't take place until June 6, 1944. In the meantime, we let the Soviet Union carry the brunt of the fighting alone for two and a half years, providing the desperate Soviets with assistance to keep them in the field essentially as Truman had suggested two years earlier. The Soviets lost 20 million people before the war in Europe ended.

During the 1980 -1988 Iran-Iraq war, we sold weapons to both sides until the Iran Contra scandal in October 1986 put a stop to such sales to Iran. Though Iraq started the war, we continued to provide military assistance to Iraq, including precursors for chemical weapons and satellite imagery to stop Iranian advances.

The Syrian civil war began with unrest on 15 March 2011 that grew with demonstrations nationwide by April 2011. On July 24, 2013, the House and Senate approved providing military support to Syrian rebels but only after the Syrian government started to make gains against the rebels.

Then in September, when Assad's forces were making further gains against the rebels, we wanted to bomb Syria for allegedly using chemical weapons, (although, according to a press release by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh on December 8, Washington knew at the time that the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra fighters also had sarin and may have been responsible for the sarin gas attack in Ghouta). Again we seem to have chosen to support the losing side.

An October 3, 2013, an article in the Washington Post quoted US officials as saying that limits on CIA's authorities "enable it to provide enough support to help ensure that politically moderate, U.S.-supported militias don't lose but not enough for them to win."

US Secretary of State John Kerry said the decision to help Syrian rebels was made to give them more power in negotiating an end to the civil war.

That's nuts! Following that logic, we should be arming the Palestinians to give them more power in negotiating with the Israelis.

When I read that the Obama Administration, under pressure from Congress, announced that it planned to provide weapons to the Syrian rebels after the Syrian Government started to make significant progress against the rebels, Harry Truman's statement on the floor of the Senate on June 23, 1941, came to mind.

Is that why we are sending arms to the rebels? So the maximum number of people on both sides will be killed? We did such things in the past. But now?! Surely we're only concerned about the suffering of innocent civilians, women and children. Right?

A 5 September 2013 New York Times article entitled "Former Israeli official spills the beans on US/Israeli policy for Syria," may answer that question: "This is a playoff situation in which you need both teams to lose, but at least you don't want one to win - we'll settle for a tie," said Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli consul general in New York. "Let them both bleed, hemorrhage to death: that's the strategic thinking here."

The same New York Times article noted also that Israel's national security concerns have broad, bipartisan support in Washington, and that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the influential pro-Israel lobby in Washington, had weighed in on 3 September urging Congress to support our bombing Syria.

A 9 September article by Jodi Rudoren, The New York Times bureau chief in Jerusalem, cited AIPAC as planning to send 300 members to lobby Congress to do so.

The American public rose to save the day. But that Washington was considering spending hundreds of millions of dollars firing missiles at Syria from miles away rather than on aid to refugees speaks volumes about the sincerity of its concern about Syrian civilian casualties and refugees and raises questions about its objectives there.

Dennis Lamb, from Chelsea, retired from the CIA in 2002 after serving 30 years in its Directorate of Operations as a case officer and intelligence analyst. (The thoughts outlined above represent his personal views and not the views of his former employer.)



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